Archive for May, 2013

Busy Shepherds

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

A visit from the new Bishop of Pittsburgh reminded me how full the average bishop’s schedule is. Bishop Dorsey McConnell had received an honorary doctorate the night before coming to Incarnation for an elaborate ordination in our church. Following a reception in our parish house, he rushed to Newark Airport where he was to have dinner with a clergyperson before boarding a plane that would get him into Pittsburgh some time after midnight.

The previous week, the bishop had been in Uganda as part of another ministry he is involved in. And he is stretched even though, because of a split some years ago, the Diocese of Pittsburgh is one of the smallest dioceses in the Episcopal Church.

A salutary reminder to those of us who are prone to criticize our bishops that their public ministries (and their unseen work of sorting out parish and clergy crises) would exhaust most people. If they fail to do some things we might like them to do, they do succeed in doing many things we are glad we don’t have to do. —J. Douglas Ousley


Sundays in the Park

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

The listserve for priests in the Episcopal Diocese of New York recently discussed all the Sunday morning events that now compete with church services for peoples’ attention. The AIDS Walk this Sunday will attract thousands of participants, including some 900 Episcopalians. The MS Bike Tour May 5 involved many others, besides tying up traffic all over New York City. Add other sporting events and birthday parties, brunches, and other social occasions–not to mention weekend getaways and overtime at the office–and church often finds itself second-best.

If I knew what to do about this, I would do it. Sunday evening worship helps a bit, as do church events during the week. But, as far as I know, the church still needs to find new ways to win the attention of modern people distracted by contemporary alternatives to the formal worship of God. —J. Douglas Ousley


Resolved: Not Resolved

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

The bar debate last night was about the following resolution: “Resolved: The Anglican Communion is too progressive.” I’ll have more to say about this discussion another time. I’d like to make a rather different comment now.

The liberal-conservative, progressive-traditional split in the Episcopal Church which was the subject of the debate tends not to be present in most parishes, especially in Manhattan. Here, the individual churches tend to one side or the other, and the rectors follow that pattern. So do the assistants appointed by the rectors.

Here at Incarnation, we have almost always had rectors on the conservative side politically and assistants on the liberal side. I’ve been asked more than once why I don’t appoint a fellow conservative as a colleague. This is, I believe, the universal practice in the other Manhattan parishes.

My answer is that I want laypeople of all political persuasions to feel comfortable at Incarnation. One way to insure that comfort is to provide and breadth and inclusiveness to the clergy. I think that’s the best way to go, even if some questions remain unresolved. —J. Douglas Ousley


Roosevelts Remembered

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

While I was in Washington last weekend to officiate at a family wedding, I took a long walk along the Mall. I was particularly interested in the FDR Memorial which I had never seen.

Incarnation has historic connections with both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt; Eleanor was confirmed at Incarnation and her marriage to Franklin is recorded in our register. Moreover, the Broad Church mission of our parish in the 19th century heyday of Murray Hill anticipate the noblesse oblige liberalism of both Roosevelts.

Like the neighboring new memorial to Martin Luther King, the FDR memorial is distinctly modern and, to my mind, distinctly odd. A weird statue of sitting Franklin with an even stranger portrait of Eleanor far off–sculptures placed amid random walls of rough stones and quotes from FDR’s speeches. 

Perhaps future ages will value this memorial more than I do. They certainly will remember the courage and political grace of Franklin and Eleanor. —J. Douglas Ousley