It’s Juneteenth. For many of us, like me, in St. John’s this is likely the first year, maybe the second or third, we’ve really been aware of the holiday, let alone its significance in U.S. history and the life of black Americans for the last 156 years. June Nineteenth is now an official Federal day off, but I suspect its coincidence with the Father’s Day weekend will mean most of us are spending today looking for the perfect socks or down at the butcher’s counter looking for a steak or some juicy sausages for Dad. I confess, my weekend includes more of that kind of activity than of marking the anniversary of the emancipation of slaves in this country.
Now, before you stop reading, please, let me invite you to also reflect and, crucially, act. Don’t worry, you will still get to celebrate tomorrow, as you had planned. If you’re one of my fellow Americans that has been led to believe they are white,* please read on.
The last year has been tough, even brutal, for everyone to varying degrees. The COVID-19 pandemic, the election, the murders of George Floyd and scores of other black and brown men and women, the hate-filled attacks and murder of our Asian and Pacific Islander neighbors, and so many other tragic and stressful streams of activity in our society have been a lot to pay attention to, absorb, talk about, just respond to, or maybe even do something about.
This weekend is the first weekend since COVID-19 restrictions in California have been lifted. 70+% of Californian adults are at least partially vaccinated and many of them are spending this weekend with loved ones for the first time in 18 months. Schools and offices are reopening. It feels good. Really good. But as we enjoy this change of pace and tone in our lives, I urge you to think about what hasn’t really changed and what we have become more aware of in the past year, on days like today and every day.
While many of us are regaining a sense of normality, there are others for whom very little has changed. Criminal justice and policing still overwhelmingly discriminates, often with deadly effect, against people of color. Access to education, including the resources to navigate the world of Zoom school, hybrid-learning, after-school care, and other things like books and supplies, is limited. People of color with intellectual or developmental disabilities and differences receive less than half the assistance from government services that their white counterparts receive. The list goes on.
These are some of the issues that St. John’s helps to address through its membership in Genesis. Last fall, I went through organizer training with Genesis’ parent-organization Gamaliel. I am long overdue in making this request. In the meantime, these issues have not gone away, by some miracle. It falls on me and you to act if we want the world to be different.
So, however, whatever, and whomever you are celebrating this weekend, I call on you to consider 3 ways to take action to address the ongoing injustice in our society even as we pull out of the depth of the pandemic into what will be a fairly normal summer for most of us:
1. Please join me and the Action & Justice Ministry at St. John’s in our ongoing conversations about these issues.
2. Please join the St. John’s delegation of 2 to 3 people to serve on the Genesis leadership council. This is a vital role that we have not been as active in playing as we should have, despite being a founding member of the organization. We are looking for two or more volunteers to help. Email me to discuss.
3. Take some time to reflect. Please reflect on Juneteenth by a. learning more about what it means and b. why it took more than 150 years for most of us to even know it existed.
Thanks and Happy Juneteenth - Ian Storrar
*Paraphrasing Ta Nehisi Coates, author and journalist known for works including his reporting in The Atlantic and his books like Between the World and Me.
Last month, the Vestry agreed to sign a three-year contract with LocalLive, to live-stream our 10:00 worship services beginning in September. This is exciting news, as it will allow us to continue to reach the various members of our congregation who will sometimes prefer online worship, or who will need this option due to scheduling challenges, immobility and/or distance.
Keeping our doors open in this new way fits in with St. Johns’ strategic plan goal to build up our membership, which has been declining over the past decade. We know this must be done if we are to survive and thrive as a worship community.
I’d like to provide some additional background supporting this decision.
We also discovered new people were participating on Sundays from as nearby as Oakland but as far away as England, and various points in between. Some were friends or relatives of parishioners, and some came to us through online channels. We hope they will stay with us, either online or in person in September. We need to provide an online option for these folks.
I’ve heard that some in the congregation are wondering why we can’t continue with zoom services. This is mainly a staffing issue. The zoom services are very labor intensive to produce. When you think about it , they are unique, “mini- productions” produced each week that involve the time of many – clergy, staff, lay volunteers, music personnel, and Jon Owens, who has been assembling the elements and running zoom on Sundays. Once we start with two in-person services on Sunday this fall, it won’t be sustainable to continue with zoom church.
I hope everyone will be open-minded about introducing the live-streaming option. In the view of the Vestry, there seems to be no strong downside to giving this modality a try. I’m sure that many of you would agree that if we are to grow and remain relevant, we need to be open about trying new things – particularly those that we know are working at other institutions.
Please feel free to reach out to Ruben or me with any questions about this initiative. We are here for you, and always happy to discuss what’s on your mind. These are exciting times at St. John’s as we begin to move out of the pandemic and into a new world of growth and discovery. We welcome good conversation along the way.
St. John’s auction on Sunday, August 29th, gives the parish a fabulous opportunity to Gather together, share our talents with Gratitude, and showcase the Generosity of time and money that makes St. John’s an exceptional community. This biennial tradition has three main goals for 2021:
Bidding for Auction items August 28-30: Bidding and sign-up for auction events runs from August 28-30. You will register for the auction on zoom at no charge—a link will be provided for easy access.
Cocktails Celebrating Connection 4-5 pm August 29: Gather in your home with vaccinated friends for Cocktails Celebrating Connection from 4-5 p.m. People who buy the kit for two ($40 for alcohol, $25 for non-alcohol) will pick up (or have delivered if desired) an ‘English Tea’ box of appetizers, drinks, and treats. Then Carolyn George and professional mixologist Sean Van Straatum will host a Happy Hour over zoom that will inform, delight and entertain you and your guests….Consider inviting your friends, family and neighbors (who are vaccinated) to join you in your home to have a spectacular party
5-6 pm August 29 Live Auction with Jim McIlvaine and special program including a surprise from Rev. Scott!
Now is the time to start planning what you would like to donate to the auction. Think about the kinds of services, creative events, vacation getaways, tickets, or other gifts that parishioners and their friends will either need or enjoy. For example, popular items from past auctions in the Services category have included:
We are led by a super talented crew that is focused on fun ways to accomplish these goals. Contact any of them if you want to help on their committees.
Laurie Bennett email@example.com Chairperson
Jon Owens firstname.lastname@example.org Staff rep and communications
Pat Harden email@example.com Vestry rep and communications
Carolyn George firstname.lastname@example.org Cocktails Celebrating Connection
Judi Marr email@example.com Technology/database coordinator
By Bonnie Moran
Many, many thanks to the amazing volunteers who have contributed to the VISION (Volunteers in Support of Oakland’s Needs) program over the past year. It’s heart-warming to know that we are still going strong after 12 months of helping our less fortunate neighbors.
A few statistics from our first year:
None of this would be possible without the 45+ families who prepare and deliver the peanut butter/jelly sandwiches and hard boiled eggs that provide the foundation of our lunch bags.
And special thanks to the volunteers who show up at St. John’s every Wednesday and/or Thursday to assemble the donations into healthy meals for delivery to those in need. These saints also prepare sandwiches and eggs.
In June of 2020, when this operation started, it was impossible to imagine that so many volunteers would step up and so much would be accomplished. Let’s keep going until all Oaklander’s are housed and well-fed and there is no longer a need.
Dear St. John's Family,
It's time to step up for our youth and children! The vestry just took a huge step in supporting our strategic plan by hiring Ministry Architects www.ministryarchitects.com, a nationally acclaimed ministry consulting group, who will partner with us for 18 months to fully assess our youth and family programming and help us create a detailed plan for the future, informed by proven strategies that work. We are committed to building sustainable youth and children’s ministries that are going to have a deep impact and grow our church.
Ministry Architects will begin with a listening process that includes 8-10 affinity groups. This is where we need your help. You can help shape our future success. There is no registration for these groups and you are invited to just show up. If you wish to be part of this initial listening process, but are not available at the designated times, please let us know and we will see what we can do by emailing Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is our prayer and hope that we will get as much participation as possible from everyone at St. John's no matter if you have children or not as it takes a village to support this program.
We hope to see participation in this initial stage from a broad spectrum of parents, volunteers, staff, leaders, youth, and people who just love our young people. We want your insights, frustrations, and dreams to be heard.
To ensure that this is an open and honest assessment, church staff will not be participating in the affinity groups, but will have their own conversations with our consultants. Each affinity group will have different targeted questions. You are invited to attend more than one if you have different roles in the church, but we hope you will find time to participate in at least one group as this is important to the future of St. John's growth.
2:30pm Church Staff
4:00pm Youth Director
7:00pm Parents (Choose just one of 3 available)
4:00pm Church Members
10:30am Children’s parents
12:00pm Children's/Youth Volunteers
Rev. Scott Denman
Rev. Jon Owens
Join ZOOM: St. John's CM-YM Listening Groups
Servant Leaders One of Best-kept Secrets of the Episcopal Church
They minister to the homeless. They distribute food to people who cannot afford to adequately feed their households. They provide supportive services for the mentally ill. They work as chaplains in hospitals. They also serve at the altar, proclaim the Gospel and preach sermons in church. They provide a bridge between the church and the needs of the world.
They are deacons, one of the best-kept secrets of the Diocese of California. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry recently called the diaconate a “sacred and core ministry of the Episcopal Church.”
The Venerable Hailey McKeefry Delmas has a keener insight than most people into what it means to serve in this ministry. A resident of Belmont, she was ordained as a deacon in 1999 and has served several parishes around the Diocese. She also served as a chaplain at Stanford Hospital and Clinics, was the first deacon to chair the Commission on Ministry, and has served as administrator of the School for Deacons for the past two years.
And to emphasize his recognition of the breadth of her knowledge and experience, Bishop Marc Andrus recently appointed Hailey as Archdeacon for the Diocese. She serves as one of two Archdeacons, along with the Ven. Nina Pickerell. How on earth did she end up doing this?
“When I was in high school, I felt a call,” she said. Mary Lou Taylor, who was a graduate of the School for Deacons in the Diocese of California, led a convalescent home ministry. Hailey went along with Mary Lou once to visit some patients in a nursing home, and Hailey’s path was set. “She gave me a list of patients and said, ‘These are your people.’ And from that day on, I felt a responsibility for my people.”
Hailey later married and moved to New York, where she again found herself active in parish work. “One of the priests there knew that I was trying to discern whether I should study for the ministry. He told me, ‘You can run but you cannot hide from God if you are being called.’ So I entered a program and came to the realization that my heart just was not into becoming a priest and running a church, but I was very interested in working directly with people.”
She returned to the Bay Area six months after being ordained in the Diocese of Long Island. She was placed at Church of the Epiphany in San Carlos. Three years ago she began splitting her time between Epiphany and Church of the Transfiguration in San Mateo, facilitating a growing collaboration between the two congregations.
Over the years her ministry spread to include California Clubhouse, which provides support services for people diagnosed with mental illness. She now serves on the board for California Clubhouse.
So what exactly does a deacon do? Most worshipers in the Diocese probably have little or no exposure to deacons other than seeing them assist at the altar when the Bishop makes a visitation. They prepare the wafers for communion, proclaim the Gospel before the sermon, and give a shouted Hallelujah at the end of the service. But what else?
“I’ve always thought that every baptized Christian, in response to their faith, needs to find a place to use the gifts they have been given,” Hailey said. “My job as a deacon is to get to know people and what’s going on in the world around them, and point them in the direction where they can do the things they promised in their baptismal vows.”
She said there has been a renewal in the mission of the diaconate in the past 30 years. “Deacons are almost like translators. The church often does not speak in worldly terms, and the world in turn does not speak in churchy terms.” Deacons act as the bridge.
No single job description could ever illustrate the work they do. “We are like part-time secret agents out to change the world. But every deacon does it differently, and that’s why there’s so much confusion. You’ll find deacons helping the elderly, helping the homeless, advocating for change through various organizations… there are as many ministries as there are deacons. Deacons are the reminder that what we all believe has to be translated to how we all act in the world.”
Hailey and fellow Archdeacon Nina hold Zoom meetings with the rest of the deacons every two weeks. “We have 65 deacons residing in the Diocese, including those who are retired. Of those 65, 40 are working deacons while the rest are retired but often still actively helping.”
One leads worship and a feeding program called Open Cathedral in the San Francisco Civic Center every Sunday; another is a military chaplain; one provides ministry at San Quentin; some serve as hospital chaplains; another works with the Braid Ministry for youth; some help administer food pantries or housing for the poor.
There has been a complaint in years past that, because most deacons receive little or no pay, only the wealthy can afford to pursue the ministry.
“It used to be an elite ministry, skewed toward older, retired people who were well-off enough to have the time,” Hailey agreed. “But that has changed. When I was ordained in 1999, most deacons were more than 60 years old. But we have many younger people now, and they are very good at letting us know what’s needed in the world outside the church.”
Hailey sees her role as administrator at the School for Deacons as an extension of her ministry. “It (the curriculum at the school) provides an opportunity for postulants to get exposed to and involved with many types of ministry, and then we push them out the door. We equip people to recognize the gifts that God has given them and to decide how they want to use them.”
If a member of the church seems to be hearing a call to ministry, what should she or he do? Speak to your priest, Hailey suggests. If, after discussion, the idea still feels right, there is a process for discernment.
The Holy Spirit will lead the way. But if one would like to first talk it over with Hailey, she can be reached at email@example.com or http://scatteredrevelations.com/. The website for the School for Deacons is at https://schoolfordeacons.org/, and the page on discernment is at Seeing the Deacon in our Midst — School for deacons.
By Ruben Simpliciano
When I’m running errands with my 7-month-old daughter, I no longer take the most convenient parking space. Instead, I look for one that affords us the most security – a space with the greatest visibility in all directions so I can more readily see an approaching attacker.
Dealing with a baby in a car seat requires being in an extremely vulnerable position – hunched over, back exposed, head and eyes down, with hands fumbling with straps and buckles. And probably most critical of all: your attention is distracted, compromising your ability to see or hear someone approaching.
Sadly, this is my family’s new reality amid the recent spate of vicious, hate-filled attacks on members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
Many others of Asian descent have had to make similar adjustments to their lives. Some have changed where they shop and at what time of day. Others refuse to venture out unless accompanied by another person. Some have stopped doing certain activities altogether. I am saddened when our Asian American parishioners tell me they’ve stopped taking the daily walks they once enjoyed because they no longer feel safe.
Let that sink in: Your friends and neighbors are afraid to go outside. They’ve been robbed of feeling safe. Think about if you have ever been afraid to step outside your house.
As a child and as an adult, I have felt the sting of racial discrimination and the pain of marginalization, but never in my life have I felt that my physical safety was in jeopardy because of my race. Until now.
Nowadays, I am far more aware of people around me – those who are standing near me and those who are walking toward me. I make sure my body is turned so I’m facing others. All of this is even more acute when I’m with my baby daughter. I am most fearful of an attack when she is with me.
In response to the wave of violence, some people will march, some will donate money, some will volunteer their time. Others will take bystander intervention training, and yet others will share resources on social media. Some will sign collective statements of support, while others will write to their elected officials. Some people will do nothing.
Whichever response you feel most comfortable doing, I ask for only one thing from you: Don’t become numb to the violence. Because the physical attacks, threatening assaults and racial slurs occur frequently, it is easy to become desensitized.
Don’t become numb to the appalling images of Asian Americans being stabbed, being struck on the face with a cinder block, being bashed in the head with a hammer, being kicked in the stomach then stomped on, being slapped in the face and then set on fire, being slashed in the face with a box cutter, being fatally shoved to the ground, being shot and killed. (Yes, all these attacks have happened to our Asian sisters and brothers. There have been many more incidents, and they continue to happen.)
Don’t allow these vile acts of hate to become ordinary. Don’t just feel shocked, disgusted and outraged, stay shocked, disgusted and outraged and do something about it.
As a society and as a congregation, we are most effective in bringing about change when we feel – and remain – uncomfortable.
There is no single solution. We can all make a contribution toward change in many different ways. Do what your heart tells you but don’t allow these heinous acts to become the new normal.
By Dagmar Serota
Friends of the Oakland Public School Libraries, or FOPSL, is delighted to be renting the Godly Play room at St. John’s. Our non-profit was founded in 2012 to support Oakland’s public school libraries and to advocate to ensure every Oakland public school student has access to quality school library services.
Literacy rates in Oakland are very low. Sixty-six percent of Oakland Unified School District students are not reading at their grade level. Forty-eight percent of OUSD students are reading multiple years below their grade level. This issue disproportionately affects students who are living in poverty.
We were looking for office space, because we started a new library book donation program in October, in response to the many library books lost from school libraries during the pandemic. This program provides “like new,” library quality books to OUSD libraries free of charge. The program involves FOPSL volunteers accepting book donations from select sources, sorting them, and entering them into a virtual library. OUSD librarians then select books by “checking them out” online. Our volunteers prepare the books for library shelves, adding barcodes, entering them into the library database, and applying protective coverings. Then, our volunteers deliver the books to schools. OUSD library staff have enthusiastically embraced this program. As of April 15th, we have delivered over 2,500 books to libraries with some donated books, not suitable for the libraries, passed along to their students. Because the libraries are chronically underfunded, there is a need for these high quality books to keep school libraries current and engaging. In fact OUSD has not provided collection development money to its school libraries for many years, so the libraries depend on FOPSL for these books as well as FOPSL book and programming grants.
Last year, FOPSL partnered with OUSD to launch the OUSD Digital Library of eBooks and audiobooks. We have raised over $90,000 to support the library thus far, which will, for the first time, give equitable access to books to every single OUSD student. Since we were founded in 2012, we have provided nearly $200,000 in funding to support OUSD libraries. We have rebuilt 24 libraries. FOPSL has donated thousands of books and skilled volunteer hours to support OUSD libraries.
We are excited that some of our supporters are St. John’s congregants. Louise Miller is a close friend of our Board Chair. Barbara Newhall has been a long-time supporter of our organization, and Nancy Davis Kho just appeared in our Fall Author Chat series. We are hopeful that we’ll be able to engage some of your congregation in volunteering with FOPSL.
We are happy and grateful to be a part of your extended community. We feel that this space will help us grow our very popular and needed library book donation program and will help us build student literacy in Oakland. To learn more about our organization, please visit fopsl.org.
by Laura Kroger
The Campus/Rentals Committee is actively moving forward with the recommendation from the Strategic Plan to maximize space usage by renting our facilities during the week. The objective is to both increase revenue and create a community hub, while prioritizing or accommodating parish usage. We are excited to create a dynamic environment at St. John’s for our neighbors in Montclair and the broader Oakland community.
Over the past year, we have brought in two tenants who are a wonderful fit for our rental program. Pride in Learning Montessori (PILM) school moved into the Nursery and Library in the fall for their infant and toddler programs, and they have expanded into the Reception Room this spring with their preschool program. Friends of the Oakland Public School Libraries (FOPSL) moved into the upstairs Godly Play classroom on the corner overlooking the playground, with their program to collect and distribute books to underserved students. We anticipate that our prior tenants, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Music Together (toddler music class), will return to using the Fischer Room once it is safe for them to resume their programs. The leases for all tenants include flexible usage of the spaces so that St. John’s can continue to run our own programs.
Another goal of the space rental program is to bring in short-term renters. This might include individuals, for-profit businesses, or non-profit organizations that need a conference room for a couple of hours or office space for a day. Some of you may know that parishioner and former People’s Warden, Ian Storrar, founded a startup website/app called ThisSpace (www.usethisspace.com), which is designed to connect tenants with church spaces for short-term rentals and which functions as a booking platform with an electronic user agreement and payment system. The Campus/Rentals Committee is fortunate to have Ian as a member and we are using ThisSpace as a model for our program. We also had the opportunity to use ThisSpace on a trial basis.
Earlier this year, the committee consulted with a couple of parishioners who are real estate agents to get their input and advice about using St. John’s for short-term rental space. Nancy Lehrkind and Helen Nicholas were both enthusiastic about the market for this kind of space rental, especially during the pandemic, and provided great information and data to help us with pricing and listing the Education Building spaces. The committee had just completed preparing the Rector’s Office when Nancy put us in touch with her daughter, former St. John’s youth member, Molly Lehrkind. Molly, an attorney, and her husband Ben, a computer engineer, are both working remotely and needed office space for three weeks this spring while selling their house and moving into their new place nearby.
Molly’s initial feedback about using ThisSpace indicated a good start to our trial short-term rental of the Rector’s Office with the comments “seamless” and “took 15 seconds.” She has good memories of her CNC class meeting in the Rector’s Office and loved working in the light-filled space with pretty views. Molly and Ben have a 9-month-old daughter, so a chance meeting with the director of PILM in the kitchen serendipitously led to a conversation about the Montessori philosophy, an impromptu tour of the school, and Gillian is now on the waitlist to enroll in the program in August! We may even have a chance to see their family at St. John’s when we re-open!
The Campus/Rentals committee is working toward making short term-rentals sustainable – standardizing and streamlining the process to minimize staff and volunteer involvement, and creating a smooth experience for the tenants. Our Rector, Scott, is part of the adventure and with his usual sense of humor, quipped that he enjoys being the first rector in the diocese without an office. Our Youth Director, Kellor, is excited about the possibility of the youth at St. John’s collaborating with FOPSL in their volunteer activities to promote literacy.
All of the renters who have occupied space in the past year at St. John’s have reached out to us, and word of mouth is bringing us great tenants! Not only was Nancy Lehrkind instrumental in connecting us with Molly, but also PILM heard about St. John’s through Ian Storrar and FOPSL heard about us through a few of their supporters who are also St. John’s members, Nancy Kho, Louise Miller, and Barbara Newhall. If you know of anyone interested in renting space at St. John’s, please let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org
As interviewed by Pat Harden
The Rev. Dr. Fran Toy broke through gender and racial stereotypes to become the first Asian American woman priest in the Episcopal Church. At age 86, Fran has personally experienced and overcome the three “isms” of sexism, racism and ageism, during her distinguished career. Born in the ghetto of Oakland’s Chinatown, Fran set out to follow in her mother’s footsteps as an educator. After graduating from Cal in 1956, Fran taught elementary school in Oakland for 18 years. Then a call to the ministry changed the trajectory of her life.
After attending seminary at Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) and graduating in 1984, she was ordained a priest the following year. Fran spoke to me about her life experiences as the recent violence against Asian Americans escalated. Here are edited excerpts from our conversation.
Q: What are your thoughts about the recent spate of attacks on Asian Americans?
A: It’s causing long-suppressed memories to resurface, some from childhood and some from adulthood. Even while I was on the staff at CDSP, I experienced racial stereotyping.
As an older, petite female, I am not going to Chinatown to shop alone. My son takes me, and he’s very imposing. I have a good Asian American male friend on Long Island in New York. He says he’s never been fearful before, but he will not go out alone anymore because Asians are being tackled, once their faces and coloring are visible.
My son reminded me that this kind of persecution has been going on for a long time. He recalled the murder of Vincent Chin in Detroit in 1982. Auto workers murdered him thinking he was Japanese, out of their fear that Japanese car makers would overtake American manufacturers.
Q: Will you share an example of how you’ve experienced racism as an Asian American woman?
A: In 1968 I was taking my son for guitar lessons in Montclair. I would do grocery shopping while he was in class, and as I waited in line to make a purchase, someone would step directly in front of me after looking at me dismissively. Either the person sensed that he or she could do so with impunity or that I would not speak up for myself. This happened more than once. I simply wasn’t seen. Disappointingly, history repeated itself 50 years later when the same thing happened in December of 2018.
My daughter and I were on a cruise on the QM2. She wanted to know how many voyages it would require for her to achieve Platinum Status. I went to the Cunard office to inquire. At the office door you were requested to take a number, to sit down and wait your turn. While I was waiting, a white man came, bent over to take a number, looked at me, didn’t take a number and immediately went into the office ahead of me, as if I weren’t there at all. I quickly went in and said, “Excuse me I’ve been waiting, and I have a number.” The woman in charge said very dismissively, “he’ll only be a minute.” I was not seen as a person in this situation. I didn’t sleep well that night, faulting myself for not standing up more in this situation. Then I realized I was just adding to the pain and frustration by being self-critical.
Q: What challenges did you face in becoming the first Asian American woman priest?
I had to be very conscious of cross-cultural issues and never show anger. While I was being interviewed to be ordained as a deacon, I did poorly because of a question about my favorite theologian. When asked, my first thought was to name James H. Cone, an African American, who wrote from his experience of being oppressed. However, I knew I should name a European theologian since that’s what the committee expected. I fudged the answer, and they could tell I was hesitating. The Commission on Ministry informed me that they all agreed I had a call to be ordained, but they would be postponing my ordination until I took more theology. Fortunately, the Bishop came to my rescue, and I was ordained. As an overachiever, I took another course in theology and engaged in sessions of theological reflections with a seminary professor.
Q: Did you face more challenges after being ordained?
While I was working at CDSP (Episcopal seminary), it was challenging. There were days that were very grim. I wish that a certain dean was still alive who made my life miserable, so he could see all this new consciousness and that our presiding bishop is African American. As I sat across the table, this dean would speak to me in a way that he wouldn’t if I were a white male. He was East coast, which is a different culture from California. He did not understand the West coast or this Asian female who was doing her very best at CDSP. One time he was furious with me for allegedly saying that CDSP was racist. I responded that I did say that. As an institution, any institution is racist. There was stunned silence. He couldn’t answer me. He couldn’t say that’s not true.
We’re in a cultural awakening about racism and white privilege. What are your thoughts?
It’s painful, of course. I have been in a series of small group meetings at St. John’s since before the pandemic, and we are reading and reflecting. We are all saying that whatever educational system we have been through, whatever state we’re from, the history that we learned said nothing about racism. White privilege wasn’t a conscious term, not even when I was in seminary.
Suddenly after I graduated, the Episcopal Church started to unpack those back-packs of privileges white people have. It’s been very painful, but when you consider who wrote the history books, no surprise. It’s time. It’s really been time and it’s past time. Of course, it’s very difficult for some people to give up privilege. But it really is very encouraging for me as a person of color to know that I am in a congregation where there are people who really care about being Christian and living up to the Baptismal Covenant (Book of Common Prayer, pps. 304-305). Every time there is a Baptism, we make promises to respect every person’s dignity as a human being. We redo this every year the first Sunday after the Epiphany when the gospel lesson is about the baptism of Jesus. This happens at every Episcopal Church, not just St. John’s. Renewing our baptismal vows is also part of the Easter Vigil service (BCP, pps. 292-294).
Q: You’ve been a leader for 36 years in the Church, what changes have you seen?
A: When I was ordained female priests were a rarity, but now we have a number of female bishops. The last Saturday of January the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon ordained and consecrated the Episcopal Church’s first female Japanese American Bishop. She came to CDSP and we became close friends. When she was ordained to the priesthood, she gave me the honor and privilege of preaching at her ordination service.
Q: What would you like to change in the Church?
A: The Episcopal Church in the US is very white. I want to learn how to engage more people who look like me at St. John’s. We are a very welcoming place, but somehow or other we still are very white. Where we’re situated in Montclair is part of it.
The Mouse is the long-running news source for St. John's. With decades of history, our blog now features the same great news about what's happening at St. John's with a more frequent publication cycle.