Hello to my new friends and family at Trinity Church, Newport.
A few weeks ago I visited Trinity Parish, your hospital (where I met your fine assistant priest, Fr. Neale), some of your homes and a few restaurants. The warmth of your welcome was delightful and several of our conversations had real depth and breadth. I am pleased to have met so many of your Vestry members and the team that works as the staff of the parish, and I look forward to many experiences of shared ministry with them and with you. One of your docents-not a member of the parish, but certainly a part of your common history in this place over more than four centuries-shared more than I could take in during that visit. I was much amused in noticing your “pew boxes” have the look of studied symmetry and subdued, almost monochromatic color when one looks at them from the entrance to the nave. Yet each of them with their sometimes elegant, sometimes playful upholstery, carries an individuality that reflects our national motto, unum ex pluribus, “one out of many.” We, as followers of Jesus Christ, know what it is to stand always for the greater good, through our “common prayer,” and always seeking to love and serve every individual.
The Episcopal Church in Minnesota celebrated its 150th anniversary while I served as Bishop, as did St. John’s University (Benedictine) in Collegeville. I learned much from those Benedictines, including their habit of thinking in terms of a century and a half at all times, so they are aware that everything they do builds on the past and shapes the future. The university and the Diocese of Minnesota have each engaged their second hundred and fifty years, while Trinity (begun in 1698) is well into its third such period. Incredible!
I grew up in the Lutheran Church, not one of the more biblically literal varieties, but with enough emphasis on sin that my teenage view of God was the “celestial sniper” who would get you for something!
When I first came to The Episcopal Church in college and prayed with others to God “whose property is always to have mercy” [BCP, Prayer of Humble Access], I was in awe that these people really believed that phrase most fully described the heart of God. I came to believe that, too. And when I studied and prayed at General Theological Seminary, the experience was life-changing particularly in the way I came to see all people as beloved by God. I hope I treat people that way.
Surely you expected me to talk about myself in this initial conversation, but to talk about me is to talk about what I believe, what I stand for and what I have given and will give my life for: the gospel of love and peace and justice and everlasting hope, built on the overwhelming mercy of God to any and each of us who fails, who falls down, who makes costly and harmful mistakes in our relationships with others and with ourselves. Resurrection life is life that is beginning again and again.
More personally, I am 77 years old, divorced twice, have one adopted son, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, all of whom live in California and whom I do not see often enough. I have a seven year old standard poodle who is my constant companion and who was content to sit with me in my office during pastoral visits or meetings. His name is Ezekiel (EZ). He is well-behaved and you will get to meet him. Due to some limitations from arthritis in my feet, I no longer bicycle or take long walks, but I am able to climb the ten steps into Trinity’s pulpit. In spite of two cancer scares within the past four years and many tests, I am grateful for God’s healing power and the energy to undertake another interim in a congregation as promising and exciting as Trinity.
With regard to transition: when congregations in transition in my diocese expressed their anxiety about what might happen to them in the future, I used to ask them, “Do you believe God has walked with you in the past and through the wilderness until this day? And if you do, why can you not trust God to be walking with you in every step you(we) take into the future?” That is the journey we are to embark on right now.
It was in those journeys that the congregations and the people who were part of them discovered who they were and what they were capable of. For them it was really a journey into God. Our Presiding Bishop, ++Michael Curry calls us the Jesus Movement; what a gift of insight and hope for The Episcopal Church. How are we at Trinity invited and empowered to be a vital part of the Jesus Movement? We shall discover that together.
God’s every blessing to all of you,
The Rt. Rev. James L. Jelinek,
8th Bishop of Minnesota, Res.