The Rector’s Message for the Week of March 7, 2021

Rector Turner
The Reverend Canon Carl Turner

Dear Friends,

Some of us have been attending sessions of the annual conference for The Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes (CEEP) which is being held on-line this year. I attended a moving session led by the Rev. Dr. Sam Wells, the Vicar of St. Martin in the Fields, London (with which we have an informal link through the twinning of the Diocese of New York and the Diocese of London) and the Rev. Azariah France-Williams, a priest currently working in Manchester in the North of England. They were sharing how their parishes have been deeply affected by the pandemic and that, in spite of ‘scarcity’ (as they put it) there had also been many moments of ‘abundance’ in extraordinary ways of interconnectedness that they had never experienced before.

Earlier in the day, Henry Timms, the President and CEO of the Lincoln Center, had explored with us what he described as, ‘new power,’ experienced through mass movements, crowd wisdom, radical transparency, and a ‘do-it-yourself’ culture. He said,

“New power models are enabled by peer coordination and the agency of the crowd – without participation, they are just empty vessels. Old power is enabled by what people or organizations own, know, or control that nobody else does – once old power models lose that, they lose their advantage.”

In our Pilgrims’ Class, we have reached two sessions on the history of the Church and I found myself pondering on the history of the Church in relation to ‘old and new power.’ The early church was a movement, inter-racial, inter-generational, and multi-cultural. It had no buildings; it’s organization and structures were fluid and responded to need (the order of Deacon was created not from theological reflection but from necessity). In the 4th century, that all dramatically changed when the Emperor Constantine gave the bishops purple to wear and basilicas to gather the church in.

The pandemic has changed so much because it has been a global phenomenon and has lasted so long. Almost all institutions have been affected and that includes communities of faith. During the pandemic, we have seen emerging global movements – Black Lives Matter in particular – and increased concern over environmental change. Some adherents of ‘old power’ have become ruthless and dictatorial – what is currently happening in Myanmar, or the way opposition leaders are being dealt with in Russia, or to the way that the Uighur people are being treated in North West China. Meanwhile, closer to home, furlough, redundancy, sickness, and so much death, have challenged what we thought was in our control.

This brings me back to the conversation with Sam and Azariah and their reflection on scarcity and abundance during the pandemic. If it has done anything, it has opened our eyes to see that we all took so much for granted, but that opening of the eyes has also revealed new opportunities – new revelations of God’s abundance. I thought I was rich, and I realize that I am spiritually poor; I thought the person who was homeless was in need only to discover that I am equally impoverished. As Sam so beautifully said in our session,

“Poverty is a mask we put on a person to cover up their real wealth. And wealth is a disguise we put on a person to hide their profound poverty. Those we call the rich are those in whom we choose to see the wealth but are more reluctant to see the deep poverty. Those we call the poor are those in whom we choose to see the hunger but are slower to see the profound riches.”

Perhaps something to ponder as we deepen our Lenten discipline.


Your Priest and Pastor,