CHURCH YEARNS FOR MORE DIVERSITY
(Brief message of the Rev. Canon Dr. Fred Vergara to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin 4/25/14)
(Because the microphone was acting up, I told this oft-repeated joke: One Anglican Archbishop was testing the microphone in the cathedral. He tapped the mic three times and murmured, "There’s something wrong with this microphone." And the congregation replied, ‘And also with you.’”
I bring you greetings from the Presiding Bishop and from my colleagues from the Missionary Society of The Episcopal Church based in New York City. Our thoughts and prayers are for the success of your convention and the continuing advance of God’s mission in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.
Anne Rudig, our Communications Director is the DPP (Diocesan Partnership Program) liaison to this Diocese but she’s in the Executive Council this week, so I am here on her behalf. (My own DPP's are the dioceses of Albany, Easton and Rochester). I hope you welcome me as you would her, though I am not as beautiful and blond as she is.
As missioner for Asiamerica Ministries my message is diversity. I believe there is a deep yearning in the Church for greater diversity. Diversity in all its forms –ethnic, racial, cultural, gender---and their inclusion into the mainstream life and mission is, I believe, the key to spiritual revival and church growth. America's motto is "e-pluribus unum" (out of many, one); American Christian mission is "unity in diversity."
You know among Asian and Latino communities growing rapidly in many of your cities, our staple food is rice. Rumor has it that when there is a fog in the valley, it is because the Filipinos in Stockton, Delano and Tracy are cooking rice for breakfast! So I think Bishop David Rice, by his name and based on what I observed today, can usher in this diversity. With his dynamism, energy and vision, people will come in and become part of an exciting and welcoming church.
The San Joaquin Valley is one of “the bread baskets” of the world. I pray that the Diocese of San Joaquin will also become one of the “salad bowl dioceses” of races, cultures and peoples in the Episcopal Church.
It may interest you to know that as church wide Asiamerica missioner, I am also serving as a (very part-time) Priest-in-Charge of a parish in New York that left The Episcopal Church (and was won back) and so I understand your confounded longings. St. James Church in Elmhurst, Queens in the Diocese of Long Island is a historic church founded in 1704. One of its early rectors was the first bishop and presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Samuel Seabury. Like many churches, it had its ups and downs in history. When the land and property were returned to the Diocese of Long Island after years of litigation only a few people remained. By God’s grace, we experienced revival and in a year’s time, we grew from 25 to 120.
I believe the challenge is to lay-off the baggage of the past (as your theme “travel light” implies), to forgive the pains, heal the wounds, and to move forward to what lies ahead. The mission fields are ripe for harvest and they are right on our doorsteps and neighborhoods. With the leadership of your new bishop named Rice, I believe a new day has come to your diocese!
In the Missionary Society table, I have some literature that will help you know of some partnership programs with the wider church. Bishop David Rice, Chancellor Michael Glass, Canon Kate Cullinane and all faithful clergy and people of the Diocese of San Joaquin, thank you so much for welcoming me.