Archive for May, 2018

Those Daring Victorians

Thursday, May 31st, 2018

Last night, the New York chapter of the Victorian Society met for their annual meeting in the Church of the Incarnation.

Part of the meeting’s purpose was to give out a number of awards and grants for historic preservation efforts in New York City. As the awards were distributed, the work of many of the service organizations honored was mentioned.

Especially notable were the efforts in the 19th century to establish racial equality and women’s rights. Museum exhibits were cited that recorded the numerous activities of the abolitionists and the suffragettes.

We often forget that the Victorian era was not just a time of conservative sexual mores. It was also a period of intense activism–not, perhaps, unlike our own. —J. Douglas Ousley


Talking the Talk

Monday, May 21st, 2018

American Episcopalians could be pleased with the reception given to the sermon by the Most Rev. Michael Curry at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last Saturday.

I have been surprised at how few of the Episcopalian laypeople I have talked to knew of Bishop Curry or were aware that he is the Presiding Bishop of the whole Episcopal Church. Even fewer knew that he preached in the pulpit of the Church of the Incarnation last December 6, at the 100th anniversary celebration of the Church Pension Fund.

To those familiar with the free-wheeling preaching style of African-American clergy, the sermon wasn’t surprising. But in the formal atmosphere of the royal chapel of St. George’s Windsor, Bishop Curry’s energetic oratory came as a bit of a shock. It could not have been more different than the cerebral reflections I heard the previous Saturday from the new Bishop of London, during her installation in St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Episcopalians could also be proud of the precise Anglican liturgy, immaculately executed with lovely music. All in all, it was more than an elaborate ceremony; the wedding, even to the skeptic, was clearly a compelling act of worship. —J. Douglas Ousley


In the Olde Country

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Yesterday, I returned from a brief trip to London. Among other things, I was there to represent the Diocese of New York at the Installation of the new bishop of our link Diocese of London on May 12.

The Rt. Rev. Susan Mullally was placed on her episcopal throne with pomp and efficiency by notables of the Church of England and the City of London. Contrasting this events with installations of past bishops of New York, I have two comments.

  1. The Church of England still has a significant following as the Established Church. The Lord Mayor of London was present for the service and hosted a reception afterwards. (He even entered and exited by his own door in the north wall of St. Paul’s Cathedral.) The church was packed and seats were available by ticket only. There was a lottery for the limited number available to the city at large. Seating has never been a problem in the Diocese of New York, and it is decades since a major of New York was present at an installation.
  2. Second, Bishop Mullally is the first female in her post, following 132 male Bishops of London. Some conservative Evangelical and Angl0-Catholic parishes apparently declined to berepresented at the service. Whether dissident parties who reject any ordination of women will eventually be reconciled with their new diocesan remains to be seen. —J. Douglas Ousley

Never the Same River

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus pointed out, “You can never step into the same river twice.” A river is always changing from moment to moment.

The same is true of the soul–it’s always changing, always evolving. As a result, you never reach a point in this life where you can say that you have arrived at final stability. As the secular saying goes, “Life happens.”

We have at Incarnation a group called, the Spiritual Development Committee. These people are particularly concerned with the spiritual growth of the members of the parish. Again, the assumption behind the committee is that change will occur, regardless.

But I find this hopeful. We need not fear the future. Rather, we should prepare ourselves for the Holy Spirit to move us forward, to help us make the necessary changes in life into changes for the better. —J. Douglas Ousley


Money and Religion

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

Last night, I attended the annual dinner of the Church Club of New York, a social organization run by city Episcopalians.

The guest speaker was the Dean of Westminster Abbey, the Very Rev. John Hall. Among other things, he mentioned an enormous building project in the upper gallery of the Abbey. It is in process now and will cost over thirty-two million pounds (over forty million dollars).

This is an extreme example of the vast expenses incurred by any ecclesiastical body that has to maintain a historic building. Many such buildings in the UK–like the Abbey and St. Paul’s–have American supporters or “friends” to help underwrite the work.

While Incarnation’s building needs at the moment (about three hundred thousand dollars) are much smaller, our base of support is also smaller. In other words, we need all the friends we can get. —J. Douglas Ousley