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Parish Newsletter

Summer 2020

Dear Friends,

Today I bought my first liturgical face mask – green damask to match the vestments for the season of Pentecost.

In other words, I’m preparing for the day when we can resume public worship. As you can imagine, however, reopening and regathering is not a matter of simply throwing open the church doors. The pandemic is changing what it means to be in community, and we have begun to glimpse how much more complicated it will be to open up than it was to shut down.
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We must consider new schedules of cleaning and sanitizing, continued adjustments to worship (with masks to be worn by all participants), occupancy plans for movement within the church, revised procedures for the Eucharist, and of course the ever-developing counsel of religious, government and medical authorities. A dedicated group of Vestry members is working on a thoughtful, prudent and prayerful way forward, and we will do our best to be as thorough as possible in both planning and communicating.
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One thing is clear – streaming the 11:00 a.m. Sunday service is working well. We have more households viewing this service on YouTube than we normally get in church. Sometimes it’s upwards of 200. Streaming technology has also afforded us some added perks, such as splicing in Rik’s sermons delivered from home as well as a ballet video from me. Moreover, were we to open this service up to public worship under the Bishop’s current restrictions, we would have to discontinue communal singing (because of the potential to spread droplets) and require clergy and choir members to wear masks. All things considered, we have decided to continue with our current routine of pre-recording and streaming the 11:00 a.m. service throughout the summer. We will also continue to host our Sunday 5:00 p.m. service on Zoom.
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It is likely that our first step toward reopening will be the return of the Sunday 8:30 a.m. service of Holy Eucharist, which is entirely spoken. We do not have an exact date but are hopeful that it could be in July or August. Of course, in the end, we will err on the side of caution. I would much rather look back and say we reopened too late than too soon. As much as we long to gather in person, we know that our spiritual health is deeply connected to our physical health. In the words of Paul, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (I Cor. 12:26-27).
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That said, come July we will be able to offer the sacrament of Holy Communion (in one kind) to individuals. If you would like to come to the Parish House to receive the host from the reserved sacrament, please be in touch. I am always eager to share the gift of God’s grace with you.
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FROM THE SENIOR WARDEN:
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When we started our search for a new Rector, at the beginning 2020, we expected to have Adrian stay with us for a year to smooth the transition, and call a new Rector this fall. Covid-19 has thrown those plans, like so many others, into disarray. With guidance from Bishop Dietsche, we have extended Adrian’s contract as Interim Priest in Charge for an additional 18 months, until June 2022. The purpose of this extension is to help guide us as a community to a renewed sense of identity, clearly establishing the parish we want to be going forward. I am confident that the same enthusiasm and strong faith that has helped Adrian lead us through the Covid-19 lockdown, will be invaluable as we tackle defining our vision for the future of Incarnation.
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I want to thank the Rector Search Committee leaders – Chris Stromee and Florin Georgescu – and all the search team members, for their hard work developing the parish survey and the parish profile. Given the extension of Adrian’s contract, we will suspend the search process, until we are ready to resume at the end of 2021. The parish survey has been a very helpful tool to understanding how current parishioners feel about Incarnation, and what we need to focus on for the future. It will be an integral part of our planning process. I thank everyone who completed it and encourage those who haven’t to take this time to do so.
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Sandy Von Benken has resigned from the vestry; we thank her for her service over many years. Lenore Ritter, the clerk to the vestry, has been appointed to serve out the rest of Sandy’s term, the next 6 months. I want to thank all our 2020 vestry for continuing to attend remotely, and fully participating in our planning and responses to the pandemic.
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As you know, this has been a difficult time for many organizations and Summer Camps have been particularly impacted by the pandemic. I’m pleased to say that Incarnation, working closely with the Incarnation Camp director and board, has helped put in place financing options which we believe will give Incarnation Camp the flexibility to come through this summer and continue successfully into the future. We owe special thanks to Lance Eckel, our treasurer, for his diligence and thoughtfulness in putting this together.
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Lastly, I wanted to share my sense of loss from the suspension of in-person worship and collective community gatherings imposed by the New York City lockdown. I am very grateful that we have managed to keep our parish family safe from the pandemic. I am also grateful that we have found new ways to communicate virtually, which are detailed on our website. We will continue to experiment with what communication methods work best. I encourage anyone with ideas or time to help with these efforts to contact Adrian.
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We would not have been able to offer these communications without Adrian and Rik’s leadership and the devoted work of our new Office Administrator, Thomas Reefer. When you view our recorded services, please give thanks to David Ralph and the choir for the way they have continued to offer music to inspire and enrich our worship, despite the difficulties of social distancing. When you see the church interior, well-polished and with stained glass gleaming, give thanks for all the efforts of our Sacristan Rico and his assistants Lance and Ameer, who have faithfully come into the church and maintained our historic building throughout the pandemic. Our thanks go out to them all for keeping our community going and showing a light in the darkness of lockdown.
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For those who from circumstance or preference have not been able to view our recorded services on YouTube, or participate in Zoom meetings, I encourage you to write to us and let us know if you value this written newsletter / are interested in other communications options to help stay in touch.
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– Jonathan Vaughan, Senior Warden
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ANTI-RACISM PROGRAM OPPORTUNITIES
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Nationwide demonstrations over the last weeks have led many to inquire about ways for the church to combat racism, which in biblical terms, is the sin of partiality (James 2:1). Our faith tells us we are made in the image of God and that we have the obligation to work toward a world that reflects the beauty, diversity and mutuality of God’s people. Racial reconciliation is a defining component of the mission of the larger Episcopal Church as well as the Diocese of New York. In that spirit, Incarnation will offer programming designed to peel away the layers that have contributed to the challenges and divides of the present day – all while grounded in our call to faith, hope and love.
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Our first offering will be a Zoom film screening and discussion of a documentary recommended for congregations by the Diocesan Anti-Racism Committee. On Thursday, July 23, we’ll gather on Zoom at 6:30 p.m. to watch White Like Me: Race, Racism, and White Privilege in America (2013), based on Tim Wise’s book of the same name. This seventy-minute documentary unpacks white privilege from a historical perspective and describes how it still shapes American life today. We’ll continue with a post-viewing discussion of the film as it pertains to our Christian spirituality, wrapping at 8:30 p.m.
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This September, we will have another virtual gathering to hear from author Chester Johnson about his recently published book, Damaged Heritage: The Elaine Race Massacre and a Story of Reconciliation. This book is based on a mostly forgotten massacre of more than 100 African-Americans in 1919 in Elaine, Arkansas, not far from Chester’s hometown. Damaged Heritage describes Chester’s own journey of discovering his family’s role in the massacre and beginning the work of reconciliation with descendants of those victimized during the event and its aftermath. In recent weeks, Chester has given virtual talks to the Church Club, Trinity Church Wall Street (where he is a parishioner), and the Washington National Cathedral. I look forward to scheduling a time for Chester to address Incarnation via Zoom.
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I also look forward to offering a fall book study focused on anti-racism. This may become an opportunity to engage in a Diocesan-wide book study that will form discussion groups across congregations. Details are to be determined and we will let you know in due time. Over the summer, you might consider reading Damaged Heritage in anticipation of Chester Johnson’s presentation. Finally, Incarnation will be looking into concrete ways of addressing racial justice as part of our Mission and Outreach efforts.
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STEWARDSHIP THANKS
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For those who have made pledges and/or donations to Incarnation in 2020, you are receiving a mid-year statement of giving. We are so grateful for your continued support, especially at a time when we have not been able to “pass the plate” in worship, resulting in fewer donations.
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We also understand that many in our community may not be able to give at the level they had hoped. If the current economic disruption threatens your income or livelihood, please know that generosity can only be measured in terms of your personal circumstances. Decreased financial giving does not necessarily equal decreased generosity. If, on the other hand, you are in a position to increase your level of giving, doing so in a time of crisis is a powerful sign of the mutual care to which all members of the Church are called.
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Whatever your circumstances may be, I know that for many of you, giving to Incarnation is a spiritual discipline and point of pride. This is certainly the case for Jess and me. Thank you for your gifts in any amount to the glory of God and in thanksgiving for our parish.
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I’ll give Rik the final word as we consider where we’ve been these past few months and look ahead to the future.
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FROM THE INTERIM ASSOCIATE:
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It’s been an extraordinary time for us all here at Incarnation since mid-March. From having a limited presence on the Internet, in the space of a few very short weeks our community moved entirely online so we could keep together and keep an eye out for each other. We added new services, we developed new offerings for our youngest members, we boosted existing program scheduling – and people discovered despite the hardship of the times, online church could actually work – with increased engagement and participation. That’s not to say we will stay online forever! We of course want to meet once again face-to-face, break bread and laugh, smile and console each other without the need for a tablet, laptop or phone. That’s our calling, and always will be.
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However, as we begin to look towards the Fall and the start of a new program year, it’s going to be very interesting to see how we will incorporate some of the lessons learnt over the course of the past three months. How some of our online offerings going forward can compliment our traditional gatherings and worship time together. How we can all anticipate a new time for Incarnation that will explore the potential of combining online and in-person ‘church.’ And we won’t be the only ones discovering new paths in this duality. But we’ll be at the forefront – just as we were in March, becoming one of the first churches in Manhattan to offer streaming services and evolving our weekday services and programs. So, watch this space and please do share your views. Out of these extraordinary times, God willing, there’ll be something of a renaissance for this venerable parish. And we have good reason to be quite hopeful.
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– The Rev. Richard S.J. Pike
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At Incarnation, summer is usually a time of rest – of breathing deeply between the end of one program year and the beginning of a new one in September. I think we might need rest this summer more than ever before. May you find plenty of time for holy leisure, re-creation and rest in the assurance of God’s unfailing mercies.
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In Christ,
Adrian+
The Rev. Adrian Dannhauser, Interim Priest in Charge
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Enclosure (via U.S. mail):
2020 mid-year statement of giving



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