Three New York State Dioceses, Working Together

Above image: It isn’t easy to get three bishops together in August, but here they are (L-R): Bishop Prince Singh (Rochester), Bishop Bill Franklin (Western New York) and Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe (Central New York). Photo by the Rev. Vicki Zust of Western New York. 

Episcopalians love our history and tradition, especially when they’re serving as a strong foundation for today’s innovation! So here’s some history: 178 years ago, all Episcopalians in New York State were part of the Diocese of New York. In 1839, we drew a line just east of Utica, dividing the state into two dioceses. The new Diocese of Western New York was later further divided, creating the dioceses of Central New York (1868) and Rochester (1929). And now it’s 2017, and the bishops of Western New York, Central New York, and Rochester are looking to this history and exploring ways that our three dioceses can work together, sharing ministries and resources. In doing so, by the way, they’re also following the lead of many New York State parishes that are worshiping together, calling clergy together, and feeding the hungry and serving the poor together.

In honor of Bishop DeDe, the newest of the three bishops, Bishop Singh gifted her with a beautiful shawl. Together, Bishop Franklin and Bishop Singh wrapped Bishop DeDe in the shawl, a traditional way to honor and welcome a guest in India.

On August 24th, bishops and staff members from all three dioceses gathered at the offices of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester for a “Tri-Diocesan” summit (one Harry Potter fan canon couldn’t help referring to it as the “TriWizard Tournament”). We were there to ask one another how collaboration could help us better serve our respective dioceses. Communicators talked with communicators, finance gurus with finance gurus, and transition ministers with transition ministers. Each group wrapped up conversations with a solid plan for supporting one another in ministry in the next few months.

At the end of the day, bishops, staff and folks from the Diocese of Rochester came together for a beautiful Evensong service in the chapel of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church (Henrietta) sung by the outstanding choir of Christ Episcopal Church (Pittsford). Bishop DeDe Bishop Prince Singh (Rochester), Bishop Bill Franklin (Western New York) and Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe (Central New York) all participated, with Bishop DeDe preaching. Bishop Singh closed the service and the day with this blessing from the Rev. William Sloane Coffin:

May God give you Grace never to sell yourself short, grace to risk something big for something good, and grace to remember that the world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love. The Blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us now and remain with us this day and always.  Amen.

And that’s the reason for this collaboration: the world needs a Church that is doing our best work, taking faithful risks on new ministries and discovering new ways of being of serving as one body. It is worth the effort.

What do you think? How is your church collaborating with other congregations or trying new shared ministries? Tell us in the comments!

Three loose canons, enjoying ministry together: (L-R) The Rev. Canon Johnnie Ross, Canon to the Ordinary, Rochester; The Rev. Canon Cathy Dempesey-Sims, Canon for Connections, Western New York; The Rev. John Crosswaite, Canon to the Ordinary, Central New York.

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