Dear Friends in Christ – Welcome! The 150th Annual Convention of the Diocese of Albany will now come to order. Let us pray:
Almighty and ever living God, source of all wisdom and understanding, be present with all those who take counsel at this 150th Annual Convention of the Diocese of Albany, for the renewal and mission of Your Church. Gracious Father, we pray for Thy holy catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it. Teach us in all things to seek first Your honor and glory. Guide us to perceive what is right, and grant us both the courage to pursue it and the grace to accomplish it. Grant that Your Word may be truly preached and truly heard, Your sacraments faithfully administered and faithfully received. By Your Holy Spirit, fashion our lives according to the example of Your Son, and grant that we may show the power of Your love to all among whom we live. Inspire our witness to Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, that all may know the power of His forgiveness and the hope of His resurrection, who lives, and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (BCP 816-818)
Please be seated.
While we are preparing for the Credentials Report to be made, would all the new clergy who have come into the Diocese since last year please come to the foot of the stage. That also includes any newly ordained deacons and priests (since last Convention), as well as those who have been newly licensed. If you are married and your spouse is with you, they are most welcome to come up as well.
Welcome New Clergy:
At this time, I would like to invite all our new clergy and their spouses to come on stage and take just a moment to introduce yourself, giving your name and the parish you are serving.
- Deacon Carolyn Bartkus, St. Matthew’s, Lathem
- Patricia Beauharnois, Christ and St. John’s, Champlain
- John Cairns, Adirondack Mission
- David Culbertson, St. Paul’s, Schenectady (Starts in July)
- Art Garno, St. Paul’s, Waddington
- Nancy Goff, Adirondack Mission
- Craig Hacker, St. John’s, Essex
- Judith Malionek, St. Paul’s, Albany
- Alistair Morrison, Christ Church, Duanesburg
- Gabriel Morrow, Calvary Church Burnt Hills
- Deacon Wally Plock, St. Augustine’s, Illion
- Donna Steckline, Christ Church, Gilbertsville
We give thanks to God for each of you and your families and ask the Lord to bless you richly in your new ministries. Welcome!
May the Lord bless us with many more new clergy in the near future. We currently have 13 openings in the Diocese, two others that will be opening soon.
Although not new to the Diocese of Albany, a few of our clergy have accepted new calls within the Diocese this past year:
- James Brisbin is the new rector at Church of the Holy Name, Boyntonville.
- Dan Jones is the new rector of St. Michael’s, Colonie.
- Richard Lehmann has been appointed Priest in Charge at Zion Church, Hudson Falls.
- Frank Lockwood is Priest in Charge at Church of Our Savior, Lebanon Springs.
- Ellen Neufeld is rector of St. Christopher’s, Cobleskill.
- Deacon Gary Norman has been appointed as Deacon Vicar at Zion Church, Morris.
- Ana Rivera-Georgescu has been appointed Priest in Charge at St. Mark’s, Malone
Sadly we have had four clergy die this past year: Fr. David Jenkins; Fr. Richard Knudson; Deacon Robert Roach; and Fr. Herbert Sanderson. Let us take just a moment to remember them in prayer: “Rest eternal grant to David+, Richard+, Robert, and Herbert+, O Lord, may their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.” Amen.
The Diocesan Annual Convention is one of the true highlights of our life and ministry together each year. Given that this is the 150th Annual Convention of the Diocese of Albany makes this year even more special. While the Diocesan Convention has been held in a number of different locations over the years, for the past 20 years we have been richly blessed to be able to hold the Convention here at Camp of the Woods in beautiful Speculator, NY. During this time, our friendship with the folks at Camp of the Woods has grown tremendously. The Christian love and hospitality that they have continuously shown has been such an encouragement and has greatly enhanced our time together as a diocesan family. In recognition of our friendship and this, our 150th Anniversary, Mr. Jim Hammond (President and Executive Director of Camp of the Woods) has asked if he could briefly address the Convention. Please join me in welcoming Mr. Jim Hammond.
In addition to thanking Jim and all the wonderful Camp of the Woods Team, I would like to say one huge heart-felt, THANK YOU to everyone who has worked so hard over the past year, putting in countless hours to help make this weekend become a reality. If you have been involved in any way in helping to plan, organize, prepare for, setup, or lead and carryout any part of this Convention weekend, please stand up. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! — Please note all the individual “Thank You” messages that will be playing throughout the weekend, complements of Fr. Alistair Morrison and modern technology.
Most especially tonight, I want to thank God, for all that He has been doing in and through the clergy and people of the Diocese of Albany these past 150 years, and for that which is still yet to be accomplished by His grace in the years to come. Thank you Heavenly Father! Thank You Lord Jesus! Thank You Holy Spirit! May all that we do this weekend and in the days to come be in accordance with Your will and to Your honor and glory and the benefit of Your Church and people. Amen.
We are richly blessed this year to have several special guests with us – some of whom many of you have met in the past and have become very much a part of our extended Diocesan family, as well as a few new friends joining us for the first time.
We are especially blessed to have with us this year for the first time — the Most Reverend Michael Bruce Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church. Little did I know, when I first invited Bishop Curry well over a year ago to join us for this year’s 150th Diocesan Convention, how famous or popular he would become. I dare say, neither did he?
As most, if not all of you are aware, Bishop Curry was the guest preacher at the recent Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, where he powerfully shared the message of God’s love, ministering not only to the Royal Family and the 600+ guests gathered together at Windsor Castle, but to millions of people around the world who tuned in to watch the wedding. Little did they know what they were in for? But God did!
While the Diocese of Albany’s 150th Diocesan Convention has not quite captured the world’s attention like the Royal Wedding did, Presiding Bishop we are honored to have you with us for this special milestone in the history of the Diocese, and we pray that the Lord will bless you during your time here, and that He will bless us through you as you share with us the Gospel of Jesus Christ – the perfect revelation of God’s total, unconditional, all sacrificial love.
Bishop Curry will be the guest speaker at tomorrow morning’s Plenary Session as well as the guest preacher at tomorrow afternoon’s Holy Communion Service. In addition, he will be the celebrant at Sunday morning’s Youth Mass. Once again, Presiding Bishop, thank you for taking the time to be with us. We are honored you are here — Welcome to the Diocese of Albany.
Also joining us from the Presiding Bishop’s staff, are Tara Holley (Director of Development), and Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers (Canon for Evangelism, Reconciliation, and Stewardship of Creation). Thank you both so much for coming. We are glad you are here. Welcome!
One other person joining us for the first time, that I am very honored to introduce is the Most Rev. Ed Scharfenberger (Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany). Bishop Scharfenberger is not able to be here tonight, but will be with us tomorrow afternoon. When you see him, please make him feel welcome. He is a dear Brother in Christ. I am greatly appreciative for the friendship our two dioceses have, and I look forward to the two Dioceses of Albany working even closer together as we share the love and Good News of Jesus Christ.
Returning for their third visit to Albany we are blessed to have with us once again The Rt. Rev. David Parsons i.e. “Santa Clause” (Bishop of the Arctic) and his wife Rita. This past October, I had my first opportunity to visit the Diocese of the Arctic. Bishop Parsons and Bishop Darren MaCartney (the Suffragan Bishop of the Arctic) invited me to join them for the Dedication of All Saints Cathedral in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada. I was greatly honored to have been invited. It was a very blessed and special time. It was also a very busy time. They kept me hopping – preaching at the Cathedral Dedication Service; leading four daily Bible meditations for the Diocesan Council and teaching a couple of local seminary classes. Thank you Bishop David, for inviting me to visit and share in the ministry of your Diocese, I greatly enjoyed being with you and our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in the Arctic. I do have to admit, the cuisine was a little different than I am accustomed to. Seal blubber has a unique taste – one which I will never forget. Bishop Parsons will be part of the Saturday Afternoon Plenary Panel Discussion on Lay Ministry and will be the guest preacher at the Sunday Youth Mass. +David and Rita, welcome!
We are also very blessed to have with us once again this year our dear friends and fellow laborers in the Lord — The Rt. Rev. Harold and Liz Miller (Bishop of Down and Dromore, Norther Ireland). Bishop Harold and Liz have probably attended more Albany Diocesan Conventions, than most of the people here. I treasure the very special and lasting friendship we have with Bishop Harold and Liz and all our friends in the Diocese of Down and Dromore. The Lord continues to bless us richly through you and your Diocese. Bishop Harold will be our guest preacher at the Sunday Morning Prayer Service, as well as a participant in Saturday’s Plenary Panel Discussion.
In addition to Bp. Harold and Liz, also joining us from our Sister Diocese of Down and Dromore, we are honored to have with us: Mrs June Butler (Mother’s Union Diocesan President); Deacon Andrew Irwin; Capt. Gary and Angela Roberts (Church Army); Rev. Adrian and Linda Green (Bishop’s Curate); Deacon Myrtle Morison; Dr. Alison Troughton, M.D.; Mr. Hugh Thomas Crookshanks; Mrs. Jolly Cherian; and Ms. Linda Abwa (CMSI). We are so glad you can all be with us for our 150th Annual Convention. Welcome!
In April, Deacon Patty Johnson and I joined Bishop Harold and Liz and a small delegation from Down and Dromore in Juba, South Sudan, for Archbishop Justin Badi Arama’s enthronement as Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan. As many of you know, the dioceses of Albany, Down and Dromore, and Maridi (Archbishop Justin’s former diocese) have a three way diocesan relationship. We had hoped Archbishop Justin and Mama Joyce as well as the new Bishop of Maridi, Bishop Moses Zungo and his wife Rejoice could have joined us this year, but it wasn’t possible with their new responsibilities. We hope to have them with us next year.
Although Archbishop Justin and Bishop Moses aren’t able to be with us, I am very thankful and appreciative that other dear friends from Africa are here. We are very honored to have The Rt. Rev. Dr. Fanuel Emmanuel Magangani (Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Northern Malawi) join us. Bishop Fanuel just received his Doctor of Ministry Degree from Nashotah House last month. Congratulations! Bishop Fanuel will be part of our Saturday Afternoon Plenary Discussion and Saturday night healing service.
Three years ago, during my sabbatical, Karen and I were able to go with Mtr. Miriam and Sister Mary Elizabeth to visit their Sister Convent of St. Mary’s in Northern Malawi. We were deeply touched and blessed by the Sister’s and Bishop Fanuel’s gracious hospitality and all the Lord is doing in and through them as they share the Gospel in very difficult circumstances. Also joining us from Norther Malawi, is Sister Martha from the Community of St. Mary. Bishop Fanuel and Sister Martha, we are so glad you can be with us. Welcome.
We have two other very dear friends (SAMS Missionaries) visiting us again this year – Bishop Todd and Rev. Patsy McGregor. The McGregor’s live in Madagascar where Bishop Todd is serving as the Bishop of the Diocese of Toliara. The growth taking place in the Diocese under their leadership is nothing short of miraculous. Bishop Todd is our guest preacher at Saturday Morning Prayer and will also be part of the Plenary Panel Discussion. Bishop Todd and Mtr. Patsy, we are honored that you can be with us once again. You have very much become part of our extended Diocesan Family. Welcome!
The final two people I would like us to welcome this evening don’t need an introduction. They are very much loved and a part of the life and ministry of the Diocese of Albany — Bishop Dan and Carol Herzog. As many of you know, they had planned to be with us last year, but had to cancel at the last minute due to a medical emergency. This past year, Bishop Dan went through several medical emergencies which almost cost him his life. It is only by the grace of God; the dedication and hard work of his doctors and nurses; the loving care of his wife Carol and their family; the countless prayers offered by many of you; and ultimately the healing power of Jesus Christ – that Bishop Dan and Carol are here tonight. Bishop Dan will be the guest speaker at tomorrow night’s healing service, where he plans to share his testimony. Bishop Dan and Carol, we are thrilled you are here. Welcome!.
A brief biographic sketch for each of our special guests can be found in your convention materials.
One of the greatest joys and blessings of our Diocesan Convention is that it provides us with this unique opportunity to come together as Brothers and Sisters in Christ from such varied and rich backgrounds, not only from the 19 counties and 20,000 square miles that makes up the Diocese of Albany, but also from other parts of the Episcopal Church, Anglican Communion, and wider body of Christ — reminding us that we are part of something larger than ourselves. I am so thankful for each of you and all that you do day in and day out serving our Lord and His Church. I give thanks to God for bringing us all here safely this weekend from all around the world in order that we might enjoy one another’s company in this beautiful and sacred place; to be fed by God’s holy Word and sacraments; to worship and serve our Lord together; to teach and learn from one another; and to support and encourage one another as fellow members of the one Body of Christ; all to the glory of God and the benefit of His Church.
One last Group, that I am especially thankful is with us are the young people of the Diocese. I believe they have something special planned for us this evening. I would like to invite Daniel and Kaitlyn Hyde (our Diocesan Beaver Cross and Youth Ministry Leaders) to come forward and share with us a little bit about what the kids will be doing this weekend and what they have planned for tonight.
Thank you guys so much for leading us in this special birthday celebration for the Diocese. I have a special favor to ask the kids. Sunday morning during the Youth Mass, I need you to help me fill a special time capsule commemorating our 150th Anniversary. It will be placed at the Cathedral of All Saints in Albany, where on the 200th Anniversary of the Diocese in 2068, it will be opened – hopefully by one of you.
Let us take a moment and give thanks to God for our kids and ask His blessing upon them (not only the future of the Church, but an important part of the Church today): Heavenly Father, we thank you for the youth of this Diocese. We thank you for the blessing and joy that they are to each of us – not only to their parents and families, but also to their wider parish and diocesan family. We thank you for all those who will be ministering to them this weekend during the Youth Rally, Vacation Bible School, and Child Care, as well as their Sunday School teachers and Youth Group leaders in their home parishes. We pray, Lord Jesus, that You will watch over and protect all of our kids and those caring for them. May they have an enjoyable and blessed time as they grow in their Christian faith and relationship with You and their friendship with one another. Pour out Your Holy Spirit mightily upon them. Touch their hearts and souls and minds; empowering them to be Disciples Making Disciples among their family, friends, and other young people in their communities who don’t know You as Lord and Savior. In the most blessed and holy name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen!
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for us to minister to and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with our children and grandchildren. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mark 10:14)
I know it can be a struggle getting young families and kids to Church with all the competing forces out there, but we need to continue trying, being creative in our efforts. As I stated last year, if we are not intentional about reaching out to young families and children in our communities, we will end up with a Church with no youth. A Church with no youth has no future, neither does a society in which it’s young people don’t know Christ as Lord and Savior. The Lord is counting on us to share our faith with our kids and grandkids so they can come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. There are countless families all around us where neither the parents nor their children have ever been to Church, or have any type of relationship with Jesus Christ. That trend must be turned around. It cannot continue.
While appealing tonight to the parents and grandparents to raise your children in the Christian faith, I must tell you, as I travel around the Diocese and visit with kids being confirmed, I have discovered that often times the kids are the ones the Lord is using most effectively to share the Gospel. They are often the ones who are asking their parents to take them to Church and are inviting their friends to come with them. It is exciting to see how God is working in and through many of our young people. Thank you guys, keep up the good work. May the Lord continue to bless you and use you in mighty and wonderful ways as you share the love of Christ with your parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters and friends.
The kids are welcome to leave at this time. Let’s once again show our love and appreciation for the young people of the Diocese.
The Main Address:
In preparing for this year’s 150th Annual Diocesan Convention and Bishop’s Address, I went through the Archives and found the Diocesan Journal for Albany’s first Diocesan Convention (a two day event) held at St. Peter’s Church, Albany from Wednesday, December 2 to Thursday, December 3, 1868. The Rt. Rev. Horatio Potter (Bishop of New York) was the attending Bishop. The Rt. Rev. Henry Lascelles Jenner (Lord Bishop of Dunedin, New Zealand) was also present as an invited guest. He began what has become a wonderful tradition of inviting Bishops from the wider Anglican Communion to join us for the Diocesan Convention. In addition to the two bishops, there were 61 clergy and 124 lay delegates at the Convention representing 60 parishes (all of whom were men, for women were not allowed at that time to serve as clergy or lay delegates).
In contrast, as we just heard from the Secretary of Convention, this evening we have 110 clergy and 129 lay delegates representing 86 parishes attending this year’s Convention. The total number of people (including the clergy and lay delegates) expected here at Camp of the Woods this weekend will be approximately 1,000.
Unlike that first Convention, in which there were no female clergy, or lay delegates, the role of women in leadership positions within the Church in recent years has greatly changed. Today, the Diocese of Albany is blessed to have both men and women faithfully serving our Lord and His Church as priests and deacons, lay delegates, wardens, vestry members, and a multitude of other key leadership positions.
On December 3, 1868 (the second and final day of the Convention), the Rev. William Croswell Doane, Rector of St. Peter’s Church, was elected on the 9th ballot from a slate of 17 candidates, as the first Bishop of Albany. He would go on to serve as Bishop for the next 44 years until his death in 1913, at the age of 81.
As the 9th and current Bishop of Albany, I was elected just up the hill from St. Peter’s at the Cathedral of All Saints on March 25, 2006, on the fourth ballot from a slate of 11 candidates. With the now mandatory retirement age of 72, the longest I could serve as bishop would be 22 years, retiring in 2029. We will have to see what God has planned. I am now in my 12th year as your Bishop.
In 1868, when the Diocese of Albany was first established, becoming independent from the Diocese of New York, there were 96 Episcopal churches in the 19 upstate counties comprising the newly established Diocese of Albany. Today, there are 117 Episcopal Churches/congregations in the Diocese. Of the original 96 congregations, 34 have sense closed. Fortunately 55 other Episcopal churches have been established taking their place and adding to the total number of Churches now making up the Diocese of Albany.
While there are currently a few congregations that are quite fragile and could potentially close if they continue on their current trajectory, that is not my desire. It has been exciting to see several parishes that had been in sharp decline in recent years, turn around and come back to life with a new sense of vibrancy starting to grow, both numerically and spiritually. Strong Christ-centered leadership (both clergy and laity) makes all the difference. I will speak more about that in a few minutes.
In his sermon at the opening service of the Diocesan Convention in 1868, Bishop Potter said, “And on this most interesting day, the dawning of a new era for you, my dear Brethren, when we begin to put together the framework and to erect the superstructure of a new Diocese, we say, over all, the words of faith, devotion, and earnest prayer, ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,’ and we proclaim to all who have ears to hear, the one holy Rock on which we mean to build, whether in the work of our own personal salvation, or in the work of this now-to-be-organized Diocese, this definite and independent portion of our Branch of the One Holy Catholic Church, ‘Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.’” (I Corinthians 3:11).
With the election of their first bishop and the official formation of Albany as a separate and independent diocese, (the first to be named after a city and not a state), the people and clergy of the Diocese of Albany began a journey of faith in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ, which continues to this day, and by God’s grace will continue until our Lord returns.
To learn more about what the Lord has been doing in and through the people and clergy of the Diocese of Albany these past 150+ years, I would encourage you to read the wonderful little booklet, Lay Canon George Marshall edited and put together for us: “The Diocese of Albany’s 150th Anniversary Booklet.” It gives a brief overview of the history of the Anglican/Episcopal Church in this region, even before the official establishment of the Diocese, as well as touching on many of the highlights of the Diocese of Albany which occurred during the tenure of each of its nine bishops up to the present day – recognizing that the final chapter of the Diocese is still yet to be written. One of the highlights of the booklet is the section on the parishes. There is a picture and brief write-up of each Church in the Diocese, or at least all those who turned them in.
I want to thank George for this very special gift and tremendous labor of love. It is greatly appreciated. Everyone who registered for this year’s Diocesan Convention, as well as each parish in the Diocese is being given a free complimentary copy of the booklet. You should have received one in your convention bag. We have extra copies for sale in the tent by the Tee-Pee. They would make wonderful Father’s Day gifts for you last minute shoppers, or great birthday, anniversary, Christmas, Easter, or Confirmation gifts. Or you can give one to that special someone – just because. In all seriousness, hopefully you will enjoy reading the 150th Anniversary Booklet and learn some things about the Diocese that you might not have known.
With that said, looking now to the present and the future, I would briefly like to touch on a few highlights around the Diocese. I was just recently at St. Paul’s, Bloomville for the dedication of their new Every Community Center and St. Paul’s Ministry Center. Deacon Laura and Larry Miller and the folks at St. Paul’s and several of their friends from around the Diocese have done a phenomenal job this past year making a dream become a reality. The combined Community and Ministry Center looks beautiful and will greatly enhance St. Paul’s ability to better minister to the local community and surrounding area providing food and clothes to the poor and needy; ministry to the Veterans; offering space for the local medical providers to hold health related programs; improved space for St. Paul’s afterschool and Sunday School program; as well as space for various recovery groups to meet. St. Paul’s has demonstrated that small parishes can accomplish great things.
The Oaks of Righteousness, located in one of the most depressed and dangerous neighborhoods in North Central Troy is continuing to grow in their ministry to children and their parents, sharing the love and Good News of Jesus Christ to folks who are in desperate need of hearing Good News. Earlier this year we dedicated their new bell and there are ongoing talks about Oaks becoming a Mission Congregation.
Tomorrow evening during the Healing Service, I will be commissioning the Diocese of Albany’s first Recovery Ministry Team – a group of folks dedicated to ministering to people struggling with various addictions. The opioid epidemic in upstate New York is out of control, devastating and destroying countless lives. I pray the Recovery Ministry Team will be a channel through which the Healing Light of Jesus Christ may shine brightly into the darkness that has consumed and destroyed so many lives, setting the captives free from the bondage of addiction.
It has been exciting to hear how various Bible Studies around the Diocese are continuing to grow and transform the lives of countless people. The Mid-Winter Women’s Bible Study hosted at Christ the King Center this past February drew approximately 100 women from a number of different Christian backgrounds who are on fire for the Lord and His Word. I was recently told of the growing excitement at Calvary, Burnt Hills over their new Bible Study and Adult Education Program. We are blessed to have with us this evening our good friends from Scripture Union USA, who have been helping us the last several years bring about a Bible Reading Revival in the Diocese. I long for the day when every parish in the Diocese of Albany has an active on going Bible Study ministry. God’s Word is truly life giving and life transforming. I encourage each of us to try to be faithful and spend time each day reading and meditating on the Holy Scriptures. One of the greatest ways to meet and fall in love with the Lord of the Universe is to read His Word.
There has been a resurgence this year in the number of people around the Diocese interested in ordained ministry, both to the diaconate and priesthood. Mother Sue Waldron reported that we currently have approximately 30 people who have expressed interest in learning more about the ordination process, or who are actively pursuing it. Right now it looks like we will have seven or eight people enrolled in the Diocese’s Diaconal Training Program in the Fall, as well as eight postulants for the priesthood. At a time in which there is a growing shortage of clergy throughout the Church, this is very good news.
While I am encouraged by the apparent growing interest in the ordained ministry, as I shared with you at this year’s Parish Leadership Conference, I cannot over emphasize the absolute importance of lay ministry. Regardless of how many clergy we may or may not have, or how capable they may be, the clergy cannot, nor should they try to do everything that needs to be done in the Church. If the Church is to be healthy and vibrant and carry out its mission “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ,” (BCP 855) we need to do a better job raising up, equipping and empowering laypeople for the ministry the Lord is calling them to.
I am very appreciative to the more than 400 people who attended this year’s Parish Leadership Conference on Lay Ministry and for their feedback. We are continuing to identify and work on ways to improve our lay ministry training. During tomorrow afternoon’s Plenary Session, we are going to have a panel discussion amongst our visiting bishops to talk about how God is using the Laity to carry out ministry in their dioceses and their various lay ministry training programs. We need to do all we can as a Diocese to help raise up, equip and empower the laity for ministry.
One of the tremendous gifts the Lord has given the Diocese of Albany to help us better nurture, teach, train and equip men, women and children, lay and ordained alike to grow in their faith and live the lives God is calling us to as His people, as His saints in this generation and the generations to come — is Christ the King Spiritual Life Center.
In late December of 2002 (after a two year exhaustive search), God made it possible for the Diocese of Albany to become the proud owner of 612 acres of some of the most beautiful countryside in Washington County and all of upstate New York. These past 15+ years by God’s grace and the hard work, dedication and generosity of countless people, Christ the King Center has developed into one of the finest Christian Camp and Conference Centers around. We have made tremendous progress, but we still haven’t even begun to tap the potential of what could be.
This past year, Reuben Todd (CTK’s new Executive Director) and his dedicated staff have been working very hard to bring about several improvements at Christ the King Center. Several of the building on campus to include St. Barnabas Guest Rooms, the old Green House, the old Farm House and the Director’s House all received a greatly needed facelift. Several of the software programs have been updated or replaced greatly enhancing and streamlining registration capabilities and other operations.
Our youth ministry programs are continuing to grow and expand, ministering not only to the young people of our Diocese, but to the wider community. The Lord is opening the door for us to reach into some of the surrounding schools through our after-school program and ministry to school groups coming on campus at Christ the King.
One of my dreams for the not too distant future at CTK, is that we will be able to build a multi-purpose building that can serve as a gym, arts and crafts center and dining facility for the kids. Such a building would greatly enhance our ability to expand our youth ministry even more. I am still looking for that special someone who could make that dream become a reality. If you happen to be that person or know of someone who is, let’s talk!
Our adult ministry programs are continuing to grow and develop as well. In early October, Christ the King Center and the Sisters of Saint Mary will be co-hosting their second Holiness Conference which will feature several gifted speakers and theologians to include the Most Rev. and Right Honorable George Carey, 103rd Archbishop of Canterbury (retired).
Later in October, the Healing Center at Christ the King will be hosting an inner healing conference entitled “Transformed” featuring Judith MacNutt, a world-known leader in Christian healing ministry. There are handouts for both of these events in your convention bags. These are just a few of the exciting ministry programs going on at Christ the King Center.
For the past few years, you have heard me talk about my desire for Christ the King Center to be able to host Christian music concerts as well as record and live-stream conferences and guest speakers to the wider Diocese and beyond. We were unable to do so, because the IT infrastructure and equipment at CTK was inadequate and wouldn’t allow it.
As the result of a recent gift from an extremely generous couple in the Diocese — that is all about to change. In fact as we speak, CTK’s IT infrastructure and equipment are in the process of being upgraded and expanded, thus giving us the ability to provide greatly enhanced Wi-Fi and internet coverage throughout all the major buildings on campus as well as be able to record and livestream major events to a wider audience in the outskirts of the Diocese and beyond. That means that those of you who live in the outskirts of the Diocese will be able to tune in and be part of conference or hear a speaker at Christ the King Center without driving four hours to get there. With that said, if possible, it is well worth the drive.
These are a few of the exciting things going on at Christ the King Center. Tomorrow morning, Reuben will update us on some of the other things happening at CTK.
As well as things are going, the one thing that has greatly hampered and limited the ministry at Christ the King Center from the very beginning, and continues to do so to this day – is the lack of operating capital. We can have the most beautiful grounds and some of the greatest Christian programs and ministry around, but if we don’t have the operating capital to pay the bills and the staff during the slow months, we find ourselves constantly trying to catch up and financially stressed.
If Christ the King Center, which is major ministry and blessing of this Diocese, is ever to truly tap into its potential, and become the ministry resource that I believe the Lord wants it to be for the building up of His Kingdom – the financial situation has to change. This year, we need to raise $500,000 above and beyond the regular level of giving, in order to give Reuben and his team the breathing space they need to help Christ the King Center take the next several steps it needs to achieve to bring about greater financial health and sustainability.
We need your help. I know there are a lot of folks in the Diocese who are struggling financially, but if we can find 500 people who are able to give $1,000 or more, that could make all the difference. I ask you to please pray about what you can do. I will be sending out more about this to the Diocese in the near future. To all who have given so generously to support the ministry of Christ the King Center in the past – Thank You! I pray the Lord will enable you to do even more.
The last thing I need to mention this evening, before bringing this address to a close, is to ask your prayers for the upcoming 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. The General Convention which meets once every three years will be meeting this year in Austin, Texas from July 4th to the 13th. The first prayer, is that the air conditioning works. If you have ever been in Austin, Texas in July, you know what I am talking about.
On a more serious note, this year’s General Convention will be dealing with some very difficult issues that could prove to be very divisive not only within The Episcopal Church, but the wider Anglican Communion and body of Christ, if approved. Not the least of which are the proposed changes to the marriage service in the Book of Common Prayer as well as other proposed changes for the Book of Occasional Services. There is also a growing challenge to the authority of Bishops in exercising their ministry within their dioceses. These are a few of the issues which could become very problematic depending on what actions are taken.
Again, I ask your prayers not only for myself and the General Convention deputation from the Diocese of Albany, but also for our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, for the President of the House of Deputies, Rev. Gay Jennings, and for all the members of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. I pray that God will send His Holy Spirit to guide and lead us, to equip and empower us to discern and carry out His will in all that comes before us at General Convention, setting aside any personal agendas that any of us may have, keeping our focus on Christ, in order that God may be glorified and His Church and people blessed. I ask each of us to pray individually, and I ask each of our parishes and Daughters of the King to establish prayer vigils throughout each day of General Convention.
Finally in closing, while much has changed these past 150 years, the one thing that has remained constant is the solid foundation upon which the Diocese of Albany is laid – Jesus Christ! The theme for this year’s 150th Annual Diocesan Convention — “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8), points to Jesus’ solid, dependable, unchanging character. Jesus will always be who He has always been: the Son of God; God incarnate; Immanuel; the Alpha and Omega…the One “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8); the One through whom all things were made; the Lamb of God; the Good Shepherd; the True Vine; the Bread of Life; the Light of the World; the Logos / the Word; The Christ; the Messiah; the Savior; the Prince of Peace; the King of Kings; Lord of Lords; The Way and the Truth and the Life; the One who promised, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
Jesus is all of this and infinitely more. He is the foundation upon which the Diocese of Albany has been laid, and He is the foundation upon which we must remain firmly attached as we go forward in this ever changing, confusing, out of control world in which we live. If we keep our focus on Christ, He will get us through whatever storms life may throw at us. If we keep our focus on Christ and remain deeply rooted in His Holy Word and committed (by His grace) to live out the Great Commandment and Great Commission, each of us when we take our final breath in this world and meet our Lord Jesus Christ face to face, we will surely hear, “Well done good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your Master.” (Matthew 25: 23)
Happy 150th Anniversary! God Bless You! Amen!