BY JOANNE S. UTLEY
It was the day of Pentecost, and the presence of the Holy Spirit was expressed at every turn – from the energetic first steps of young dancers to a sea of red and orange streamers waving to the music as the benediction was offered. The closing worship service of the 220th
session of the New York Annual Conference was a time to celebrate how God’s claim on all lives is experienced through baptism, confirmation, ordination and Holy Communion.
Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton called upon the Spirit in the opening prayer:
“Come upon us gathered here to set apart those who will lead among us by calling and equipping us to fulfill your desire that we do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with you.”
During the service three were ordained as deacons, six as elders. One was commissioned as a provisional deacon, and 10 as provisional elders. Three associate clergy members were also received.
One of the many special moments during the Sunday morning service at Hofstra Arena came in the baptism of two children. The bishop baptized Grayson Allen Goodman Chupungco, son of Angelo and Susan Goodman Chupungco; and Holden James Carrubba, son of Chris and Elizabeth Carrubba. Holden is the grandson of Bishop Bickerton, the son of his daughter, Elizabeth. Rev. Susan Chupungco would be ordained as a full elder later in the service.
The bishop asked the gathering for their prayers and love for the boys and their families.
“We all need your help,” he said. “You know how hard it is to raise children today . . . these are our children.”
And then in turning to the confirmands in the arena, Bickerton spoke of the incredible transformation that can happen through confirmation when young people “find their voice and their wings.
“A lot of people wanted you to do this,” he said. “You might even have been forced to . . . but this is the first big adult decision you’ve had to make and you said yes to God!
“So please always put aside a big hunk of your heart for God,” he added.
In his message, based on Ephesians 1:4-6, Bickerton reminded those gathered of the “immeasurable riches of God’s grace in kindness.” Grace that is offered over and over again without fail, despite the failings of humanity. Grace that leads to a “divine progression” of faith throughout life.
“The calling God places on our lives has a demand attached to it,” the bishop said. “Live a wife worthy of the calling. How? By being humble, gentle, patient, loving cooperative, and desiring of unity.”
He told the class of ordinands and the confirmands that he had never admired a group more than these.
“You have said ‘yes’ to joining a church that does not have its act together,” he said. “You have said ‘yes’ to a caravan that is wandering in the wilderness struggling to find it’s way. And you have said that you want to be ordained into this mess because somehow, God’s call on your life is real and cannot be avoided.”
Following the examination of candidates and the laying on of hands for ordination, the class lead the gathering in the sacrament of Holy Communion.
Those ordained as elders in full connection in addition to Chupungco are Carol Bloom, Karina Feliz, Matthew Querns, Jody Spiak, and Elon Sylvester. Rev. Lea Matthews, an openly gay candidate, was ordained along with fellow deacons Janet Cox and Arletha (Lisa) Miles-Boyce. Gregory K. Higgins, Kevin J. Mulqueen, and Dora Janeway Odarenko were also received as associate members. All were given final approval during the clergy session on Thursday night, June 6.
A few clergy members, who support the current wording in the Book of Discipline on human sexuality, carried small signs into the service that read, “STAND: For God’s Word. With God’s Word. On God’s Word.” A handout described the group as a revival effort to serve as "a witness to the world as opposed to being transformed by the world.".
In a statement following the ordination service, Bishop Bickerton said of Matthews, “The strong affirmation from the Board of Ordained Ministry and the overwhelming support expressed from the Clergy Session were clear confirmations of the amazing gifts that Lea possesses. Her call is deep and clear, as is her effectiveness. She truly is a gift to the church.”
As the service came to a close, the bishop invited the delegates to the 2020 General and Jurisdictional conferences to come forward for a blessing. Those elected were as follows:
General Conference laity:
Fred Brewington, Jorge Lockward and Gail Douglas-Boykin; clergy:
Noel Chin, Denise Smartt Sears, and Tim Riss.
Tiffany French Goffe, Ann Craig and Karen Prudente; clergy:
Alex da Silva Souto, Sungchan Kim and Adrienne Brewington.
NEJ reserve laity:
Roena Littlejohn, Katie Reimer, and Daisy Tavarez; clergy:
Paul Fleck, Chongho James Kim, and Marjorie Nunes.