The George M. Plaskett Symposium

The Future of Black Clergy and Black Congregations in the Episcopal Church

Almost every mainline Christian denomination is in decline as membership falls and rising operational costs imperil meaningful mission and ministry. With few exceptions, this decline is nor respecter of race or ethnicity. Nonetheless, the old saying applied to our nation’s economic disparity is equally true in its religious communities: “When White folks catch a cold, Black folks get pneumonia.”

In our Diocese of Newark we have witnessed the decline in congregational membership and its deleterious impact upon the life of our parishes. Many have closed; some have merged and an overwhelming majority of congregations once served by full-time clergy are now served by clergy providing various fractions of part-time ministry. Amongst our diocese’s historically Black congregations, out of the twenty-one active churches in 1998, only 7 remain today, and almost all of them face significant challenges to their immediate future; None are truly thriving.

The George M. Plaskett Symposium seeks to provide a forum where concerned Episcopalians and others of faith can come together to more clearly identify the contours of the challenges facing Black clergy and Black congregations in today’s Episcopal Church as we seek a way to move all our congregations, including our historically Black congregations, from survival to vital centers of thriving twenty-first century mission and ministry.

Named after the first rector of Church of the Epiphany in Orange, NJ, The Rev’d Dr. George M. Plaskett was a pioneer Black priest and pastor. Coming to Epiphany in 1908 while still a seminarian at The General Theological Seminary in New York City, Fr. Plaskett worked with lay leaders to develop a thriving Black congregation at Epiphany at a time when Black Episcopalians were hardly welcome in surrounding White Episcopal churches. Plaskett also helped found and grow Black Episcopal congregations in Montclair (the former Trinity Church); Paterson (the former St. Aiden’s Church); Passaic (the former St. Andrew’s Church); East Orange (the former Chapel of the Ascension); and Hackensack (the still active St. Cyprian’s Church). Known by some as the “Black Bishop of Newark,” Plaskett was dedicated to the growth of Black Episcopalians and the communities in which they lived.

Church of the Epiphany and Christ Church in Orange is proud to sponsor the inaugural Plaskett Symposium on the Future of Black Clergy and Black Congregations in the Episcopal Church. The Symposium will take place at Epiphany and Christ Church, 105 Main Street, Saturday, June 1 beginning at 1 PM. The Rev’d Canon Andy Moore, Rector of St. Elizabeth’s Church in Elizabeth, NJ, will be the keynote speaker. He will be joined by The Rev’d Canon Dr. Lynn Collins, Rector, St. John the Evangelist Church in Lynbrook, NY and the Rev’d Kassinda R. T. Ellis, Rector, St. Joseph’s Church, Queens Village, NY. who will offer perspective on the past and future of Black ministry in the Episcopal Church.

Admission is free but a $10 per person donation at the door will be appreciated to help defray costs. Click HERE to register on line or call our parish office (973-676-8886) to reserve a seat.