We Don’t Talk About Bruno
The Disney movie, Encanto, includes a song – We Don’t Talk About Bruno that is climbing the music charts and becoming a favorite to many children. I am sure many parents, including me, are drowning in the din of this song, which seeks to capture the haunting presence of dark secrets that many families choose to hide. When our daughters sing what has become a mantra, I often wonder what will happen when they grow up and encounter their own “Bruno’ moments.
As a Black priest seeking to develop urban ministries in the diocese of New Jersey, there are many joys and successes that I can boast. These include, but are not limited to:
- Sustaining an urban congregation during a pandemic, which has affected our communities disproportionately in term of health and mental well-being and financial support. We were able to accomplish this through creative efforts led by our parish team leaders who created numerous platforms for worship, stewardship, fundraising and fellowship.
- Partner with state, city, local Kean University, other private entities and social outreach groups to make information, testing and vaccinations accessible to the community.
Through these efforts, the work of the Episcopal Church in the urban community shone brightly and spoke clearly of our commitment to spreading the good news of Jesus Christ in worship and in action. St Elizabeth’s became one of the main hubs through which our community could receive spiritual, physical, and mental support through the worst of times.
Here are some of our accomplishments:
- 75 individuals trained in our ESL and computer literacy program
- 557 individuals benefitted from our Covid-19 testing, vaccination initiatives
- Launched new worship initiatives in Rahway
- Added 16 new members to our parish worship to sustain an average of 72 per Sunday (hybrid)
- Added worship opportunities through Zoom and created a hybrid format that led to increased membership, including worship, prayer groups and Bible study.
- Launched new worship opportunities for Haitian and Hispanic members of our communities. To introduce this program during prevailing darkness is a testimony of our faith in God.
- Increased our participation on a diocesan level through various initiatives and committees such as Clergy and Laity Town Hall meetings, Standing Committee membership, Task for Reparation, Taskforce for Urban Revitalization, E.C.S and Haitian Ministry, Bishop Search Committee.
- Sustained our Stewardship program and saw a renewed commitment from our members towards increasing their gift of skills and financial support to the work of Christ in our community. We formally welcomed five new members in our Stewardship campaign.
We are seeking to develop relationships with:
- Prevention Links to assist in our mental health outreach.
- Posigen to assist in reduction of energy costs and environmentally friendly energy usage.
- A Federal Credit Union to assist in financial literacy initiatives.
- Rebuild our church website to enhance communication and enhance our virtual worship platform.
While we are seeing incremental improvements, we still cannot talk about the evasive Bruno, which is the vast disparity between the needs of our community and the limited resources available. The financial gap that plagues our urban communities requires us to do more with less. However, as we know, the urban churches are more than Houses of Worship and spiritual encampments. They are communities seeking to provide access to avenues and pathways of hope, mental, health and financial well-being.
We were quite fortunate to receive $55K from the Diocesan Mission Renewal Fund, and we are formally requesting support of the same amount of $55k for 2022.
I write this with the silent hope that as we partner with diocesan initiatives towards stewardship, reconciliation and healing, and as we journey with many in our community seeking fresh starts and new beginnings, may our ministry in the name of Jesus empower us to sing We Will Talk About Bruno — the hidden dark secrets of the Church and society in terms of slavery, racism, urban decline and the powerful presence of love and healing and reparative justice.