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The Visitor File: Allen Shin

The Rev. Allen K. Shin, Suffragan-Bishop Elect of the Diocese of New York, preached at the 11:15am Holy Eucharist on Sunday, May 11, 2014

How are you preparing for your new role?

Each day is a mystery unfolding, so I think it’s not something I can necessarily prepare perfectly or adequately [for]. I feel, and I hope, and I pray, that I am somewhat prepared in all the work I have done as a priest for all these years.  But I’ve also heard that there is a steep learning curve and that there’s only 30% of the priestly work that transfers to the bishop’s work, so I have a lot to learn. I’m looking forward to whatever it is, challenges, or learning experiences, out there for me.

What are you excited about?

I’m excited to serve the larger context of the diocese. So far [my work has] been focused on a congregation, a parish, on a local level, and the exciting part is just to get the big picture and to visit as many parishes—there’s 199 parishes in this diocese—and that’s pretty exciting.  And to work alongside, and to serve alongside, the parish priests out there who are working in the trenches, and to be their servant on another level is really exciting.

What’s your favorite thing about New York?

I’m very familiar with New York. I lived in Times Square for five years, and [I] lived in Chelsea Square for two years before I went off to England so it’s not like it’s totally new to me. In a sense this is a coming home, a coming back, a returning to home where I feel that my heart was and my wife’s heart has always been.

I love the—I suppose, everybody points this out—I love the diversity of the city. Also the diversity of the whole diocese. It’s not just Manhattan: the diocese covers all the way up north, and west out to the Pennsylvania border, and Staten Island not to forget, which encompasses diversity on all levels, and that’s really exciting to me.

Also, not just in the New York Diocese but in the Episcopal Church as a whole, I think we are at an exciting turning point.  [We have] real challenges, exciting challenges to meet, but challenges we can overcome and see new growth, which is already happening in places. I feel really excited to be part of that transformation of the Church, both on a larger scale in the diocese and on more local levels.

How do you see this growth and change happening?

People are necessarily, but also certainly inspired by the Holy Spirit, realizing that they cannot continue [to] “play safe,” if you will, inward looking, anymore, and this goes for thriving large congregations down to small struggling congregations, all across the levels. Everyone is coming to realization that we cannot do church as we have done. Something needs to be done. That change is about serving the community in which the local congregations belong. The diocese is no longer about, you know, being the administrative headquarters, but it is about serving the city, the larger part of the diocese, and being the resource for that kind of mission work.

People are looking outward more, looking round to see what can we do to serve and to be relevant. Back in the 1940s, Archbishop William Temple said, famous saying, “the church is the only organization that exists for the benefit of its nonmembers.” And that is so true, and that is what mission is all about. This is how he described the church and it is so urgently fitting and necessary for today.

How do you stay inspired?

Pray. Prayer, both individual, personal prayer, but also corporately. I’ve always been a firm believer in communal prayer. If that gets neglected nothing else works. Prayer must be the foundation of everything I do both as a Christian, as a priest, and as a bishop. I believe prayer is the only thing that will sustain me, is the only thing that has sustained me so far.

And the other is really staying connected with where things really matter. You know, ministry, and mission, and god’s work is not a theory, it’s a real-life, a real-life story, a real-life struggle, and real-life joy, a real-life blessing, and grace of God works in real-life situations of people. So staying connected with people’s lives, staying connected with the lives of priests who are struggling in their parish work, and staying connected with my own personal life, my relationships with my wife and my parents and my family, as well as other friends. Those two things are the most important for me. 

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