Week of June 28, 2020

Welcome to 
The Church of St. Paul and Incarnation!

An Episcopal / Anglican Parish
in the Heart of Jersey City

“Swimming in Privilege”

Since the weather has been so good lately, most mornings I have been able to take long walks through Lincoln Park. Especially during the pandemic, these (socially distant) walks have become an important time for me to care for my body, mind, and spirit. Since I try to walk about five miles, it’s a pretty good workout for a middle-aged guy like me! And, I find that this time is helpful for prayer, and also just thinking through whatever happens to be on my mind. Many of my sermons and weekly messages - including this one – are born in the park.

I try to walk mindfully, looking at (and sometimes taking pictures of) the sky and the trees and the flowering plants along the way. This time of year, it’s a special pleasure to watch the birds, including an energetic family of red-tailed hawks, go about their business. Usually I don’t spend too much time looking into the murky and polluted water that flows in and out of the Hackensack River, but over the past few days I’ve noticed lots of little air bubbles sent to the surface by the fish who manage to make this less than pristine waterway their home.

It’s said that fish do not realize that they spend their whole lives swimming in water. I suppose that’s true. But, I imagine that the rush of currents and the churning of storms give fish at least some sense that they are subject to mostly unseen, yet very powerful, forces. And, I’m willing to bet that when unlucky fish are suddenly hooked and pulled up from the sea and into our environment, they know enough to recognize that they have unwillingly entered a very different world.

In the same way, although we know that we live our lives surrounded by air, we don’t usually give it much thought - unless there is a strong wind, or if our lungs are so diseased that we struggle for breath, or when we watch the unbearable video of George Floyd suffocating under the knee of a police officer. Like fish swimming in the sea, we make our way through the air, largely oblivious to our reality - until we are snapped to attention.

Like a lot of other White people I know, over the past few weeks, after learning of the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and far too many others – after the protests across the country and around the world – after the renewed insistence that “Black Lives Matter” and the call to redistribute resources from law enforcement – after words of division and hate from some of our leaders - after all of that and more, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my own White privilege.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve shared with you memories from my teaching days: realizing that I was able to begin my classroom career by walking through a door that probably would not have been open to a young Black person with a resume as thin as mine. I recalled the Black teenage girls at St. Vincent Academy shocking me with stories of being followed by suspicious security guards as they shopped in Macy’s. And, I remembered a long-ago encounter on Market Street in Newark when a Black woman looked me over with disdain and said, “Well, here comes the White man!” – giving me just the tiniest, but still very uncomfortable, taste of what it’s like to be judged because of the color of my skin.

During this time of trouble in our country, when powerful storms are churning the waters, when a strong wind is bringing change that seemed nearly impossible just a few weeks ago, I can recognize more clearly than ever that all along I’ve been swimming in the polluted water of White privilege. It’s like I’ve been hooked and pulled out of my complacency, finally able to see more clearly truths that I’ve known all along:

I’ve always been able to assume that most people will give me the benefit of the doubt.

My mistakes are my own and are never thought to reflect the supposed weaknesses of my race.

Suspicious security guards never follow me around a department store. And, while my interactions with the police may not always be pleasant, I’ve never worried that I’d be treated unfairly, and certainly never feared for my life.

Because I’ve always assumed that people would automatically recognize and respect my position and authority, I’ve had the luxury of informality, telling people they can just call me by my name rather than by my title.

More than seven years ago, I was chosen to minister to our congregation – a beautifully diverse church with many Black members and other people of color. Meanwhile, I think it’s safe to say that Black clergy are rarely given the opportunity to lead diverse churches, and are almost never chosen by churches that are predominately White.

I could go on… but the point is that I have lived my life swimming in privilege, carried along by powerful though largely unseen forces. Since those forces are now on full view, White people like me have little choice but to see them and then decide what to do with this cleared-up vision. I think the best way forward is to listen and talk to each other, to hear and share our stories. But, that’s not enough. So, I hope that even more of us will work with groups like Jersey City Together to help build a society where all people can get a fair shake, a country that finally lives up to its highest ideals of liberty and equality.

We have a long way to go, so there’s no time to waste. That’s why I hope you (especially our White parishioners) will attend an interdenominational panel discussion about racism, White privilege and power on Monday evening at 7:00. Rev. Laurie and I will join with The Rev. Dr. Stanley Hearst II of Mt. Pisgah AME Church and The Rev. Dr. Alonzo Perry, Sr. of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church for what I’m sure will be a thoughtful discussion, moderated by The Rev. Shyrone Richardson of the World Outreach Christian Center. Log onto facebook.com/woccnj or visit www.woccnj.com.

Many of us have been suddenly pulled out of the waters of complacency, finally able to see that we have been swimming in the polluted waters of privilege. When a fish is caught and pulled up out of the water, its fate is usually sealed. But, we’re different. In our case, I believe God is using this shocking time to open our hearts and eyes, calling us to change our ways, and giving us all the tools we need to build something better, a world more like what God has intended from the start. As always, the rest is up to us.


During Pride Weekend we give special thanks for our LGBT parishioners, family, friends and neighbors.

Please pray for all those on our parish prayer list, especially Jean, Andy, Angelo, and Richard.

Please also remember in your prayers those who have died, and those who grieve their loss:

Neil Wilson, the cousin of Gail Blache-Gill

Scott Colclough, who was shot and killed on Union Street

All of those who have died as a result of Covid -19.

When We See Us:
An Interdenominational Panel Discussion About Racism, White Privilege and Power
All Are Welcome with a Particular Request for
Attendance by White Christians
Monday, June 29th, 7pm

facebook.com/woccnj or visit www.woccnj.com

African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites, are twice as likely to live in poverty and 2.5 more likely to be killed by police* While these statistics represent violence done to black people, the structural racism that created this violence is the result of the white privilege. 

White privilege divides one neighborhood from another, values the education of white children more than black children and determines the prospective of the history they learn.  There is no way for white privilege to be dismantled without white people taking responsibility for learning about it and actively fighting against it. 

Please come for an honest, open conversation about white privilege with other Christians who understand fighting systemic racism to be central to their call as disciples of Jesus Christ

The Rev. Dr. Stanley Hearst II of Mt. Pisgah A.M.E Church
The Rev. Tom Murphy of The Church of St. Paul & Incarnation
The Rev. Dr. Alonzo Perry Sr. of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church
The Rev. Laurie Jean Wurm of Grace Church Van Vorst.

Moderator: The Rev. Shyrone Richardson of World Outreach Christian Church.

All participants are strongly encouraged to prepare for the discussion by watching the Netflix series When They See Us in advance of the discussion.

*Statistics drawn from the NAACP,  the U.S.Census Bureau and Statista

Supporting Our Church:

We are aware that, unfortunately, some parishioners have been laid off or furloughed and others are in danger of losing their jobs. Please know that you are in our prayers and we are here to help any way we can. In these extremely challenging economic times, we are especially grateful to those of you who have been able to keep up with your pledges. You can still mail checks to the church or you can use online giving. Visit stpaulsjc.org and click on "Online Giving." We also have a Venmo account. Call the office or email me for more information.

Worship Schedule:

Monday through Friday: "Church By Phone"

Morning Prayer, 7:30
Noonday Prayer, 12:00
Evening Prayer, 5:30

Call 201-433-4922 of more information.

Sunday at 10:00am

Join us on Facebook Live for a celebration of Holy Eucharist


From the Diocese:

Read The Voice Online for all the latest news, including information about resuming in-person worship:


Checking In: A Lay Conversation with the Bishop:

Tuesday, June 30, 6:00pm

Bishop Hughes is eager to once again spend time in conversation with members of the diocese, to reflect and consider what we, our churches, and our communities have learned and experienced as we have adjusted to the changes this time has demanded of us.

This second monthly Zoom conversation is open to all members of the diocese. Log-in instructions will be sent out via email.

DJ’s Free Market

Subscribe to the DJ’s Newsletter to stay informed about this exciting new ministry led by Deacon Jill:


Attention Parents!

The Jersey City Together Education Team has created a new survey that aims to capture feedback about what learning has been like for the past three months during the COVID-19 pandemic. This survey is intended for anyone who has been helping a child with COVID-19 remote learning. Alternatively, If you know someone who may be helping a child with COVID-19 remote learning in Jersey City, please SHARE this survey!

The survey is here: https://forms.gle/x1c984ZJicAH2gYU7 and it is in both English and Spanish. The purpose of the survey is to assist Jersey City Together's listening campaign centered around the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequences of it as it relates to education including remote learning, changes in your child’s temperament, academic flow, etc. Our hope with listening is to identify common issues and concerns that parents and caregivers may be experiencing, which can then inform our advocacy going forward.

This survey is confidential and your identity will not be shared with your child’s principal or the district. The survey was created by parents and advocates who have professional experience in public education, social work, youth organization and programming, and survey/data analysis.

If you'd like to be in the loop on updates related to this survey going forward, you can subscribe to Jersey City Together's education advocacy email list (you can do that on the Education team page here ... there is a sign-up form at the bottom of that page).

Help for Renters and Homeowners:

There is help available for renters and homeowners suffering because of the pandemic. One is the website for the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency: www.njhousing.gov. You can also call 1-800-NJ-HOUSE (1-800-654-6873).

Helpful Resources:

State of New Jersey Covid-19 Information Hub:

The Diocese of Newark posts Covid-19 resources here:

You can subscribe to diocesan newsletters here:

The Episcopal Church has collected Covid-19 resources here:

"Habits of Grace," weekly reflections from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry:

The Church of England has some wonderful prayers and other materials here:

My sermons can be found here: