Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Guest List

I was in the gathering of bishops who consecrated Andrew Marion Lenow Dietsche as a 1062nd bishop in The Episcopal Church. This all took place yesterday morning with a thousand or so of his close friends watching at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City. A lot of planning went into the day except for scrutiny of the guest list, it seems.
When I was the Canon to the Ordinary I helped plan similar extravaganzas so I'm sympathetic to the pressures to bring such a production together. In most cases securing notables on a guest list is a pain. You send out dozens of invites and then the returns dribble in. You get an archbishop here, a politician there, and so on.

Yesterday during the service there was a greeting for  invited guests and things took an odd turn. Our host, Bishop Sisk, acknowledged former Mayor David Dinkins, then paused, and introduced Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, and paused again. I looked up expecting a couple more names but that was it. The only active government official attending was the infamous head of the NYPD! Mr. Kelly has every right to accept an invitation but even he must have been lonely as the sole civil servant. 

There's more.

The Diocese of New York must have seen this situation coming down the road with its lights flashing. Of all the persons to highlight, in Harlem, where the cathedral is, and where the Kelly program of Stop and Frisk confronts African Americans daily, Raymond Kelly wouldn't be on the top of many lists. Occupy Wall Street, of course, has always been a favorite of Mr. Kelly's. He and his forces have been generous contributors to the 6000+ tally of Occupy arrests nationwide. 


This tabular list only sketches the incidents and not the special color of brutality for NYC Occupy arrests. I've seen  them; my wife was kicked in the chest for good measure as a sidebar to mine. So, "Passing the Peace" with Ray Kelly down the pew becomes a novel experience when having this kind of history with the man. All this doesn't mean he shouldn't be there but, wow, why embarrass him by not fattening up municipal attendance? 

Diocesan event planners...really? When no one from the Bloomberg administration was coming uptown couldn't someone have phoned the local firehouse, snagged a free city councilman, a district leader or someone to make a crowd here? One resists the notion that it never occurred to anyone that this would appear so strikingly strange. That possibility carries the scary thought of a persistent, ecclesial isolation from the rest of us. In that case even Eva Braun wouldn't have been a surprise guest. 

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