We live in faith and act in love. We offer our hearts upward to God, our talent and support inward to the parish community, and our hands outward to work in the world.
This statement of the goals, dreams and visions of St. Bartholomew's parish is based mainly on responses to the following question posed in our parish survey: What do you believe should be the key elements that define St. Bartholomew's mission, for us as a parish, and for our candidates for rector? Clearly, the question is general, yet the respondents emphasized repeatedly certain "key" elements from which some very specific goals, dreams and visions have been abstracted.
Our past rectors and our parishioners alike have fostered certain goals which are highly valued by our parish. These goals need to be addressed and sustained. Among the most frequently mentioned goals is to maintain an atmosphere of openness, acceptance, and inclusiveness. We are a diverse parish, both ethnically and racially; furthermore, many parishioners who have been attracted to St. Bartholomew's have come from a wide range of Christian backgrounds. We desire to "make everyone feel welcome" and continuously to nurture, cherish, and delight in our diversity.
We are also diverse in our individual and personal gifts and talents which we wish to use to enhance our collective Christian lives at St. Bartholomew's. As St. Paul taught, the individual "members" must continuously learn to function as one body, the body of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accordingly, a second major goal and corollary to the first is our effort to promote unity, synthesis, and Christian love and caring. As is natural in all social and spiritual bodies, personal agendas, which at times come into conflict, do exist. Still, respondents emphasized their willingness to be open to traditional as well as to new ideas, individual needs, as well as to collective needs as we grow, experiment, and worship together.
A third goal which respondents valued highly is our extensive and vital outreach program. St. Bartholomew's is identified by parishioners and the community at large as a parish strongly committed to helping others. Our closest urban area is Camden, NJ, one of the poorest cities in the country. We are involved ecumenically with other suburban churches and synagogues in ministering to the basic needs of the homeless and the poor of that city. Numerous daily, weekly, and annual projects help to feed, clothe, and provide housing for those "Christs" who came to us hungry and in need. Some projects include Anna Sample House, Market Street Breakfast, Wednesday School, Cathedral Kitchen, and Interfaith Homeless Outreach Council. In addition, St. Bartholomew's reaches out to local people. Before both Thanksgiving and Christmas, hundreds of food boxes are prepared and delivered to needy families. Our past rector and a committed core of volunteers have attracted many parishioners into our outreach program. These people express the teaching of James, "faith without works is dead." To continue to pursue this goal of outreach is vital to the life of St. Bartholomew's.
As they look to the future, respondents emphasized some specific dreams and visions which they, working with a new rector, would like to see realized. Most of these dreams and visions have to do with the growth of the Church in a variety of ways.
We envision a social, educational, and spiritual program for our youth that will keep them enthused with their church life as they mature in their faith, their spiritual formation, and their identity as a social community of "Christian" youth committed to Christ and to the work He calls each of them to do. We are a parish with a significant number of young and middle-aged families; however, because of the number of respondents expressing this dream, it seems most of the members of the parish see the program as vital to the future of St. Bartholomew's and to the church at large. As is the case in many churches, St. Bartholomew's has many dedicated parishioners leading an active Sunday school, a thriving acolyte corps, and a JEYC and SEYC. Some of our children also participate in an excellent ecumenical summer Bible school. Acknowledging the difficulty of sustaining this Christian foundation in the face of our secular culture, our parish would like to help win the battle for children and young people by rooting them firmly in their faith and spirituality, thereby retaining their participation in church life throughout their lives.
Providing Christian education and spiritual growth for our youth does not overshadow the much-expressed goal of continuing a very strong adult education program as well. Many of St. Bartholomew's adult parishioners enjoy continuing their own Christian education, its stimulating give and take, and its revelations and enlightenment. Many respondents also expressed the dream of "increasing our spirituality as a family and faith community."
Finally, and not surprisingly, respondents expressed the dream of increasing our membership, not only to provide for the practical needs of monetary stewardship but also to bolster our pool of parishioners who can contribute their time and talents so that we can sustain the work of Christ within St. Bartholomew's parish and in the surrounding communities we serve.
The Diocese of New Jersey
The Diocese of New Jersey is the second oldest diocese in the Episcopal Church, after the Diocese of Connecticut.
New Jersey ranks sixth out of 100 domestic dioceses in the Episcopal Church in the USA, in the number of parishes. The diocese is eighth in number of baptized persons.The diocese originally covered the entire state; due to the growth of the church in the mid-1800s, the northern third was split off in 1874 to become the Diocese of Northern New Jersey, known today as the Diocese of Newark. The dividing line is the border between Essex and Union Counties, between Morris and Somerset Counties, and between Warren and Hunterdon Counties. The exception is the City of Summit, which was assigned to the Diocese of Newark, allegedly because of 19th-century train routes.
There are 150 congregations in this diocese, including seasonal, collegiate and institutional chapels. The oldest congregation in the diocese is Saint Peter’s Church in Perth Amboy, where services began in 1685. There are more than 15 colonial-era parishes in this diocese.
Currently there are four retired bishops, 293 priests, and 74 deacons in the diocese, along with 45 clergy ‘licensed to act’. The Right Reverend William (Chip) Stokes, our diocesan bishop, was elected in May 2013 and consecrated in November 2013. He is the twelfth diocesan bishop of New Jersey.