About two weeks ago, I announced that we had reached clarity as to how God was calling us to shape “the future of pastoral ministry” at All Angels Church. Specifically, I said that rather than hiring a one-to-one replacement for Christine Lee as a “Vicar” for All Angels, God was calling us to raise up multiple pastoral leaders to fill discrete roles both in ministry and in worship for our church. So, rather than having one person overseeing many large areas of ministry, we’ll have a variety of people who will focus on particular areas of ministry. It is my belief that having a diverse leadership structure will allow us to be more agile, flexible, and adaptable as we embark on to the frontier of new missional work.
All that has happened in the two weeks since I made that announcement has changed the timeline for some of the ways we will raise up new leadership in the church. I will turn to some of these announcements at a more appropriate time. One sad and immediate change we have to make is that we are going to have to say an early “good-bye” to the Rev. Dr. Jonathan A. (“Jono”) Linebaugh, who served as our “Visiting Priest & Scholar” this past year. Because the global outbreak of COVID-19 has extended into the United Kingdom, he and his family are returning home from sabbatical early. So, this past Sunday will have been Jono’s last.
A “good-bye” letter from Jono can be found below. The good news is, Jono’s replacements were already set in place, and both are ready to begin immediately. Specifically, in place of Jono as “Visiting Priest & Scholar,” we are bringing on a “Visiting Priest” (Rev. Jimmy Lawrence) AND “Visiting Scholar” (Rev. Dr. Courtney Bryant). Like Jono, these two individuals will work in a part-time capacity to support the priestly, pastoral, and teaching functions of the church. I’m introducing them to you now as they will be key pieces in our attempts to continue to provide meaningful community, formation, and worship through digital platforms in the days ahead.
More information on both Courtney and Jimmy can be found below. Look forward to welcoming them in an online format very soon!
The Rev. Courtney Bryant, Ph. D.
A dynamic preacher, scholar, teacher, organizer and artist-activist, Rev. Courtney Bryant graduated from Duke Divinity with her Masters of Divinity in 2011. The American and National Baptist Conferences dually ordained her, shortly thereafter, in 2012. Rev. Bryant received her doctorate in Religion: Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University. Her work focuses on the racial, gender and sexual politics of embodiment. When she is not writing academically, Reverend Bryant is a contributing editor for Urban Faith, Syndicate and Godzchild publications.
In addition to her academic and writing talents, Rev. Bryant exercises her gifts as preacher and teacher and facilitator in the local church. She has served as the Minister of Social Justice at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church and The Grove Nashville, where in addition to plugging the congregation into local social justice efforts, she taught the importance of believers living into their identities as co-creators and disciples by creating loving relationships in the world and seeking justice for the oppressed. She is also deeply committed to playing an embodied role in the work of what Paulo Freire calls conscientization—the development of critical awareness of one’s social reality through reflection and action, with a special emphasis on the work of racial reconciliation.
The Rev. Jimmy Lawrence
Jimmy is from the UK, currently living and studying in New York with his wife Hannah. His first degree was from the University of Leeds where he studied Classical Music and choral conducting. He spent the next ten years living and working for churches in the North of England. Jimmy has experience working as a student and youth minister, an associate pastor and on the board of trustees for a homeless ministry. He has worked in contexts which include Cathedral ministry, medium-sized rural parishes and large inner-city Church planting contexts.
Jimmy was ordained as a Priest in the Church of England in 2017. While serving his curacy he studied for an MA in Theology and Ministry from the University of Durham. He is currently pursuing a DPhil at the University of Oxford.
Jimmy and Hannah met while serving on the launch team of a homeless ministry in 2013. They got married in summer 2018 and moved to NYC in summer 2019, as a result of Hannah’s job working for a Headhunter. They have been attending All Angels since that time and love it!
Dear All Angels Family,
It’s remarkable: that word family came so naturally, so obviously and with no need for thought but out of a well of feeling. Twelve months ago I knew about All Angels, knew that my longtime friend Nate Lee was being considered as rector. But I didn’t know you. Fast-forward a few months: I preached at Nate’s institution and was around just long enough to get a hint of something special: this place, and especially these people. From there it was a surprise: staff and parish retreats, Sunday after Sunday—preaching and praying, worshiping and eating, talking and laughing and crying. A year ago I would have never guessed we would have shared so much—that I would love you so deeply and call you family so instinctively. Yet here we are, and that’s the headline news: All Angels family, I love you.
The first time I stood in the pulpit at All Angels I posed a question asked by a suffering woman in George Eliot’s book, Janet’s Repentance: “Is there any comfort, “ she implores, “any hope?” As I’ve been with you I have tried to be honest, to look at life as it is and to confess that the wounds and weariness often make us cry, “Is there any comfort?” Hearing that question, however—feeling and facing the hurt that makes us call out for hope—I have tried, again and again and again, to offer what the Book of Common Prayer calls the “comfortable words.” There is, as the Song of Songs puts it, a love stronger than death, a grace deeper than failure, and a mercy more lasting than tears. To say love and grace and mercy is to point, not to me or to you or to all the angels. It is, rather and only, to point to, to behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin and redeems and undoes the suffering of the world. Is there any comfort—any hope? Yes, his name is Jesus Christ.
I suppose I say that as a kind of summary or reminder. But I also share it to say, “Thank you.” Janet’s question is my question too. I didn’t come to All Angels with an answer but as a fellow asker: Is there comfort? Is there hope? Living among you, worshipping with you, getting to know you: these have been the way God has said, to me, “Yes, there is hope.” That first day in the pulpit I prayed, quoting another character from another book, that All Angels would be a place people could come “with their troubles” and a place that, when they did, they wouldn’t hear “feeble words” but “comfortable words.” All Angels is packed with the realities of human life. There is pain and poverty, there are secrets and shame, suffering shows up in countless forms, and the tears that flood the church as we sing together flow from an honest sea of need, ache, and exhaustion. Life isn’t hidden here. But… I’ve seen tears of sadness turn to peace, heard stories of dead ends that became open doors, listened to and learned from those who have shared in the 3:45 PM Bible Study, and sat and spoken with some who are right in the hard and the hurt and still have hope. There are differences and even divisions at a place like All Angels. There is, however, a double-solidarity that is deeper than any difference: life causes all to ask, “Is there any comfort” and God has answered us all in the gospel, “Yes, you are my beloved child; I will be with you always; nothing and no one can ever separate you from my love.” I’ve tried to speak that good news to you. You have, again and again and again, shared that good news with me.
It’s not just me who’s grateful, however. It’s my whole family: Megan (my wife) and our three kids, Liam, Callie, and Anna. We were with you as a family for the first time at the Parish Retreat and we remember those days as some of the most fun we had all year. And then there were the times we had together in NYC: weekends in the city with dad and late night train rides back to DC trying to decide on our favorite pizza or bagel spots. (FYI: Absolute Bagels gets the win, and it’s a hard choice between Scarr’s and John’s of Bleecker Street for pizza. And have you tried the crullers at Daily Provisions?!) These moments are gifts: to be with my family, to spend time with Nate, Janna, and their boys, and to be with you, our All Angels family.
I always knew my time in the US and so my weekends with you in New York had an expiration date. We live, as most of you know, in the UK and heading home would have to happen. It did, however, come a month or two sooner than we originally hoped, and so March has come to mean the end of this season together. And now, with worship services suspended, my last Sunday came even sooner and my “goodbye for now” is written from a distance rather than spoken as we gather together. But hey, one year ago I never imagined all we’ve shared this past year. Maybe the future will find us together again (and again) in ways we can’t yet guess. For my part, I will hope!
Before each sermon I’ve prayed for two things: God, show us we need Jesus and, God, give us Jesus. I will keep praying that for my All Angels family. Please pray that for my family. And know that when we say family now, we don’t just mean the five of us. We also mean all of you.
With love and gratitude,
Jono (and Megan, Liam, Callie, and Anna)