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Bishop Mark Sisk of New York offers message of hope at installation

By Neva Rae Fox
[Episcopal News Service]  The terrorist attacks on September 11 may have changed our lives, they didn't destroy our hope-that was the message from Mark Sisk as he was installed as the 15th bishop of New York on September 29.

'In the quiet closing days of August I sketched out a quick first draft of this sermon,' Sisk told the congregation of 3,200 packed into the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Manhattan's Upper West Side. 'At that time I chose for my theme the familiar sentence from St. Paul's 2nd Letter to the Corinthians: 'Grace to you and Peace,' from the author of Life. 'Who would have imagined just those few weeks ago that today, we would find ourselves in a shocked and grieving city; where thousands have died and hundreds of thousands struggle to cope with the death of someone close and dear to them.'

The congregation gathered in prayer for the service of installation included many who had been helping, aiding, counseling, feeding and clothing rescuers and victims in the devastated area several miles south of the cathedral. Echoing the president, governor and mayor, Sisk was adamant that the service go ahead as planned.

Nevertheless, the impact of the devastation was woven into the service. Each person in attendance was given the name of a victim (lost or missing) to be said aloud during the Prayers of the People.

The Episcopal Charities 'September 11th Appeal' was the recipient of the collection.

Multi-cultural service

There were also the traditional aspects of the service, including the bishop knocking three times at the cathedral's bronze doors before he entered. The service was multi-cultural, reflecting the diversity of Diocese of New York. The New Testament Lesson was recited in Spanish. The Prayers of the People were chanted in English and presented in 12 languages and American Sign: Bontoc (a dialect of the Philippines); Creole; French; Gha; Igbo (a language of Nigeria); Japanese; Korean; Malayalam (a dialect from India); Mandarin; Spanish; Tagalog (a dialect of the Philippines); Tamil (a dialect from India). The choir sang in English and Spanish, with the offertory anthem sung in Zulu and Xhosa.

In addition to New York's Bishop Suffragan Catherine Roskam and Vicar Bishop E. Don Taylor, nearly 20 Episcopal bishops from five states joined the celebration, including New York retired bishops Paul Moore and Walter Dennis. International guests included Bishop David Nkwe from the Diocese of Klerksdorp in South Africa, New York's companion diocese, and recently installed Anglican Observer at the United Nations, Archdeacon Fanga Matavalea. Ecumenical guests included Bishop Stephen Bouman of the Metropolitan Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the leaders of various Orthodox Churches.

Prisoners of hope

Throughout it all, Bishop Sisk's message was one of hope. 'Hope that is more than good intentions, hope is the very core of our nature. Hope dominates. In the Prophet Zechariah's blunt but memorable phrase, 'We are prisoners of hope.'

He continued, 'It is frightening to say it but I have no doubt that those young men who drove planes into the Twin Towers did so out of a sense of desperate hope--hope that by this act of destruction they could force their perception of the good on what they believed to be an evil world. Hope so warped defines evil.

Hope's wonderful power for good can only be released when we trust in the known but unknowable God, when we allow that hope, that trust, to draw us further and further into the infinite mystery of God's abiding love.'

Sisk concluded, 'Even now, as we stand at the foot of the rubble of so many dreams, we stand in hope.'

Bishop Orris Walker of Long Island, acting on behalf of the Presiding Bishop, conducted the investiture. Retired Bishop Richard Grein presented Bishop Sisk with the Crozier, and Henry King, President of the Cathedral Board of Trustees, with his chair, or cathedra.