[Holy Trinity Church, Inwood] The vestry of Holy Trinity Church took an important first step to secure the future of the parish by adopting a resolution to explore a partnership with the Diocese of New York.
According to the resolution, Holy Trinity plans to “pursue a partnership with the Diocese to investigate the potential to develop the property.”
The resolution was passed during a meeting and discussion with the Rev. Canon Blake Rider, Canon to the Ordinary, on May 15. In the Episcopal Church, a canon to the ordinary serves as the executive officer to the diocesan bishop.
Such a partnership could result in new construction, or in much-needed renovations to the church’s aging physical plant, or both.
As part of the proposed arrangement, the diocese would continue to pay for the salary and benefits of a full-time minister and front the money to obtain legal and other professional advice as well as the surveys and studies needed to begin a development project.
In exchange, the diocese would hope to recoup these upfront costs and tap some of the money generated by the deal to support its mission work throughout the region, which includes the Lower Hudson Valley, Westchester, and New York City.
“The Episcopal Church is 100% committed to staying in Inwood,” said the Rev. Jake Dell, Holy Trinity’s interim vicar. “We are committed to operating a church and community theater ministry that is safe, accessible, and well-maintained,” referring to both the congregation and the popular Pied Piper Children’s Theatre which draws young people from all over upper Manhattan.
Bishop Allen Shin, Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of New York, confirmed the church’s commitment to maintaining an Episcopal presence in Inwood at a coffee-hour conversation with parishioners and members of the theater community during his visit to the parish last Sunday.
“If you look at the map, you are the only Episcopal church within 20 blocks,” Shin noted.
Dell, who was appointed last December and is the first full-time priest to serve the parish in nearly two decades, said Holy Trinity cannot continue on its current path, especially because the buildings and grounds are suffering from the clear effects of years of deferred maintenance.
Furthermore, the Congregational Support Plan, which has paid to staff Holy Trinity with a part-time priest since 1996, will end on December 31, 2016. This affects all parishes on the support plan and not just Holy Trinity.
“These are the things we have to remember in explaining why things cannot continue the way they are,” Dell explained. “People often confuse us with the other Trinity or think that we’re landmarked,” Dell continued, referring to Trinity Wall Street, which has real estate holdings valued in the billions in lower Manhattan, “but the fact is that we’re neither rich nor landmarked.”
“It is like any other complicated process,” Kevin Kunkel, one of the parish’s wardens, explained. He likened it to “looking for a job or buying a home,” adding that “it is a careful process.”
“The wardens and vestry are all long-time residents of the Inwood and upper Manhattan community,” Abigail Snow, Clerk of the Vestry, said. In an Episcopal parish, a vestry is akin to a board of directors.
“We are committed to investigating our options with care and doing everything we can to put the church back on a stable financial footing in order to continue our presence and services in Inwood and to expand our outreach to the community,” Snow continued.
In order to give the congregation, the theater community, and local residents a voice in the process, the parish invited members from each constituency to participate in several recent events, including a series of Appreciative Way of Inquiry workshops and an event designed specifically to “listen” to what might be best for the land on which the church and theater sit.
Dell said he is thankful to all who participated and helped bring the parish to such a mature moment in its history.
The parcel on Seaman Avenue and Cumming Street was purchased in 1922 for $25,000. Today, the property is worth much more. Yet now $25,000 barely covers the annual heating bill.
“This partnership is for survival,” said Yvonne Bill, Managing Director of the Pied Piper Children’s Theatre, “to preserve the oasis that is our sacred and artistic space.”
The Rev. Jake Dell can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.