Dear People of the Diocese of New Jersey:
My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed;
I will sing and make melody...
On July 30, I had the joy and privilege of joining several of the young people of our diocese and adult leaders for the closing Evensong of The Diocese of New Jersey Choir Camp, which took place at the Church of the Advent in Cape May. Twenty-eight choristers participated in this week long experience. I asked them if they had fun. They told me they had a great time!
They went to the beach, played games together and learned and made a lot of music. At the closing Evensong, they sang the pieces they had learned. It was beautiful. What they accomplished in a week under the leadership of Diane Caruso, Director of Music at Trinity Church, Asbury Park and Mark Trautman, Director or Music at St. Paul's, Englewood was amazing. Most important of all, this was a formative event for these young people. The choral tradition of the Church has an incredible capacity to form people in the story and faith of Jesus Christ. I know. I am the product of such formation.
On June 6th, I had the honor of
addressing the graduating class
at St. Thomas Choir School in New York City. I attended Choir School from 1967 - 1970. It was a transformative experience for me. I shared with the graduating class that it was at St. Thomas Choir School that I came to faith and that I discovered the love of Jesus and the love of Jesus' Church. Yes, I had been raised by Christian parents in Christian households; there was never a time when I did not know Jesus. It was, however, at St. Thomas Choir School, through the music of the church and by God's grace, that I appropriated the Christian faith as my own. The hymns of the church are the heart of my personal prayer life. To this day, hymns are in my head constantly. I am either singing or whistling them aloud, or singing them in my head. As I told the graduating class of St. Thomas Choir School on June 6
, "the songs of God, the praise of Jesus Christ, were planted in my heart and soul."
It is my hope and prayer that the songs of God and the praise of Jesus Christ were planted in the hearts and souls of the young choristers in Cape May during Choir Camp this past week. Listening to them, I feel they were.
My thanks to Diane Caruso, Mark Trautman, Dean Maria Sanzo who served as Chaplain, Fr. John Mitchell and the people of Church of the Advent, Cape May and to the other youth and adult leaders who gave the gift of their time this past week.
The choristers who participated in Choir Camp will have a "reunion Evensong" in January at Trinity Cathedral in Trenton to which all are invited. Look for details and plan on coming to this special event.
O Come, let us sing to the Lord a new song!
Blessings and peace,
The Right Reverend William H. (Chip) Stokes, D.D.
XII Bishop of New Jersey