I don’t remember how Bishop Richard Malone of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and I first met. It may have been at some public event, it may have been when he, a dog lover, was walking his dog past my house. It may have been in one of the local coffee shops, since our homes are only three blocks apart. We met at some point shortly after his arrival in Buffalo a few years ago and we have become friends.
As our relationship grew it became clear to both of us that while there were issue of theology and polity on which we held different views, that there were issues of theology and of the role of the Church in the world and of the needs of the City of Buffalo and the Western New York region where we held the same views.
We began to talk about the revitalization of Buffalo and how we could make a difference to make sure that the benefits of the growing prosperity were shared by everyone. That led to our first, historic, joint pastoral letter to both of our Dioceses. The response to that letter was overwhelming and led to us issuing a second joint pastoral letter.
This past week we took another historic step in bringing the two Dioceses together. We invited all of the clergy from both of our Dioceses who serve congregations in the City of Buffalo to come together and join us in conversation about issues facing the city and what we could do together to bring hope to our city.
We opened with Episcopal noonday prayer and then moved into Bible study. It happened to be the feast day of Saints Timothy and Titus for both churches, so we talked about who brought us to faith and who mentored us in ministry and how we are bringing the presence of Christ to the places we serve.
We then talked about issues of racism and segregation, poverty and income inequality, education and opportunity and how the Church could bring the witness of Jesus to these issues. More details of the specific ideas will be coming soon.
What struck me was how quickly the conversations started and how much laughter and friendly banter there was considering many of the people in the room had never met before. By the time we closed with Roman Catholic vespers in the beautiful Blessed Trinity Church, it felt to me as if we had formed the beginnings of a community. We have started to expand the friendship from the two bishops to the clergy of the City of Buffalo.
Bishop Malone and I will be talking about our friendship and our hope for the City of Buffalo and how our Dioceses might work more closely together at the next Discover Sundays event. That is Sunday February 21 at 2 pm at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cathedral. After the program we will walk to St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral for refreshments.