[St. Bartholomew’s Church] In a joyous Celebration of New Ministry, St. Bartholomew’s Church marked the beginning of a new chapter on June 6, with the institution of the Rt. Rev. Dean Elliott Wolfe as the 13th rector of the storied New York church. Following a stirring sermon on Christian Witness by Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry, Wolfe was formally instituted in a traditional service led by the Rt. Rev. Andrew M.L. Dietsche, bishop of New York. Dietsche declared that he couldn’t be happier with the choice St. Bart’s parish has made and added, “We now enter a new chapter. And the call of Dean to be the rector of this church fills me with absolute confidence that we are on a good road”
Participants in the service were drawn from Wolfe’s long friendships within the Episcopal Church as well as new relationships with the mid-Manhattan interfaith community. Lectors included the the Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon to the presiding bishop for Evangelism, reconciliation and creation, and Pastor Amends Derr, senior pastor at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. The Gospel was read by Archdeacon Monte C. Giddings of the Diocese of Kansas, where Wolfe served as bishop for 14 years prior to his call to St. Bart’s.
The service included the presentation of gifts from members and friends of St. Bart’s representing the diverse programs and ministries housed in the landmark church on Park Avenue. These included the feeding program and shelter run by Crossroads Community Ministry, the St. Bart’s Preschool, and the welcome, liturgical, prayer and music ministries. St. Bart’s Director of Music William K. Trafka composed a new hymn to mark the occasion, “Lord, we have come at your own invitation,” with words by F. Pratt Green (1903–2000) that were selected by Wolfe who also received Canons of the Church from Erika Meyer, Dean of Mid-Manhattan Episcopal Clericus and a New Jerusalem Bible from Monsignor Robert T. Ritchie, rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
According to Wolfe, he was drawn to St. Bart’s in part because of its long tradition as a welcoming place. Said Wolfe, “It’s never been more important for the church to be an inclusive place for people who are straight or gay, people who are rich or poor, people who are of different racial backgrounds, ethnic backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, people who have different theologies, or different political points of view.”
A highlight of the service was the presiding bishop’s sermon on Christian witness. Passionately recalling the words of Jesus to the apostles: “You shall be my witnesses,” Curry asserted, “It may well be that this Episcopal Church has been summoned by God for this moment in our cultural history to be a witness.” As Curry addressed the hundreds gathered, he emphasized the importance of our “witness to a way of being Christian that looks something like Jesus of Nazareth,” weaving in quotes from Scripture, the Book of Common Prayer, Frederick Douglas, and Mahatma Gandhi. He suggested that the popularity of Pope Francis comes from the simple fact that the pontiff is “just living the Gospel” in a way the world hasn’t seen for a long time.” When the world sees such an example, said Curry, “he becomes a rock star.”
In the most ambitious communications project the church as seen in 40 years, the service was livestreamed in a four-camera production with live commentary by Patrick Hornbeck, chair of the Theology Department at Fordham University. The livestream was made possible by St. Bart’s member Greg Harper, president of Harpervision Associates and by Bob Marty, president at Inky Dinky Worldwide, Inc. Between the live broadcast and its later views, more than seven thousand people shared in this landmark event. Curry’s sermon is embedded here.
Wolfe joins the parish with his wife of 36 years, Ellen Frantz-Wolfe. They have an adult son, William. He holds an undergraduate degree from Miami University (Ohio), graduated from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1992, and received an honorary doctorate from the seminary in 2004. Wolfe has served as a vice-president of the House of Bishops since 2009.