Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

The Rev. Prince Singh

On the morning of September 12, 2001, I awoke in an AIDS hospice on Washington Street in Lower Manhattan. The day before, I was one of the thousands of refugees fleeing the terror from the World Trade Center bombing. Unable to leave the island for my home in New Jersey, a Nicaraguan Nun from Mother Teresa’s Order of The Missionaries of Charity saw my distressed condition and took me into their care. They gave me something to drink, washed away the terror dust from my body, fed me, put me to work in the kitchen to feed the residents and gave me a bed for the night. That day I experienced the worst and the best of humanity and witnessed two radically different interpretations of how people act out of what they perceive to be God’s commands.

That morning I awoke early to join the Sisters for Morning Prayer. It was led by a Priest from the Bronx and after the prayer service we spoke over coffee in the hospice kitchen. He bummed a cigarette from me and recounted the death of the Catholic Priest Mychal Judge and how they laid him on the altar of St. Peter’s just hours before. He offered a simple homily “sic transit gloria mundi,” the glories of this world are fleeting. He explained that these words are recited by a bare footed boy running alongside a procession carriage conveying a newly elected Pope in front of the cheering throngs of devoted Catholics. It’s a good reminder of how we perceive permanence and immutability and how it can all evaporate in the wink of an eye.

That terrible day as I stood peering into the gaping entry wound of the south tower and witnessing jumpers cascading down to their decisive deaths, I continued to wonder how they were going to put out those blazing infernos 110 stories up. Like everyone else, we never considered the likelihood that those buildings could fall. The idea of American indomitableness was the largest casualty on that day.

I felt compelled to recite the same words to my friend, rabbi and spiritual mentor on the night before his consecration as the Eighth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, the Reverend Dr. Prince Singh. It’s not that Rev. Singh lacks humility or is trapped inside an inflated ego or offers a false piety. Indeed if Rev. Singh has vulnerability it is his infinite accessibility and his unfathomable compassion. Bishop Singh’s faith is deep, real and compelling. It is exposed like the iconic Sacred Heart of Jesus, tender, vulnerable, large, life affirming and open to anyone wishing to partake in an ever deepening walk with Jesus Christ. He is a true pastor and I pray that his pastoral gifts are not lost amidst the responsibilities of a ministerial higher office.

Our past glory, Father Singh, as our parish Priest is now gone to the Great Lakes region to continue his ministry on a higher level. I now know how his former Dalite parishioners and his family felt when Father Singh left India to begin his ministry in the United States. I believe that divine providence has brought this great man to Rochester. This great city, once a sparkling jewel of American inventiveness, entrepreneurial spirit and industry now faces great challenges to revitalize and reinvent itself in a post industrial economy. Who would have believed a scant 10 years ago that premier corporate brand names like Xerox, Eastman Kodak and Bausch and Lomb’s business fortunes could be so fleeting and so drastically change? Bishop Singh will contribute to the rebirth of this region. His ministry can weave together the many elements and talents needed to bring forth a new and vibrant community fabric. That’s what great pastors do.

On 9/11 Father Singh was the last of family and friends that I spoke too before being consumed by the conflagration and civic turmoil of that day. After watching the towers burn I returned to my office at 25 Broadway. My phone was ringing. It was Father Singh. He found me and advised me to leave the city. He was relieved that I was unhurt and he promised to contact my family to let them know I was safe. A good pastor always finds his lost sheep. Though I had yet to face my greatest danger of that day, and I would not be in contact with my family until my return home the following day, Father Singh’s contact would assure my loved ones that I was alive and on my way home.

I believe that Bishop Singh’s installation signals that Rochester and its greater region have an opportunity to bring forth a new and vibrant community on a great lake. Just like Mother Elizabeth the Nicaraguan Nun who took me into her care on 9/11, Bishop Singh will water the seeds of growth, will wash away the dust from the city’s broken past, feed the hungry with spiritual food, put the beloved to work in God’s vineyards and see that the weary have a place to rest. It’s what great pastors do.

With God’s help a change will come to the fortunes of this great American city. Our prayers are with you Bishop Singh. May God continue to richly bless your ministry.

You Tube Video: Sam Cooke, A Change is Gonna Come

Risk: unbelief, pessimism, product risk, urban renewal, terrorism

June 2, 2008 Posted by | cities, faith, gospel, terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment