Anticipation was high and on September 22, 2018 pomp and circumstance at the NJPAC Prudential Hall, filled to capacity, heralded Carlye J. Hughes as the 11th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark. Ordained a priest in 2005 after graduating from Virginia Theological Seminary, Hughes, the first woman and African American to be elected bishop in the Diocese of Newark, was elected unanimously during a special convention on May 19, 2018. Her first call was to St. James’ Church on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Before ordination, she worked as a corporate trainer.
Praise and worship dancers welcomed the Holy Spirit with their bodies, then bagpipes, African drums, and heavenly voices made a joyful noise! The Chief Consecrator of Bishop Hughes was The Most Reverend Michael B. Curry, The Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church, and the first African American to serve in this office. He greeted the crowd and remarked, “Oh, happy day!” Known for his emphasis upon social justice, Bishop Curry preached his message of love and power at the Royal Wedding on May 19, 2018. It electrified the congregation and was heard by millions of people throughout the World. On this day, he celebrated the consecration of Rev. Hughes, saying, “There’s a lot of ‘Glory Hallelujahs’ going on throughout this church!”
Proclamations were read, prayers were said, and finally, it was time to hear from Newark’s new bishop. “Oh, my goodness,” Bishop Hughes exclaimed. “I thought being elected was fun—this is way more fun! Becoming Bishop isn’t something we do in a vacuum; it really and truly does take a village and there are people here from all of my villages…,” she said to cheers and shouts. Unfortunately, Bishop Hughes’ husband, David, was under the weather and unable to attend the historic occasion. “I told him this morning how much I loved him and if he watched it on television I’d be just fine, and I missed him and it seemed strange to do this without him—but I was leaving,” the Bishop said, evoking uproarious laughter. Her brother and sister stood by her side in David’s stead. Bishop Hughes thanked the congregation and well-wishers for their prayers and support then said, “I want to remind us of one thing, and that is hundreds of people just prayed that the Holy Spirit will come and help me in ministry and I’ve yet to see the Holy Spirit come and help one person in their ministry. Look out, the Holy Spirit came to every last, single one of us. When you receive communion today, ask her to continue coming to you and to empower you for ministry.”
Episcopal congregations throughout the diocese welcome Bishop Hughes as our new leader in our journey toward building new relationships of love and service with all our neighbors. Our neighbors are all persons of faith, persons of different faith traditions, and those who may not identify with any faith, but yet are beloved friends. The progress of our City in terms of higher quality of life in recent decades is sure evidence that God is seeking to bless Newark in innumerable ways. Let us pray for all our pastors and civic leaders, but now especially for Bishop Hughes, that we may be worthy to continue to receive the blessings that God has showered upon us. May the whole community welcome Bishop Hughes as she joins our larger community of faith and progress.