In an interview this morning with the NPR station in Vermont, Bishop MacVean-Brown shared her reflections on her new ministry.
“If the church is going to really, truly be inclusive, like we dream, people that have been excluded are actually the ones that are experts on how that can happen,” MacVean-Brown said. “Once I grabbed onto that, I realized, ‘Okay, I can’t remain a priest just for black people.’ And that’s where I was. I was the rector of the second oldest black Episcopal church. And telling them about how to be inclusive — it’s like preaching to the choir.”
In addition to confronting the challenge of inclusivity, MacVean-Brown has another issue to tackle: declining church attendance in one of the least religious states in the country. While the bishop said she would be “looking at numbers,” she also doesn’t want that to be her main focus.
“I feel like we have a good example in thinking of how the church started: church attendance wasn’t high when Jesus was around,” MacVean-Brown said. “When the disciples started out, it wasn’t like they had this history of keeping track of how many people attended church on Sunday. Part of what I’m hoping is we won’t focus only on numbers, but on really what we’re called to be as people of faith: concerned about our world, interacting with our world, investing ourselves in our world around us and loving the people and seeing what God’s up to in our communities.”
The full text of the interview, with audio, is here. MacVean-Brown is the first African-American woman to serve as a bishop in Vermont. She was consecrated on September 28 following the retirement of The Rt. Rev. Thomas C. Ely.