The Rt. Rev. Andrew M. L. Dietsche will wrap up 11 years as the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York in March 2024. We recently sat down with him to reminisce about his years of service and time at Trinity.
You have come to Trinity so many times during your time as bishop. Is there a visit you particularly recall?
Bishop Dietsche: Every service I’ve been part of at Trinity has been memorable. It’s always a privilege to be here, to be able to officiate at liturgy, to be able to preach in this great church, to be with this wonderful congregation. I might say the services on the weekend we observed the 20th anniversary of 9/11 were particularly poignant and moving. I came into the Diocese of New York right after the 9/11 attacks. The next day I was down at the pile. I spent the next couple of months coordinating our pastoral responses. Trinity was right in the thick of all of that, so I got to know Trinity through St. Paul’s Chapel and through the parish's work after 9/11. And when you develop relationships in that kind of societal trauma, it sticks. So I’ve been part of the life of this church for a long time.
You have led the Episcopal Diocese of New York during the recovery from Superstorm Sandy, the COVID-19 pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, the time of war in Ukraine and now in Israel-Palestine. Do you have a favorite passage of scripture to sustain you in stressful seasons?
Bishop Dietsche: We sit together this morning against the backdrop of a world that is again at war. In Israel and in Gaza the level of violence is unspeakable, and everyone is traumatized by what’s happening. None of us knows what the future will bring. Even if we’re not in those places, even if we’re not personally in danger, there is a trauma that has settled across the whole human community, and it isn’t ending soon. When we find ourselves in very, very difficult seasons in the world, or in life, a passage of scripture I go back to again and again is that great Advent song that begins, “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, then we were like those who dream” (Psalm 126). It holds up before us, in challenging times, the reality, the trust, the certainty that God is building his kingdom. Jesus would say the kingdom of heaven is at hand. It’s beautiful, and it talks about surprise and joy and discovery and redemption, and I love that. It’s a reminder that God is not finished with us.
In March, Bishop Matt Heyd will move into your position and you’ll begin a new chapter. What was the best part about being bishop and what do you think you’ll miss most?
Bishop Dietsche: The thing I will most miss about being Bishop and the thing I have loved most are the same thing: Sunday morning. On Sunday morning, I’m out in my parishes. The Diocese of New York has almost 200 churches, and they’re all different. The great privilege of being part of this diocese is that we worship at our altars in 12 different languages. We cross many different cultures and geographies. And when I come as bishop to my churches, I’m invited to enter into that life for a time. Today, I’m at Trinity Wall Street. This is a large, world-famous, highly-resourced church. Seven days ago, I was at Christ Church in Sparkill up in Rockland County, a small, country church with a beautiful building and a very casual, laid-back life. We were able to get everyone around a couple of tables after the service. So it’s that continual life of invitation—come and join us, come be with us—that is one of the most beautiful things about being Bishop. The opportunity to worship together with people, to break bread with people. And after a number of years to get to know them, to come back and see them again, and to share at our altars all those languages we speak in this diocese. I’m pretty good with English, and I’ve gotten to where I can lead worship in Spanish, but I can’t preach in Spanish. That’s as far as I can go. I don’t speak French. I don’t speak Creole. I don’t speak Malayalam. I don’t speak Twi. I don’t speak Cantonese. I don’t speak Korean. I don’t speak Japanese. So I preach in English. I am with them in English, and we cross those barriers, and we have a wonderful time together. To be part of all these communities is just an incredible privilege. I’ll miss it, and it’s what I have loved the best.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.