Bishop Akiyama sits down with the Rev. Alcena Boozer at St. Philip the Deacon Episcopal Church in Northeast Portland to hear her story of how she became the first ordained African-American priest in the diocese.
Mother Alcena shares her journey becoming a deacon, the ordination process, and her experiences as a priest of the diocese. She also shares some of the discrimination she faced as the first Black woman to be ordained in the diocese. This includes being left off the diocesan list of Postulants for Holy Orders, being ignored by the examining chaplains during her ordination interview, and being locked out from one of the churches on a Sunday morning. However, through all this, Mother Alcena persevered and stayed true to herself and God’s call to serve.
Bishop Akiyama and Mother Alcena talk about what race relations have looked like in this diocese and the state, including racist laws and real estate clauses restricting home ownership. They then discuss what reconciliation can look like in the diocese, moving from just listening to stories to taking action steps in order to work for change.
After their conversation, Bishop Akiyama offers, on behalf of the diocese and past bishops, the following formal apology to Mother Alcena.
Dear Mother Alcena,
On behalf of the Diocese of Oregon, also known as the Episcopal Church in Western Oregon, I extend our heartfelt apology for the injustices you suffered in your ministry as a priest in our church.
Our Lord, Jesus Christ, commands that we are reconciled one to another in order that God’s grace and mercy will transform our hearts and minds, and therefore our very lives. The details of your story are grievous to me as your sister in Christ and as bishop of this church. Because we are called to amend our lives, I am confident in the power and presence of God’s love to heal the wounds we have inflicted.
We ask for your forgiveness and for the opportunity to work together to build up the Body of Christ that is the Episcopal Church in Western Oregon.
O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Diana D. Akiyama
Bishop, Episcopal Church in Western Oregon
This project was made possible by the Truth and Reconciliation Task Force, the Engaging Racial Justice Working Group, and St. Philip the Deacon Episcopal Church.