Diane Pollard has attended 14 General Conventions as a lay deputy from the Diocese of New York and has been a leading voice for the rights of women and minorities in her many positions in The Episcopal Church. She was honored for her decades of leadership by the Union of Black Episcopalians and was awarded the House of Deputies Medal by its President, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings.
I’ve been an Episcopalian all my life, but my first significant involvement was in a local group called the Inter-Parish Council (IPC) in Harlem, in New York City. The Harlem IPC represented 11 prominent historically black churches. I became chair of that group when a priest I respected approached me and said, “Diane, you have so many gifts, you need to do more.”
I have followed a nontraditional career for an African American person. I was not interested in social work or teaching; I was interested in finance and money. I ended up having a career on Wall Street. It was an odd thing in those days, as African Americans or people of color didn’t really pursue careers in the financial world. But I enjoyed the work, and it was the skills I developed in my career that enabled me to serve the Church on a number of finance and budget committees. In 1988, I was elected to the board of the Church Pension Fund for the first time and have served as a trustee for four six-year terms. I have served as a vestryman and churchwarden of Trinity Church Wall Street for many years. I consider this work to be my most satisfying and continue to be pleased that I have had this opportunity to serve.
I am most proud of my Church today for the positions it has taken on inclusion. I think it is important that we help people understand that The Episcopal Church truly does welcome everyone. All are invited to God’s table. In my little parish, we say, “If you are new to this church, you are welcome to receive at this altar. Period.” And I’m proud of that. Racial reconciliation is also very important to me. Here in the Diocese of New York, we resolved to begin a three-year process of examination and reparation for the sin of slavery that was visited upon countless people within our diocese for more than 200 years. 2018 was our Year of Lamentations, and 2019 is our Year of Apology. For me, making reparations is not just about money; it’s about truly understanding what happened historically, acknowledging our complicity, and discussing how we are going to change and do better as we continue our journey, working to repair the breach.
Why do I give to the Annual Appeal? I believe in the spiritual practice of tithing (giving 10 percent of my income) to support the Church. I think there’s a fear some people have about giving that, “If I contribute something to one organization, it means that I’m not going to support another.” That’s a scarcity mentality, but I’ve found that giving begets giving. The very act of giving opens our hearts and makes us more generous people. Another organization I support, for example, is St. Mary’s Center, one of the first residential health care facilities established in Harlem for people with HIV/AIDS. I also support Episcopal Relief & Development and my local Episcopal Charities in the Diocese of New York. I don’t think we have to feel that supporting one organization or aspect of the work of the Church precludes us from supporting others.