The Rev. Ninon N. Hutchinson, Dr. Nell Braxton Gibson, and the Rev. Canon Petero A. N. Sabune have been named the 2007 Trinity Transformational Fellows.
The Rev. Dr. James H. Cooper, rector of Trinity Church-St. Paul's Chapel made the announcement honoring the two priests and lay leader for their commitment to social justice and efforts as catalysts of positive change at a May 17 Ascension Day ceremony in the main sanctuary of Trinity.
"Ascension Day marks the anniversary of our church building and a recommitment to our ministry beyond our church walls," said Cooper. "Nell, Ninon, and Petero fulfill the very ideal of transformative ministry that Trinity seeks to encourage, promoting community and leadership that is the essence of constructive social enterprise. We hope that these grants will enable them to pursue their passion for change."
Each recipient will receive a $20,000 grant to design a six-week sabbatical to strengthen and enhance his or her ministry. The grant covers his or her time and professional development activities, as well as compensates his or her parish for loss of services during the sabbatical. Selected among clergy and lay leaders in recognition of their outstanding leadership in social transformation, candidates do not apply -- they are nominated and recommended by a group of "spotters," who are active and knowledgeable New York leaders similarly working for community change.
Hutchinson has been priest-in-charge at St. John's Church in Monticello, New York since 1995. She has been an active collaborator on worker rights and farm worker issues in her small town in rural New York, engaging her small congregation in activities beyond providing basic hospitality. Her role in strengthening her community and her efforts to build relationships, particularly among low-wage immigrant factory workers, were cited as key to her selection.
Gibson is coordinator of the national Episcopal Urban Caucus and chair of the Reparations Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. She has forced the church to confront discrimination and exclusion, in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, the anti-apartheid fight in the 1980s, and more recently in the study of reparations for slavery. She has coordinated the Episcopal Urban Caucus since 2005. Her role as mentor to emerging leaders over the last two decades was cited in the selection process.
Sabune has been the Protestant chaplain at Sing Sing Penitentiary since 2004. His ministry has been instrumental in engaging Episcopal faith communities in both prison ministry and work with immigrants. As dean of St. Philip's Cathedral in Newark, he organized families and local faith communities to respond when a child was killed on the way home from school. Sabune's catalytic role in helping faith communities become involved in social transformation, including Trinity-St. Paul's own congregation, was cited as key to his selection.
In its fourth year, the Trinity Transformational Fellows program focuses on social transformation in metropolitan New York -- not just helping those in need, but also in challenging societal systems that do not address basic human needs.
"As one of America's oldest philanthropies, Trinity Church has supported social ministries for nearly 300 years," said the Rev. Canon James G. Callaway Jr., deputy for Faith Formation and Development, Trinity Church. "Over the course of time, it has identified new leaders, innovative ideas, exceptional opportunities, and extraordinary efforts that invigorate the Church and help it change the world for the better."
Past Trinity Fellows have used their sabbaticals to study Mandarin Chinese in China, study community organizing in South Africa and work on reconciliation between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Video profiles and the telecast of the presentation ceremony and Eucharist for the Fellows can be viewed at: trinitywallstreet.org