As many religious institutions struggle to find their way in a modern society, Trinity Episcopal Church in Asbury Park – with a unique point of view and inclusive attitude – has been bucking the trend for a decade.

I spoke with Father David Perkins, newly named Interim Rector at Trinity about his move from Montgomery, Alabama to help guide the growing congregation in Asbury Park.  Creole spices running through his veins, Perkins is an energetic and smart leader with compassion.

It was reassuring to meet and spend time with Perkins.  The church’s future is in strong hands.  Despite moving here in September, he seems to have an understanding of what this beloved institution means to the people here – many who have a hurt from their childhood religious experiences yet are open to the possibility of something new.  They do not want to be hurt twice and Perkins is here to ensure the future.  [more below]

Postcard of Trinity Episcopal Church in Asbury Park circa 1919. Today, with a new interim rector Father David Perkins, Trinity plans for the future while respecting the past of the 100 year old institution.

TBP:  You are one of Asbury Park’s newest residents with an important job.

Perkins:  When the vestry here was considering me to be the new Interim Rector, they had four litmus test questions, which the diocese was aware of as well.  It was very important for the vestry to find someone that resonated with who this community is.

The questions were essentially, “Will you be inclusive of the gay, lesbian and transgender community?  Will you do the blessing of same sex unions?  Will you invite all people to the table who are not baptized?  Will you work in a collegial way with the church’s volunteer clergy who are not Episcopal?”

My answers were a resounding “yes” to all.  I am writing my Master’s thesis about the open table (Eucharist for those not baptized) and have been advocating for the rights of the GLBT community since the 1970’s.

TBP:  Trinity is a very special institution to people here – it has a rich history as well as a passionate congregation.  Honestly, I was skeptical seven years ago when I first came through those beautiful red doors.  The people here all exceeded what I thought was possible from a church.  I think it is rare to find a place where everyone literally lives by what they preach.

Perkins:  Trinity is a unique combination of tradition and innovation.  This is an emergent church, one that will be a model for many for the future.

The Sunday 10 am liturgy uses inclusive language.  The music is a blend of tradition and modern.  And there is more congregational participation than a traditional service.  I do not know if I have been in an Episcopal church that is more passionate about including everyone than here at Trinity.  There is a lot of energy here – both love and spiritual energy.

TBP:  What do you see your role as for the next two years?

Perkins:  I have been trained to work as an interim minister.  Trinity has been in a position of loss and emotional anxiety for the last two years.  With the departure of a beloved rector some of the congregation felt bruised.

My work so far has been a combination of reaching out to people who walked away and helping the congregation heal and rediscover.  We are in a time to reflect back on the emotional process that brought us to this point and learn from the conflict.  We will talk – sometimes over a good creole breakfast – about when the church was at its best and when it was most challenged.  I want to hear about individual hurts and disappointments so we can move forward.  Father David Stout did remarkable work here.  We now have to figure out what he left us and orient ourselves to the future.

While this is going on, we will continue our mission of serving our congregation and the community at-large.  Our newest program is a Sandy trauma counseling group led by Father Tom Pivinski and Carolyn Moorhead.

The future at Trinity is something to be thankful for this holiday.  We welcome everyone to come be a part of our services as well as the future of our church.

Father Perkins talks about same-sex marriage and answers your Facebook questions here.