EASTON -- When Joel Marcus Johnson dons the purple cassock of an Anglican bishop for his consecration service this morning, it will be the latest step in a religious journey marked by detours and diversity.
Johnson, 51, was born in Fargo, N.D., the son of a Jewish father TC and an Episcopalian mother, and his childhood included Friday nights in a synagogue and Sunday mornings in an Episcopal church.
Today's ceremony for the leader of the new Anglican Diocese of the Chesapeake will continue the diversity of Johnson's five-year tenure on the Eastern Shore.
The service will be in Christ Church, St. Michaels Parish, an Episcopal church. It will be attended by Anglicans, Catholics and Episcopalians who will hear a service conducted in English and in Spanish by Anglican bishops from Maryland, Indiana, New Jersey and Puerto Rico.
"Here we have a new diocese that is really mission territory," Johnson says. "The bishop is the pastor for all the people, whether they are Anglican or not."
The eclectic nature of the service also matches Johnson's unusual route to the priesthood. After a successful career as host of a nationally syndicated classical music radio program, he was ordained as an Anglican priest in Columbus, Ohio. His adopted Anglican church dispatched him to Maryland on a missionary expedition.
"That was my mission -- to come here and start a parish," Johnson said. St. Andrew-the-Seafarer Anglican Church, began in 1991 as a handful of parishioners meeting in a Catholic chapel.
Nearly six years later, St. Andrew-the-Seafarer has grown to 400 members and has a storefront chapel on Goldsborough Street in Easton. This spring, Johnson hopes to acquire a larger building for his growing congregation.
"I have no ambition for flying buttresses," he says in a reference to the towering Anglican churches that dominate the landscape in England. "Warehouses make ideal churches."
He has brought that practical flexibility to his mission in Easton, and his mix of activism and outreach has raised the profile of a relatively small and obscure Protestant sect on the Eastern Shore.
Nationally, the Anglican church has about 300,000 members. The church perceives itself as promoting a theology that lies between Roman Catholicism and American Episcopalianism: more traditional than the Episcopal Church but using less ritual than the Catholic Church.
"Anglicanism has always been seen as the 'bridge' church," Johnson says. He became interested in the Shore's Latino population because his home is on Easton's north side, where many immigrants live.
"It dawned on me one day that there were a lot of Hispanics passing our door walking to the supermarket," Johnson said. "I talked to them and realized no one was doing anything for them spiritually."
His church has found a real need in the community, he says. It employs one person full time to help new arrivals deal with housing, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and whatever else they need, and Johnson has become known on the Delmarva Peninsula as a Latino advocate.
"He is reaching out to the Hispanic people," says Monsignor Joseph F. Rebman, a Catholic from Delaware who will attend today's ceremony as the representative of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington.
The unusual location for the service was the result of one church's helping another, says Erv Brown, the rector of Christ Church, St. Michaels Parish. "Just being neighborly, that's all," he says.
Brown will attend today's consecration, as will Rebman and the Right Rev. Martin G. Townsend of the Episcopal Diocese of Easton.
"We're not terribly sectarian about these things," Johnson explains. "A bishop is a fairly ecumenical kind of fellow."
Pub Date: 1/25/97