By LUCIA VITI | Uptown News
The Rt. Rev. Susan Brown Snook is now serving as the first female bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego in its 45-year history.
June 2019’s landmark recognition has landed Bishop Brown Snook in the forefront of a new wave of women leaders appointed into the governing bodies of the Episcopal Church nationwide.
At the top of her agenda is evangelizing audiences by “proclaiming the good news of Jesus” and “sharing God’s love through ministries of service and social justice.”
As the ecclesiastical authority of the Episcopal churches within her jurisdiction, “formulating the business of the diocese,” also remains a top priority.
Devoted to a life of prayer, the Episcopal Church is a communal worship ministry defined by the work of its people. Touting almost two million members from 7,500 congregations within the U.S., the Virgin Islands, Haiti, and Europe, the Episcopal Church has five dioceses in California. San Diego consists of 44 churches and 20,000 members across San Diego County, Imperial County, southern Riverside County and Yuma County, Arizona.
The liberal denomination with Anglican roots is governed by bishops tasked with guarding the faith, unity and discipline of its members.
Among her many responsibilities as both a spiritual and temporal leader, Brown Snook ordains priests and deacons, appoints leaders and supervises staffs. She is seated at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Bankers Hill while the diocese offices are in Ocean Beach. Along with leading Sunday church services – in a different church within the diocese every Sunday – she performs baptisms and confirmations; work she describes as a “joyful and wonderful.”
“I love all of the busy and exciting work,” she said. “And, I love San Diego. Honestly, at times I take a step back and remind myself how privileged I am to serve San Diegans and even more so, as a pioneer.”
The self-described “vision caster” is determined to increase the diversity of her discipleship – including the LGBTQ community – while encouraging “youth investment to grow as disciples of Jesus.”
“The Episcopal Church supports a diversity of ages and genders equally – as we should,” she said. “Our church is loving, accepting and non-judgmental. We are a missionary community that follows Jesus Christ in his life of fearless love for the world. God loves every human-being, so everyone, yes, everyone is invited to be a part of our multicultural and diverse community.”
In addition to fostering evangelism, church growth, church planting, and new mission development and planning, the good bishop highlighted service as an integral part of the church’s mission.
“Service is a huge part of our mission,” she continued. “We serve those in need — the lonely, sick, hungry and homeless. We advocate for this world to become a more loving and just place for all people.”
The Episcopalian church offers counseling and yoga classes as well as a variety of services to the underprivileged. In addition to feeding the homeless and their pets, The Episcopal Ecumenical provides hygiene services through Showers of Blessings, a mobile shower facility that offers the simplicity of cleansing to those who don’t have the proper means to do so.
Working in tandem with Carlsbad’s St. Patrick Church, the Ecumenical Showers of Blessings program offers hot showers, haircuts and beard trims, breakfast and clean clothes – including new underwear and socks – at designated locations throughout San Diego County.
Brown Snook also works with settling immigrants into the country.
“Our refugee net consists of case workers, food services and tutoring for children,” she said. “Often people arrive with nothing and are released with nothing. So we’re there to help.”
Brown Snook admits that as “thrilled” as she is to serve greater San Diego, there are days when she feels like the “Red Queen.”
“Alice in Wonderland’s Red Queen says you have to run as hard as you can to stay in the same place and if you want to get anywhere you have to run twice as fast,” she chuckled. “My work is exciting but busy. I’m grateful to be supported by a solid staff and an even wider group of people in our governing body.”
The former accountant has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and Managerial Studies, plus an MBA in Accounting from Rice University. While serving as a volunteer in an Episcopal Church in Phoenix, Brown Snook found “purpose and meaning,” so much so she reversed her career vocation.
In 2003, she graduated with a Master of Divinity from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, located in Berkeley, California. Ordained a priest in the Diocese of Arizona, she served the Dioceses of Oklahoma and Arizona until she was elected bishop in San Diego County.
The maverick remains excited about “guiding the dioceses into the future that’s in front of them.”
“I believe that God has called us to not only transform each other, but to transform the world,” she concluded.
— Contact Lucia Viti at firstname.lastname@example.org.