New York Elects a Mystic-Organizer as Its 17th Bishop

The Rev. Matthew Foster Heyd, center, with the other clergy of Church of the Heavenly Rest | Instagram

By Douglas LeBlanc

The Diocese of New York has elected as its bishop coadjutor a self-described mystic who believes a bishop should be an “organizer of our witness together to a world that deeply needs to hear a message of grace, hope, and love.”

The Rev. Matthew Foster Heyd, rector of Church of the Heavenly Rest since 2013, was elected on the fourth ballot on December 3. Heyd led from the first ballot in the clergy order, and traded the lead in the lay order with the Rev. Steven D. Paulikas, rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church Park Slope in Brooklyn.

There were five nominees on the first ballot, and the election was settled when only Heyd and Paulikas remained. The other three nominees were the Rev. Stephanie M. Johnson, rector of St. Paul’s Church, Riverside, Connecticut; the Rev. Matthew Hoxsie Mead, rector of Christ the Redeemer, Pelham, New York; and the Rev. Robert Jemonde Taylor, rector of St. Ambrose Church, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Heyd is a graduate of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Yale University, and General Theological Seminary. He retains an accent from his native state of North Carolina, but he has spent all of his ordained ministry in the Diocese of New York. Bishop Mark Sisk, Bishop of New York from 2001 to 2013, ordained Heyd as deacon and priest in 2009.

He wrote that New York is “where my children were baptized. It’s where I’ve served the church, both as lay leader and as priest. My daughter was confirmed in the Cathedral where I was ordained. We’ve lived through responses to 9/11 and the pandemic. Our whole family marched with Black Lives Matter after George Floyd’s murder.

“A decade ago I was part of a bishop election back home in North Carolina,” he added. “I’ve said ‘no’ to every nomination since in both congregational and bishop’s searches.

“But New York is home and I owe an enormous debt to the Church here. I believe deeply in our people and our possibilities. I know that we can thrive — if we change together.”

Heyd described his love of mysticism and ascetic theology as emerging from his post-seminary life, when he was preparing for marriage.

“I weighed much more than I should, my ADHD was disrupting my life, and I had begun to deal with the rising anxiety that I’ve now experienced in my entire adult life,” Heyd wrote in his profile. “Finding a practice of the presence of God changed my life. I have a wonderful little book that my mother and I have read for a very long time that is a modern translation of Benedictine spirituality. There’s one line at the beginning of the book that goes like this, It is for us to train our hearts to live in grace and, when we fail, to begin again each day. Practice opens us to Grace. A rhythm of life opens us to experience the dynamic transcendence of a living God.”

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