Rev. Canon Lloyd Casson: In lifelong mission of reconciliation, there’s always more to do
The Rev. Canon Lloyd Casson’s entire life and ministry have been about helping struggling congregations that needed leadership.
Canon Casson, 84, grew up in the Wilmington church that he led for many years.
“I actually grew up in St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church at Seventh and Walnut streets,” said Casson, who served for 10 years as the rector of the Episcopal Church of Sts. Andrew and Matthew and is now the rector emeritus of the same church. “I went to seminary, and when I came out of seminary, my first position was to be an assistant at St. Andrew’s. It was a very difficult time in the city of Wilmington, in the wake of Dr. King’s assassination and the nine-month occupation of troops here.”
Rev. Casson said it wasn’t easy working at St. Andrew’s while advocating on behalf of the black community.
“I was sort of like on a tightrope during those times,” he said. “But it really shaped in some ways what I would be doing for the rest of my ministry. I came back in 1997 to bring these two congregations together. I urged us not to create a new name, because both parishes had been so involved historically in this city that we thought it would send a better message to say that these folks are committed to working together in the community.”
Rev. Casson said St. Andrew’s membership had dwindled while St. Matthew’s, like many black congregations, “had lots of members but not enough space or resources to continue.”
“I’ve spent most of my community work developing interfaith and interracial activities of one kind or another,” he said. “I was the president of the Council of Churches here in Delaware in a younger time. I’ve always had this sense of reconciliation.”
He also served as president of the board of Reach Academy for Girls after being asked to come in to help revive a school of mostly traumatized girls, from elementary to middle school.
He said that experience has left him with little patience for the Delaware Department of Education, which he said closed the school because it focused strictly on academic achievement.
“I’ve always seen that as both a victory and a defeat,” he said. “A victory because it did expose some of the real terrible issues that we face in state bureaucracies. Nobody would ever call it that, but it’s very clear to me that that was a racist decision. There were other schools that had lots more problems than we did. We had no financial issues; we were a very well-run school. But there were no advocates, none, in the Department of Education.”
Rev. Casson doesn’t feel retired.
“I feel like I’m free because I don’t have to run anything,” he said.” But I definitely don’t feel like this is it. I’ve been blessed with feeling like I was called to do what I am doing. One skill that has really gotten me over is being able to listen and synthesize a conversation and bringing disparate voices together.”
So what’s next?
“I was asking myself that just a couple of days ago,” he said. “One of the problems that clergy have these days is preaching and feeling safe. How do you talk about these things in your sermon without alienating your people? I’d like to bring them together for a workshop on how to communicate love at the same time you’re challenging the way they are.”