She’s doing it for Jesus!
Reverend Dr. Ketlen Solak is making history as the first Black woman bishop of the Pittsburgh Episcopal Diocese, WESA reports.
The Pittsburgh Episcopal Diocese announced that they elected Rev. Dr. Ketlen Solak as their new bishop, the first Black woman to ever serve in that capacity. For 40 years, the Episcopal Church has ordained women to the priesthood, the first Black woman bishop in the U.S. being Barbara C. Harris, elected in 1989.
The search for a bishop for the Pittsburgh church began nearly 15 months ago, most of it happening over Zoom due to the pandemic. Solak was chosen from a final group of nominees that included Rev. Kim Coleman, a Black rector from Virginia, and the Reverent Diana Wilcox, a New Jersey rector who is also a member of the LGBTQ community.
A native of Haiti, Solak holds multiple degrees - one in divinity and one in music. She has a unique preaching style, often using hymn lyrics in her sermons and even singing her prayers at times. Solak is currently serving as the rector at the Brandywine Collective Ministries in Delaware, but she is excited to take her work to Pittsburgh.
“The future of your diocese, which is soon to become our diocese, is bright. I am ready to become a Pittsburgher for Jesus,” Solak said.
Rev. Noah Evans, the rector of St. Paul’s in Mount Lebanon, spearheaded the election process, saying that it was Solak’s uniqueness that made people gravitate towards her.
“People were attracted to her pastoral nature, her collaborative leadership style, and the joy and vision that she brings to her ministry,” Evans said.
He added that her appointment marks a monumental shift for the Episcopal church in terms of diversity, saying, “The Episcopal Church [is becoming] more and more aware of the importance of having voices of all God’s people present.”
Solak will be taking over for Bishop Dorsey McConnell, who has served in that capacity since 2012. He became the first permanent bishop of the diocese after the 2008 separation from the church by conservative congregants who formed the Anglican Church of North America. McConnell was critical in helping settle property disputes between congregations that left the diocese.
Despite the loss, the Pittsburgh Diocese has continued to grow, increasing by 40% over the last four years, with a membership of nearly 9,000. Solak will have to navigate the challenges of in-person and remote gatherings as the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. With some as far as St. Thomas’ in Canonsburg and others in Northern Cambria who still have to meet weekly, congregants have spread apart.
Nonetheless, Solak is more than equipped and is ready for the responsibility.
“I am deeply moved, God has done this. With God’s help, you have discerned and elected a new bishop and I am humbled by the honor of the one being chosen. The future of your diocese, which is soon to become our diocese, is bright," Solak told reporters.
Rev. Dr. Ketlen Solak will be consecrated this November at Calvary Episcopal in East Liberty. Congratulations!
Photo Courtesy of KDKA-TV