Photograph by Martha Deed
Bishop McKelvey was already committed to anti-death penalty work when he was installed Bishop of Rochester, December 4, 1999. He also has considerable experience with crime and family tragedy hitting close to home. In his first pastorate, his congregation experienced a family violence murder.
"I didn't realize the Montstreams [John's parents, John and Marion Montstream*] were Episcopal when I was getting ready for a news conference during the second trial. When I found out, I didn't feel it would be nice or fair for them to learn of my anti-death penalty postion through the media.
"I wanted to talk with them first if they would be willing to talk with me, so I went through their pastor, Don Hill. You have to be very careful as a bishop. You can't just go past the pastor."
Bishop McKelvey and Pastor Hill met together with the Montstream family. Since then, McKelvey has corresponded with the family.
"I didn't go to the trial, because I didn't want to be a voyeur."
Bishop McKelvey says the Montstreams must have been people of strong faith before this happened, because he sees people driven out of the church by tragedy. "They blame God or the church fails them. Sometimes the parishioners and pastors fail them, too. But in this case, the church, parishioners and pastor have pulled together."
Bishop McKelvey preached at John and Marion Montstream's church three times between his installation in late 1999 and December 2001. In October 2001 during the third trial, McKelvey reminded the congregation that the Montstream family's tragedy, which is also a tragedy for Trinity Episcopal Church, will not finally end.
He believes the healing will continue indefinitely. The event will forever mark both the family and the church. It must not be ignored, but retain its place in the church's consciousness.
*John F. Montstream, Annette Montstream, and their children attended Clarkson Community Church near Brockport, New York. John F. was raised an Episcopalian, but was not attending an Episcopal church in the years preceding his murder.