Thirteenth Bishop Diocesan of Connecticut, 1993-1999, Bishop Suffragan 1981-1993
b. November 27, 1930 – d. August 10, 2023
Born in Georgetown, British Guyana in 1930, Bishop Coleridge was the eldest of 16 children of a devout Congregationalist family that prayed daily. At age 15, stricken with malaria, Clarence prayed for “50 more years”—which he exceeded at the age of 92. As a boy, Clarence worked in his father’s shoemaker shop, and went as far as he could in school at the time.
He left Guyana (which became the independent in 1966) to further his education. After attending Lincoln University in Pennsylvania for a year, he discerned that his ministry would be in medicine, and received a Bachelor of Science degree from Howard University in 1954. After graduation, Clarence was torn between following a path of study in Veterinary Medicine at Tuskegee University in Alabama and pursuing theology at Drew University in New Jersey.
He “felt his heart strongly warmed” upon listening to a sermon given by Martin Luther King. Stirred to approach him after the service, Clarence spontaneously told him that he wanted to be what King was, and thus he chose his path to the priesthood. After receiving his Master of Divinity degree from Drew University in 1960, he considered becoming a Congregationalist minister. One day, walking by St. Philip’s Church in New York City, and wanting to know more about the Episcopal Church, he went to the rector’s office declaring “I want to be a priest,” again spontaneously. One could conclude that his steps were guided by the Holy Spirit, as his path at times appeared entirely accidental. After spending a year at General Theological Seminary, Clarence was ordained to the diaconate in 1961 and to the priesthood in January of 1962 in the Diocese of Newark. St. Mark’s in Bridgeport called him to be Rector, after he had served as a Curate to two parishes in New York City. He faithfully served in Bridgeport from 1966 to 1981. In Bridgeport he served as Director of Counseling Services on the United Way and he served many Bridgeport agencies, including Episcopal Social Services.
Other of his educational achievements included a Master of Social work and attendance at the American Foundation of Religion and Psychiatry, and he was a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers and a Diplomate of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. He received a Doctor of Ministry degree from Andover-Newton School of Theology. Honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees have been bestowed upon him from Trinity College, Berkeley Divinity School and General Theological Seminary.
Elected Bishop Suffragan of the diocese on May 26, 1981 at a special convention, Bishop Coleridge was consecrated at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Hartford. Prior diocesan work included membership on the Social Concerns Committee, member and President of the Standing Committee, service as a pastoral counselor and board member for Unicorn Counseling Service (a division of Episcopal Social Service); Task Force on Hunger; member and Chairman of the Connecticut Urban Caucus as well as service on many community boards in Bridgeport. As Suffragan Bishop, he had pastoral oversight for the western part of the state, from Litchfield to Greenwich. By his impetus and passion to help underserved children, the Bishop’s Fund for Children became a reality. The monies raised go to support programs that educate and uplift children at risk in Connecticut.
Bishop Coleridge particularly enjoyed reading and writing. His personal focus was on family, the Church, and preaching. Elected the first black Diocesan Bishop in Connecticut on June 5, 1993, and consecrated on October 16, 1993, he served until 1999. He is survived by his daughters Caroline and Cheryl.