A New Jersey court has sentenced the Episcopal Church’s “Hip-Hop” priest, the Rev. Timothy Holder, to two years’ probation for stealing more than $35,000 from his Atlantic City parish.
On 8 Feb 2013 Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Mark Sandson handed down the sentence to Mr. Holder (57) and ordered him to make restitution to his former parish, the Church of the Ascension. In December he pled guilty to third-degree theft by deception for writing checks on the church’s bank account while serving as rector between 2007 and 2009.
Before moving to the Church of the Ascension, Mr. Holder, who has been on administrative leave from his position as Associate Rector at Christ Church in Toms River, served as vicar of the South Bronx's Trinity Episcopal Church of Morrisania, where he created the popular “Hip-Hop” services to serve the needs of the local community.
Known as “Poppa T”, a name given to him by local rappers, in 2004 Mr. Holder began offering a monthly “HipHopEMass”, an experimental rite of Holy Communion that combined street vernacular, improvisational rap slang, with the Rite III Book of Common Prayer Communion Service. In a 2006 interview with the Village Voice, Mr. Holder stated he had been inspired to write the Hip-Hop mass by the legacy of murdered rap musician Tupac Shakur. After watching the movie Tupac Resurrection, Poppa T said he was dumbfounded when “Pac declared himself a born thug who'd die a thug, and who'd speak for thugs because no one else would.”
After a witnessing a violent episode near his home shortly thereafter, Mr. Holder said: "For six and a half hours, I sat on my stairwell and contemplated: 'I wonder if anyone has ever tried to speak with that thug?'
The HipHopEMass gained the support of church leaders, led by suffragan bishop Catherine Roskam, who displayed great enthusiasm in leading the street liturgies according to local press reports. Church Publishing Corporation in 2006 published Mr. Holder’s The Hip Hop Prayer Book written by Mr. Holder and 100 other rappers and musicians from the congregation as well as popular rappers such as Kurtis Blow.
The priest’s words of absolution in The Hip Hop Prayer Brook conclude with“It's cool! God forgives you! It's a done deal!"
Psalm 100’s “Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; serve the Lord with gladness and come before his presence with a song" is rephrased as: "Let's have some have some hype y'all/Let's have some hoopla/God's the truth y'all/He such a superstar."
A press statement from the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office said the Church of the Ascension suffered financial hardships because of the theft and that members of the congregation testified in court the defalcations had led to problems with state and federal tax authorities for the parish.