As the rector and chief executive of New York City’s venerable Trinity Wall Street Church, Dr. James H. Cooper has overseen all aspects of the organization, from Trinity Church and St. Paul’s Chapel to St. Margaret’s House, since his appointment in 2004.
Cooper, who received his Master of Divinity and his Doctor of Ministry from the Virginia Theological Seminary, has a long and distinguished record of service which spans more than 30 years in the clergy.
Among his past accomplishments, Cooper helped to grow his parish in Ponte Vedra, Fla., from a membership of 700 to more than 5,500, and he founded a nonprofit to provide quality health care to the region’s aging population.
In addition, he helped provide growth money for new churches in Nigeria, Kenya and Spain while also establishing missions and other facilities in Tanzania, Bolivia, the Bahamas and Cuba.
As the current head of Trinity, Cooper has helped to carry on the church’s original mission to serve the poor and isolated. The church was established in 1697, predating the city of New York.
Cooper has worked tirelessly alongside groups including the Downtown Alliance, an organization that provides funding to house the homeless in lower Manhattan. The church also gave a leadership grant to the Downtown Alliance’s Back to Business grant program, which is focused on helping small businesses in Zone A and lower Manhattan recover from the effects of Hurricane Sandy.
In addition, Cooper helped to steer funding of $250,000 to the Robin Hood Foundation, supporting the transition of veterans returning from active duty in Afghanistan.
Other initiatives Cooper has lent his time and talent to include a Relief Bureau to counsel the sick and jobless, food pantries and soup kitchens at Trinity chapels around the city, global grant programs that award millions both abroad and to vital programs in New York as well as the massive relief effort and shelter the church provided to the rescue workers at Ground Zero after 9/11.
When the John Heuss House, a day shelter for the homeless, was forced to close several years ago, Cooper and the church responded by opening Charlotte’s Place, a drop-in and welcome center for all visitors to the community. Further, a brown-bag lunch program was started on the front steps of Trinity, which distributes hundreds of bag lunches each week to anyone in need.
Also of importance is Cooper’s skill as a financial manager, carefully managing Trinity’s Grants Program, which has funded more than $72 million in programs in some 85 countries around the world since 1972.
But of all his responsibilities, perhaps the most important is the management of Trinity Real Estate, which handles the parish’s 6 million square feet of commercial real estate in Lower Manhattan. The income generated from the church’s real estate holdings, which Trinity has held for more than 300 years, enables the organization to sustain and develop programs and ministries around the world.
Honored recently at a Manhattan awards ceremony, sponsored by the Federation of Manhattan Welfare Agencies, Cooper made some thoughtful remarks.
“We have great expectations of each other,” Cooper said. He noted that while Trinity has “wonderful ministries, grand programs and buildings,” they will ultimately be known “not by those ministries and programs or buildings; we will be known by the love we have for one another.”
He added that “love endures all things, and it is only love that never ends. God will make the path straight again, will rise up the valleys and take boulders and mountains and throw them into the sea. … We are part of it simply because we love one another.”
Cooper is also known in the interfaith community for the work he began shortly after his arrival to push for increased communication and understanding of differences that arose among persons of differing faiths after 9/11.
He continues to reach out to those who speak out about both economic and social injustices.
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