For immediate release, December 22, 2008
Contact: Canon Bill Lewellis, Diocese of Bethlehem
(c) 610-216-2726; (w) 610-691-5655 x229; (h) 610-820-7673
The Diocese of Bethlehem, the Episcopal Church in 14 counties of eastern and northeastern Pennsylvania, has designated nearly $100,000 in grants to help with the launch of new social outreach programs by six congregations. These are the first of five years of grants for local social ministry projects that will be made from New Hope campaign funds. The balance of the $1.1 million designated for local needs will fund future projects.
Good Shepherd Church, Scranton, will receive $40,000 this year toward the establishment of a men's shelter, an expansion of the parish's Seasons of Love program that serves healthcare needs of the homeless and working poor. The multi-year plan ($200,000 over five years) is geared toward preparing for use of the undercroft of the church as an emergency shelter during winter nights and on those occasions when other needs displace families in the community.
St Clement's/St. Peter's Church, Wilkes-Barre, will receive $30,000 toward start-up costs for a day care center to serve low and middle-income families. This grant is also a multi-year project.
St. Andrew's Church on the Allentown/Bethlehem border will receive $13,000 to establish a food bank that will be open one full day a week.
St. Stephen's Church, Wilkes-Barre, will receive $10,000 to expand the services of its Clothing Closet/Thrift Store.
St. Barnabas Church, Kutztown, will receive $3,600 to provide monthly meals to the homeless, those on the margins and to college students.
St. Anne's Church, Trexlertown, will receive $2,500 to develop a program with women in prison to record them reading books that could then be listened to by their children.
The grants were made after reviewing applications submitted over the past few months. In the spring of 2009, parishes will be invited once again to submit proposals to seed new social ministry initiatives. The committee included senior deacons of the diocese, respecting the principle that this order of ministry is charged with interpreting the needs of the world to the Church.
The money comes from New Hope, "a unique capital campaign for somebody else," according to Bethlehem Bishop Paul V. Marshall. The campaign for the people of Kajo Keji in Sudan (75%) and for the poor among us (25%) began in the fall of 2007 and will continue through 2012. Commitments of nearly $3.8 million from Episcopalians across the Diocese of Bethlehem have already surpassed the initial $3.6 million goal which has been stretched to $4.1 million to meet higher costs associated with work already begun in the Sudan. Kajo Keji is 7,000 miles away in southernmost Sudan on the northern Ugandan border, roughly one-third the geographical size of the 14 northeastern Pennsylvania counties of the Diocese of Bethlehem, yet contains almost 400,000 members of the Episcopal Church in the Sudan.
New Hope for the needy of northeastern Pennsylvania will provide seed money for new initiatives to serve those in need through Episcopal congregations and to allow for the expansion of other social outreach projects.
During a visit to Good Shepherd Scranton on Sunday (December 21), Bishop Marshall announced the grant designated for that congregation's ministry. "Almost two years ago," he said, "I had a conversation with your vestry about possibilities for substantial urban ministry at Good Shepherd. I had in the past been able to help you with small things like the chair lift and the sound system, but the conversation I had with your vestry that day required considerably more money than I have at my discretion."
He told parishioners that, during the summer of 2007, the "silent " phase of the New Hope campaign, the cornerstone of his many talks to raise money for the northeastern Pennsylvania aspect of the New Hope campaign was their powerful vision for the creative use of their facilities. "I routinely began that section of my talk by saying that I have only once in 35 years shed tears at a vestry meeting, and it was at a meeting of your vestry when I learned of your commitment to mission. In its rebirth, this parish has become something of a miracle. Miracles, of course, are not magic; they are events that strengthen faith. What you have chosen to be and do has touched me and many others very deeply. At every level in the diocese, people are cheering you on. You have taken seriously the truth that lay people are responsible for the life of their parish. You have chosen to be more focused on mission than survival."
The New Hope grants committee chose to make the announcement of the first of five years of grants close to Christmas to highlight the distinctive understanding that focuses Anglican theology: that Jesus Christ –– God in the flesh –– became one of us and that God continues to work in the world through the embodiment of our getting down with and bringing some justice and compassion to those who live on the edges. "We are building mangers" for God among us, Assistant Bishop Jack Croneberger said during the grants committee meeting. This understanding is often called Anglican incarnational theology.
"At this time of the year we are particularly reminded that ours is a religion of the incarnation," Bishop Marshall said. "God did not send a message; God become one of us. Jesus was present to men and women, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, offering life in God's realm. Each of these New Hope grants allows Christ's people another opportunity to touch the lives of people who would otherwise fall through the cracks of life, and to do so in his holy name.
"Churches that have hands-on ministries with which parishioners identify grow without exception. It is accordingly a double joy to see the creativity in mission throughout the diocese, as reflected in these grants. I am particularly impressed that the bulk of New Hope money is being spent in the northern half of the diocese, the region suffering the most economic and social distress. It is a joy to me that parishes in that area of our diocesan community have chosen to be bold in their mission."
New Hope for Sudan is a response to the request of the Diocese of Kajo Keji for assistance in building the educational and organizational centers that will allow them to provide for their own future. Also, through revolving "micro-finance" funds, enterprising individuals, largely women, will be able to make a new start in a war-torn country.
Since 2000, some 13 representatives of the Diocese of Bethlehem, including Bishop Marshall and Mrs. Diana Marshall, have visited with sisters and bothers in southern Sudan. Some have made the journey several times.
In January 2008, when three people from the Diocese of Bethlehem made the journey to southern Sudan, Bishop Marshall told Bishop Anthony Poggo of the Diocese of Kajo Keji that "their main purpose takes its cue from our Lord's Incarnation: their goal is to be with as many people as possible to let them know that their sisters and brothers in Bethlehem know about them, care about them, and want to know their story."