By Bill Lewellis
In April 1999, Bishop Paul preached to the deacons and priests of the Diocese of Bethlehem at the Chrism Mass, the Eucharist wherein Holy Oils are blessed and ordination vows renewed. He spoke about how ordained ministry is so much more than role and function. “When I took organ lessons,” he said, “I was a bit too concerned at one point with technique and with hitting the right notes. My teacher said, ‘Paul, I could get a monkey to play the right notes. What I want to hear from you is music.’"
In 1981, after 18 years as a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Allentown, most of those on the bishop's staff as his liaison with seminarians and with the media,I resigned. Monica and I married, and I soon began working as a special agent for Prudential and volunteering as a member of the diocesan communication committee of the Diocese of Bethlehem. Late in 1984, I applied for and was accepted as diocesan communication minister on the bishop's staff.
Bishop Mark Dyer kindly offered several times to receive my orders, so to receive me as an Episcopal priest. I replied, tongue somewhat in cheek, that after working for some 15 years on the staff of an RC bishop with a dominant personality, I wasn't going to let even a nice guy like him do that to me again. Through those years, 1985 to 95, and Bishop Mark's repeated offers, I said something like: "Why? After becoming an Episcopal priest, I would be doing the same thing on his staff as a priest as I had been doing as a lay person. Yes, I loved preaching and preparing sermons, but I could get an invitation to preach somewhere in the diocese as a lay person on any given Sunday."
Time passed. Bishop Paul Marshall was elected to be our next bishop. He kept me on staff and he too asked several times if I'd like to have my orders received. I gave a similar reply. Basically, why? What would I be doing differently?
Finally, in the fall of 1999, Bishop Paul said this was the last time he was going to ask. My reply was the same. He said something like, "Being a priest is not about what one does but who one is. You know that, but haven't been thinking about it. Think about it and let me know."
It was about the music. Not the notes. Not what one does.
On Nov. 1, 1999, after serving 14 years on diocesan staff as a lay person, I was received as a priest of the Episcopal Church.