Communicate … Your Ministry

Communicate… Your Ministry
By Bill Lewellis
Introduction/Communication Biases
and
Part 1: Communication-Evangelism

 [This is a copyrighted work in progress.]

I have worked in the general areas of communication-evangelism and media relations for two dioceses and with four bishops for nearly 45 years: first for 15 years in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown (150 congregations and 260,000 communicants) on the staff of the founding bishop of that diocese, then for the past 30 years for the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem, with the late Bishop Mark Dyer, Bishop Paul Marshall and Bishop Sean Rowe.

During the course of this experience, I have developed “biases” that I continually critique. Using that construct, I hope to offer with some directness and clarity what I have learned about the theology, ministry and practice of communication in a church context and how I have appropriated this experience, emphasizing what has made sense to me and what has worked for me.

The following may serve initially as both an introduction and a hint of content to come. I intend to revise and expand this to be both a table of contents and a summary of the topics.

1.      Christian communication is about proclaiming the gospel. (Communicate … your ministry. You are neither an independent journalist nor a house organist, but rather a communication-evangelist.)

2.      Every church is a small church that needs to extend its pulpit. (The church exists for those who do not belong to it.)

3.      Don’t confuse evangelism with publicity. (Why do you want media coverage?)

4.      Think not how but what… (There’s no “s” in communication. Communications is generally about tactics and a multiplicity of media. Communication, no “s,” is about content and strategy.)

5.      The media are not out to get you. (Establish and maintain credibility, take advantage of opportunities, create opportunities, and be of some use to your media contacts.)

6       Over the long haul, the coverage/cooperation you get from the media for what you’d like to accomplish will generally be in inverse proportion to the control you attempt to retain over the story.

7.      God uses many media of self-disclosure.

8.      You don’t have to be a technician to use technology. If you don’t know your way around online, however, you’ll soon be out of the information and communication flow.

9.      Communication builds community. (Gather the folks. Tell the secrets. Break the Bread … as in Acts. 2:42)

All rights reserved – The Rev. Canon Bill Lewellis
Communication Minister/Editor (retired), Diocese of Bethlehem
610-393-1833; bill@diobeth.org or bill.lewellis@gmail.com
Be attentive. Be intelligent. Be reasonable. Be responsible.
Be in love. And, if necessary, change.
—Bernard Lonergan
http://www.diobeth.typepad.com; www.diobeth.org

 

 

Communicate… Your Ministry
By Bill Lewellis
Part 1: Communication-Evangelism

Christian communication is about proclaiming the gospel. A communication ministry that does not proclaim the gospel, however sophisticated it may be, is not a Christian communication ministry. If gospel proclamation is not the reason for our communication efforts, what in the world are we communicating?

Communication as a church ministry makes no sense unless it supports evangelism, putting God’s good news before people, what God is doing in our world… putting that before people in such a way that they are invited to deal with the discipleship imperative: Follow me.

Church communicators and editors of most if not all denominations, dioceses and judicatories often find themselves trapped in one of two paradigms. Each is problematic. Some define themselves as independent journalists. Some allow themselves to be defined as house organists.

Many talented professionals have labored under the illusion that they could divorce their concerns from the concerns of the church. Similarly gifted individuals have labored in the shadow of institutional power as promoters of the institution.

In an attempt to think outside of those boxes, I have tried to be a communication-evangelist. I’d love to find a term that trips more easily off the tongue.

I have tried to lift up three realities: (1) Church communication ministry is about proclaiming the gospel. The communication minister’s mission statement is: tell secrets. More about that later. (2) Communication is the basic ministry of every baptized person. It’s about the Word continuing to become flesh. (3) Even the largest churches are not big enough spaces in which to publish glad tidings. Because the church exists for those who do not belong to it, we need to find creative ways to tell our stories and to extend our pulpits

With that in mind, I have worked over the years to develop, in addition to our diocesan newspaper, a few ministries that may be unique.

Several newspapers in various parts of our diocese, sometimes as many as seven, publish monthly columns written by our bishop. The combined circulation of those newspapers that publish the column regularly is 300,000. When all seven publish the column, it’s about half a million.

Several newspapers readily accept and publish columns, op-eds and letters to the editor that I write.

The largest regional daily newspaper in our diocese has developed and nurtures regular consultation with the local interfaith community. Because I have outlasted several generations of editors and journalists at the paper as well as the churches, synagogues and mosques of people now involved, most people no longer know that this evolved from a presentation I made to editors and the interfaith community some 14 years ago.

Cable systems that reach into some 200,000 northeastern Pennsylvania homes have, at my request, carried live Episcopal teleconferences, including the Trinity Institute. The largest system has produced and aired some of our events, including ordinations.

Several cable systems that reach into some 400,000 northeastern Pennsylvania homes carry on a weekly basis an “Interfaith TV” hour for which I select and provide the tapes. The hour usually consists of two half-hour programs professionally produced at national, regional and local levels by various denominations and independent producers.

Communication as a church ministry is about telling secrets.

Whenever we talk about God, we’re in the realm of mystery and sacrament, secret and sign, hidden yet revealed… a presence to be encountered in our relationships and in the signs of our worship. The Greek word, musterion, from which we get our word mystery (something hidden) was translated into Latin as sacramentum, (sacrament, sign, something visible).

Christian thinkers used both words to refer to the hidden presence of the real — the partially veiled and partially unveiled presence of God — to refer to visible signs (persons, loved ones, the church, bread and wine) that communicate something of God’s hidden presence.

When rightly used in religion, mystery describes “a reality, something visible, that suggests the hidden presence of God.” (Hold that thought.)

I once knew a preacher who punctuated with whispers.

When he was about to say something he really wanted you to hear, he leaned forward and lowered his voice. It was wonderfully effective. He leaned forward to whisper; people leaned forward to hear.

“Bob preaches like he’s telling secrets,” someone once quipped.

Each of us encounters God in God’s mysterion. We walk frequently along the edges of the divine mystery. If we listen closely, as we live God’s love, we hear secrets. And we “tell secrets” of God’s visitation… of how we were blinded by the light, of how the Christ within us recognized himself under the world’s disguises.

I once heard a Maryknoll missionary say something like this. “Many years ago when I came to work with the people in this faraway land. I came with the intent to bring God to them. I soon discovered that God was here before me.” He told them that secret, again and again.

 “Of this gospel,” Paul says in Ephesians (3:7-10), “I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace… given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known…”

“The aim of communication for Christians,” William Fore wrote in his excellent book on television and religion, “is to help people interpret their existence in the light of what God has done for them as manifest in Jesus Christ.”

He went on to say that the Christian communicator does not ask, “How can I communicate the gospel in such a way that others will accept it?”  He characterizes that as “the public relations question, the manipulative question.”

Rather, our task is to put the gospel before people in such a way that it is so clear to them that they can accept it, or reject it — but always for the right reasons. Our objective should be to present the gospel in ways so clear and self-evident that the recipient will have an “Aha!” experience, so that the good news will make complete sense to his or her own inner world, so that the recipient will say, in effect, ‘I already knew that!’”

God is there before we get there. Communication-evangelism helps people discover the God who is already in their hearts... and then gets out of God’s way.

A few years ago in Bethlehem, we had a large, movable satellite dish installed on the four-story bell tower of our Cathedral. I invited the local newspaper to send a photographer. He took the photo as a crane had lifted the dish seemed suspended from the sky and the cross on the roof of the adjoining cathedral church was visible through the mesh of the dish.

As I cross a bridge into South Bethlehem, just before getting to Diocesan House, a version of that image continues to intrigue me. I use it to get focused, to get centered. It’s a juxtaposition in search of a theology of communication. From the bridge, both the cross on the roof of the cathedral and the satellite dish on the bell tower come into view. Glancing at one, then at the other… I remember the moment when one was seen through the other.

The cross of the Mediator, Jesus Christ, is a window into the heart of God. The satellite dish is symbolic of the many and various other media of God’s self-disclosure. “Long ago,” the Letter to the Hebrews begins, “God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways...” God still uses many media of self disclosure.

Where will God show up today? For whom might I be a clue? To whom might I tell a secret?.

A friend once said to me, “I think each of us preaches one sermon over and over: with words, by how we live our lives and by how we nurture our relationships.”

One story/image I discovered at least 30 years ago frequently replays in my head and in my heart. Because it’s open-ended, it’s ever fresh. It helps me also to recognize what’s happening when we do “tell secrets” of God’s visitation.

A little boy wandered into a sculptor’s studio and watched a master sculptor work with hammer and chisel on a large piece of marble. Marble chips flew.. It wasn’t enough to hold the interest of a little child very long. Months later he returned and, to his surprise, where once stood only a large block of marble there now stood a majestic and power Aslan-like lion. “How did you know,” he asked the sculptor, “there was a lion in the marble?” “I knew,” the sculptor replied, “because I saw the lion first in my heart. The real secret, though, is that it was the lion in my heart who recognized himself in the marble.”

Where I first read this story of the Christ within who recognizes himself unformed in the disguises of the world, it was used to illustrate the relationship between spirituality and ministry, between contemplation and action, between prayer and mission.

It suggests to me also the relationship between communication and evangelism… and that, for each of us as Christian disciples, our basic ministry is communication. It’s about God’s word becoming flesh. Incarnation continues. So, not only is communication in the church about proclaiming the gospel. Communication is also your ministry. Communicate… Your Ministry.

All rights reserved – The Rev. Canon Bill Lewellis
Communication Minister/Editor (retired), Diocese of Bethlehem
610-393-1833; bill@diobeth.org or bill.lewellis@gmail.com
Be attentive. Be intelligent. Be reasonable. Be responsible.
Be in love. And, if necessary, change.
—Bernard Lonergan
http://www.diobeth.typepad.com; www.diobeth.org

 


Communicate … Your Ministry, by Bill Lewellis

[This is a copyrighted work in progress.]

Introduction
Bill's Communication Biases


I have worked in the general areas of communication-evangelism and media relations for two dioceses and with four bishops for nearly 45 years: first for 15 years in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown (150 congregations and 260,000 communicants) on the staff of the founding bishop of that diocese, then for the past 30 years for the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem, with Bishop Mark Dyer, Bishop Paul Marshall and Bishop Sean Rowe.

During the course of this experience, I have developed “biases” that I continually critique. Using that construct, I hope to offer with some directness and clarity what I have learned about the theology, ministry and practice of communication in a church context and how I have appropriated this experience, emphasizing what has made sense to me and what has worked for me.

The following may serve initially as both an introduction and a hint of content to come. I intend to revise and expand this to be both a table of contents and a summary of the topics.

1. Christian communication is about proclaiming the gospel. (Communicate … your ministry. You are neither an independent journalist nor a house organist, but rather a communication-evangelist.

2. Every church is a small church that needs to extend its pulpit. (The church exists for those who do not belong to it.)

3. Don’t confuse evangelism with publicity. (Why do you want media coverage?)

4. Think not how/program but what/content… (There’s no “s” in communication. Communications is generally about tactics and a multiplicity of media. Communication, no “s,” is about content and strategy.)

5. The media are not out to get you. (Establish and maintain credibility, take advantage of opportunities, create opportunities, and be of some use to your media contacts.)

6. Over the long haul, the coverage you get from the media for what you’d like to accomplish will generally be in inverse proportion to the control you attempt to retain over the story.

7. God uses many media of self-disclosure.

8. You don’t have to be a technician to use technology. If you don’t know your way around online, however, you’ll soon be out of the information and communication flow.

9. Communication builds community. (Gather the folks. Tell the stories/mystery/secrets. Break the Bread. … as in Acts. 2:42)

Part 1
Communication-Evangelism

Christian communication is about proclaiming the gospel. A communication ministry that does not proclaim the gospel, however sophisticated it may be, is not a Christian communication ministry. If gospel proclamation is not the reason for our communication efforts, what in the world are we communicating?

Communication as a church ministry makes no sense unless it supports evangelism, putting God’s good news before people, what God is doing in our world … putting that before people in such a way that they are invited to deal with the discipleship imperative: Follow me.

Church communicators and editors of most if not all denominations, dioceses and judicatories have often found themselves trapped in one of two paradigms. Each is problematic. Some define themselves as independent journalists. Some allow themselves to be defined as house organists.

Many talented professionals have labored under the illusion that they could divorce their concerns from the concerns of the church. Similarly gifted individuals have labored in the shadow of institutional power as promoters of the institution.

In an attempt to think outside of those boxes, I have tried to be a communication-evangelist. I’d love to find a term that trips more easily off the tongue.

I have tried to lift up three realities: (1) Church communication ministry is about proclaiming the gospel. The communication minister’s mission statement is: tell secrets. More about that later. (2) Communication is the basic ministry of every baptized person. It’s about the Word continuing to become flesh. (3) Even the largest churches are not big enough spaces in which to publish glad tidings. Because the church exists for those who do not belong to it, we need to find creative ways to tell our stories and to extend our pulpits.

With that in mind, I have worked over the years to develop, in addition to our diocesan newspaper, a few ministries that may be unique.

Several newspapers in various parts of our diocese, sometimes as many as seven, published monthly columns written by our bishop. The combined circulation of those newspapers that published the column regularly is 300,000. When all seven published the column, it’s about half a million. That last for about 12 years.

Several newspapers readily accepted and published columns, op-eds and letters to the editor that I wotte.

The largest regional daily newspaper in our diocese developed and nurtured regular consultation with the local interfaith community. Because I have outlasted several generations of editors and journalists at the paper as well as the churches, synagogues and mosques of people now involved, most people no longer know that this evolved from a presentation I made to editors and the interfaith community during the early 1990s.

Cable systems that reached into some 200,000 northeastern Pennsylvania homes had, at my request, carried live Episcopal teleconferences, including the Trinity Institute. The largest system produced and aired some of our events, including ordinations.

Several cable systems that reach into some 400,000 northeastern Pennsylvania homes carried on a weekly basis an “Interfaith TV” hour for which I selected and provided the tapes. The hour usually consisted of two half-hour programs professionally produced at national, regional and local levels by various denominations and independent producers.

Communication as a church ministry is about telling secrets.

Whenever we talk about God, we’re in the realm of mystery and sacrament, secret and sign, hidden yet revealed… a presence to be encountered in our relationships and in the signs of our worship. The Greek word, musterion, from which we get our word mystery (something hidden) was translated into Latin as sacramentum, (sacrament, sign, something visible).

Christian thinkers used both words to refer to the hidden presence of the real — the partially veiled and partially unveiled presence of God — to refer to visible signs (persons, loved ones, the church, bread and wine) that communicate something of God’s hidden presence.

When rightly used in religion, mystery describes “a reality, something visible, that suggests the hidden presence of God.” (Hold that thought.)

I once knew a preacher who punctuated with whispers.

When he was about to say something he really wanted you to hear, he leaned forward and lowered his voice. It was wonderfully effective. He leaned forward to whisper; people leaned forward to hear.

“Bob preaches like he’s telling secrets,” someone once quipped.

Each of us encounters God in God’s mysterion. We walk frequently along the edges of the divine mystery. If we listen closely, as we live God’s love, we hear secrets. And we “tell secrets” of God’s visitation… of how we were blinded by the light, of how the Christ within us recognized himself under the world’s disguises.

I once heard a Maryknoll missionary say something like this. “Many years ago when I came to work with the people in this faraway land. I came with the intent to bring God to them. I soon discovered that God was here before me.” He told them that secret, again and again.

“Of this gospel,” Paul says in Ephesians (3:7-10), “I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace … given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known …”

“The aim of communication for Christians,” William Fore wrote in his excellent book on television and religion, “is to help people interpret their existence in the light of what God has done for them as manifest in Jesus Christ.”

He went on to say that the Christian communicator does not ask, “How can I communicate the gospel in such a way that others will accept it?”  He characterizes that as “the public relations question, the manipulative question.”

“Rather, our task is to put the gospel before people in such a way that it is so clear to them that they can accept it, or reject it — but always for the right reasons. Our objective should be to present the gospel in ways so clear and self-evident that the recipient will have an “Aha!” experience, so that the good news will make complete sense to his or her own inner world, so that the recipient will say, in effect, ‘I already knew that!’”

God is there before we get there. Communication-evangelism helps people discover the God who is already in their hearts... and then gets out of God’s way.

Years ago in Bethlehem, we had a large, movable satellite dish installed on the four-story bell tower of our Cathedral. I invited the local newspaper to send a photographer. He took the photo as a crane had lifted the dish seemed suspended from the sky and the cross on the roof of the adjoining cathedral church was visible through the mesh of the dish.

As I crossed a bridge into South Bethlehem, just before getting to Diocesan House, a version of that image continued to intrigue me. I used it to get focused, to get centered. It was a juxtaposition in search of a theology of communication. From the bridge, both the cross on the roof of the cathedral and the satellite dish on the bell tower came into view. Glancing at one, then at the other… I remembered the moment when one was seen through the other.

The cross of the Mediator, Jesus Christ, is a window into the heart of God. The satellite dish is symbolic of the many and various other media of God’s self-disclosure. “Long ago,” the Letter to the Hebrews begins, “God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways...” God still uses many media of self disclosure.

Where will God show up today? For whom might I be a clue? To whom might I tell a secret?.

A friend once said to me, “I think each of us preaches one sermon over and over: with words, by how we live our lives and by how we nurture our relationships.”

One story/image I discovered frequently replays in my head and in my heart. Because it’s open-ended, it’s ever fresh. It helps me also to recognize what’s happening when we do “tell secrets” of God’s visitation.

A little boy wandered into a sculptor’s studio and watched a master sculptor work with hammer and chisel on a large piece of marble. Marble chips flew.. It wasn’t enough to hold the interest of a little child very long. Months later he returned and, to his surprise, where once stood only a large block of marble there now stood a majestic and power Aslan-like lion. “How did you know,” he asked the sculptor, “there was a lion in the marble?” “I knew,” the sculptor replied, “because I saw the lion first in my heart. The real secret, though, is that it was the lion in my heart who recognized himself in the marble.”

Where I first read this story of the Christ within who recognizes himself unformed in the disguises of the world, it was used to illustrate the relationship between spirituality and ministry, between contemplation and action, between prayer and mission.

It suggests to me also the relationship between communication and evangelism … and that, for each of us as Christian disciples, our basic ministry is communication. It’s about God’s word becoming flesh. Incarnation continues. So, not only is communication in the church about proclaiming the gospel. Communication is also your ministry. Communicate … Your Ministry.

All rights reserved
Bill Lewellis, Diocese of Bethlehem, retired
Communication Minister/Editor (1986-2010), Canon Theologian (1998-)
newSpin weekly: www.diobeth.typepad.com; Email: bill.lewellis@gmail.com; (c)610-393-1833
Be attentive. Be intelligent. Be reasonable. Be responsible.
Be in Love. And, if necessary, change. [Bernard Lonergan]

 

 

 

 


 

 9.      Communication builds community. (Gather the folks. Tell the secrets. Break the Bread … as in Acts. 2:42)


2013 Convention Address: A Season of Faithful Change

This is the address to the 142nd Convention of the Diocese of Bethlehem on Friday, October 4, 2013 by the Rev. Canon Andrew T. Gerns at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity. 

A Season of Faithful Change

A year ago, when we met in Scranton, it was my privilege to preside at this gathering and to 0read to you Bishop Paul’s words. This year, I again sit before you as President of the Standing Committee in our first convention since Bishop Paul’s resignation and his sabbatical. On January 1st, he will enter retirement and our diocese will begin the process

ATG picture in b&wof discernment to hear God’s will for us, to choose how to respond faithfully as we raise up a new Bishop and continue the important work of the Gospel in Northeast Pennsylvania.

Much has happened this past year. We give thanks to God for many good things and we also give to God the many things that have changed us and are challenging us.

We are beginning a season of faithful change. The Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emmanuel, has said “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” A transition like the one we are beginning is a magnificent opportunity that is what we must not waste. We are entering a time of transition that will prod us to grow as followers of Jesus and usher us to a new era in our diocesan community. God has given us what we need. We are in the right place. We are in the right time. We are a diocese filled with gifted, blessed people. What we are about to embark upon will touch every Episcopalian in this diocese. There is much to learn and much to do, and while there is much that is uncertain, and many feelings and stories to hear, I know that we will rise to the occasion. We will together make faithful change.

Actually, we are looking at a lot of transitions this convention. Tonight we will honor our friend and assistant bishop Jack Croneberger. Bishop Jack was formed and raised up in this diocese. We are glad that, after having “lent” him to our neighbors in Newark for a time, that he chose to return home and serve God and the people of this diocese with wisdom, grace and humor. I  hope that you will all join us tonight at Iacocca Hall at Lehigh University for our convention banquet where we will honor Bishop Jack as he retires again!

Bishop Jack: One of your favorite stories is about the guy who tied helium balloons to a garden chair and floated over a city with nothing more than a pea-shooter to control his flight. His whimsical flight is an image of a creative (and sometimes crazy) flight of faith. Thank you for being an example of faithfulness, a clear communicator of the Gospel and a good friend.

It is appropriate that tonight we will also take a moment to give thanks to God for the work of Integrity in the Diocese of Bethlehem. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the Bethlehem Chapter and I am happy that we will be celebrating the good work of this group in our diocese and around the Episcopal Church. 

I am very grateful to another “graduate” of our diocese, Bishop Nicholas Knisely, the new Bishop of Rhode Island. He is giving us two days in November to preside at regional confirmations in our diocese. The dates are Thursday, November 21 at Christ Church in Reading at 7 p.m. and Friday, November 22 at Grace Church in Kingston also at 7 p.m. Up north, in a display of the kind of collaboration and shared ministry that is this Diocese at our best, some 12 parishes will send 55 candidates to Grace, Kingston for confirmation!

We are honored to have as our preacher today Bishop Anthony Poggo of Kajo-Keji. We are so grateful that you have come from across the globe to be with us today. I am particularly indebted to you both for your presence at this Convention and for the fact that you will preside at the first regional confirmation during this transition on Sunday afternoon in this Cathedral.

What began as a hot, dusty bus ride for Bishop Paul and Diana Marshall from Uganda to South Sudan in 2005 has turned into a relationship between the people of these two dioceses that has changed us all. Who could have imagined, as Bishop Paul went on that marathon of preaching, teaching and visiting villages ruined by war, that nine years later that would transform itself into a capital campaign that has so far raised over $4.1 million… all to be given away!

Who could have imagined how deeply connected we have become! Since 2006, we have together built five elementary schools, two secondary schools and a college, we have helped many people—mainly women—develop the means to support themselves through micro-loans and we have together educated and prepared people for the ministry of the Church.

Our relationship has changed us. Every picture from every school, every letter from every student that we hang up on our parish bulletin boards and share in our conversation remind us that Christ binds us together and builds us up. The lessons of New Hope will serve us well in this season of faithful change: that out of ruin comes new life; out of despair comes hope. We discover that faith, trust and vision are the tools of the Holy Spirit to change ordinary lives into extraordinary vessels of grace and power.

Bishop Anthony: Please tell the people of Kajo-Keji that God has richly blessed the people of the Diocese of Bethlehem in knowing and working alongside you and we are immensely grateful to you for all you have taught us. May Christ continue to bless and keep you in all you do. Please continue to pray for us.

Finally, as we begin this season of faithful change it is important that we thank God for the ministry of Bishop Paul Marshall and thank him for his seventeen years of leadership as our bishop. He has been for us an inspiriting preacher, writer and teacher. He showed his love and commitment to children and teenagers in his work on Bishop’s Days with Kids and Young People, his work for better schools in Pennsylvania and his work towards Christian formation for all ages. His work has made us more mission-minded in our care for the poor, our proclamation of the Gospel and in the stewardship of our resources. He has touched many lives. We thank God for him and Diana. Please join with me as we offer our thanks with applause.

Our Life of Faithful Change in the Diocese of Bethlehem

A year ago, Fr. John Major told us about the work of Episcopal Relief and Development in the Diocese of Bethlehem that began after floods hit the Wyoming Valley in 2011 and in particular in West Pittston and surrounding communities. Fr. Major and Janine Ungvarsky have worked hard, with the help of many people and Episcopal Relief and Development, to get the St. George’s Regional Disaster Recovery & Outreach Center up and running. They have shown us that sometime faithful change arises out of crisis and that God’s spirit moves through God’s people to shelter and tangibly become divine shelter from the stormy blast.

I want to echo Fr. Major in congratulating Fr. Ed Erb and the congregation at Grace Church, Honesdale. They were recently honored by the Wayne-Pike chapter of the American Red Cross for their efforts during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. The church served as a shelter during the storm.

Last year, we passed a resolution requiring that all parishes in the diocese have a disaster plan in effect. So far, one parish has a finished plan, 22 have trained and are writing their plans and thirty-five parishes in the diocese have yet to be trained in what to look for and how to prepare an effective disaster plan. There is still time. The final training session for this purpose is in three weeks. Run! Don’t walk! See Father Major or go to www.episcopalreliefnepa.org for more information.

We are blessed in this diocese with an active and creative Stewardship Ministry who for many years have been showing us the blessings that come from faithful change. Since we last met, the Stewardship Commission brought The Rev. Canon Keith Brown to the diocese to lead a workshop for our Diocesan Training Day in March. Then in May the Stewardship Commission partnered with the Evangelism Commission to offer a conference featuring the Rev. Dr. David Gortner from Virginia Theological Seminary. In July several members of the commission attended The Episcopal Stewardship Network’s annual conference. We also brought several sessions of that conference here to the diocese via a webcast at the cathedral. Members of that group and Stewardship Missioner Dan Charney travel all around the diocese to help parishes in their ministries and, most important, to help all Christians learn to use everything that God gives us for God’s purposes.

Evangelism is the effective communication of the Good News of Jesus Christ. We live in an age of amazing communication technology and we have barely scratched the surface of the potential these tools bring us. We are blessed with a great partnership with our web-host and e-mail provider ChurchPost, whose business is mainly with churches and whose founders are Episcopalians. Their email platform and for their ability to design customized WordPress web sites for our parishes are resources that are either “free” through your diocesan assessment or available to your parish at greatly reduced cost.  

Even though we Christians are in the business of telling “good news,” and even though we live in a culture defined by marketing, the Church has often been at best clumsy and often allergic to marketing. While we seek deeper connection, we often run away from that which draws  people into a deeper conversation. Maybe it’s shyness. Maybe it’s that we don’t know how to start the conversation that changes hearts. 

One way we hope to address that is through a marketing initiative to help our congregations tell our communities about us and to promote our ministries. You will find in the budget a new line item for marketing and evangelism. We are hoping that groups of parishes will advertise community shared outreach initiatives or perhaps have an ad campaign such as the one several parishes did on WNEP-TV a few years back. If passed, this budget line will provide some seed money on a matching grant basis where the diocese will pay half and the parishes involved will pay half. The parishes will work together and with the diocese to craft the message and to work out a way to measure the campaign's effectiveness. Our hope is that this will help with our evangelism and tell people where we live about us and what we do. 

In addition to Kat Lehman who has worked on these projects, Adam Bond is our new Communication Missioner. He helps us minister and proclaim the Gospel using social media and electronic news reporting. Most people who walk into a church these days will have first checked them out on the internet, and not just on web-pages any more but on social media where they will know how people respond to our parishes every day. Using all these tools effectively builds relationship, deepen connection, and shows us to be a Gospel people living Gospel hope.

They don’t call us the “House of Bread” for nothing! If you look around the diocese, you will be astounded at all the ways Episcopalians feed people. Just here in the Lehigh Valley, you see the oup Kitchen at Trinity, Bethlehem and at New Bethany Ministries, the Saturday Soup Kitchen at Trinity, Easton, and there are ministries like this repeated all over our diocese.

I’d like to take an informal poll right now. Can you please help me? How many of you belong to a parish that feeds people? [Hands.] How many of you have food pantries in closets and classrooms or holiday meals or free community meals? [Hands.] How many of you have connected this feeding to health screenings or after-school tutoring? [Hands.] How many parishes collaborate with other churches and agencies to feed people or fill back-packs for children or bring food to the homebound? [Hands.] God bless you all for your good work.

Look around. All of these hands tell about our activity as a people of God but beyond a show of hands, there are many examples of the incredible ministry in this diocese. In your small groups tomorrow, tell the story of the many great-small ways that God is at work in your communities and use that to begin to imagine a future of faithful change. We are doing amazing things for God in Northeast Pennsylvania. 

Living Faithful Change with Hope and Courage

Starting January 1, 2014, we will enter the formal period of transition towards electing and consecrating a new Bishop. We knew this was coming. When I sat here before you last year, we did not expect that Bishop Paul would be retiring quite so soon; but as the year went on, it became increasingly clear that the physical toll of this ministry was catching up with our Bishop. First, with his medical leave last spring and finally with news of his resignation this summer. I know that all of you are holding Bishop Paul in your prayers and in your hearts.

The Constitution and Canons of this Church are clear that in the absence of the Bishop, the “ecclesiastical authority” of the Diocese becomes the Standing Committee. But the situation we are in today is different than where we will be on January 1, 2014.

Bishop Paul is still our Bishop through December 31, 2013. So while we are the Ecclesiastical Authority, what we do has been delegated to us by the Bishop during the period of his sabbatical. During this period, some things are retained by the Bishop and some things the Bishop has delegated to the Archdeacon and other staff and the rest have been delegated to the Standing Committee.

But on New Year’s Day the Episcopal Chair becomes “vacant” and all the pastoral, administrative and ecclesiastical authority in the diocese goes to the Standing Committee. We will delegate tasks as necessary, of course, and obtain Episcopal oversight—especially on matters that are specifically reserved to Bishops—and oversee the transition.

The Standing Committee started meeting monthly in August and together we are adapting to our new responsibilities. They are: Canon Robert Wilkins, Kate Fanning, Connie Archer, the Rev. Scott Allen, the Rev. Earl Trygar, the Rev. Canon Jane Teter, the Rev. Canon Anne Kitch, Elizabeth House, Ed Schatowski (Secretary), and me, the Rev. Canon Andrew Gerns (President). Bob Wilkins and Anne Kitch are finishing up their terms today and we are immensely grateful for their exemplary work and dedication.

When the news broke of Bishop Paul’s resignation, I said to you:

When there is a big change in life, it is normal to ask “what now?” or “who will take care of me?” or “what should I do?” Our feelings in this moment are no different. On the news of Bishop Paul’s resignation some of us grieve, while others of us are eager for something new. All of us seek the stability of God’s reign and long for the fulfillment of God’s promises.

Stability is a Benedictine value that also lives at the heart of Anglicanism. Among other things, stability means seeking and finding God in the present. Stability teaches us that while change is constant, faithful change means listening for God right here, right now. We assume that we are the place God wants us to be and that God has given us what we need right now to move into the next moment with faith, hope and courage.

That being said, I wish I could set out for you exactly what comes next, but much has yet to be decided.

In a little over a week, on Monday, October 14th, the Standing Committee will meet with the Presiding Bishop’s Suffragan for Pastoral Affairs, Bishop Clay Matthews at St. Anne’s in Trexlertown. We will spend the day learning about the process and practicalities of raising up Episcopal leadership for our diocese.

We will decide on a number of things.

First on our list is the shape of Episcopal leadership during the transition period.

We have four basic choices:

  1. We can, as a Standing Committee, run the Diocese as a Committee and only contract for Bishops as we need for specific events such as ordinations and confirmations, and go to neighboring Bishops for the things that the Canons state only a Bishop can do.
  2. We can have an Assisting Bishop—a Bishop, usually retired, who functions pastorally but who is not the Ecclestiastical Authority. This would be a part time Assisting Bishop who will do the things pastorally and canonically that only a Bishop can do, but the Standing Committee would retain full canonical authority.
  3. We can have an Assisting Bishop who is part- to full-time and to whom the Standing Committee delegates some or most of the elements of being Ecclestiastical Authority.
  4. We can elect a Provisional Bishop for a period of 12 to 24 months who would be the Bishop of this Diocese but only until we elect and consecrate our next Bishop.

There are pluses and minuses to each approach. Part of the decision will be driven by our budget. But most of it will be determined by the pastoral needs of the diocese. An assisting bishop is interviewed and contracted by the Standing Committee, while a Provisional Bishop is interviewed and nominated by the Standing Committee to Diocesan Convention, who then votes to elect that person. If we choose to go that route, we will need to call a special convention for the purpose. I invite your feedback and thoughts on which approach you think is best. Whatever happens, be ready…you could be back here for at least part of a day.

Whatever course we choose, it will require a vote of diocesan convention along with the consents of a majority of the Bishops and Standing Committees of the Church, to call for an election. We cannot formally begin our search until an election is called for because what we do here we do on behalf of the whole church. So again…be ready for a return trip! 

The second decision will be about time-line. It takes between 18 and 24 months for diocese of our size to raise up and consecrate a Bishop. You will notice that we are not calling for an election at this convention. This is on purpose.

These days, the typical tenure of an Episcopal bishop is ten to twelve years. Bishop Paul has been our bishop for seventeen. After a long, rich and complex term of office it is essential that we take the time to step back and take stock. We need to listen to each other’s stories, we need to listen, we need time to imagine our future and move together towards it. We may decide that we, as a diocese, need to take some to breathe, listen, and pray before we start our formal search.

Again, you will notice that we have not begun the process of vetting, selecting and appointing a Search Committee and a Transition Committee. This is also on purpose. We need to take time to pray, to breathe, to listen. My hope is that this coming Lent we will take time to earnestly for our diocese in a disciplined way, as a community as the essential groundwork of our discernment and common life. There is no faithful change without prayer.

Searching for a bishop will require a significant chunk of our leadership and volunteer energy. All of you, and all of your congregants will at some point have a part in the process. Like having a good interim pastor for a parish, the ministry of an assisting or provisional Bishop will help us listen to one another, listen to our hearts, and most important of all, listen to the movement of the Holy Spirit in and through our common life.

This is what differentiates our task from a mere executive search. Sure a bishop has a ton of executive responsibilities, but most of all we are discerning as a diocese for who might be called to the office of Bishop in this place; and, we are listening for God to determine what kind of Diocese God is calling us to be, what kind of ministries God is calling us to do and who will equip and encourage us to go in that direction.

An important part of living faithful change will be pastoral care to the clergy of our diocese. The Standing Committee has asked Canon Jane Teter to work with me, in consultation with the Canon the Ordinary and the Archdeacon, to develop a team of clergy to serve as chaplains who will see to the ordinary pastoral care of the priests and deacons of the diocese during the transition. In addition to Canon Teter, the clergy who have so far agreed to serve are the Rev. Nancy Packard, the Rev. Elizabeth Haynes, the Rev. Andrea Baldyga and the Rev. Maureen Hipple. In addition, we have asked the Rev. Dr. Jane Williams of Moravian Seminary to provide clinical supervision to this team. At the next clergy retreat, we will lay out the details of this ministry to the gathered clergy.

So this period of faithful change has many elements: listening and discernment; healing and reconciliation; encouragement and experimentation. It is the job of the Standing Committee to facilitate not only the practicalities of a search, but to provide for the pastoral care to and leadership for the Diocese.  

Because there will not be a neat hand-off from our current Bishop to the next, our task will look a little different. It will be essential that we provide opportunities to listen to one another, create a renewed sense of community, and to heal the hurts and minister to the grief that are normal in with this kind of change. Again, it is very important that we hear from you about your thoughts, ideas, concerns and vision. The small groups tomorrow are an important taste of the kind of work we will be doing together as we move together into a season of faithful change.

But first, it’s time to say “good-bye” and to celebrate the ministry of Bishop Paul Marshall that is now wrapping up. 

All of you are invited and encouraged to come to St. Stephen’s Pro-Cathedral in Wilkes-Barre on the Third Sunday of Advent, December 15 at 3 pm when we say “farewell and Godspeed” to Bishop Paul and Diana Marshall. There will be a festive Holy Eucharist in the place where BishopPaul was consecrated and a reception afterwards.

I also invite you to give generously towards a gift in thanksgiving for the Bishop’s ministry. In addition to a fitting gift to Bishop and Mrs. Marshall, we also plan to give a special gift to the New Hope Campaign for a tangible memory in the Diocese of Kajo-Keji, both of which will be presented at the reception. Please go to diobeth.org and click on the link “Make a Gift.”

An important part of saying good-bye is making memory. We are creating a memory book and I also invite you to participate. Please send your greetings, your memories of Bishop Paul’s ministry among us and, best of all, photographs to us at Diocesan House c/o abond@diobeth.org. These will be gathered into a memory book that will be presented to Bishop Paul at the December 15 reception.

Conclusion

Blessed John XXIII told another gathering of Christians during a remarkable season of faithful change that the Church is "… not on earth to guard a museum, but to tend a blooming garden full of life."

We are 13,000 Episcopalians in 14 counties who gather in 60 mission outposts (also known as congregations) to follow Jesus and do his work. We are tending a garden of marvelous richness, variety and life. In a season of faithful change, our challenge is to prune, tend, cultivate and harvest. God has blessed with everything we need to succeed and grow as a community of God’s people. Together we will listen for God’s voice, imagine God’s future, and discover how we will share God’s love, telling what we see and hear.

Thank you for all your prayers and your support. Thank you for all the ways you serve Jesus every day. May God go with you in all you do.

The Rev. Canon Andrew T. Gerns is the Rector of Trinity, Easton and the President of the Standing Committee.


Communication Strategy slide deck (in .pdf)

[From Kat Lehman]

Mike Reiss shared with me his slide deck from the recent Moravian Eastern District Training Workshops held last weekend. It's great primary information and he gave me permission to share it. Mike is the Executive Director of the Interprovincial Board of Communications for the Moravian Church in North America. If you decide to share, just let him know. His contact information is on the last page. The file is 1.5 MB.

From one slide: Clarity is the new creativity.

Download 110727MoravianCommunicationPresentation.pdf


Diocesan Training Day on April 2nd

Registration opens today and closes March 23rd. Cost is $17.50 and includes lunch.

A day set aside for learning about opportunities and resources for ministry in congregations, and celebrating ministries we share. There will be 13 different workshops spanning all aspects of ministry to select from this year. Please plan to join us for a wonderful day of learning.

Workshops include:
All Day Workshops (one workshop in both sessions)

#1 Ministry of the Lay Eucharistic Visitor (all day workshop) - The Rev. Edward Erb -- Two-part course leads to licensing. Morning session - Biblical, theological, and historical background. Afternoon session - resources and practical considerations (ex. HIPAA rules, safety, and health concerns)

#2 Understanding and Working with ChurchPost (all day workshop) - Mr. John Goodell, Owner of ChurchPost -- A hands-on guide to using ChurchPost, our electronic newsletter platform, to communicate effectively and immediately with your members and visitors.

Session I - 9:45am to 11:15am

#3 Wardens/Vestry 101 - The Rt. Rev. Paul Marshall and The Ven. Howard Stringfellow - Introduction for new wardens and vestry members or a refresher for experienced vestry members to the roles, responsibilities, and realities of parish leadership.

#4 Bringing Financial Sanity to the Family - Mr. Dan Charney - The program, Financial Sanity, designed by Nathan Dungan, founder and president of Share Save Spend, consists of four one-hour sessions.  This training helps you to become familiar with the program, and will cover session one of the program to give participants a feel for what it is all about.

#5 Transitional Formation in Parishes - Ms. Kim Rowles - In periods of individual transition it is especially important to support and lead members in our communities to an intentional life with Christ, this session will help outline a plan for individual parishes dealing with middle to high school transition, high school to college transition, and couples to family transition.

#6 - Come Let Us Worship - A Workshop for the Laity and Clergy - The Rev. Laura Howell & The Rev. John Francis - This session will explore some of the tools the Book of Common Prayer gives us for daily worship.  It will provide some practical suggestions for parish prayer that may be led by the laity as well as the clergy.

#7 - Evangelism as Prayer and Faith Sharing - The Rev. Jane Bender, The Rev. Doug Moyer,  and Mrs. Carol Keane - The Unbinding the Gospel series doesn't give answers as to how, when and where.  Come learn how many ways this lively resource can be tailored for your use.


Session II -- 1:15pm to 2:45pm

#8 Enabling Ministries: Forward Life Planning - Mr. Charlie Barebo - Develop your parish's capabilities to deliver ministries by strengthening its approach to Forward Life Planning.

#9 Treasurers’ Workshop - Mr. Bruce Reiner -- This workshop will focus on cash receipts, cash disbursements, internal controls, and audits.

#10 - The Confirmation Conundrum - The Rev. Canon Anne Kitch - Explores the rite of Confirmation and the many questions it raises.  Includes an overview of the history of Confirmation in the Episcopal Church and the theology of Confirmation as it is express in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

#11 - Health Ministries - Mrs. Diana Marshall - Health ministry plays a unique and critical role in facilitating the health of clergy, staff and congregations.  Health ministry looks different from congregation to congregation, reflecting the unique needs, interests, and resources of the faith community.

#12 - Incorporating New members into the Episcopal Church - The Rev. Canon Andrew Gerns- The course will introduce a simple, easy-to-understand, process of incorporating new members into a congregation. It will also describe various kinds of visitors and newcomers and show how to integrate the worship and theology of the Episcopal Church into our evangelism.

#13 - Training for Regional Discernment Teams - Members of the Commission on Ministry - This training session is designed to help both clergy and laity understand the purpose and structure of regional discernment as practiced in the Diocese of Bethlehem.

You can click here to register. Download the Diocesan Training Day brochure on our web site here.


Episcopal Journal begins publication in February

Starting in February, Diocesan Life, the newspaper of the Diocese of Bethlehem will include a new national newspaper covering the life and work of the Episcopal Church.  Called Episcopal Journal, a new independent publication serving Episcopalians throughout the country and abroad.


Initially, the new paper will be available as a printing partner with more than a dozen diocesan and parish publications, including Diocesan Life, that reach over 50,000 households. A campaign for individual and small group subscriptions will follow.


Editorial director Jerry Hames says the Journal’s mission is “to inform, involve and inspire Episcopalians in the United States and abroad by sharing the good news of our church’s life and ministry.”


Freshly designed with an attractive contemporary layout, Episcopal Journal will offer timely and accurate reporting, drawing its news articles from Episcopal News Service and other Episcopal, Anglican and ecumenical news services, he said.


“It will also invite contributions from recognized names in the fields of religion, science and the arts, and offer columns and meditations appropriate for the church seasons.”


Hames, editor of Episcopal Life from 1990 to 2007, said the new publication will fill a vacuum caused by the decision to terminate national print publications from the Episcopal Church Center in New York.
The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church voted in October to approve a budget that cut all funding for print publications. That followed an across-the-board budget reduction voted by the General Convention in 2009. As a result, Episcopal News Monthly, which succeeded Episcopal Life a year ago, will cease publication with the January 2011 issue.


“We now have partners committed to the printing program from coast to coast,” Hames said. “They include the dioceses of Delaware, Long Island, Bethlehem, Easton, Vermont, New Hampshire, Northern Michigan, West Tennessee, Iowa, Nevada, San Joaquin and Eastern Oregon.” A quarterly issue of the Journal will also be produced for several dioceses who publish four times a year.


Four diocesan editors whose publications are partners in the printing program will serve on an editorial advisory committee. They are the Rev. Heather Cook of Easton, Cate McMahon of New Hampshire, Rise Thew Forrester of Northern Michigan and Jeanie Senior of Eastern Oregon.


At this time, Hames said, editorial inquiries and submissions may be sent to episcopaljournaledit@gmail.com or Box 308, Cranbury, NJ 08512. Advertising inquiries should be addressed to episcopaljournalads@gmail.com, or to Box 106, Fort Washington, PA 19034.


For further information you may contact Jerrold Hames, 609-897-9769, or email at jerrold.hames@gmail.com


Talking points: Facts about The Episcopal Church and ACNA

The following is one in a series of talking points prepared as a resource for The Episcopal Church provided by The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs.

Talking Points: The facts about The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA).

  • The Episcopal Church is over 7400 congregations in 109 dioceses plus three regional areas in 16 countries with 2.2 million members.
  • It is important to note that membership in ACNA includes churches and denominations which have disassociated from The Episcopal Church both recently and over the last 130 years, as well as congregations which have never been part of The Episcopal Church. A definitive number is difficult to ascertain.
  • ACNA is lead by an archbishop who is not a member of The Episcopal Church, The Church of England, the Anglican Church of Canada, or The Anglican Communion.
  • The Episcopal Church laity and clergy believe the Christian faith as stated in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. We call the Holy Scriptures the Word of God because God inspired their human authors and because God still speaks to us through the Bible. We look to the Holy Spirit, who guides the Church in the understanding of the Scriptures. Our assurance as Christians is that nothing, not even death, shall separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • The Episcopal Church welcomes all who wish to serve God through Jesus Christ.
  • The Episcopal Church welcomes women in ordained ministry – deacons, priests and bishops.The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church is the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman to lead The Episcopal Church as well as any of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion. ACNA does not permit women to serve as bishops and, in some areas, bars women from all ordination.
  • The Episcopal Church is a member province of the worldwide Anglican Communion, serving God together and working together to bring the Reign of God on earth. ACNA is not a member of the Worldwide Anglican Communion.
  • It is important to note that those who have remained in The Episcopal Church in those places where some have left include conservatives as well as liberals, persons on the political right as well as on the political left, and everything in between.
  • It is an inaccurate and misleading image that pictures those who have broken away from The Episcopal Church as the persecuted faithful, when in reality those who have remained have felt deeply hurt, and now in some cases are exiled from their own church buildings by ACNA.

The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org

IamEpiscopalian: http://www.iamepiscopalian.org/http://www.facebook.com/episcopalian

Twitter: http://twitter.com/iamepiscopalian

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/TECtube

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/episcopalian

--Posted by Andrew Gerns

ChurchPost Training Sessions

To: Clergy, Parish Administrators, Parish Newsletter Editors
From: Bill Lewellis and Kat Lehman

The Diocese of Bethlehem will soon roll out ChurchPost for use by all parishes.

ChurchPost is a web-based and user-friendly solution that will empower parishes to create group email lists to communicate with parishioners generally and to communicate on separate lists with those members engaged or interested in specific ministries. It will enable parishes to create topical email groups that will be accessible to interested members from any computer while also allowing all parishioners, simply by signing up at a "Get Connected" box on the home page of the parish website, to have access to any or all groups that are created and made available publicly. It will also give parishes the ability not only to create quick text emails to post to the group but also (without any need for technical knowledge) to create professional-looking email notes and email newsletters by using colorful templates. Find more information about ChurchPost here.

Continue reading "ChurchPost Training Sessions" »


Area Episcopal Churches in global debate

Morning Call story, March 16, by Michael Duck

Those connections between members of the international body will continue, no matter what U.S. Episcopal or Anglican Communion leaders decide, Bishop Marshall said. "Relationships exist and grow on levels that institutions ... can abet, but can neither create nor destroy."

Download the story below.

Download 070316.MC.Area Episcopalchurches in global debate.pdf


 

 



Stay connected -- online with your diocesan community

newSpin... is an electronic newsletter of information related to the Diocese of Bethlehem, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion... with some spin, of course, from the editor. To receive it online, about six times monthly, send your email address to Bill Lewellis, blewellis@diobeth.org. Ask for newSpin. If you subscribe to Bethlehem of Pa you already receive newSpin, in addition to many other notes. The newSpin newsletter is available also on our diocesan blog.


Continue reading "Stay connected -- online with your diocesan community" »