Diocesan Convention – Registration

Registration for Diocesan Convention is now open on the Diocesan website.  Convention is at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on October 10-11.
 
Lay delegates will also need to register online at the Diocesan website. The registration is now open, and they need to reserve hotel rooms as may be needed. Clergy canonically resident and licensed to officiate need to register for Convention online at the Diocesan website and to reserve hotel rooms as may be needed. Again, the registration on the website is now open.
 
Rooms have been reserved for Convention at these hotels:
 
Comfort Suites in Bethlehem
120 West 3rd Street
Bethlehem
610-882-9700
40 rooms held until Oct 5
 
Homewood Suites by Hilton
2031 Avenue C
Bethlehem
610-264-7500
10 rooms held until Sep 19
 
Best Western Plus
300 Gateway Drive
Bethlehem
610-866-5800
10 rooms held until Sep 10
 
The Convention Banquet will be in the Wood Dining Room at Iacocca Hall of Lehigh University on Friday evening, October 10. Iacocca Hall is on the Lehigh University Mountaintop Campus off of Wyandotte Street.
 
If you have any questions, Howard Strinfellow, archdeacon@diobeth.org, or Nanette Smith, nsmith@diobeth.org, will be able to answer them.  Questions about online registration for Convention should be addressed to Rosie Hummel, rhummel@diobeth.org or Kat Lehman, klehman@diobeth.org.
 


A Pastoral Letter to the People of the Diocese of Bethlehem

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Diocese of Bethlehem,

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and Our Lord Jesus Christ.

On the Feast of the Holy Name, January 1, we, the Standing Committee, became the Ecclesiastical Authority of the diocese.  While we had been functioning in that role since August 1st, Bishop Paul remained our Bishop and what we did was delegated to us by him.  Our role has now changed and the executive functions of the bishop under the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese have passed to the Standing Committee until a bishop is in place. There are of course some things reserved for only a bishop and we will secure such Episcopal ministry as needed. 

As stated at our Diocesan Convention in October and as has been communicated in the DioLight, we now enter into an intentional period of reflection, prayer, healing, and reconciliation as we work together to develop a hopeful vision for our future.  In consultation with the Presiding Bishop’s Suffragan for Pastoral Affairs, Bishop Clay Matthews, and after prayerful thought, we believe that the most effective way to do this is to elect a Bishop Provisional for the diocese.  A Bishop Provisional will have the full authority of a Diocesan Bishop and would provide the pastoral, mission and administrative leadership required for a healthy and productive interim period.  The Bishop Provisional would be a half to three-quarter time position and the person would be in residence in the diocese and serve until our new diocesan bishop is elected and consecrated.  Toward that end, we plan in late January to announce our nomination for Bishop Provisional to the diocese and at that time call for a Special Diocesan Convention under the terms of Episcopal Church Canon III.13:1, 3 to be held in early March for the purpose of electing the Bishop Provisional.

In the meantime, the ministry of the diocese continues as we work alongside your diocesan staff, Diocesan Council, the Incorporated Trustees and all the committees and commissions of the Diocese to carry on our mission in service to Christ. We ask your prayers and support as we begin this season of faithful change. We also invite your comments, concerns and ideas as we enter this new era of our common life.

Faithfully yours,

The Rev. Canon Andrew T. Gerns, President, Trinity, Easton (rector@trinityeaston.org, 610-253-0792)
Mr. Edwin Schatkowski, Secretary, Trinity, Bethlehem
The Rev. T. Scott Allen, St. Andrew’s, Allentown
Mr. Raymond Arcario, Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Ms. Connie Archer, St. Anne’s, Trexlertown
Ms. Kate Fanning, Christ Church, Reading
Ms. Elizabeth House, Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
The Rev. Canon Jane Teter, Retired
The Rev. James Rinehart, Trinity, Pottsville
The Rev. Earl Trygar, St. Mark’s, Moscow


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.


Two celebrations

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

We as a Diocese are entering a season of change and we start this time out with two celebrations. We are saying “Godspeed” to both Bishop Paul Marshall and to Bishop Jack Croneberger. Bishop Paul will enter retirement on January 1, 2014 and Bishop Jack retired (again) as our Assistant Bishop on August 1, 2013. We are grateful to both men for their leadership and pastoral care to our diocese. We will be holding two events to honor and thank them for their ministries.

On behalf of the Standing Committee, I am inviting you to take part in two important celebrations.

The first will be at the Convention banquet on Friday, October 4 at Iacocca Hall at Lehigh University, where we will honor and remember the ministry of Bishop Jack. Convention registration is on-line at diobeth.org. (Click on "Diocesan Events" on the right side of the page.)

The second will be on the Third Sunday in Advent, December 15, 2013, as we give thanks to God for the Episcopacy of Paul Marshall at a Holy Eucharist to be held at St. Stephen’s Pro-Cathedral in Wilkes-Barre at 3 pm followed by a reception.

We are inviting members of the Diocese to attend both of these events.

The Diocesan Community will present each bishop with a gift in appreciation for their work among us. We know that many of you will want to share generously in the gifts that we will present to each bishop at their respective event.

Please send them to Diocesan House, c/o Archdeacon Howard Stringfellow, 333 Wyandotte Street, Bethlehem, PA 18015. You may also contribute on-line at diobeth.org. (Click on "Make a Gift" at the bottom of the page.)

I look forward to your presence at these two events and thank you in advance for your generosity for both gifts.  We give thanks to God for the many blessings we have received through the ministry of these two fine bishops.

Please hold both Bishop Paul and Bishop Jack in your prayers, and also pray for the Diocese of Bethlehem as we celebrate their ministry amongst us.

Faithfully yours,

The Rev. Canon Andrew T. Gerns
Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, Easton, PA
President, Standing Committee of the Diocese of Bethlehem


To register for Diocesan Convention, Oct. 4-5

[From Archdeacon Stringfellow]

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

This note comes to you to give you a simple and overall picture of registering for the Diocesan Convention to be held October 4 and 5 at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Lay Delegates need to see that three steps are accomplished:

1.  Each Lay Delegate and Alternate has to make sure that the parish you represent has filed a Certificate of Election with the Secretary of the Diocese, Father Karl Kern, Rector of St Alban's Church in Sinking Spring.  The date due for Certificates was July 23.  Father Kern mailed a Certificate to each parish several weeks ago.  A soft copy of the Certificate lives on my hard drive, and I am happy to send it if you need it.  This step is unnecessary for Lay Visitors to Convention who may simply register by accomplishing 2 and 3 below.

2.  Each Lay Delegate and Alternate either individually or as a part of your parish's delegation needs to Register for Convention.  This process now is exclusively accomplished online at the Diocesan website.  The website will be programmed to receive registrations beginning August 9.  The deadline to complete registrations is September 20.  It is in registering that you specify your entrée for the banquet.

This year Bishop Jack Croneberger will be specially honored at the Convention banquet, and those who wish to celebrate his ministry among us will be able to register for the banquet only.

3.  Each Delegate and Alternate either individually or as part of your parish's delegation needs to reserve a room at a hotel in Bethlehem if you need overnight accommodations.  Soon I shall send to the parishes and the clergy the names of the hotels, their locations, the rates they charge, their telephone numbers, and the deadline by which a reservation must be made to be included in our group's rate.  The deadlines differ from hotel to hotel.

The Clergy Delegates to Convention have to accomplish numbers 2 and 3 of these steps.  In virtue of being canonically resident or licensed to officiate clergy are expected to attend and to be part of Convention.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask them: archdeacon@diobeth.org


Diocesan Life for December 2011/January 2012

Open publication - Free publishing - More floods

You can download a .pdf of the file here: Download DECEMBER2011_DiocesanLife_SMALL

Diocesan Life for November 2011

Open publication - Free publishing - More bluegrass

Want the .pdf version instead? You can download load the 2.3 MB file here: Download November2011_DiocesanLife_SMALL

Election Results for Diocesan Convention

The following are the election results for the 140th Diocesan Convention

The Commission on Ministry - Clergy (3 year term)
The Rev. Frank St. Amour, III
The Rev. R. Jane Williams

The Commission on Ministry - Lay (3 year term)
Virginia Falzone
Carolyn Tolley

Diocesan Council - Clergy (3 year term)
The Rev. John R. Francis
The Rev. Daniel Gunn

Diocesan Council - Lay (3 year term)
Richard Evans
Joan Flint
Joe Jackloski

The Incorporated Trustees - Lay (3 year term)
Charlie Barebo
Cynthia Phillips
Bob Romeril

The Standing Committee - Clergy (5 year term)
The Rev. T. Scott Allen

The Standing Commitee - Lay (5 year term)
Elizabeth House


Diocesan Convention Resolutions as passed

The following are the Convention Resolutions as passed at this year's Diocesan Convention.

Resolution on the Budget of the Diocese of Bethlehem

Be it Resolved, That the Assessment Rate applied to Line A, Normal Operating Income (NOI), of the 2010 Parochial Report shall be 12% in 2012;

and be it further

Resolved, That the Proposed Mission and Ministry Budget of the Diocese as it is presented to the Convention be adopted.

Presented by Diocesan Council

Explanation:

With this Resolution, Diocesan Convention adopts a Diocesan Operating Budget for 2012.  The Income of the Budget represents a continuation of a blend of Assessments and Acceptances, both at rates identical to last year: 12% of Normal Operating Income (NOI, Line A of the Parochial Report) for the Assessment and 3% of NOI for the Acceptance.

Resolution of the Personnel Committee Regarding the 2012 Salary Schedule

Be It Resolved, that the Salary Schedule for Clergy for 2012, be as follows with a 2.8% Cost of Living increase,

and be it further

Resolved, That the same Cost of Living increase applies to lay employees.

Parish Index                    Size of Parish                    Clergy Salary Range
1-99                                Small                                $30,635.00 - $36,800.00
100-250                           Medium                            $33,925.00 - $50,165.00
250-399                           Large                                $40,600.00 - $62,500.00
400 – above                      X-Large                            $54,790.00 - $88,715.00

Be It Resolved, That the Clergy Supply Schedule for 2011, be as follows, and be it further

Resolved, That Supply Clergy be reimbursed for travel at the current IRS rate.

Number of Services

1 Sunday Service or 1 Saturday                $130.00
2 Sunday Services                                    $160.00
Mid Week Service                                    $80.00

Resolution To Establish a Plan of Action for Relief for the Homeless and Poor in Our Society
[A M E N D E D]

Whereas the current increase in suffering of homeless people in our society has been largely ignored during our economic downturn and housing crisis, as almost 700,000 of our citizens are known to be homeless (with four in ten living on the street);

Whereas the greatest increases in recent years in homelessness are among people who have become unemployed (including veterans returning from our wars) and among those who formerly lived in homes now in foreclosure;

Whereas 250,000 persons living in families are homeless;

Whereas, contrary to misconceptions, blame and stereotypes, the root causes of homelessness are lack of affordable housing and poverty;

Whereas in response to our economic downturn and jobs crisis, budgetary reductions at the state, federal, and local levels have had direct and devastating effects upon our parishes’ work with the poor – upon shelters for the homeless; upon soup kitchens, upon food banks, upon employment counseling programs, upon legal services programs;

Whereas a large part of Jesus’ ministry consisted of the prophetic task of confronting and denouncing not merely the distinct sinful actions of individuals, but a host of systemic, structural evils (e.g., the transformation of the temple into “a den of thieves”) that degrade human life and impede the coming of God’s reign;

Be it Resolved, therefore, That parishes throughout The Diocese of Bethlehem will form prayer-and study-groups to meet regularly for an extended period in order to discern what is the Church’s call to the homeless and the poor in this present era; to discover how our faith in the coming reign of God may be sustained and strengthened in these profoundly difficult days; to devise methods for challenging and changing systems that now severely limit our society's potential for achieving a just distribution of the necessary means of life; to examine government policies that either contribute to or reduce unemployment; to plan actions for relief of the most vulnerable among us; to raise the quality and dignity of life for the poor and the homeless; and to restore compassion to our public and private discourse.

Be it further Resolved, That this convention submits the following resolution for the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2012 which commends the same practices to the parishes and dioceses of the National Church:

To Establish a Plan of Action for Relief for the Homeless and Poor in Our Society

Whereas the current increase in suffering of homeless people in our society has been largely ignored during our economic downturn and housing crisis, as almost 700,000 of our citizens are known to be homeless (with four in ten living on the street);

Whereas the greatest increases in recent years in homelessness are among people who have become unemployed (including veterans returning from our wars) and among those who formerly lived in homes now in foreclosure;

Whereas 250,000 persons living in families are homeless;

Whereas, contrary to misconceptions, blame and stereotypes, the root causes of homelessness are lack of affordable housing and poverty;

Whereas in response to our economic downturn and jobs crisis, budgetary reductions at the state, federal, and local levels have had direct and devastating effects upon our parishes’ work with the poor – upon shelters for the homeless; upon soup kitchens, upon food banks, upon employment counseling programs, upon legal services programs;

Whereas a large part of Jesus’ ministry consisted of the prophetic task of confronting and denouncing not merely the distinct sinful actions of individuals, but a host of systemic, structural evils (e.g., the transformation of the temple into “a den of thieves”) that degrade human life and impede the coming of God’s reign;

Be it Resolved, therefore, That parishes and dioceses of The Episcopal Church will form prayer-and study-groups to meet regularly for an extended period in order to discern what is the Church’s call to the homeless and the poor in this present era; to discover how our faith in the coming reign of God may be sustained and strengthened in these profoundly difficult days; to devise methods for challenging and changing systems that now severely limit our society's potential for achieving a just distribution of the necessary means of life; to examine government policies that either contribute to or reduce unemployment; to plan actions for relief of the most vulnerable among us; to raise the quality and dignity of life for the poor and the homeless; and to restore compassion to our public and private discourse.

Presented by the following:

Members of Grace Church, Allentown, Summer Reading Group, 2011:
Addison Bross
Mary Louise Bross
Kelly Cannon
Kelly Denton-Borhaug
Gunnar Denton-Borhaug
Bob House
Libby House
Lori Molloy
Jean Moody
Jack Moody
The Rev. Elizabeth Reed
Jeff Reed
Joan Roy

The Rev. T. Scott Allen

Vestry Members, St. Andrews Church

The Clergy and Vestry Members, Trinity Church, Bethlehem

Resolution on Building Relationships with Muslim-American Community
 
Whereas:  A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in September 2010 found that 31 percent of U.S. citizens believe that "mainstream Islam [i.e., not "militant Islam"] encourages violence;"

Whereas:  Rep. Peter King's accusation (in Congressional hearings, March 10, 2011) that American Muslims have failed to support U.S. law enforcement's fight against terrorism has caused much pain and misunderstanding;
 
Whereas:  John B. Chilton, reporting on these hearings  in the Episcopal Cafe,  cited a document entitled "Shoulder to Shoulder," signed by clergy and laity of various faiths, representatives of national religious councils, and leaders of institutions for training of clergy, calling on elected officials and all citizens "not to perpetuate damaging false witness against our neighbors," but instead "to stand shoulder-to-shoulder [with persons of all faiths] in communities of growing awareness, trust and hope;"

Be it Resolved: That the parishes within the Diocese of Bethlehem be encouraged to work with the Diocesan Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission in reaching out to their local Muslim neighbors by organizing or being a part of an event in the coming year to build new relationships that will lead to better understanding of our different faiths.
 
Presented by the Diocesan Peace Commission:
Addison Bross, Co-Chair;
Barb Gessner, Co-Chair;
Mary Louise Bross;
Njideka Kelley;
Fr. Don Knapp;
Tom Lloyd;
Suzanne Siebert;
Candis Siatkowski.


Come to the Mountain

Come to the Mountain

By Bishop Jack Croneberger
October 8, 2011
Diocesan Convention Eucharist Sermon
Cathedral Church of the Nativity

“Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites, you have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now, therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom, and a holy nation.’” (Exodus 19:3-7)

Brothers and sisters, it is time for us to go up to the mountain, to God, for God is surely calling to us. We shall be borne on eagles’ wings and brought to God’s presence and we...we are called to obey God’s voice and keep God’s covenant, for we are God’s treasured possession. A priestly kingdom, a holy nation.

O.K., O.K...Then tell me how come I frequently don’t feel much like a treasured possession or a priestly kingdom and certainly not a holy nation!

Let’s try this...called to obey God’s voice and keep God’s covenant. Obeying God’s voice requires the sharpest of our listening skills, listening for God’s voice in the panoply of creation; from the beauty or the devastation of wind, or water, or fire; from the roaring sounds of the world around us to the still small voices of the world within us.

How is God’s voice being spoken to us this day? Can you hear it? Can you share it?  Can you do it? What if it’s not popular or politic? I call upon you this day, at this convention and Eucharist to come to the mountain...to hear the voice of God.
Be careful now, for if you hear God’s voice, you will inevitably be called to keep God’s covenant. And not just the “Do you believe” but also the “Will you continue, will you persevere? Will you proclaim, will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, will you strive for justice and peace among all people?”

Just when I believe I might have a handle on all the “Will I’s?” of the covenant, the old fears come to visit again. Something is not right! Something is missing! It’s too much! I cannot possibly do all the covenant asks of me. Forgive me, Lord.
And just then, Jesus steps into my screen...this time in the form of a “Peanuts” cartoon strip. Lucy is crying bitter tears over a decision her mother has made. She wails, “You promised me a birthday party  and now you say I can’t have one! It’s not fair!”

Enter Lucy’s brother, Linus, who is the theologian in the group, who calls her aside to offer some advice. “You’re not using the right strategy,” he says. “Why not go up to Mom and say to her, ‘I’m sorry, dear Mother. I admit I’ve been bad, and you were right to cancel my party, but from not on, I shall try to be good.’”

Lucy thinks about it. She even rehearses the little speech to hear what it sounds like coming from her. Then she thinks about it some more. Finally, in the strip’s last panel, Lucy cries out, “I’D RATHER DIE!!”

Sometimes I think I’d rather die than say “I’m sorry.” Rather die than repent. But then dying to self is really what repentance is all about. Perhaps it is because I seem to be surrounded by death and dying, some expected and some very unexpected, but within the context of these finite lives of ours we need to be prepared. We need to wash our faces in the waters of baptism and put on the wedding garments of faith and our active response to faith. So let’s do whatever dying we need to do now, in order that we might be ready to live. To live with Christ and in Christ, now and forever.

 “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.’” (Matthew 16:24-25).


Bishop Paul's Diocesan Convention Address

Convention Address, Oct. 7, 2011
Bishop Paul V. Marshall
Diocese of Bethlehem
Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
 
To enjoy each other and grow together in the Lord
I greet you with joy and affection as we gather again for convention. It is good to see new faces and to welcome back those who have moved back into the Diocese.
 
Those of you who are new or who are coming to our convention for the first time will notice something a bit unusual about this gathering. The time we spend debating and discussing resolutions is not particularly long. We put our energy into being together, in praying together, in eating together, and into learning together. The gathering is one piece, so there is no discount, so to speak, for skipping the eucharist or not having dinner.
 
So if you are here for the first time, please do not think of this as a two-day vestry meeting, but rather like a small and discrete camp meeting. Our goal is to enjoy each other in the Lord and to grow together. Every group has only so much energy, and by long tradition we spend ours in this communal way.
 
The King James Version of 1611
You will also notice that our scripture readings at all services are from the King James Version of 1611. It is the foundation of the modern translations we use in all our parishes; it served our ancestors very well. We gratefully remember at this Convention that “God’s word written” can only reach us if someone translates it. We remember how the 1611 translation gave shape to the thinking and language of every English-speaking person, usually without their knowing it. We remember that it was, as all memorable English Bible translations must be, an effort at Christian unity. All of that said, it is also just fine to sit back and enjoy its language.
 
Scanning a few headlines of the past year
A lot has happened since we last met, much of it joyful, some of it challenging. Let me just scan the headlines of Diocesan Life for you.
 

Continue reading "Bishop Paul's Diocesan Convention Address" »


Diocesan Convention Preprint and Meetings (UPDATED PREPRINT)

Attached you will find the preprint for the Diocesan Convention October 7-8 at Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. All delegates should receive a pre-convention packet mailed to them at their home. If you are a delegate and have not received your packet by September 23rd, please call Rosie Hummel at 610-691-5655 x221. Included in the packet is the preprint as well. Delegates are encouraged to read the preprint and attend one of the following pre-convention meetings.

You can download the 3.5MB .pdf preprint file here: Download 110930PreprintUpdated

Pre-Convention meetings are open to anyone in the diocese. They are scheduled as follows:
September 27, St. Alban's, Sinking Spring     7:00 P.M.
September 29, Church of the Epiphany, Clarks Summit    7:00 P.M.
October 4, Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem    7:00 P.M.


REMINDER: Vendor "booth" registration for Diocesan Convention closes September 30th

[From Cindy Bakos]

2011 DIOCESAN CONVENTION Exhibitor “Booth” Request Form is attached.

Deadline: September 30, 2011

There is a $35.00 registration fee per table for all outside members. Please complete this form and return it to the address below along with your check made payable to “The Diocese of Bethlehem”. Space is limited. Table requests will be filled as received. There is the expectation that you will arrive at the exhibit area with all you need to set up your display. (Don’t forget to bring tablecloth, extension cords, scissors, tape, magic markers, pencils, etc.)

The exhibit hall will be available from 10:00 a.m. on Friday, October 7, 2011, until after the Eucharist on Saturday, October 8, 2011. All exhibits must be removed by 11:00 a.m. on Saturday. With this in mind, please complete the following form and return it to:

CINDY BAKOS
THE DIOCESE OF BETHLEHEM
333 WYANDOTTE STREET
BETHLEHEM, PA 18015

WE WILL NOT TAKE BOOTH RESERVATIONS OVER THE TELEPHONE. REQUEST FORM REQUIRED.
Download 110907 BOOTH REQUEST FORM 2011-Fill In



Diocesan Convention resolutions and information about pre-convention meetings

Attached you will find the four resolutions that will be presented at the Diocesan Convention October 7-8 at Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. All delegates should receive a pre-convention packet mailed to them at their home by September 17th. If you are a delegate and have not received your packet by September 23rd, please call Rosie Hummel at 610-691-5655 x221.

Pre-Convention meetings are open to anyone in the diocese. They are scheduled as follows:
September 27, St. Alban's, Sinking Spring     7:00 P.M.
September 29, Church of the Epiphany, Clarks Summit    7:00 P.M.
October 4, Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem    7:00 P.M.

Resolution A: Resolution on the Budget of the Diocese of Bethlehem
Resolution B: Resolution of the Personnel Committee Regarding the 2012 Salary Schedule
(Resolution A and B can be found here): Download 2011 Resolutions A and B

Resolution C: To Establish a Plan of Action for Relief for the Homeless and Poor in Our Society
(Resolution C can be found here): Download 2011 Convention Resolution C

Resolution D: Building Relationships with the Muslim-American Community
(Resolution D can be found here): Download 2011 Resolution D


Diocesan Life for September 2011



Download the September issue of Diocesan Life as a .pdf
Download September2011_DiocesanLife_SMALL (3.3 MB file)


Registering for Diocesan Convention, Oct. 7-8

[From Archdeacon Stringfellow]

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

This note is written to give you a simple and overall picture of registering for the Diocesan Convention to be held October 7-8 at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Lay Delegates need to see that three steps are accomplished:

1.  Each Lay Delegate has to make sure that the parish you represent has filed a Certificate of Election with the Secretary of the Diocese.   This step is unnecessary for Lay Visitors to Convention who may simply register by accomplishing 2 and 3 below.

2.  Each Lay Delegate either individually or as part of your parish's delegation needs to Register for Convention.  This process now is exclusively accomplished online at the Diocesan website.  The website will be programmed to receive registrations beginning August 5.  The deadline to complete registrations is September 26.  (Late registrations incur a late registration fee.)  It is here that you specify your entrée for the banquet.

3.  Each Delegate either individually or as part of your parish's delegation needs to reserve a room at a hotel in Bethlehem if you need overnight accommodations.  Please find the attached names of the hotels, their locations, the rates they charge, and their telephone numbers.

The Clergy Delegates to Convention have to accomplish numbers 2 and 3 of these steps.  In virtue of being canonically resident or licensed to officiate clergy are expected to attend and to be part of Convention.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask them.

Best regards,

Howard Stringfellow
Archdeacon


Convention Hotels:

        Best Western
        300 Gateway Dr.
        Bethlehem, PA
        610-866-5800
        Double  $85.00
        King  $85.00
        Rates available until Sep 7
        Smoking Rooms available upon request
        Total of 65 rooms

        Comfort Suites
        120 W. Third St.
        Bethlehem, PA
        610-882-9700
        King  $89.00
        Double $89.00
        Rates available until Sep 10
        Non-Smoking Hotel
        Total of 30 rooms   
   
        Holiday Inn Express
        3375 High Point Blvd.
        Bethlehem, PA
        610-882-2255
        Will provide transportation
        King Non-Smoking $99.99
        Double Queens Non-Smoking $99.99
        Rates available until Sep 7
        Smoking Rooms available upon request
        Total of 15 rooms


Diocesan Life for November 2010

Attached is the latest Diocesan Life for November, 2010. Remember, we love to get stories and pictures! If you have something you want featured, please contact Kat Lehman to discuss publication. Diocesan Life deadlines are posted on the calendar as well so you know when to get the stories in. For December's issue, we need the stories by November 2nd. The attached file is 2.7 MB in .pdf format.

Download November2010_DiocesanLifeSMALL

 


Congregational Renewal Bibliography

The attached bibliography is the one that was given to clergy for assisting them with processing From Risks to Opportunities in their parishes. Charles Cesaretti has recommended it be shared with everyone. You can download the file in either Word format or as a .pdf. If you have further questions, please contact Charles Cesaretti.

Download 101008 BiblioCONGREGATIONAL RENEWAL in Microsoft Word

Download 101008 BiblioCONGREGATIONAL RENEWAL in .pdf


Bishop's address to the 2010 convention

The Rt. Rev. Paul V. Marshall
Cathedral Church of the Nativity
Bethlehem, October 8, 2010

This has been a year of deeper connections for the Episcopal Church. In our part of the country it is especially joyful news that the two provinces of the Moravian Church have now entered into full communion with us, and that gift will be celebrated nationally in January of 2011. Additionally, for the first time that I know of, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Scranton will be preaching at St. Luke's in Scranton. Beyond that, we are planning a joint Eucharistic celebration with the Methodists for next fall, and of course, our relationship with the Lutherans continues to develop. For the first time, I have been able to receive a Lutheran pastor as an Episcopal priest by a simple letter of transfer.

These are the major indicators, but not the only ones, that Christian witness and service will in God's time regain united focus, that the world may see and know the power of the gospel. Canon Maria Tjeltveit is working on getting the leaders of the Lutheran, Moravian, Episcopal and Methodist communities to a meeting at the same time and place, so that we can begin to put some flesh on the structures of communion that have been erected.

Members of our House of Bishops and their spouses got to experience a new connectedness within our own church as we met with the fast-growing Coalición de Episcopales Latinos. The fastest growing demographic in our mainland dioceses, Latino Episcopalians will bring us many gifts. For some decades now the church has benefited from the presence of the Union of Black Episcopalians, and it is my hope that the Coalition will similarly help us to eliminate barriers in our family and move into a future that celebrates the beautiful complexity of God's creation.

All of that said; let me speak to our own time this weekend. This is more of a working convention than we usually have.

Consequently, things will feel different over the next two days. My address today is one third shorter than usual and will not review the highlights of the past year. My sermon tomorrow morning will also be shorter, to allow more time for the morning discussion groups to operate. Our worship services will be more compact. There will be fewer lessons and hymns, and the usual processions of clergy, the United Thank Offering, and the Episcopal Church Women's gifts will not occur until next year.

So what is there for us to discuss? This afternoon we will discuss some of the points I am trying to make now, and tomorrow we will hone in more directly on the work of the Congregational Development Committee.

A Committee's New Ministry

A year ago in my address to the convention I expressed a desire for us to reinvent our efforts in congregational development. My reason was that the culture and the economy in NE PA have changed, with dramatic results for the life of the church. Each of us has a list of things that pinch us right now in the enterprise of being a church, but as a community we don’t yet have a pattern of response for these times, and we particularly need a pattern that works from our strengths rather than one that remains fascinated by our perceived weakness.

My prayers were fully answered. A much-enlarged Congregational Development Committee, led by Canon Charles Cesaretti and Fr. Scott Allen, went to work on the challenge I laid down with an enthusiasm that escapes my powers of description. Would the members of that committee who are here today please stand.

Every word of their substantial report needs our attention, but let me tell you what is particularly important to me as a pastor when I look over their work.

Faith in a Time of Anxiety

Decades ago C. H. Dodd observed that Christianity attracted followers in its early days because the new religion was an answer to the troubles of what he was the first to call an "Age of Anxiety." The world's situation was tenuous on almost every level, and multitudes came to find in the practice of the new religion gifts of peace, confidence, and joy for their lives.

We are back in that emotional territory. About the time I was born, Leonard Bernstein was writing his second symphony, which he entitled, "Age of Anxiety." Perhaps that says it all. It is surely unnecessary to give a detailed account of the anxieties our culture has been struggling with for the last sixty-five years. We also don’t need to dwell on the extent to which churches and clergy can feel like failures when secular models of success are imposed on them—especially when they are forbidden to use many secular tools to attain that success.

Other writers on the ancient world have pointed out that in times when life was cheap, Christians distinguished themselves by the care of the poor and helpless, especially abandoned infants.

With this image of Christian origins as a calm and compassionate center in the anxious and violent world of the past and present in mind, I followed the committee's work. I was very grateful for what I observed. Rather than funding yet another research project on what went wrong with the culture or the church, rather than asking which issues of the day could have been better dealt with, the Committee calmly and lovingly went out to talk to parishioners and their clergy about what does work. They consulted with what we might consider larger, wealthier, parishes and they also visited an equal number of parishes facing significant challenges. In all cases, they modeled the important skill known as "appreciative inquiry," listening in an affirming way.

That is, they went as appreciative listeners, seeking to learn in each case what gives a parish cohesion, what it is proud of, and it how it assesses its strengths for future ministry. They wanted to know what parishes have to share with their neighbors in the diocese and beyond its community. You have their report, From Risk to Opportunities, in your packets, and many of you have seen it before. Many of you have read the summary articles Ty Welles wrote for our diocesan newspaper as well.

The committee was delighted at the many experiences of rich parish life that were shared with them. They formulated their recommendations with that memory in the forefront of their minds.

R2O Close Up

I want to make some observations about From Risk to Opportunities before you begin to work on it in your groups and back home.

If you have read it, you know that the first and most important point to make is that From Risk to Opportunities is not another program that your vestry must somehow fit into the schedule of your church. From Risk to Opportunities describes a process for discovery and some organizing principles for what is already happening in churches. It describes a way of being that can shape us during the generation or so that it takes to make permanent change in an organization. It is a gift we will leave to our children and grandchildren.

Using the Product

The process "R2O" recommends is grounded before all else in prayer, both personal and corporate. Being in touch with God is nothing more or less than "using the product", and church life little makes sense without it. While prayer means many things, the committee is especially interested in prayer as openness to God in a way that gives "lightness and energy and excitement" to congregations. (R20, p. 10, quoting Reese) Living prayerfully delivers congregations from secular management styles and opens them to the direction of the Holy Spirit.

In this regard, I wish to repeat once more my core beliefs about Vestry meetings; many of you have heard them. The first is that the container shapes the contents: meetings should not take more than 90 minutes, and if they routinely do take longer, there may be a problem in the system. The second is that financial matters must come last on the agenda so that the focus can be on the parish’s mission. The third is that leadership meetings must emerge from corporate prayer. If you look at our most energetic parishes, you will find without exception that the environment in which leadership meets is prayerful, most vestries attending to word and sacrament as well as sustained prayer. To help make this point, beginning in January we are re-shaping our Diocsan Council meetings in several ways, and one of them will be to deepen Council's life as a body at prayer.

Planning and Partnership

Back to the committee's report. Out of prayer comes discernment. In From Risk to Opportunities the hope is that concentration on our prayer life and listening to God will help each congregation focus on and celebrate what they do well, what they have to share. From there flow questions of goals and planning for the near and long-term future. Planning in one sense means visualizing yourself as successful at some task, really entering that vision and enjoying it—and then asking what you did to get there.

Part of the planning process the committee has in mind here, especially for smaller congregations, is planning for partnership with others. That is hardly news, although we have room to grow in this department. What is new about From Risk to Opportunities for some of us will be the emphasis on parishes partnering not just with Episcopal congregations, but with our ecumenical partners and other groups as well. The full communion relations I have mentioned with Lutherans and Moravians, and the developing relationship with the Methodists, may well provide all partners with new possibilities for the future.

Those are my comments on the process, and you will want read more about it in the report itself. However, I think that the committee’s assumptions are worth examining as well.

They assume that each of us is aware that our baptismal relationship to Jesus is one of discipleship, a relationship where our Lord gives each of us work to do for the life of the Church and its service to the world. Without that belief our expectations are limited. Church can no longer be for us something we occasionally attend, but is the community where we are nourished for and to some degree express our discipleship.

Transforming the Culture

The writers assume that we are able to live with reality, even if reality means doing without. This is another place where we have something to teach the culture. For example, the budget that the diocese will consider tomorrow is a seriously contracted one, and there are a number of staff positions we are not filling because there isn’t money for them. I do not say this as a complaint; I say it as a recognition of certain economic facts that cannot now be helped. A number of congregations have had to make similar decisions about staffing for the same reason. It may be a few years before improvement in finances reaches our level, and we have to unemotionally work with what is. It has never failed to be true that when one door closes another opens—if that is what you are looking for.

In circumstances and times like this it is it vital to maintain hope, and as Nathan Duggan told us last spring, hope without a plan is denial. Hope without a plan is denial. We have the opportunity to show the culture what hope looks like when it plans realistically about using and preserving financial and human resources.

This observation about the important ministry of teaching the culture helps me keep to Anglicanism's famous middle way. For example, I am not driven by a daily need to get out there and be what is called "counter-cultural". Equally, I am not driven by a daily need to affirm business as usual at home or abroad.

What I do feel is that culture can be transformed by the witness and sweaty work of committed disciples of Jesus. Whether it was the sinking of the Titanic or the devastation of the First World War, or both, since the beginning of the last century it has been impossible for a literate person to expect inevitable and uniform progress morally or socially. However, as a follower of Jesus I have come to expect that in the moments where individuals or communities give of themselves as Christ gave, new life breaks through unstoppably. Those moments may not look holy except to those with eyes to see, but it is a special talent of the Holy Spirit not to look very religious, and nowhere does the Bible suggest that the Spirit only works through Christians—quite the contrary. One of our Eucharistic prayers asks, "open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us." That is a subtle phrase, and will come to mind as you hear Sunday's gospel about the grateful leper. Those who so desire can and do see God at work.

Conversation

The committee also expects that we can be in holy conversation. Certainly we invite generous conversation with each other all the time, but as you read From Risk to Opportunities, you will see in it the invitation to each congregation’s conversation with our perception of our past, our present, and our vision for the future. That call to us is as challenging as it is intriguing.

From my perspective, getting past and future together is not always an easy conversation to hold with others or within ourselves. If you are like me you may have to realize repeatedly that the church of my childhood or other favorite period, a church which I loved and which inspired me, is not coming back, although it has left many traces. There was an extraordinary amount of good about it, and some of that good has been lost while much has been preserved. But there has been other good emerging as well. If history teaches anything, it is that there will always be fresh vision into which we are invited to move, but always at a cost, cultural or emotional. It is o.k. for me to grieve what is gone as long as I ask the question, is what we have now adequate to who we are and how we serve the world?

What is Permanent

The crucified and risen Jesus Christ is eternal, as is his call, "follow me" and his presence with his people until the end. Just about everything else in response to him has adjusted to historical circumstance and the proddings of the Spirit in many and various ways. As I said a minute ago, the lesson of Christian history is that the Holy Spirit continues to lead us into newness of life, some of it quite unexpected.

That is easy to say, and I know that there are some people who like change for its own sake just as there are those who find all change difficult, but generally we need to go easy on each other. One of the hardest verses in the Bible is "behold, I do something new." (Is 43:19) Like many of you, I did not sign on for that: I signed on for personal security, control of my life, and good music. What I have learned, however reluctantly, is that the future I may have dreaded in 1970 turned out not to be such a bad place. The advantage of surviving major illness, in my case heart surgery, is that very little in life seems urgent, while much more in life seems important.

Avoiding Rumpelstilskin

The result of my own internal conversation between past and future is that I am now mostly ambivalent about the church I once idealized, even idolized. I think that this is maturity, but it may be too soon to tell. I have found that if I expect perfection from the church, I will just go into Rumpelstiltskin mode when it fails that test of perfection, which it cannot help but do. On the other hand, I find that if I try be merely spiritual and to ignore the church in the hope that it will go away, God will send some incredibly gentle and loving saint across my path to remind me that "game over" has not yet flashed on the screen and that I must get back to work with my fellow disciples. What I have come to care about is not a perfect organization but a faithful organization, doing its best to serve Christ, limping onward to Zion. I have come to care about the present in a way that is informed by the past and invites the future. But the present is our home address, and like most of our homes, there is room for improvement, and not all of it will get done before the family comes for the holidays. I am willing to believe that I stand with St. Augustine in trying to cultivate a healthy ambivalence about the church, and about myself—we all contain that which is valuable and that which is not yet finished. The end-product is patience.

What this has to do with our present endeavor is this: there is a temptation to ask too much of the church, and to be crushed when our hopes are dashed by human reality. We are not here this weekend suddenly to fix anything, because there are no miracle cures or magic bullets. We can begin work over the years to make each congregation better and better connected, one step at a time, accepting our personal and organizational imperfections and celebrating God's rich gifts.

Killing George Herbert

The realities of the present are that all the baptized must work together and develop together in their discipleship. Let me say to my colleagues in the clergy that there is a book perhaps worth an afternoon’s read. It is called, provocatively, If You Meet George Herbert on the Road, Kill Him. I did not write it. For those who don't know, Herbert was a poet who also wrote a book called The Country Parson, an idealized view of the perfect priest that has inspired and maddened Anglican clergy for centuries. To put it another way, it has become the seminarians' persecuting superego. I think that the title of the book about killing Herbert is an exaggeration designed to sell books, but the point is worth thinking about. The village parson who was everything to everybody dare exist no longer. In the first place it is not healthy—it is a little known fact that saintly Mr. Herbert died at age 41 after a whopping three years in parish ministry. The healthy part of moving away from Herbert is that by putting down most of the burden, we make room for others to pick it up, to their souls' joy. In the second place, we do not want parishes where everyone is dependent on the priest for emotional support—that reflects not a theology, but a diagnosis.

Here is where those of you who are teachers may offer something. Teachers know that if you ask a class a question, you may have to be prepared to live through twenty very long seconds of silence before someone suggests an answer. That is not always easy. In the same way, if you as a priest or parish leader say that you can no longer manage a certain parish task, it may take a while before someone else picks it up, but if the task is essential to the life of the parish, somebody will take it on.

So what we hope to see more and more is partnership in parishes, partnerships among parishes, and partnerships with our ecumenical companions, not expecting too much yet expecting everything as God gives it. We are called to act realistically, sharing the load, and integrating our traditions and our future into today's church.

Questions

This address does not have a stirring conclusion, because that is for you to develop in your groups. The committee is providing your table leaders the following questions for you to discuss, so as the Dean says, "don't write this down."

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS (and make your own)

What was the most useful part of the bishop's address for our parish?

How does our parish live a life of prayer?  How might we deepen the experience?

How is the "management style" in our parish marked by "openness to the Holy Spirit?"

How does our parish presently maintain conversation with both its past and its future?

I ask that you go to your groups now, dropping off your ballots as you go.