Communicate … Your Ministry

Communicate… Your Ministry
By Bill Lewellis
Introduction/Communication Biases
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; [email protected] or [email protected]
Be attentive. Be intelligent. Be reasonable. Be responsible.
Be in love. And, if necessary, change.
—Bernard Lonergan;



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; [email protected] or [email protected]
Be attentive. Be intelligent. Be reasonable. Be responsible.
Be in love. And, if necessary, change.
—Bernard Lonergan;


An Update from the Audit Committee

August 1, 2014

Dear Friends:

In February of this year, shortly after temporarily assuming ecclesiastical authority, the Standing Committee informed you that the members had discovered that no professional audits of the finances of the Diocese had been performed since 2007.  That letter also reported that an Audit Committee had been formed to oversee the completion of the missing audits by a CPA firm without delay in order to provide to the Diocese the financial accountability that is required by canon law.

In March the members of the Audit Committee wrote to you once again, this time to provide an update on the status of the audit process – that the Audit Committee, which oversees the work of the auditors, members of the Diocesan Staff charged with preparing the work to be audited, and representatives of Campbell Rappold & Yurasits, the CPA firm engaged by the Diocese, met to lay out a schedule for preparing for and completing the work of the audits for 2008 – 2013.

As with all previous audits, both the Council funds, money received through assessments and acceptances of parishes, and the Incorporated Trustee funds, those held by the Diocese in accordance with wills, trusts, and bequests along with all investment and escrow funds held on behalf of the various parishes, are being audited.  In April we let you know that the firm's accountants would be working onsite to examine the financial records of the Diocese from the first week of April until the third week of June. It was expected that then the remaining work needed to complete all the missing audits and produce audit reports would be completed shortly thereafter by the accountants in their headquarters’ offices.

We now realize that both the Audit Committee and the accounting firm underestimated the complexity of performing six years of consecutive audits, and therefore the schedule originally proposed appears to have been overly optimistic and therefore unrealistic. Because of the complexity of the multiple audits and the numerous problems the auditors have encountered, they continued to work in the diocesan offices past the original June end-date and until the third week of July.  Regrettably work for all six audits has not been completed primarily because cash reconciliations were not performed by the staff for six years.  Additional delays have been caused by the fact that other reconciliations were either not completed or were incorrect. These problems have been compounded by the fact that the financial records of the Diocese are kept in four different general ledgers, two of which are run on a software package that is outdated and requires a great deal of manual manipulation in order to close one year  and establish opening balances for the next year.

In short the financial records of the Diocese are in such poor shape, due to bad accounting and lack of management oversight, that it is taking much longer than was originally anticipated by the firm to complete the audits.  The auditors, as communicated to the committee from the outset, have previous commitments to clients that will prevent them from resuming the diocesan work until early in October. While much of the audit work for 2010, 2011, and 2012 has been completed, the auditors are not at a point where they can issue audit reports for these years. Therefore they will have only the 2008 and 2009 audits completed by the time of our Diocesan Convention in October. These audit reports and communications letters will be shared at the convention. It should be noted that the auditors have reported that, to date, in their examination of the financial records, they have found no wrongdoing.

Reconciliations to the general ledger are required for the auditors to proceed with their work. They have instructed the diocesan staff on how to properly make these adjustments. Shortly the auditors will provide staff members with a complete revised needs list for the 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 audits that will be utilized by staff members in the intervening months to prepare for the auditors’ return in early October.  In this way, auditors will be able to begin examining the books for these remaining years without further delay.  As soon as the additional audit reports for the subsequent years are provided to us, they also will be shared with the Diocese.

In the meantime, the Bishop and the Audit Committee have already enacted some significant changes that will improve the quality and efficiency of the workflow in accounting activities in the diocesan offices. Payroll is now being outsourced to a payroll service and is now bi-weekly and not weekly (this means that the staff is no longer spending time processing payroll in house and every single week).  The decision has been made to consolidate the accounting software into ACS, a state-of the-art, integrated accounting system for churches. Bank reconciliations are now done monthly by staff members who have been trained by accountants from Campbell Rappold &Yurasits on how to do this work effectively. Also Charlie Barebo, a member of the Audit Committee, is working with the staff to streamline and modernize everyday business practices with the goal that the Diocese can get back to the important business of resourcing parishes.

A great deal of work has been accomplished, and while we regret that the original schedule for all the audits cannot be met, we know that the accuracy and true accountability we desire is essential and worth the extra commitment of time and effort. When all the audits are complete, the Diocese will then be able to take appropriate action going forward to bring its financial recordkeeping into compliance with generally accepted accounting practices and controls as will be recommended by the firm, and an accounting system that has been sorely lacking for decades will come up to professional standards.

The Members of the Audit Committee
Raymond Arcario, Member Diocesan Council and Standing Committee, Cathedral Church of the Nativity

Charlie Barebo, Member of Diocesan Council and Incorporated Trustees, St. Margaret’s Church, Emmaus

Richard Guyer, Treasurer of the Diocese, Cathedral Church of the Nativity

Peter Hilgert, Member of Incorporated Trustees, Cathedral Church of the Nativity

Libby House, Member of Standing Committee, Cathedral Church of the Nativity

Bishop Provisional Nominee Announced; Special Convention called for March 1

BETHLEHEM, PA — The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem, a group of elected clergy and lay leaders, announced today that the Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania, is the nominee for provisional bishop of Bethlehem. The convention at which the diocese’s clergy and lay representatives will vote on Bishop Rowe’s nomination is set for March 1.

Rowe would continue as bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania under the proposed arrangement, which would continue for three years. “The Standing Committee chose Bishop Sean as our nominee for provisional bishop because of his stable, forward-thinking leadership in Northwestern Pennsylvania,” said the Rev. Canon Andrew T. Gerns, president of the Standing Committee in Bethlehem and rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Easton. “He has a strong track record of building relationships with clergy and lay leaders and proven skill at resolving conflict directly and effectively. We’re pleased that the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania has so readily agreed to undertake this innovative arrangement with us.”

“I am honored to be nominated as provisional bishop of the Diocese of Bethlehem,” said Rowe. “Across the Episcopal Church, dioceses are seeking innovative ways to pursue 21st century mission and ministry. I am pleased to have this opportunity to help transform the church by fostering collaboration and developing new models for mission that will strengthen the witness of the Episcopal Church in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the work of God’s people in our communities.”

The Diocese of Bethlehem’s previous bishop, the Rt. Rev. Paul V. Marshall, retired on December 31 after a terminal sabbatical. On January 1, the Standing Committee announced its plan to call a provisional bishop for a three-year term. “We believe that calling a provisional bishop is the best way for the Diocese of Bethlehem to undertake a healthy, productive period of reflection and discernment about the mission to which God is calling us,” said Gerns. “We’re delighted that Bishop Sean’s skills and proximity make this new arrangement possible.”

If elected, Rowe will take up his new duties immediately and by August 2014 spend half of his time in each diocese. He, his wife, Carly, and their one-year-old daughter, Lauren, will have a home in both suburban Erie and in Bethlehem.

Rowe was ordained bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania, which comprises thirty-four congregations in thirteen counties, in 2007. He is known for developing transformational leadership and is a Ph.D. candidate in organizational learning and leadership at Gannon University. He is a 2000 graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary and a 1997 graduate of Grove City College. He serves as parliamentarian for the House of Bishops, chair of the Episcopal Church Building Fund, and member of the General Board of Examining Chaplains, the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church and the Council of Advice to the President of the House of Deputies.

The March 1 electing convention will take place at 10 am at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, 321 Wyandotte Street in Bethlehem. Clergy of the diocese and lay leaders from each congregation will vote on the nomination of Rowe as provisional bishop.

The Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem comprises 63 congregations in the 14 counties of Northeastern Pennsylvania. To learn more, visit

The Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania comprises 34 congregations in the 13 counties in northwestern Pennsylvania. To learn more, visit

Bishop Provisional Nomination and Special Convention FAQs

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem has called a special convention for March 1, 2014 for the purpose of electing a provisional bishop to serve our diocese. The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe, bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania, is the nominee for provisional bishop.

What is a provisional bishop?

In the Episcopal Church, a provisional bishop has all of the authority of a diocesan bishop but serves for a defined period of time. Bishop Rowe has been nominated to fill this role for the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem for three years while continuing as bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania.

Why is there only one nominee?

The Canons of the Episcopal Church (III.13.1) provide that a diocese seeking a provisional bishop do so in consultation with the Presiding Bishop’s office, and her office requires that the diocese must use a confidential interview and selection process and present only one name to the electing convention. This is to enable bishops to consider provisional bishop positions without unduly complicating their current positions. The Canons of the Episcopal Church make it clear that a provisional bishop is expected to serve the diocese only for a limited time and can be removed at any time by act of diocesan convention.

How will the election work?

If at least two-thirds of all clergy entitled to vote and two-thirds of parishes entitled to vote are represented, we can elect our provisional bishop with a majority of votes in each order—clergy and laity. If fewer than two-thirds of clergy and laity eligible to vote are present, we must elect our provisional bishop by a vote of two-thirds. (Article XI of the Diocesan Constitution and Canons). It is vitally important that everyone who is entitled to vote attend the special convention at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem at 10 am on March 1. 

Why do we need an election if there’s only one nominee? 

Because the provisional bishop has all of the authority of a diocesan bishop during his term, the provisional bishop should be elected in the same way the convention would elect a diocesan bishop.

Why is the Diocese of Bethlehem electing a provisional bishop?

Late last year, the Standing Committee in consultation with the Presiding Bishop and the Rt. Rev. Clay Matthews, the bishop for pastoral development in her office, decided that calling a provisional bishop for a term of three years would be the best way for the Diocese of Bethlehem to discern its vision for the future. 

Across the church, other dioceses in significant transition—most recently the Diocese of East Carolina—have successfully made use of a provisional bishop to lead a healthy, productive period of reflection and discernment. 

How did the Standing Committee choose Bishop Rowe?

At our last diocesan convention, we held small group discussions with laity and clergy and the Standing Committee received input from clergy at a meeting in November. These gatherings indicated to us that members of the diocese are looking for a provisional bishop with strong pastoral and leadership skills to bring together the diocese and help us develop a vision for mission and a sense of common call. 

Based on this input, the Standing Committee chose Bishop Sean as our nominee because of his stable, forward-thinking leadership in Northwestern Pennsylvania, where he was ordained bishop in 2007, and because of his track record of building strong relationships with clergy and lay leaders and his skill at resolving conflict directly and effectively.

How will Bishop Rowe serve as bishop of two dioceses at the same time?

As bishop of two actives dioceses, Bishop Sean’s schedule will be busy, but we are confident that his command of technology and strong Standing Committee leadership in both dioceses will make the arrangement successful.  Bishop Sean will spend a week each month in the Diocese of Bethlehem from March 1 until the middle of August, with some provision for a previously scheduled sabbatical. Beginning in the fall of 2014, he will spend half his time in each diocese. He and his wife, Carly, and their one-year-old daughter, Lauren, will have a place to live in both dioceses. 

How will things change in the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania?

Bishop Sean will continue to be the bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania and maintain an active schedule of visitations, meetings and other pastoral responsibilities. He will be in the diocese about half the time beginning in August, but will continue to be available for diocesan business regardless of where he is working on any particular day. In addition, between now and this summer, the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania will add a long-planned staff position dedicated to administration and congregational growth.


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 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 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 [email protected]. These will be gathered into a memory book that will be presented to Bishop Paul at the December 15 reception.


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.

Diocese of Bethlehem Bishop Paul Marshall to Resign

by Adam Bond


Bethlehem, Pennsylvania — The Rt. Rev. Paul V. Marshall, accomplished scholar and eighth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem, announced his resignation earlier this month for reasons of advanced age after serving as bishop for a remarkable seventeen years.

In a letter to the diocesan standing committee, Bishop Marshall writes, “It was my long-held intention to serve you as long as the canons permit. Life contains surprises, however. A number of circumstances and conversations have made it very difficult for me to continue as bishop of a diocese that I have come to love with all my heart.”

He laid out a clear timeline for his resignation: “I will turn over ecclesiastical authority to the Standing Committee at noon on August 1... I will move up my long-delayed sabbatical from 2014 to September of this year, continuing that terminal sabbatical until I lay down my crosier on December 31.”

With best wishes and blessings for the people and clergy of the diocese, Bishop Marshall concludes his letter, writing, “I doubt that there are many bishops who have had as much satisfaction over seventeen years.”

Bishop Paul’s leadership in ministering to the people of the Diocese of Kajo Keji in South Sudan is of special note. After visiting South Sudan in 2000, he said, “I have always known, intellectually, of the disparity between what we Americans take for granted and how most of the world actually lives. Seeing it, ... I was grateful, embarrassed, a little sick, but mostly convinced that it is not possible for a Christian to see this much suffering and not lower his own standard of living in order to help brothers and sisters.”

Bishop Paul set to organizing what is one of the cornerstones of his legacy, New Hope, which he described as “something unique, a capital campaign for others.” To date, the New Hope Campaign has raised 4.1 million dollars in pledges and supported the establishment of five primary schools, one secondary school, and a seminary and teaching college in Kajo Keji. It has also raised funds for parish ministries throughout northeastern Pennsylvania, helping provide for flood relief, food and shelter for the needy, and many other social outreach missions.

Long-time colleague and friend of Bishop Marshall, the Rev. Canon Bill Lewellis wrote in 2012, “Bishop Paul’s ministry among us has been broad and deep: teacher, pastor, preacher, administrator, author, advocate and participant in ministry with people in the developing world, children and youth, the poor and the marginalized, advocate and reconciler with those within the church who consider themselves progressive as well as those who consider themselves traditionalists, interpreter of family systems theory, communicator within and beyond the diocesan community, a leader who consults with colleagues, and a person whose ministry as bishop proceeds from prayer and a contemplative vision of God’s kingdom.”

As for the future, the Rev. Canon Andrew Gerns, president of the Standing Committee, writes that even as Bishop Paul takes time “to imagine how he will serve God in the next phase of his life, ...we as a diocesan community will begin our own process of listening for God and each other as we discern God’s will and together decide how we will act on it. There are many questions and there is much to do. It is important that we do this process one step at a time. ... During the rest of the year, we will also take time to remember and celebrate Bishop Paul’s ministry among us and his many accomplishments as our Bishop.”

Canon Andrew Gerns: Regarding the resignation of Bishop Paul and the work of transition

Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Diocese of Bethlehem, 

The Rev. Canon Andrew Gerns
Yesterday Bishop Paul announced that effective January 1, 2014, he will be retiring as Bishop of Bethlehem after a seventeen year episcopacy. He will, starting August 1, begin a time of vacation and sabbatical that will allow him time to pray, rest, wrap up some things and begin to imagine how he will serve God in the next phase of his life.

This means that we as a diocesan community will begin our own process of listening for God and each other as we discern God’s will and together decide how we will act on it. There are many questions and there is much to do. It is important that we do this process one step at a time.

In the Episcopal Church, the selection of a Bishop is a democratic process that requires, at various times, the participation of the whole diocese and is accountable, through the Bishops and the Standing Committees, to the whole church. During the absence of a bishop the role of “ecclestiastical authority” falls to the Standing Committee. Many but not all of the functions of a bishop go to the Standing Committee and it will be up to that group to provide for the pastoral ministry of a bishop when it is needed.

Please remember that until January 1, 2014, Bishop Paul will still be our bishop, even as he is on sabbatical. This time will allow us to organize and make some crucial decisions that will allow the discernment, search and election of the next bishop to proceed smoothly after Bishop Paul’s retirement. I am thinking of the Gospel for this coming Sunday when I suggest that we use this time to “set the table” for Jesus and listen for his voice as we prepare for the good work of transition.

As this process unfolds, it will touch in some way the lives of every Episcopalian in our diocese. At various points, the Standing Committee, the working committees of the Diocese, and the diocesan staff who serve you will invite and ask for your involvement in the hard work ahead. I know that you will cheerfully step up and take part in the hope-filled task ahead.

We have been given the chance to remember and imagine the ways of God. God has blessed this diocese with talented and gifted people. Our congregations do amazing things for God every day. We have tangibly brought new hope to people at home and across the globe. So we will do a little more of what we already do: We will hold each other in prayer, listen for God together, and as a community act for God’s glory to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ under the power and protection of the Holy Spirit.

During the rest of the year, we will also take time to remember and celebrate Bishop Paul’s ministry among us and his many accomplishments as our Bishop. Stay tuned for more information about that.

In the meantime, let us pray. Today I am mindful of the words spoken at Bishop Paul’s consecration in 1996 by Bishop Kathy Roskham who was then the Bishop Suffragan of New York. I have taken the liberty of adapting some of her words into a prayer:

Blessed Lord, your Son Jesus took small loaves of bread and miraculously fed multitudes and, in broken bread and poured out wine, gave us the Sacrament of His Body and Blood: In the days to come, feed us, nourish, and make us the house of bread for your people. Feed and tend the people of this diocese as we remember and give thanks for the ministry of Paul our Bishop. Make us, mold us and leaven us as we imagine your will and act upon it. Let Christ be bread for us in word and sacrament and in the community of faith. Finally, grant us your Holy Spirit so that we may know the joy of knowing that we are in exactly the right place and that we are daily being fed from the abundance of your grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


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

Montessori School in Allentown celebrates 20 years of diversity

The Morning Call
Jan. 12, 2013
By Libby House

Did you know Maria Montessori's first classroom, Casa del Bambini (House of Children), was founded in 1907 in a tenement in Rome? The first Italian woman to receive a medical degree, Montessori started her school with 50 poor children living in a slum and successfully taught them, using her method based on the belief that each child has within his or her own potential that can be developed fully when allowed to work independently, with great educational materials and help from highly trained teachers. News of her school quickly spread throughout the world, as did the highly respected Montessori Method.

While most people think of Montessori schools as located in leafy suburban locales or cosmopolitan areas, did you know that a very successful Montessori School has been operating in inner-city Allentown for the past 20 years? A Montessori School in downtown, drawing families with children from all over the Lehigh Valley?

It may seem an oddity, but Grace Montessori School, on Linden Street between Eighth and Ninth streets, in the ground floor of the former Hess Brothers parking garage, is in a beautifully renovated state-of-the-art facility. It is alive, well and happily teaching approximately 100 children (ages 3 to 11) each year from Allentown, Bethlehem and the surrounding areas.

I am thrilled to be the director of this remarkable school, which many didn't think would stand a chance if we followed the dream of Maria Montessori, educating poor children so they may achieve their highest potential. But we did, and the school has thrived.

It was founded by Cathy Constantin Reid in 1992 to meet the need for excellent preschool education for children whose families were clients of the Grace Episcopal Church Food Pantry. From the start the school provided scholarships for children whose families could not otherwise give them a Montessori education.

The mission became to reserve 30 percent of the enrollment for children from economically disadvantaged families. The intention was never for an exclusive school, but an inclusive one that would bring in children from all socio-economic, cultural, religious and ethnic groups to learn and play together.

After getting over the initial surprise that a Montessori school had chosen an urban location, suburban parents came and saw the beautiful classrooms consisting of high-quality Montessori materials and furniture, all under the loving and careful supervision of Montessori-certified teachers. And they enrolled their children by the scores. Winning over these parents came quickly once the school's reputation for excellent early childhood education had been established.

But after an initial gift from an anonymous donor to the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem, the questions became: Who will provide the money for all those scholarships? Where will we find the grants? What kind of fundraising can we do so that parents who can afford to send their children to our school do not end up paying higher tuition to underwrite parents lacking income needed to pay for the costs?

That called for a development program that includes grants from Allentown and local foundations, money from companies and individual sponsors, and an annual scholarship benefit auction held by the parents. When parents decide to enroll their children at Grace Montessori School, they demonstrate their willingness to buy into not only the Montessori philosophy but also into the church's inner-city mission for social justice and serving the poor.

The city has provided grants, and foundations such as Harry C. Trexler Trust, Century Fund, Keystone Nazareth Charitable Foundation, The Rider-Pool Foundation, Charles H. Hoch Foundation, Holt Foundation, Just Born, and Talbot Hall Fund have provided support. This year the school became an Opportunity Scholarship Organization, so that companies can funnel some of their state tax money to the school. And our parents worked hard and raised $20,000 for scholarships last spring, while thoroughly enjoying themselves at their auction benefit held at the Allentown BrewWorks.

I'm looking forward to this 20th anniversary year of celebration, including Heritage Day from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, when our families revel in the school's amazing diversity — a mini-Unit Nations — and climaxing in the dedication of a beautiful, new labyrinth to be completed in spring, a gift from Commercial Real Estate Women, Lehigh Valley. I invite you to come and visit our unique and welcoming school.

Libby House is executive director of Grace Montessori School in Allentown.