Renewal Assembly II: Focusing on God's Blessings, Saturday, June 11

RenewalAssembly “The best part of the day was that we got together to share our ideas,” commented a participant at the February 19 Renewal Assembly. “Not only must we learn to listen to God but we must listen to each other.  Hopefully, there will be more opportunities to have events such as this one.”

The Congregational Renewal Committee heard comments and requests such as this following the February 19 Assembly and has scheduled the next event for the Eve of Pentecost, Saturday, June 11, 9:00 AM to 1:30 PM, at eight new sites across the diocese. The day’s organizing theme will be:  Focusing on God’s Blessings.

Building on the many positive comments and suggestions about the video, the small group discussion, and the time for prayer, the basic framework for the assembly will remain the same.  The committee also heard  the request that there be more lay leadership in the video and in the program. 

In Focusing on God’s Blessings, the day will introduce the process of “asset mapping,” which is a recommended resource in the document From Risks to Opportunities (R2O).  R2O suggests that “[w] hen the starting point is the recognition of the abundance of God’s gifts and talents, the discussion the congregation can ‘find an exciting, new and positive energy to break out of the negative cycles of need, dependency, and the inaction in congregations sometimes experience.’ ”  (See Luther K. Snow, The Power of Asset Mapping: How Your Congregation Can Act on its Gifts, Alban Institute: 2004, pg. xiii.)

The eight sites will be:  Church of the Redeemer, Sayre; St. Paul’s, Montrose; Good Shepherd, Scranton; St. Stephen’s Pro-Cathedral, Wilkes-Barre; St. Peter’s, Hazelton; St. Mary’s, Reading; St. Stephen’s, Whitehall; and, St. George’s, Hellertown.  The host sites were chosen for easy travel, parking, and adequate accommodations.  A luncheon will be provided with a “free will” offering to offset local expenses. 

Registration is open on www.diobeth.org.  The registration is found by clicking on the “Register for Diocesan event” on the right column of the homepage.  Registration closes on June 1.  All registrants will be assigned to the most appropriate host site.

Download the entire flyer in .pdf form here: Download PR II Trifold


Becoming grateful, surprise upon surprise

By Bill Lewellis
New Year's Day 2011
The Morning Call

When she was growing up in New England, a onetime colleague on the staff of Bethlehem Bishop Paul Marshall related that her doctor father would sit with her at bedtime until she remembered at least five things for which she was thankful.

I suspect this grew easier when she discovered the hints in the Book of Common Prayer:

For the beauty and wonder of God’s creation, in earth and sky and sea, for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.

For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women, revealing the image of Christ.

For our daily food and drink, the blessing of family and friends, and the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve.

For health and strength to work, and leisure to rest and play.

For setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.
 
For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity.

For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice.

For those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on God alone.

For the great mercies and promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I thank you, Lord. I thank you. I thank you.

Studies show, according to a recent article in Christianity Today, that “grateful people are happier and more satisfied with their lives and social relationships, more forgiving and supportive than those who are ungrateful, less depressed, stressed, envious, and anxious.”

Near the southern end of the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, when New Jersey by way of the Walt Whitman Bridge is my destination, I listen to a Philadelphia radio station at 2, 12, 22, 32, 42 and 52 minutes after the hour. KYW promotes this minute as Traffic on the Twos. Listening helps me determine whether the Schuylkill Expressway or the Blue Route and I-95 north might be the better, or at least the less harrowing route to take.

My occasional Traffic on the Twos practice has suggested another practice to help with a daily journey.

I give thanks for some happening or relationship of the preceding three hours as I reflect for a few seconds at 9:00 a.m., noon, and 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

Thanks on the Threes. It helps, often in unexpected ways.

Brother David Steindl-Rast asks if we've ever noticed how our eyes open a bit wider when we are surprised. Surprise is the beginning of living with a clue.

Surprise is often the beginning of gratitude.

Be surprised, open your eyes a bit wider as you walk through a supermarket brimming with the gifts of God and the labor of people you'll never know.

Be surprised –– and grateful –– when your car starts in the morning.

Computer technology has been part of my job and my life for many years, but I'm still surprised when my computer works. As a “high-use, low-tech” person, I'm grateful for the Info/Tech person who fixes it when it doesn't.

I have been surprised when I've been able to connect so quickly with someone by email or text, post something on a blog, download a podcast, find a helpful web site, lay out a newspaper with a computer program and convert the page files to specs required by a distant printer.

When I sit with my laptop to write a column or sermon, I'm surprised that words begin to appear on the screen.

Someday, the words will not come. I will not chance putting thoughts together for public scrutiny. Someday, my sight and reflexes will not allow me to chance the drive to the bridge. Someday, my legs won't tolerate exercise.

I have been surprised during the past year by how much I have enjoyed retirement, even though I have loved the work I had been doing at Diocesan House (Diocese of Bethlehem) for 24 years.

Moving into 2011 I want to remember how well I have felt during 2010, after having experienced some six months of ill health during 2009. Of course, I am grateful. In fact, one thing I find as I grow older is how much more grateful I have become.

[Canon Bill Lewellis, blewellis@diobeth.org, a retired Episcopal priest, served on the Bishop’s staff of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem for 24 years and on the Bishop’s staff of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown for 13 years before that.]


Thanks on the Threes

By Bill Lewellis

[This is a revision of a column published in The Morning Call in 2006.]

Near the southern end of the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, when New Jersey by way of the Walt Whitman Bridge is my destination, I listen to a Philadelphia radio station at 2, 12, 22, 32, 42 and 52 minutes after the hour. KYW promotes this minute as Traffic on the Twos. Listening helps me determine whether the Schuylkill Expressway or the Blue Route and I-95 North might be the better, or at least the less harrowing, way to my destination.

My occasional Traffic on the Twos practice has suggested another practice I've devised to help with a daily journey.

I give thanks for some happening or relationship of the preceding three hours as I reflect for a few seconds at 9:00 a.m., noon, and 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. Thanks on the Threes.

It helps, often in unexpected ways. When I'm inclined to complain, I search between the threes for something or someone to be thankful for.

St. Paul encourages us to "pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances." Alice Walker advises us to "live frugally on surprise." Brother David Steindl-Rast asks if we've ever noticed how our eyes open a bit wider when we are surprised. Surprise is the beginning of living with a clue. I'd say surprise might often be the beginning of gratitude.

Be surprised, obviously grateful, as you walk thrugh a supermarket brimming with the gifts of God and the labor of people you'll never know.

Be surprised when your car starts in the morning.

Be surprised when you computer works. As a "high-use, low-tech" person, I'm usually surprised, even though my computer works 99% of the time.

I have been surprised when I've been able to connect so quickly with someone by email or text, post something on a blog, download a podcast, find a helpful web site, lay out a newspaper with a computer program and convert the page files to specs required by a distant printer.

Using computer technology has been part of my job and my life for many years, but I'm still surprised when it works. And I'm grateful for the Info/Tech person who fixes it when it doesn't.

I have been surprised during the past year how much I have enjoyed retirement, even though I have loved the work I had been doing at Diocesan House (Diocese of Bethlehem) for 24 years.

When I sit with my laptop to write a column or sermon, I'm surprised that words  begin to appear on the screen.

Someday, the words will not come. I will not chance putting thoughts together for public scrutiny. Someday, my sight and reflexes will not allow me to chance the drive to the bridge. Someday, my legs won't tolerate the exercise  I need to take time to do.

This Thanksgiving I will remember how good I have felt over the past year, after having experienced some six months of ill health during 2009.

I intend to continue to be surprised, to thank God on the threes, to be grateful that the whole of my life is greater than the sum of its parts.

"For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea ... For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, our friends ... For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve. For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity ... For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty and justice ... We thank you, Lord. (From A Litany of Thanksgiving in the Book of Common Prayer)

[Canon Bill Lewellis, blewellis@diobeth.org, a retired Episcopal priest, served on the Bishop’s staff of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem for 24 years and on the Bishop’s staff of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown for 13 years before that.]


Thanks on the Threes

By Bill Lewellis

[This is a slight revision of a column published in The Morning Call in 2007.]

Near the southern end of the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, when New Jersey by way of the Walt Whitman Bridge is my destination, I listen to a Philadelphia radio station at 2, 12, 22, 32, 42 and 52 minutes after the hour. KYW promotes this minute as Traffic on the Twos. Listening helps me determine whether the Schuylkill Expressway or the Blue Route and I-95 North might be the better, or at least the less harrowing, way to my destination.

My occasional Traffic on the Twos practice has suggested another practice I've devised to help with a daily journey.

I give thanks for some happening or relationship of the preceding three hours as I reflect for a few seconds at 9:00 a.m., noon, and 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. Thanks on the Threes.

It helps, often in unexpected ways. When I'm inclined to complain, I search between the threes for something or someone to be thankful for.

St. Paul encourages us to "pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances." Alice Walker advises us to "live frugally on surprise." Brother David Steindl-Rast asks if we've ever noticed how our eyes open a bit wider when we are surprised. Surprise is the beginning of living with a clue.

Be surprised, obviously grateful, as you walk thrugh a supermarket brimming with the gifts of God and the labor of people you'll never know.

Be surprised when your car starts tomorrow morning.

As a "high-use, low-tech" person, I'm surprised when my computer works, even though it works 99% of the time.

I'm surprised when I'm able to connect so quickly with somene by email, post something on a blog, download a podcast, lay out a newspaper with a computer program and convert the page files to specs required by a distant printer.

Using computer technology has been part of my job for many years, but I'm still surprised when it works. And I'm grateful for the Info/Tech person who fixes it when it doesn't.

When I sit with my laptop to write a column or sermon, I'm surprised to see paragraphs begin to appear on the screen, even though my head has been playing with the topic one way or another for days.

Someday, the words will not come. I will not chance putting thoughts together for public scrutiny. Someday, my sight and reflexes will not allow me to chance the drive to the bridge. Someday, my legs won't tolerate the elliptical workout I need to take time to do.

This Thanksgiving I will remember how good I have felt over the past month, after having experienced some six months of ill health earlier this year.

I hope I will continue to enjoy being surprised, continue to thank God on the threes, continue to be grateful that the whole of my life is greater than the sum of its parts.

"For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea ... For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, our friends ... For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve. For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity ... For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty and justice ... We thank you, Lord. (From A Litany of Thanksgiving in the Book of Common Prayer)

[Bill Lewellis has been communication minister for the Diocese of Bethlehem, the Episcopal Church in 14 counties of eastern and northeastern ennsylvania, since 1986, and canon theologian since 1998.]