A Conversation About Islam

[Note from Canon Maria Tjeltveit]

Sponsored by Christian Communities Gathering of Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem.

Featured Speakers:
Dr. Riaz Hussain from the University of Scranton
Dr. Shamshad Ahmed from Marywood University

Saturday, September 6, from 1-3 PM 

Marywood University, 2300 Adams Ave, Scranton, PA 18509, Swartz Center for Spiritual Life, Conference room "A" (The McGowan Room)

There are so many different voices all claiming to speak for Islam around the world and it is difficult to discern which ones are valid and true.  Our discussion will be led by two local educators who will share their personal experience and insights about Islam with us.  Questions and answers will follow and light refreshments will be served.

To register, call: 570-824-2478
You may also register at the time of the meeting.

Diocesan Life for February 2012

Well, we have a new printer and with a new printer means a little bit of change. As you might remember, we are no longer a diocesan wrap around Episcopal Journal but are our own publication. We are in the process of getting a non-profit mailing permit so bear with us as these first few months might be a bit rocky while we get used to new procedures and new printing requirements. The look is essentially the same but you will notice that the mailing label has moved and we are not reporting national level news. Starting with March's issue, Bill Lewellis will be adding some highlights for you to explore much like he does currently on our newSpin eNewsletter. We welcome any comments, problems, or issues as well as we transition to a new way of doing things while still providing a print resource. If you do have questions, please email me: [email protected]


Download the .pdf version here: Download BDL1202-completeCORRECTED_SMALL

Learning about Islam

[From Canon Maria Tjeltveit]

Since we passed a resolution at Convention about connecting with people who are Muslim, I wanted to let people know about a couple of upcoming things in the Lehigh Valley.
The Institute for Jewish Christian-Understanding at Muhlenberg College has a yearly Dialogue Day for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. This year’s theme is Being in Prayer; Prayer in our Being. It is this coming Sunday afternoon, Oct. 23. I am attaching a brochure about it. The deadline to sign up was supposed to be last week but I checked and they welcome registrations even on that day.  I’ve been in the past and it is usually very good. Here's the file for that:
Download 2011_Day_of_Dialogue final
The Lehigh Dialogue Center is a Turkish Muslim group in the Bethlehem area. They regularly have activities to which they invite the public. The one coming up this week is a cooking class for women, this Saturday and the following two Saturdays. It sounds yummy. See the attachment for this brochure here:
Download Cookingclasshandouttoemail
I will gather more resources as we go along, but wanted to pass these along right now.
Maria Tjeltveit
Canon for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations

Diocesan Life for October 2011

You can download the 2.4 MB .pdf here: Download October2011_DiocesanLife_SMALL

Sermon at Interfaith Service of Remembrance and Hope

Bishop Paul V. Marshall
Cathedral Church of the Nativity
September 11, 2011

On behalf of the Episcopal Church in these fourteen counties of NE PA, it is my privilege to welcome to this place the distinguished leaders of several Lehigh Valley religious communities, and indeed all of you who are present at this moment of remembrance and hope.

It is, as each of us knows and feels, the anniversary of the vicious destruction of three thousand human lives ten years ago. Our worship tonight beautifully brings the riches or our several traditions together to assist us in the remembrance of those who have died. It expresses our concern for those who still live with the burden of grief or injury. We also remember those whose efforts at rescue and recovery ten years ago have cost them and their loved ones dearly.

Our technology allows us to relive the disasters of 9/11 on our screens at the touch of a button or click of a mouse. That fact informs some, but it has also kept wounds open for many more victims than we might suspect, and we remember all of those who are imprisoned by horrible memories.

Yet the words said and sung here may not in the long run be as significant as the very fact of our gathering together.  Our presence enacts our wish to work together in a way that promotes a just peace in every place.  We meet not on the level of our strengths or our defenses, but on the level of our grief, on the level of our tears. When we risk being vulnerable in each other’s presence, healing can happen.

The title on your leaflet is “Remembrance and Hope.” Remembrance and grief are well expressed in this worship service. We may have differing notions of what it means to remember the departed before Heaven and to ask the Creator to remember the dead. But surely we agree that to some degree the aspect of hope is left up to us to accomplish. I want to say a brief word about making way for hope.

This is hardly the occasion to say anything new, but I will try to put what we already know, and perhaps feel, into some kind of structured reflection. I hope I do so humbly and carefully.

The first hopeful observation is that tonight we suspend or at least transcend our reservations about those whom we perhaps sometimes presume to categorize as “other.” What we can do today we can do tomorrow, if we want to. Tonight we suspend or transcend our reservations because, as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has said, while we may not share a single faith we certainly share a single fate. Only a change in all of us at the cellular level can avoid that devastating fate.

There have been, as there always are, people who wish to mitigate the evil of 9/11 through a version of “understanding” the perpetrators. I find that abhorrent. The idea that if one has suffered enough one has license to be a monster must be rejected out of hand. What moral authority organized religion has left must, I think, say that clearly.

The sad truth that concerns us as religious people is that 9/11 happened because an evil man used religious language to foster in alienated and angry people a hatred cold, vicious, and refined enough for them to murder three thousand human beings without warning or opportunity to defend themselves.

We who uphold spiritual values must confront in our fellow believers such a misuse of religion if there is to be hope for the world. It is for each of us to ask how much and how often we have confronted the extremists in our own communities. How often do we give bad behavior a pass because we do not wish to be seen as critical of our own side—and the others are looking?

There are followers of every religion I have encountered who have used religious language and religious loyalties to instill attitudes or even incite deeds that defy the will of the One who called Abram so that all the world might find a blessing. We must forbid that defiance of Heaven—not among others, but among our co-religionists. I speak not of old-fashioned brotherhood or tolerance, of even King Empathy itself, but of the survival of our species.

If there is to be a future, it belongs to our children. In that regard I report that I am essentially a city boy, and have been around long enough to know that every religious group—and lots of religious sub-groups—have words of casual distain for those who are not like them. Our words shape our thinking. Does training for hatred start as our children hear these expressions that are so much a part of many vocabularies? Can we live without them? Do we want to live without them?

I know a country girl whose earliest memory of seeing a black man is neurologically fused with her experience of her mother clutching her hand somewhat desperately as the stranger approached. What might have come from such an experience? Again, I am not interested at this moment in good feelings, but in survival.

In the interest of survival there is a need for every group and nation to cease rationalizing their own behavior or the behavior of those they support while condemning the same acts when others do them. Can we who lead religious groups, while surely decrying the evils we see, also root out in ourselves all that degrades others? Can we root out   all that externalizes blames and projects our negativity onto others? And here our various groups very much need each other’s feedback, as difficult as it may be to offer or to hear it. What is a casual remark in one vocabulary may be a grave insult in another.

We who bear, preserve, and hand on religious traditions have a very heavy responsibility in this regard. Religion by its nature touches and moves parts of us that are not entirely rational, not even conscious, and this can be a very good thing. Spiritual practices require a deliberate regression, just as art and music do, if we are to experience meaning deeply. It is because people come to religious moments in a regressed state that they are open to the sublime.

They are also open to demagoguery and hatred in those moments. They are especially vulnerable if they are afraid, or wounded, or if the speaker has some powerful slogans. If there is to be hope, those of us who lead or teach or influence religious institutions must remember the vulnerability of those who hear us and frame our words very carefully. A student once said to a professor that “with a little work you could be a mesmerizing speaker.” The professor told him that he worked even harder not to be mesmerizing. Our religious discourse ought never deprive our hearers of the ability to make moral and ethical judgments on their own, to say, “Hey, this is wrong.”

Just one more point. When I was a student back in the 60s, it was the politics of the left that was very critical and rejecting of the state. At this moment it seems that the right is having that experience. I don’t take a side here, but point out that everyone is capable of an attitude of alienation from their own country. The prophet Jeremiah, whom our several traditions all revere, had a word about that. To captives and exiles who had every reason to be bad citizens, he wrote: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

In its welfare you will find your welfare. I don’t expect to live long enough to see them teaching Civics again to high school students, and that is a pity. We must do it. We need to teach by word and example the values of community, the responsibilities of citizenship, the importance of fair play, and respect for the potential that lies in every human being. Actively seeking the good of humanity right where we live defies narcissism, greed, and hatred--and opens the path to peace.  That is a hope worth pursuing if we are to survive and our children to thrive.




September 11 Services of Remembrance in the diocese

September 11 Services of Remembrance from around the diocese in chronological order

St. Anne's, Trexlertown:  8:00 and 10:15 A.M. During both services on September 11 we will have special prayers and remembrances to commemorate the lives that were lost on this dreadful day and to seek God’s guidance and wisdom as we live with the ramifications and impact of this national tragedy on our country and on the world. Please come to church prepared to stop whatever you are doing when you hear the sound of the drum and the cymbal. It will be a sacred moment of silent prayer. When you arrive at church on September 11, the greeters will remind you about keeping silence at these significant moments of September 11.

Christ Church, Forest City: 9:00 A.M. service with special hymns, prayers, and will host "first responders" from the surrounding communities.

Church of the Good Shepherd and St. John, Milford: 10:00 A.M. "Eucharist in Remembrance of 9/11" Church bells will be rung 10 times each on the times of the four plane crashes - 8:46am, 9:03am, 9:38am, and 10:03am. After a silent processional the service with continue with special prayers, hymns, and anthem. The church will remain open from 12:00 P.M. to 3:00 P.M. as a sanctuary for those who wish to observe a reverent silence, hosted by the Daughters of the King.

Trinity Church, Carbondale: 11:00 A.M. service with special hymns, prayers of the people and remembrances for the victims and their families.

Providence Place Retirement Home, Drums: 1:00 P.M. Members of a Gospel Quartet will lead the hymns, members of the staff and resident will assist with the readings. Lead by Deacon Marion Meiss of St. Peter's, Hazleton

Trinity Church, Easton: 1:30 P.M. organ voluntary followed by the service at 2:00 P.M. An Interfaith Service of Remembrance and Hope  to be webcast live on Sunday, September 11. The service will be streamed live at live.trinityeaston.org. A Service of Remembrance and Hope will include interfaith prayers and hymns. In addition, music will be provided by: a double quartet of members of the Metropolitan Opera Chorus of New York City, a local Chamber Orchestra and the Easton Area High School Choir. Scheduled selections will include: Faure's "Requiem in d minor, Op 48" (Intoit and Kyrie; Sanctus; Pie Iesu; Agnus Dei and Lux Aeterna; In Paradisum.), Bach's "Cantata 106: Gottes Zeit ist dis Allerbeste Zeit" movement III a & b. Participating congregations include: B'nai Abraham Synagogue, Easton; College Hill Presbyterian Church; 1st Presbyterian Church of Easton; 1st United Church of Christ of Easton; St. John's Lutheran Church of Easton; Temple Covenant of Peace, in Easton; The Muslim Community of Easton/Phillpsburg and Trinity Episcopal Church.  Go to www.trinityeaston.org and click on the link to the webcast.. Read more about it, including compatibilities with your computer, smartphone or tablet here. You may also go to Trinity's UShare page, live.trinityeaston.org. For information, call Trinity Church at 610-253-0792

Grace Church, Honesdale: 2:00 P.M. Service of Remembrance for 9/11 Meditation, inter-faith prayers, music and sharing will all be a part of the service as we remember all who were affected by the tragedies, especially within our community.  A time to remember those who were killed in New York City, southwestern Pennsylvania and Washington DC will be an important part of the service.  Grief counselors will be on hand should anyone need to talk privately.  “It is our hope to move forward bringing God’s peace into our community,” commented Ms. Frances Hlavacek of Grace Church who has been a member of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem’s Peace Commission. The service will be held in the handicap-accessible Parish Hall of Grace Church, located on the corner of Church and Ninth Streets in downtown Honesdale.  For more information, you may call the parish office at (570) 253-2760.  All are welcome to attend.

Trinity, Mt. Pocono: 2:00 P.M. Interfaith Service of Remembrance and Prayer. Representatives and members of our global community, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh, will gather together to speak about our lives as one in community and to pray together as one for a world of peace and community which can only be gained through the gift of open dialogue as sisters and brothers who seek to move forward beyond the smoke and ashes and offer healing in order to embrace a renewed life together. Please contact the Parish Office at 570 839 9376 for information or go to www.tinitymtpocono.org for directions.

Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem: 5:00 P.M.  9/11 Interfaith Service of Remembrance and Reconciliation, Nativity, Bethlehem 5:00 P.M. Clergy participating are: The Rt. Rev. Paul V. Marshall, Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem; The Very Rev. Anthony R. Pompa, Cathedral Dean & Rector; Rabbi Allen Juda,  Congregation Brith Sholom; Metin Bor, Muezzin, Lehigh Dialogue Center; Mohamed Rajmohamed, Al-Ahad Islamic Center; The Rt. Rev. Hopeton Clennon, Bishop of the Moravian Church, Northern Province and Chaplain, Moravian College; The Rev. Canon Mariclair Partee, Cathedral Canon, Ministry of the Baptized; Cantor Ellen Sussman, Temple Shirat Shalom; and The Rev. Canon George Loeffler, Deacon and Bishop's Chaplain. Music provided by the Cathedral Choir under the direction of Canon Russell Jackson will present selections from Faure’s Requiem, with Naoko Cauller as soloist. A reception will follow in Sayre Hall, and all are welcome.

St. Paul's, Montrose: 5:00 P.M. Vesper Service to Remember 9/11will be held at the Second Sunday Vesper Service on Sunday, September 11, 2011 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Church Street Montrose, PA  The solemn service will provide a time of deep spiritual reflection and include scripture readings, prayers, and music prepared especially for the anniversary.  The Rev. Canon Charles Cesaretti will welcome the congregation; the greeters are Linda and George Gardner.  The Lector will be Amy Johnson.  Sarah S. Bertsch will be the organist.  MaryAnn DeWitt will be at the piano.  A buffet supper will be served immediately following the service in the Parish House.  The cooks are Ed and Barbara Schmidt and John and Sharon Siedlecki.  Gail and Doug Overfield will be the servers. All are welcome on this special day to remember the victims and those who miss them, as well as the rescue workers and all responders.

Church of the Epiphany, Clarks Summit: 7:00 P.M. Service of Remembrance with two church joint choir, psalms and prayers

Diocesan Life for September 2011

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

The real ecumenical/interfaith opportunity

By Bishop Paul Marshall
Posted on "Bakery" the interactive Internet list
of the Diocese of Bethlehem, June 25, 2011

I read this factoid on the web:

Using General Social Survey data, those identifying themselves as Southern Baptist fell from 8.9% of the U.S. population for the 1996-2000 survey period to 7% for the 2006-2010 period, a drop of 21%. The percentage of Episcopalians in the population fell by 14% for the same period.

So if this is true, the conservatives are losing members faster than the mainline! I wouldn't do the Schadenfreude polka just yet, but the numbers suggest that the propaganda that our church is shrinking because of its positions on various matters needs careful examination. The RCC has lost a breath-taking 30% of its membership.

Perhaps the real ecumenical/interfaith opportunity is to find ways to communicate to our culture the importance of religious belief, period.

Here is a starter on that project, from a Jewish doctor:
Download Kernberg religion.pdf

In case time is short, here is his conclusion:

In contrast to Freud, I would conclude that science and reason cannot replace
religion, that religiosity as a fundamental human capability and function has to be
integrated in our understanding of normality and pathology, and that a universal
system of morality is an unavoidable precondition for the survival of humanity.
Psychoanalysis has given us fundamental information regarding the origin of
religiosity, but not a world conception or an arbitration of the philosophical and
theological discussion regarding God.

At a clinical level, one of the functions of the psychoanalyst is to explore the extent
to which religiosity as a mature desire for a transpersonal system of morality and
ethical values as outlined is available to our patients. The function of the
psychoanalyst is not that of a pastoral counselor or a guide to such a universal
system of values; rather, the psychoanalyst's function is to free the patient from
unconscious conflicts that limit this capability, including the systematic confrontation,
exploration, and resolution of unconscious conflicts that preclude the development of
concern, guilt, reparation, forgiveness, responsibility and justice as basic aspirations
of the individual. Psychoanalysis also has to help certain patients to free themselves
from the use of formal religious commitments as a rationalization of hatred and
destructiveness directed against self or others. Perhaps one might add to Freud's
suggestion that love and work are the two main purposes of life, that the
commitment to morality and the appreciation of art are two further major tasks and
sources of meaning for the human being.


Diocesan Life for May 2011

You can download the .pdf version if you like below:

Milford Jewish-Christian Community to share Passover Seder

[Received from Good Shepherd/St. John's Milford]

April 20th, 2011 is going to be a very special night, at the Church of the Good Shepherd and St John the Evangelist in the middle of Milford. For on that night, the three thousand year old Hebrew question will ring out: “What is it that makes this night different from all others?”

Wednesday, April 20th, a traditional Passover supper will be shared by members of the Jewish and Christian communities in the parish hall of the Good Shepherd Church at Fifth and West  Catherine Streets in Milford, at 7:00 p.m.

The idea was first conceived by Chefs Peter and Sharon Daniels of the Fork Restaurant in Shohola, and the Rev. Canon Elizabeth R. Geitz of the Good Shepherd Church, following a joint Healing Service in the fall. As hosts, Peter, Sharon and Elizabeth are sponsoring the event and refer to it as the ‘First Annual Interfaith Passover Seder’, in Milford. 

The goal of the evening is to bring local people of different faiths together to share a real Seder meal, which will comprise several courses of traditional Passover foods prepared by Chefs Peter and Sharon Daniels and wine. Participants from both communities will gather for what will be both a social and deeply religious event.

The Passover Seder is a ritual held at the beginning of Passover, the Jewish holiday which marks the Exodus of the Jewish people from slavery in ancient Egypt. Passover begins this year at sundown on Monday, April 18, and continues through April 21. 

The word “seder” is Hebrew for “order.” It relates to the order of events during the evening. The story of the Jews’ Exodus from Egypt is told with foods and stories. The Seder celebrates the triumph of freedom over bondage. Through ritual, readings, song, and a shared meal, the Seder offers a message of hope, justice, transformation, and light.  

“It’s beautiful to see members of both Jewish and Christian communities come together to share a Passover Seder, a ritual which seems to stand at the very intersection of the two great religions.  God calls all people out of darkness into light.” 

While Jews will be affirming their beginnings as a Chosen People, Christians  will recognize the oneness of God’s salvific plan for all people, culminating with their own story.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Ecumenical Food Pantry, a local cause supported by all sections and denominations in the community.

In Lebanon.A Gathering of an Unexpected Result

By Pat Walter
St.Lukes Episcopal Church, Lebanon, PA
A Prayer Shawl Conference took place Saturday, March 19, 2011 at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Lebanon. Approximately 50 people from 22 churches in Lebanon County came together for this Lenten, daylong activity. Those present represented the Prayer Shawl ministries from their churches ranging from established groups, to newly formed groups, and those in hopes of starting a group.

Opening the event, Father Terrence Wible, St. Luke's Rector, welcomed the group. Canon Jane Teter, widow of the former St. Luke's rector, Lloyd Edgar Teter, was the speaker. Canon for Ministries in the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem, Teter spoke about Contemplative Knitting and Crocheting and how its repetitive motion is soothing and opens the mind to higher thoughts. She also spoke about a possible outgrowth of each individual ministry to include countywide projects for various agencies and people in need. She showed many of her own items for this extended ministry.

Continue reading "In Lebanon.A Gathering of an Unexpected Result" »

Interfaith Community Service Week in Allentown

Canon Maria Tjeltveit, rector of Mediator Allentown and Ecumenical and Interfaith Officer for the Diocese of Bethlehem, taped a section of the Nuestro Valle show that airs on Sundays at 8:00 p.m. on RCN TV4. She was on with Ismael Arcelay, Special Assistant to Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, Head to the Office of Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships, and Pastor Pedro Torres, of the Iglesia De Dios, to discuss an upcoming Interfaith Community Service Week, April 25-May 2. The show will air on April 11, and will be rebroadcast on April 14 at 3:30 p.m. She appeared also on a Channel 69 news clip last week for the same event.

Commission for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations

Bishop Paul has appointed the following members to the Commission for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations: (See earlier post here.)

Rodney Conn (Diocesan Staff)
Lou Divis (Deacon)
Peter D’Angio (St. Luke’s, Scranton)
Daniel Gunn (St. Stephen’s, Wilkes-Barre)
Elizabeth Haynes (Christ, Stroudsburg)
Fred Mauger (Retired)
Mariclair Partee (Nativity, Bethlehem)
Lexa Shallcross (St. Margaret’s, Emmaus)
Maria Tjeltveit. chair (Mediator, Allentown)
Diana Marshall (diocesan liaison to Pennsylvania Council of Church and member of its Commission for Public Witness)
Norma Meyers (Mediator, Allentown)
Jon Rinnander (Trinity, Bethlehem)
Jerry Gaeta (Lutheran Ecumenical Member)

Commission for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations ... and Canon Maria Tjeltveit

Tjeltveit.Maria [From Bishop Paul] I am happy to announce that after a period of gathering for initial conversations, we once again have a Commission on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. It is comprised of a good number of clergy and lay people from the north and the south of the DIocese. Because this work is so important and because she has put so much time and energy into the efforts so far, I have named the chair of the commission as Canon for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. I know you will want to congratulate the Reverend Canon Maria Tjeltveit on her appointment. Those who attend convention are already familiar with her reports and her dedicated work on the dialogue with the Moravians. One of the Commission's tasks is to keep us educated and motivated in these matters, so with you I look forward to hearing from them. Blessings, +Paul

When conferred upon clergy in the Episcopal Church, canon is commonly regarded as an honorific similar to monsignor in the Roman Catholic Church. The title is usually given in recognition of position, significant service or achievement. Canon Maria W. E. Tjeltveit has been rector of the Church of the Mediator, Allentown, since September 1, 1999. (Her first name is pronounced "Mariah" and her last name is pronounced "Chelt vate".) Maria is a member of the Moravian-Episcopal dialogue on the national level and is active in Jewish-Christian and Muslim-Christian dialogue. She is Ecumenical and Interfaith Officer for the Diocese of Bethlehem. She graduated from Swarthmore College and the Berkeley/Yale Divinity School. Before coming to Mediator, she served at St. Matthew'sChurch in Charleston, West Virginia; St Paul's Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia; and St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Harrington Park, New Jersey. Maria, her husband Dr. Alan Tjeltveit, who is a Professor in Psychology at Muhlenberg College, and their children, William and Anna, live in Allentown.