Renewal Assembly IV: Empowered Leaders, Renewed Congregations

IMG_3596SMALLHave you found that service on the vestry has enriched your spiritual life? 

Bishop Paul posed this question to his guests on the video prepared for the next renewal assembly scheduled for Saturday, February 11, from 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM, at seven sites across the diocese.  The assembly, a retreat for current and future vestry members, is entitled “Empowered Leaders, Renewed Congregations.”

Joining Bishop Paul on the video are Raymond Arcario, who served as senior warden of the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem; and, The Very Rev. Anthony Pompa, Dean and Rector of Nativity.

The daylong retreat will draw from Neal Michell’s Beyond Business As Usual: Vestry Leader Development.  “This book,” writes Michell, “is for those churches that are no longer content with business as usual.  It is for those clergy and vestry members who want to be partners in ministry and mission as they explore new and create ways to do and expand mission and ministry.”  Copies of the book will be made available to each vestry attending for a subsidized price of $10.00.

Drawing from Beyond Business As Usual, the retreat will engage vestry members in Bible Study and a number of “teaching” experiences, such as “Four Principles Every Leader Should Take to Heart.”  The purpose is to examine appropriate, effective mental models of the vestry as a “learning community” that plays a significant role in the spiritual growth and renewal of the congregation.

Charles Cesaretti, Interim Missioner for Congregational Renewal hopes "that the retreat will enable every participant to respond in the affirmative to Bishop Paul’s query – Have you found that service on the vestry has enriched your spiritual life?”

Registration is open at until February 3.

Renewal Assembly III: Finding Your Voice

PRFlyerNov2Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Registration is open for the Renewal Assembly III on November 12.

“Finding Your Voice” is the theme of the third Renewal Assembly, which will be held on Saturday, November 12.  It will be a time when participants will be engaged in using the power of recollection to identify the blessings of their past to empower their voice to give shape and articulate the future.
The day will begin with a special video with Bishop Paul interviewing two guests.  This will be followed by small group discussions and a time for corporate and personal prayer.  The schedule will run from 9:00 AM – 1:30 PM, and will include a light luncheon.
The Assembly will be hosted at eight sites: Christ Church, Towanda; St. Mark’s, New Milford; St. Luke’s, Scranton; Holy Cross, Wilkes-Barre; St. John’s, Palmerton; Trinity Church, Easton; St Andrew’s, Allentown; and, St. Alban’s, Sinking Spring.
Registration is open on  The registration is found by clicking on “Register for Diocesan Event” on the right column of the homepage.  Registration closes on October 31.  All registrants will be assigned to the most appropriate host site.

Registration closes on Oct. 31.

Thank you for you support.

See you on November 12,

Diocesan Life for June 2011

If you would like the issue in a .pdf, you can download it here. It's 2MB:

236 Gather at Renewal Assembly

Prayer, Bible Study, Group Discussion
By David Howell

We all have a different idea of what renewal means; for Episcopalians, it centers on renewing our faith and our work.

On February 19, at six locations around the diocese, clergy and lay members met for renewal assemblies with the theme “The Call to Prayer and Discernment.” These meetings, part of the work of the newly renamed Committee on Congregational Renewal, featured a video created by Jeffrey Kemmerer of Grace Allentown.

Bishop Paul opens the video by asking, “What is God calling our church to be?” and explains that the Renewal meetings are an outcome of last October’s Diocesan convention.

He then initiates a conversation with Father John Francis of Christ Church in Reading about personal prayer. Francis says, “Silence allows God to speak to me. Some prayers allow the mind to become silent. It keeps the voices in our minds at bay. The intention is on God’s word and God speaking to us. God is thought of being ‘up there’ and huge and powerful. People don’t understand how close God can be.”

Francis says he devotes one hour in the morning and one hour at night to personal prayer, following Morning and Evening Prayer.  The reader may be wondering, as some did at our assembly, “How can he do that?” Francis says that with prayer, “Your body rests along with your mind, and things go more smoothly throughout the day.”

In one of the small discussion groups that followed the video, Father Abraham Valiath of St. John’s, Palmerton, said, “The real problem is finding time. Nobody has the answer.” But he added, “The more time you spend with the Lord, the more time you feel that you have. Active prayer is the most active tool to have joy in your heart.”

Bishop Paul then speaks with Mother Laura Howell of Trinity Bethlehem about corporate prayer. Trinity has Morning and Evening Prayer on weekdays and Centering Prayer on Sundays. Howell says that these small gatherings “feed the body, mind and spirit. People know it is going on, even if they can’t attend,” she says. “It gives a sense of community and connectedness,” adding, “a true Christian can never be alone.”

After the group discussion, participants were led in a Lectio Divina Bible Study, a tool that could be taken back to use in their parishes and personal lives.

The Lectio Divina Homepage ( describes this work as,   “reading which is sacred. Ordinarily lectio is confined to the slow perusal of sacred Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments; it is undertaken not with the intention of gaining information but of using the texts as an aid to contact the living God. Basic to this practice is a union with God in faith which, in turn, is sustained by further reading.”

At the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Mother Hilary Raining said at the introduction to Lectio Divina: “We are feeling a hunger to be fed spiritually. Lectio Divina is a sacred mystical discipline. It helps you connect with the wisdom of the past. It creates a relationship with God. God wants to speak to us, and God will speak to us if we only let it happen.

“The key to this practice is to listen. Its calmness and peace can turn off what Thomas Merton calls the ‘monkey mind,’ the constant chatter that separates us from the divine presence.”

After some extended prayer time with the “Dry Bones” text from Ezekiel (37:1-14), small group discussion followed. Noonday prayer included the Litany for the Mission of the Church. After lunch, closing announcements and future steps concluded the four-hour renewal assemblies.

Following the meetings, Bishop Paul wrote: “Those lay and clergy leaders who hosted, led Bible and prayer times, and in general kept things going, are the subjects of my thanksgiving prayers. In particular, I am grateful to many, many people for this day. The staff has worked literally over-time. I am deeply grateful for the hundreds of volunteer hours that have gone into the event, to the leaders and members of the Congregational Renewal Committee. In particular two Charleses come to mind. Father Charles Cesaretti and Charlie Warwick have invested themselves in this event with body mind and spirit.

“Most of all, I am deeply grateful for all of you who attended these regional meetings. I took some photos that I will treasure, but what will remain in my soul was the person who told me, with some moisture in their eyes, that "the Word of God was truly present today."

The six sites for the Assembly were Christ Church, Towanda, and the Trinity Churches of Carbondale, West Pittston, and Pottsville, and the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem.  There will be a follow-up session, led by Fr. John Francis and Mo. Laura Howell, on Personal and Corporate Prayer at Diocesan Training Day on April 2.

The video can be seen online in two parts at, or without a split at:

 [Dave Howell, a parishioner at Trinity Bethlehem, is a free-lance writer.]



Asset Mapping: Strong Together, Mobilizing our Assets in Tough Times

At Moravian Theological Seminary ... Friday, March 25: Luther Snow will work with pastors, judicatory staff, and faith-based agency staff. The fo­cus of the full-day workshop will be The Macro View: Building Partnerships. Saturday, March 26: The focus will be The Micro View: Strength­ening Congregations. This full-day workshop (9:30 AM – 3:30 PM) is for the leadership of local congre­gations – lay and clergy leadership teams. More at

By Charles Cesaretti

“Congregations, parishes, and other faith communities face daily challenges to our leadership, orga­nization, and finances,” writes Lu­ther Snow. “But we can choose to focus on God’s blessings. Empow­ering Congregations is a strategy that builds on our strengths, gifts, and assets. From appreciation and thankfulness for these gifts, we are led to connect our gifts with each other to get things done together we could not get done on our own. In the process, we experience the pow­er of being part of something bigger than all of us.”At workshops on March 25 and 26, Luther Snow, the creator of Asset Map­ping, will introduce the pro­cess of asset mapping and train congregational leaders. The Diocese of Bethlehem in partnership with other denominations, institutions, and agencies across north­east Pennsylvania is one of the sponsors of the event.

Snow has 35 years expe­rience in community and group leadership. He’s led grass roots social and eco­nomic development efforts in inner city Chicago, and he’s sparked positive rural development approaches across the nation. He has published three bestsell­ing books, including The Power of Asset Mapping and The Organization of Hope. In faith-based work, Luther has trained leaders of six national denominations and strengthened hundreds of congregations. Luther’s expertise includes community part­nerships, financial strategy, univer­sity engagement, and social enter­prise. He has a BA from Harvard and an MBA from the University of Chica­go. He lives in Decorah, Iowa, with his wife and two sons.

“There are three immediate and general benefits of Asset Mapping that I have seen,” explains Snow.

“First, Asset Mapping helps us to recognize assets, strengths and gifts all around us – assets that are oth­erwise overlooked, taken for grant­ed, unappreciated, or outside our vision.

“Second, Asset Mapping propels us to identify beneficial relationships and build on them in collaborative action. We “connect the dots” and find ways that we can get things done together that we could not get done on our own. We build on af­finities of difference as well as af­finities of similarity, and we build relationships outside our group as well as within it.

“Third, Asset Mapping opens up opportunities for action toward the greater good. As we ‘vote with our feet,’ we give each other permission to follow our own interests as part of the group, and experience an un­folding sense of a larger whole and a greater good. Because we are act­ing together, we shift perspectives, away from ‘us and them’ and toward ‘all of us.’ This wider perspective, in turn, illuminates new assets and op­portunities and encourages us to in­vest further in the group, feeding the positive cycle anew.”

On Friday, March 25, Snow will work with pastors, judicatory staff, and faith-based agency staff. The fo­cus of the full-day workshop will be: The Macro View: Building Partnerships.

On Saturday, March 26, at Mora­vian Theological Seminary, the focus will be: The Micro View: Strength­ening Congregations. This full-day workshop (9:30 AM – 3:30 PM) is for the leadership of local congre­gations – lay and clergy leadership teams. Registration is $20, and in­cludes lunch and snacks.

On Sunday, March 27, Snow will preach at the 8:30 AM service at East Hills Moravian Church in Bethlehem.

See Moravian Seminary Continuing Ed,, for more information and registration.

Video will keynote Renewal Assembly February 19

“Can you share how you experience God’s presence in your life, particularly in the moments of prayer?” asks Bishop Paul in the keynote video prepared for the Renewal Assembly, February 19.

The video has been prepared specially for “The Call to Prayer and Discernment” which will take place in six sites across the diocese from 9 AM – 1 PM on Saturday, February 19. Registration is now available on  “A copy of the video will be made available on DVD to every congregation in the Diocese,” reports Charles Cesaretti, chair of the Diocesan Renewal Committee, which is sponsoring the event.

Uvs110116-002 Bishop Paul interacts with Mother Laura Howell and Father John Francis about personal and corporate prayer in the keynote video for the February 19 Renewal Assembly.



Jeffrey Kemmerer of Grace Allentown, an engineer by profession and a gifted videographer and video editor by avocation, created the video.  “Kemmerer has contributed his services to producing and editing the video featuring Bishop Paul, Father John Francis of Christ Church Reading and Mother Laura Howell of Trinity Bethlehem,” reported Bill Lewellis in the newSpin newsletter. “Editing video is a bit like the movie Groundhog Day," Kemmerer shared as he prepared the finished product. "You start with a normal day, full of stops, starts, stutters and other imperfections, and you live the day over and over again, improving it with each iteration." Jeff deserves the gratitude of our diocesan community.

The Assembly will begin with the video and will be followed by small group reflection and discussion -- similar to the process at Diocesan Convention.  After the video and group discussion, a Bible Study will be introduced by members of the Diocesan Commission on Lifelong Faith Formation. “We will introduce the meditation on Holy Scripture called Lectio Divina. This approach to the Scripture is not only a reading but it is praying with the text,” opines Mother Hillary Dowling Raining, of Trinity Bethlehem and the Commission. 

The six sites for the Assembly will be:  Christ Church, Towanda; Trinity Church, Carbondale; Trinity Church, West Pittston; Trinity Church, Pottsville; St. Anne’s, Trexlertown; and, the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem. Lunch will be provided.

Registration closes on Feb. 9. Registrants will be assigned to the most appropriate site. Registration is found on, clicking on “Register for Diocesan events” on the right column of the homepage.

Renewal Assembly Poster

Renewal Assembly – February 19 – Registration has begun

From Charles Cesaretti
Convener, The Congregational Renewal Committee
Diocese of Bethlehem

Registration is now available on for the Renewal Assembly, “The Call to Prayer and Discernment,” on February 19, 2011. The Assembly will be held in six locations across the Diocese of Bethlehem. Registrants will be assigned to the most appropriate site.  Registration is found by clicking on the “Register for Diocesan events” on the right column of the homepage. Registration closes on Feb. 9.

The Renewal Assembly, sponsored by the Renewal Committee of the Diocese, will be held on Saturday, February 19, 2011, 9 AM – 1 PM, in six locations across the Diocese:  Christ Church, Towanda; Trinity Church, Carbondale; Trinity Church, West Pittston; Trinity Church, Pottsville; St. Anne’s, Trexlertown; and, the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem. Lunch will be provided.

Members of the Renewal Committee and the Lifelong Christian Formation Committee will present the program, which will focus on the call and practice of personal and corporate prayer, and Bible Study. The Assembly will begin with a DVD presentation hosted by Bishop Paul with Mo Laura Howell and Fr. John Francis. A copy of the DVD will be presented to a representative of every parish.

A special Renewal Poster, below, has been designed by Jenifer Gamber. A copy will be available to every parish in the diocese.

For information contact Fr. Cesaretti:  [email protected]


Diocesan Life for December 2010 and January 2011

Attached is the latest Diocesan Life for December, 2010 and January 2011. Remember, we love to get stories and pictures! If you have something you want featured, please contact Kat Lehman to discuss publication. Diocesan Life deadlines are posted on the calendar as well so you know when to get the stories in. For February's issue, we need the stories by January 4th. The attached file is 3 MB in .pdf format.

Download December2010_DiocesanLife_SMALL

Convention small groups highlight the work of the Spirit in Diocese

By The Rev. Canon Andrew Gerns

When the Diocese of Bethlehem met in Convention in October, the lay and clergy delegates met in small groups to discuss the common ministry of each congregation in the diocese and how members might work and pray across parochial lines to forward the work of God in Northeast Pennsylvania.

In addition to the usual work of electing persons to various diocesan positions, passing resolutions and approving a budget, the bulk of the weekend was spent in small groups. Groups of lay persons and clergy were organized roughly by parish size and geography, allowing people in small churches to listen to members from other small churches, for example, and for people who live in the same parts of the diocese to meet each other and hear each other’s stories. 

Groups worked for two 90 minute sessions, one on Friday and one on Saturday. Separate groups were arranged for clergy and laity. The groups grew out of the work of the revitalized Congregation Renewal Committee, formerly known as Congregational Development.  The background document, called “From Risks to Opportunities” was included in the convention pre-print, through the diocesan web-site, through clergy at their September retreat, and through articles in Diocesan Life.

Since last January, Congregational Renewal has listened to clergy and members of parishes, some vital and growing, and some stagnant and some that in peril. Instead of proscribing solutions, the group listened to the variety of experiences and asked members what they needed to be vital communities of ministry.

The main purposes of the small group was to listen to each other’s experience, develop networks between congregations, and create an environment of openness so that ordained and lay leaders can draw on their parish’s strengths and the resources of the diocese—especially from the experiences of the other churches from around northeast Pennsylvania.

Bishop Paul set the tone for the small groups during his address. He spoke of our baptismal relationship as one of discipleship. “We have work to do,” he said. “Church is no longer something we attend.” He told the convention that one way we can celebrate what we do well, instead of only fixing what went wrong, is to plan and visualize a goal as successful, imagine what that would look like and how we got there.

The assumption is that God has both blessed us with an abundance of experience and given us a vision for renewed life in Jesus Christ. Understanding that all of the congregations are sharing a common mission is at the heart of From Risks to Opportunities. There are a variety of programs, techniques, and approaches to ministry, and each congregation will find their own way to worship God, disciple follower of Jesus and minister to their communities. The point is not a single, one-size-fits-all program, but a sense of connection and common mission among all members of the diocese.

The response to the small group discussions was very positive.

Father Charles Cesaretti, chair of Congregational Renewal, said that as at the Friday night banquet, “I sat with the delegates from a congregation who told me that for years they had felt alienated and isolated from the diocese.  They told me how welcome and included they felt by their group.”

“Thank you one and all for your incredible participation in two days of thoughtful dialogue on the future of your church,” wrote Terry Gangaware, a member of Trinity, Easton, to a group of laity she facilitated.  “You enriched my spiritual life with your sharing of ideas and enthusiasm for moving into new areas of enrichment.”  This group decided to keep the conversation going by sharing through e-mail and future face-to-face meetings.

The small group format exposed the isolation that some laity and congregations experience. One facilitator said, “One thing I definitely picked up on was that some of these congregations feel isolated and don't even know what kinds of resources are available to them from the Diocese.  None of the  
delegates in my group had heard about the report or read it yet (I've emailed them all a copy).”

The small groups were designed to focus on the strengths and experiences of the members, rather than to focus on problem-areas or to seek quick solutions.

Future plans include the distribution of the observations and ideas that came out of the small groups to the rest of the diocese. In March, members of the Diocese of Bethlehem will have the chance to work with Luther K. Snow, developer of a tool called “Asset Mapping”, at Moravian Seminary.  In November, the clergy will gather at the next clergy day and learn about the State of the Diocese Report from the Standing Committee and return to their discussion groups from convention for a “check in”. 

The Rev. Canon Andrew Gerns is Rector of Trinity, Easton, chair of the Evangelism Commission and a member of the Congregational Renewal Committee.