The road from Christ Church, St. Peter's, St. Simon to Bishop White's House

My sisters, I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ, 

Welcome to Week 3 of our pilgrimage.

I was asked to attend the Anti-Racism Committee of the Diocese of Pennsylvania.  As I was driving into the parking lot, I felt sadness in that we place “racism” into a committee.  Racism is a sin against God’s creation and destroys lives, people, and communities.  We are committed as a Diocese to not only address racism, but to systematically and institutionally eradicate racism in our churches, public places, private spaces and in our homes.

I am moved by the tireless efforts of our brothers and sisters who have worked to remove this stain.  I want to thank the members of the committee who put their hearts and souls into substantive change.  As we begin a new narrative, we will highlight the work of the committee, emphasize training and education and make things new in the name of Jesus Christ.  It is who we are as followers of Jesus Christ.

An important component of our pilgrimage is to learn about the outreach and needs of our parishes.  The first stop was Christ Church.  Many in our Diocese, our Church, and the country know the rich history of this sacred space.  Christ is part of our Episcopal and National Heritage and easy to forget it is also a neighborhood parish; with all the challenges and opportunities.  The work includes budgets, maintenance, and liturgy.  

The staff balances local needs with the demands of working with the National Park Service and the hundred of thousands of visitors who walk the grounds.  It is here they learn the history of Franklin, Penn, Washington, Adams and Bishop White.  During my visit, I met Dr. George Niedermayer.   He volunteers in creating an oasis in the city.  He spoke with such pride of creating a contemplative place for prayer, creating a safe and quiet place for workers in the surrounding buildings to eat lunch.  Dr. Niedermayer spoke with such love that children are able to run around the grounds after Eucharist.  It is part of a beautiful vision of “creation theology” evident in our diocese.  Previously, I wrote of Rev. Maxine at St. Paul’s Exton and their work.  I encourage each one of you to enjoy the pictures and thank you, George.

I was given the tour of Christ Church and the Neighborhood House by the Senior Warden who described the facility and outreach with enthusiasm and a large smile.  Fr. Tim assembled the staff, and each described their work with enthusiasm and vision.   Christ Church runs two operations concurrently - the parish and the Preservation Trust.  The team seeks to integrate the greater Philadelphia community into their programs.  The Neighborhood House directly behind the sanctuary (to the west) hosts community meetings, artistic endeavors, and live performances.  In describing the activity at the Neighborhood House, I heard terms such as artistic expression, creativity, integration, and “heartbeats.” 

The staff incorporates the history of this place and in the process makes it relevant and vibrant.  During the visit, I toured the music department, godly play, and the youth programs.  The community of Christ Church is creating new paradigms for church and community.  I find it important to note that Christ Church serves as an ambassador for the Diocese and the Episcopal Church.  From our large churches to our missions we must support one another; we are a family.  We must continue to uphold them in their work.  If you are interested in how to support Christ Church in the midst of a major physical campaign, please contact me or Christ Church. 

As our time was ending, I toured the Farmer’s Market held at Christ Church on Wednesday afternoons.  Yes, i did purchase sorbet and had to say it was the best I have eaten.  I was also tempted to take home numerous loaves of bread.  I would like to thank Rev. Tim Safford, Rev. Susan Richardson, the staff and entire congregation for your work.  Christ Church is a lamp that shines it's light to the world. 

A moving and beautiful poster from the children of Godly Play.  The class created this poster.  Ah, the wisdom of children.  Straightforward and profound.  It speaks volumes. 

Visit Christ Church at

The next stop was an energizing time with Rev. Claire Nevin-Field at St. Peter’s.  While we have communicated by email on numerous occasions, this was the first opportunity to sit with one another.  We had an engaging discussion of the possibilities found in our diocese.  Moreover, what an eye opening experience into St. Peter’s work in the community.  I learned of the ongoing food pantry, creation of mobile food cupboards, and a range of poverty programs.  The historic and magnificent building on 3rd and Pine is reaching across the surrounding neighborhoods using the hands and feet of Christ.  

Upon entering Church House, I noticed boxes of food, fruits, and vegetables on the table.  The offices also serve as the distribution base for the food pantry.  Interspersed with pictures of past Bishops and Rectors, were life-giving nutrition for children and families.  It is a perfect intersection of prayer and action.  

Rev. Claire and I spoke of developing programs where our churches can work as collaborative teams on specific outreach and missions.  Instead of duplicating efforts, we can broaden our collective impact.  If one church is engaged in a food pantry, we can partner our efforts.  I used the example of programmatic outreach in my old Diocese of the Rio Grande.  We held meetings so that all those engaged in food pantries can use a model that works (number of items per bag, cost per bag, etc.) and smaller churches duplicate and associate.  We should not have to “reinvent the wheel” regarding ministry.  We also discussed the possibility of day-long conferences about various outreach ministries.  In short; let’s talk to one another and learn from one another. 

We spoke of various evangelization and growth ideas such as developing and building traditional Anglican children’s and youth choirs.  We discussed examples in the Episcopal church where a small congregation grew exponentially, (families and giving), due to the development of youth music schools and choir programs.  These envisioning discussions and ideas motivate me and explicitly provide a path to diocesan growth.  We just need to “do it!”  Keep reading the website as to information about Sing Philadelphia at St. Peter’s.  There is an excellent article on the music and graveyard yesterday in the Philadelphia Inquirer

Our final discussion was discussing Creation Theology.  As Rev. Claire stated so eloquently “we need to go back to the garden.”  Creation theology is the same work of Dr. Neidermayer, Rev. Maxine, and others.  We build up and take care of the earth and in the process feed and take care of one another.  In short, we take care of all living things.  Imagine the possibilities in our vacant lots, excess acreage, outside of our church walls.  If you have an interest in pursuing this creative and life-giving movement - let’s get going.   We will host a meeting in October, and we are looking for ideas.  

Visit St. Peter's at:

After I had left St. Peter’s I ventured south and west to St. Simon the Cyrenian.  I parked on the street and walked around the exterior facility.  The parish is in an area that has profound need and pride.   In many ways, it is also, (like Christ Church), a beacon that shines a light on the community.  The exterior is inviting, there are potted plants on the church steps, the grass is manicured, and the sign extols pride.  I walked through the bright red door and was greeted by a Bible study course in session.  Happiness in taking on the meaning of Genesis in the 21st century Philadelphia.  I sat at the table and listened and learned.  Before completion of the Bible study, I asked for a picture.  Rev. Betsy was concerned that I would be out all day and had dinner prepared.  It was a delicious meal, in a superb setting and fascinating company.  Rev. Betsy shared a detailed plan, complete with statistics, goals, demographics and outcomes for church growth - she is speaking my language.  

The program contains empirical results and takes into account community input and empowerment.  Rev. Betsy is correct that community input directly impacts the success of evangelization, programs, outreach, and services.  She is deliberate in her attempt to involve the community in growth and mission.  You may remember that St. Simon is a mission of the Diocese; however, diocesan mission funding covers a small percentage of the work.

St. Simon faces many obstacles regarding “church growth”.  The majority of the community is of the Muslim faith. The congregation reaches out to the community and in the process preaches the gospel with both words and by action.  They are proclaiming the life of Jesus Christ.

Rev. Ivey has designed four distinct paths of outreach:

  1. Youth programs are structured around city camp and St. Simon day camps.  The congregation provides educational opportunities and a safe place for children;
  2. Elderly and Caregiver Programs.   Enhancing availability of services so our matriarchs and patriarchs can access their worshipping community and services while finding a home away from home.  This programs also provide a respite for caregivers; 
  3. Meal programs/hunger alleviation programs for the children in the community.  For some children, this may be the only meal they eat during the day.  
  4. Rich Episcopal liturgy that enhances the entirety of outreach and proclaims the good news of Jesus Christ. 

Finally, Rev. Ivey and the community of St. Simon epitomize the theology of abundance.  They speak of growth, of inclusion, and caring for the facility.  Recently, they invested in wheelchair ramps so the elderly can enter the sanctuary and worship as a community.  With each sentence and action, they asked how they could grow,  build the diocese, and show the face of Jesus Christ to the world. 

Visit the Church of St. Simon the Cyrenian at:
Episcopal Community Services

On a hot and humid Friday, I enjoyed a great lunch and tour with Episcopal Community Services.  As mentioned in a previous blog, I look forward to working closely with ECS.  This work will manifest itself through partnerships, envisioning and hard work to build the Kingdom of God with the gifts God has given us.  David Griffith and his staff arranged a tour of Bishop White’s home.  I have been attempting to visit the home of my predecessor, and ECS made it happen.  

The National Park Service recognizes the important role  Bishop White and the Diocese of Pennsylvania played in the formation of the United States.  We have a proud heritage, and the world needs to Come and See The History of the Diocese of Pennsylvania.  It is one of God’s coincidences I toured Bishop Whites two churches - Christ and St. Peter’s during the week I visited his home.  

As a student of history, to view his books, bedroom, and chair.  I had a moment to view his desk and thought of how the Episcopal Church came to be.  How he prayed at that desk, contemplated the future and wrote the sermons that are part of our history.  I took a moment and knew Jesus Christ is firmly in control of our church and our future.  Jesus continues to move through our diocese. It was a powerful moment.   I would like to thank ECS, our tour guides Karie Diethorn (Curator of the Bishop White Home) and Cynthia MacLeod  (Superintendent of Independence National Historical Park).

Thank you Bishop White

Visit Episcopal Community Services at:

Visit the National Park Service/Bishop White House at:

Finally, I have noticed the increased violence in Philadelphia.  As I mentioned, the church must reclaim its voice in society.  As a Church, let’s pray for the path to addressing the violence and the roots of the violence.  We follow the Prince of Peace, and we can not sit silently.  

I am blessed to serve as your Shepherd and Bishop.  Let’s pray for each other.



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