Sunday, September 04, 2016

Week 5. Come and See - Redeemer, St. Mary's to St. Asaph's and St. John's. Cake, Flowers and Fr. Ryan


Week 5 of the Come and See pilgrimage. From Redeemer, St. Mary’s to St. Asaph’s and St. John’s.   Cake, Flowers, and Fr. Ryan.


With each stop of the pilgrimage, the evidence of the transformative power of Jesus Christ is clear and straightforward.  The power of His name and the hope it brings is real.  I see the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania creating change in the  world.  We and meeting people where they are in their journey.  Step by step and one person at a time.  Come and See

It was an early morning drive to St. George Episcopal in Ardmore and Fr. Ryan Whitley was waiting outside the rectory.  The benefit of my having three names (Daniel, George, and Polycarp) allows for a valid claim to favorite name status if the name of particular church aligns with one of the three saints.  St. George is now a favorite name church.

Before meeting Fr. Peter Vanderveen of Redeemer for breakfast, we toured the Children’s Ark at St. George.  It is an extraordinary program for children.  The Children’s Ark has a staff of 30 dedicated individuals.  It provides education and care for 91 children from 72 families and since 1995 has served over 500 families from Delaware, Montgomery and Chester counties. The Ark is open Monday to Friday throughout the year.  The facility consists of eight classrooms, offering five levels of care: infants, toddlers, young preschool, preschool, and pre-K.  If you have the opportunity or need ideas for a pre-school, please call Fr. Ryan. 

The Redeemer 

One of the joys of serving as your Bishop is to spend quality time with the clergy of the Diocese.  During meetings or visitations, we do not have the opportunity to learn and laugh.  I had this time with Fr. Vanderveen during breakfast.  I was grateful for our time together and the opportunity for envisioning how we encounter the issues we face in the 21st century.  We were in complete agreement that while there are instances where the issues seem insurmountable, with Jesus nothing is impossible.  




As we toured the campus, I was moved by the beauty, breadth, and setting of the church facility.  It is inviting, historic and accessible.  There are churches that serve as “centering points” in a community; Redeemer is such a church.  It draws worshippers from Bryn Mawr, Philadelphia and throughout the Diocese.   The architecture and subsequent additions evoke a desire to remain grounded in the Episcopal identity.  






Within any sanctuary, certain sacred points draw your attention.  At Redeemer, the high altar and the rose window inspire wonder.  The high altar and window anchor this beautiful worship space, and there is a natural flow to the architecture. The Church of the Redeemer is evocative of our beautiful Episcopal identity and heritage; an elegant simplicity that highlights our liturgical tradition.  





The pilgrimage concluded with a tour of the administrative offices.  I learned of the Outreach into the world by Redeemer.  In 2015, the church distributed over 14 outreach grants to the wider community totaling $114,500.00.  Finally, a stunning music program is flourishing at Redeemer.  In 2017, I would like to explore how we grow and assist the music programs in our congregations.  Thank you Fr. Vanderveen, the staff, and congregation at Redeemer. Visit Redeemer at: http://www.theredeemer.org


St. Mary’s Ardmore

Fr. Ryan and I pulled into the parking lot, and we found it difficult to find a parking space.  We did find one and notice the sign:


The unique charism of outreach in the Episcopal Church in Pennsylvania is a word I often hear - dignity.  It is not merely providing a handout or giving out money or food.  Our theology is incarnational.  We epitomize God becoming human and walking with us.  The importance of dignity was evident in the food pantry.  When touring the food pantry, it was noticeable the food was fresh and sustainable.  Food from Trader Joe’s and the local stores lined the tables.  Each item was fresh, including the fruit and vegetables.   The food at the pantry was not throw away food; it was healthy and nutritious.  What is more, the pantry is a collective neighborhood effort.  






Fr. Mike,  Liz Henry, and Lonnie Hovey spoke with such pride and faith in the work of the parish. Last week over 75 Lower Merion families was served by the food pantry.  On August 23rd, over 83 families were served.  As we know, hunger knows no social, racial or economic bounds.  I also noticed the flowers that were given away.  It was not only food, but also the dignity in the flowers; our faith bringing beauty in simple yet profound ways.  I was nearly in tears.  We embody the belief that ministry is relational.  








You will notice that I posed for a picture with Fr. Ryan.  I told him to take the flowers for his wife, and he wanted them for himself.  After the pantry, we walked through the nave and sanctuary.  Mr. Hovey astounded the group with his historical knowledge.  I kept asking questions from the renowned architectural historian.  Lonnie was the former director of preservation for the Executive Office of the President at the White House.  











During my time at St. Mary’s, I learned of the missional attitude of the parish. The importance of community integration, particularly the importance of the congregation being engaged with issues that affect people on a personal level.  They believe in small steps where people can participate in ministry such as the taking care of the parish grounds, providing temporary housing, a companion diocese and yoking ministry with neighboring congregations.  In this small corner of Ardmore, St. Mary’s is engaging the world on the practical level.  As Father Mike is fond of saying “what is God up to in Ardmore.”  God is working through each one of us to change the world in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Visit St. Mary's at:  st. marys ardmore

St. Asaph’s 

When people attempt to say the church is dying, I only need to point to our churches.  The Church of St. Asaph is a profound example of a congregation reaching out and attempting not only to touch the pain but to bring hope to the world.  We have the message of hope, and our theology is one of abundance. The congregation cares about the church and how we impact the greater community.


Over ten people took time during a busy weekday to speak with me about the work they are doing in the world and how we can continue to build the Kingdom.  It was an inspiring conversation.  We talked about not only the impact of the Gospel on surrounding community; the discussion emphasized the work of the church and diocese in the world.  They follow the message of the Gospel:  Love God and Love One Another.  I smiled as I read a poster:  St. Asaph.  Love is Love is Love.  Come as You Are.  







At each stop, I wanted to reiterate the importance of the transformation of the Diocesan Office.  How we will work to build trust and show our support to each of the congregations and members.  I wanted my brothers and sisters of St. Asaph’s to hear the same message.   The Diocese exists to serve the congregations - the congregations do not exist to serve the Diocese. 

During our discussion, we shared ideas for growth such as a common platform for marketing in the form of websites, social media, and direct mail.   We spoke of the need to approach problems from a different perspective.  We were in agreement the phrase: “we have always done things this way” is counter productive to new ideas.  It is my prayer that we retire that phrase into the dust bin of time.  All things are being made new and we will live into our God given gifts of creativity.






Topics for discussion included a comprehensive marketing program that is available from the diocese and a development/growth fund to address physical and capital needs.  These are ideas we can work to implement, these are compelling ideas, these are good ideas.  We need to be creative.  As we have said: fail, fail often and fail cheap.



I asked the diocesan communication team to join me at St. Asaph. I had an idea; I want other people on camera.  On each pilgrimage day, the communication team will interview various people about their dreams and vision for the diocese. Fr. Barry epitomizes this welcoming attitude.  If you have the opportunity, please visit the Diocesan website and view the video of the conversation.   http://www.diopa.org/pilgrimage-videos-082516/  

Fr. Barry has a warm welcome and engaging spirit. Visit St. Asaph's at:  http://www.saintasaphs.org/Welcome.html

While at St. Asaph’s,  Canon Shawn Wamsley joined me on the first day of his new call.  It was an opportunity for him to begin his journey by listening to the voices of our brothers and sisters. You will find a true servant in Canon Wamsley and grow to love his family. 


St. John’s Lower Merion 

As we departed St. Asaph’s, Fr. Ryan, Canon Wamsley and I we were running a bit early.    Thus, we had the opportunity to surprise Fr. Frank.  He just returned from the store when we pulled into the parking lot.  He was loaded with bags of food and drink and the look on his face caused a burst of laughter.  He was trying to comprehend the time and what to do next.  He moved quickly inside and began preparing the kitchen.  A dedicated Priest, the clergy tab that was in his shirt pocket was deftly inserted into his collar.  Talk about the multi-functioning Priest! Fr. Frank was kind in that he did not want Fr. Ryan and me to arrive without having cold drinks.  I was touched by his thoughtfulness and hospitality. He wanted everyone to feel comfortable and welcome. 




His website welcome is a reflection of his pastoral skills.  It says:  “Welcome to St. John’s!  St. John’s is a church which is experiencing an exciting resurrection. New people, new energy, a new spirit. Join us for worship which balances tradition and innovation. The people of St. John’s care for and nurture each other while not forgetting the Lord’s command to reach out to those in need. Be a part of our rebirth and experience the Gospel as it is lived in our community and the wider world.  Have you felt marginalized in other churches? Not been to church recently, for a long time… or ever? Here, you are welcome just as you are. Here, you are invited to be a full member of Christ’s body. Here, there are no strangers or outsiders.”  As beautiful invitation as there is anywhere.  

We had a long and engaging conversation with Fr. Frank and learned about his plans for the future, his dreams of building the congregation over years and his ministry. I had to laugh because as we finished the tour of the church Fr. Frank was whispering to Fr. Ryan.  Apparently, he had invited his vestry to meet with me at 5:30.  It was 4:30 and we were leaving early.  We came up with the solution.  I would return to at 5:30 and in the interim we would drop off Fr. Ryan and find cake and flowers.  Cake and flowers?  The first day of Canon Wamsley’s call coincided with his wife’s birthday in a new city.  We were on a mission (like the driver’s license mission).  We stopped at three stores and no luck.  We dropped Fr. Ryan and St. George’s and rushed back to St. Johns.













During that time we met with the vestry and discussed the opportunities (I don’t see challenges or problems - only opportunities).  The properties and homes surrounding St. John were purchased by members of a different faith tradition.  In short, it has become an Episcopal Church surrounded by people, businesses and places of worship belonging to one culture.  Thus, marketing and signage are essential.  Just as important, the church is a destination for those seeking their unique gifts.  We must promote and help that identity.  Some of the additional ideas were providing clergy coverage when Fr. Frank is away or desires an additional voice at the pulpit.  We discussed how to promote the day care center on the church grounds, and we probed a funding source for facility maintenance. Visit The Church of St. John at:  https://stjohnlm.org





We departed with one additional question:  “where could Canon Wamsley purchase flowers and cake for his wife’s birthday?”  Those at St. John were delightful, and one offered to take us to a store.  He must have wondered the worried expression on my face and that of Canon Wamsley.  He said “I will take you to Giant”  Canon Wamsley, and I looked horrified.  You see, in New Mexico, a Giant is a service station that specializes in liquor, lottery tickets, and Little Debbie cakes.  No.  It is a supermarket.  We followed and purchased the cake and flowers, however not before an argument between us.  I was urging him to buy bulk flowers without a vase at a lower price (cost per unit, etc.).  He, on the other hand, wanted the dozen, with a bow and vase.  I was going for the 1/2 dozen for $5 - she could have had two dozen for $20!  Less than half the price for the bows, etc.  Canon Wamsley is a hopeless romantic and after all - it is his wife.  Happy Birthday, Miriam. 

Finally, you might enjoy two pictures taken at the exact moment



Calvary St. Augustine

During the week I had the blessing to visit the congregation of Calvary St. Augustine.  This meeting was not part of the pilgrimage.  I was informed the physical structure was in need of floor improvements, and I wanted to see firsthand.  It does need improvements. However, the congregation has the resources to make the upgrades.  I was adamant with our Real Estate Officer that we need to be thorough in selecting the contractor and reviewing each detail in the construction contract.  Blessings to my brothers and sisters at Calvary St. Augustine.  






In closing, I have to thank Fr. Ryan.  He is a great Priest and during our time together we discussed the joy of serving in this Diocese.  He cares about the future of his church, his congregation, his family and our community.  He will continue to build the Kingdom of God.  He is also an extraordinary “foodie.”  You need to know the best restaurant in town - call Fr. Ryan.

Keep sending your ideas on how the Diocesan Office can better serve you.  All things are being made new in Jesus Christ.  I am blessed to serve as your Bishop.  Come and See the great things occurring in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. 

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