My brothers and sisters,
This past week we were part of a productive and inspirational convention. We received many moving comments on the tone of convention and in particular the focus regarding our ministries throughout the diocese. Together, we are living into a theology of abundance. I invite all to “Come and See” our diocese. I will write on our convention later this month. Now, we are back on pilgrimage.
I would like to describe what occurs when I return to the Diocesan Office after a visit. The entire staff meets for a “follow-up” meeting. If there are items that are pressing or if we can assist the congregation a staff member is then assigned to that issue. We are working on a fluid process and always focusing on our follow up. However, the system is not perfect. It is a work in progress. If there is an issue to which we have not responded, or has moved beyond the one month period, please let us know. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will address that issue and turn it into an opportunity.
The sacred destination on the pilgrimage was a short drive from the offices of the Diocese. I took a taxi due to the traffic and I needed to avoid parking as my next two pilgrimage destinations were close to St. Clements. I arrived on the south side of the church and was met by an acolyte vested splendidly in cassock and surplice. I was escorted into the chapel as a short prayer service was scheduled for my pilgrimage. A group of faithful congregants waited, and I kneeled before the altar, and a stole was placed on my neck. We recited the ancient prayers as a community, and the mystery of the Divine filled me with peace.
We are blessed in our faith tradition to have the beauty of the Anglo-Catholicism. There is something about the “mystery” and sacredness that fills one's heart in the service. I am reminded that we have to open our hearts and our lives to Jesus Christ. He transcends all that is known to us. I encourage those with our Anglo-Catholic history and identity to live into the fullness of the beautiful liturgy and sacraments; it makes us a stronger church. I hope to see more of this beautiful ceremony and participate with them. You will always have a place in the Diocese of Pennsylvania, and I am proud to be your Bishop.
I met with Rev. Richard C. Alton and Rev. Chuck Messer. We toured the sanctuary and I was given an in-depth tour of this beautiful church. One could feel the depth of incense and prayers said in this sacred place of worship. I was particularly fascinated with the details on the altar, the beauty of the paintings and the shrines. St. Clement Church has four shrines: St. Clement; Our Lady of Clemency; Our Lady Queen of All Saints & Mother of Fair Love; and St. Catherine. I would encourage you to visit and appreciate the beauty of these shrines.
As you well know, I interject the history of the places. I found this interesting: “St. Clement's seems to have been one of the first Episcopal parishes in the country to incorporate the liturgical compositions of Gounod, Mozart, Haydn and other distinguished 18th and 19th-century classical composers as settings for the masses. For in many of the announcements of these musical compositions, it says, ‘first time in this country.’” St. Clements has services throughout the week, and Evensong is held nightly. The church is also known for their extraordinary music program. A large selection of offerings are conducted, and it has become referred to as a venue for sacred and secular music.
An important part of St. Clement is outreach into the community. Currently, the church is discerning how to expand the ministry and the utilization of facilities to serve God’s children. Each one of our churches is exploring the growth of ministry. Finally, I was moved that we prayed. It is important to the community of St. Clement and the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. I was grateful for Rev. Alton and his wife in that they shepherded Rev. Maree and myself to St. Mark’s on Locust. Visit St. Clement's at: http://www.saintclementsphiladelphia.org
The next pilgrimage point was to St. Mark’s and Rev. Sean Mullen. I was eagerly anticipating my visit with Rev. Mullen since we share a common history and interests. They include liturgy, politics, dogs, economic development and pilgrimage. In our conversations, I have come to believe that Fr. Mullen has a significant amount of Spanish blood in him (he may already suspect this being his great love for all things Spanish). In case he has forgotten, he has promised to make a complete Spanish dinner. He has a reputation for being an excellent and talented chef. I did not forget and I am awaiting a call.
During my time at St. Mark’s, I had the opportunity to visit with the talented clergy team. They have great gifts to spread the Gospel in Philadelphia. Rev. Mullen is assisted by the Rev. Erika Takacs and the Rev. Dr. Nora Johnson We had an engaging conversation on the opportunities presented in the 5th largest city in the United States. There is a sense of hopefulness as we discussed their work in Center City and Rittenhouse Square. We also sensed the fertile field as we looked out upon Locust street and watched thousands of people walk in front of the doors. We all smiled at the limitless potential.
St. Mark’s was founded in 1847 with the intent of following the spiritual principles of the Oxford Movement. The same evangelists engaged in the growth of St. Mark’s were the founders of Church of St James the Less near East Falls. The history of the parish states “On October 21, 1849, parishioners first walked down the aisles of the nave, and celebrated Saint Mark's first service. The unfinished spire was completed in 1851 making Saint Mark's the tallest building west of Broad Street.”
As we toured the beautiful sanctuary, we spent time in the Lady Chapel. The Lady Chapel is simply extraordinary. The design, history, detailed art and one of a kind altar is worth a visit. I was informed that was constructed by Rodman Wanamaker after the unexpected death of his wife, Fernanda. I would encourage the Diocese to spend time in the Lady Chapel and view the altar. You will never forget the experience.
St. Marks is not only known for the architecture of the church and sacred liturgy. It has a vibrant music program that is expanding its impact throughout the state. In fact, the youth choir is becoming known for both an extraordinary musical educational which correlates with musical excellence (Canon Wamsley’s children are members). Moreover, St. Mark’s has engaged in meaningful and impactful community involvement. They include the Food Cupboard, the Saturday Soup Bowl, the Ministry Residents Program. Many of you may know that Rev. Mullen is a founder of the St. James School, a faith-based middle school in the Episcopal tradition, committed to educating traditionally under-resourced students in North Philadelphia.
I love ending a day with Evening Prayer. We joined the congregation at Evening Prayer, and it was centering and beautiful. Rev. Mullen, and I continued our conversations as we walked west past Rittenhouse Square to Trinity Memorial. In the darkness of the streets of Philadelphia, we laughed and spoke of the power of faith in changing lives. More importantly, we talked about Jesus Christ. I could not help but feel a sense of pride. I am proud to serve with the clergy of this diocese. Visit St. Mark's at: http://www.saintmarksphiladelphia.org
Walking into the sanctuary at Trinity Memorial, I immediately felt the openness and welcoming of the congregation. Trinity Memorial is a church whose ministry is directed “out into the world.” Rev. Donna Maree, Deacon Lynn, and the congregation have big, big hearts for ministry. In much the same way, they have a deep and abiding concern for the surrounding community. As we entered the parish hall, people were moving in and out of the space as if it were a city center - this is good.
Trinity has a long and exciting history. The church was founded as a service to the community—a neighborhood that was “rapidly increasing its population and was far removed from any Episcopal church.” In 1852 the “Market Street Mission” opened at the corner of Market Street and Schuylkill Second Street (now 21st Street).
Trinity experienced a near-catastrophic event that transformed the parish. In 1994, lightning struck the chimney. The church history states that “fire burned invisibly between the roof and the ceiling for four hours when it burst out the opening on the front of the church. By that time the neighborhood was full of smoke. The fire had gone to three alarms before it was brought under control. All that was left of the roof were the great charred beams, one of which had fallen onto the pews. The clerestory windows were ruined, as were the front windows: the side aisle windows were bowed from the heat. The floor was severely damaged, the plaster cracked. Miraculously, the angels over the altar sustained only smoke damage.”
A new and innovative space was created, and it is now used for liturgy, concerts and community conversations. Currently, space and the entire facility is being used for a variety of purposes. It is beautiful, and one has to view the angels spared by the fire. In effect, out of the ashes came new life. When I arrived, the congregation had thoughtfully prepared an evening meal. Vestry member and chef Joe Phillippe made an excellent meal. During our meal, we spoke of the various ministries and the opportunities faced by an urban congregation that is seeking youth and young adults (I do not use challenges, they are opportunities for growth). The group is asking themselves the vital question “what is God calling you to do in this urban setting?” It is an important issue and maybe it is not youth or youth ministries. Maybe it is young people and youth ministries. These questions can be answered through discernment and more importantly it is found in prayer. Found in individual prayer and prayer as a community.
We ended the evening with a tour of their renovated undercroft and basement. Trinity is using the space for the shelter of those without homes in Philadelphia. Over the past season, Wintershelter (as the program is called) has served over 48 individuals in the previous year. The church is exploring further outreach programs over the course of the next year. We stand as a community ready to join with them in touching the pain in our world. Visit Trinity Memorial at: http://www.trinityphiladelphia.org
ST. TIMOTHY'S ROXBOROUGH
The following day, the next pilgrimage destination was St. Timothy’s Roxborough. I had the opportunity to spend time with my friend Rev. Kirk Berlenbach. Many do not know this. however, I have known Rev. Kirk before my call in the Diocese of Pennsylvania. Our paths crossed paths numerous times over the past two years.
While I was Canon to the Ordinary, he preached at the ordination of a priest in Las Cruces. The Priest is Rev. Alex Lenzo who worked at St. James school and served as a curate under Rev. Berlenbach. I also led the search in the parish that called Rev. Lenzo - talk about a small world. Last September, Rev. Kirk and I spent four days at the Barbara Harris Center in New Hampshire as participants in the Gathering of Leaders. I learned much about the craft of making beer from my friend. I have great respect for Rev. Berlenbach’s humor, gifts, faithfulness, and intelligence. I am blessed to serve with him.
I was greeted by an incredible contingent from the parish. We spoke of our mutual journey together and how we can work as a community of the faithful in modern day America. I was fascinated by the discussion of how to market the church to the surrounding community. Often, we forget that people tend to pass by our front doors and we have to continually find creative ways to invite people to “come and see.”
The parish is at the intersection of two major arterials. However, some may only see a bell tower or the graveyard. The question is “how do we highlight the church?” It is most likely an issue that other congregations are facing. How do we market the physical structure and make it inviting? (With the current physical constraints). Back when the church was built, cars did not speed past the church. Now that we are in the 21st century, we have to be creative and flexible.
As with many of our congregations, the faithful people of St. Timothy’s viewed the marketing as an opportunity and not a challenge. With each step, they see obstacles as community building and jump in together. I noticed how they kept speaking of community, working together, building outreach as a team. Communal identity is important, the work and conversations that are taking place are small steps. Collective unity is who we are, and we will support one another. With the tour, hope seems to abound, and with hope, nothing is impossible.
As we visited the sanctuary, there were two interesting and beautiful pieces of art. The first are the gas lamps in the sanctuary. There are working gas lamps that are lit on special occasions. I am told that Christmas at St. Timothy’s is beautiful and harkens back to time pictured on the Currier and Ives Christmas prints. Please take the chance to study see the figures depicted in our mosaic reredos. I mentioned this to the congregation; I will ask Rev. Berlenbach to keep tabs. If you visit or take someone to St. Timothy’s and attempt to identify all the figures (he will set a contest date) in the shortest amount of time, I will take that person out to lunch - my treat!
I was encouraged and enlivened about the work occurring on the grounds of St. Timothy’s. They have an active bee hive, compost field, and a growing garden. They are using the space creatively and with an idea toward the fullness of creation.
After our tour, we jumped into the car and I was given a 25-minute tour of the surrounding community by Rev. Kirk. It was enlightening to drive the side streets and neighborhoods of Roxborough. He provided a context for the cultural, social and economic diversity of the community. He also gave me a view of the hidden gems of Philadelphia - the open and wild spaces. Streams, hills and greenery within 5 minutes of the church. There are great times ahead for this congregation proclaiming and working toward the Kingdom of God in Roxborough. Visit St. Timothy's at:http://sttimsrox.org
What a glorious convention and such a transformative pilgrimage. All the work we do in the Offices of the Diocese is to serve you. I am listening, we are responding and we will work to expand the Kingdom through our ministry. I am flying to Albuquerque on Monday so I can attend Jude’s first basketball game of his senior season. I cannot wait to see my family. Next week expect two additional posts on the pilgrimage. I am blessed to serve as your Bishop.