Saturday, December 31, 2016

Connected



Jude and I have a father and son activity that we have enjoyed since he was a toddler - fishing.  Part of our fishing tradition is to eat breakfast at an old truck stop cafe on our way to the lake.  It is a classic, western, cafe.  We sat in the vinyl-backed chairs, ordered coffee, breakfast and talked about the fish we were going to catch.

I took a moment to look around the cafe and began to notice the people around me.  A young Hispanic woman was cutting the food for her five-year-old daughter.  They sat together, and the mother had a tired look in her eyes, yet she looked at her daughter with pure love.  Directly behind us was a family of 12 smiling, laughing, and pointing at the menu.  One son wore a t-shirt from a local synagogue, and the other wore a Santa's hat. 

Next to our table a Native American family of 7 was talking.  They had that graceful presence found in native people.  One of their grandchildren was running around the table poking his small finger into the back of his grandfather and laughing.  The grandmother wore her hair in the classic style.  She warmed the coffee cup with her slender hands and smiled a soft smile.  

Off in the other room, a bunch of old Anglo cowboys slapping one another on the back.  One was attempting to text on his phone, and another was scratching his head while studying the eggs on his plate.  All of them trying to tell bad jokes to the waitress.  The waitress was slinging coffee around.  She was in her 70’s and had dyed her hair a bright orange.  

I sat in this old cafe surrounded by people of all races and colors.  All of them are miraculous and stunning. All extraordinary children of God and they are my brothers and sisters.  My beautiful family in God and we are connected.  

I pointed this out to Jude, and he looked around, and we both sat in silence for a few moments and smiled.  As we begin this new year, let us look upon one another as beautiful, magnificent family members.   We are brothers and sisters who are blessed to share this place called earth for a short time.  Let us pray to embody this in our hearts and lives.  We need one another and let us seek to connect with one another.   

You are in my prayers as we end this year and begin a hopeful year in the name of Jesus Christ. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Feast of the Holy Innocents


The feast of the Holy Innocents,

Today in our liturgical calendar, we hold in our heart the feast of the Holy Innocents.  The children who are put to death by the ego, greed, fear, and cruelty of King Herod.  He wanted to get rid of Jesus from his life.  Mothers were wailing, fathers were distraught, and a community was devastated.

In our prayers of reflection, let us remember the Holy Innocents of our community.  Those children who are being destroyed because of hunger, violence, bullying, societal pressure, poverty, drugs, neglect, abuse, and those acts of cruelty inflicted by society.  We can either lament or carry Jesus into what I call “sacred spaces of transformation.”

In the next year, and the years to come, we shall have a voice in the community.  Our sacred spaces of transformation will be carrying the love of Christ into those places where our community is being destroyed.  In those sacred spaces of transformation, we can change lives in His name.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Week 9 of the Come and See Pilgrimage. Holy Trinity Lansdale, Church of the Messiah, St. Matthew's, and dinner at Trinity Ambler



Pilgrimage does not always provide answers, but it often provides clarity.” Sacred Journeys with Bruce Feiler.

I was watching this program while writing this post.  This quote is seemed to be a gift in that it truly describes the experience of the Come and See pilgrimage.  During the pilgrimage, I have received clarity regarding the diocese and the beloved people of this Diocese.  We have opportunities, some may call them challenges, but they are opportunities.  I use “opportunity” because we are blessed with a spirit of courage.  We also have the willingness to live in a spirit of abundance rather than a mode of scarcity.  Because of Jesus Christ, we will embrace all the opportunities that come our way.   

With each stop on the pilgrimage, I have not encountered one church who has said "we need to close" or "we do not believe we can go forward."  No, while there are "opportunities" to embrace, each church, person, vestry member has said - "we are a faithful group that will survive."  Working together, we will not only survive, but we will also grow.  I am listening and learning.  With each stop, we are discerning, studying and learning methods to support the clergy and laity of the diocese.  There are blessings of the spirit, filled with hope and faithfulness.   In this discernment, your bishop and staff will always solicit your voice and opinion.  We will listen and then take the time to ensure your needs are addressed.  

I was off on a beautiful fall day to Trinity Lansdale with Dean Emily Barr-Richards.  If you ever have spent time with Dean Barr-Richards you know, she is a gem.  She has an ever-present smile and optimism that is infectious.  Nothing is impossible or out of reach for Emily+.  I love spending time with her on pilgrimage, at the altar and just one on one.  She is extraordinary.  Her skills as a navigator are a bit lacking since she is always laughing, talking and briefing me on important subjects.  I love spending time with her.




HOLY TRINITY LANDSDALE

Dean Emily and I entered to a jubilant parish hall.  Numerous parishioners involved in the life of Holy Trinity were present for the pilgrimage visit.  The spirit of kindness and openness is apparent and appealing.  The members present immediately asked if I had eaten breakfast and if I wanted anything before the tour.  It was apparent this spirit of hospitality is prevalent in all their ministries.  The members of Holy Trinity present for the pilgrimage visit included long-time members, congregants who had joined within the past five years and those who have been attending for the last six months.  There were young and old, parents and grandparents, newly arrived and gentle souls who spoke with abundant enthusiasm about the church.   All present talked about how Holy Trinity changed their lives.   They were also enthusiastic about the church and the future of the church.  I was taken by the joy they had and the willingness to grow and try new things.  





This congregation is alive.  They are not sitting sitting placidly.  They feel the spirit moving all around and are taking responding.  Although the congregation in the discernment process of calling a new rectory, they are not waiting for the Rector to arrive before moving out into the world.   They are actively engaging in outreach and ministry.  The people of Holy Trinity are actively living into their ministry.  The people of Trinity are living into their calling and bringing new life to the parish.  Our brothers and sisters at this parish are bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to life on the streets of Landsdale.  The entire mission has that beautiful "action and contemplation" focus.  They invite people to the Eucharistic table and then take Jesus Christ out into the community.   









Holy Trinity is actively involved in a “sandwich ministry” where people throughout the community come to the doors for nourishment.  They take a simple meal such as a sandwich and feed thousands during a month.  There are not prerequisites; come and see.  Come if you are hungry, and you will be feed.  Holy Trinity also seeks to assist the youth and students in schools through various programs.  In speaking with members of the Landsdale community outside of our church, they have stated that Holy Trinity is an anchor.  It has become a life-giving force as foundational as the library, city hall, the fire department or police force.  






During our time together, all who were present spoke of the life of the parish.  The congregation also extended their gratitude for the support of Canon Deming and Canon Mathis.  They spoke of the concern and responsiveness of Nancy+ and Jill during this interim period.  Often, people do not see the dedicated work of the diocesan staff.  I am blessed by these two faithful servants who spend evenings, weekends and family time working on our shared call.  Staff members are often overlooked for recognition during the year, and I want to personally thank them for their support of our parishes and their dedication to the diocese.   I would like to thank Mr. Ray Medlin for his unfailing devotion to Holy Trinity.  Mr. Medlin along with the entire vestry has spent hour upon hour serving God through the work of the parish. 

The members of Holy Trinity serve, they care for the people, they care for the facility, and they are hopeful.   In short, because of this devotion - we will grow. I cannot say enough as to how the church has kept their mission focused on serving the community and integrating those seeking Christ.  Their response to the community is not so much a welcome - it is an invitation.







In short, they are the congregation with a can do attitude.   This congregation will grow and become a leader in our Diocese.  We are blessed by their faith, strength, and creativity.  Great things are yet to come. 

I also want to thank Wayne Stratz for the beautiful suncatcher.  It is hanging in my home office and the colors grace my day.  Finally, my gratitude for the faithful service and ministry of a Priest of this Diocese, the Rev. Patricia Cashman.  As Bishop, you have my gratitude for being a pastor to our congregation.  Thank you.

 Visit Holy Trinity Lansdale at: https://lansdaletrinity.org

CHURCH OF THE MESSIAH

The next stop on the pilgrimage was an extensive tour of the impressive campus at the Church of the Messiah.  It is beautiful, inviting and spiritual.  One particular joy was the opportunity to spend time with Fr. Rev. Keith Marsh (more on that later).  Driving into the campus, you take in the beauty of the place.  It is welcoming and gives the distinct impression that all who enter can connect to this parish.  We began the tour with an explanation of the various outreach ministries at the church.  








The Church of the Messiah has a large and active children and youth program.   During the tour, we were treated to an engaging description of the vital programmatic components of this critical youth ministry.   In reviewing the youth ministry, we found that it seeks to engage the participants on multiple levels.  In short, the Christian education program at Messiah is making a difference in the lives of our youth.  It is energetic, formational and engaging.    As a result, it is growing congregation and the intentional path of integrating children into the church. 









While on tour, I had the opportunity to shop at Messiah's "Belfry Bargains."  It is a ministry of the church that has been in operation for 28 years.   The mission as stated is “to offer the wider community pre-owned items at affordable prices and to see that all proceeds go to outreach projects.”  Over 60 members of the congregation are called to this ministry, and they cover “sorting, cleaning, tagging, displaying, advertising and selling.”  






As with other ministries in this diocese, it is a response to the needs of the community.  Moreover, the response is centered in the baptismal covenant respecting the dignity of all people.   Belfry Bargains involves and integrates everyone in the congregation and community.  This store has the doors open to everyone without distinction.  Everyone seems to shop at Belfry Bargains.  It reminds me of a local, family store where all are comfortable and welcome.  The items sold could find their place in antique shops and others in a high-end thrift shop.  All at prices that are within the price range of any and all who enter.   The money earned is disbursed to charitable causes on a monthly basis by Messiah’s Outreach Committee.  Guess what?  I purchased a wooden picture frame that is in my office. 













After Belfry Bargains we moved toward the sanctuary.  As with all of the other building on the campus, there is a welcoming and inviting atmosphere.  Moreover, there is a sense of place that invites you to sit and pray.  It also tends to envelop you with warmth.  When you sit in the pews and look upon the altar, you want to stay.  When I toured Messiah,  it was decorated for both the liturgical season and carried the essence of fall.  I loved the openness and desire to create a “home” within the parish.  









Following the tour, we had a delicious and carefully prepared lunch.  This meal was prepared by two members of the congregation, and it was fabulous.  During our time together, we discussed local outreach, the growth of the community, and interaction with the offices of the diocese.  I am curious about success.  I wanted to know those programs that worked and how we can replicate those programs on a diocesan-wide level.  It is our intent to create a forum where we can share outreach and programmatic ideas for all our churches.  We are investigating the best platform; website or social media.   We need to share among one another our best ideas.  

During my time at Messiah, I had the opportunity to spend time with Rev. Mary Jo Melberger.  She is a gift to this diocese and has such a positive outlook on life, ministry, and her colleagues.  There are few things as uplifting as her smile.  She is gracious and devoted, and we are blessed by her ministry.  I await many fun conversations with my new friend Mary Jo+





My scheduled episcopal visitation was the following Sunday at Messiah.  Fr. Keith graciously offered the use of a spare bedroom so I would not have to drive from Center City.   I enthusiastically accepted the offer and prepared my overnight bag.  Fr. Keith and his wife hosted a reception at his home.  I discovered that he has a hidden talent as a "top chef" and I was not disappointed.  The food was extraordinary, and the company was inspiring.  The evening was relaxed, engaging and comfortable.  I felt at home at the Marsh’s and slept soundly.  I offer my heartfelt thanks for their hospitality and love. 

Fr. Keith is an accomplished liturgist, innovative Priest and is becoming a genuine friend.  He has a sense of humor that enlivens any gathering.  I am certain we will have many deep conversations about life, family, and God.  


My scheduled episcopal visitation the following morning was marked by a moving Eucharist and hope was abundant.  I was greeted by a plethora of mitres!  The children presented the Eucharistic gifts wearing mitres they had made during the week.  That was awesome creativity by the children, and I could envision a future Bishop among the group.  I could not conclude the post without mention the outstanding music program at Messiah. 


















Your fellow Episcopalians in this part of our diocese are innovative, creative and working to build up the Kingdom of God.   Finally, for those who love Diocesan trivia; the real James Bond (yes that one from Ian Fleming fame) is buried at Messiah.  Come out and find his gravesite.  

Visit the Church of the Messiah at: http://www.messiahgwynedd.org

I found the following picture another sign from God that I am at the right place at the right time.  These two names were in the classroom.  Of course Jude.  I only have one sibling and he has one child.  My niece's name is:  Delaney.  The two names next to one another.  In the future, I  will introduce you to my 4 nieces on the Fletcher side of the family.  I love them dearly.



ST. MATTHEWS

I drove a few miles down the road into a beautiful setting.  Dean Emily was masterful in her directions - ok, i am fibbing a bit.  Well, when we arrived, I found our church.  It is lovely and surrounded by a large field, and the setting is idyllic.   The congregation of St. Matthews is engaging, faithful and takes the Great Commission seriously.  I had the opportunity to tour the grounds and sanctuary with Fr. Dave.  These devoted servants of Christ are an integral part of the diocese.



The diversity of worship in the Episcopal Church is heartening and St. Matthews is intentional in keeping Jesus Christ at the center of ministry.    They are centered in proclaiming  His transformative message.  This should not be a surprise because as Episcopalians - we follow Jesus Christ.  As Episcopalians, we proclaim His word.  It is who we are as a people and a Diocese.   











During the tour, I learned of the large day school which is open to the public for enrollment. The Nursery School has been in the community for almost 20 years serving children from the ages of 2 ½ to 5 years.   The school offers a variety of hours and programming designed to fit the needs of the community.  There are over 150 children enrolled in the pre-school.  I was encouraged that a Christian education is an important part of this preschool.  

Fr. Dave was a joy.  He has faithfully served this congregation over the course of his ministry.  Throughout his call, he has devotedly proclaimed the Good News of Jesus Christ and grown this congregation steadily over the years.  At times, there is a tendency for some congregations in larger dioceses to be distant and detach from the larger body of Christ - mainly from the diocesan office.  St. Matthew's has been abiding in their faithfulness, the connection to the larger church (it is also who we are as Episcopalians) and the knowing security in Jesus that we are one.   I am thankful for Fr. Dave, St. Matthew's, the ministry and their steadfast belief in our mission.    




During our visit, I discovered that Fr. Dave worked in both youth and prison ministries.  His wife Lynn is an important part of the parish life, and she has developed one of the best children’s programs I have encountered.  It is the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.  St. Matthews offers all three levels of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for religious formation for children from ages 3 to 12. 

I take this from their mission statement:  “The goal of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is to nurture the child’s relationship with God. The Catechesis accomplishes this through the use of manipulative materials, prayer, songs, listening to the Bible with the children, preparing children for full participation in liturgy and by giving them time to work with materials.  Our focus is on helping each child strengthen his or her personal prayer life, participation in corporate worship, and growing knowledge of the Bible and God's work throughout history.”



Catechesis of the Good Shepard is an excellent and inspiring program.  Children become integrated into the knowledge of Scripture, participation in liturgy and service in the community.  It is truly holistic in its approach to catechesis.    They have items the children can touch and hold.  Examples are models of the altar, articles of the Eucharist, vestments, a baptismal font, etc.  They also introduce the children to scripture, history, and geography.  Simply, it is direct, contemplative, open, comprehensive and beautiful.  The youth program is one that I would like shared with the entire diocese. 


I cannot say a visit was complete without mentioning Fr. Jay Walton.  I met Fr. Jay during the walkabouts and has a deep passion for ministries.  He engages with everyone on a personal level and cares about people.  His gifts are many and he is bilingual and has served in multi-cultural parishes.  During our conversation, he asked “are you taking care of yourself and getting rest?” Jay is always a priest and a pastor and will make an impact in the Diocese of Pennsylvania for years to come.   






We concluded the evening with one of my favorite services - Evening Prayer.  Fr. Dave played the guitar, and it was a moving service.  It was spirit filled and had a movement that reminded me of many of the churches in the Diocese of the Rio Grande.  I felt at home, and many of the songs came easy. 





As you know, I love our Anglican Tradition of Prayer.  Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Evening Prayer and Compline is part of our identity.  It is unique, transformative and who we are. We need to lift these up in all our churches and our daily pattern of prayer. Visit St. Matthews at: http://www.saintmattsec.org

TRINITY AMBLER

During my time as Bishop, I have visited Trinity often.  Each time I find myself with a sense of belonging.    I will provide a detailed description of the congregation in a subsequent pilgrimage report.  Trinity is a healthy, loving and open congregation.  Moreover, it is growing by inviting people to share in the community.  It does not welcome; it actively engages people on various levels.  The congregation engages the community by inviting them into this sacred space for educational, artistic, spiritual and missionary activities.  It is more than Trinity Episcopal. The congregation is truly Trinity "Ambler."  



For this pilgrimage stop, a festive dinner was held.  Round tables were set in the narthex, and a delicious meal was served.  Members of the vestry joined in a lively discussion regarding growth, youth programs, and opportunities.  Those at the dinner laughed, spoke of their love of the parish and how it is this community of Christ is always centered in love. 





It was the joyful way to end the day.  Once again, I felt at home.  This could be a place for worship for my family and many families in the area.  This sense of ease afforded the opportunity to restate the purpose of the Diocesan Office.  We are here to serve you.    You have heard me repeat over and over my belief that a shepherd should smell like the sheep.  That is my call as your Bishop.  I will walk with you, laugh with you, overcome obstacles with you, envision a path together and build up the Kingdom of God.  This will be a heartening, challenging, and creative journey - together.  





It seems like each congregation I visit becomes my new favorite. However, I have a history with Trinity Ambler.  I have a great fondness for Fr. Dave.  During the walkabouts, Fr. Dave and his wife cooked and served all the candidates before the meetings.  I always feel like I am at home with Fr. Dave. He has a soft smile, a quick wit and he is kind.  Each time I visit, the feeling grows stronger and deeper.  You will hear more about Trinity on my return trip (yes, there will be a return trip!).  Visit Trinity Ambler at: http://www.trinityambler.net





Throughout this pilgrimage, I have listened, laughed and learned.  At each point in this pilgrimage, I am moved by each one of you.  The faithfulness to Jesus Christ and the possibility of something new.  I am often asked, “what is your vision for the diocese?”  I have a million ideas however they are worthless without you.  We will collectively work to build up the diocese and create a plan together.  It will be intentional and faithful.  It will be centered in Jesus Christ.  I will continue to listen and continue to learn. I will continue to be a shepherd who smells like the sheep. 

As we move forward, we continue to work to build a system where the offices of the diocese always serve you.  We will work to empower the clergy and laity so we can grow our congregations.   We will be there as sojourners in our collective pilgrimage of faith.  I used the quote at the beginning of the post that pilgrimage provides clarity.  The clarity is found in our common dreams and hopes. Thus,  we will work to become a strong community called the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.  We will go out into the world with the healing and transformative message of Jesus.    We will work “together” to build this diocese and set a course for growth, evangelism, innovation, and discipleship.  Each time we get knocked down, we will get up.  We will get up and go farther, spread that beautiful message of Jesus Christ with hope and joy.   Come and See. 

I am blessed to serve as your Bishop.

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