A Holy Covenant, Sacred Ordinations, Blessed Visitation and Joyful Celebrations. Christ Church Media, Christ Church Ithan, St. Francis in the Fields, Crucifixion, St. Paul’s Chestnut Hill, St. George and St. Barnabas and Church of the Messiah Gwyned, St. Thomas Choir.

A most blessed Christmastide.   Over this past summer and fall, we have continued the Pilgrimage.  With each stop, I am moved by your faithfulness, hope, life and deep love of Jesus Christ.  The pilgrimage reflects the beauty of our journey together.   I will continue to share the experiences on this blog and will post weekly on Saturday mornings and share highlights of our week together.   Within the blog, I will post current news and events in the diocese and the Episcopal Church. 


This past convention was a sacred time together.  Prior to the convention, we held six additional budget listening sessions.  Your time, thoughtfulness and input was essential to discerning our life together.  The budget is a living, and sacred document and your recommendations improved the budget presentations and convention document.   Diocesan Convention was a wonderful time of growth and celebration.  In addition to completing the ministerial and administrative work of the Diocese, we have continued the new focus on sharing the life of our congregations.  At each convention, you will have the opportunity to highlight the liturgies, ministries, music, and outreach of your Church.  We have the best Diocese in the Episcopal Church, and we need to share the Good News with one another and the world.  We can change the world if we vision, imagine, pray, worship and then go out into the world.  All things are possible in Jesus Christ. 

Finally, it is important that we reiterate the vision that is unfolding throughout the Diocese of Pennsylvania:   To know Jesus Christ and make Jesus Christ known to the world.  To become Disciples and Evangelists.   

This vision embodies our call to know Jesus Christ while empowering our congregations to become evangelists and make disciples in the world. 

Visit the Diocesan Website: http://www.diopa.org


As I have mentioned throughout my Episcopacy, we strive to build one community as the Body of Christ called the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.  We envision together, and we mutually take responsibility for our churches.  Crucifixion in South Philadelphia was shuttered before my consecration.  When I visited the space the first week, I was brokenhearted.  Over the past year, we have reconnected the utilities; we spent monies to clean out the meeting rooms, nave, office space, etc. (requiring permitting, cleaning, work hours and numerous large dumpsters of refuse and debris). 

We cannot give up on this sacred sanctuary and our gospel presence in the community.  This charge to go out into the surrounding neighborhood is who we are as followers of Jesus Christ.  We have to take every step and attempt all our options to restore this historic place to a significant voice in the city.  You will also be pleased to know that we are doing the same type of work with the faithful congregation of St. Mary’s Bainbridge.  There is great hope that St. Mary’s will grow and spread the Gospel in South Philadelphia. 

We can make a difference in the world. We can change the prevailing attitude in the Church that the only way to survive is to close churches.  We can do more than survive; we can thrive.  We have the transformative power of Jesus Christ.  We have the hope and life of Jesus Christ.  We will make a difference in the name of Jesus Christ. 

Many have asked how I would describe my leadership style.  It consists of prayerful vision work and establishing resilient vision parameters.  An essential component is including different voices, people, ideas, and hands.  We have reorganized decision-making processes to be more participatory.  Together, we go and create, generate ideas, plant seeds, nurture and grow.  It is essential that as a community we brainstorm together.    It is critical we empower the faithful and congregations to do the work.  Thus, when the harvest comes, the congregation and diocese will know it is our work in the vineyard as one people.  I feel the heart and faith of the people of this diocese, and we all will embody the call to mutually share in the responsibility of the life and future of the 134 congregations. 

To reiterate the vision for our diocese:  To know Jesus Christ and make Him known to the world through discipleship and evangelism.

For this reason, on an early cold morning, we invited Deans, laity, Standing Committee, Rectors, Vicars and your Diocesan staff to tour Crucifixion and envision the future.  We are in a period of discernment, and many ideas are bursting forth.  Together, as a people, deanery, and diocese this church will become new once again.  We will not give up; we will share our dreams, thoughts and build our Church.  Have an idea?  Please send them, and they will build up the Body of Christ.   Through Jesus Christ all things are possible.  


I have visited this faithful congregation on numerous occasions, and with each visit, it is a blessing.  The next few years is an important time in the life of this parish.  Christ Church has been engaged in a search for a Rector and has been guided by Rev. John Sosnowski.  The congregation felt it was time to step back in the search process and discern the next steps.  In short, prayerfully decide what the future would look like and not rush the selection process.  Thus, they have asked for a time of visioning and prayer.  I thought it to be a wise and right decision.  Therefore, we mutually discerned that we would enter into a season of growth, preparation, and prayer. Part of this process is continuing the relationship with Rev. John Sosnowski.  It was also crucial that the church continues to move forward in ministry, partnerships, and outreach.  Thus, we developed a sacred written covenant that would guide the church over the next two years and established essential goals and guideposts. 

The covenant was given life as an agreement between the Rev. Sosnowski, the Congregation, and the Bishop.  The congregation worked and created a living and holy document that included spirituality, outreach, and the path forward.  More importantly, it centered all their work in Jesus Christ.  The importance of this covenant is that establishes an agreed upon way for the life of Christ Church; it is a living document.   To honor its significance, we held a Eucharistic Service and placed the covenant in the sanctuary and on the altar.   We signed the covenant in front of the community and before God.  It was a happy night filled with prayer, music, laughter, and hope.

Christ Church Ithan is a beautiful and life-giving community.  The Sanctuary is a gem; one feels transported to the English countryside.  Once you drive into the Church grounds from Conestoga, you seem to enter into a sacred and quiet place away from the bustle of life.  You are always greeted with a smile and a sincere welcome.  

Christ Church Ithan was designed and built by Theophilus Parsons Chandler (1846-1928) and deeded by him and his wife, the former Sophie Madeleine DuPont.  The history of the church states that Chandler’s “beautifully simple Gothic church is a gift to God and his people by a gifted architect who designed and built the ‘stone chapel’ on his land with his funds.”

The Chapel at Ithan was under the guidance of St. Martin's, Radnor. In 1958, it became a parish under the name of Christ Church.  The windows of the Church are all stained glass, and they illustrate the life of Jesus and the story of St. Martin and the history of the Church and the Anglican Communion.  I am particularly fond of the West Window in the Sanctuary.  

Each time I visit this community, I am filled with hope.  The staff is upbeat and filled with the Holy Spirit.  The congregation has a deep faith, and they seek to share the beauty of their shared life and their church.  I would encourage you to visit this exceptional church and spend time in prayer.  Those who are seeking a place of hope, faith, and prayer will find a loving home at Christ Church.  

Visit Christ Church: https://christchurchithan.squarespace.com


This is now one of my new Christmas Traditions.  Santa Lucia is a perfect preparation for the Advent Seasons.  I am grateful for this glorious celebration and the love given by the faithful at Gloria Dei.  Next year do yourself a favor - attend Santa Lucia.   You will find adults, children, visitors enter into another realm.  It is beyond description.  I am borrowing photographs of this beautiful night.

Visit Gloria Dei: http://www.old-swedes.org


Immediately before the Ordination of James Stambaugh, I met with the community of Deacons in the library at Holy Apostles (thank you Holy Apostles for making space during these hectic hours).  With the retirement of Archdeacon Nesbit as Archdeacon (She will continue to serve in Diaconal ministry and as a Deacon on my Episcopal visitations), we envisioned a new structure and council of advice.  I asked that we live in a season to discern a path forward with the possibility of an Archdeacon, using this new Council of Advice or the combination of both.  I need the wise counsel, voices, prayers and the ministry of the community of deacons.   Thus, the duties of the Archdeacon are being distributed between Rev. Deacon Karen Kaminskis, Rev. Deacon Patricia Rubenstein, Rev. Deacon Dennis Coleman, Rev. Deacon Phil Gilbepter, Rev. Deacon Toneh Williams and Rev. Deacon Jeff Moretzsohn. 

During this next year, I will meet with the Council of Deacons monthly and all the community of Deacons on a quarterly basis.   A team of Deacons will continue to travel with me on my visitations and speak to congregations of the diaconal calling.  It is our prayer that by highlighting the diaconal vocation, we will attract those called to the Diaconate.  The Diocese of Pennsylvania can chart the course of diaconal formation, placement and leadership in the Episcopal Church.  The Diaconate bridges the church and the world.  In many ways, the Deacons are the scouts and trailblazers who chart a path into the world and then bring the entire church to the world.  I am intensely aware of the unique and close relationship between a Bishop and the Deacons and value our relationship.  We have a group of faithful and dedicated deacons.  There is an exciting future for the Diaconate in our diocese. 


The ordination of a Priest is a sacred event in the life of a church, diocese and the journey of the ordinand.  The recitation of holy prayers during the service of Holy Orders will change the ordinand forever.  I believe that once you are ordained, you must be willing to serve from every ounce of your being.  You must be ready to give your life for the “next person that walks through the door.”  

It is essential that we always reiterate and never forget that the calling to lay ministry is an equal order in our Church.  The laity of this diocese serve on the Vestry, Mission Council, various committee’s, Altar Guilds, Servants of Worship, outreach ministries, and the list is as extensive as our faith.  They indeed are the Saints of the Church and foundational to the ministry of the ordained.  The laity gives the entirety of their lives to Jesus Christ, and I am always in awe of your faithfulness to our church. 

The ordination of Rev. James Stambaugh was a special event since I have known James since the beginning of the journey.  He has always had the light of Jesus Christ in his heart and lives this calling.  Together with his wife Deborah (a talented and extraordinary attorney), and his children Edmund and Nora; they have dedicated their lives to this calling.  

James graduated from Virginia Theological Seminary and was called to be the Rector of Holy Apostles in Penn Wynn.  It is a church on the cusp of growth. All Diaconal ordinations will be at the Cathedral and those being ordained to the Priesthood will have a choice to be ordained at the Cathedral or at the parish where they are serving.  An ordination to the priesthood truly brings a community together and is a spiritual and communal celebration. 

Holy Apostles was alive with joy and preparation.  People were active with the anticipation of the Advent season and the life present in the church.  Snow began to fall, and it was an idyllic scene.  I would also like to thank the clergy that were present to share in the ordination; it is a sign of life and joy in the diocese.  I smiled as the music began and we walked out into the snowy evening and the sacred space.  As James moved toward the altar to have the Holy Spirit cover his life, he was in tears.  

James+ has a unique way with people in that he listens, is kind and he prays continuously.  I see great things from this church.  James - love those you serve.  Love every person you encounter.   Love them unconditionally.  Love them as God loves us.  

Visit Holy Apostles: https://holyapostlespa.org


The December ordinations seem to require snow as the prelude.  The evening before Jo Ann’s ordination it began snowing heavily.   During the walkabout, I was told it rarely snows in Philadelphia!  The ordination was scheduled for 11:00 a.m it was a bit cold, and the roads were slick.  However, the weather would not impede this joyous celebration.  The entire diocese anticipated this ordination with a knowing that Jo Ann has found her true calling. 

I am inspired by Jo Ann's tenacity, intelligence, and faithfulness.  She has a long history in this diocese, and her service to our people is moving.   Jo Ann will be a faithful and loving Priest to all of God’s beloved.  It is my prayer that with each step she takes, we sustain, support and uplift Jo Ann in her ministry. 

Jo Ann was raised out of The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas and graduated from General Theological Seminary.  Although I have only known Jo Ann for two years, I sense a deep friendship forming.  Not just because of her personality, but we are also forever joined because of this ordination.  One of the most important callings of a Bishop is to form, call and ordain Priests.  There will always be a special bond with each Priest and Deacon that I ordain; we will journey together throughout their ministry.  I believe this relationship is sacred and significant.  More importantly, I will always be present for them.   Thank each one of you for allowing me to share in your journey.  

Redeemer Bryn Mawr was the site of the ordination.  Jo Ann was called to serve as an Associate at Redeemer, and she started her ministry at Redeemer in the summer of 2017.  Thus, she selected Redeemer for her ordination.  My ordination to the Priesthood was at St. Michael and All Angels.  It was my home church, and I was called to serve God's beloved at St. Michael's.  There is something powerful presiding at the same altar from which you were ordained.  It is my belief that Jo Ann will have the same feeling each time she says the words of the Opening Acclamation “Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”  

The morning was beautiful (can you tell that I have fallen in love with Pennsylvania).  If one could script a setting for an ordination, this ordination fits the criteria.  A hopeful congregation, an extraordinary sanctuary, precise liturgy,  community support of Jo Ann and music.  I will visit Redeemer in January 2018 and will spend time with the clergy and congregation during my first Episcopal visitation to Redeemer.  The clergy of Redeemer is the Reverends’ Peter T. Vanderveen and David Romanik.  I have spent time with Rev. Vanderveen, and he is thoughtful and reflective.  More importantly, he makes Jesus Christ the foundation of all actions.  I enjoy our conversations and time shared.  I look forward to our future together and extensive philosophical discussions.  Rev. Romanik is a joy and has deep spirituality.  A devoted Priest, father, and husband,  he understands the sacredness and the depth of the Priesthood.  In much the same way, he is a pastor.  There is no task too large or small for David.  Recently, he was appointed the Dean of the Marion Deanery and is a welcome addition to the Council.  The congregation is blessed to have these three Priests.  

Finally, I would like to thank Rev. Tommy Thompson for his ministry during diocesan ordinations.  I have asked Rev. Thompson to serve as my Master of Ceremonies for Diocesan Ordinations.  His attention to detail and knowledge of the liturgy is complete. He is an exceptional presence, and I am grateful for his life (I also ordained him!).  

Visit Redeemer:  http://www.theredeemer.org


For the Episcopal visitations, I will provide pictures and will dispense with the blog narrative.  The Sunday visitation is a sacred time of conversation, confirmations, receptions, renewals, and baptisms.  I prefer to let the pictures tell the story.  Please enjoy the images of your diocesan family.   


Visit Christ Media: http://www.christchurchmedia.org


Visit St. Paul's Chestnut Hill: http://stpaulschestnuthill.org


Visit St. Francis in the Fields: http://stfrancisfields.com


Early in September, I was invited to attend the 105th birthday celebration of Mr. Louis Tucker at St. George and St. Barnabas.  Due to my Sunday visitation schedule and previous commitments on the calendar, I could not attend.  We sent our regrets, and the congregation asked if I could send a letter of recognition to Mr. Tucker.  The staff of the Office of the Bishop prepared the message, and as I was signing the document, I felt that call.  I had to find a way to attend because a shepherd must smell like the sheep.  I could not let this day occur without my presence.   Thus, we planned a driving route that allowed me to read the proclamation in the course of my travels.   I arrived before the sermon and read the proclamation honoring Mr. Tucker’s life and ministry The Guest Celebrant and Preacher was Fr. James E. Wynn, the Rector Emeritus.   Mr. Tucker’s smile, youthful enthusiasm and sincere faithfulness to the church made my heart jump.  

The music was playing, the congregation was singing, and I snuck in the side.  I was escorted to the pulpit and then read the proclamation.  I then had the opportunity to meet Mr. Tucker, who stood up and gave me a giant hug.  God is good!  We embraced as I was leaving and I asked to take a picture with this extraordinary man.  It was a blessed event and this is who we are in the Diocese of Pennsylvania. 

St. George and St. Barnabas is a lively and joyful congregation. Located in the Cobbs Creek community of West Philadelphia, the congregation is a beacon.  It is a church community that reaches out to the surrounding neighborhood while growing their great history and tradition.  The church is a dynamic multicultural predominately African American parish having been a mission church of the Episcopal Diocese for the past several decades; a crowning achievement was obtaining Parish Status in 2010.

The congregation is in the process of calling a new Rector.  I was moved by their discernment prayer:  “Our mission is to pray, work, and give for the spread of Christ’s Kingdom in our community; to be a biblical church that is welcoming to all visitors; to be led by the Holy Spirit and open to change as we strive for growth through programs that meet the needs of all persons; to co- operate with programs of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania; and to make our parish a center where the Good News of Jesus Christ’s presence can be experienced in word, deed and in worship.”

I am retelling the history of the congregation from their Parish Profile:  The story of St. George St. Barnabas is that of three congregations which over forty years came together. Founded in 1912, St. Cyprian’s, an African American congregation in Elmwood, joined with St. Barnabas in 1964 as part of “An Urban Challenge” to merge two racially distinct congregations. St. Barnabas, founded in 1871 in the Haddington section of Philadelphia, completed a new glorious sanctuary in 1914 at 64th Street and Haverford Avenue as a Memorial to the Rt. Rev. O. W. Whitaker, D.D., LLD., holding services there until 1993. 

In 1858, St. George’s, West End, was conceived when the numerous English people who lived and worked in the cotton mill of Cardington found it challenging to travel to St. James, Kingsessing, for sacraments and services. The Rev. Charles A. Maison, D.D., the then rector of St. James, took the people of Cardington under his spiritual care, began a plan for a new mission, and was elected as the first rector of St. George’s, West End. With the construction of a new sanctuary in an “English style” at 61st Street and Hazel Avenue, St. George’s formally opened on the Feast of the Circumcision, January 1, 1871.

St. George’s Church and St. Barnabas Church yoked ministries in 1990, and then officially merged as St. George St. Barnabas on November 5, 1993, at diocesan convention, holding services at “old” St. George. Instrumental to the success of this merged congregation was the work of the late Rev. Canon Robert E. DuBose, Jr., who acted as senior consultant and pastor until the arrival of the Rev. James E. Wynn in the fall of 1996. Father Wynn’s faithfulness and “can do” attitude were infectious. He helped his believe why they could accomplish great things. Immediately, he took it upon himself to help the congregation to become a more inviting church by welcoming visitors, painting the interior spaces, and cleaning and planting the outside gardens.

The work of St. George St. Barnabas, however, is not to make physical improvements to an aging building; it is to praise the Lord!   The congregation has a vibrant and robust outreach ministry and extraordinary music.  You are part of this courage.  I would encourage you to seek out those you know in the ministry and encourage a Priest to apply.  Moreover, please visit this congregation.  They are gifted workers in the vineyards of West Philadelphia  I give thanks for their ministry in our diocese.

Visit St. George and St. Barnabas: http://www.stgeorgestbarnabas.org


Following the presentation of the proclamation to Mr. Tucker,  I gathered my wife Suzanne, and we attended the 150th celebration of Messiah Gwynedd.   The celebration was at the William Penn Inn, and it was a cheerful evening with my friend Rev. Keith Marsh and his bride Deb.  An additional gift was sharing dinner and conversation with Rev. Mary Jo Melberger. The setting was grand, the food was outstanding, and the historical church displays were first-rate and informative. 

The history of Messiah is rich.  In 1855, the Pennsylvania Railroad expanded service into the sparsely settled, agricultural areas north of Philadelphia as far as Gwynedd Valley Station. Philadelphians seeking escape from the city’s summer heat discovered the pastoral and tranquil countryside, and farmers began to take in summer boarders. Soon, inns to accommodate visitors and summer homes for wealthy families were built in the area.

In 1861, with no Episcopal church located this far from the city, services for summer visitors were held in the local home of Rodolphus Kent. The growth of these services prompted a group of summer residents to hold an organizational meeting in December of 1866; the name ‘Church of the Messiah’ reflects the fact that the parish was born in the same month as the Church celebrates Christ’s birth. Within two years, attendance had grown too large for private homes and Sunday services were moved to the Gwynedd School, opposite the intersection of Plymouth Road and State Road (now Rte. 202).

In 1870, two acres located between the school and William Penn Inn were purchased. The church women hosted a fair to raise funds for the builder’s first payment, and, in recognition of their contribution, the women were given the honor of turning the first sod at the official ground-breaking. In the weeks following, the men of the parish labored to excavate the site and dig the cellar by hand. Stone from a local quarry was then brought to the site along State Road (now Rte. 202, as previously mentioned), then a toll road, but the road’s private owners waived the tolls to spare the congregation the expensive transport. On August 10, 1871, the cornerstone was laid; and only four months later, the congregation gathered on Christmas Day to celebrate Messiah’s first service. In the summer of 1877, after a fundraising junket to Long Branch raised enough money to pay off the mortgage, the building was consecrated, and the parish welcomed into the Diocese of Pennsylvania.

In the early years Church of the Messiah served only as a summer chapel, but as the surrounding area developed, the congregation grew steadily until year-round services could be supported. A full-time rector was hired, requiring the building of the rectory, the Patterson House, which is still in use as Belfry Bargains Thrift Shop. Later the school building was acquired and expanded for use as the Parish Hall. The growth of the Gwynedd-area suburbs prompted the parish to establish three missions, now the independent parishes of Holy Trinity in Lansdale, St. Dunstan’s in Blue Bell, and St. Matthew’s, Maple Glen. While continued parish growth necessitated expanding the Parish Hall and 100-seat sanctuary and purchasing ‘the Cottage,’ the historic flavor of the original buildings has been faithfully maintained.

Please make Messiah Gwynedd a stop on your diocesan tour.  Take time to shop in their store, pray in their sanctuary and say hello to the dedicated staff.  The drive to Gwynedd can allow for reflection and prayer.  When you reach this destination, you will not be disappointed.   

Visit Messiah Gwynedd:  https://www.messiahgwynedd.org


The Advent Season was celebrated by joining The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Choir singing at the Kimmel Center.  Through the course of the evening, a selection of sacred and holiday music was presented.  Suzanne and I were invited to attend by Rev. Canon Martini Shaw, Waltier Blocker, and the choir. 

I do not need a second invitation or reminder to hear one of the best choirs in the church - St. Thomas.  When they walked onto the stage, my heart lept like a deer.  I am not saying this because I am the Bishop, however, in my humble opinion, they were the best! What can I say other than “rejoice!”  It was a splendid night with the choir and my friends at St. Thomas.  Rejoice. 

Visit St. Thomas: http://www.aecst.org/home.htm
Visit the Gospel Choir: https://www.stthomasgc.org


I would like to thank you for this special calling.  Each day I give thanks to the Lord for being called to this special place.  The work is hard and the road is long, however, this is my home and where I am called.  Thank you for the trust, patience and love. 

I hold you in prayer as we give thanks for 2017 and look forward to 2018.   The staff of the Office of the Diocese is called to serve you.  Each day we are working to empower our congregations and we need your feedback.  At times we will make mistakes.  If a call is not returned, an email left without action, or if we do not follow up, I ask that you let me (and us) know.   Please email me at dgutierrez@diopa.org since it is the only way we can improve. 

God is good and has blessed this diocese.   I am blessed to serve as your Bishop.   We enter 2018 proclaiming: "Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords."  May God bless you always. 

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