Friday, March 24, 2017

Week 11 of the Come and See Tour - Trinity, St. Peter's (St. Philip) Our Saviour, and St. John


My brothers and sisters, we continue this beautiful journey in the Come and See pilgrimage. With each stop, each conversation, each suggestion we build this beloved community.  As the pilgrimage continues, I go deeper and deeper into the belief that “a shepherd should smell like the sheep.”  In this way, I will learn to be a shepherd that leads “with” you.  At times the shepherd leads from the front and in other instances walks a few steps behind.  The truth is that we walk together.  Each step allows me to stand in humble awe of the sacred trust I have been given.  I fully understand that the shepherd does not own the sheep.  The shepherd cares for the sheep for the Master, and the Master is Jesus Christ. 

As we journey forward to Lent, you will hear me speaking of the desire (heard throughout the pilgrimage) to go deeper spiritually and with prayer.  I will be recording my Lenten message, and you will hear me speak of prayer, proclamation, and peace.  Everything we do, everything we say, everything should be centered in Jesus Christ.  With this hope and resolve, we move forward on the pilgrimage.  I want to reiterate that in our lives, our community I am awakened to the fact, every day, the realization that God is very fond of us.  With each step let us hold that knowing and live joyfully.  You are the Diocese of Pennsylvania and you exemplify the Good News of Jesus Christ. 

TRINITY GULPH MILLS

The first stop on the pilgrimage was Trinity Gulph Mills.  Trinity is a beautiful and extensive facility, and I was met by my friend the Rev. Liz Colton.  I had the opportunity to spend time with Rev. Colton during the call/election process and her time on Standing Committee.  I have found her to be a creative, faithful and a trusted servant of Jesus Christ.  I would like to thank her for her faithfulness in serving the Diocese of Pennsylvania, and I am confident she will continue to grow congregations.  






Trinity was hosting a Friday night Eucharist that attracted those families who could not attend the traditional Sunday service.  This Eucharist is a service for Families with Young Children.  It begins with a service at 5:30 for children older than 5, dinner for everyone at 6 and a worship service for young children at 6:30.  

Trinity is involved in outreach through the Upper Merion Emergency Aid program and also home to a non-denominational program serving children ages three years through kindergarten.  The Nursery and Kindergarten were founded in 1956 and provides a creative and caring learning environment for over 60 children.  





As a church and people of God, our mission and call are to adapt and adjust our services so that all who want the beautiful liturgy at our churches can find a place.  At times it may be a Sunday service while in other instances it may be on a Friday night.  The key is to be available and respond to those seeking Jesus Christ.  We are encouraged by our faith to look at the church in a new way.  

In 2017, we have an opportunity to lead the church in creativity, faithfulness, and hope.  Above all else, we must give people hope, and we will be centered in Jesus Christ.  The leading includes being faithful to scripture, sacred liturgy, and the Eucharist.  People are seeking mystery in a world that wants to provide all the answers.  We cannot define God; we must only open our lives to the presence of God and Jesus Christ. 





My friends and companions on the Vestry are lively, faithful and engaging.  They have plans that are creative and inspiring.  I find the leadership filled with hope.  Together, as a community linked together, we discussed how to move forward proclaiming the Gospel. I am encouraged by their optimism and desire to move forward.  At each pilgrimage stop, I carry the prayers and blessings of each of our churches.  We are in this together, and together we will spread the Good News. 





Trinity is centered at the crossroads. Trinity was founded as a mission in 1913 when King of Prussian was a rural area.  Currently, the parish is comprised of 50 active households.  There is a great hope for Trinity.  It is visible from the expressway and across the street from a SEPTA station.  Thousands upon thousands of people pass by the church.  The life they are seeking is just inside the doors of our church.  Our call is to break open those doors to all individuals, of all walks, colors and backgrounds to make a place where they belong.  As followers of Jesus Christ, we must provide a place of sacred transformation where they will go out and get on that expressway, board those trains, walk out into the world with Jesus Christ in their hearts and on their lips.  The future is now for Trinity.  Visit Trinity Gulph Mills at: http://www.trinitygulphmills.org

ST. PETER'S GLENSIDE

I am blessed to be with Rev. Emily and Deacon Patricia on numerous occasions.  Each time we are together, I am with family and when I walk into St. Peter I am at home.  They are kind, considerate and always watching out for me. I had the opportunity early in my Episcopacy to be part of the service that joined St. Peter and St. Philip.  It was a moving liturgy, and a process of joining two sacred bodies was a holy experience.  I would like to thank all those who participated in this sacramental union and know that their journey has been blessed.  I anticipate years of joyous celebration, music, ministry and hope through the work of this new ministry. 






My time at St. Peter was filled with a great tour and question and answer program.  A beautiful breakfast was prepared, and the parish hall was filled with numerous parishioners who were excited and eager to discuss our work together.   We spoke of various issues, and once again I was inspired by the willingness of the congregation to take a chance and become apostles to the world.  The congregation is willing to go out and invite people to this beloved place. 





We spoke of the intentional aspect of outreach into the community with the emphasis on engagement.  This is an essential component of growth and ministry that attracts people onto the campus. Immediately after the question and answer session, we toured the campus.  St. Peter is clean, attractive and signage is everywhere.  It is important to note that large and readable signage for a newcomer is necessary.  Signage is an essential to congregational development since it provides an unspoken welcome.  It states that your concerns and accessibility are important and you do not have to go seeking information.  We are responding to your questions (such as “where is the bathroom”) before you ask.  The campus is also immaculate and invites people to walk around.  







Speaking of walking around, I would encourage you to tour St. Peter and learn the history of the sanctuary, the paintings within the sanctuary and the stained glass windows.  Again, I am struck by the diversity of riches that are within the Diocese of Pennsylvania.  No two churches are alike, and each has distinct beauty.  The Diocese of Pennsylvania is truly a place of beauty and warmth.  The sanctuary draws one into worship, and you immediately feel centered.  What is more, you look to the left and right, and there are extraordinary drawings and art pieces.  If you want to learn about the history of St. Peter, all you have to do is read the art.  






During my pilgrimage St. Peter was preparing for a large “sale” of donated items.  It is “in-reach” (community building) and outreach (community integration) program.  I wanted to jump in and purchase numerous items before the items being placed for sale. While I was on pilgrimage, numerous parishioners were busily preparing the items, putting them in the correct aisles and laughing with the joy of fellowship.  It was a morning that reminded me of why we share in a church community - because it is good and filled with Christ.   


St. Peter has an active youth program and formation ministries.  They seek to offer many resources that will assist in making disciples.  They also have the practical components of our faith such as a lively thrift shop and property maintenance committee.  In short, if you want to become involved at St. Peter’s, you will find an opportunity to serve.  I have also been blessed with numerous opportunities to attend services at St. Peter.  The music is exceptional and integrates the congregation, and the liturgy is dynamic.  There is also an emphasis that you are safe to seek, discern, and to ask questions.  There is an emphasis that the clergy and congregation will walk with you on this beloved faith journey.  We are blessed with many healthy, vibrant and growing congregations.  The future is boundless for this congregation.  Thank each one of you for being Christ to the world. 


As mentioned, St. Peter’s joined with St. Philip’s.  We took the short drive to St. Philips to tour the campus, and we walked these sacred grounds.  It was an enlightening and moving time.  There is a fondness of the past yet an excitement for the future.  It is a beautiful sanctuary and has unlimited potential for sacred uses.  Pictures of St. Philips:














 The community of St. Peter, the Office of the Bishop and the clergy of the Deanery will lead the envisioning work for the future of the campus.  We want to discern how we use this beautiful place to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.  The possibilities are endless.  Parishioners have suggested a monastic community, a school (Episcopal), outreach center, all things are possible through Jesus Christ.  Visit St. Peter at: http://stpetersglenside.org



CHURCH OF OUR SAVIOUR, JENKINTOWN

Rev. Emily and I drove to meet Fr. Eric Bond at two of the churches he is shepherding.  We arrived at the Church of our Saviour in Jenkintown.  It was a pleasant surprise to walk through the parish hall and have to maneuver through stage lighting.  The parish hall was being used for a play.  The stage was set and was decorated for a production.  It speaks to the creativity of a place where the congregation explores various and creative uses for our assets.  Plays, meetings, community gatherings - all bring the face of Christ to the Diocese of Pennsylvania.  






Our Savior was founded by a half dozen families in the Jenkintown area in July of 1855.  The first Rector was the Rev. Dr. E. Y. Buchanan, brother of President James Buchanan.   The church website states that no church was constructed at that time, so services were held in available buildings, such as the Jenkintown Lyceum (now the Jenkintown Library) and people’s homes. 

On August 29, 1855, two members of the congregation, William Henry Newbold and his daughter, Marie, were in a tragic railroad accident in Burlington, NJ, that killed over 20 people.  Mr. Newbold escaped without injury, but his daughter, Marie, was severely injured.  The railroad voluntarily gave the Newbold family $10,000 which the family devoted to the erection of the church in Jenkintown as a “thank offering” to God.  Because of their miraculous escape, they decided upon the name, “The Church of Our Saviour.”  Placed over the door of the church were the words from Psalm 68: “God is the Lord by whom we escape death.”  





Our Saviour played a significant role in the founding of other Episcopal churches in the area, All Hallows Wyncote (1909), St. John's, Huntingdon Valley (1956), and St. Anne's, Abington (1962).  In 2012 it entered into a covenanted relationship with St. John's, Huntington Valley.  As mentioned earlier, Fr. Bond ministers to both congregations and the two congregations collaborate in ministry, social activities and spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. 

During my tour, I walked into the sanctuary and was transfixed by the beauty of the windows and the sanctuary.  There is an excellent movement of light in the sanctuary, and it easily moves one from the external world into a place to worship the divine.  I was fortunate to receive an extensive history of the windows.    It is a settling place where one can sit and pray.  I cannot stress the beauty of each place I visit.  We have the most beautiful churches in the Episcopal Church.  I have visited thousands of churches throughout the country, and I am always struck by the beauty of our churches.  Please visit churches such as Our Saviour.  Call and make an appointment and visit our churches.  You will not be disappointed by the spirituality, the beauty, and the history.  We need to invite people to “Come and See” the beauty of our places of worship.  



Our Saviour has an active Sunday School and Adult Discussion Group.   Every Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. Fr. Eric hosts a forum to discuss the readings appointed for the upcoming Sunday.  It is an important time to hear sacred scripture and discern their meaning in our lives.  This forum is also important because it prepares the sojourner for the Sunday service and leads them to a closer relationship with scripture, liturgy, worship and Jesus Christ. 

The church also has an important service for healing.  A wise and faithful Bishop shared his belief that healing services are necessary for a congregation. He said it demonstrates trust in the reconciling power of the Lord in the spiritual and physical.  The service for healing is Sunday at 5:00 and Wednesday at noon during the first week of each month.



I would like to emphasize the creativity in planning events for the space.  There is a common room at Our Saviour named the Homestead Hall that has become a gathering place for the community.  It is available for rental.  The halls are used for special events, retreats, meetings, luncheons, etc.  I have included a brief description of the space:   “In the Jenkintown area there is only one place to host your special event - Homestead Hall.  Homestead Hall offers two stately rooms with old world charm for your special occasion. The Common Room is the hallmark of our building. Newly redecorated but historic nonetheless, its stone fireplace provides a touch of gracious elegance. Beamed ceilings and stylish wood trim contribute to the room's appeal. The Drawing Room can host up to 50 guests for small receptions, charity functions, luncheons, and intimate gatherings.  The Main Reception Hall can accommodate up to 150 guests comfortably. Richly appointed wood trim and hardwood floors provide an old-fashioned elegance and charm. A stage complements this space. If your event calls for dancing, this room is perfect.  When it comes to planning a banquet, your caterer will be impressed with our commercial style kitchen.  At no extra charge, it is available so your caterer can prepare a distinctive meal on your special day.”





The community is beautiful; the congregation is welcoming.  Invite someone to share in the experience of Our Saviour.  It will change their lives.  If you are a member of the Diocese - take a short drive to Our Saviour and take in this extraordinary sanctuary and pray.  We are doing great things in the name of Jesus Christ.  Visit Our Saviour at: http://churchofoursaviour.net

ST. JOHN’S HUNTINGTON VALLEY

I find St. John to be a community of hope. Fr. Bond is also the Rector of this “new life” congregation.   They are confident that no obstacle will impede their journey toward the risen Lord.  They have endured various challenges and turned them into opportunities.  Before my consecration as Bishop, the community had decided to sell the larger structure and worship in the historic sanctuary on the campus grounds.  It is a beautiful and sacred place.  It has held prayer services for years.  





The community discerned, prayed, and worked toward the new life.  I am excited about the future and the possibilities.  There are plans to care for the cemetery and care for the sanctuary.  The people of St. John's gather together each Sunday to share prayer, engage scripture, and embody community in the pure, sacred meal of Eucharist (thanksgiving), by which Jesus invited his friends to celebrate his living memory. Our members, friends, and guests are joined by the Spirit in Holy Communion, as we are nourished for lives and ministries of hospitality, service, and peacemaking.

During my visit, we toured the sanctuary and walked the grounds.  One can feel the hopefulness of the people and the prayers of the place.   It was a joyous pilgrimage visit.  We sat in the sanctuary and shared a pizza.  We discussed how we could move forward and look to growth rather than any obstacles.  




St. John is a church that is renewing foundations and ready to go forward.  I love the description of worship: “In weekly worship, we are guided from open doors to open table, where we’re called time and again to offer our lives to be opened—our minds set free and hearts set afire. As we approach the humble banquet of Christ, Jesus welcomes, feeds, and renews each and all of us; seekers, sinners, saints alike. Graciously accepting his invitation to a new way of life, rooted in compassion, we are called anew to claim and proclaim good news of love, justice, and peace.” and “St. John's is a progressive Episcopal church community committed to claiming and proclaiming Jesus’ gospel of love, justice, and peace. Through ministries of prayerful discipleship, faithful servanthood, and abundant hospitality, together we seek to serve God and embody Christ, filled with Holy Spirit. A gathering of open-minded, open-hearted pilgrims walking in the Way of Jesus, our members have come together from a variety of backgrounds, beliefs, and traditions. We strive to shine a beacon of hope and joy to the world, witnessing by word and deed to the good news that God loves all of the human family, and that all of God’s children deserve compassion, renewal, and true freedom.”

I would like to mention that the congregation graciously cared for a beautiful altar and pulpit.   It is made from carved wood by a famous artist.  Words cannot describe the beauty and sacredness.   Currently, it will not fit in the small nave.  They would like for a church in the diocese to purchase these sacred pieces of art.  I would encourage interested churches to contact Fr. Bond.  Maybe someone would like to buy the items and then donate to a church - it would be a gift to both congregations.  


I left with a renewed sense that the Holy Sprit is moving through our congregations.  Both small and large there is a need in this world for the world of God to be proclaimed and the life of Christ to shine in the darkness of the world.  What is more, the church is an important part of the lives of thousands upon thousands of people in our diocese.  We are not a church looking to the past - we have faith.  Discipleship is what God is calling us to do - go out and make disciples.  



I would like to thank our brothers and sisters at St. John for never wavering in their faith.  We journey with you, and we will build together.  I  am also great fuel for all those who have worked, discussed, discerned and prayed.  I also want to assure St. John’s and all our smaller parishes that I will stand with you and walk this journey with you.  We will meet all the obstacles together.  The staff of the offices of the Diocese will do the same.  Visit St. John's at http://www.stjohnshv.org





I cannot say enough about the ministry of Fr. Eric.  He is exemplary in his call as a pastor, priest, and shepherd.  He has journeyed with both congregations and is centered in prayer and a love of Jesus Christ.  I am blessed to walk alongside Fr. Eric and with a knowing that he cares for God’s beloved.  He has my gratitude and prayers.  You bless us with your ministry. 

Finally, I would like to thank the staff of the Offices of the Diocese for their willingness to live into their call to serve you.  We strive daily to center ourselves in prayer and Jesus Christ.  It is not about formula - it is discipleship and service.  Together,  we have initiated the Bible Challenge, the Come and See Pilgrimage, our ministry to be an “office to serve the churches rather than one to be served.”  You should be confident that those who serve you see this as a call.  You have an office that is intelligent, faithful and effective.  They are skilled as business experts, office administrators, managers, creative thinkers, and innovators.  While I have the experience to be in the midst of the administration, their work allows me to be a pastor, shepherd, proclaimer of the word.  I can be among you in your churches and on the streets of your towns.   We are moving past the old model and creating something new in the name of Jesus Christ.  I can be a shepherd that smells like the sheep.  I am blessed to serve as your Bishop.



PS.  I will not leave out a pilgrimage or a church.  Keep following the blog.