Tuesday, October 29, 2019

God's unwielding love






“God’s unwieldy love, which cannot be contained by our words, wants to accept all that we are—nothing of our humanity is to be discarded. No part of our hardwiring or our messy selves is to be disparaged. Where we stand, in all our mistakes and imperfection, is holy ground. It is where God has chosen to be intimate with us, and not in any way other than this.  [Our] moment of truth isn’t in recognizing what a disappointment [we] have been all these years. It comes in realizing that God has been beholding [us] for all this time, unable to look anywhere else.”
–Gregory Doyle, Tattoos on the Heart

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Kneeling, by R.S. Thomas



Kneeling
Moments of great calm,
Kneeling before an altar

Of wood in a stone church
In summer, waiting for the God
To speak; the air a staircase
For silence; the sun's light
Ringing me, as though I acted
A great role. And the audiences
Still; all that close throng
Of spirits waiting, as I,
For the message.
Prompt me, God;
But not yet. When I speak,
Though it be you who speak
Through me, something is lost.
The meaning is in the waiting.

R.S. Thomas (1913–2000)

Monday, October 21, 2019


The Bishop's Budget Message

The following is also available on our web site and will be in next issue of Caminos, the diocesan magazine, as well as in the Diocesan Convention materials.

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,  making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.  But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” (Ephesians 4:1-7)


As I begin my fourth year serving you as Bishop, I write this introduction with great hope. We are at the point in our common life when we are prepared to take those bold steps to proclaim the Good News. The world desperately needs the promise and love of Jesus Christ. As disciples in the 21st Century we are prepared to move forward with faith and courage. Now is the time to live fearlessly in Jesus. 

Over the past three years, together we have done the hard and important work of preparation and formation. In a world of increasing secularism and separation, our time is now. We can no longer live as though this beautiful diocese is receding into the shadows of irrelevance. We can no longer plan for a church suited for 1950; our ministry is to prepare for 2050 and beyond. The world needs us, and we need to be part of the world. Our diocese matters. We matter to southeast Pennsylvania, we matter to The Episcopal Church and we matter to the world at large. Working together we are making a difference in the name of Jesus Christ. 
I have the blessed opportunity to be with you 3-4 times a week. At each visitation, I see and hear your desire to live into our true calling. All our churches, whether small or large, work to spread the Gospel. With each liturgy, outreach, confirmation, hospital visitation, common interaction, we are showing the face of Christ. And your efforts are providing a glimpse of God’s Kingdom. I am always inspired to see your ministry to our community, where prayers are turned into reality. 
You show tireless Christian love in action. This reflects our convention theme, “The Year of Living Fearlessly in Christ.” We chose this theme because of your witness. It is evident that we are ready. Ready to try, to fail, get up and try again. All because of our belief in the power of Jesus Christ. 

Together, we are meeting the world as a church. 
Your Office of the Diocese will not be a distant entity far removed from your daily journey. We are committed to live incarnationally with you and the community. In the last year, we strengthened and re-envisioned new life and possibility at previously closed churches like St. Jude and the Nativity, Church of the Crucifixion, St. Stephen’s Philadelphia and St. John’s Norristown and worked hard assisting parishes in making critical decisions which allow them to continue their life of worship and service; recruited 6 priests from outside the diocese and ordained
11 new priests and deacons towards the overall goal of recruiting 60 deacons in five years; added 8 parish wellness centers with the goal of adding more; opened the nation’s first program for female veterans living with moral injury and offered trainings in the use of Narcan and mental health first aide; created a partnership with the School District of Philadelphia to address impoverished children; led more than 18 churches through the work of envisioning, offering assistance with marketing, providing demographic data; and disbursed $300,000 in direct financial support to our parishes through the Growth Development Fund.  
Yet there is still so much to do. This is especially true when it comes to our commitment to address poverty in the world. Jesus tells us that our very salvation depends upon how we respond to those in need (Matt 25:31-40). Philadelphia has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. It also has the highest number of children in poverty. Christ echoes the words of the prophet Isaiah when he proclaims freedom to those who are held captive (Luke 4:18). We have to remember that poverty is not only an economic condition; there are sisters and brothers who are experiencing spiritual, physical, and mental poverty. Together we must work not simply to feed or clothe them for a day, but to help break the chains which hold them for all time.  
This brings us to the 2020 budget itself. Budgets tell a story. They speak of who we are. They tell of our aspirations and where we hope to go. They can even hide secrets. In short, the budget of this diocese tells the world who we are. 

So, what does this 2020 budget say about The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania? When I look at these numbers, I see four threads that weave throughout. It is a story that speaks of: 1) meeting the challenges we face with courage and hope, 2) deepening our trust with one another 3) grounding ourselves as a community formed in Christ 4) the willingness of a faithful diocese to move forward in hope spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. 

We began 2019 facing the obstacle of projected deficit totaling $873,000. This was troubling for many people across our diocese and for me personally. Yet there was no clear answer. We wanted to continue to support our churches but at the same time needed our churches to increase their giving to support our diocese. In much the same way, the deficit was a result of transparency. Over the past three years, we have aligned all previously existing budgets and demonstrated what it actually costs to run a diocese For the previous three years we had frozen assessments and dramatically increased direct support of parishes, missions and ministries. I was not willing to let us go backwards and undermine the seeds of growth that are sprouting across our diocese.
 
Yet at the same time we heard the concerns you voiced at the budget and preconvention meetings last year. The deficit was an obstacle which was impairing our capacity to move forward as a single body. We had to find a solution.
This brings us to trust. Immediately following Convention 2018, diocesan leadership went to work.  There were seven sacred conversations in the spring of this year during which we listened to your concerns and suggestions. We heard you when some of you said that the deficit made it harder for you to increase your commitment and support of our diocese. We listened as some expressed fear of declining membership and giving. We integrated your suggestions into the evolving budget. We heard of your willingness to go forth into the world and support our mission in southeast Pennsylvania and the world. We took your words to heart. 
As a result, we once again approached the 2020 budget ready to continue our commitment towards mission, accountability and transparency and the proclamation of Jesus Christ. We were firm in the resolve to discard anything that detracts from addressing the pain and poverty of the world, the support of our churches and that proclamation is Jesus Christ. After prayer and hard work, we:  
When we were done, we were left with a surplus of $2,000. While some of those cuts were costly, it was worth it for to the sense of community that this budget has helped engender. This reflects my commitment that we cannot simply play at being “church.” We must be the Church. 

We are not a social club based on a religious ideal. Neither are we a social service organization, or a political entity.  We are the Church centered in Jesus Christ. All our words, actions and life must be formed and centered in Christ. Christ, in every breath, word, thought and action. Christ should be holy encounter after holy encounter. If we do not proclaim Jesus Christ, we should not exist. 

We are also called to build up the Body of Christ known as the diocese. We have turned the proverbial pyramid on its head. We are out with you at your churches and in your communities. I am working to hold office hours, worship or participate in service at our churches on a weekly basis and the canons are out with you every day. We do so in order to strengthen our common bonds. We laugh, cry, rejoice, mourn and support one another in our life together. We are not 134 individual congregations; we are 134 churches. We are one diocese, one people, one church. 

This brings us to the final part of the story. As Paul writes to the Ephesians, as Christians we are one body united by the bonds of baptism. In our diocese our collective sense of mission and vision is growing stronger day by day. It is reflected in your increased engagement and support. Moving forward we will be asking churches and vestries to gradually increase their support of our collective diocesan budget. Stewardship is essential to our identity and mission. Giving is an act and extension of our worship that continues throughout the week. Your sacred gifts reverberate throughout our diocese.

As you may already know, the average parish support of our diocese is far below the norm. Across The Episcopal Church the average giving to the diocese is 13% of the church’s normal operating income. In our diocese, it is 5.9%. For 2020, we are asking our parishes to take a first small step towards increasing their support towards an ultimate goal of 10%. Some parishes are already giving at this level. Some are close. Others have some work to do. But as one body sharing one spirit we must all share equally in our common life and work. For 2020 we have asked only for a very modest step forward in your support of .02%. We will continue to have open and honest conversations about the best way to get there and I look forward to sharing in this work with you.  

When I look at the story told by our budget, I am enormously proud of all that we have accomplished together. Yet there was concern left unresolved, namely our support of The Episcopal Church. How could we demonstrate our responsibility to one another and build trust with our churches, and neglect to do the same as part of a wider church community? 

As one of the richest dioceses in The Episcopal Church, we could no longer in good conscience continue asking for a waiver from our obligation as the dioceses of Haiti, Honduras and Mississippi are forced to do. The Diocese of Pennsylvania has not met our full obligation to The Episcopal Church since 2007. This is not who we are. So, we went back to you, to the diocese with a proposal to meet our full obligation, not in five years or even three years but now. What we found was overwhelming support culminating in a unanimous vote from the Diocesan Council.  This decision was made easier, because our endowment has enjoyed consistent and steady growth, which has continued through this year.

I understand that some may wonder why it is important for us to meet our obligation to the wider Church.  We all appreciate the importance of full participation in our relationships, but how is it helping? Right now, The Episcopal Church is partnering with us on many initiatives which support our mission to Know Jesus and Change the World. They are supporting new and innovative forms of ministry, providing resources for evangelism and racial reconciliation, and advocating for refugees, the poor and for the environment. We must re-claim our rightful place as full participants in this larger story. 
I hope that as you read through these numbers that you too will find threads that weave together a story of hope and possibility. It speaks of people and churches that refuse to give up or give in; about vestries and clergy who believe in the promise of the Gospel and who will do whatever it takes to proclaim the love of Jesus Christ to a broken and hurting world. 

This budget takes those bold steps into our collective future. We will still face our challenges. But Jesus repeatedly told his disciples to “be not afraid.” Further, he assures us that he will be “with us always.” Let us move forward fearlessly with this knowing. Let us be innovative, faithful, loving and willing to lead, not just here in southeastern Pennsylvania but across the Episcopal Church. We can do this; we will do this. Let us move deeper in prayer, holiness, discipleship as one people united in Jesus Christ. Let us step forward fearlessly in the knowing that Christ is with us till the end of time.

Our story is still emerging. I am blessed to walk this holy pilgrimage with you as fellow sojourner and your servant.  


The Rt. Rev. Daniel G. P. GutiƩrrez
XVI Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania
Know Jesus. Change the World.
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Friday, October 18, 2019

Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called







I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,  making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.  But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” (Ephesians 4:1-7)

Saturday, October 12, 2019

A Collect for Saturdays



A Collect for Saturdays

Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of your sanctuary, and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Collect for Saturdays



A Collect for Saturdays

Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of your sanctuary, and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Nature is a reflection of God's beauty


“All animals who lift their voices at dawn sing to God. The volcanoes and the clouds and the trees cry to us about God. The whole creation cries to us penetratingly with a great joy about the existence and the beauty and the love of God. The music roars it into our ears, the landscape calls it into our eyes. In all of nature we find God’s initials, and all God’s creatures are God’s love letters to us.
“All of nature burns with love created through love to light love in us. Nature is like a shadow of God, a reflection of God’s beauty. The still, blue lake is a reflection of God. Each of my cells is a hymn about the Creator and an ongoing declaration of love.”
–Ernesto Cardenal, To Live Is to Love

Friday, October 11, 2019

Diocesan News

Convention Registration
10/17 is the deadline for registering for Convention. You can find all Convention documents and registration information here.









Celebration of New Ministry
10/16, Free Church of St. John
Join us for the Celebration of New Ministry for the Rev. Jose Luis Memba, Vicar of both the Free Church of St. John and La Iglesia Episcopal de Cristo y San Ambrosio! More details.





Opera in the Afternoon Series
11/10, St. Jude and the Nativity
This exciting series of three afternoon music performances is presented by Delaware Valley Opera Company and targeted to the general public.  The first one is Opera Goes to the Movies, select opera moments from the silver screen. More details.


Annual Tour & Soup Dinner
10/19, All Saints', Torresdale
The History Committee of the diocese presents their Graveyard Tour “Hauntings” at several tour times and then asks people to join inside for bowls of homemade soup. All proceeds benefit the graveyard restoration project. More details on Facebook.


Trunk or Treat
10/31, St. John's, Norristown
Organized by the diocesan deacons, this community event fills the parking lot with mobile candy units for children in the community and beyond. If your church is willing to staff and man a car trunk for the event, contact archdeacon@diopa.org.
The Theology of Stewardship: Planned Giving
10/19, St. George St. Barnabas
Rev. Canon Ronald Charles Byrd, Missioner for Black Ministries for The Episcopal Church, will reprise his role as conference leader. Hosted by UBE & the Black Clergy. Breakfast and lunch provided. More details.


Soup'er Lunch
10/16, St. James, Prospect Park
'SOUP'ER LUNCH is held on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month at 11am. FREE of charge to all. Homemade soups, bread and butter, hotdogs, desserts, beverages, coffee and tea. Please come and join us for a delicious meal. More details.
Holiday Bazaar
11/2, St. Paul's, Oaks
The Women of St. Paul’s run this awesome event, providing homemade baked goods, handmade crafts, books, “Attic Treasures,” and lunch for purchase by the community. Proceeds benefit Mom’s House which provides childcare for single moms – and a few dads – who want to return to school and complete their education. More details.
AngelFest Fair
10/19, St. Paul's, Exton
Live music, food and fabulous Items will be available from Grandma's Attic, the Boutique, and the Holiday Room. To add to the festivities there will be the famous Soup-to-Go, a handmade quilt drawing, and silent auction items - amazing baskets and other treasures to bid on! More details.

Safe Church Training
10/26, St. George St. Barnabas, Phila.
This is diocesan-wide training for all persons requiring Safe-Church training. For questions contact Canon Betsy Ivey, bivey@diopa.orgMore details.
Supper, the Movie
If you missed it before, you can watch short pieces detailing the Supper Program inside 4 of the churches inside the diocese. Watch now.
Please subscribe to this newsletter and other diocesan mailings here. Have an event that you want us to promote? Please fill this out.

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