Episcopal Bishops Issue A Word to the Church for the World

[September 20, 2016] The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church has issued the following A Word to the Church for the World.

The video is available in English and Spanish here.

A Word to the Church for the World

Greetings from Detroit, a city determined to be revived.  Greetings also from the city of Flint, where we are reminded that the gift of water has for many of our brothers and sisters become contaminated.

Here we have been exhorted to set our sights beyond ourselves and to minister to the several nations where we serve and the wider world.

We lament the stark joylessness that marks our present time.  We decry angry political rhetoric which rages while fissures widen within society along racial, economic, educational, religious, cultural and generational lines.  We refuse to look away as poverty, cruelty and war force families to become migrants enduring statelessness and demonization.  We renounce the gun violence and drug addiction that steal lives and crush souls while others succumb to fear and cynicism, abandoning any sense of neighborliness.

Yet, in all this, “we do not despair” (2 Cor. 4:8.). We remember that God in Christ entered our earthly neighborhood during a time of political volatility and economic inequality.  To this current crisis we bring our faith in Jesus.  By God’s grace, we choose to see in this moment an urgent opportunity to follow Jesus into our fractured neighborhoods, the nation and the world.

Every member of the church has been “called for a time such as this.” (Esther 4:14) Let prophets tell the truth in love.  Let reconcilers move boldly into places of division and disagreement. Let evangelists inspire us to tell the story of Jesus in new and compelling ways.  Let leaders lead with courage and joy.

In the hope of the Resurrection let us all pray for God to work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish God’s purposes on earth.

Writing Committee
Bishop Tom Breidenthal of Southern Ohio
Bishop Mariann Budde of Washington
Bishop Diane Jardine Bruce of Los Angeles
Bishop Victor Scantlebury of Ecuador Central
Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves of El Camino Real
Bishop Alan Gates of Massachusetts
Bishop Wendell Gibbs Jr. of Michigan
Dr. Scott Bader-Saye
Bishop Prince Singh of Rochester
Bishop Robert Wright of Atlanta
Bishop Rob Hirschfield of New Hampshire

The Episcopal Church House of Bishops met September 15 to September 20 in Detroit MI (Diocese of Michigan).

“Feed My Sheep” – Community Gardens in NWPA

If you offer your food to the hungry
   and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
   and your gloom be like the noonday.  Isaiah 58:10 

Several of the churches in the Diocese of NWPA have taken the idea of feeding the hungry and are ministering in a very direct way – growing community gardens and sharing the produce with others.

Grace Church, Ridgway’s community garden was begun in 2013.
grace-ridgway-garden“We have 15 4’x4′ raised gardenbeds. This year we were assisted by a local group encouraging agriculture in general and the establishment of community gardens throughout Elk County by improving the walk ways between our beds, the donation of man/woman/child power, and by donating seeds and plants. In addition to providing fresh vegetables to the community at large, we donate our harvests to the local food bank and to the local Senior Citizen High Rise residents.”  The Rev. Bonnie Skellen


Church of Our Savior, DuBois is finishing up their third growing season.


“The land for the garden is at the back of Church of Our Saviour in DuBois, but our planning team and volunteers are drawn entirely from the broader community.  We have had the garden for three seasons and have finally begun to see an increase in the number of folks who come by and pick veggies.”  The Rev. Melinda Hall

There is also a website to introduce people to the garden and update everyone on what’s ready to pick: (https://duboiscommunitygarden.wordpress.com/).

This year was Emmanuel Church, Corry’s first time participating in a community garden.


“Emmanuel, Corry helped sponsor (along with businesses and other organizations) a new community organic garden and had a plot in it… The yield from our plot went to church folks, neighbors, friends, those in need, and the staff at the Y.  Lots of lessons learned (like don’t put in a million tomato plants!).   Note…we did not initiate this; someone else did.  But it seemed like a good idea, so we joined in.” The Rev. Mary Norton

This year was a first in gardening at St. Stephen’s, Fairview as well.


“The ‘Glory of God Garden’, or G3, is located behind the church in raised beds that were a joint collaboration between the church and the local Boy Scout troop. The produce is donated to food pantries in Fairview and Girard, and the hope for next year is to involve the St. Stephen’s Nursery School in the project as well. (If you look closely, you can see that the garden is not only feeding people, but some fortunate wildlife too!)”  Megin Sewak

The growing season is winding down for the year and the last vegetables will make their way to those in need, but already plans are in the works for next year’s harvest – bringing food and hope to communities throughout the diocese.

‘Planting’ Hope for the Future at Buhl Day

Buhl Day (the annual Labor Day celebration held in Hermitage, PA) was a success for the diocese’s newest church plant in more ways than one.  The church’s food stand, besides being a great fundraising opportunity, brought together people from eight different congregations all over the diocese to work and reach out to the community and each other. Good food, good fun, and building relationships while helping to further the Kingdom of God – the definition of One Church at work. It was definitely a Great Day in the Kingdom!

Read on for some personal reflections on the day:


“In the beginning of Buhl Day there is a parade that local residents are excited to attend; giving us time to prepare before the rush.  I had helped prepare for this in the two days prior, but I was getting pumped on what was to come. Eventually, after getting everything ready and seeing more people arrive to help, we got customers. The crowd did not seem as big as usual, but we had a steady amount of people buying things. It was time to roll and perform my duties, alongside others who were working diligently.

There was a fantastic amount of people there helping, so I found I could sit and actually take a break – something that I and  others that had worked at this booth on Buhl Day in the past had not experienced too often. Finally after smelling the sandwiches being prepared all morning, I enjoyed one myself.

photo-sep-05-10-47-30-amAt one point I was standing outside the booth to help direct people, and I looked at all the people inside the booth.  Seven churches and the new Episcopal church plant all gathered together for this one goal.  Everyone was at a station talking amongst themselves.  There were so many there, you could find someone to talk to.  It was good to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in a while, and meet new ones throughout the NWPA diocese, including Canon Martha and Bishop Sean.  The feeling of “one church” was clearly evident.

As the day was winding down, we counted down things that were close to being sold out.  After the last kielbasa was sold, we shouted a loud “Amen” that caughtphoto-sep-05-10-14-43-am the attention of those nearby. Seeing the Bishop work in the different sections was such a pleasure, especially when he was a cashier talking to the customers.  We talked, laughed and maybe even sang and danced with others there feeling the energy flowing throughout the place.  To the bittersweet end where we tore down everything, I couldn’t have imagined things going too much better. I left feeling proud of all the accomplishments this day had made, and was glad that I was involved and witnessed something that wondrous.

In the amazement of how everything went, I think, as a new Episcopal church we are ready to tackle anything that comes our way. The support and thankfulness we felt with all the other people of the churches in the diocese is overwhelming. Together, I believe, that since we got through this, then we can get through many things our church will face. I, as well as others, are very hopeful for the future. ”  Laura Betz, Hermitage Church Plant

Pastor Jason Shank, Hermitage Church Plant

The Vine’s Fall Schedule Is Out

vine_origThe Vine is a community for youth in 6th-12th grade and a collaborative ministry of the Episcopal churches in Erie County. The Vine will meet twice a month on 2nd and 4th Sundays for dinner, conversation, activities, and prayer. Service, outreach, and mission will also be incorporated during the year.

Fall Schedule:

5-7 PM (Dinner Included) 

Sunday, Sept. 11 at Cathedral of St. Paul

Sunday, Sept. 25 at St. Stephen’s Church

Sunday, Oct. 9 at Cathedral of St. Paul

Sunday, Oct. 23 at St. Stephen’s Church

Sunday, Nov. 13 at Cathedral of St. Paul

Sunday, Dec. 11 at St. Stephen’s Church

Parents, there’s a new group.

We will be meeting simultaneously (in another room at the same location as the teens). Facilitated by AJ Noyes, all parents are welcome to join us for discussion. *Nursery care will be provided.

Teens, things will be new for you, too.

We’re readying for action. Readying our hearts and minds. And we’ll be heading out to serve in the second half of the program year. There will still be lots of fun, friendship, activity and a safe place to voice your thoughts. AND a little bit of Taize at the end of each meeting. We know you love that.

View the Vine’s website here: 



 Missy Greene:  missygreene85@gmail.com; 814.323.2434

AJ Noyes: ajcnoyes@gmail.com; 814.440.2618

Craig Dressler: cdressler@saintmarkserie.org; 814.490.5062

Being Clear About What We Are Doing

Reposted from The Black Giraffe by Rev. Adam Trambley on September 2, 2016.

In recent years, more and more churches have been overcoming their fears and re-discovering evangelism. This reengagement with the Great Commission has led to a deeper understanding of all the ways that evangelism happens. Rather than knocking on doors or passing out tracts on the street corner, Christians are inviting neighbors to church, sharing the good news at critical times in friends’ lives, and praying for people to come to a deeper relationship with Jesus.

do the work of an evangelistAt the same time, everything good (or even everything Christian) is not evangelism. A popular quote going around that St. Francis may or may not have had something to do with, says, “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” Certainly our actions do speak louder than our words, and preachers who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk are a stock literary figure. Yet being a faithful Christian is not the same as being an evangelist, with or without words.

I would propose that we think about four different areas of Christian response to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission that are necessary for individual Christians and for church communities.

1. Love God through relationship: includes public worship, private prayer, and other activities that deepen the intimate relationship between a believer and God.

2. Love God through discipleship: includes all the works of (sacrificial) obedience we undertake in our daily life, such as tithing, following the ten commandments, offering our spiritual gifts for building up the body of Christ, and working with other believers on deepening their discipleship.

3. Love neighbor through charity: includes all the ways that we reach out in love toward others, such as almsgiving, caring for the sick, offering support to those who are struggling, and working for good causes.

evangelism monopoly board4. Love neighbor through evangelism: includes all the things we do as part of an intentional process to bring people into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, such as praying for unbelievers, building relationships with unbelievers, meeting the physical, emotional and financial needs of unbelievers, and telling unbelievers about Jesus.

Certainly there are many actions that could fall into more than one category, depending on the circumstances and the intentions. Clarity around those circumstances and intentions matters, however. Without clarity around what we are trying to do, we have a hard time setting goals, planning, and evaluating.

To give an example, we might decide that we want to have an evangelism event to build relationships with the unchurched in our community. For the event, almost the whole church shows up, has a great time of fellowship, takes up a collection for a parishioner who just lost a job, puts together a group to repaint the church hall, and closes with a short worship service of lively singing and powerful praying. All in all, one of the best parish events of the year, and probably one that was needed. The evening was a great success in loving God through relationship, loving God through discipleship, and loving neighbor through charity. It was a total failure of evangelism, however, since not a single relationships was deepened with a non-believer and no one new heard the good news of Jesus. When that church reflects on that evening, they can be thankful for what did happen while also recognizing that their evangelism programming needs to go back to the drawing board.

We need inspiring worship. We need dynamic discipleship. We need compassionate charity. But we also need effective evangelism. Unless we are clear about what we are doing when we are doing it, we will have a hard time improving any aspect of our life in Christ.

Rev. Adam Trambley – St. John’s Church, Sharon, PA 

The Black Giraffe    

“Listen to the Whisper” ECW’s Annual Retreat at Chautauqua

The Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania’s Episcopal Church Women will be hosting their annual retreat at the Chautauqua Institution on September 17th.  The retreat will feature speaker Sandi Matts, author of Listen to the Whisper – Freedom in the Midst of the Storm.

Sandi was born and raised in Erie, PA, and is part of the core team and a speaker at the “Discover the Woman Within Series,” and the “Life in the Spirit Series”.  She also serves on the healing ministry at her church. From her personal page: “My mission is to share love, life and God’s light with the world.  To inspire others to believe in their individual giftedness and to recognize blessings in the midst of life’s storms.”  

All are welcome!  Registration is $20 for Saturday and is due by September 10th. Registration includes a continental breakfast and lunch.

If you have questions or wish to make a reservation contact dianepyle@windstream.net  or maryblaineprince@atlanticbb.net

Meet Mother Elizabeth

As I walk into the main office at St. John’s in Franklin on Friday morning to meet with their new priest, I’m surprised by all the activity going on. It’s still early, but I’m Mother Elizabeth Yale’s third appointment of the day. She greets me graciously and introduces me to the finance team as they make their way out, then invites me to step into her office.

I ask how she’s settling in as we sit down. She’s only been at St. John’s since mid-July, but already she’s going full steam ahead. “I’m completely unpacked! That’s an accomplishment!” she smiles. “And I’ve reorganized the office.” Everything is tidy, right down to the desk that has her laptop and a tiny model spaceship on it. It’s a lot more efficient than my workspace, that’s for certain!

While Mother Elizabeth may be new to St. John’s in Franklin, she is no stranger to the Episcopal church in Pennsylvania. She is originally from Bethlehem, PA, and she and her family were active members at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in the Diocese of Bethlehem. She was also ordained to the diaconate by our own Bishop Sean the day after he became the provisional bishop of the Diocese of Bethlehem!

When I ask what made her decide on her vocation, she says she was drawn to the priesthood from very early on. “I decided at the ripe old age of 10 that I needed to be in the church, and the best place for me in the church was to be a priest.”

She participated in just about every church ministry open to her at that age and into her teen years, and the community at the Cathedral knew her well. So well, in fact, that even though she didn’t really tell anyone about her desire to enter the priesthood, her church family suggested the possibility to her frequently. Archdeacon Rick Cluett sent her to attend a retreat weekend for teenagers interested in ministry because he thought it was where she needed to be. The Rev. William Lane, dean of the cathedral at the time, personally came to her middle school Sunday school class and spoke to the students about what it was like to be a priest, mainly because everyone thought Elizabeth was interested. When she formally announced her intention to go to seminary, several members of the congregation came to her with stories about the exact time they knew she was going to be a priest.

Before attending seminary Mother Elizabeth did undergraduate work at Allegheny College in Meadville, where she double majored in mathematics and religious studies. “I wasn’t going to study religion since I knew I was going into seminary, and then couldn’t help myself and started taking religious studies classes.” Mathematics and religious studies might seem like two very different sides of school, but Mother Elizabeth says that taking a variety of classes as an undergrad has aided her ministry. “[It] helps me to converse with people, since so much of my job is relational.”

After finishing at Allegheny College, she went on to seminary at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. I asked her if there was anything she wished they would have taught in Seminary – “more accounting classes!” It seems that pure mathematics and accounting are very different things, and there’s a lot of accounting when it comes to running a church!

Once she finished seminary Mother Elizabeth took a position as curate and chaplain at Holy Spirit Episcopal Church in Houston, TX. She says there was some initial culture shock moving down South, but overall she enjoyed the city. People in the area were sometimes surprised that she was a priest, though – one person even mistook her for a college student while she was wearing her clerical collar!

She had been working in Houston for about two years when Bishop Sean called and asked her to visit Franklin and consider becoming the priest of St. John’s. “Going into it I wasn’t sure I really wanted to visit Franklin, but when I got here I loved it. I felt like this is where God was calling me, and that hopefully I would be the right fit for them… I look forward to building the Kingdom here, seeing not where I’m going but where the church is going. I’m more interested in what we can do together, and where people can surprise me, because that’s always the best thing.”

Mother Elizabeth’s other interests include children and school ministry, writing poetry, the inter-relation of science and religion, and being the family of God. She is also a science fiction fan (the model I noticed earlier on her desk is a light up replica of the original Starship Enterprise given to her by a friend).

If you’re ever in the Franklin area, be sure to stop by St. John’s and welcome Mother Elizabeth to the diocese!

Megin Sewak, Communications Specialist, Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania

“Talking God” – Book Review

Talking God: Preaching to Contemporary Congregations by Albert R. Cutié

A Review by Adam Trambley

talking godAlbert Cutié’s Talking God is a short, accessible book that reads like a coffee conversation on preaching with a thoughtful and experienced practitioner.  Albert Cutié, known to many as “Padre Alberto”, had a daily talk show broadcast to a national and international audience, as well as a column in the Miami Herald’s Spanish language publication.  Originally ordained a Roman Catholic priest, Cutié joined the Episcopal Church in 2009 and preached at the 2012 General Convention.  Talking God is a based on his Doctor of Ministry thesis.

Talking God is filled with interesting tidbits and thought-provoking ideas.  His first chapter looks at six preachers of the past four hundred years. He talks about the vocal quality of preaching used by John Wesley, the ways that Bishop Sheen engaged a wide American audience, and credibility and connection that Joyce Meyer’s use of her own personal experiences offers.  In other chapters, he looks at topics including the ways that new technology is changing people’s listening habits and the importance of the proper use of humor in homilies.  To connect with contemporary audiences, he discusses the need for enthusiasm, creativity, prayer, and sermon structure. He also shares his strong opinion on the importance of not preaching from a text and the importance of preachers focusing on the delivery, as well as the content, of their messages.

While Cutié provides much for preachers to ponder, he offers little in terms of concrete advice that would help a reader implement his ideas.  His idea of having a sermon evaluated by small group of people each week is excellent, but the tool he provides is far from the best sermon-evaluation instrument available.  Anyone looking for help developing the kind of effective sermon structure Cutié advocates will need to look elsewhere. (I personally recommend Paul Scott Wilson’s The Four Pages of A Sermon as a starting place.)  Some of his other points, such as his experiences with technology in worship and even his opposition to full-text preaching, come from his personal experience with no data to back up his claims.  What he says is worth thinking about, but others may disagree based on their own contexts.

Cutié’s book is a helpful one to those interested in thinking about the craft of preaching and how it is changing.  While he provides few compelling answers, the questions Cutié raises are important ones for preachers and the future of the church.

Rev. Adam Trambley is Rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Sharon, PA

Gold Medal Ministry – the VBS Olympics

Creating a Vacation Bible School from scratch may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it! It is an opportunity to flex my creative muscles and work with some pretty fantastic people. It was only a few years ago that I was introduced to the idea of creating my own VBS by Pr. Joie Baker while working with the churches in Sharon and Hermitage. There has been no looking back.

In my last four summers with St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Fairview, our VBS participants have been superheroes, spies, sailors, and Olympians. This being an Olympic summer, it only made sense to link this great DSC_9851world-wide tradition with stories from the Bible. Using the values of the Olympics and Paralympics – friendship, respect, equality, courage, inspiration, excellence, and determination –  each day we explored them within the stories of Ruth and Naomi, the Good Samaritan, David and Goliath, Nehemiah, and the Parable of the Lost Sheep. The themes are highlighted in a rotation of daily activities: music, science/art, storytelling/snack, and games. We keep our VBSers and volunteers busy the entire two and a half hours they are here.

It is quite amazing to see God at work in this ministry over the last few years, guiding us in steady growth. In 2013,DSC_0368 we hosted 27 children and about 13 volunteers. This summer, we hosted 55 children and had 27 volunteers! It is
hard to find the words to express the amazing community that continues to be built around this ministry. We see many of the same families, as well as meet new ones, and it is so much fun to watch the children grow from year to year.

I will be honest, as I really started thinking about VBS back in April, my biggest concern was not having enough volunteers for the number of children that I anticipated. It is all well and good to have an influx of children, but you absolutely need the adults to match it. I was overwhelmed by the response to my plea for volunteers from around our St. Stephen’s community. We had members of the church, Nursery School teachers, parents, grandparents, and teens offer to share their gifts with us for the week.  It was a comfort to know that we could handle a significant amount of kids in a fun and safe environment.

DSC_0039Volunteers are the heart of this ministry and, I believe, are the reason for our success. Ministries within the church are about lifting up and sharing the gifts that God has given us for continual building of the Kingdom, which is something that I strive to do within a VBS program. Being able to mold your program to the strengths of the volunteers is one of the benefits of creating your own program. The volunteers have just as much fun as the children who participate. And in the end, VBS is truly a team effort.

While much of our program remains the same, we are constantly evaluating it and finding ways to improve. One of the things that I am already thinking about for next summer is how to accommodate further growth. There is always something to adjust from year to year, but that is part of the fun!

Vacation Bible School is a great ministry that all churches can offer. It is a DSC_9741wonderful way to engage both the church and the wider community. It also brings a wide range of ages together to learn and share with each other about the love of Christ. As I said before, I love Vacation Bible School. It is an important and worthwhile ministry that I am always happy to talk about and share with others.

Missy Greene Christian Formation Associate at St. Stephen’s, Fairview

Roots and Renovation – Growing a Movement

God has great plans for a specific hill in Millcreek Township – that hill is the land upon which St. Mark’s is situated.  Many of you are aware of the exciting things happening at St. Mark’s.  Over the past five years, St. Mark’s has grown from an average Sunday attendance of around 50 to 150!  The faithful people of St. Mark’s have taken to heart the calling of the resurrected Christ in the Great Commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”  They have developed a regular practice of inviting friends, family, and co-workers to church.  And they are committed to continually fostering a deeper sense of community, connectivity, and formation through small groups, house groups, Bible studies, outreach ministries, alternative worship experiences, and much more.

Beyond being committed to programmatic and experiential opportunities, the people of St. Mark’s also realize that it’s time to make the physical Parish Hallbuilding of St. Mark’s reflect the Spirit and needs of a growing community.  The current parish hall and church have been basically untouched since their completion in 1961 and 1965.  And let’s face it; brown asbestos tile, cinderblock walls, military green bathrooms, broken windows, no gathering area, and a lack of air conditioning don’t tell a newcomer that a church is alive and growing in Christ in the year 2016.  Even more importantly, the congregation has exceeded the capacity of the current parish hall and is aware of the need to create space for the next 100+ worshippers yet to join to St. Mark’s.

This realization was the birth of our capital campaign and building project.  The congregation fully met their campaign goal of $600,000 and with financial assistance from Diocesan Council, St. Mark’s is Bathroomscurrently in the process of preparing the hill for a 1700 sq. ft. addition to our parish hall and kitchen to include proper storage, kitchen equipment, carpeting, lighting, drywall, and new windows.
A gathering area will also be added to the front of the church to create a space for people to mingle and live further into our practice of welcome and hospitality.  Enlarged and fully renovated restrooms are also part of the plan.  And all of the above mentioned areas will have commercial HVAC!

The church space itself is also being enhanced with new LED lighting (as most of the peak lighting has been burned out since the late 1980s).  And the balcony will be renovated to serve as overflow seating for larger attended liturgies.  As with any building project, there will be things done to the property that won’t been seen, but are necessary to the current and future development of the hill.  We are upgrading the electrical service, installing new electrical panels, abating all asbestos, and creating a land development and stormwater management plan for the long-term growth and development of the hill.

Even though demolition has only been happening for a few weeks, there have been some fun discoveries along the way.  There is a 12-foot stained glass window from the original St. Mark’s building (formerly located at 10th and French Streets) in the corner Trinitarian Stained Glassof the boiler room featuring some wonderful Trinitarian and Eucharistic themes waiting to be resurrected and put into ministry again.  Also, the bell tower came down for restoration allowing us the chance to read the bell.  The bell was made by the Aspinwall Bell Company in 1831 – it’s amazing to think that our bell has been calling Christians to worship for 185 years!  So while St. Mark’s appears to be on the surface a simple 1960s A-frame church, we are discovering our roots and praying that from those roots grow a great movement in the name of Jesus Christ unlike anything ever seen before in our region.  Stop up sometime; I’d love to show you around!


Craig Dressler – Associate for Parish Life at St. Mark’s, Erie