In this new video, Bishop Sean offers an update on what’s happened since April, when the partnership of the Dioceses of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York got underway. He invites everyone to convention in Erie on October 25 and 26, but don’t expect business as usual!
In the four months since we celebrated the beginning of our partnership with a festive Eucharist at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Buffalo, the leaders and staff of both of our dioceses have been working hard with me to lay the groundwork for strong and productive collaboration. Today I want to update you on our progress and invite you to participate in developing the mission strategy that will guide our work together beginning in 2020. First, I am pleased to say that our staff team is now in place. Beginning this month, the bishop’s staff includes:
Canon to the Ordinary the Rev. Cathy Dempesy-Sims: Cathy, formerly canon for connections in Western New York, will oversee congregational development, clergy transitions, and diocesan ministries including Christian formation; children, youth and young adults; and outreach. Reporting to Cathy will be:
- The Rev. Martha Ishman, Canon for Transitions (part-time)
- The Rev. Al Johnson, congregational development consultant (contract)
- Wendy Schumacher, Missioner for Youth and Children (part-time)
Canon for Administration Vanessa Butler: Vanessa, who has been canon for administration in Northwestern Pennsylvania, will oversee administration, governance, and operational issues and will serve as my executive assistant. Reporting to Vanessa will be:
- Megin Sewak, Missioner for Communication & Development (full-time)
- Michael Brown, Missioner for Administration (full-time)
- The Rev. Joann Piatko, Assistant for Ordinations (part-time, non-stipendiary)
Canon for Finance Cindy Dougan: Cindy, who has been canon for finance in Northwestern Pennsylvania, will oversee the finances and budgets of both dioceses. Working with Cindy will be Maria Manocchio, Missioner for Finance (full-time). Maria will oversee the work of George Czapko, sexton in the New York office.
Canon for Strategic Change the Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley: Ruth, who is new to both of our dioceses, joins us half-time for an initial period of two years to assist us with planning and implementing a mission strategy that can encompass our entire region. Ruth, who also serves as senior vice president for strategic change with the Episcopal Church Building Fund, has been canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Colorado, a parish priest, and a consultant to several dioceses in the area of strategic change. She brings abundant experience to our partnership.
Director for Integration Danielle Dolin-Bane, Ed.D.: Danielle, a leadership consultant with expertise in measuring, evaluating, and integrating staff cultures, will work on a contractual basis with staff in both the Pennsylvania and New York offices to coordinate workflow, goals and objectives, and workplace culture.
Assisting me and the rest of the staff will be Howard Gondree, financial consultant; Ellen Fowler, a consultant and coach in leadership and change management; and Canticle Communications.
In this new staff structure, we have eliminated the part-time position of website and social media manager in the Diocese of Western New York. I am grateful to Elisabeth Brauza-Hughes, who has held that position, and ask that you join me in praying for her in this time of transition. Day-to-day communications responsibilities will transition to Megin Sewak between now and October.
Please also wish a happy second retirement to Lorraine Hapeman, who graciously returned to the office last year to assist Bishop Bill at the end of his episcopacy. We are eliminating the position of executive assistant to the bishop; Vanessa Butler will continue to serve that role for me.
As you know if you participated in the recent online communications survey, we are actively working on a new communications plan for both dioceses that will include a new website, weekly newsletters, social media, and more resources for congregational communications ministry. We expect to launch this new communications plan, including a new website, at our diocesan convention in October. If you have questions or comments, please email Rebecca Wilson at Canticle Communications.
Mission Strategy Planning
At pre-convention meetings this fall, at convention, and at regional meetings in November and December, we will spend time together developing a new strategy for our common mission. Together, we will come together as one church to discern goals that can energize congregations across our region and provide us with new opportunities to experiment for the sake of the Gospel and the people of God in our communities.
As you may remember, last October, I spoke about the way that I hope our collaboration on this new strategy will build the body of Christ and fire our imaginations what might be possible in our region. The 2020 budgets that will be presented at convention will allocate funds for new mission in our congregations and communities, and the plan we will develop together will guide our investment of those funds.
I hope that all of you will participate in one or more of the mission strategy meetings, and in particular, that you will all attend convention on October 25 and 26 in Erie and encourage the people of your congregations to do the same. Our work there will be energetic and participatory, and our hope is that people from all parts of our dioceses will take part in this work that is so critical to our future. Please watch for more information about upcoming meetings and convention in your diocesan newsletter.
As I said last October, God has called us to a new adventure, and we are headed into uncharted territory. I am grateful to be on this journey with you, and I look forward to seeing you soon.
The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe
Bishop of Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania
On Saturday, July 13, the Dioceses of Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania celebrated another first: the joint ordination of Rosaleen Nogle and Rebecca Harris to the transitional diaconate. The Rev. Rosaleen Nogle will serve Trinity, Buffalo, and the Rev. Rebecca Harris will continue her work at St. John’s, Kane. It was a truly great day in the Kingdom and another step on our walk together in Christ.
“Lord, what would you have me do” is the final sentence in the motto of The Order of the Daughters of the King. It is both a prayer and a call to serve. We, as a lay order of Episcopal women, pray daily to hear God’s call to serve our parish and our community. The Daughters of the King in this diocese recently answered His call for prayer and service by participating in two very different activities this fall.
We answered His call to prayer at the recent joint convention of the Dioceses of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York in Niagara Falls. When the announcement of a joint convention was made, Daughters in NWPA sought to contact Daughters from WNY to plan a joint activity. Alas, we learned there were no chapters in that diocese, and so we contacted Daughters from that Province. Two Daughters from Albany joined Grace Chapter from St. John’s in Franklin and Martha Chapter from Trinity in New Castle to offer prayer for those in attendance at the convention. A prayer table with candles and prayer request cards was set up in the rear of the meeting room. Attendees were encouraged to use the cards and place their prayer requests in a container on the table. We were astounded by the number of prayer requests which we instantly relayed to our members at home. Prayer was offered in real time and we continued to pray for the petitions for another 30 days. We also set up a table with information about the Order in the break area and we were delighted with the interest shown by the convention attendees. Plans are being made to visit a number of churches to give informational talks.
Our call to serve was answered by participating in a joint project with WELCA (Women of the Evangelical Church of America): the Lily Project. The Lily Project is a collaborative effort involving women from Good Hope Lutheran Church in Oil City and Grace Chapter of the Daughters of the King at St. John’s, Franklin. The purpose of the project is to assist women who have been victims of rape or sexual assault. These women often come to the ER with damaged clothing or must surrender their clothing as evidence of their assault. We know this can be dehumanizing and adds to the trauma of the assault, so the Lily Project provides them with fresh clothing and a prayer for God’s comfort and peace. We have collected donations of underclothing, socks, loose athletic pants and t-shirts. These items are placed in a gift bag with a pack of tissues and a prayer square. Each size from small to extra large is placed in a bin marked with the size and then delivered to five area hospitals with a promise to replace items as they are used.
Kathy Paulo is a member of St. John’s, Franklin.
The latest installment of our “Ask the Bishop” series has arrived! Bishop Sean discusses making history at the joint convention of the Diocese of Western New York and the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania, his upcoming sabbatical, and preparing to move into the future.
The bishop will be on sabbatical beginning in December until February 23. While he is away, the diocesan staff is prepared to manage the day to day workings of the diocese and meet your needs. They can be reached by phone at 814.456.4203, or by email at the individual addresses here.
Every time I have made a big decision without pausing, listening and waiting, it hasn’t worked out too well. Each time I’ve rushed into a solution, forced a solution, demanded a solution right now, I find myself disappointed, frustrated and stuck.
But when I make room for the Holy Spirit, when I allow myself the time to get quiet and listen for the “next right thing,” I am energized, satisfied and on the move to where it is God wants me to go.
Getting quiet – easier said than done! In our 24/7 world, being quiet is tough. But even if you get the external noise to abate, shutting down the internal noise is a whole other proposition. Internal noise is cunning and relentless.
I have experienced anxiety my entire life, and one of the enemies of anxiety is quiet. If there’s background noise—music, the tv—my anxious brain won’t engage in the “what ifs, how about this, what about that, why can’t I, why did they….” dance. This dance leaves no room for the Holy Spirit to move and no space in my heart for discernment.
I need to “make quiet happen.” This can be driving without the radio playing so that I am alone with my thoughts enough to stop the internal talking and begin the deep listening. It can be taking the dogs out for a walk and never looking at my phone; it can be setting my phone to a quiet mode from 9 at night until 6 in the morning; it can be taking a moment every hour to breathe deeply and to stretch out my back. It can be standing outside, feet firmly on the ground, arms out-stretched and face turned toward the sky. It can be a nap.
I have worked hard to find out what works for me, and I encourage you to find what works for you.
Whatever takes you out of the distractions and places you into the here and the now will open you to the working of the Holy Spirit.
I find that getting myself out of my own head and reorienting myself as one small piece of the vastness that is God’s creation helps, a lot. When I realize that I am just one piece of a much greater whole, when I can breathe deeply and stand firmly, when I allow the quiet to envelop me, the Holy Spirit speaks to me, my imagination is engaged and the possibilities for my life are unleashed.
I guess my message is to hurry up and slow down! Make being quiet part of your routine, and then prepare yourself to be prodded, poked and enlightened by the Holy Spirit. For it is when we can receive the message of the Holy Spirit that discernment happens.
It is there and it is then, that we discover just who it is our gracious and life-giving God intends us to be. Enjoy the ride!
The Rev. Canon Cathy Dempesy-Sims is Canon for Connections in the Diocese of Western New York.
As we approach the season of Advent and look to a new Church year, I want to take this opportunity to share some news with you about our future together with Western New York and a time of sabbatical for me. As you know, I completed four and a half years as Bishop provisional of the Diocese of Bethlehem in September. I am so grateful for the experience and for the gifts our diocese shared with our brothers and sisters in Eastern Pennsylvania.
Last week, our two dioceses approved an arrangement whereby I will serve as the Bishop provisional of the Diocese of Western New York and remain bishop in this diocese for five years beginning April 5, 2019. This move made history in The Episcopal Church as the first such experiment structured in this way. Leave it to the good people of our region to take a risk in leading the Church.
In preparation for this new season, I will take a time of sabbatical beginning December 3 and ending February 24. This will be a time of reflection, prayer, discernment, and continuing education. I plan to disconnect from the life of the diocese during this time and appreciate your understanding.
As you are aware, the diocesan administration is in good hands. The diocesan staff is prepared to address the day to day operations of the diocese and meet your needs.
These past 11 years as your bishop have been a joy-filled privilege. I look forward to the next season with great anticipation.
Warmest regards and prayers for each of you,
It was a historic convention this year in Niagara Falls! Following fourteen months of prayer, meetings, and discernment, the Diocese of Western New York elected Bishop Sean to be their bishop provisional for the next five years, officially embarking on a collaborative relationship with the Diocese of NWPA.
Prior to voting on Friday afternoon, keynote speaker the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, talked about embarking on an unknown future and how the church can meet the challenges of what comes next, including her Top Ten List of things for church leaders to remember in times of change (the full text of the address is available at the House of Deputies website). After President Jennings spoke, the election was held and, when the final tally was announced, the crowd gave a standing ovation.
Bishop Sean addressed both dioceses Saturday morning to discuss our shared future (a full video of the speech is available here). The bishop also announced that, in preparation for this new season, he will take a time of sabbatical from December through February.
Following the address, the two conventions separated for business and elections for offices and voting on resolutions occurred. The Rev. Dr. Mary Norton and Craig Dressler were elected to Standing Committee, the Rev. Melinda Hall and Jeff Mills won seats on Diocesan Council, the Rev. Canon Brian Reid and Kathy Rogers were elected to the Constitution and Canons committee, and the Rev. Geoff Wild, Anne Bardol, and Matthew Ciszek were elected to represent the diocese at the Provincial Synod.
The 2019 budget and assessments, as well as the 2019 minimum stipends for clergy, were passed as presented, and the resolution to establish a drug and alcohol committee was passed as edited to be in compliance with the Constitution and Canons. A special resolution was also passed in memory of Lois Tamplin, long-time member of St. John’s, Sharon and known to many at convention for her efforts in supporting the Church Periodical Club. The convention raised $369.50 in her honor, which the bishop matched, to make a total donation of $739.00 given to the CPC in her memory.
It was announced that convention next year will be held at a time and place to be determined after conferring with the Diocese of Western New York.
Many thanks to all of the staff and volunteers who made convention possible, and to the delegates for taking time out of their busy schedules to conduct the business of the church.
All of the passed resolutions and materials from other presentations can be found on our website.
As Bishop Sean says: It’s a Great Day in the Kingdom!
At our fall retreat in September at Chautauqua, ECW got a head start on “working together to deepen relationships” as Bishop Sean said in his presentation at the joint Convention with the Diocese of Western New York. The ECW Board sent invitations to the retreat to New York’s southern tier churches. To our delight, eight women, lay and clergy, responded and attended our event.
Barbara Sheakey, assisted by Sharon Kestler, presented a program about women’s role in American Indian spirituality and gave us a first person view of Native American customs and beliefs from Alaska, the Midwest, Canada and Mexico, illustrated by many artifacts that turned the living room of the Episcopal Cottage into a virtual museum. Luncheon was also inspired by Native American food. At the end of the day, Barbara ushered us through making a Hopi Indian “prayer stick.”
One woman from the Diocese of Western New York asked if she could sign up ahead for next year’s retreat. That was what we were hoping for – a renewed enthusiasm in learning, loving and living with God, which is what our guests brought to our retreat.
Diane Pyle is secretary of the Episcopal Church Women of DioNWPA.