‘Children of Abraham’ Documentary, produced in Warren, March 3 at Struthers

This article originally appeared in the Warren Times Observer

By STACEY GROSS (sgross@timesobserver.com)

“A Jewish businessman, a Christian priest, and an American Muslim…”

It sounds like the beginning of a joke. But it’s not. It’s the beginning of the tagline for a film produced in Warren County by Glarner Group Production Studio, and it ends “…coexisting in peace.”

Glarner said that he and Mark Robinault made the 45-minute documentary over the course of two years. It’s been shown most recently at the Asian World Film Festival, Glarner said. And now, it’s going to be shown in Warren.

The three men interviewed in the movie are Timothy Dyer, Sam Qadri, and Harvey Stone. All are local or semi-local. Qadri teaches at the Jamestown High school and also is a professor of Muslim Studies at JCC. Dyer is a local priest and Stone is a local businessman.

Glarner said he was sitting at Trinity Episcopal Church in Warren one day listening to Dyer talk about the latest Children of Abraham event – an event designed to introduce those unfamiliar with it to the concept of interfaith discussions – and he wanted to know more.

“Why is he doing this,” Glarner said he found himself wondering as he listened to Dyer talk. Through subsequent conversations, however, Glarner said he  understood perfectly what the goal of the Children of Abraham Project hope to achieve.

Interfaith conversations, said Glarner, are “pretty relevant to everyone right now.” And this, Glarner added, “is the narrative we need to hear.” As opposed to the tendency to divide and fracture people based on differences in belief and lifestyle, the goal of Children of Abraham and of the film is to get people both recognizing they are alike, and also seek to find ways to make connections with those of different faiths. “If there’s going to be some kind of lasting peace in the world then how we’re going to get there is through conversations like these and through a loving heart.”

Glarner said the screening, to be held on Saturday, March 3 at the Struther’s Library Theatre from 7 to 9 p.m. will be both an opportunity to expose a local audience to the film, but also a fundraiser for the Music Conservatory, of which Glarner has been a part since it began. Admission to the film is $10 per person and includes an introduction by Glarner who will talk more about what compelled him to make a documentary based on the interfaith discussions of three local men.

Welcoming Dreamers the Obvious Choice

This op-ed piece originally appeared in the Morning Call on January 29, 2018. 

The current political morass in Washington has thrown light on a deep and ugly divide in our country and in our faith communities on the issue of immigration.

More than half of white evangelical Christians — a group that gave 81 percent of its votes to President Trump in the 2016 election — say that immigration is a threat to this country’s “traditional customs and values.”

In the same survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in 2015, 70 percent of Hispanic Catholics say that immigration “strengthens American society.” Other Christian groups fall in between, but only among white evangelicals does the majority report being threatened by immigration.

Proponents of these sharply contrasting views are on center stage as Congress prepares to negotiate what Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York called “a global agreement” that will include the fate of the young people who live in this country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program initiated by President Obama in 2012 and ended by President Trump last September.

Under DACA, some 800,000 children who were brought to this country illegally by their parents were protected from deportation thanks to renewable two-year deferments. The program also made it possible for these young people, popularly known as Dreamers, to receive work permits.

The politics of immigration are complicated, but as an Episcopal bishop who graduated from Grove City College, a bastion of evangelical higher education in Mercer County, I believe that the teachings of the Christian faith along with those of the world’s other great religious and ethical traditions make it clear that we must protect the vulnerable, provide for those in need, and, when necessary, sacrifice from our own substance to fulfill this duty.

To pick just two of the manifold scriptural examples from my own tradition:

In the 23rd chapter of Exodus we read these oft-quoted, yet seemingly forgotten, words, “You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

And in the second chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, we read that Jesus and his parents had to flee their homeland to escape a king who wanted to kill the Christ child. We do ourselves and our faiths a disservice if we pretend that these stories and teachings have no meaning for us today.

Dreamers, like every human being, are created in the image and likeness of God regardless of their immigration status or country of origin. They deserve a chance to live full lives in the only country most of them have ever known. They deserve to live free from fear of deportation to a country whose customs they may not know and whose languages they may not speak.

Even as I make this argument, however, I realize that not all hearts are changed by a clergyman’s appeal to our common membership in the family of God. So let me offer another verse, this one from Matthew 7: “Thus you will know them by their fruits.”

Thanks to DACA, about 685,000 people are currently working in this country, paying taxes and contributing to the economic life of our communities. In several Rust Belt cities, DACA recipients, refugees and immigrants have repopulated failing neighborhoods and revived the community’s economic fortunes.

A study last year by the Center for American Progress estimated that the loss of all DACA recipients from the workforce would reduce our country’s gross domestic product by $460 billion over the next 10 years. Pennsylvania, home to nearly 6,000 DACA recipients, would lose more than $357 million each year.

Christians and all people of goodwill are called to do the right thing, even if it hurts. In this case it helps. Our choice is obvious.

The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe is bishop provisional of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem and bishop of the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania.

Congratulations, Rev. Mark Elliston!

The Diocese of NWPA is pleased to welcome our newest priest -the Rev. Mark Elliston! The service of ordination was held on Saturday, December 16 at Christ Church, Oil City.

Please keep Rev. Elliston and the Christ Church community in your prayers as they continue their journey together.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’  –Isaiah 6:8

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The Daughters of the King Institute a New Chapter

The congregations of the Diocese of Northwestern PA are invited to join the celebration as the Grace Chapter of the Order of the Daughters of the King travel to Trinity Episcopal Church in New Castle on November 5th to institute the newest chapter of their order.

The Order of the Daughters of the King is an international lay order for women of the Episcopal Church. New members take vows promising to live a life of prayer, service, and evangelism. Prayer is the foundation from which their service grows, and they are willing to pray for anyone looking for love and help in time of need. It is not a social club, but they are social and like to have fun. However, one does not just pay dues and start coming to meetings. Prospective members are required to complete a study course consisting of 12 sessions spanning 6-8 weeks, and upon completion they take vows promising to follow a Rule of Life.

The new Martha Chapter is only the second chapter to be formed in the Diocese of Northwestern PA. It joins Grace Chapter, St. John’s Franklin, which was established in 2005 while Bishop Sean was rector. Grace Chapter participates in a number of service projects, the latest of which is their Prayer Tent ministry. During Applefest in Franklin, they set up a large tent on the St. John’s front lawn, and passersby are invited to stop by for free water and prayer. Prayer requests can be left on provided cards, or people may pray with chapter members in person. Grace Chapter also accepts prayer requests from the church and community throughout the year, as well as participating in projects ranging from collecting Christmas gifts for the residents of Sugar Valley Lodge, sending cards to shut-ins, and AHOY (Anonymously Honoring Our Youth), where adults pray specifically for the young people of their church.

More than a dozen women from Grace Chapter will travel to New Castle on the 5th to present the charter during the 10 AM Eucharist. The three women forming the new chapter are very excited, and the congregation is planning a potluck dinner to celebrate following the service.

Hold On! Keep Your Hand On The Plow

The Cathedral Choir is about to introduce a new CD.  That sounds as if we do this often; we do not.  Our first and only other CD was recorded about 25 years ago.  This new one is a recording of African-American spirituals arranged by Harry T. Burleigh.  So why would the Cathedral Choir make a recording of African-American spirituals?  For us at the Cathedral of St Paul, it was quite simple: we wanted to bring the music and life story of this most remarkable man to the people of Erie, the diocese and beyond.  It is our way of “living history” and making it relevant in contemporary time.

Spirituals are a significant part of American choral literature.  The melodies are true American folk songs, passed on by oral tradition.  Burleigh’s arrangements transformed the simple melodies he learned from his grandfather on the streets of Erie into classic art songs and choral works using his distinctively American harmonic language.  Some are quite jazzy!  His music is especially important to us at the Cathedral of St Paul because of his connection to Erie and our church.  We have continued to learn more and more of his arrangements.  Some are fairly simple and some are quite difficult.  Following the celebration of the Cathedral’s Centennial  a few years ago, we were encouraged to make a recording of his music.  I was a bit hesitant to take on such a project.  Singing live is one thing; recording is quite another.   Live performances bring his music to life but in order to share it with a broader audience, we needed to record it.   And there was no better time or place to do it: we have an exceptional group of singers right now and we are in the very place where Burleigh first sang as a young boy and teenager.  He received the sacraments at St Paul’s and his musical foundation was formed in this building.  It just seemed right to move forward with the project.

We hired a local company and spent two days in March recording.  Over the next several months I worked with him on finding the best takes of the choir and soloists and came up with our final product.  Many hours were also spent finalizing the design and information to be included on the cover.  But we expect delivery of the final product this week!

That bring us to the release of the CD, Hold On! Keep Your Hand on the Plow.  On Sunday, November 5, at 4:00 PM, the Sunday following All Saints’ Day, we’ll commemorate the life of Harry T. Burleigh with a traditional Choral Evensong followed by the singing of some of his spirituals and an opportunity to purchase the CD.  There will be a festive reception, and more Burleigh spirituals, as well as an art display by one of our choir men, Jon Chisholm.  He has donated several of his works of art for silent auction the proceeds going to help with expenses of the choir’s trip to England next summer.

I am thankful for the encouragement and gifts from the Cathedral Chapter and members of the Cathedral of St Paul that made the production of this CD possible.   Special thanks to AJ Noyes for the cover design and to Jim Steadman for the cover photo.  And I am incredibly grateful for the Cathedral Choir, their countless hours of rehearsal and their devotion to bringing this music to life for all to enjoy.

Sharon Downey is Canon Musician for the Cathedral of St. Paul, Erie. 

Harry Potter and Faith

If you know me even just a little bit, chances are you know that I have a slight obsession with the Harry Potter book series. I blame whoever bought my cousin Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for her birthday. I remember picking up the book, reading the summary, and thinking it sounded interesting enough to read. I also remember that it did not take me very long to get through the four books that were published at time, and I was hooked. Fast forward seventeen years, three books, nine movies, Universal Studios Wizarding World of Harry Potter trip, owning the books in multiple languages, a ton of merchandise, a couple of trips to the United Kingdom, one Harry Potter themed Winter Vacation Bible School, and so much more later, I am still fascinated by the world created by J.K. Rowling. It certainly helps when you have friends to share an obsession with you.

I met Tricia Lyons during my time at Virginia Theological Seminary, and I have gotten to know her a little better over the last couple of years through a mutual friend, who also happens to love Harry Potter. I have experienced Tricia’s knowledge and love for both the gospel and Harry Potter through a sermon preached at our friend’s wedding and as a part of a Facebook group that was gathered to cheer her on while writing the book.

I am so excited that she has agreed to come and share this knowledge and love with us in just over a week. I believe that both fans of Harry Potter and those interested in how this cultural phenomenon ties into the messages of the gospel will enjoy the event. Please consider joining us to learn more! It is an open event that is ideal for elementary school age and up – yes, adults too!

Harry Potter and Faith
Saturday, October 14, 2017
10:00AM to 12:00PM
at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 1070 Dutch Rd. Fairview, PA
This event is for all ages, elementary school to adults!

The Rev. Dr. Patricia (Tricia) Lyons will share aspects of her new book, Teaching Faith with Harry Potter, by exploring the connections that the Harry Potter series has with faith formation for all ages. This event will also include Quidditch, Harry Potter trivia, treats, and more! Please join us!

For more information and to register for Saturday’s event, visit www.ststephens-fairview.org.

Tricia will also preach at St. Stephen’s on Sunday, October 15 at both the 8:00AM and 10:00AM worship services. Come hear how she connects Sunday’s scriptures with Harry Potter.

If you have questions, please contact Missy Greene, missy@ststephens-fairview.org.

Wands, broomsticks, and Harry Potter wardrobe are encouraged. Please leave your cats, rats, and toads at home.


The Rev. Dr. Patricia Lyons has spent twenty years teaching ethics and theology in Episcopal schools and seminaries. Author of Soul of Adolescence and numerous articles and book chapters on moral and spiritual development theory, her passion for melding pop culture and faith formation has made her a sought after speaker across the Episcopal Church and beyond. She had a Master’s of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School, a Doctor of Ministry from Virginia Theological Seminary, and is the found of the C.S. Lewis Society of Harvard. She lives in Alexandria,  Virginia and is the Missioner for Evangelism and Community Engagement for the Diocese of Washington. You can also follow her on Facebook as the Hogwart’s Chaplain.

Mischief Managed!

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

Courage, Compassion, Connection

Clergy conferences are different everywhere you go. Diocesan culture changes from one region to another. Some groups can’t wait to be together: everyone knows each other and is friendly and helpful. Other places are so big or full of competition or conflict that going into a conference makes everyone wary about what might happen. I have been in the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania just over a year now. I have been to three clergy conferences and each one has been different from the last. Last year, the clergy met with the clergy of the Diocese of Pittsburgh at Antiochian Village. In the spring, we met by ourselves at Olmstead Manor, and last week, we met with the clergy of the Diocese of Western New York at Chautauqua. I have been nervous going into each one, not knowing what to expect or anything about the location, and knowing that I wouldn’t know half the people in attendance. Of the three of them, this last one was the best. Even though I only knew my colleagues in NWPA, there was never the sense of being an outsider or a newbie. There was a friendly attitude throughout the conference. It was interesting because as much as any of us thought we knew what was going to happen, there were surprises for all of us along the way.

Bishop Sean Rowe and Bishop Bill Franklin brought together the clergy of their dioceses to make a suggestion and gather our input on the idea. The idea is a rather radical one, especially currently given the Episcopal Church’s history of autonomy and continual splitting up into more dioceses. The idea is as the letter from the Executive Committees stated it, that when Bishop Franklin retires (announcing his retirement date of April 3, 2019) the Diocese of Western New York vote Bishop Rowe as the Provisional Bishop for five years and see what the dioceses can do together in the next five years.

Now I have to own my own baggage. I realized at this conference that my entire ordained life (all three and half years of it), I have been canonically resident (priest-speak for which diocese we belong to) in a diocese sharing a bishop. I was ordained the day after Bishop Sean was approved as the Provisional Bishop of Bethlehem and then transferred to the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. During that time I worked in the Diocese of East Tennessee as a seminarian and in the Diocese of Texas as a curate, two very different dioceses. What I have noticed though is that the effort of collaboration and innovation of working together and sharing resources between the Diocese of Bethlehem and the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania has had good and lasting effects for the people of both dioceses.

We considered the idea to the best of our ability. There is always vulnerability with thinking about something new and innovative and being able to face that and express it is helpful for everyone instead of getting defensive or fighting about aspects of the idea. We considered it with all the wisdom we were able to muster… and probably a little extra thrown in by the Holy Spirit. We took an idea seriously which hasn’t been tried before, because we know what a difference it might make, not only to our dioceses, but also to the national and international church. Things we do and learn and try and experiment with may someday revolutionize the way the church works. We don’t know what the future holds exactly. What we do know is that we want the Episcopal Church to be a part of it. Adaptation and innovation will help us get there.

What I saw was Brene Brown’s gifts of imperfection at work. I saw courage, in facing a new and scary idea. I saw compassion, for each other in the face of what might have to change in order for the idea to work. I saw connection, as we talked through how we might work together for God’s kingdom. I saw excitement for something that brings us together and progresses the kingdom of heaven. I saw acknowledgement that kingdom work ain’t so easy. I saw grief at the impending loss of a good bishop and a relationship which will be changing.

Yet, we also acknowledged that we know our future is going to require working together with other people and groups. We have to model this for those in our future. Seeing us work together, with those like us and those who are not like us will make a huge difference to how well the Episcopal Church weathers the years. The details of how we do this are important and many would argue they are the crux of the matter. I would say that the heart of the matter is the love which God has given us as a gift to share. Working from a place of love and unity, as does our Trinitarian God, we can make all things work together for good with those who love God. (Philippians 4:13)

I don’t always like being stuck in a windowless room for long periods of time listening to someone else talk, more or less simply because I like looking out windows. Yet, what happened in that low beige windowless room was much more remarkable than what it would have seemed. We walked into that room not knowing what was going to happen, simply we knew we had been brought together by God and our bishops to work together… and what we started was looking at a very intentional bonding together of people who can work, share, and play together. It was good to see people who don’t really know each other being vulnerable together and working together and thinking about something new together. It was good to meet new people who could be resources for each other and support for each other in different ways. I don’t know where it will lead, but I’m looking forward to exploring the future together.

The Rev. Elizabeth Yale is Priest-in-Charge of St. John’s Church, Franklin. 

Registration for Convention 2017 Now Open


Registration for Courage and Collaboration in Christian Community: Diocesan Convention 2017 is now open.

Convention will be held November 10-11 at the Bayfront Convention Center in Erie and is being hosted by St. Mark’s, Erie.  A full schedule and other convention information can be found on our website.

As part of our ongoing conversation about collaboration and innovation in the church, we will be welcoming the Rt. Rev. William Franklin and a large contingent from the Diocese of Western New York.  This convention will be very mission-focused and the schedule reflects that.  The Rev. Canon Scott Slater, of the Diocese of Maryland, will help us continue exploration of our future through a program relating to shared ministry, both on the diocesan and congregational levels, using the work of Brené Brown.  To learn more about our program, you can revisit this blog post.

On the schedule you can see that we will have an open house on Thursday, November 9, from 7:00 PM-9:00 PM at St. Mark’s in place of the usual hospitality suite.  As many of you know, St. Mark’s recently underwent major renovations, due in part to a grant from the diocese, so they could continue growing their mission and ministry.  They are holding the open house as a thank you to the diocese for assisting in their work.  All are invited to attend.

Please also note the two pre-convention meetings.  The first will be held on October 10th at 7:00 PM at Christ Church, Meadville.  The second will be held on October 12th at 6:00 PM at St. John’s, Kane.  All are welcome to attend the pre-conventions.  We will be talking more about the process of exploring a shared future with the Diocese of Western New York so that all are fully informed prior to convention.

We urge our clergy and delegates to come ready to engage in our conversations. Please do not use the condensed business time as an excuse to not attend the entire convention.  The work that we will be doing at the convention, though not the conventional business, will be setting the table for the future of our diocese. We would also encourage those laypeople who are not delegates but who are interested in being a part of this conversation, to please join us as well.  We will have plenty of space for those who would like to join us and we would love to have you there.

It’s a “Grape” Day in the Kingdom at Holy Cross

IT’S A “GRAPE DAY” IN THE KINGDOM!  The pie-baking, goodie-making marathon at Holy Cross Episcopal Church is about to begin for the 2017 Wine Festival.  Supplies are being gathered and workers are being recruited for this, our largest annual fundraiser.  We have been involved in many outreach ministries over the past year and proceeds from this event will help to further that mission. The decision as to which outreach ministries to support  is made by the congregation when we know what our final total is and how we want to distribute funds. Previous beneficiaries have included: Shared Hope (an agency working against human trafficking), Heifer Project (we’ve purchased 2 arks at  $5,000 each), Women’s Care Center, Common Ground (a local youth ‘hangout’ for youth of the community to gather safely for fellowship), LakeArts Foundation, Hurricane Sandy relief, Community Christmas boxes, and the North East Food Pantry.

Our grape pies have become known locally and beyond.  Each year everything is usually sold out (last year being no exception) and folks were still stopping by and phoning in to see if we had any left.  Unfortunately we were not able to accommodate them then.  This year, however, the production total has been raised to have enough for everyone. Our new oven will hopefully enable us to increase our quantities.  Pie baking will begin on Thursday, September 21st, and pies will be available for sale that day beginning at 1:00 PM from the church parish hall located at 51 West Main Street.  They will also be sold from our tent located on the corner of West Main and South Pearl Streets beginning Friday, September 22nd through Sunday, September 24th.  Sunday sales begin at 12:00 following the morning worship services which we cordially invite you to join us at either 8:30 or 10:30 AM.

The cost of a pie is now $13.00 and are available in both regular and sugar free.  We welcome advance orders. Please call the church at 814-725-4679 and leave your name, telephone number, the number of pies you would like and the day you will pick them up. Our tent will also feature our annual array goodies of Swedish rye bread, caramel corn, peanut butter and chocolate fudge as well as an assortment of treats to satisfy a variety of tastes. A coffee and slice of pie combination, along with other refreshments, will be available if you want to stop and take a break from all the festivities around the community.

The star of Holy Cross’s Wine Festival participation is our gal who is dressed as a human bunch of grapes – Holy Cross’s ambassador for this event.  She’s been interviewed by the local and regional newspaper and has even become a celebrity in a photo shoot for a wedding party. Stop by, take a picture and say hello…

We have a lot of fun during the harvest season in North East at Holy Cross and welcome the opportunity to ‘welcome you’  to endulge yourself with some of the treats we offer.  Stop by, say ‘hello’ and you will understand what we mean when we say IT’S A “GRAPE DAY” IN THE KINGDOM! 

Anne Bardol is the treasurer and parish administrator of Holy Cross Church in North East, PA.