Giving Thanks – St. James’ Community Soup Kitchen

img_1709-478x640If you drive through Titusville on a Tuesday morning just before lunch time, you may notice how busy the corner of Main Street and Franklin Avenue is compared to the rest of town. Cars line the edge of the roadway, and people walking singly or in groups of three or four make their way down the sidewalk towards the doors of the St. James Parish Hall. Outside the hall a white sign proclaims “St. James Community Soup Kitchen Today 12 – 1 pm. All are Welcome!”

All are indeed welcome to this particularly busy ministry of St. James, as I came to find out. I spoke with Eda Scales and Noni Stanford, two of the soup kitchen coordinators, last Tuesday as they were preparing to serve over 200 people for the annual Thanksgiving dinner. Even though I arrived at 11 am, well before the usual serving hour, most of the tables in the hall were already full of people chatting and having steaming cups of coffee, enjoying each other’s company and relaxing before the beginning of the meal. Volunteers zipped back and forth, topping up glasses and making last minute preparations, but everyone I passed had enough time to smile and say hello as they went about the business of Thanksgiving dinner.
The food program at St. James has been running continuously since 2001, serving hot meals once a week to anyone who drops in. The first few dinners had perhaps a dozen people in attendance, but numbers have increased steadily to the point that on any given Tuesday there are img_1706-640x478at least a hundred people in and out of St. James’ hall, sharing a meal and fellowship (and double that for the Thanksgiving celebration).  Volunteer participation is both ecumenical and community-oriented: at least four churches in the area send helpers to aid the St. James’ crew, and they are often joined by women from the St. James House – a shelter program run by the local YWCA that is housed in the old church rectory. On the few occasions when Canon Martha Ishman is unable to attend dinners, Pastor Terry Brown of the Methodist church in Enterprise gives the blessing before the meal.

The program was given a jumpstart in its early days with a grant from the Diocese, but between donations from parishioners and support from local groups and businesses like Northwest Hardwoods, the VFW, United Way, and a partnership with the Second Harvest Food Bank, the soup kitchen ministry is now self-sufficient and able to provide hot meals and groceries for people in and around the Titusville area. It is also one of the only regularly scheduled soup kitchens in the area that doesn’t charge a fee for the meal. Eda pointed out to me that not only does the program meet financial, social, and spiritual needs for attendees in general, it is particularly valuable to people with special circumstances: the working poor, people on fixed incomes or Social Security, and others who may not qualify for assistance programs, but still find themselves in need. There are no qualifiers to participate in the food ministry, and everything is on the honor system – if someone says they have a need, they may receive.

The program also encompasses the God’s Abundance Cupboard food pantry, which began on an emergency basis whenever the church was open, and has since grown so that there are now twice-monthly scheduled pickup days where families can come and get a bag of groceries including fruit, cereal, soup, vegetables, and (thanks to a grant from Giant Eagle) two packages of frozen meat. The food pantry now gives out approximately 70 bags of groceries each pickup day.
The financial benefit of the meals and grocery donations is readily evident when you see the number of people who participate in the program. As I walked around the tables and chatted with people the social and spiritual benefits made themselves known. For many of the attendees, the soup kitchen is about much more than a hot meal – it’s an important social space, and a church outside of church. From Noni: img_1689-599x640“If you miss a week or something, they ask ‘where were you last week?’ They feel like this is their church, even if they don’t all come on Sundays.” It’s obvious that the people visiting last Tuesday felt at home. Chatter passed back and forth between people and tables with a familiarity that only comes from regular interaction. I sat down near the kitchen to chat with one young woman and her 14-month old daughter, and she mentioned that she was there because her parents came regularly. Her father was seated further down the table, and he introduced me to his wife, one of his cousins, and another relative (who was one of the volunteers, and not able to sit with them as he was working). He said how much they appreciate the church, and his wife jumped in to tell me a story about how one of the previous priests, after seeing that she had been crying at one of the meals, was able to get them help that saved them from being evicted from their home. Both volunteers and people sitting at tables stopped me as I walked around and asked if I needed a seat or a plate, and there wasn’t a single table where someone didn’t have a story or a joke to share (or a groan about the upcoming snow in the weather forecast). As Eda had said while we talked, “you see the face of God in everyone around the tables.” If the smiles on the faces of the volunteers are any indication, they receive as much joy in giving as the attendees do in receiving.

Noni walked by with a large tray filled with slices of pumpkin pie, signaling an end to the first wave of dining, and I waved goodbye and worked my way back through the tables towards the exit. Knots of people who had finished eating or were waiting for spaces to open up at the tables stood in the entry hall and outside on the sidewalk, and several folks wished me a happy holiday as I zipped up my jacket and headed down the street.

I walked out the doors of the hall that day far more uplifted in spirit than I had been prior to arriving. The weather may be getting colder and the days shorter, but God’s presence in this ministry will continue warming hearts throughout western PA’s people for hopefully many years to come.

Megin Sewak, Communications Specialist for the Diocese of Northwestern PA

It’s More Of A Promise

We are being challenged at every turn to take the powerful message of God’s creative and saving love out into the world, into the marketplace and into the communities in which we serve. And we make it hard. Like Moses, we tell God we can’t do that. We aren’t eloquent enough or smart enough. I have discovered that if we listen well, the very person who needs to hear the Good News will give us the words to share God’s story in ways that she or he can hear.

Jesus modeled this all the time. Whenever he was asked a question, he did not go off into a theological treatise, he pointed to the children in the midst of them or the vineyards that surrounded them or the sheep on the hills being tended by their shepherds. These were things they knew and understood. At the same time they conveyed the love of God in thought provoking ways. We have the opportunity to do the same in our everyday lives.

cow-174822_1280I had the privilege of officiating at my nephew’s wedding. It was held near the family’s dairy farm in a very pretty setting. The young couple had met in school where they studied dairy husbandry. They both live and breathe cows not just for the milk production but also for the pedigrees. The American Kennel Club has nothing on the dairy industry when it comes to showing and breeding animals at their best.

cow-1374685_1280So on the morning of the wedding, I was asking my nephew how his Guernseys had done in their classification—a measure of their conformation. He proceeded to go on at great length about each cow by name. I said to him, “When you breed these cows, you take great care to select a good mate for them, correct?” He agreed. But then I challenged him by asking whether or not there was any guarantee for the results. His response was immediate. “No, it’s more of a promise.”

God gave me the words for this young couple on their wedding day and it came from the groom and their shared lives together. Wedding vows are ‘more of a promise’—ones they would make to each other. But more importantly, they took these vows in the presence of God. And whatever happens, we know God keeps God’s promises. God will be with them as they work on keeping theirs. That is a guarantee.

God’s promise to us at our baptism is that we are beloved of God, sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever. As we are challenged to take this message to the world and are feeling inadequately equipped, remember, God keeps God’s promises.

Canon Martha Ishman, Rector at St. James, Titusville and Canon for Mission Development and Transition, Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania

Martha Ishman

Fruit Packer Evangelism

This is a story of how God breaks down stereotypes, restores faith in humanity and gives you what you need.

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Recently I had an early flight out from a conference in Portland, OR. I was taking the cities public transit (light rail) to the airport. The stop was an above-ground, outdoor platform across the street from my hotel, which was in a slightly gritty part of town. I found myself at 4:45 am, in this mostly dark and quiet place, at the automated ticketing booth failing to get the machine to print the ticket for me. As I am sitting there waving my credit card around with one hand and clutching my luggage with the other in frustration (an obvious tourist), this young disheveled man comes up from behind me. I was already nervous at being out that early and now my fear meter started going off the charts. I assumed that he was going to mug me. I new I wasn’t being rational so I pretended nothing was wrong

The young man saw thru my ruse, walked right up to me and…. helped me get my ticket. Apparently I don’t speak Portlandese and missed the “print here” button. He was kind and polite and made some joke about how the machine even confused him sometimes. My fear meter dropped significantly, enough so that I could get a good look at him. He had messy dirty hair, dirty clothes, old sneakers but a nice pair of headphones. Now my stereotyping judging side kicked in. I assumed the guy was one of those drug addicted urban campers (as my brother-in-law calls homeless people) and was buttering me up to ask for money. Oh, I like to help people in need just not at 4:45 am in a strange town (very Christian I know).

He started a conversation with me. We talked about Star Wars for a little while. For those of you in the know apparently the newest movie is terrible because it rewrites years of Star Wars lore. Though I liked the movie I pretended to agree with this guy, I really didn’t want to be in the conversation. No request for money ever came by the way. He finally asked what I was doing in Portland. When I told him I was here for a church conference he revealed to me that he was a preachers kid, but not one of the good ones because he had run afoul of the law. This was the first chip in my well-laid wall of protection and separation. A wall I too often find myself behind. I started, well sort of started, to see him as more than the homeless kid/young adult stereotype with which I had labeled him.

We then started talking about the bible. He very excitedly explained to me that dragons were real and proved by the bible as evidenced by the leviathan. It is amazing how fast my walls can go back up. Now I was thinking, not only is this dude homeless, he is several cards shy of a full deck! I hadn’t had the best time the night before and was down on myself because I perceived some of my work to be lower quality than I demand of myself. So, now I was feeling beat up upon, not only do I feel cruddy but I also have to deal with a crazy guy. Thanks God. I was hoping that the train would show up real soon. No luck.

At about this time a second person showed up at the train station. He looked slightly more put together and seemed to know the first guy I was talking to. They ended up introducing themselves and I learned that the first guy I had been talking to was named Jason. Jason began telling us his favorite story in the bible, “Job.” We ended up having a long conversation that lasted onto the train and all the way to their stop. We talked about how power and money corrupts and the true message Jesus was trying to share with the world. This was God’s one two punch to my wall of protection and separation, these guys were speaking my language and my walls crumbled.

Both of these guys were very spiritual and religious. They talked about having to give, in order to receive, but not give in a way that you expect something in return. The second guy talked about how his faith saved him from alcoholism and how he now “focuses on the man upstairs and not money.” We talked about having to live in the world but not be of it. We even discussed gay marriage and both of these guys expressed that they had no right to judge anyone.

It turns out Jason was not a crook, not homeless and not mentally ill. Jason and this other guy were just getting off the graveyard shift from a fruit packing company. They were dirty and tired from work yet they had no problem helping a stranger and sharing their faith and their love for God. The second guy was on his way to church and Jason was at the start of his three-hour commute home.

Upon reflecting on this afterwards I was reminded of the poor widow and her two copper coins. I was so caught up in protecting myself, like the rich only putting money in from their excess, that I almost missed God’s grace unfolding in front of me. I was mired in self-pity and God drew me out of it with an energizing and life giving conversation. I was afraid and God turned that upside down by showing me the kindness of others. I was judgmental and God reminded me of the complexity of every human person. God gave me just what I needed that morning, some good old fruit packer evangelism. Thanks God.

Julien Goulet, Assistant to Communications and Administration, the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania

Enid Bishop – A Faithful Servant

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In early January the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania lost a vital member and stalwart women of faith.  Mrs. Enid Bishop, a winner of the Bishop’s Cross, inspired many by her faith.  You can read Enid’s obituary at GoErie.com.  Her granddaughter, Missy Greene, has written a post, below, describing the influence that her grandmother had on her.

In the field of Christian Formation, we often talk about the importance of modeling faith for others. It is, in fact, a crucial part of our life-long faith development, especially at an early age, but really spans throughout a lifetime. How do we learn to do things if they are not modeled for us first? It is true for all aspects of our life, which is why being in community with other people is so important. In every interaction you are being formed. This is why the vocabulary has shifted from Christian Education to Christian Formation, because it encompasses more than just the formal retaining of information from expert to learner. It’s about the fullness of being formed into a disciple of Christ through everything that we do, formally and informally, intentionally and unintentionally.

226337_10101101302248354_5123029_nI am fairly certain that I would not have obtained a Master’s Degree in Christian Formation in order to work for the church if I had not first been formed by the people around me. There are plenty of people who have had a hand in that, but if I had to pinpoint people, it would start with my grandma, Enid Bishop – and, of course, my grandpa, Don. It is hard to talk about one in this respect without talking about the other, as they were both faithful servants that dedicated their lives to God and the church.

Scan0001As a family, church is just what we did – every Sunday. Church was an extension of our family. The Sunday service was always followed by a meal at my grandparents’ house, crowded around the dining room table. I always got stuck on the corner next to my grandma… always.

But it was not just about attending church and sitting amongst the crowd at St. Mary’s. We were active. Grandma was in the choir, a lector, an LEM, on altar guild, and Bishop’s Committee. Grandpa was an usher and helped with upkeep of the property. Stand. Sit. Kneel. Pray. Sing. It was all modeled by those around us. The message was pretty clear: we come here every Sunday and worship God because it is important and meaningful to us. The grandkids, of course, fell into the roles of acolyte, attended Sunday School faithfully, and did all manner of other things that we were told to do.

Examples of faithful living were not limited to Sundays or inside the church. My grandparents were also very active at Brevillier Village. I have great memories of helping grandpa at the little store on their campus and attending Wednesday Eucharist with grandma. I saw first-hand their willingness to serve others in a place outside the walls of St. Mary’s.

Scan0001 (4)In partnership with Brevillier, Enid set-up a monthly meal program at St. Mary’s that not only served food, but also created a community for those who attended. I remember doing the place settings, checking in the guests, riding in the van that picked up the guests, serving plates of food, and sitting with the people, getting to know them. Each of these opportunities, and so many more, is what helped form me as I grew into my own understanding of faith and service to God, but these opportunities would not have happened for me without the encouragement from my grandparents and parents to be involved.

12419180_1236519759697248_2020819922215803415_oOver the last two months, I have been able to see just how far my grandparents’ ministry reached by all the love and support shown to our family during this difficult time. We are so thankful for all the stories and pictures that have been shared with us from both family and friends. Enid lived a full and happy life, modeling the love of Christ until the very end. I have no doubt that the passion Enid and Don had for serving God and the church will continue to live on through the ministries of their children and grandchildren, as most of us are active members in our church community, and also in those they encountered and ministered to.

It is because of this strong model of faith that I hope to do the same in my own ministry. We are all constantly being formed by every interaction, just as we are forming others by our own actions, whether intentionally or unintentionally. It is important to consider how you will model a life of faith for those around you, so that good news of Jesus Christ can be seen and imitated.

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

The Rev. Tim Dyer is Kintsugi

This is the third and final installment in a three part series highlighting the stories of our three seminarians. Click here to read stories about the other two seminarians.

kintsugiKintsugi is the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery using lacquer and gold. The broken pieces are soldered back together with gold in the seams. The philosophy is that the pottery’s brokenness is part of its history and does not need to be hidden. Many regard the finished product as even more beautiful than the original. Something broken is remade into something stunning and useful.

The Rev. Tim Dyer considers himself a piece of Kintsugi. He has been broken both emotionally and physically and has been remade. Though he is shy about talking about his strengths, there is gold in his seams. Rightfully so, he attributes that remaking and the gold to God’s handiwork.

The story of Tim’s accident and near death is no secret [Click here to read an account by Vanessa Butler reprinted from “The Forward,” September of 2013]. Tim was literally broken in several places after a deer hit his car in November 2012. He spent 6 months in the hospital and at one point was not expected to live. He has been through a long road to recovery and in some ways is still broken: “I used to be able to bench press 450 pounds.” Being strong and physical was one of the ways Tim defined his identity before the accident. He is still relearning how to do things and is limited. Now, over three years after his accident, he can barely wield a shovel before his partially healed wrist swells up and keeps him from doing physical labor. He has struggled with losing that part of his identity.

The story of Tim’s brokenness that many don’t know is his ‘prodigal son’ experience. As a very young man Tim joined the Marines and was stationed in Spain. While there, he had a challenging relationship with his stateside girlfriend that ended up in a very emotional breakup. In response, Tim stayed drunk for two years and blamed God for his hurt. He couldn’t get leave to come home so it was easier to act like home wasn’t there and he isolated himself from his family. He was later transferred to California and, while there, started using crystal meth. When he realized it was killing him, he quit but at that point was too embarrassed to go home.

Unbeknownst to Tim, his father had been praying that Tim would return home and return to God. God answers prayers in mysterious ways sometimes. Tim got a call in 1999 that his father had a heart attack (which he survived). Tim knew it was time to come home.

Since then, God has soldered Tim’s broken pieces back together. It started with his family accepting him back without question. Tim then found his life partner, Noreen, and together they started going to church. Tim started feeling acceptance there as well and started getting involved by being a lay reader and a lay minister. Tim later figured out that the turning point for him was when he forgave himself and turned back to God: “God had forgiven me a long time before.”

16969_100564616643449_761487_nTim then started discerning a call to the priesthood and was guided in that decision by Deacon Michael Bauschard: “His dedication was an incredible example to me.” Tim officially entered the ordination process in 2007. He took local courses and, after the hiatus due to his accident, completed his bachelor’s degree in the summer of 2014. He was ordained to the transitional diaconate, surrounded by family, friends and supporters from across the diocese, in February 2015. This past June, Tim began his Masters in Divinity studies in the Church Divinity School of the Pacific’s low residence program and expects to graduate in 2019.

God has soldered Tim back physically as well. No, Tim may not be able to bench press that 450 pounds anymore, but he and Noreen are a team. What one could do before, two can now do even better. They get everything done together. Tim says that you don’t really know him completely until you get to know Noreen.

God has certainly reinforced Tim’s broken pieces with gold. Tim sees his story of brokenness as what has made him who he is. He is able to use it to relate to others. He has known what is like to be isolated from God and family and then to come back and is able to guide others through similar experiences. Tim feels called to be in relationship with people and to serve at a small local church. The way Tim identifies himself is no longer as someone with physical strength, but, rather, as a child of God. “When we place our identity in Jesus Christ we become secure because Christ is always with us.”

Tim lives out that identity through his service to others. He is a Clergy Associate for Pastoral Ministries and sees part of his ministry as helping to facilitate a different understanding of what pastoral care is about. He says, “the worship we do on Sundays is practice for what we are to take into the world and share, but we need to make sure we share that with each other too.” Tim is also the founder of the “The Children of Abraham Project,” through which he helps bring Christians, Muslims and Jews together to understand each other. Tim truly believes in living out this question from the Baptismal covenant: “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?”

Tim is also grateful for all the support and love he has received from his community at the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. He is thankful for all the people who have taught him, guided him and supported him through his accident and ordination process. “Interacting with the body of Christ, my community, pushes my boundaries and forms me. I look forward to more of that.”

You can find the Rev. Tim Dyer, golden seams and all, at Trinity Memorial Episcopal Church in Warren and St. Francis Episcopal Church in Youngsville serving as a deacon. He is there giving back what has been given to him and helping to solder broken pieces back together.

Julien Goulet, Assistant to Communications and Administration, Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania

Member of St. Francis experiences the power of Christian community

This is reprinted from “The Forward” September 2013.

Imagine waking up in an ambulance, with no awareness of what has happened or where your family is. While the paramedic assures you there is a machine helping you breathe, you feel like you are slowly suffocating. Panic and fear are rapidly mounting. Finally, someone attaches an oxygen bag to the apparatus in your throat and begins to pump air into your lungs. As you begin to slide back into a medically induced sedation, unanswered questions swirl through your mind.

This is where Tim Dyer, a longtime member of St. Francis, Youngsville, and a postulant in the ordination process, found himself in early 2013 after a series of hospitalizations stemming from a car accident. In November of 2012, a deer was hit by an oncoming car and thrown through the windshield of Tim’s truck as he was driving to work. His jaw and right arm were broken and the ligaments in his right wrist were torn. He was told he was lucky; with the manner in which his jaw was broken, it usually would have entered the brain, resulting in death. As it was, Tim was hospitalized and endured multiple surgeries before being released.

Less than a week later, he was re-admitted after contracting a blood infection and pneumonia and placed in a medically induced coma. While in the coma, he was placed on dialysis; had multiple blood transfusions; and underwent surgery to take out the wiring in his repaired jaw, as well as the pacemaker and defibrillator he had due to a pre-existing heart condition, after they were affected by the infection. At Christmas, doctors asked Tim’s wife, Noreen, and his parents if they were prepared for his death. The doctors gave him a 20% chance of survival and, if
he survived, they were concerned his mental capacity would be seriously diminished after his prolonged sedation.

God had other plans. After six weeks, Tim was taken off the respirator and transferred to a rehab facility. It was during this transfer that Tim woke up in the ambulance, having no recollection of his collapse or subsequent hospitalization. He said that fear gripped him then, but it was nothing like the fear that was to come.

As he came out of his sedated state, Tim was unable to feel a connection to God due to the effect of the drugs on his mind. The fear that filled him because of this was new and overwhelming. “Since hearing a call [to ordained ministry], I have felt a strong inner peace,” he stated, “Now, the inner peace was gone; I felt no sense of God at all.” He couldn’t even look to the Bible or the Book of Common Prayer to help him, as he couldn’t focus long enough to read them.

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“My family is this diocese. Without their prayers, I would not have made it through.”

He could, however, look to the people of this diocese. Clergy and laypeople from a number of congregations visited Tim, bringing him communion and praying with him. “I lacked a sense of spirituality and they reinforced that sense for me.” And it wasn’t just those in the diocese he was close to that were coming alongside him in his time of need: “People all over the diocese, who didn’t even know me, were praying for me,” Tim said, recounting a phone call with one of our congregation’s secretaries, when she exclaimed, “You’re the Tim we’ve been praying for!” He said it was humbling to have that many people come together for him, but came to understand that support “defines what the Christian family is.”

Strengthened by the prayers and encouragement, Tim was released from the rehab facility in the spring of 2013. While he continues to undergo surgeries and physical therapy, Tim is making progress physically (a recent victory was being able to tie his shoes on his own) and spiritually. His connection to God and the inner peace that comes with it has returned. Tim also has realized the importance of acknowledging gifts from God “on good days, but more importantly, on bad days. The more that we recognize the gifts and works around us, we develop a deeper relationship with God.” He has also realized the importance of Christian community: “My family is this diocese. Without their prayers, I would not have made it through. When I was at my weakest, they were there to give me strength. It’s what family does for each other.”

Vanessa Butler

Steady, Diligent, Dedicated Faith

Brian ReidNot all faith journeys are like the Road to Damascus. Most of us do not get knocked off our horse with the blinding light of revelation. Many think that they need this kind of conversion for their faith story to be relevant. Canon Brian Reid has a different understanding. He believes that a slow and steady faith journey can lift you up. His journey is more like the road that the Good Samaritan found himself on when he helped the man beaten by robbers. The road where we do what faith demands of us without expectation of reward or blinding light revelations.

A cradle Episcopalian, Brian Reid was born in Detroit, Michigan, and took what he describes as a “bizarre” path to the priesthood, the type of path that we don’t see all too often these days. He went from high school to college and then straight to seminary and into the priesthood. He says that he knew in high school that he wanted to be a priest but this was not news to his family. “My parents said they knew from when I was little that I would be a priest.”

Brian was deeply formed by his experience in seminary at Nashotah House. He says it didn’t just give him an education, it formed him as a priest: “Nashotah made you know what a community is, how a priest is formed by and forms that community.” He felt that, in the midst of a society that was “experimenting” in the early 1970s, Nashotah grounded him in tradition. The experience of morning and evening prayer every day taught him that life does not have to have “one continuous spiritual high or one continuous spiritual low.” Slow and steady can lift you.

Within 6 months of his first assignment in an inner city church in Detroit, the rector left, essentially leaving Brian in charge. He headed up a predominantly white congregation in a predominantly black neighborhood: “I got to know all sorts of and conditions of people.” After that experience and some supply work, he found himself in the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania (then known as the Diocese of Erie). “My mother grew up in DuBois and my aunt who still lived in Pennsylvania pestered the Bishop until he gave me a job.”

And this is where Canon Reid became the guru of Canons. As a young priest in the Diocese in the late 1970s, Father Reid was asked to be part of the Constitutions and Canons Committee. It was an important time for the Diocese as we were figuring out how to combine the Diocesan Council with the Board of Trustees. “Being new, I read the Canons and prepared by thinking about what we might do.” He became at his first Constitution and Canons meeting, and remains still, the Diocese’s go-to expert on the Canons. In fact, when we decided to simplify our structure after Bishop Sean’s consecration Canon Reid produced the first draft. He is humble about his expertise. Around 1980, Canon Reid, took classes at Penn State Behrend and now has the credentials to be a paralegal. “I guess I like the Law,” he says.

And the rest is an almost 40 year history of steady dedication and commitment to faith and to lifting up the people and congregations of this Diocese. Canon Reid has served at Osceola Mills, Houtzdale, Youngsville, Warren, Franklin, Brookville, Emporium, St. Mary’s, Rigeway and DuBois. He also has mentored countless students in his role teaching classes on scripture at the School for Ministry and his role on the Commission on Ministry. He has not only shaped the laws of the Diocese in his role on Constitutions and Canons but has helped guide the Diocese in his role on the Standing Committee. He even taught New Testament Greek in his time at Youngsville!

Canon Reid says that the Diocese is still struggling with the same issues it did when he first arrived, and even from when it first started in 1910, that we feel “small, poor and ignored and we struggle to become church in that context.” He says we will continue to struggle and that one of the glories of the Anglican Communion is what he calls, “Holy Plodding.” “You put one foot in front of the other.” His advice to new clergy is to “remember it is not up to you and it is not your responsibility to save the world but rather to continue plodding along with the task God has given you.”

Some of you may not know that Canon Reid is a pilot and has been since he was a teenager. He owns two planes and has flown to Vegas, Florida, the Bahamas, Northern Michigan, Colorado, Canada and Long Island to name just a few. Flying is a liberating experience for him. His philosophy about flying sounds like good advice for all of us: “You can’t be thinking about what you left on the ground. You have to attend to what you are doing.”

We are thankful for Canon Reid’s dedicated and steady attention to lifting up this Diocese.

Julien Goulet, Assistant for Communications and Administration, The Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania

Member of St. Stephen’s Finds Acceptance in the Episcopal Church

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It was a Monday and Amy sat in her Catholic school classroom. Like every other Monday the teacher asked the kids who didn’t go to church on Sunday to raise their hands. Amy grew up in the Midwest in a family that believed in God but did not have a church affiliation or attend church. They did, however, want Amy to have a relationship with God, and made the extra effort to send her to Catholic school. So, on that Monday, like all the Mondays before, Amy had to raise her hand and had to watch as the teacher once again wrote her name on the list of kids who didn’t go to church.   Amy was just seven and already felt excluded and unwelcome.

In a study of people who don’t attend church, the Barna Group reports that “16% of Americans said they have been hurt by experiences in churches (Barna.org).” Amy didn’t give up though. In high school she went to a non-denominational church. She enjoyed being there but was eventually pushed to say when she had accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. When she was first asked, Amy answered from her heart that she had felt that she had always accepted God and Jesus. She was told that this was the wrong answer and that she needed to come up with a specific date. “I didn’t feel right to be told that my answer was wrong.”

In college Amy studied to be a teacher and got her first job at a conservative Missouri Synod school. She witnessed the school board decide to remove a poster of Martin Luther King that a teacher had put up to celebrate Martin Luther King Day and tell the teacher that the reason was because Martin Luther King was a sinner. As well, she heard a teacher comment on an African American student saying that there was no hope for her because she was a “lazy black.” Amy was appalled: “I remember crying to see such blatant racism and for feeling powerless.” More recently, in her last church, she witnessed the exclusion of the LGBT community.

These experiences of exclusion could have led Amy to be one of the over 32% of Americans who have had some contact with churches but no longer attend (based on numbers from Barna.org). However, Amy kept looking and found a church home that she calls family. St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Fairview, Pennsylvania, is a place where, as Amy says, “Everyone is friendly and there is no right answer.” She found a place that was open and accepting, a place that didn’t judge her.

Amy was also excited to find a place that worked for her entire family. “It’s a big deal to find a church that works for everyone in your family.” The first thing that caught Amy’s attention when she visited St. Stephen’s was the soft space. The soft space is a section where the pews have been removed and replaced by a soft carpet and quiet toys. It is a place where families with young children can come and be in church with their children. Amy knew then it was a different place than she had been to before, a place where she didn’t have to worry about her kids.

Amy has also found that she is being challenged by God at St. Stephen’s. She was recently asked to lead the Sunday School. “Typically I hear the word ‘leader’ and I run. I don’t like to be in charge of anything. This time I had the confidence I could do it. I pushed myself.” Amy now directs three Sunday School classrooms, 6 teachers and 7 substitutes. She coordinates the curriculum and makes sure all the kids have a great experience. “I feel like I belong more if I am helping with something.”

Amy has become an integral part of St. Stephen’s and has invited others to be part of the community: “I know I am comfortable with a place when I easily talk about it. I’ve never wanted to be evangelical – this is just talking about something that I love.”

By Julien Goulet, Assistant for Communications and Administration, Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania