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
Since last Sunday, three different gunmen have opened fire on crowds of innocent people, killing at least 32 people and wounding many more. In two of the cases, the shooter’s motive is unclear; in the deadliest of these three attacks, at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, the shooter posted a hateful anti-immigrant manifesto not long before he began to kill.
These attacks feel relentless and savage, and it is tempting to lose hope that we will find a way to end them. But as people of faith, we cannot give in to despair. God calls us to stand resolutely against both the scourge of gun violence gripping our nation and the rising tide of racism and white nationalism that fuels it. God calls us to welcome the stranger, to pray for peace and reconciliation, and to work toward a world in which hatred, fear and the ubiquity of guns shape neither our national life nor our relationships with one another.
I invite you to pray in response to these evil acts—not as a substitute for action, but as a precursor to it. The website of Bishops United Against Gun Violence, a network in which I participate alongside more than 80 colleagues, has a variety of liturgical resources for offering prayers, vigils, and other witness against gun violence. By following our network’s Facebook page, Episcopalians United Against Gun Violence, you can stay updated on opportunities to advocate with your elected officials for common sense gun safety measures with wide bipartisan support, including the ones outlined here.
May God give comfort to those who grieve the precious children of God lost to gun violence, give courage to our legislators who must act now to stop it, and give grace to all of us who are called to turn our grief, fear, and despair into passion for justice and peace.
O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, p. 824
It’s summer camp week, and Bishop Sean has flipped the script for this episode of “Ask the Bishop” and is asking the campers questions! Check it out below:
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.
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,
Sunday was a particularly blessed day in the life of the diocese as we celebrated the consecration of our first church plant in over fifty years, Resurrection Church in Hermitage. The sanctuary was full of over one hundred worshipers, there to show their love and support of this new congregation.
During the sermon, the Rev. Jason Shank, our church planter, detailed the work that has gone into this plant: from his initial meeting with Bishop Sean three years ago and their hopes for this new church, going into the community and learning what the needs of the people were, to meeting folks on the street and worshiping with them in public (quite literally, as Fr. Jason recounted one frigid Christmas Eve service held in a parking lot downtown), taking prayer walks, and, finally, to the long search for a permanent home that culminated in the renovation of the building which housed a congregation that had closed. “We saw God’s presence every step of the way when we were planting in this building,” he said. People in the community even stopped to comment on how pleased they were to see cars in the parking lot – a welcome sign of God’s presence in the neighborhood.
The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to renew the mission of the diocese and our ministry in the Hermitage community. He also gave thanks for everyone who had been involved in the discussions and planning for this church plant, which span over ten years, as well as other projects like it. “Endeavors like this require the planning and vision of generations of leaders,” the bishop said.
Through scripture, song, and fellowship time following the service, the day was a reminder of the love of God and his presence in northwestern Pennsylvania. As Bishop Sean remarked before communion, “It truly is a great day in the Kingdom!”
Below are photos from Sunday’s consecration service.