Election Call for the Ninth Bishop of Bethlehem

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

When you gave me the honor of serving as your bishop provisional in March 2014, I pledged to spend several years working with you to discern the Diocese of Bethlehem’s common mission and update and streamline financial, governance and administrative practices. With thanksgiving for your remarkable progress in assuring a faithful future for the diocese, today I am calling for the election of the ninth bishop of Bethlehem.

In consultation with the Rt. Rev. Clay Matthews, the Episcopal Church’s bishop for pastoral development, and Judy Stark, a consultant recommended by his office who is a daughter of the Diocese of Bethlehem, the Standing Committee [LINK:  https://www.diobeth.org/about/governance-and-administration/standing-committee/] will soon seek members for a search committee to discern a slate of nominees for bishop. In time, the Standing Committee will also name a transitions committee to oversee the new bishop’s consecration and welcome to the diocese. Although the final calendar for the search process will be determined by the Standing Committee, I anticipate that we will elect the ninth bishop of Bethlehem in the spring of 2018 and consecrate and seat that person in the fall of that year.

During my remaining time as your bishop provisional, I look forward to fostering the shared values and relationships that emerged from our recent diocesan pilgrimage [LINK:  https://www.diobeth.org/returning-from-pilgrimage-what-next/]and continuing to work with you on developing a mission strategy to unite our response to God’s call. You will receive further updates about the search for your next bishop from the Standing Committee and, once it is named, from the search committee.

I continue to be grateful for this opportunity to serve with you for a time, and I ask you to join me in praying for the leaders in the Diocese of Bethlehem who will participate the search for your next bishop.





The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe

DioBeth congregation prays around cross made from piece of the World Trade Center

Reposted from the Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, PA

Written by Matt Mattei

web1_service1KINGSTON — Since 2012, Grace Episcopal Church has held a prayer service honoring those who died during the Sept. 11, attacks on the World Trade Center. Each year, members of the congregation gather to remember people lost on that day and pray for those who live on without them. They do this around an appropriately unique symbol of hope and faith.

This year’s service will be held at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 11, in the Rusty Flack Memorial Garden, which contains a cross fashioned from a steel girder procured from the south tower of the original trade center.

According to Father John Hartman, rector of Grace Episcopal, the offering of morning prayer is open to everyone, people who wish to celebrate the memories of lost friends, loved ones or fellow Americans, people who want to pray for those personally affected, or people who simply want to join in prayer for hope in times of struggle.

When Father Hartman came to the church in 2009, he was met with a situation where a family, which had lost a child, could not afford a burial plot for their loved one. The congregation pulled together and raised money for the family, but the experience left Hartman with a lasting impression.

“I thought, ‘We should be able to provide our parishioners with a space they don’t have to pay for if they can’t afford a plot,” said Hartman.

For insight on the matter, Hartman reached out to parishioner and respected businessman, the late Rusty Flack. Flack was a motivator in planning the development of a muddy, overgrown area of the church property into a memorial garden, but was diagnosed with cancer and began treatment before development was underway.

Meanwhile, Jim Saba learned about his friend’s battle with cancer and set out to do something special for him.

An environmental consultant, Saba had been contracted by a scrap company to aid in cleanup after 9/11. Wreckage from Ground Zero was taken to the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island, New York, and much of the metal was eventually melted down to use in the construction of the Freedom Tower, which now dominates the skyline of lower Manhattan where the Twin Towers once stood. Some of that metal was still at Fresh Kills by the time Saba heard of Flack’s diagnosis.

Following the Sept. 11 disaster, Saba and Flack realized they both had an eerie connection to the trade center. Saba had stood atop the south tower on Sept. 4, 2001, and Flack had visited the same spot only a month earlier.

Saba reached out to one of the scrappers he had worked with and was able to get his hands on an eight inch interior I-beamweb1_cross1 from the south tower. He took that beam and had it made into a cross for his devoutly Christian friend.

“Rusty was a man of very deep faith,” said Saba.” I knew that cross would be a source of strength for him because he was such a faithful person.”

Saba delivered the cross to Flack’s home in Huntsville, where it stood as a source of inspiration, according to Flack’s wife, Kathi.

“His faith was extraordinarily important to him, and this gesture, this action by Jimmy was such an emotional and generous and thoughtful thing to do,” said Kathi Flack. “We put the cross outside our bedroom window so we could see it in the east, and I know he looked at it every single day, and I think it gave him great hope.”

After Flack passed away, Kathi Flack and Hartman discussed moving the cross to the memorial garden when it was finished.

“I thought, ‘Wow, what a cool place to have the cross in a very permanent location where not just two people enjoy the cross but the whole community,” Kathi Flack said. “The garden is for our parishioners, but it’s also for anybody who comes to a service there.”

Before the cross was moved, Kathi Flack reached out to Saba to see if the man who gifted it would condone having it moved. Saba, who grew up on Butler Street in Kingston and had fond childhood memories of attending Boy Scout meetings at Grace Episcopal Church, was thrilled when the move was suggested.

The cross was moved; the garden was finished and named after Flack.

Today, the Rusty Flack Memorial Garden is the site of several prayer services throughout the year, including this 9/11 service, which allows for both exercising faith and reflecting upon a harrowing day in recent American history. Parishioners may also bury cremains there.

“I consider myself a patriot, but my husband, Rusty, was really a patriot,” said Kathi Flack. She referenced the strong bond among Americans after 9/11, how it has dissipated in the years following the tragedy, and how she believes it is important to never forget.

“I think that’s the beauty of the cross,” she said. “The cross symbolizes hope, and the beams are a reminder of that day.”

Saba said the symbol is significant for anyone who goes through life’s trials and tribulations and can speak to all people, whatever their individual struggles.

“That cross can be the source of a lot of strength for a lot of people, and having it in the memorial garden where now many people can view it, experience it and be part of that memorial garden, is a wonderful thing,” Saba said.

Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or mmattei@civitasmedia.com

Return Kajo Keji

Below find a re-post of the Diocese of Bethlehem’s Archdeacon Rick Cluett’s blog on the trip that he, Charlie Barebo and our own Canon Denny Blauser took this past January.

Return to Kajo Keji

In January of this year, I travelled back to the Diocese of Kajo Keji with New Hope Chair Charlie Barebo, and with Canon Dennis Blauser from the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. But I did not return to the Kajo Keji I had known. There had been a miracle in the meantime. Let me explain.

In 2001, Bishop Paul Marshall sent a team to Kajo Keji to learn about the diocese, the church, and the life and faith of the people. He and the bishop of Kajo Keji, Manasseh Dawidi, were exploring with the World Mission Committee the possibility of entering a partner relationship between our two dioceses.

A team of four people was put together for this exploratory visit. The team included Professor Randall Fegley, an experienced Sudan scholar, Jack Moulton, an agriculturist experienced in working with African farmers, the Rev. Elizabeth Moulton a parish priest, and me, the archdeacon representing our bishop.

In those days the war between the Arab, Muslim North and the Christian black African South was still being fought, and the signs of war were everywhere. And much of the Diocese of Kajo Keji was in exile in Uganda, Kenya and other neighboring countries.

One morning Bishop Manasseh took our team to a hilltop where the village of Romogi had once been. We stepped out onto a large, beautiful grassy hill that was dotted with piles of brick rubble and the remains of bombed out buildings. Bishop Manasseh spoke movingly of the vision and the dream that God had placed in his heart that one day the community of Romogi would be restored and the Church and diocese would be returned from exile and be centered there to minster to all the people. He spoke of a diocesan ministry training center, a cathedral and schools. He wanted to bring the college that was in exile in Adjumani, Uganda to this place.

It was a powerful vision that was reminiscent of God’s Promise to bring Israel into the Promised Land. And it clearly held that same power for the bishop and his people.

I was privileged to return to Kajo Keji in 2007 when Bishop Paul asked Connie Fegley, then chair of the World Mission Committee, and me to represent the bishop and Diocese of Bethlehem at the seating of the new Bishop of Kajo Keji (actually they called it an “enthronement”), the Rt. Rev. Anthony Poggo. On the morning before the service Bishop Anthony took us to see the place where he had grown up. It was the grassy hilltop of Romogi.

Bishop Anthony had clearly received the same vision and dream from God as Bishop Manasseh. He laid out for Connie and me and Garry Ion, a building engineer who was with us, where he thought the diocesan center should be built, and then the cathedral, and the college and the primary and secondary schools, and the house for the bishop.

The vision and dream had become clear and specific – and possible! –  now that the Dioceses of Bethlehem and Kajo Keji were joined in partnership, and Bethlehem had committed to raise the funds through the New Hope Campaign under the leadership of Charlie Barebo.

And so it was that in January of 2015, at the invitation of Bishop Sean and Charlie Barebo, I returned to Kajo Keji and to the hilltop of Romogi to see laid out before me and before God, the fulfillment of a dream carried out by the courage and faithfulness of the people of the Diocese of Kajo Keji and the people of the Diocese of Bethlehem.

Romogi now contains a village where people live, and a diocesan training center, and a cathedral, and a home for the bishop, and primary and secondary schools, and the Kajo Keji Christian College, which educates students to become teachers and clergy. Even though the South Sudan is threatened by fighting between President Salva Kiir forces and those loyal to former vice president Riek Machar, Kajo Keji, which is the southernmost diocese of the country and is without oil or other valuable natural resources, has been spared.

And dear people of the Diocese of Bethlehem, the miracle of our relationship with Kajo Keji is an even greater than Romogi. It is deeper and broader because it touches all the children, youth, men and women where there are New Hope schools. The miracle is that now they and we can claim the promise that God is faithful and will bring all the faithful people into God’s future.

It is my hope that before long we can bring some members of the Diocese of Kajo Keji to our diocese so we all can hear firsthand of the wonderful, miraculous things God is doing in and through our shared faith and life.

The Ven. Rick Cluett
Archdeacon, The Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem

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