This video is of Bishop Sean’s sermon from the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania’s regional confirmations on May 22nd held at St. Mark’s church in Erie.
This video is of Bishop Sean’s sermon from the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania’s regional confirmations on May 22nd held at St. Mark’s church in Erie.
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.
Kintsugi 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.”
Tim 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
Welcome to a new series where we will hear from Nina Palattella about her experience as a Christian in her senior year of High School. Nina will write a blog post about once a month over the course of the school year. This is her fourth installment. Click here to see the others.
Hello and welcome to my fourth blog post! I hope that everyone had a safe and enjoyable holiday season. I spent a good amount of time with my family, both those who live in my city and those who have traveled in for the occasion.
For this post, I wanted to explore an aspect of life that is central to the Christian faith and often emphasized throughout the holiday season for all: charitable giving and volunteering. Whether in terms of volunteer work, financial donations made directly to the church, or the donation of one’s time and resources to help another person, charitable giving is a cornerstone of the Christian tradition, as well as in other religions. The amount which it is considered appropriate to tithe is widely debated; a quick Google search of the subject retrieves almost three hundred thousand results, each presumably with their own suggestions. One such suggestion I can recall being tossed around over the years is that each member of the church should donate ten percent of his or her income, but there are many cases when ten percent would be asking far too much, and others in which the same amount seems insignificant. I’ve matured considerably both as a person and as a Christian since I was first introduced to this hypothesis, and sometimes I can’t help but wonder how Jesus might have imagined his teachings as they apply to modern economics.
I have recently had two personal experiences with charitable giving at work: in late November, I had the opportunity to take a tour of the Erie City Mission with my youth group, The Vine. According to its website (www.eriecitymission.org), the organization is one of 275 nationally associated “Gospel Rescue Missions;” unlike government entities, rescue missions can attend to local needs without requiring a community-wide consensus to do their work. I had a general idea of the help the City Mission provided in the community—I knew that they hosted community dinners, I was aware that they offered temporary shelter for those in need—but until this visit I woefully underestimated the scope of their programs and the commitment they require. Not including the meals that are provided to program participants, the website states that the organization provides “3 meals [a day], 363 days of the year, to more than 151,000 women, children, and men.” Our group was taken through one of the dormitories for the emergency men’s shelter—it was sparse, but astonishingly clean, thanks to the meticulous laundry and hygiene regiments that are demanded of the individuals who stay there. The shelter can house up to 56 men for a maximum of 60 nights per person; if, 30 days after the original 60 days ended, a former resident is still in need of shelter, he may reapply for an extended stay. I had not known about this policy, and the generosity of it struck me. In addition, the organization has rehabilitation programs that range in length from eight months to one year, with emphasis on spirituality, overcoming addiction, and becoming reconnected to the community. The City Mission has several campuses in and around the city that offer ministries for children and women as well, which are in high demand but shorter supply around the city. Learning about the extent of the City Mission’s efforts made me realize that, in order to better a community, it takes the effort of the entire community.
Because I am off of school and he is home from college, my brother and I were able to volunteer at my church’s food pantry distribution. This distribution happens on one morning every week; it is usually on Friday, but because of the New Year, this past week it was changed to Tuesday. The regular volunteers told us that they had been distributing an average of 90 bags in recent weeks, and they told us that they were predicting an attendance of at least eighty for this week. Before the distribution started, I assisted in dividing fifty pounds of individually wrapped candy bars into bags of ten, and then I was assigned to a table where I was charged with handing out said candy, as well as jars of peanut butter and boxes of raisins. By the time my brother and I left almost two hours later, we had served only forty-five clients. However, just because our efforts directly benefitted fewer people than in the past doesn’t mean that they were wasted; every person whom we served was kind and polite; many of them thanked us and enthusiastically wished the volunteers and other patrons a happy holiday. I saw a connection between this experience and my thoughts on donations described at the beginning of this post—I believe that the number of people you help matters less than your effort to do so. Jesus calls his followers to “go forth in the world” and make a difference in His name, and if we are trying our best to heed his words, then I think that we will find ourselves on a path that He would find acceptable.
God moves in mysterious ways. In the late 1990s, the Rt. Rev. Robert Rowley, then the bishop of the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania, met with the Rev. Barbara Akin, then the vicar of Church of the Epiphany in Grove City. They were having a discussion about her successor and joking around about who his successor might be. Little did they know that his successor, Barbara’s student intern Sean Rowe, was filing papers in the next room, and that her successor, Geoff Wild, was living in Australia deciding whether he was an atheist or not.
The now Rev. Geoff Wild, a native of Australia, has served as the vicar at Church of the Epiphany in Grove City for seven years and in recent years has also served as the vicar of Memorial Church of Our Father in Foxburg. However, the road to ordained ministry was not always an easy one.
Fr. Geoff describes growing up with uninvolved parents. As a young person, he drifted and in College he found alcohol. He spent twenty years drinking and using drugs. At one point, his then-wife wanted a divorce and Geoff recognized that he was harming his family. Finally, a friend took him to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and it was there that Geoff realized he was lonely. He got sober but didn’t follow all of the 12 steps, in particular the step about developing a relationship with your higher power. He remained lonely in sobriety. He became mean and miserable and, at times, even suicidal. Six years later, his marriage was over.
Even though he had been raised as an Anglican, he stubbornly refused to develop a relationship with a higher power. And then, as he says, “One night I got found by God in the form of a big white Ford wagon.”
One rainy afternoon, Fr. Geoff was out for a run and got hit by that big white Ford wagon. It put him in the hospital for three days. While he was in the hospital, he looked around him and saw the devastating affects of alcohol and drugs. The person next to him had tried to jump off a building because he thought he could fly. Another person could only talk about drinking beer and a third was drunk and waiting to go back to his homeless shelter. Geoff asked himself, “What is wrong with this picture?” And his answer was: “Me.”
He began in earnest to try and develop a relationship with his higher power. He started following the 11th step in the AA 12 steps, meditation. Around this time he also met Cheryl (now his wife and better half) and, to please her on a trip to the U.S. to visit her, he accompanied her to church. There he found “words that spoke to me.” He continued with his meditation and one day asked God, “Are you there?” To his surprise he received the reply, “Of course I am.” It made all the difference: “That loneliness I had felt all my life didn’t have to be there because God was there.”
Following his conversion, Geoff moved to the U.S. to be with Cheryl and started attending Church of the Epiphany, Grove City. One day Barbara Akin asked Geoff if he wanted to be a priest. He was somewhat taken aback because, when he was young, one of the things he thought about was becoming a priest. He took his time to think, meditate, and pray about it and 18 months later was able to answer yes. That was in 2003 and, in 2008, Barbara Akin’s successor that she had discussed with Bishop Rowley so many years previous was ordained by Bishop Rowley’s successor.
25 years ago, Fr. Geoff only wanted to stop drinking and using drugs. Life hasn’t always been easy for him, but sobriety and a relationship with Jesus Christ gave him far more than he believed he deserved: “Stopping [drinking] was the best decision I made in my life, but it wasn’t enough. It is the relationship with Jesus Christ that has made the difference.”
Julien Goulet, Assistant to Communications and Administration, Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania
Sermon by The Rev. Sabeth Fitzgibbons from October 18, 2015 reprinted from the blog Pulpit Ponderings
It has been said that “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” We can all probably think of examples in our own lives and culture where this is true. When we see a fashionable outfit or a hairstyle we think is particularly attractive or that communicates a message we want, we work to re-create it for ourselves. Thinking back a decade or two, remember the ‘power tie’ for men or the ‘red power suit’ for women? We saw those fashions on people we perceived as having power and influence, and we thought to ourselves, ‘If I just wear that, I can garner that kind of respect and power, too.”
We see this dynamic happening in the gospel today with James and John as they ask Jesus for coveted seats of power in glory, the seats at his immediate right and left hands. If we can’t sit in the seat of power, we should sit right next to it. Those sons of Zebedee know there is something special about Jesus, and they want to get some of it for themselves. Even though they’ve been following Jesus around – they have been listening to his teaching, watching him heal people and cast out demons – and they do believe that he is the promised Messiah, they still think he’s going to be a military ruler. The kind of king who wields armies and fear. And that power looks mighty appealing to these humble men, who have been fishermen and disciples of an itinerant teacher. ‘Come on, Jesus, you’re going to kick this dusty road and sit in glory. Just let us sit right next to you and share that glory.’
Jesus on the other hand, has no illusion about what the road to his ‘glory’ will be. And he asks them, quite pointedly, if they really understand what they are asking for, “Do you really think you can drink from my cup, that you can be baptized with my baptism?” In their ignorance and arrogance, they say, “We are able.” ‘I’ll take a sip of that cup of power.’
And their friends find out! And those other ten guys, they are mad. Mark doesn’t say why the other disciples are angry. I wonder if it’s because they didn’t think to make this overt move to imitate Jesus’ perceived power themselves. Nonetheless, Jesus calms the angry disciples. The explanation Jesus gives completely debunks James’ and John’s assumptions about what his power really is. Instead he talks about what power in the kingdom of God really looks like.
James and John, they think greatness comes from status, the kind of power over wielded by tyrants and oppressors. In response, Jesus does what Jesus does all the time. He turns power completely on its head and he says that power comes from serving other people. Not from oppressing them with fear, but from serving them. We will either willingly and joyfully serve others, or we will become enslaved to our illusions that we can be free and secure through status and power. In our culture, we might say through having a respectable job and the right friends.
Jesus asks, who will we serve? Will we serve the voices of the culture that say that we can (and must) be free on our own and at any cost? Or will we hear and heed the voice of Jesus? Will we find our freedom and our true selves through serving our neighbor?
Why do we have a God who is always asking us to serve our neighbor? Always pushing us to consider the needs of someone else before ourselves? It goes very much against our culture, and even went against the culture of Jesus’ time, to put the needs of someone else before our own.
God delights in our relationships. God delights in God’s relationship with us, and God delights in our relationships with other people. Whether they are at home, at school or work, or with people, strangers in our community. It is through our relationships with other people that we discover ourselves inextricably linked – “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh” – linked with those around us. We cannot deny that when we open ourselves to know someone else, we are they and they are we. There is some bit of us, some bit of God, reflected back in the face of the other.
Jesus’ description of his life as giving himself “as a ransom for many” reflects that same priority on loving the other before self. Jesus does not buy us back from God or the devil, but instead pays himself out in order to rescue us from ourselves. To rescue us from our delusion that we are somehow self-sufficient and independent, self-made men and women. Perhaps in this world we can make that claim, but not in God’s. From this point in Jesus’ story to the end, his whole life and death challenge our assumptions about power. As we watch the story unfold, we learn that even as we give ourselves in service to others we find ourselves living more fully than ever before.
Our power derives from our imitation of Jesus’ service to us. That power which is rooted in our status as beloved children of a merciful and gracious God. Being loved unconditionally by God, regardless of our power or position in this world, helps us all to realize that we are blessed. We know that blessing first in our baptism, when we emerge from the water as Jesus did and we hear God say, This is my child, my beloved. We return that blessing to God, by returning our lives to God. Our stewardship flows from this same font of blessing, blessing all others through serving them in God’s love.
Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery? Maybe in this world. When it comes to God, I don’t think so. God doesn’t ask for or need our flattery or kind intentions. God asks for even more: God asks for our whole selves. Our whole selves, given to God in imitation of what God gives to us: his whole self. God gives to us generously, completely, with no strings, no time limits, no expectations. Whether we realize or reciprocate God’s love or not, God’s love is still there, as big and bold and available as ever. God gives to us with love, so that we can grow in that love.
In our imitation of our great God, we are asked to give of ourselves, of our time and our passions and our money, with love and generosity, without condition, without expectation of return, so that God’s love can continue to grow in us and in the world around us. So that the kingdom of God can come near – to us and to everyone else who needs to hear that word of hope. Thanks be to God.
The Rev. Sabeth Fitzgibbons, St. Stephan’s, Fairview
Reposted from GoErie.com: Reflections is a column in the Erie Times News by religious leaders in the region. The Right Rev. Sean Rowe is bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania, 145 W. Sixth St.
Time and again we turn against one another for superficial reasons that are symptoms of deeper issues that remain unaddressed. This is true in secular politics, and it is true in our faith communities as well.
We’re gearing up for what promises to be a long and painful political season. Already, candidates are using the poor for target practice in our ongoing cultural and ideological wars. Some aspirants to political power are even talking about massive deportations of people who live in grinding poverty and do work that many American citizens simply refuse to engage. The goal is to get “them” out.
We’ve walked a long way in the wrong direction since Jesus began his public ministry by announcing that he had come to preach “good news to the poor.” Today, the tenets of Christian and other faith traditions are used to bludgeon and exclude people created, as we are, in the image and likeness of God. Consider the ways in which issues regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are used to divide congregations and denominations. We create a righteous “in” and an unrighteous “out,” often under the cover of the old maxim “hate the sin and love the sinner.”
All of these issues seem, at some level, to involve determining who properly belongs within our communities and who should be kept out. We argue over and over again, down through the centuries, about which race, which religion, which sexual orientations are worthy of inclusion. We create wedge issues, and in doing so, we miss the deeper point.
Theologian James Alison points out that, for Christians, the real issue is that we simply cannot come to terms with the work that Christ has done for us through the cross and resurrection. This reality is quite simple: We are redeemed; anyone who wants to be “in” is “in.” We don’t have to get any better, go any deeper, or work any harder. God loves us for who we are and just as we are. But since we cannot really believe that this is true, since we cannot accept that our own merit played no role in our redemption, we develop standards that exalt ourselves and marginalize others. That’s the way we work out the truth that is so difficult for us to accept, that God loves all people unconditionally.
The good news is too good for us to accept: Through God’s grace — which, by definition is unearned and undeserved — we’re all “in.” Maybe we could work at living as though that was really true without any new terms or conditions.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.” (Matthew 19:14) In that spirit, many churches in Fairview are joining together to bring the children of Fairview Elementary to Jesus. St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Fairview Presbyterian Church, Fairview Methodist Church and St. James Lutheran Church have partnered to start a God’s Club. They will take turns meeting with first and second graders after school once a week starting in October. The group is excited for this opportunity to do God’s work in the school. The idea originated with Julia Pelligrino, the principal’s secretary. Dr. Ben Horn, the principal, supports the idea completely.
The selected curriculum is “Duck Kingdom” from Children’s Ministry Deals. The goal is to teach children how to love others. Each week has a special duck theme that will help children learn a new Bible lesson about loving others. Each lesson includes a parent sheet, memory verse, skit, object lesson or children’s sermon, small group discussion, and a large group game. Each week will start with a snack and singing. The club will be called “God’s Kids”.
The first session will start in early October and run for 9 weeks. The second session will start in the new year. There are plans to expand to include third and fourth graders. The team is excited to be bringing the children to know and understand Jesus.
M.J. Radock, member St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Fairview, PA
The Rev. Johanna Baker preaches while the Rev. Matthew Scott plays guitar and sings for campers at Diocesan Summer Camp.