Building Relationships

Collaboration and interdependence are keys to the deepening of our Christian life together. We’ve given considerable attention over the course of the last decade to the idea that, as a diocese, we really are One Church.  Yes, we all find ourselves in different contexts, are various sizes, and have different charisms of the Spirit, and still we are united in mission and witness that make us one—all in it together as the Body of Christ.  Our challenge to bring the Good News to the world is more apparent than ever and our ability to rise to that challenge is directly related to our willingness to collaborate with strategic partners and rely more heavily on each other.

This fall we take our collaboration with the Diocese of Western New York to a new depth by sharing our Conventions with each other—we’ll take a large group to their Convention, and they’ll bring a large group to ours.  We’ll have a chance to meet new people, see how another diocese works, and experience new mission horizons.  We’ll also have an opportunity to share our particular gifts and richness of our diocesan community.  If you are interested in attending the Diocese of Western New York’s convention, you can visit our website for more information and to sign up.

Our convention will follow a bit of a different format this year.  Though we’ll conduct the necessary business of Convention, the primary focus of our time will be building relationships and having significant and high impact conversations about the future of our life together.  The Convention this fall will be more important than ever, and I appeal to you as your bishop to make every effort to be present.  Your voice and your perspective are a critical piece of the next phase of mission.

You’ve heard me say many times that no one is going to innovate in mission and ministry for us.  There is no group ‘out there’ in the Church that is going to overcome our challenges and unlock our potential for us.  This is our call—right here and right now.  I have every confidence that God is about to provide for us ‘infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.’

‘Planting’ Hope for the Future at Buhl Day

Buhl Day (the annual Labor Day celebration held in Hermitage, PA) was a success for the diocese’s newest church plant in more ways than one.  The church’s food stand, besides being a great fundraising opportunity, brought together people from eight different congregations all over the diocese to work and reach out to the community and each other. Good food, good fun, and building relationships while helping to further the Kingdom of God – the definition of One Church at work. It was definitely a Great Day in the Kingdom!

Read on for some personal reflections on the day:

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“In the beginning of Buhl Day there is a parade that local residents are excited to attend; giving us time to prepare before the rush.  I had helped prepare for this in the two days prior, but I was getting pumped on what was to come. Eventually, after getting everything ready and seeing more people arrive to help, we got customers. The crowd did not seem as big as usual, but we had a steady amount of people buying things. It was time to roll and perform my duties, alongside others who were working diligently.

There was a fantastic amount of people there helping, so I found I could sit and actually take a break – something that I and  others that had worked at this booth on Buhl Day in the past had not experienced too often. Finally after smelling the sandwiches being prepared all morning, I enjoyed one myself.

photo-sep-05-10-47-30-amAt one point I was standing outside the booth to help direct people, and I looked at all the people inside the booth.  Seven churches and the new Episcopal church plant all gathered together for this one goal.  Everyone was at a station talking amongst themselves.  There were so many there, you could find someone to talk to.  It was good to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in a while, and meet new ones throughout the NWPA diocese, including Canon Martha and Bishop Sean.  The feeling of “one church” was clearly evident.

As the day was winding down, we counted down things that were close to being sold out.  After the last kielbasa was sold, we shouted a loud “Amen” that caughtphoto-sep-05-10-14-43-am the attention of those nearby. Seeing the Bishop work in the different sections was such a pleasure, especially when he was a cashier talking to the customers.  We talked, laughed and maybe even sang and danced with others there feeling the energy flowing throughout the place.  To the bittersweet end where we tore down everything, I couldn’t have imagined things going too much better. I left feeling proud of all the accomplishments this day had made, and was glad that I was involved and witnessed something that wondrous.

In the amazement of how everything went, I think, as a new Episcopal church we are ready to tackle anything that comes our way. The support and thankfulness we felt with all the other people of the churches in the diocese is overwhelming. Together, I believe, that since we got through this, then we can get through many things our church will face. I, as well as others, are very hopeful for the future. ”  Laura Betz, Hermitage Church Plant


Pastor Jason Shank, Hermitage Church Plant

“That’s God’s Work Right There” A One Church Story

Donny began “How you all doing today? Who has something they’re sorry for today?” And there it was.

The Holy Spirit was in the house. It was palpable. I just didn’t know it yet.

2015-09-12 17.41.28A little earlier on that chilly, wet afternoon, I parked the car and found my way up the stairway marked with yellow. It was oddly quiet inside. Finding our way through the back hall into the kitchen, my 2 friends and I discovered folks standing around a prep table donned in hairnets and aprons. They looked ready. But no one was doing anything just yet. I needed to get started.

One of my responses to nervousness is to let my tasky side take over. And unexpectedly, I was pretty nervous the afternoon I went to the Erie City Mission to participate in the first joint venture between St. Marks and St. Stephens for a Saturday dinner. I did not know the people from St. Marks well. I had never been to the Erie City Mission (ECM). And I had never worked in a commercial kitchen. So though I was excited about this outreach, I was antsy, too.

We spent a few moments in introductions and then the work got underway. A few plated desserts. Some sliced buns for the barbecue. Others rolled the silverware and napkins. Shortly, the amazing Jackie Krukowski arrived. She leads the kitchen efforts at ECM. The buzz in the kitchen grew. We were all eager to be a part of this ministry. With initiative, teamwork and Jackie’s supervision, we were ready to serve with time to spare.

I had volunteered to lead the blessing. You might think that was the source of my nerves, but it was really a very small factor. I’m a big ham. Donny, the greeter and coordinator out front, prepped me. He would talk first then I would start the prayers. To be honest, I was glad to have a warm-up act.

That’s when Donny began with his “How you all doing today? Who has something they’re sorry for today?” And I felt the Holy Spirit.

Every person in that cafeteria looked tired– a bit worn by life. Most of them were in jackets, wet from hoofing it in the cold rain. All but one of them were men. The singular young woman raised her hand to answer Donny’s question. She could not have been 20 years old. She started slowly.   She said how sorry she was for how she had hurt her family, particularly her father. She described her circumstances, which included drug use, the preterm loss of a child and homelessness. She was in so much pain that she couldn’t stop talking. I was unsure of how to move us along. Donny, at the ready, approached me and said “Can you go with her into another room? Can you spend some time with her? Listen?”

All I could think was “I don’t know what to say.” But wait. She needed someone to listen. I had to lead the prayer, so I turned to another volunteer and said “Can you go sit with her? Spend some time listening?” Her response told me that she was not a social worker, counselor or clergy. In fact, none of us were. But we could all listen. She said yes and Jackie showed them to a room where they could talk.

We said our prayers, then Donny organized the tray line. We began serving and, in no time, needed to start the dishes. The guests were so kind and gracious. One guest told me about a place where the young woman might find help. I shared it with Jackie, and she marched off with purpose. Another said, “How can that father turn his back on that girl? I have 2 daughters and I would do anything for them.” He winced and walked away with tears in his eyes.

Finally there was a break for Jackie and she asked me what was going on with that young girl. She had missed the opening. I briefly told her what had happened. And in a flash she responded with “That’s God’s work right there.” That’s when I knew it. That’s when I understood the palpable change in the air from earlier.

2015-09-12 15.13.01We were a group of people from 2 churches. We just wanted to do some outreach. We knew that the ECM still had some Saturdays where they needed meals. We came together not knowing much about each other. We laughed. We enjoyed each other. We got the work done. I’m guessing nobody expected the experience with that young woman. But I am pretty sure it’s safe to say that when we left, we knew it was God’s work. We had been given a chance to help a few folks feel better for a few hours. Lucky us.

I am a lowly student of human behavior. I continue to search for my path in life and what God’s plan is for me. And there is so much I do not know. But I believe that on that day we were each agents of the Holy Spirit.

Maybe that is what the nervousness was about.

Danielle Bane, St. Stephen’s, Fairview

Upcoming Event: Following Jesus in the Seasons of the Soul

Following Jesus in the Seasons of the Soul

Saturday, December 5, 2015 – 9am-12pm

St. Mark’s Church, 4701 Old French Road, Erie, PA

Light refreshments provided

No Cost to Attend

Click here to register

Nancy 0804 SmilePlease join Nancy Beach and our diocesan family as we enter Advent Season and explore how, as One Church, we grow in our discipleship through the seasons of our soul: restlessness, loss, new beginnings and abundance. In every season there are lessons to be learned. Besides a faithful Christian life, Nancy brings with her many years as Arts/Worship Leader and Teaching Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church. She currently coaches and consults with congregations and communities around the world. Her purpose with our diocesan family is this: we desire to grow as disciples and leaders and she can, in the anticipation of Advent and with God’s Grace, open our hearts and minds to the Spirit’s work in the everyday of our very human lives. Come join us on December 5 as we follow God and Bishop Sean’s vision of One Church.

Nancy Beach

Nancy has always been a passionate champion for artists and leaders in the local church. For over 20 years she served as the Programming Director for Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago, building a community of artists who sought to create transformational moments in Sunday morning church services. Nancy also served as a Teaching Pastor, periodically bringing the weekend message. Currently, Nancy serves as a leadership coach with the SlingShot Group, helping church leaders and teams to flourish in life and ministry. Nancy also uses her teaching gifts to cast vision at conferences and workshops, for both artists and women in leadership.   In her book, An Hour on Sunday, Nancy expresses the core vision and values which she believes are foundational to any effective arts ministry. Nancy’s second book is titled: Gifted to Lead: the Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church.

Nancy and her husband Warren live in the village of Barrington, Illinois with their dog, Beanie. Their two daughters, Samantha and Johanna, are both theatrical artists.

Reflections on “One Church”

I grew up in northwestern Pennsylvania, though I have extended family all over the country, in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, and Utah. During the holidays, we travel long distances to reunite. We bear the unpleasantries of travel in stride—paying tolls, sitting in airports, hauling luggage—with one goal in mind: being together. Though we live in different places and do different things, we are united by our love. Our pasts and futures are linked together.

When I played high school tennis, my teammates and I had different roles. Three of us played singles, four played doubles, and everyone else cheered on from the sidelines. My coach was always thinking three seasons ahead. He invested in the younger players because he knew they were the future leaders of the team. Everyone, no matter their role, was striving to accomplish our team goal: to win matches and represent our school well.

PrintThis is how I have come to think of the Church—a family united by love and a team with a goal. Wherever we live, worship, and pray, we are wed to one another by God’s great love. We share a bond because we are all recipients of His abundant grace. Whenever we break bread, we declare in one voice: Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. We have all been welcomed into God’s family.

The Church is also a team with a commission, one to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach. Whether your church is in the mountains or in the desert or along the coast, whether your church is in the city or in the country, its purpose is to fulfill Jesus’s directive. Our church buildings look different and our fellow parishioners are diverse, but our message is the same: God loves us, welcomes us as we are, and has a wonderful new life in store for us.

We are one Church. But how do we live into the reality?

Agreeing on a vision and committing to that vision is the first step. That’s exactly what the “One Church” mission conference was about. Clergy and parish “thought leaders” came together to discuss the one Church vision played out in our diocese. We brainstormed ways to collaborate, to bolster each other’s outreach efforts, and to both offer and receive wisdom.

When each parish shared their gifts and strengths, the richness of our faith communities became obvious. Some strengths were repeated, but many were not. We learned of parishes with ample land for events, parishes who were especially hospitable, and parishes with exceptional teaching.

The beauty of the one Church vision is that we’re not striving to be the same, or to mass produce a single spiritual experience. We are not a franchise. Our burgers and fries won’t taste the same at every location. Instead, we are uniquely diverse faith communities who stand on the common ground of the Gospel. It is this common ground that propels us to proclaim God’s good news to the world. We embark on this mission together. We are a family as well as a team.

May we fully embody the one Church vision and regard each other with compassion instead of comparison and with solidarity instead of strife. May one parish’s joys be all our joys, and may one parish’s sorrows be all our sorrows. May we follow the Apostle Paul’s imperative: “be of one mind, united in thought and purpose” (1 Cor. 1:10).

By David Gorman

(David is a member of St. Stephen’s Episcopal church in Fairview, PA and is headed Richmond, VA in late August to serve in the Episcopal Service Corps)

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“One Church” Mission Conference 2015 (Part 3)

Click here to see Part 1

Click here to see part 2

“We are One Church of miraculous expectations, made up of all sorts and conditions of folks, being equipped to be disciples who make disciples through the ministry of our missionary outposts through the transformational power of the Holy Spirit.”  , Bishop Claude E. Payne, Diocese of Texas, 1998, The Gathering, Clear Vision Conference

Watch Craig Dressler, below, speak about an example of “One Church” at work.

“One Church” Mission Conference 2015 (Part 2)

Click here to see part 1

“You are committed as lay and clergy leadership of the congregations of this diocese to bring a new level of vitality… I believe deep down in my heart and have a deep conviction that this vision of oneness, this vision of coming together of a sharing of gifts is the future for the church, the future for our diocese.  By that I mean collaboration with one another; congregation to congregation, person to person, gift mix to gift mix, in a way that we have not, here to for, been willing to exercise or see come to fruition.”  Bishop Sean, at “One Church” Mission Conference 2015

A few small presentations were featured during the “One Church” Mission Conference about how we might deepen our sense of diocesan community to create “One Church.” Watch below as Mother Stacey Fussell speaks about where the concept of “One Church” comes from and how it benefits congregations.

Click here for part 3

“One Church” Mission Conference 2015 (Part 1)

For many years, we have been working toward deeper collaboration between congregations and regions of the diocese for the sake of a robust mission strategy that reaches more people for the gospel. This year’s mission conference “One Church” focused on this collaboration. 80 Clergy and parish ‘thought leaders’ gathered together in one place to consider ways we can broaden the understanding of our common life.  See Bishop Sean’s video below of his vision for “One Church.”

Click here to see Part 2 that includes the benefits of “One Church”

Click here to see part 3 that includes an example of “One Church.”

Don’t Forget to Register for the Mission Conference

lightstock_161504_jpg_user_1243317Don’t forget to register for this year’s Mission Conference where we will be talking about the concept of One Church. It will be held on Saturday, May 16, at St. Mark’s, Erie. Registration will open at 9:15 AM and the conference will begin at 9:45 AM. There is no cost to attend and lunch will be provided.

For many years, we have been working toward deeper collaboration between congregations and regions of the diocese for the sake of a robust mission strategy that reaches more people for the gospel. This year’s gathering will focus on this collaboration and have a different format than previous mission conferences.

We will feature a few small presentations about how we might deepen our sense of diocesan community and, more importantly, will provide ample opportunity for conversation about our future. Our goal is to have clergy and parish ‘thought leaders’ gathered together in one place to consider ways we can broaden the understanding of our common life.

We hope you will make this day a priority and plan to attend. Your voice is critical to the future of our diocese and the work of the Kingdom.

Click here to register. Registration will close on Friday, May 8.

Contact Vanessa Butler with any questions at vbutler@dionwpa.org and 814-456-4203.