Explorer’s Day

Do you feel you are being called to a deeper ministry?  Do you feel that you might be called to ordained ministry?

If so, please consider attending our Explorer’s Day on September 9th at St. Mark’s, Erie.  The program will be offered at no cost and will run from 10:00 AM to 3:15 PM (lunch will be provided).

Explorer’s Day is a program that we run jointly with the Diocese of Western New York. It serves as a day of exploration into ministry and as the entry point to the ordination process.  We hope that, through this program, participants will be able to better discern their call to ministry and make informed decisions about their next steps.

During this day-long program, we will take a look at the different callings and roles of three of the orders in the church: lay, deacon, and priest.  We will do this through theological reflections using the Book of Common Prayer, studying scriptures that show different ways we may be called to ministry, and hearing from representatives of each of the three orders.  We will also explain the details of our respective ordination processes.

We held our first Explorer’s Day in January of this year and had good attendance from both dioceses.  Those that attended found the program very informative and useful in their journeys.  Some chose to enter the ordination process, some discerned that the ordination process wasn’t for them, and some decided that they wanted to continue their prayer and discernment.  Attendance does not mean you are entering the ordination process or that you are locked in to anything.  This program is intended to be what it is titled: a day of exploration for those who feel they may want to go deeper in ministry.

People who believe they may have a call to ordained ministry or a deeper call to lay ministry are encouraged to attend. If you know someone who fits this description, please share this information with them and encourage them to attend.

A couple of notes:  We do require that the priest from the attendee’s congregation accompany him or her, as the clergy will be walking alongside them during this exploration of call.  Also, though you do not have to enter the ordination process after attending this event, attendance at this event is required to enter the ordination process.

To sign up for the event, please contact Valerie Hudson at vhudson@dionwpa.org or 814.456.4203.

Upcoming Services of Ordination

There are some exciting events coming up in the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. Please join us at the following services as we welcome new clergy to the Diocese!

Bishop Sean will ordain Dorothy Konyha, David Betz, Mark Elliston, and Nicholas Evancho to the Diaconate on Sunday, May 7, at 5:00 PM at the Cathedral of St. Paul, Erie. The Rt. Rev. William Franklin, Bishop of the Diocese of Western New York, will preach. All are welcome to attend. Please keep all the candidates in your prayers as they prepare for ordination.

Then, on June 25, Bishop Sean will ordain the Rev. Jason Shank to the priesthood at 4:00 PM at Trinity Episcopal Church in New Castle.   Join us if you are able and please keep Jason and the Resurrection church plant in your prayers as they begin their new ministry together.

 

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Congratulations, Father Timothy!

Congratulations to Father Timothy Dyer of the Episcopal Mission of Warren County on his ordination this past Sunday, December 11th!

Photos of the ordination can be seen below, and full video of the service is available here.  God’s blessing on your ministry, Fr. Timothy.

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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

Being A Priest

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Al Johnson and wife Vickie at his ordination in 1979

When I was lying on the cool tile floor of the Cathedral of St. James in Chicago on December 8, 1979 while the Litany for Ordinations was being beautifully chanted by a tenor voice resonating off the cathedral walls, my grasp of priesthood appeared significant.   Every year since Jesus has taught me that I had narrow vision. Henri Nouwen spoke at our commencement and told us that the worst had already happened in Jesus Christ. It was the worst of my life that had drawn me to priesthood in hopes that God might redeem life and teach what love was all about; love of God, love of others and love of self. In the process my prayer was that the experiences of my life to date in 1979 might be put to use in some way that allowed me to take them off the junk pile of shame and add them to the story of life and break me in the ways that only God knew I needed to be broken. That isn’t a criterion for all priests or for all people but it was a criterion for me. But it could be a necessity for finding and being found by God. When one thinks of an empty soul one need only look in my direction. Ironically while the only way to fill such emptiness is by God, and one would think that becoming a priest would assure that outcome; not so; I still had to hike my way through the landmines of my own denial to begin to see God’s redemption and the hope of love.

Seventeen years later while looking down on a circular stone altar at Tel Megiddo in Israel the musings of a call begun in early teens crystallized into the restorative experience of discovering that I was born to be a priest; that there has been, is, and always will be priests who’s calling is to be with people in the in-between places of human existence; in a liminal space between the divine and the human; that priests have been a part of cultures since before our heritage as Jews and Christians; and there always will be priests because our calling not only grows from the heart of God and our own hearts, but grows from the hearts of people who seek something beyond themselves that we Christians call God. And my job as a priest is to enter into that space with people. The gift of priesthood has no greater value in God’s economy than any other such gift as nurse, teacher, garbage collector, flight attendant, banker, hedge-fund investor, bishop, deacon or any other vocation one can imagine. As St. Paul writes, “the left hand cannot tell the right food; ‘I don’t need you.’” We are all in this soup together.

Like many, I thought ordination was a finish line only to discover that the race of a lifetime was about to unfold filled with rough places, high mountains, crooked roads, and deep valleys. Wouldn’t ordination protect me from the pains of life? On the contrary, ordination threw me into those pains in the lives of others and myself.

And yes, it seems like yesterday that I was lying on that floor full of confidence, hope, and altruism. None of that is different today except I’m hoping Jesus will take me kneeling or sitting because getting up off the cold floor can be a challenge, and perhaps more humility today than confidence unless by confidence one mean’s trust in God.

The Rev. Al Johnson, Canon for Congregational Vitality and Innovation

The Perfect Gateway To Be A Witness To Christ

This is the second installment in a three part series highlighting the stories of our three seminarians. Click here to see the first story about Nicholas Evancho, written in April of 2015.

IMG_0020Making arrests. Threats of being blown up by those who have cut their gas lines to avoid arrest. Gun fights. Taking parents away from their children. All of these can be in a day’s work for Nick Kuchcinski, a member of the Cathedral of St. Paul and one of three seminarians in the diocese, in his job as an Adult Probation/Parole Officer. None of these things are typically events that we equate with being particularly evocative of God or ministry. However, for Nick, they are just that: “Some people see incongruity in my career and the ordination process. I see my career as a perfect gateway into people’s lives to be a witness to Christ.”

Nick’s journey to his career as a probation officer and to the ordination process in The Episcopal Church began in Erie, where he was born and raised. He was brought up in the Roman Catholic Church. Even as a teenager, Nick felt called to holy orders, however, he also felt just as strongly that he was called to have a family. Being Roman Catholic, he couldn’t do both. He attended Gannon University, where he majored in Criminal Justice. After college, Nick got married and focused on his career in criminal justice, which first took him to Allenwood, PA, to work as a corrections officer in a federal prison before returning to Erie for his current Kuchcinski and kidsjob. During that time, Nick and his wife had two wonderful children, but ended up divorcing, and he has since remarried.

It was the divorce that started Nick’s journey toward The Episcopal Church and the ordination process: “After the divorce I really started discerning my spiritual home not being in the Roman Catholic Church. I felt like a second class citizen because I wasn’t allowed to receive communion.” Nick hit a point where he couldn’t be true to himself and stay where he was.

Nick spends a lot of time in the courthouse, located across the street from the Cathedral of St. Paul, for his job. He started researching the Cathedral and eventually met with the dean of the Cathedral, the Very Rev. Dr. John Downey. Dean Downey reassured him that, in The Episcopal Church, he could receive the sacraments even though he was divorced. Armed with that knowledge and finding a comfort in the liturgical nature of the church, a part of the Roman Catholic Church he had always loved, Nick soon found a church home at the Cathedral.

That was 5 years ago. Nick quickly got involved and the thoughts of priesthood started coming back to him. One Sunday in 2012, when he was vesting to serve as an acolyte, he finally got the courage and asked Dean Downey what it would take to become a priest in The Episcopal Church. Dean Downey responded, “I wondered when you were going to ask.” The rest is history.

Kuchcinski at CDSPNick Kuchcinski spent two weeks this past June at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) starting work on his Masters of Divinity degree. He is enrolled in their low residency program, which meets on campus twice a year for a few weeks and has online coursework the rest of the year. This is an ideal situation for him as he can work towards his degree while still maintaining his career.

While at CDSP, Nick enjoyed the schedule of classes bracketed by prayer (morning prayer, noon Eucharist, and evening prayer) that helped him feel fully immersed in the seminary lifestyle. Nick also enjoyed the intentional community and being able to form bonds with his fellow classmates: “We still pray together online every couple of weeks.” He was also amazed at the common experience of sitting in chapel with people from all over the world praying out of the same prayer book.

The plan is for Nick to be a bi-vocational priest, meaning that he will keep his job as an Adult Probation/Parole officer while serving part-time at a congregation.  This is fitting for Nick as he believes that he can be a witness in his role as a probation officer, just as well as when he is in his role as a priest. He sees the key as recognizing that every person, including the one he is arresting, is a human being made in the image and likeness of God. While it can be difficult at times, he pushes himself to deal with people with love so that others may see Christ in him and learn to see Christ in every person. By joining his secular vocation with his ordination, he hopes to be able to reach even more people with the message of Christ.

Nick will return to CDSP in January for the next on-campus immersion for his Masters in Divinity.

By: Julien Goulet, Assistant for Communications and Administration and Vanessa Butler, Canon for Administration

Upcoming Events

There are some exciting events coming up in the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. We have two ordinations and a celebration of new ministry, all within nine days, starting at the end of January:

Bishop Sean will ordain Erin Betz Shank to the priesthood on January 31st at 4:00 PM in the Diocese of Maryland in the Great Hall at Middleham/St. Peter’s Parish in Lusby, MD.   Join them if you can and please keep Erin and her new parish in your prayers as they begin their new ministry together.

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Every one is invited to join us in the celebration of New Ministry for the Rev. Rebecca Lash and Christ Church, Meadville (Bishop Sean presiding).  It will take place on Sunday, February 1, at 3:00 PM at Christ Church (Christ Church is “The church with the red doors on Diamond Park”, 870 Diamond Park, Meadville, PA. 814.724.7389christchurchmeadville@windstream.net).  Please keep Mother Rebecca and Christ Church in your prayers as they embark on this new journey together.

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Bishop Sean will ordain Tim Dyer to the Diaconate on Sunday, February 8, at 4:00 PM at St. Francis, Youngsville.  All are welcome.  Please keep Tim in your prayers as he prepares for ordination.

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O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.