Bishop Kevin shares his Seven New Tools for Ministry at a Eucharist held at the diocesan office
Read a transcript of Bishop Kevin’s message below
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Building something that we cannot see or know”—these words that first drew me to the Diocese of Bethlehem. This charge. I was asked to join in building something we cannot see or know. And wherever I go, whether it’s congregations, or with our community partners, or with friends in other denominations, I hear often about the fact that it’s a changing landscape. That the places that we trod, where we walk, are shifting—they’re shifting all around us. We were all kind of touched a few months back, some startled, when a statistician from the Church of Canada boldly said that the end date, at least the end date of when there would be Anglicans worshipping in Canada, was 2040. 2040. That’s not long from now. He said that same end date for our church, the Episcopal Church, was 2050. 2050. Now, I’ll only be 87 in 2050 and I plan on being in a church somewhere. I have missioners who work in the fields of this diocese who I know will only be, in 30 years from now, in their 50s. And they will be in a church or forming a new church. And the reality is that some form of church, maybe a form that we do not know today, will be before us. But what I’ve also come to learn is that we all need new tools for this new time. And my year as bishop has taught me that some of the tools that have worked well for me in the past no longer work—that I need new tools. So I want to share with you, humbly, seven new tools that have begun to guide me, and maybe they’ll offer insight to you.
The first new tool is do what you can for justice. Do what you can for justice. You know, hope is finding light in the midst of the dark places where we walk. Desmond Tutu, our great Anglican bishop and theologian, was speaking to activists in 2017 and they were wondering if they were just beating their heads against a wall. And he reminded them that we live in a moral universe—that goodness will win out and to hold on. Do what you can, when you can, wherever you can, and act for justice.
The second tool that I’ve learned I need to hone is to simply listen. One of Jesus’ great traits was that he gathered with ordinary folk, wherever they were, and listened. He heard their stories, their brokenness, and their needs. We need to do the same. We need to confront our own bias, we need to ask more questions, we need to listen more. So listen.
The third tools is patience. You know, things often seem to be moving at glacial pace. Whether it’s in the church or elsewhere, I want things to move more quickly than they are. And yet sometimes we need to give time. Cyprian from the third century often reminded people in his treatises that God was at work in each and every one of us. And that perfection that God seeks, where we become more of who we are, takes time. And we need patience.
The fourth tool is somewhat counterintuitive, especially coming from a bishop. We need to give authority away. We need to give over power. You know, authority is earned only one way, which is the old-fashioned way of building relationships and building trust. And Jesus knew this all so well. Our authority doesn’t come because we ARE authorities, but ultimately from the authority of Christ—who loves us so much that he gives us and trusts us with authority. And what we must do is what Christ did, and that’s give that authority to others. To humbly empower others and encourage them.
The fifth new tool, for me, is simply to water. I have spoken often at convention and elsewhere about the fact that at times we feel like a parched land. Psalm 63 reminds us of a dry and weary land in need of water. All one needs to do is walk the streets, visit with folk in a mall, look into the eyes of our loved ones and people nearby, and we see the longing and the hurt and the thirst. I have started something new. I now, when I walk my dogs, I walk on the side of the road, and I’m now waiving to everybody who drives by. At first I think they thought I was trying to tell them there were police or somebody up ahead, but instead they now honk at me. And we’ve begun to build a relationship from afar. It is amazing what a wave, and a smile. and a greeting can do. We need to water.
The sixth tool is the one that our presiding bishop has given us in such a wonderful way, reminding us that we need to hone our spiritual practices—the great traditions of our church. We know them, we come, and we gather, and we worship, and we pray, and we reach out in our communities. We need to hone those practices because if we hone those practices, if they become so deeply rooted in who we are and in our living, we will transform our communities. Others will want to be a part of it. We need to hone our spiritual practices.
And my last tool, the one that’s the hardest for me, is that we have to embrace our fears. What are you afraid of? What is it that keeps you up in the middle of the night? You know your own litany of worries or anxiety. And yet Jesus told us again and again to be not afraid. There’s a great antiphon from Advent that says, “Banish your fears, O Zion; Your Lord, the Lord your God, is coming. Alleluia.” We need to banish our fears and be reminded that God is near. God is near. For I have said and I am convinced that the only way forward is together. And the only way we can walk through our deepest fears is together.
So be not afraid. You are God’s beloved. You have been given everything you need. You have been formed and made for this moment. Reach out in love. Know that you are loved. Amen.