Last month lay and clergy leaders from around the diocese, comprised in largest part by members of the Diocesan Council and Standing Committee, met at St. Peter’s in Hazelton to discuss a vision for the future of the Diocese of Bethlehem. Bishop Kevin D. Nichols called for the Envisioning Retreat in an effort to continue the momentum that has been building in the diocese since the beginnings of its pilgrimage in 2015.

“From the moment I arrived in the Diocese of Bethlehem, it was clear to me that a new vision was emerging,” said Bishop Nichols. “It is my hope that by gathering diverse voices from around the regions of the diocese, we will come to discern God’s plan for us.”

Participants spent much of the retreat in small groups to discuss one of four topics: Enabling Vibrant and Sustainable Congregations, Forming Lay and Clergy Leaders, Reaching Our Community’s Most Vulnerable, and Creating New Faith Communities and Ways to Share Jesus. Each group then shared highlights of their conversations with the other participants for further consideration.

“I found these discussions very inspiring and thought provoking,” said Sara McNelis, a member of Diocesan Council and Grace Church in Kingston. “I left there with a list of thoughts and ideas that I am sure will manifest into wonderful ministries and programs within the diocese.”

The Envisioning Retreat was coordinated by Steve Baker, Consulting Director of Mission Resources. Baker was hired last year to support the work of Diocesan Council in the development of strategic priorities for the diocese.

“The hope is that, through this process, we can integrate what has been accomplished to date and expand upon the diocese’s articulated mantra of ‘building something we cannot see or know,'” said Baker. “We want to continue to ‘do church’ and to do it well.”

Each small group was asked four questions to help inspire conversations around their topic: What are our strengths, what needs to be done, what resources do we need, and what gets in our way?

“The day was well thought out and organized,” said Rebecca McLaughlin, who served as co-chair of the Bishop Search Committee and is a member of St. Mark’s in Moscow. “We were encouraged to have open, honest discussions within our respective groups, and we did.”

What emerged from the day was an engaging conversation about the many assets of the diocese; the people, their gifts, the churches, and their ministries; and how they can be used to accomplish God’s mission in the world.

“There are no magic answers, or a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ direction for the future of the diocese,” said McNelis. “Whether we are lay leaders, clergy, or congregants, we are invited, encouraged, and empowered to share ourselves, our gifts, our talents, our ideas, and our visions so that we may lead this diocese toward a beautiful and inspired future.”

More updates will follow as the Envisioning process unfolds.