And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Acts 2:1
Pentecost dawns. That moment when God’s Spirit is so ever-present and transformative that the only option for the followers of Jesus is to GO and proclaim the Risen Christ. We gathered outside on grassy knolls or on mountain tops, some in parking lots and under pavilions and others indoors for the first time in many months – yet together, with a diversity of cultures, voices and languages, we acclaimed that a new moment dawns. We have endured a time that has felt like the apocalypse was at hand yet with John of Patmos we catch a glimpse of a “new heaven and a new earth.”
Beloved of the Diocese of Bethlehem, thanks to your adaptive, creative, and resilient efforts, we are persevering through a pandemic moment and at long last, we can all give thanks that COVID-19 cases continue to decline, vaccinations increase and in response, federal and commonwealth authorities and medical experts are recommending the relaxing of restrictions. Suddenly, it feels like reopening is happening faster than we anticipated. I give thanks for your steadfast leadership, faithfulness, and patience this past year. Together we acclaim that a new moment dawns, with the glory of God as its source, we dare to walk with confidence on a new path.
Despite the fact that everything around us appeared to be in chaos and we were pushed to the brink, God, I believe was also sending a gentle Spirit – one that was blowing through our congregations and communities. A spirit of Beloved Community led us in imagining, envisioning, and planning that has wonderfully prepared us for this new time. I am thrilled to share with you news that I believe brings us closer to that charge in the Diocesan Profile – “join us in building something we cannot see or know.”
Today, I formally launch our Convocations and a format for lay and clergy leaders within Convocations to meet as its Assembly. Also, I am excited to announce a new staff configuration that I believe prepares us for an increasingly hopeful future together in partnership.
As announced at Diocesan Convention last October, an envisioning process led by Diocesan Council and the Envisioning Team led to the development of Five Priorities for the Diocese of Bethlehem.
to guide our diocese…
1) Vibrant and stable congregations
2) Racial justice and advocacy for the most vulnerable
3) Lay and clergy formation
4) Creating new faith communities
5) Diocesan partnerships
These priorities have served to guide us in charting a vision for the next three to five years. Together we have already: established a Mission Resource Committee to strengthen and support our congregations with needed resources; commissioned a Racial Justice & Reconciliation Task Force to model and guide us in conversations about systemic racism; partnered with Episcopal Divinity School at Union to provide Anglican Social Justice Formation to the diocese; launched a new Latinx Congregation with the Cathedral Church of the Nativity; and facilitated dialogue with the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania bringing together members of our Standing Committees and diocesan staffs to build relationships and imagine future partnerships.
The Envisioning Team offered us a new approach to promote collaboration, share resources, and foster common ministries. By sharing our resources and best practices, we hope to serve those most in need and deepen our interconnectedness as the body of Christ. This new approach consists of four parts:
1. Convocations: Eight groups of five to ten churches that are as geographically proximate as possible. The goal of Convocations is to foster relationships among churches that strengthen and support collaboration.
2. Assemblies: Bring together the core leadership of each congregation – rector/priest-in-charge and warden who will meet regularly with colleagues from the other congregations of their Convocation. A Convener has been selected for each Convocation and they will work to facilitate communication and to build partnerships. Integrating the Five Priorities of the Diocese of Bethlehem into the life of our congregations is one possible area of focus.
3. Church Fellowships: Two or more churches with geographic proximity partnering to share resources for improved vitality.
4. Ministry Fellowships: Churches across the diocese partnering to collaborate on ministry (e.g. creation care, new Latinx faith communities, youth and young adult formation, and feeding programs) that support shared priorities.
Convocations were soft-launched in the early days of the pandemic. It offered a way to bring together lay and clergy leaders in a more intimate manner as we shared our fears and hopes. Building upon these learnings, we long to strengthen our bonds of affection.
New Staff Configuration
Canon Missioner Model
1. Two Regional Canons, one in the Northern region and one in the Southern region of the Diocese of Bethlehem will be hired. The objective is to transform leadership and ministry formation opportunities in the Diocese of Bethlehem by shifting the support of the Bishop’s Office into the regions of the Diocese with a less centralized leadership model. This new model prepares for the possibility of a future diocesan partnership.
2. The Canon Missioner role reimagines the responsibilities of a legacy Canon to the Ordinary and provide pastoral and Transition Ministry support to the 25+ congregations in each region; worship schedules in the Anchor Congregation would be supple enough to allow for the Canon Missioner to visit congregations in their region as needed. The Canon Missioner will work closely with the four Convocations and Assembly Conveners in their region to build Church Fellowships among congregations and support Ministry Fellowships across the Diocese.
3. Assistant Clergy will be hired to support the Canon Missioner who will continue to serve as Rector of a strategic “Anchor” congregation. The mentoring of newly ordained clergy is a priority in this model.
4. Diocesan Council approved and the Standing Committee affirmed this new staff configuration. Funding for the Northern Missioner, Assistant and new support staff existed in the 2021 Budget as approved at Diocesan Convention. Additionally, at the recommendation of the Finance Committee, Diocesan Council approved funding for the Southern Canon Missioner and Assistant to occur in 2021, if qualified candidates are identified immediately.
5. A Position description for the Southern Canon Missioner position as well as a
“Job Description” for the Anchor Congregation will be posted by October 1, 2021.
Diocesan Staff Announcements
• The Rev. Melinda Artman hired as the Northern Canon Missioner. Canon Melinda will continue to serve as Rector of Church of the Redeemer and as Pastor of St. John’s Lutheran, Sayre PA. These two congregations will now serve as the “Anchor” Congregation. An Assistant or First Call Pastor search process will begin shortly.
• Canon Steve Baker, Canon to the Ordinary for Mission Resources and CFO will now become the Canon for Mission Resources and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Diocese. In this new role Canon Steve will continue as CFO and also oversee the day-to-day operations of the diocesan office. The Missioner for Finance and Administration, Bookkeeper, Communication Consultant and Consulting Missioner for Convocations will report directly to Canon Steve.
• Ms. Sandy Milien, Missioner for Community Engagement and Assistant to the Bishop will assume the new position of Canon for Racial Reconciliation and Community Engagement. Canon Sandy will also serve as the Ecumenical and Interfaith Officer for the Diocese of Bethlehem and continue to support the Bishop’s activities.
• Mr. Jean Milien has been hired as part-time Communication Consultant for the Diocese of Bethlehem. Jean will continue to work towards strengthening our diocesan communications and building our technology platforms.
• The Rev. Dennis Reid hired as Consulting Missioner for Convocations. Rev. Dennis will focus on shepherding and empowering Convocations, Conveners and Assemblies. Although working remotely from his new home in Idaho, much of this work can now be done virtually.
Recruiting and retaining the best clergy available for the Diocese of Bethlehem is a strategic priority. A team approach to Transition Ministry that utilizes the unique gifts of our Canons and Bishop is being honed. Approximately 20 Congregations in the Diocese will be in “search” by Winter 2022, including six Full-Time positions. We are working hard to assist congregations in developing on-line profiles and planning for a “Ministry Fair” to match congregations with prospective candidates. Congregations who wish to participate in this initial Ministry Fair opportunity should plan to complete their on-line parish profiles by October 1, 2021.
As many as seven new clergy are scheduled to be ordained priests in the next year. Another eight are in process towards ordination. This is hopeful news, yet we also need your help in recruiting candidates. Please contact one of the canons listed above if you have a prospective candidate worthy of our consideration.
Pentecost dawns. God’s Spirit is ever-present and transforming us in ways we never would have imagined. Like those first Christians, we have been sent to bring good news and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Like those early Christians we find strength in one another. I am so excited to see what God has in store for us. Together, celebrating our beloved diversity, we acclaim that a new moment dawns under the star that shines so brightly over Bethlehem.
Almighty God, (on this day) you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Know of my gratitude and love,