At Diocesan Convention in October 2015, Bishop Sean Rowe invited the Diocese of Bethlehem on a pilgrimage, which he described as “a time of discernment, planning and decision making.” The yearlong effort, led by the Very Rev. Tony Pompa, dean of the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, and the Rev. Charles Cesaretti, a retired priest of the diocese and Renewal Assembly founder, began at Epiphany.
During the pilgrimage, nearly 170 people representing 46 of the diocese’s 59 congregations attended one of four regional meetings and helped to identify the core values of the diocese which are, according to Pompa: “To pray, to play, to connect, communicate, collaborate as the Spirit stirs and empowers.”
While the formal diocesan-directed stage of the pilgrimage will end at diocesan convention, Pompa and Cesaretti emphasize that its spirit will continue to transform the diocese long after people return home from this year’s diocesan convention. Pompa cites a new sense of empowerment as something that diocesan leaders will strive to foster, while Cesaretti points to a focus on relationships rather than institutional structures that can strengthen the mission strategy that will soon be developed.
In addition to enlivening the work of leaders across the diocese, the legacy of the pilgrimage will continue through a working group that Bishop Rowe will appoint to reflect on the information and insights collected during the pilgrimage and discuss how to incorporate the core values of the diocese into future strategy and planning.
The spirit of the pilgrimage, says Rowe, will also continue in local congregations. “The practice of gathering groups of neighboring parishes for prayer, reflection and conversations that began during the pilgrimage has born good fruit,” he says. “With the proper cultivation, the relationships developed during the pilgrimage can serve as the basis for new networks that will unite regions of the diocese to one another based on common challenges and common interests.”
On October 7 during diocesan convention, pilgrimage leaders will present the diocese’s core values in two sessions. “We will reflect on our ‘saltiness’ as we consider our values articulated in our regional gatherings and how who we are brings flavor to our congregations, the neighborhoods and communities we live in, and our diocesan community,” says Pompa. “We will lift up our common hopes articulated in our regional meetings, and we will practice connecting, communicating and collaborating as we seek to shine our lights bright in our congregations and communities.”