As I celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with my family, I have been reflecting on how spending the holidays with family can seem like a rerun of a special Thanksgiving episode of a TV series. Our families often have interesting characters that show up just around the holidays. We have difficult and uncomfortable conversations. And a variety of distinctive people gather together to share a meal, in spite of their differences.
Many of you spent the days leading up to Thanksgiving preparing and serving meals for the most vulnerable in your communities. In my short time among you, I have learned that many of the churches of the Diocese of Bethlehem have vital and desperately needed food ministries in the local community. Sharing a table with the most vulnerable is at the core of Jesus’ ministry and brings to life the essence of table fellowship. Sharing a meal with those in our communities is a reminder that each of us are interconnected and the beloved of God.
Our tradition is built on an expansive understanding of who needs to be gathered at the table to share a meal. I am sure that many of you have heard news reports or read the recent statement from Bishop Bill Love of the Diocese of Albany. Bishop Love’s concerns, and those of others who share them, were offered at forums and in other settings at General Convention this past summer as we worked towards a resolution that respected the dignity of all, and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has since responded to Love’s statement.
As I hold out hope for healing in Albany, I need to offer assurance of my solidarity, prayers and welcome to LGBTQ folk here in the Diocese of Bethlehem. We need your witness and gifts among us and you are most welcome at our tables. My heart goes out to you as you must once again endure this questioning of your full inclusion and welcome. There is no doubt here. This is your home!
I will be spending time over the next few days thinking more about what our “Thanksgiving episode” might look like three to five years from now, confident that our “series” will be renewed for a few more seasons. What values and priorities will we speak of as we talk about our common mission and ministry? Who will be the newest members among us at the table? What partnerships in our communities will be forged or strengthened? What opportunities and even tensions will we dare to address? And what will we give thanks to God for-what will be unfolding, newly discovered, and flourishing? I look forward to that episode in our shared ministry as it comes into clearer focus.
This Thanksgiving, I give thanks for all of you and the gifts of your ministry. I give thanks for the love that you share so warmly and broadly. I give thanks for your faithfulness and your hope. And I give thanks to all who invite new people to their tables. Momentum is growing and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us.
The Rt. Rev. Kevin D. Nichols
Bishop of Bethlehem