Canon Maria Tjeltveit
Church of the Mediator
…it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians.”
Things are shifting in the pilgrimage of the Jesus movement (Acts 11). Peter has gone to Jerusalem and shared his story of the Gentiles receiving baptism. The witnesses have gone out to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and new kinds of people are being reached. Barnabas and Saul are teaching in Antioch. Now the disciples are called “Christians” for the first time. Antioch is becoming a second center for the growing church, serving those further from Jerusalem.
Christ Church, Reading was part of a similar shift in the pilgrimage of the Episcopal Church in Pennsylvania. The Diocese of Pennsylvania had its first convention in 1785 (the one that people from St. Gabriel’s, Douglassville, attended). By 1865, the church had grown at such a rate that it was divided, with the Diocese of Pittsburg encompassing the western part of the state. A few years later, in 1871, the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania was formed. Reading was chosen as the see city, and Christ Church served as the cathedral.
By 1904, the diocese had grown to the point that The Rt. Rev. Ethelbert Talbot proposed dividing the diocese again. According to The History of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania 1871-1909, (by the Rev. Jonathan W. Miller, rector of Christ Church, Frackville, p.239), “So skillfully did the Bishop manage all the details of the division that it was most harmoniously accomplished according to his wish, in every particular.” The only particular that was changed in 1909 was to name this “The Diocese of Bethlehem,” instead of Central Pennsylvania. The Church of the Nativity became the new cathedral. In 1984, Diocesan House was created between the cathedral and New Bethany Ministries, creating a “triptych of worship, community and outreach that is symbolic of the life and ministry of our 14 county Diocese of Bethlehem” (A Journey Through the Historic Diocese of Bethlehem, 2003).
Although no longer a cathedral, Christ Church has hosted Diocesan Convention a number of times, and continues a strong tradition of worship and music in its beautiful sanctuary. Their diversity and inclusiveness is reflected in the different kinds of worship offered this month, in addition to their regular Sunday services: a Gospel Mass; Open Hearts Holy Eucharist for families with special needs, with Spanish translation; a Celebration of Celtic Spirituality Service; and a John Lennon Mass.
Diocesan House provides offices for our bishop and staff, whose ministry is strengthened by regular times of prayer in the chapel. The beautiful stained glass window in the chapel was designed by Paloma Picasso. It was originally in the chapel of Talbot Hall, a diocesan home for girls (founded in 1881 and named for Bishop Talbot), which closed in 1981. The Talbot Hall Fund now provides grants to help children in need, while the star in the chapel window is a symbol of our diocese.
Where do you see signs of things shifting in your parish, our diocese, or the culture around us?