“There is a deep thirst for God here in the Diocese of Bethlehem,” said Bishop Kevin D. Nichols in his address to the 148th Convention of the diocese. “For many, though, that thirst has not been quenched.”
The first day of Convention began on a somber note, with Nichols discussing how the distrust that pervaded under past leadership still affects the diocese. “My dear friends, as much I want to move forward with new plans and a compelling vision, something is still amiss here – culturally, systemically, spiritually – there is a thirsting,” said Nichols.
Nichols went on to tell of events he experienced around the diocese during his first year as bishop that demonstrated the systemic issues that are still at play: vestries that were immediately suspicious of him, staff that were struggling with the chaos of the past, and unhealthy dynamics between a parish and its previous rector.
“We need new cultural values: transparency, honesty, respect and trust. No longer can fear or mistrust or the cult of secrecy continue,” said Nichols.
When discussing what needed to be done to rebuild trust, Nichols referred to a report created in 2015 after interviews were held across the diocese. The report stated that going forward three things are vital to the health of the diocese: an opportunity for healing, actions that can restore the fullness of the people of the diocese, and transparent leadership.
“This day I commit to you whatever is needed to fulfill all three,” said Nichols.
Nichols went on to commend the people of the diocese for “the many ways that you are responding to your community’s thirsting.”
“We need to tap into the creative energy and vibrant mission and ministry that is present and support it, strengthen it and replicate it,” said Nichols.
Nichols also announced that the Diocese of Bethlehem will be receiving a grant totaling $75,000 from the Ministerial Excellence Fund of the Episcopal Church Foundation. The Ministerial Excellence Fund is part of the Lilly Endowment’s national initiative to address economic challenges facing pastoral leaders. The Diocese of Bethlehem is one of only two dioceses chosen to receive this grant.
The grants and the matching funds raised, totaling $50,000 per year for three years, will be used to supplement three clergy in strategic congregations or communities poised for revitalization and growth.
“I encourage you to begin to imagine how your community might be transformed with such a grant,” said Nichols.
Nichols also introduced the members of the new Envisioning Team which will help to create a framework for a new vision for the diocese. The team includes Connie Andrejko, the Rev. Michele Causton, Jim Harding, Rebecca McLaughlin, the Rev. Dennis Reid, and Steve Baker.
“From village to city, valley to mountain top, God has been at work with us in the Diocese of Bethlehem and has begun leading us along exciting new pathways,” said Nichols.
The Convention programming, led by the Rev. Kyle Oliver, focused on Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s Way of Love. Oliver, an Episcopal priest and Christian Formation researcher, cohosts The Way of Love podcast with Sandy Milien. The podcast explores the Episcopal Church’s vision for a shared rule of life that brings ancient spiritual practices to our modern everyday discipleship.
As part of the program, Oliver and Milien interviewed people from around the diocese in light of how they are practicing the Way of Love in their communities. Those interviewed were Lynne Graham, Senior Warden of St. Paul’s in Montrose; the Rev. Canon Dale Grandfield, Canon Missioner of the Cathedral Church of the Nativity; and Bishop Kevin D. Nichols. Listen to the interviews.
The Way of Love permeated the Convention Eucharist as well, with Nichols speaking on the importance of the practice Rest, and how we continue to strive for a “day when this world is different and love wins out.” Listen to the sermon.
View resources provided by the Rev. Kyle Oliver, including the presentation given at Convention.
The Rt. Rev. Kevin D. Nichols’ Convention Sermon
Way of Love Interviews
The Rev. Canon Dale Grandfield