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Momentum Builds at the 147th Diocesan Convention

The Diocese of Bethlehem continued to build momentum at its 147th Diocesan Convention. “We have exciting work before us,” Bishop Kevin Nichols said in his address on Friday morning. “Let’s get moving!”

Nichols commended the diocese for entering into a pilgrimage together and taking a season for discernment, emphasizing that the diocese’s envisioning process is only beginning. “We will build on the momentum of envisioning together as we discover where our journey with God is taking us next,” said Nichols. “Together we must be strong and courageous and fearless and undaunted in our pursuit of where God is calling us on this journey.”

Nichols also introduced Steve Baker, who is now serving as Consulting Director of Mission Resources. Baker will support the work of Diocesan Council in the development of the strategic priorities of the Diocese of Bethlehem.

“The spirit of hospitality and collaboration I witnessed at convention was energizing,” said Baker. “I feel lucky to have been warmly welcomed by everyone at convention and am eager to walk together on a journey of love and restoration in the coming year.”

Drawing from the mission priorities of the Episcopal Church, part of the diocese’s envisioning process will involve exploring how the Diocese of Bethlehem might be called to care for God’s creation. The Rev. Steve Blackmer, in his keynote address, encouraged the delegates of Convention to consider how they might engage the natural world in a way that deepens their spirituality. “Jesus went up to the mountain to pray,” Blackmer said. “What did Jesus know that we have forgotten?”

Blackmer led several reflections involving what he called “tokens from nature,” including a praying mantis which he had on display. As part of these reflections, Baker invited participants to “walk in the woods, be in the wilderness, and wade in the water” in order to grow into a deeper understanding of God’s creation and humanity’s part in it.

“Steve’s ministry glorifies God by reminding us to be good stewards of God’s creation,” said Enrique Molina, who leads Spanish language services at Christ Church in Reading. “My favorite statement of his was reminding us that much of Jesus’s ministry and spiritual practices as recorded in the Gospels happened outside.”

On Friday evening, the Cathedral Church of the Nativity hosted the Convention Eucharist. The service included the liturgy for the Welcoming and Seating of a Bishop in the Cathedral, which began with the bishop knocking on the doors of the Cathedral as the congregation awaited his arrival. During the service, Bishop Nichols delivered a powerful sermon addressing sexual abuse in churches and in the secular world. “I’ve listened to women and men who have been traumatized,” said Nichols. “Our communities MUST be places of trust.”

The Rev. Twila Smith, priest-in-charge at Grace Church and Missioner at Church of the Mediator in Allentown, was moved by the bishop’s sermon. “When it was time to preach, he stood up–really stood up–using his power to speak in support of women without power who have not been heard, women who have not been supported,” said Smith. “What I heard was the voice of someone who had been sitting with people and humbly listening.” View the full Convention Eucharist service.

Read the resolutions accepted by the 147th Convention, including the 2019 salary schedule and budget, and view the new leaders elected to the Commission on Ministry, Diocesan Council, and Standing Committee.

View pictures from Convention.