After months of meetings and discussions involving more than 170 people from 46 parishes, the themes of the Diocese of Bethlehem’s pilgrimage have come into focus.
“The three resonating hopes that people expressed over and over again were to connect, communicate and collaborate,” said the Very Rev. Tony Pompa, dean of the Cathedral Church of the Nativity.
“The three Cs,” as Pompa and the diocese’s pilgrimage design group have taken to calling them, will help to shape diocesan convention when it meets on October 7-8 at the Doubletree Hilton near Christ Church, Reading. The theme for the convention is “Salt and Light,” based on Jesus’ admonition to his disciples in the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.
The pilgrimage design team, led by Pompa and the Rev. Charles Cesaretti, and the convention planning team, which includes the two pilgrimage leaders and a dozen others, met on July 9 to discuss how the information gathered to this point in the pilgrimage can inform the diocese’s annual meeting and help to shape the diocese’s future.
“I’ve been impressed by the breadth of consensus within the diocese regarding certain hopes and values,” said Bishop Sean Rowe. “Time and again the people of the diocese spoke about the importance of broadening and deepening their relationships with one another.”
Pompa said that beneath their emphasis on “the three Cs,” the people of the diocese were expressing a desire for diocesan unity and shared experience and an eagerness to think more imaginatively about their involvement in the wider community.
Asked to identify the values most important to them, participants in meetings around the diocese listed resilience, concern for others, a sense of family, openness and acceptance, compassion, servanthood, authenticity and a respect for God and one another.
“We were refreshingly affirmed by everyone’s positive approach to this conversation,” Pompa said. “What we heard was a celebration and affirmation of who we are in our common values … and the absolute gratitude people feel when we live as a diocese that connects, communicates and collaborates. There was also a healthy expression of people’s desire to get to a place where we do all of that better.
“What we did not hear was any more of the old tapes playing. There was not much conversation about what was, who did this, who did that. What we also didn’t hear was ‘Given the changing realities of our congregations this game is over.’ Not once did we hear that. That was really refreshing. There were honest articulations of the challenges, but not once did we hear ‘We should pick up our cards and go home.’ In fact, we heard the opposite of that.”
The initial meeting of the convention planning group, Pompa said, was shaped by three challenges: how to bring the “common hopes and common values” articulated during the pilgrimage to life at the convention; how to help churches in the diocese to “proclaim who we are” and how to articulate “what we hope to be in God’s name in our missional contexts.”
“I think our great hope is that we will continue to send our delegates home to the places in which they live desiring to live into a new way of being which is to be mission-focused and to understand themselves again as part of a diocese so that we are living in a way that we are connecting, communicating and really collaborating in our regions,” Pompa said.