At its 2016 convention, the Diocese of Bethlehem returned from a year-long pilgrimage that not only fostered connections among people and parishes, but also allowed leaders to identify the diocese’s core values and make plans for the future.
At this year’s convention, the members of the diocese set off on another year-long journey of transition. This time, the destination is September 15, 2018, when the ordination and consecration of the ninth bishop of Bethlehem will take place.
To ready those assembled for the year to come, the Rev. Canon Scott Slater of the Diocese of Maryland gave a keynote address titled “Moses, Jesus, and the Diocese of Bethlehem: Walking with Curiosity and Courage.”
“Scott helped us take the values of connection and collaboration that we identified during the pilgrimage and connect those to Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability,” said the Rev. Canon Anne Kitch, canon to the ordinary, who helped Slater lead a conversation about trust and vulnerability after his address. “He modeled the kind of vulnerability that we need to demonstrate if we’re going to follow Jesus by being open to new possibilities for ministry.”
Part of demonstrating vulnerability, says Kitch, included encouraging the entire crowd of 200 people to dance to a video of disco music.
On Friday evening, the people of Trinity Episcopal Church in Carbondale hosted the convention Eucharist. The service, which Ross Mangina of Trinity, Bethlehem, called “inspiring,” served as a celebration of the church’s recovery from a calamity last December in which a new furnace coated the interior of the church with more than 100 years of soot accumulated in the radiators from decades of heating with coal.
On Saturday morning, clergy and lay delegates elected new leaders to the Commission on Ministry and Diocesan Council, adopted the 2018 budget, and took a final vote on the constitutional changes first proposed in 2016. The Ven. Rick Cluett, senior chaplain to the clergy, and Dan Charney, stewardship missioner, who will both retire at the end of 2017, were recognized with courtesy resolutions.
Bishop Sean Rowe, who will conclude his term as bishop provisional when the new bishop is ordained, gave his final convention address to the diocese before convention concluded on Saturday at noon. In his speech, he urged the diocese to “think big!”
“If I have one fear,” he told the crowd, “it is that your vision would be too small.”
“Thanks largely to the bishop’s address,” Mangina says, “we ended on a note of optimism and hope.”
“Over the last few years there has been a growing movement toward a more unified diocese and it was culminated at this year’s convention, said Linda Murrelle of Church of the Redeemer, Sayre. “I left convention feeling sad for our loss of Bishop Sean but with elation that we are ready for this next very big step.”
The Rev. Van Bankston of Good Shepherd, Milford, and a member of Diocesan Council, agreed, saying, “Convention was such a positive experience for all from Good Shepherd, Milford. As a diocese we need to live into, maintain, and build on how far we have come in the last three years.”
Despite a plea from the audience to stay, which drew wide applause, Rowe is confident that the diocese is ready for its future. “It was a very positive and forward-looking convention,” he said. “It’s clear that the diocese has regained a sense of itself. There’s an emerging identity and missional spirit, and a sense of an adventure. We’re ready to embark on a journey of transition.”
photo caption: The Rev. Canon Anne Kitch and Bonnie Bay, senior warden of Trinity, Carbondale, the host parish for convention