Friday, March 10th, 2023
Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. John 21: 4-6
(This letter was sent to the diocese for the first phase of Casting Nets in 2022.)
My Siblings in Christ,
“Cast the net on the right side of the boat…” With those words, Jesus challenged the disciples to do something new, something different, something that went against everything they knew and understood as fishermen. They had worked all night and given it their best but caught nothing. But when they trusted Jesus, everything changed.
Just imagine how they must have felt. How their exhaustion and frustration was transformed to wonder, amazement and exhilaration as the net strained against the enormous catch. And it happened, not because of their skill or experience, but because they trusted in Jesus and dared to do something different. I am writing to call you to something new – something that will revitalize our churches, our communities and our diocese. This letter is an invitation for you to embark on this spiritual journey with us. We stand at a threshold. A new day is dawning. Over the past eighteen months, we have discovered new and creative ways to worship, pray, connect and serve. Building on that success and momentum, we are excited to introduce the “Casting Nets” initiative.
Allow yourselves the chance to really dream what your church might be if it was not expending so much energy focused on buildings, people and money. How might you break free from how you have always done things and to dare to envision a church that is focused on the life-giving essentials of prayer, community, worship and ministry to and with our neighbors? We learned during COVID-19 that we can find ways to thrive despite obstacles, and this has opened up tremendous opportunities. Change does not have to take decades. It can come quickly, if we have faith to embrace new possibilities and to focus on what is most essential.
I am asking you to think as if you are a startup business. Ask yourselves about goals, creativity, listening, planning and implementation. That’s what “Casting Nets” is about. You don’t need more money or more people, you don’t need the latest theories or programs, all you need is a willing heart and a desire for your church to become more the church that God envisions, as opposed to the church the world says is possible.
There are four parts of this initiative, which can take as little as 10 weeks to accomplish. The first phase – Deep Water – is attached to this. The rest of the phases will be released on a rolling basis. I cannot say exactly where this journey will take you but I can promise that if you dare to “cast your nets” and trust in Jesus, that your church will be changed for the better. Above all, you will not be alone. Your diocesan staff be here to assist and guide you in this process.
I am entering my sixth year now as your Bishop. Each day I come to love you more, love the people, love the history, as well as our potential. I love our revolutionary spirit. It is that spirit that stands at the heart of this project. Let us follow Jesus and those first disciples and “cast nets” on the other side so that together we may transform our churches, our communities and our diocese in his most holy name.
The Rt. Reverend Daniel G. P. Gutiérrez
XVI Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania