January Message from the Bishop

Saturday, January 16th, 2021

Logo for the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair We had everything before us, we had nothing before us. We were all going direct to Heaven. We were all going direct the other way. In short, the period was so far like the present period.”

This past year we have seen much of what Charles Dickens described in A Tale of Two Cities: the best and the worst.  When COVID hit, it was challenging and, at times, grueling. Yet, we did not wane nor recede into the shadows; we were resilient knowing Christ always leads us to new life. If these coming days are to be the best of times, we must answer the call to serve our Lord. While the journey will not be easy, we have the gifts, the faith, and the people to meet the challenge—each one of us, from all corners of this diocese, need to share in this sacred work.

 

I want to share some highlights from the last year. You can see our entire list at diopa.org/together.

  • Created Pandemic Crisis Assistance Program to assist parishes with expenses during the pandemic. (Distributed $358k to 22 churches so far);
  • Creation of a backstop to assist churches who are unable to meet their goals for their Sacred Gifts in 2021;
  • Distributed $300K in Growth Development Funds. Opened a second round to assist churches now;
  • Creation of the health and safety protocols that alleviated the burden on the churches;
  • Creation of Digital Disciples team, providing free tech consultants to churches;
  • We met our goal of creating a network of 10 wellness centers in our churches that serve the physical health needs of communities;
  • Partnered with three agencies and interfaith organizations to effectively address poverty, hunger, violence. Including a partnership with Villanova nursing to provide wellness courses;
  • and instituting weekly calls with clergy.

 

Over the past four and a half years we have worked together to build a dynamic and hopeful diocese. In the process, we have strengthened and unified, but there is vast potential for so much more. New ministries are flourishing, closed churches have reopened, and a spirit of trust is palpable.  With gratitude to the Lord, we are recognized as the diocese of possibilities - a revolutionary diocese that is changing the Church and the world around us.

Now is the moment to push even further. United in faith, an unshakeable resolve, and an inner fortitude that cannot be broken - this is our diocese.

We have the opportunity to radically change society's perception of the Church in the 21st Century. Through our lives and ministry, we can silence those who forecast the demise of mainline churches. The time is now, and we will meet the challenge. I take Leonardo DaVinci's words to heart, "I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough. We must apply. Being willing is not enough. We must do.”

Thus, I call on each you to meet this year and our subsequent years with a joyful urgency and determination. People always talk about tomorrow: “What the church will look like tomorrow?” “Will we have a church tomorrow?” Let us not wait until tomorrow, for tomorrow is less than a day away. This will become our diocesan quest to demonstrate the power of Christ to the world. The Church, our church, must not be content to become a museum or become frozen in amber. We must do those things they say cannot be done; we have Jesus Christ, and the forces of destruction and despair do not stand a chance.

Continuing this support, at our January meeting I am asking the Trustees to set aside $250,000 for grants to individual churches (up to $2500) to assist them in purchasing cameras and equipment to assist with broadcasting their services. Churches that have already purchased equipment are eligible for funds to cover expenses already incurred. We are also creating a space at Diocesan Center for our churches to film, train in technology, and increase their capacity for proclaiming the Gospel in the 21st century. At this critical time, we must increase our investment in research and development. In the coming months, I will also present numerous other initiatives to the Board of Trustees and ask them to discern a path for funding and implementation. After much study of need and assessment of potential and viability, we believe these proposals will empower outreach, ministry and strengthen our diocese. I will share those ideas with you in my February message.

We all know that solely relying on ideas and funding is insufficient. If we are genuinely going to demonstrate our strength, then we must fully tap our greatest resource, you.  I prayerfully summon each and every person in our historic and revolutionary diocese to step forth and share their God-given gifts with a unity of purpose and no fear of failure. 

During our clergy call this month, I asked our larger churches to step forth and offer the talents within their churches to the entire diocese. I asked the deans and rectors to put out a call to their membership for service. Working with the Offices of the Diocese, we are asking attorneys, financial advisors, bankers, investment professionals, business developers, and teachers - faithful people from all professions - to offer their talents to assist those churches who need expertise in a given field. But it goes far beyond our larger churches - I am asking the rectors, vicars, and laity in our medium to small churches to send out the same call. We have enormous talent, and your skills are needed in service to our Lord.

Every person in every church must step forth and help create our future. I am asking each member of our diocese to offer their skills and talents to the service of the Lord. Whether it is an hour a month or 10 hours a week, we are being called to give our hearts, minds, and bodies. In building our church, we must find the right materials. Those materials are not solely bricks and mortar; the materials are the people of this diocese. For a few brief moments during the week, offer a sacrifice of your time unto the Lord, for there is no greater calling than serving our Lord.

We have set three destination points in the next few years: 1) Mission - proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ 2) Service - to one God, one another, and our community; and 3) Poverty - Economic, Social, Physical and Spiritual. Let our diocese be known as a revolutionary place where "Jesus is on the move." Our Anglican tradition offers a unique voice that will speak to the needs of the world. Let us use that voice to proclaim it boldly.

This is not a time of rest; this is a time of hope and endeavor. This is a time of boldness -for our future is already upon us. We cannot wait for the rest of society to catch up. We have the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and therein is our hope. Let us be that light up on the hill for all people to see and follow. A beacon that draws all people into the radiance of His life. 

This is the time to consider the impossible - for each church to discern ministries that will truly make a difference. The world is longing for connection. We can meet that need through individual encounters, joyful invitations, and creating a sense of belonging one person at a time. Let us move forward in planting missions and house churches; people need to hear the good news after this long isolation. Children need to hear the voice of Christ after being separated from all that is familiar. Let us be creative and fail, fail often, and fail daringly. If we are not failing, we are not trying. Boldly experiment and test different ideas, preach passionately, and love fully. Our staff is eager to assist you. We will do this together.

At the end of A Tale of Two Cities, the main character, Carton, is facing death. He notes the fact that the oppressors in the crowd "have risen on the destruction of the old," He also realizes that, someday, Paris will recover from these horrors and become beautiful. In the same way, our diocese will recover from these horrors and will become stronger, more beautiful and ultimately change the world. I believe this in the depths of my soul because I believe in you, and I believe in the power of Jesus Christ.

Let us dare greatly, strive valiantly, love completely, and spend ourselves in the service of Christ. With unity of purpose and no fear of failure, we can and we will because we have Jesus Christ.

To this beloved diocese, let us go forth with courage and faith because our Savior is with us. Press on, for our message is Jesus Christ.

Bishop signature

The Rt. Rev. Daniel G. P. Gutiérrez

XVI Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:21-23