Friday, October 21, 2016

abundance, re-organized

There is a show on TV that I love to watch that combines the technical skills of cooking, the creative aspect of recipe design, the pressure of a running stop watch and the camaraderie of the kitchen, all in one.  The show is called “Chopped.”  The premise of the show is that each of the three contestants gets a basket of identical ingredients and, in an allotted amount of time, they must produce a cooked dish that is tasty, creative and pleasing to the eye.  The finished product must use all of the ingredients in the basket and be prepared to the highest standard.  There is a panel of judges-  professionals in the restaurant and food world- who rate the dishes.  The program proceeds through three courses- appetizer, entree and dessert- with one person being eliminated (or “chopped”) in each round until, at the end, a winner is declared.

I have an old friend from my restaurant days who has a wife and three children.  The “children” are all in their early 30s.  One of kids is a young man who, after studying at Colorado College, decided to go into sustainable farming and growing organic goods.  In the most recent past, he has decided to focus exclusively on growing flowers on several acres in California.  This young man has an amazing artistic eye and freedom in his creative designs to use ordinary- and unusual floral “ingredients”- to produce some of the loveliest and most beautiful floral arrangements and installations that I have ever seen.  His artistry is amazing and his enthusiasm is evident in the joyful bouquets that he concocts.

Last night, I worked my way through a church problem as I made my way home from a day on the road, visiting some of our churches and clergy.  As I “ciphered” the problem in the car, I realized that what I was doing, really, was like what the cooks do on Chopped:  The open their baskets, acquaint themselves with all of the ingredients inside, lay them out on the counter and begin thinking about how they can work with them to create a dish.  The bottom line is that the dishes  must be edible, attractive and well cooked.  Extra points are given for creativity.    And then I thought about my friend’s son, Seth-  the floral designer:  he takes his cutting shears, goes out into his field of flowers and comes back with an artistic arrangement that exceeds the expectations of a “bouquet of flowers.”  He produces art.

Why can’t we do that with our churches?

Some of our current church situations (the baskets of parish particulars around the diocese) include:

  •  a parish on its third search for a new priest (the first two attempts came close, but each of the two candidates decided to take jobs elsewhere)
  • an isolated parish in an affluent, quaint town that has an Episcopal Church but no priest and a small congregation that can only afford week by week supply.
  • a congregation with an amazing Episcopal Church building in a town that has all but died.
  • a parish with a priest whose family situation now requires- for the first time-  that the parish pay for his benefits.  The parish doesn’t have the money.
  • A number of seminarians who are getting ready to serve, but unable to find full time employment in our diocese
  • Some very skilled lay people who are eager to serve our congregations and are limited in their ability to act sacramentally, because they are not ordained.

These are some of the ingredients in our diocesan basket, some of the hardy flowers growing out in our field.

I want us to be empowered, as a diocese, to do creative and bold things.
I want us to begin to try ideas that create new “flavor” profiles in the Church.
I want us to see that we can draw from our abundance and create bouquets of people, programs and liturgies that serve God in beautiful, beautiful ways.

Otherwise, for many of our churches, the stopwatch is going to run out... the frost will kiss the field of flowers... and our options will be diminished.

This is the time to meet our “problems” with creativity, instead of fear.
This is the time to focus on our abundance and to draw new life from the springs around us.  I am reminded of Moses who tells the Hebrew people, “ The Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and waters welling up in valleys and hills...” (Deut. 8:7)

We are in that good land.  
Our goals are to continue to be in community, to praise God, to serve our neighbors, to be nourished  by the sacraments and to invite others to join us in our fellowship in Christ.  Let’s keep our eye on those goals while daring to do things differently.

Who’s in?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Bishop’s Address and Subsequent Resolution

In the past few days, I’ve had many requests for my Bishop’s Address to be posted on line.
I am including it here, in this “extra edition” of the blog.. and the response resolution, offered by the Rev. Gene Tucker and Mrs. Marion Schwartz.

It was a great Convention. I am grateful to God for our work together.  

The Rt. Rev. Audrey Cady Scanlan
Bishop’s Address
Diocese of Central Pennsylvania
Diocesan Convention 2016
Spooky Nook, Manheim

Last night, you heard a story about me (the slow start to the beginning of my career as a McDonald’s Evangelist) and you shared stories with each other from your own lives, as connected to our Holy Scripture.

…all in an effort to build community and to gain a better understanding of God’s call to us and our identity as disciples of Jesus.

This afternoon… let me share another story:  a story of us.  In parable form.

The Kingdom of God is like…

The Kingdom of God is like… a woman who travels from her homeland because God said, “Go,” and the People said “Come.”  When she arrives in this new place, she finds it a delight to the eyes and a feast for the senses:  tall, green mountains; wide, generous fields with winding rows of corn; a broad river; sparkling streams … trout, deer… eagles and hawks soaring in the sky; brilliant sunsets of orange and pink and red; hope-filled sunrises of orange and pink and red, cast against the blue-black hills.

The people are kind. And swift to love.  They share the bounty of the land as the woman makes her way around:  eggs, honey, strawberry jam. Even some homemade wine.  They gather with her for worship- singing psalms and hymns and  spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts (Col 3:16).  They wash their children in the waters of baptism, receive, again, the Holy Spirit in services of Confirmation and Reception, and join to witness the miracle of Christ made manifest, again and again, in the holy food of Jesus’ body and blood.

The people and the woman break bread, share table fellowship and they introduce the woman to real bologna, chicken corn soup, a soup with broad noodles called “chicken pot pie”, and the decadence of whoopee pies, Hershey Chocolate and Wilbur’s buds.  And it was good.

An affection develops and a trust begins to build and the woman hears about the people’s sorrow:  of lost industry, environmental damage, struggling communities, drug epidemics and gun violence in the cities.  These concerns are raised up, held up high, and offered with a weariness that begins to wonder from where will their salvation come.

And… it is clear, to the woman, that salvation is in their midst- already- in the faith that they hold in the Lord God and in the power of the Holy Spirit. This faith and this power fuel an amazing amount of work: in soup kitchens, in community gardens, clothing drives, and backpack projects.  The Spirit is alive in prison visits, nursing home calls, at hospital bedsides and in the halls of St. Stephen’s school.  God is active among those gleaning in the cornfields and apple orchards, at the Community Computer Outreach Center in Mt Carmel, in the voices of the children’s choir at St. Andrew’s, York and among the hundreds of souls who find community and salvation in our parish halls in 12 Step meetings.   The Spirit of God blows through projects like Transform Jersey Shore.  We Share in Marietta. Through the circle of teenagers at a Happening, and in innovative worship on Saturday nights at St. James.  In the Beacon Program in Altoona, the Beacon Clinic in Harrisburg, and the Episcopal Home in Shippensburg.  Jesus’ hands are reaching out in new programs like campus ministry in Bloomsburg, in brave building projects like at St. John, York, and in the wilderness hiking ministries of the Northern Tier. 

Our salvation is at hand- as God opens our hearts with compassion to care for the lost and lonely, the poor in spirit, and those who know not the Lord Jesus, but who receive measures of Gods’ grace in the mission of our Church.

The Kingdom of God is at hand.  Here, in Central Pennsylvania.  And, the woman... and the people rejoice, together, for the gifts they have been given, for the blessings of God and for the work, still to come.

The end.

But-  it’s not the end.

It’s really, just the beginning…

…the beginning of our time together as I enter the slip-steam of God’s presence among us, here in Central Pennsylvania and work with you to greet the future of God’s Church.

Let me talk a little bit about where we’ve been together, in the last year, and about my hopes for the next steps of our journey together:

In this past year, I have focused on listening and discernment.

I’ve visited more than half of our congregations  (38) on Sunday mornings, participated in Confirmations, Receptions, and Reaffirmations; officiated at 3 Celebrations of New Ministry, led two retreats, attended a Youth Happening event, and, as of last week, have finally made it around to each of our 7 Convocations for  “3 Day Immersion Excursion” events.  These 3-Day events have been such a gift; they’ve given me a chance for deeper engagement with our laypeople and clergy and, most importantly, have given me a chance to learn about the places in which you live, work and minister. On those 3-Day visits I have gone fly fishing, on a Holy Hike in God’s Country, on tours of prisons, hospitals, a paper mill, the Army War College, and a Transitional Living Center for the formerly homeless.  I’ve picked corn in a Gleaning project, eaten dinner with the Amish, visited re-settled Syrian refugees, thrown out the First Pitch at a baseball game, had communion in a Pop-Up Eucharist on the banks of the Susquehanna, gone out in my boots and camo baseball cap to stock trout, visited the Horseshoe Curve in Altoona, held baby lambs one-hour old, and had tea with the oldest parishioner in our Diocese, Mr. Bob McGregor-  He’s 103 ½. I’ve heard stories of deep joy and great sadness, of redemption, reconciliation, hope, wonder and commitment to serving God’s mission.  I believe that these trips have given me real insight to who we are… and how God is moving among us.  The parable… is real.

I’ve tried to reflect some of what I am hearing and learning, back to you-  in clergy gatherings, in sermons and in my blog.  I began my blog, “Compass Points” last year when I arrived in Pennsylvania. In that year I’ve written weekly entries on Friday mornings and have had more than  33,000 visits in a year.  That’s almost 700 visits a week; someone is reading what I am writing!

As you’ve seen reflected in the material for this Convention – and heard at our Convocation meetings- there are some new initiatives that I’ve asked us to implement to build our capacity as a diocese, to re-direct some of the choices about diocesan Program back to our people, and to strengthen our existing structures.  These changes include adding 3 new laypeople to our Council of Trustees, giving the Assistant Convenors a vote, and inviting the oversight of programs and committees to be conducted by the Trustees. (These will all be addressed in the revisions of the Constitution and Canons)

   In the area of staff, we’ve re-defined job portfolios to sharpen the focus on the work at hand including continued commitment to developing clear financial procedures and reporting, a greater emphasis on the formation of children and youth, the capacity to re-develop our website and administer it in-house, new resources to support parishes in the areas of finance, transition ministry, stewardship and community engagement, and dedication to formation for all ages and stages in the Stevenson School.   I am grateful to our staff for their dedication and hard work, for their willingness to work with me as we re-shape ourselves to best serve our parishes and for all that they have taught me in the past year.  In this coming year, our Staff will participate in 5 staff Development Days as we work on becoming a more collaborative team, dedicated to serving you- and serving God’s mission.

Let me say more about the Stevenson School.   I believe that the Stevenson School- and its predecessor, the School for Christian Studies- is one of our diocesan gems. The Christian Life is one in which our relationship with God is continually evolving and ever richer as we study, learn, come together in Community, pray and reflect on our Anglican heritage, the tradition that we have inherited and the way that God moves in us, today.  When we commit to a process of formation, we are, essentially, equipping ourselves for mission, claiming responsibility for our call as disciples and inviting the Holy Spirit to guide us as we are sent out, in Jesus’ name.   This is hard work.  And, we have the school to help us do this work.   The Stevenson School for Ministry is shaped to make learning accessible for all of us, and to provide a rich environment in which to grow ever closer to God.    The Stevenson School forms lay people.  It also forms people for Holy Orders- in the role of deacon and worker- priest.  It is an essential resource in a changing church landscape in which congregations look, more and more, for part-time clergy leadership.  The Stevenson School can serve, as it continues to develop, as a leading resource for the Church-at-Large as we face the issue of clergy shortages and smaller (but not necessarily fewer) jobs.  Our fellow PA dioceses- Northwest, Pittsburgh, Bethlehem and Pennsylvania- and our Lutheran neighbors have all shown an interest in the school and have supplied both faculty, board members and students as the Stevenson School continues to build itself up.  We have added the care of Children, Youth and Young Adults under the umbrella of the Stevenson School and are offering institutional support for this very important part of our church family.  Mary Ellen & Bob Kilp and Theda & Jon Tallman have been an amazing support and programming team for our Youth in these past years and the Stevenson School is looking to support them in their work, as they partner together, for the good of our children and young people.

Later today you will hear a presentation from the Dean of the Stevenson School, the Very Rev. Robyn Szoke-Coolidge and the Chair of the Board, the Rev. Canon David Lovelace as they describe some of the work ahead for the school in the next three years. 

The Spirit is alive and at work in our midst as new projects and programs have started in the past year:  a new Social Justice and Equity group that was formed last spring is discovering how they can serve as a networking resource and organizing body for much of the justice work that is already happening in our diocese.  A diocesan-wide initiative led by Deacon Loretta Collins has engaged us in aiding re-settling refugees, The Rev. J. Patrick Peters has accepted my appointment as our new Ecumenical Officer and is bringing lots of energy to that role, and a group called The Pool of Bethesda supporting our LGBTQ brothers and sisters has taken shape and meets at St. Paul’s, Lockhaven.   You can look for a newly designed website in the not too distant future, a new group has been appointed to help direct the programmatic work of our clergy conference, and I am looking forward to forming still another group to study the important issue of “Sacramental Accessibility” or, how, in a diocese with small congregations -some without priests-  we can ensure that our people can have communion and access to other sacramental rites on a regular basis.
There’s a lot to do.

This year’s focus on Storytelling and Discipleship is critical for us as a diocese.
You’ve heard me talk about my 3-Year Plan:  Year One of Listening and Discernment, Year Three of Shaping a Vision and Direction together, and Year Two – this year- of  Deepening our Understanding of Ourselves as Disciples of Jesus. (Discernment, Discipleship, Direction)  I believe that this middle year in the 3-Year Plan is crucial.  We need to understand who we are today and how God is calling us today to participate in God’s mission.  The way that we are Church is changing.  We need to understand not only the institutional and systemic changes around us, but the personal  identity-oriented changes that bear on our participation in God’s mission.  Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry talks about the Jesus Movement.  He talks less and less about buildings… and more about God’s people on mission.  Fulfilling Jesus’ command to love.  Bishop Curry’s new tag line for the Jesus Movement is this:  “The Jesus Movement-  loving, liberating and life-giving.” (X2)  He affirms that our call is to be about Jesus’ work in this world, especially in the areas of evangelism, racial reconciliation, environmental stewardship.   How do we do that, as individuals?  How are we joining the Jesus movement as disciples?   How are we called to be loving, liberating and life-giving agents of the Jesus Movement?

I hope that in this next year, we will spend time thinking about this and finding our individual senses of purpose re-freshed by dwelling on God’s Holy Word-  connecting our Story to God’s Story.

The key to  understanding of God’s call to us, of finding our place in the Jesus Movement, is by returning to the source-  The Word- for re-freshment.

Last night we made a start, connecting our stories to God’s story and with the help of some resources handed out at this convention (a small booklet in your packet) and a regular practice of this kind of discernment among your clergy, I hope that we can, together, grow in our understanding of who we are as Jesus’ disciples.

We can do great things together, standing with Jesus.
We are already doing great things, together, in Central Pennsylvania.

May we continue to be strengthened, care for one another and rejoice in all that we have received from God.

The parable is true.  The Kingdom of God is like a woman… who found a people… and received- in this place- grace upon grace.

and the Response:

Diocese of Central Pennsylvania
146th Annual Convention
October 15, 2016

The Report and Resolutions on the Bishop’s Address to the 146th Convention of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania.

WHEREAS the Rt. Rev. Audrey Cady Scanlan has come among us, telling us her story;
AND WHEREAS, in the thirteen months since her consecration, Bishop Audrey has learned our story, taking part in three-day Immersion Excursions in each of our seven Convocations;
AND WHEREAS the Bishop has boldly lived among us, and has discerned the truth that salvation is on our midst already, and now offers us a vision for proclaiming our story in God’s story, declaring that the Kingdom of God is at hand here in Central Pennsylvania;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that we in the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, knowing that we find in the pages of Holy Scripture the well spring of God’s story, commit ourselves to learning God’s story, in order that we can link our story to God’s, and can boldly live that story in the world.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we will equip ourselves for the living out of our story and God’s by diligent, faithful and lifelong learning, taking advantage of the resources of the Stevenson School for Ministry, to the end that the laity may be more edified and strengthened in their Christian walk, and that deacons and worker-priests may be formed and trained to serve God’s people.

The Committee on the Bishop’s Address respectfully request that this 146th Convention accept and adopt these resolutions in response to our Bishop’s Address.

Respectfully submitted,

Mrs. Marion Schwartz
The Rev. Gene Tucker

Friday, October 14, 2016


I could do it in my sleep--  I almost do do it in my sleep-  my morning choreography:

1. Roll over
2. Unplug my phone and grab my glasses
3. Turn on the flashlight function
4. Find my way through the dark hall and down the big, deep stairs
5. Press “on” on the coffee pot
6. Use the lavatory
7. Let the cat out
8. Light the candle
9. Sit in the chair near the fireplace and wait for the coffee
10. Drink the coffee
11. Say my prayers
12. Let the cat in.
13. Feed the cat.
14. Check my email.

It’s the same every single day- the routine choreography that has developed in the last year since we moved to our new house.

It’s been like this, really, for years-  the same basic format of wake, coffee, pray- (with variations on dealing with the cat) since I graduated from the wake-coffee-pray-get-the-kids-up-make-breakfast-get them-out-the-door-to-school-routine that persisted for many, many years.

Most mornings, I go to the gym.

The first 14 things that I do in the morning set me up for that, though I have a new rule for myself:  If I get into bed later than 11 PM, I do not have to go to the gym in the morning.   I’m one of those people whom, even as I age, still needs a solid 8 hours of sleep in order to function.

I bet that you have some morning choreography that stays pretty consistent every day.

It is easy, comfortable and allows us to move through the early part of the day with some efficiency, predictability and few surprises.

Morning choreography is good.

And then, sometimes, shaking up one’s choreography, one’s sense of routine, one’s practice of the same comfortable life dance steps is also good.

Today I’m going to try climbing a rock climbing wall. (not until after I’ve had my coffee and said my prayers, however.)  Our Diocesan Convention is being held at the “Spooky Nook” in Manheim and, besides being a conference center/hotel, it is also a giant sports facility, and has rock climbing walls, among other things.  

I’ve always wanted to try rock climbing-  ever since I was in my 40s and my trainer friend Laura stared talking about it.  I was in much better shape, then, and almost 20 years younger... and... we never went to the rock climbing gym.  It was more than an hour away- and in Connecticut, that was just too far ( I know, here in PA we will drive that far for a cup of coffee...)   Anyway, I never have tried rock climbing.

This afternoon at 4 PM I will be joined by our Sycamore House Episcopal Service  Corps members, some of our diocesan youth group and maybe (I hope) some intrepid adults who want to try something new.  I know that Churchill will be there.

I may not get more than 3 feet off of the floor.  
I’m not in great shape anymore.
I’m kind of afraid of heights.

But I’m willing to shake it up, try something new, and take a risk.

What is your Morning Choreography?  Your Routine?
When do you step out of your Comfort Zone for the sake of trying something new?
What is your ‘risk taking’ profile?

Come on out to the Spooky Nook at 4 PM.
Join me.

But first, coffee and prayers.

one of the climbing areas at Spooky Nook

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Altoona Convocation Immersion Excursion Day3

Just home from a beautiful autumnal drive between Hollidaysburg and Mechanicsburg.  A stunning drive down 99 and the Turnpike in which I was blessed with light traffic, brilliant blue skies and fall leaves, and a 45 minute phone call with our youngest.

We had a great celebration this morning at Holy Trinity.  The liturgy included the Seating of the Bishop (I continue to knock on doors all over our diocese),Confirmation and Reception of two souls, and Holy Eucharist.   A brunch followed our service and then Mother Jeanne and I paid a visit to some of our diocese’s most esteemed members-  a  beautiful lady of "no given age,” named Betsy... and Bob, who at 103 1/2 has to be our oldest member in the diocese, don’t you think?  The visit was grand-  both of them chatting up a storm about their days in church at St. Luke’s, Altoona, Trinity, Tyrone and Holy Trinity, Hollidaysburg.  It was a blessing to spend time with these dear brothers and sisters.

And so, now, perhaps, a nap.

Glad to be home, and glad for the rich experience of these past days in the Altoona Convocation.

The chancel and altar at Holy Trinity, Hollidaysburg

Just before knocking on the door. Blue sky!

Confirmand Charley and newly received Sharon

with Mother Jeanne Jacobson

Bishop and Hubby

Picture of the “original” St. Luke’s, Altoona built in 1858

Mr and Mrs.(Mary and William) Winn,  Founders of St. Luke’s, Altoona

Bob (103 1/2) and his daughter Elizabeth and yours truly, mugging for the camera

The beautiful gift basket full of handcrafted items and a book from the people of Holy Trinity!  So nice.