On Being a Neighbor

Last week, I went on vacation to see my husband’s family in Pittsburg, PA. It turns out, our visit coincided with the 50th anniversary celebration of when Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood first aired. Signs, quotes, and all kinds of displays were all over the city to pay tribute to the man who not only gave joy to millions of children over 3 generations, but singlehandedly saved public television in the ‘70s.

I used to love watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood when I was a child. His show was fun to watch and very easy to understand.

So, in honor of a special man who brought a profound message to all of us who watched him, I took some of the quotes I saw around the Pittsburg area and applied some of my own thoughts to them. When I first read them, I reflected on how easy it is to be down on ourselves for our limitations. It is so much better for all of us if we think in terms of the positive we all bring to each other.

Mutual caring relationships require kindness and patience, tolerance, optimism, joy in the other’s achievements, confidence in oneself, and the ability to give without undue thought of gain.” 
— ― Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember

I never knew that Fred Rogers grew up sick with asthma and overweight for most of his childhood. He felt isolated and downtrodden. He had a very low self esteem, because he could not socialize very much. His maternal grandfather, Mr. McFeely began to work with Fred through simple interactions and very positive statements to help him develop more self esteem and confidence. Fred’s  feelings about himself changed slowly over time as a result. So profound was this change for Fred that he named a character on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood Mr. McFeely.  His grandfather’s influence is also what drove him to help children. Television was the medium he realized would reach the largest number of children to get his message about their value and place in the world.

“The thing I remember best about successful people I’ve met all through the years is their obvious delight in what they’re doing and it seems to have very little to do with worldly success. They just love what they’re doing, and they love it in front of others.” 
— Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember

 

When I come to church, I feel what Mr. Rogers is saying above. Our clergy are happy to be here. Parishioners are happy to be here. We are a community, and despite our relatively small size, we are successful by being together. Being happy doing something and calling that a success is something I’ve found very hard to do. Other measures of success in society may be important at some point or another, but it is not the only measure. That feeling of happiness being somewhere is what makes me want to come back to doing the work of relationship. That is the feeling Fred Rogers discovered when his grandfather told him his presence made him happy.

 “There’s a world of difference between insisting on someone’s doing something and establishing an atmosphere in which that person can grow into wanting to do it.” 
— Fred Rogers, You Are Special: Neighborly Wit And Wisdom From Mister Rogers

 My son worked on Good Neighbors this summer. He was very unsure if he would like ‘physical labor’ on a stranger’s house. He got such a positive response from his work that he told me less than a day after it ended that he could not wait to do it next year. He generally enjoys going to Church as well. He’s motivated mostly by the youth group, but also to  hear what our Clergy is going to say in their Homily.

It was not always this easy to get him to want to participate.

There were plenty of Sundays where I had to bribe him with treats from Starbucks to get him into the car for Church without a fight. It was hard work for me (and expensive!), but I wanted him to understand the importance of a Church community and prayed I was doing this ‘right’. Well, I know now there is no real ‘right’ way- except to make sure those around us feel loved and respected. Let’s face it, all of us have trouble doing things we don’t like. It is so easy to berate ourselves when we don’t want to do something. It’s hard to remember that we are doing  the best we can and that this is OK.  We are here and that is enough.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” 
— Fred Rogers

I believe this statement to be true. So often, our news reports talk about the people who have done wrong, it is easy to forget that there were scores of other people who helped with the situation. For every car accident, there are teams of people both on the scene and later on who are there to help. The help does not always come from those who are assigned a ‘job’ to help. Often, help comes in the form of a person doing something profoundly simple- like giving a hug or holding a hand.

 

“There was a story going around about the Special Olympics. For the hundred-yard dash, there were nine contestants, all of them so-called physically or mentally disabled. All nine of them assembled at the starting line and, at the sound of the gun, they took off. But one little boy didn’t get very far. He stumbled and fell and hurt his knee and began to cry. The other eight children heard the boy crying. They slowed down, turned around, and ran back to him—every one of them ran back to him. The little boy got up, and he and the rest of the runners linked their arms together and joyfully walked to the finish line.
They all finished the race at the same time. And when they did, everyone in the stadium stood up and clapped and whistled and cheered for a long, long time. And you know why? Because deep down we know that what matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves. What really matters is helping others win, too, even if it means slowing down and changing our course now and then.” 
—  Fred Rogers

My son was the youth who fell off a ladder at Good Neighbors. Although not all the other kids could go up and comfort him while they waited for the ambulance to come (he only needed stitches – and has made a full recovery!)- one young man did walk right up and hold his hand while Pastor Adriane (from St. Michael’s) applied first aid. My son was truly touched by the simple, but brave act, of someone holding his hand and telling him he was going to be ok.  Since his injury, every single youth in our Parish and most of their parents, and many additional parishioners have come up to me and asked after my son’s health. I cannot ask for a more kind and sincere group of concerned people in a community.

That is ‘crossing the finish line’ together. Our children are learning it and they are living it- and we are all- as a Parish family-  successful, because of it.

So, the next time you’re thinking you may not be ‘good enough’ or ‘enthusiastic enough’ or have  ‘enough’ time to do something- remember you are here in this world and that alone makes me proud to be your neighbor!

Yours in Christ,

Karen Rodgers

Partnerships In Mission

 

So, it’s the end of July and beginning of August and time for a progress update and invitation to you.   

Back in February, the changing approach for Partnerships In Mission was described. It is to be a part of the voice of mission and service at Advent.  Our goal is to transform and grow from simply writing checks to more participation and celebration of missional ministries and having a way to thoughtfully select how to use the funds graciously given to Advent.  Then in April, we announced our Mission Project Application to get ideas from within our congregation to achieve our mission and a Bulletin Board describing ministry projects at Advent.  

To date, Partnerships in Mission Ministry has used our Ministry Project Application to support new and existing ministries at Advent.   Look at the Bulletin Board for some of our efforts.  More is in the works.  Like more projects to collect items that people need – locally, nationally, internationally. Like a reusable bag to both make Advent visible in the community and to be environmentally sensitive.  Like supporting a local agency to aid in their efforts to educate students.  Like helping Operation Grain Train.  

Generally, PIM meets the first Monday of each month and our next meeting is August 6 at 6pm.  We’re looking for you to join us as we act as a coordinating ministry to help existing programs and start new ones within Advent.  We are also looking to bring the external community to Advent both to raise awareness of Advent in the community and to raise the awareness of programs that we at Advent can become involved with – locally, nationally and globally.  At our August meeting, we will cover a possible participation in the Southern Chester County Opportunity Network, a local collaborative initiative to the address and reduce poverty and improve the quality of life for all in Southern Chester County. I’ve participated in a number of what they term Discovery Groups and I’ll describe these Discovery Groups that we could explore.  We’ll also cover the potential for collaborative with the Diocese of Pennsylvania in their mission initiatives.  There is a fair amount going on and we as Advent can see how to participate and share.   

This leads to another initiative, Communication.  Communication means both communication what is going on at Advent and communication to make us visible in our communities.  Think about it, Communication and Mission go together.  How about being visible at the Mushroom Festival? Can we be visible during the Festival?  Offering parking for those attending?  Offering water bottles for those attending? Let PIM know, better yet attend the August meeting.   

Achieving our mission – Making Christ Visible; Changing Lives; Making a Difference – Together 

 

Family

It’s knowing where your roots are     

That sometimes gives you wings.           

It’s knowing there’s a place to go               

To escape the awful things.                     

It’s watching time go racing by

  Days, then weeks, then years.

It’s missing those who go too soon

  To mix your laughter with your tears.

It’s knowing there will always be                

At least one person on your side.           

Who’ll listen to your problems                     

And go along with you for the ride.         

 It’s remembering and forgetting

  Loving and arguing too.

It was God’s plan from the start

   And it’s still holding true.

It’s comfort and it’s heartache                     

It’s pride and disappointment too.           

It’s holding on and letting go                     

Cherishing old and accepting new.             

So hold each day like a precious crystal

  That might break if you let it go.

 For roots and wings are compatible things

Make sure your children know.

It’s waiting for the next little one

To come and steal your heart:

And wondering how being called

“Grandma or Grandpa”

Is such a warm and fuzzy start.

- Faye Cook

Stewardship

I’m sending this article from a remote cabin in the woods of Maine. While my mind is on vacation, there’s plenty of work to be done. Sound familiar?

What is Stewardship? There are lots of answers, but the one that sticks with me is simply taking care of business and leaving the place a little better than when you found it. It’s more than just “going the extra mile.” It means making investments for the future benefit of others. In camp terms it means chopping wood and leaving the woodbox full when you go.

The Stewardship Committee appreciates all the time, talent and treasure which you so freely give Advent. This year, they are looking for ways to say thanks and educate you about the breadth of the Church’s operations. It takes a lot to run a church and serve a congregation of our size. As a church, Advent is aging. So, all of us need to help bring in new members and let them make Advent THEIR church. Change can be scary, but we need to learn to let go, to pass the baton. Our future is in their hands!

Tom Curry recently announced his retirement as chair of the Endowment Committee. He did a great job guiding Advent through some tough times and I thank him for his 12+ years of service. Tom asked Pete Peterson to succeed him, who will be confirmed by the Vestry at its next meeting. Reminder: Anybody can give anything to support this church’s long-term operations. Just give us a call!

The Special Events group is planning the Artisan’s Fair and other fundraisers. Mary Nichols is coordinating activities and has been swamped with ideas. One her mantras is if we’re going to do a fundraiser, let’s make some money! She needs volunteers, lots of them, to help make our fundraisers a success and to have a little fun doing it.

At our last Vestry meeting, Dave Scott agreed to conduct a formal capital needs assessment. An engineering firm will be hired to evaluate our physical plant and it’s expected life spans and replacement costs. The work will build upon Chris Pepe’s earlier forecasts and set the stage for a capital campaign next year. It is important work.

Stewardship begins with you. Advent is where you and your family come through good times and bad. It’s more than just a place, it’s a community. When we gather and sing hymns, we celebrate our faith and feel good! You are loved and an important part of this family.

Your obedient servant,

Collis

Development Warden

What is up with Wapiti?

Bishop.JPG

In the last month, we have held four open budget hearings in the diocesan community with one more scheduled in the next week. That process is paramount to me. I want each of you to understand what is in the diocesan budget - how it reflects an over-arching commitment to proclaiming the Gospel, addressing the pain in the world and investing in our churches.

 

Part of the budget includes Wapiti. Even before I was elected, I heard your questions about the property. Here, I would like to provide some answers in the hopes that knowing the facts may better allow us to move forward as one body.

 

What is Wapiti?

Wapiti is a 432-acre property in Maryland purchased in 2003. There are 11 rooms on the property for rent, a large covered pavilion near the water and several tent platforms for camping.

 

 

I thought there was a resolution to sell the property. Why wasn't it sold?

-        In 2008, Convention passed Resolution R-9. This authorized the governing bodies of the Diocese to list the property for sale. However, it did not mandate or require that the property to be sold. The property was listed for sale at $15 million but no offers deemed acceptable were received.

-        In 2011, the Standing Committee, Diocesan Council and the then Finance and Property Committees all voted to accept an offer for $6.6 million. However, Bishop Bennison declined to accept, thus blocking the sale.  

-        At Convention 2011, another resolution (R-8) was passed which allowed the property to be sold without the consent of Bishop Bennison. This resolution became null and void when Bishop Bennison retired in 2012.

-        The property remained listed for sale but no other serious offers have been received since. The property has not been actively listed with an agent since 2013.

-        During his time in office, Bishop Clifton Daniel publicly stated that, because of the temporary nature of his authority, he did not believe it appropriate for him to authorize a sale.

 

Would you be willing to sell it?

I would be willing to sell if we receive an offer of at least $6.6 million, which is what the governing bodies of our diocese previously elected to accept. I will not agree to an offer that amounts to pennies on the dollar. This would not be good stewardship and would be poor exercise of my fiduciary responsibilities as your Bishop.

 

What is the value of the property?

As per our Audit in 2007, Wapiti was valued at $9,848,306. This represents land acquisition costs and investment in the buildings. This does not represent the cumulative costs of salaries, maintenance, utilities, insurance, etc. These expenses bring the total investment to approximately $11.5 million.  

 

Since then the value of the property has consistently depreciated and at present we carry it on our books at $4.5 million. This significant depreciation reflects both changes in the real estate market and a change in the zoning rules that cut the number of developable lots in half from the original projections.

 

What are the annual operating expenses?

In 2017, our net expenses were $165,401 after $21,474 in income. This includes all expenses for salary, benefits, maintenance, insurance and taxes. In the interest of reducing the net expenses, we are actively examining all contracts and relationships related to the property.

 

How is the property being used now?

The property is maintained and it is available and used for a variety of retreats. In 2017, twenty groups used the property. So far this year, 14 groups have used it. We currently have a draft policy before the Chancellor that would allow people from outside our diocese to make use of it. We believe this could significantly boost the income generated and thus help further offset the operating costs without any new program development. We will also actively promote the property for rentals inside the diocese until a decision is made on rentals outside the Diocese.

 

What about the future?

I have asked our Creation Theology Committee to develop a model that would allow for organic and sustainable agriculture as well as developing capacity to serve as a spiritual retreat center. To that end, we organized an Open House event on October 6, 2018 in the hopes of introducing as many of our members as possible to the property with the goal of getting your feedback and input in further developing their ideas.

 

 I recognize that the history of Wapiti is long and complex and like any complex issue, there are many different perspectives, which are sometimes accompanied by some strong feelings. But, we cannot continue to allow ourselves to be defined by the past. All things are being made new in Jesus Christ. We must look at Wapiti with fresh eyes to see how we might use it in our efforts to make Jesus known and to change the world in his name.

 

I sincerely hope you will consider coming down in October in order that you might look at it for the first time or the first time in a long time. Who knows what God might have in mind? Therefore, let us root our hope in Jesus Christ and move forward in our faith.

    

 

The Rt. Rev. Daniel G. P. Gutiérrez

XVI Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania