On November 4, 2021, the Diocese of Bethlehem presented its first-ever Virtual Ministry Fair. This new event was an online presentation by parishes searching for their next permanent clergy leader and attended by prospective candidates.
Each of the twelve parishes in search presented a virtual overview of their church that expanded on their parish profile. Members of these parishes spoke plainly and authentically about the opportunities their parishes offer, the challenges they face, and their hopes for their next Rector or Priest-in-Charge.
The live online event offered valuable insights for candidates as they discern a future call. The format enabled candidates to attend discretely in anticipation of submitting their names for consideration at one or more parish. Each presentation was recorded and presented on the diocesan website and YouTube channel for those who could not attend the event. Canon Steve Baker (Canon for Mission Resources and Chief Operating Officer of the diocese) said: “Adding a way for clergy leaders to hear directly from parishes in search beyond traditional search models was a primary goal of this Virtual Ministry Fair. I did not anticipate the rich expression of each parish’s passion for ministry that I witnessed that evening. It was inspiring.”
This event was part of a larger strategic envisioning by diocesan leadership. Parishes were invited to enter the search process at approximately the same moment to enable:
- parishes to recognize their commonalities in ministry
- candidates who might normally apply to only one parish at a time to instead consider applying for multiple positions
- parishes in search to envision shared ministry possibilities through parish partnerships
- newly ordained clergy to secure future ministry in the diocese
Bishop Kevin Nichols said afterwards: “I have gained a few new heroes this evening. I was so impressed by the caring and authentic way in which each congregation presented their hopes and opportunities for the future. The spirit of partnership and building the Beloved Community was ever-present. I am so excited about what God has in store for us!”
Feedback from lay leaders who presented on behalf of their parishes included:
- “I didn’t know we all had the same concerns. What if we shared a priest and alternated weekends with another parish?”
- “Our graphic designer who helped with our profile was so intrigued. I told her about the Episcopal Church. She didn’t know about us!”
- “I love my church…I was a nervous wreck! I so wanted to articulate who we are in a compelling way. I hope I did that.”
- “It was so interesting. I took copious notes. The challenges are all the same!”
- “Most of the challenges were the same for the parishes. By working together, we just might solve them.”
- “I thought the witness of the parishes was inspiring. All willing to move ahead in faith and hope despite the absence of clergy, loving and ministering to each other and their communities.”
Insights from prospective candidates included:
- “It was lovely to see faces and hear voices. The future is unevenly distributed.”
- “I loved it – very informative to hear people talking in addition to the written profile.”
- “It was done well…I was already interested in one parish, yet another one said some things that connected.”
- “Very interesting and innovative. I was really intrigued.”
Canon Melinda Artman (Northern Canon Missioner of the diocese) had this to say about the event: “It was a joy-filled evening of promise for what might come next. The evening really showcased the variety of parishes we have throughout the diocese and will serve as a model for other parishes when they begin a search process.”
The Virtual Ministry Fair recordings and Parish Profiles are available on the Diocese of Bethlehem website (https://diobeth.org/transition).
The Diocese of Bethlehem, located in the northeast corner of Pennsylvania, borders the Dioceses of Newark, Central New York, Central Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania. The city of Bethlehem is situated one hour from Philadelphia, two hours from New York City and three hours from Washington, D.C. Our 60 Parishes are a mix of rural, urban, and suburban parishes located near the Pennsylvania cities of Bethlehem, Allentown, Reading, Wilkes-Barre, and Scranton, as well as Elmira and Binghamton, New York. The diocese hopes to attract adaptive priests invigorated by ministry in an evolving church landscape.
The Diocese of Bethlehem recently launched a new regional model for ministry collaboration via Convocations. This new way of being church in the diocese emerged from a two-year envisioning process that has honed five new priorities for the next three to five years. Bishop Kevin’s Pentecost Dawns 2021 Pastoral Letter offers insight into this new model for ministry as we hope to “build something we cannot see or know” (https://diobeth.org/pentecost2021).
Please contact the Rev. Canon Melinda Artman (email@example.com) for more information.