Bishop’s Response to Convention Theme
“A Church in Renaissance/Revival”
For the past five years, guided by the Holy Spirit, succeeding Diocesan Conventions (from the 149th Diocesan Convention in 2017 to the present) have pursued a resolute and proactive approach to redress the mission and ministry trajectory of the diocese by approving a strategic plan. This approach was initiated by a desire to move toward a healthier and more sustainable diocese. Initiatives were approved and imperatives were worked on by numerous diocesan members, committees, commissions and boards to realize this objective. God’s Vision for the Diocese outlined in the Ten -Year Vision document, Parousia, and approved at the 151st Diocesan Convention in 2019 has become a major contributing factor. One of the defining points of reference in the last five years was the calling of our first Latino congregation, La Sagrada Familia de Jesus (Holy Family of Jesus), Shrewsbury Parish, Kennedyville. The diocese acknowledges the ministry of clergy and lay leaders serving under extreme ministry challenges to promote the mission of God across the diocese.
At the 152nd Diocesan Convention, in March 2020, the bishop reported that the 2019 Statistical Report from the Episcopal Church Center was shifting our narrative to a more optimistic story. It indicated that the Diocese of Easton had been able to staunch the decline in membership from years of uninterrupted percentage decline to zero (0%) for the year 2019. Meaning, that in 2019 the diocese neither grew nor lost membership.
Now, the Statistical Report for 2020 has been published. Using the first three months as its benchmark, plus a calculation matrix utilized in the year of COVID-19, the Diocese of Easton showed an 17.2% growth in attendance. Our diocese is one of four dioceses of the 110 dioceses in the Episcopal Church that has recorded a growth in attendance.
One media outlet, after lamenting the negative numbers from the majority of dioceses, went on to say, “A handful of bright spots were the Diocese of Easton (Maryland’s Eastern Shore) with 17.2% increase in attendance, New Hampshire up 2.3% (after reporting a sharp decline the previous year), the Tampa-based Diocese of Southwest Florida, up 3.7%, and the Diocese of Iowa up 21.7%” (Anglican Ink). The diocese is the only juridical entity in Province III to register in the positive light.
I am not predicting the 2021 report to show similar numbers; it is most likely that they may tell a different story. However, from where the diocese was over a decade ago, it is important we give thanks to God and express our gratitude to the power of prayer and the decision to turn the diocese over to be a Jesus centered church. Equally, we honor the hard and dedicated ministry of our competent and capable clergy and lay leadership. Particularly considering that this was achieved in the year when COVID 19 made its chaotic and debilitating march across the country and global community.
Every member of this community of faith must be commended for keeping the faith, believing in the ministry of your church, holding onto hope and being witnesses to the resurrection of the Diocese of Easton. The future lies in each of our hands. Jesus has shown the way; we shouldn’t have any other alternative but to follow our Lord to where his Spirit is leading his church on the Eastern Shore.
My beloved, in the meantime, we gather as a community of faith in this time and season to give God thanks for the nuggets of Grace the Diocese of Easton is experiencing in this ‘Renaissance Moment.’
With all my love and affection! God bless all of you!