June 24, 2020
Genesee Deanery Initiative: "These Places Are Critical"
The Genesee Deanery of the Diocese of Western New York is made up of small towns and small churches that are struggling to survive. Only one of the nine churches in the three-county region between Buffalo and Rochester has an average Sunday attendance of more than 40. Five have an average attendance of 15 or below. But in this collection of rural communities and former canal towns, an experiment is underway that could suggest a path forward for small churches and rural communities across the Episcopal Church.

The Genesee Deanery initiative was first conceived by the Rev. Colleen O’Connor, who, until the end of last year, had been the part-time priest at both St. Mark’s Church in LeRoy and St. Paul’s Church in Stafford. It imagines a deanery team of two or three priests and a deacon who would rotate among six of the eight parishes in the deanery that do not have full-time clergy. The plan would make it possible for all six to celebrate a Eucharist or communion service at least three times each month, in addition to having a steady pastoral presence, and a priest available for emergencies.

“My goal is that these parishes would also participate in congregational development projects, and that the lay leadership can think about how to reach out to the community, about who they are and who God is calling them to be,” O’Connor says. “If survival is not an issue, how do we spread the gospel to our communities? We are not going for megachurches, but to have a vibrant healthy church active in our communities.”

The participating parishes are Christ Church, Albion; St. Luke’s, Attica; St. Paul’s, Holley; St. Mark’s, LeRoy; Holy Apostles, Perry and St. Paul’s, Stafford.

Of the three remaining churches, St. James, Batavia, by far the largest church in the deanery, has a full-time rector. It has committed to collaborating with other parishes, but is still considering how fully it will participate.

“I am excited about this plan because it takes into account the culture of the region and the character and charisms of each of the individual congregations,” says Bishop Sean Rowe. “It allows people to collaborate in a way that really brings a balance to lay and clergy leadership.”

Sacred Ground Conversations Coming Soon
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry introduces Sacred Ground
Leaders of the Diocese of Western New York's Commission to Dismantle Racism and Discrimination and the diocesan Mission Strategy Advisory Group have agreed to co-sponsor the Episcopal Church's Sacred Ground program across the partnership dioceses beginning later this summer.

Sacred Ground, a dialogue series about race, is grounded in faith and includes readings, documentary film and short videos. "Small groups are invited to walk through chapters of America’s history of race and racism, while weaving in threads of family story, economic class, and political and regional identity," reads the Episcopal Church's Sacred Ground webpage .

The Sacred Ground program was launched last year by Becoming Beloved Community , the Episcopal Church’s long-term initiative on racial healing, reconciliation, and justice. Created by Katrina Browne, producer and director of the documentary " Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North ," Sacred Ground is especially intended to help white people talk with each other about racism past and present, their own racial identity, and issues of class, region and ideology.

Learn more about Sacred Ground on the Episcopal Church website, and look for registration details coming in early July.
Digital Summer Camp on Wednesdays in July
Diocesan camps are canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but Wendy Schumacher, missioner for youth and children, has collaborate d with t he Rev. Matthew Scott and the Rev. Elizabeth Yale to create a digital camp for children and youth from rising third graders through graduated seniors. Camp programs will be held online on the five Wednesdays in July:

July 1: Introductions and games
July 8: bible art, sing along, and game
July 15: yoga and a visit with Bishop Sean
July 22: arts and crafts, Taize worship
July 29: talent and variety show, compline

The theme is unity, and 1 Corinthians 1:10 is the guiding Bible verse.

Complete an online form to receive additional details and ensure that your camp package is delivered to the right house.

Building Reopening Guidelines Released
In introducing reopening guidelines released last week, Bishop Sean writes:

Dear People of God in Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania:

In mid-March, when we suspended in-person worship, none of us could have imagined the ways the world was about to change or what would be required of us in response. Throughout these long months, you have been resilient, flexible and collaborative as we have gathered for online worship, raised more than $21,000 to feed first responders and people in need, rallied to stand against racial injustice, and begun to discern the mission to which our church might be called in a post-pandemic world.

The pandemic will not be over for some time, but places of business and other public gathering places have begun to reopen in both Pennsylvania and New York. The public health standards in both states now permit, in most places, small in-person gatherings for worship. In response, we have developed, in consultation with the clergy of the diocese and the mission strategy advisory group, these guidelines for reopening church buildings. We are grateful to the Dioceses of Indianapolis and Chicago for sharing their plans, which have informed our thinking and helped shape our response.

As you will read in this document, although returning to in-person worship is permissible beginning July 5, I do not recommend that most congregations do so. Reopening our buildings for worship can present a significant risk, particularly to clergy and laypeople aged 65 and older and to those with underlying health conditions. It will require extensive work and possible expense to comply with the cleaning and disinfecting protocols outlined in this document. You have my full support if you judge that continuing to worship online is the best choice for your congregation, and I will continue to host Sunday online worship with leaders from across the diocese for the foreseeable future.

Presiding Bishop Curry: Help Pass the Dream Act
On Friday, Presiding Bishop Curry asked Episcopalians to support the Dream Act :

"At this time, the Dream Act is pending before the Congress of the United States,” he said. “I’m asking you as Episcopalians, as people of good will and faith, to write and call members of Congress who represent you to support this Dream Act.

"For more than a decade, The Episcopal Church has called for a pathway to citizenship for immigrant young people. As the U.S. and other countries are continuing to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, so many are being called to work on the front lines, including Dreamers. It is more critical than ever for Congress to pass legislation to protect this vulnerable group working and living in the U.S. and to allow these members of our communities, many with U.S. citizen children and family members, to remain in the country without fear of deportation.

“As the prophet said in the Hebrew scriptures, ‘What does the lord require of you but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.’ The Dream Act can actually help us to do that in our time.”

Respond to Bishop Curry’s call to action by  writing Congress through the Episcopal Public Policy Network ’s action alert system.
Sexual Misconduct Survey Deadline July 1
In a June 8 letter to Episcopalians, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings invited everyone in the Episcopal Church to participate in an online survey about sexual misconduct in the denomination. The survey is designed to assess patterns of church-based harassment and abuse and the effect that it has on victims.  The results of the survey will be presented in a report by the Task Force for Women, Truth, and Reconciliation to the 80th General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

Around the Partnership
On June 15, St. Luke's, Jamestown received 1,000 pounds of produce as part of a federal grant that pays local wholesalers to provide free food to non-profits.

“This program was put together to make sure that distributors could buy produce from farmers so as to make sure that the produce was not thrown away,” the Rev. Luke Fodor of St. Luke's said. “We’ve seen throughout this pandemic the farmers that have had to waste so much of their cattle or milk being dumped. … At that moment, the government intervened to say, we need to, pardon the pun, save the farmers’ bacon.”

Cabin Rentals at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center
Beginning June 26, Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center (LCLC) in Bemus Point, NY is renting its rustic camper cabins to individuals and families. While operating safely within the NY Forward guidelines, cabin camping at LCLC offers a safe and peaceful way to enjoy LCLC in a new way. Camper cabins offer the "car camping" enthusiast a solid shelter along with self-contained toilet and shower facilities, so you don't have to worry about tents and outhouses.  Download a flyer with complete details.

Email LCLC or call 716.386.4125 with any questions, or to reserve a cabin.
The Rev. Ann Tillman Preaches Online
While our buildings are closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Bishop Sean and other leaders from across the partnership dioceses are leading worship at 10 a.m. on Sundays via the Zoom platform.

This past Sunday, the Rev. Ann Tillman of St. Matthias', East Aurora preached at the partnership's online worship service.   Watch the service on YouTube .

Sunday services can be accessed by using this link:   https://zoom.us/j/127336938?pwd=cm8zUWh0Y2loTjYyKy91YURsTVBCQT0 . If you are asked for a password, use  lakeerie . To join by phone instead of video, dial 646-876-9923 and use code 127336938#.

On weekdays, a group of lay and clergy leaders is leading noonday prayer online. Find the weekday services on the partnership   Facebook page.
Employment Opportunities
St. Paul's, Buffalo: Part-Time Sexton
St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral   in Buffalo seeks a part-time sexton to work with another part-time sexton to keep the campus clean and orderly. The part-time sexton will be responsible for general handiwork and basic maintenance.   Learn more and view a complete job description .
Audits Reports Deadlines
Audit reports are due in Northwestern Pennsylvania by September 15 and in Western New York by October 1. View audit information and guidelines on the website .

Contact Maria Manocchio or Cindy Dougan with questions or concerns, especially any related to audit processes that may have been affected by the pandemic.
Diocesan Convention to Take Place Online
In consultation with the chancellors of both dioceses, Bishop Sean has determined that the annual conventions of both dioceses will be held online this year so that we can continue to protect the most vulnerable people in our communities from the risk of COVID-19.

Bishop Sean will meet with the diocesan councils and standing committees of both dioceses later this summer to discuss the details of holding convention online. Watch future issues of the newsletter for more details, and continue to hold the dates of November 6 and 7 for online convention meetings and activities.
WNY 2021 Clergy Compensation Guidelines Available
The 2021 Clergy Compensation Guidelines for Western New York are now available.
Northwestern Pennsylvania's guidelines will be reviewed at diocesan convention this fall.
Make Gifts and Pledges to Congregations Online
Although church buildings are closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the work of congregations continues, and the need for pledge income and gifts is urgent. The bishop's office is maintaining an online giving platform that accepts  gifts and pledge payments for any congregation

While in-person church services are suspended, the partnership dioceses will absorb payment processing fees so that your entire gift will go to your congregation for local mission.

Printable Bulletin for Home Worship
The Rev. Claudia Scheda and the Rev. Steve Lane have prepared simple worship service bulletins that can be printed and distributed to people without access to the internet. 

Stay Up-to-Date
To get updates from Bishop Sean and news about the partnership and our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, please encourage members of your congregation to subscribe  to this newsletter and follow the partnership   Facebook page where all new updates, stories and photos will be posted. The individual WNY and NWPA Facebook pages will continue to exist but won't be updated, so stay up-to-date with all the diocesan news, events and postings by liking   The Episcopal Dioceses of Western New York & Northwestern Pennsylvania

Updates are also available  on the partnership website.
Summer Publication Schedule
From Wednesday, July 8 through Wednesday, August 19, we will publish one email newsletter every other week. Look for summer newsletters on July 8, July 22, August 5 and August 19. 
Please send news about your congregation's ministry, mission and events to communications@episcopalpartnership.org . To contribute photos, stories, or event announcements to the newsletter, please see our  submission guidelines .
The regular publication schedule will resume on September 2.