December 17, 2015
In This Issue
Bishop Sean's Christmas Message
In his 2015 Christmas message, Bishop Sean says, "In this Christmas season, we become light to the world ... I invite you to be light, to experience light, and to bring it to a world that desperately needs to hear it."

Pilgrimage Blog: Advent Meditations
At diocesan convention in October, Bishop Sean called the people of the diocese to a pilgrimage beginning on Epiphany. During Advent, the Rev. Canon Anne E. Kitch has been publishing a daily post to the Pilgrimage Blog about preparing spiritually and practically for pilgrimage. Details about upcoming Pilgrimage Blog authors will be announced soon. Follow the blog on the diocesan website or look for daily posts on Facebook.
Trinity Institute 2016: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice
Trinity Institute 2016 is taking place January 21 - 23 in NYC and participating simulcast locations. TI2016 is called "Listen for a Change: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice" and reminds us that such conversations are not only sacred, they are almost always uncomfortable. Participants will include Nicholas Kristof, Anna Deavere Smith, Michelle Norris, and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Learn more and register.
2016 Forma Conference and Annual Meeting
This year's Forma conference will take place January 27 - 29 in Philadelphia, PA. Conference speakers include Bishop Andy Doyle, Broderick Greer, Jerusalem Jackson Greer, and Bronwyn Clark Skov. Learn more and register.
2016 Assessment and Acceptance Form Due December 23
The Notice of 2016 Assessment and Acceptance was recently mailed to all parishes. The 2016 Assessment and Acceptance numbers, along with the 2016 Diocesan Budget, were first publicized in October for the Diocesan Convention. Those documents can be found on the website.

Please complete the 2016 Acceptance form and return it to Cynthia Bakos at Diocesan House by December 23.
2015 Parochial Reports Due March 1
2015 Parochial Reports have been mailed to each parish and should be completed and approved by vestries by March 1, 2016. If you have not received your reminder with account and password, or have any questions about completing this annual report, pleased call the Diocesan House or review the parochial report webpage for instructions.
Clergy Housing Resolution
As church committees finalize 2016 budgets, don't forget to include the clergy housing/parsonage resolution as part of that process. The resolution is an IRS requirement, providing a reduced federal income tax liability for your clergyperson. 

In the state of Pennsylvania, a cash housing allowance is subject to state income tax but the value of a parsonage is not. Also in the state of Pennsylvania, neither the cash housing allowance nor the value of a parsonage is subject to local income tax.

If you are not familiar with these resolutions, you can access samples provided in the 2015 Tax Guide on the CPG website, page 16.
Safeguarding God's Children 
All clergy and lay people who work with children are required to complete the Safeguarding God's Children training program offered by the Church Pension Group. Those who need to receive this training may register by following a link at the bottom of the Safe Church page on the diocesan website, where you can also find diocesan policies and a field guide to their application.
A Message from the Stewardship Missioner
As stewardship committees complete this year's campaigns, they are encouraged to thank those who made a contribution. Parishes might also consider writing a complete report of the results of the campaign so the congregation is informed.

Although financial stewardship is needed to carry out the missions of the parish, a more important part of stewardship is developing an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, and discovering the will of God for you. How can I become a better disciple of Christ?  What gifts have I been given that can be used to make a difference in people's lives? How can I become a better servant for the Lord?

To help answer these questions, explore the stewardship pages on the website. The stewardship committee offers 52 short reflections based on the Sunday lectionary readings that are appropriate for bulletins and newsletters. Year C reflections are now available. You may also find helpful resources at ECF Vital Practices and The Episcopal Network for Stewardship.

If you have questions about stewardship, please contact Dan Charney.
 2016 United Thank Offering Grants
The 2016 United Thank Offering Grants session will focus on the Fifth Mark of Mission, to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth. The grant criteria are available here. Application details will be posted in early January and will be due March 4, 2016. Applications must be submitted through the diocese, and require the bishop's approval.
People of Bethlehem
Sara Klingner and Tony Brooks

On Sunday, December 13, Sara Klingner was commissioned as verger of Trinity Episcopal Church in Bethlehem. Sara recently completed nine months of study with the Vergers' Guild. Anthony T.P. Brooks, the verger from St. Stephen's Pro-Cathedral in Wilkes-Barre, represented the Guild at the service.

Photo by Evans C. Goodling

St. Thomas in Morganstown celebrated its 275th anniversary on Sunday, December 6. Read the story in the Berks-Mont News.

Resources and Reminders
Christmas Choral Concert
Prince of Peace Episcopal Church in Dallas invites you to an evening of Christmas choral music on Saturday, December 19 beginning at 7 PM. A group of musicians from the area will be performing a variety of Christmas music under the direction of Jennifer Hunter. Learn more.
2016 Episcopal Church Foundation Webinars
Early in 2016, Episcopal Church Foundation will offer free webinars on vestry leadership, planned giving, and investment strategies. Learn more and register online.
Forgiven, Healed, Renewed: A Recovery Retreat
January 15 - 17 | Claggett Center | Sponsored by the Dioceses of Easton and Maryland
This retreat is open to all people in recovery, whether through 12-Step programs or other formats. Whether you are recovering from alcoholism, drugs, compulsive eating or gambling, sexual compulsion, or the impact of another's addiction, you are welcome here.  Learn more and register online.
ECF Vital Practices

Looking for leadership resources? ECF Vital Practices from the Episcopal Church Foundation offers online articles, discussions, and tools. Browse the Vestry Papers archive.

The Diocese of Bethlehem newSpin Blog
newSpin is Bill Lewellis' eclectic sampling of religion news from around the Episcopal Church and beyond.  Read the December 10 issue.
Prayers of the People and Jubilate Online
The Rev. Canon Cliff Carr, priest associate at Trinity Episcopal Church in Bethlehem, writes Prayers of the People for each week and prepares a list of hymn selections by season. Find those resources on the new Trinity Bethlehem website.
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