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  • Greetings,

    Welcome to the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea, a community of people from all walks of life discovering the joy of knowing and following Jesus Christ. We gather on Sundays to hear the sacred stories of God’s love and to be spiritually nourished in sharing Holy Communion. Then, inspired by our fellowship, we strive to make God's love a living reality in our lives every day. At Bethesda, Sunday is the high point of the week. So, look around our web site. Then come and join us on a Sunday morning soon.

    Peace, The Rev. James Harlan, Rector

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  • Every Sunday is where the life begins at Bethesda. We celebrate the Holy Eucharist with glorious liturgy and music. We also celebrate Holy Eucharist during the week and offer a healing service on Wednesdays. All baptized Christians are invited to participate in the Holy Eucharist when visiting Bethesda-by-the-Sea. It is not necessary to be a member of the Episcopal Church in order to receive Holy Communion. Persons who have not been baptized are welcome to come to the altar rail and kneel to receive a blessing. Cross your arms on your chest as a sign that you will not receive Communion. Click here for our service schedule.

     

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  • FROM I-95

    Take the Okeechobee Blvd East exit (70). Travel East on Okeechobee Blvd to the Intracoastal Waterway. Cross over the Intracoastal Waterway, and continue going East to the second light (South County Road). Turn North (left) onto South County Road, and travel 1/2 mile. The church will be on the Right.

    PARKING

    Click here and scroll to Directions and Parking Information.

  • Having the faith of a child

    Children and youth bring such wonderful life and energy to our community. Bethesda offers a warm welcome to every child, whether parents prefer to bring their children into the worship service, or put them in the special children's worship (when available), or let them enjoy the nursery. We strive to create a place where even our littlest members know that God loves them, where all of us can grow in our faith, and where parents can find their own sense of peace and support.

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  • God is Love

    Our worship is formal, intimate, transcendent, reflective, fun, and inspiring. As we celebrate our life together, we focus on God's love for each and every person and encourage one another to seek that loving presence of God. We have communion as an integral part of every service where we share together in a simple meal of bread and wine. While our worship may not be entirely familiar, we encourage everyone to join in as they are comfortable. Read more here.

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  • WE LOOK FORWARD
    TO MEETING YOU...

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Sunday mornings at Bethesda

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Sunday mornings at Bethesda

I hope you’ve heard by now of the exciting plans we are putting in place for Sunday mornings at Bethesda. You received a letter from me several weeks ago that described some of the elements of our plans, and in this note, we will look at the rest of Sunday morning. If you did not receive my previous letter, please get in touch, and we will send it to you right away, either by mail or email; you can also find it on our website (under Resources/Publications/Bethesda Parish Letters). If you know of someone else who needs to read these, please share your copy or encourage them to call the church office. We also have provided more detail about various aspects of Sunday mornings in the weekly E-mail Newsletters, beginning July 20th. Those email newsletters are also available on the website (under Resources/E-newsletter/). If you have not read those, please do so, as they have more insight and detail than can be put in this letter.

Fellowship
The single greatest desire expressed in our Sunday Morning Conversations in the spring was to have more opportunity for fellowship, more time to get to know one another, and build a greater sense of community. We are addressing this in several exciting ways. First, we are installing a moveable wall in the Parish Hall that will divide the space into two, discrete areas and enable us to have a dedicated space on the west side of that room for fellowship and the east side of the room for the adult forum, thus allowing both fellowship and formation to happen at the same time. While all of us benefit from ongoing Christian formation, this will eliminate the disruption to the adult forum and enable those who wish simply to enjoy fellowship to do so. We ask your patience until the installation of the moveable wall is complete in late October.  

And for great fellowship, for convenience, or for those who just struggle to get going on time on Sunday morning, we will serve a wonderful hot breakfast from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. with varying menus to include eggs, bacon, waffles, and a variety of other tasty dishes. While we will charge $5/person for breakfast, the cost per head is actually higher, and we would appreciate those who can give more to do so and help offset the cost.

9:00 a.m. Worship
Rather than being a “mini-11:00 a.m.” service, this service will now have a distinct liturgy and spirit. Our desire is that this service provide newer and younger Episcopalians the opportunity to learn our traditions, our music, and our sacraments. To be clear, this will not so much be a children’s service as it will be an adult service designed in a way that will help people—young and less-young alike—learn how we worship. Rather than printing a booklet with the service in it, we will open the prayer book and the hymnal and use them. Our younger members will learn how to be acolytes and lay readers, and our Middle Way program for young people, ably led by Children and Youth Ministries Coordinator Jessica Hitchcock, will focus on this content as well. Since we will not have a choir, we will all share the gift of singing together joyfully and gaining familiarity with new hymns, singing them for multiple Sundays. The brief sermons will focus on the scriptures in a way that gets at the “how” and “why” of our faith. We have designed a traditional liturgy for this service from The Book of Common Prayer and The Hymnal 1982 that will draw all of us deeper in our sacramental life, and we have designed it in a way that the service will last 45 minutes so that we have ample time for Christian education following the service. For this approach to be effective, we need our long-time 9:00 a.m. attenders to come ready to worship and to pray and to be open to helping share the joy of Episcopal worship with those newer to our community, whether aged 8 or 58. So come join us!

Christian Formation
This shorter 9:00 a.m. service enables us to have a more substantial time for Christian education for all ages. We will continue to offer our regular adult forum in the Parish Hall East, engaging a variety of topics with a variety of people leading the discussions. The Sunday School will offer an exciting and creative approach this year with classrooms divided by activities rather than by ages. Greg Knight, our Director of Children and Youth Ministries, has a dedicated and enthusiastic group of volunteers ready to help our children and youth learn and grow throughout the year, and we all need to lead by example by tending to our own spiritual growth by attending both worship and education regularly.

Clergy Responsibilities
With a clear desire to have a greater clergy presence throughout our Sunday mornings, we will assign one of the clergy each Sunday to be the Hosting Priest. The Hosting Priest will not attend the 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. services but will, instead, serve as host in the Parish Hall for the entire breakfast and adult forum to welcome people and to convene the forum. This priest will also ensure that the forum concludes on time and will help people make their way to the 11:00 a.m. service. Once those duties are finished, the Hosting Priest will vest and join the 11:00 a.m. service after it has begun to assist with communion as necessary. Following communion, the priest with these duties will leave the service early and return to the Parish Hall to welcome people to fellowship as they leave that service.

In order to preserve some sacredness of time, the Preacher for each Sunday will be present at all three services and not have responsibilities in the Parish Hall between services.

When we have other clergy (as we will many Sundays), they will share in presiding at various services, greeting people following the service, and other responsibilities.

Come one, come all!

After months of prayerful listening, thinking, and modeling, we have implemented these exciting changes to Sunday mornings because they address the longings parishioners expressed for our Sunday mornings at Bethesda. Please bear in mind that we do not expect everything to go perfectly right off the bat; rather, we are giving ourselves and one another the space to try, to hear feedback, to learn, and to adjust as we go. I ask each of us to think about our own longings and how best to draw closer to God on Sundays at Bethesda. It may be time to try out the adult forum, for example, or to stay for breakfast following the 8:00 a.m. service, or to take on some other new involvement. I ask each of us to be open to the fresh and exciting ways our new Sunday mornings will lead us into God’s presence and to join us on September 24 or whenever you’re back in town. We can’t wait!

Peace,
Father James+

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