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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

  • 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.


  • 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.


    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.



  • 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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Sunday Conversations: The Results

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Sunday Conversations: The Results

The Results

July 20, 2017

Get ready folks, we are on the brink of a new season! Not just a new season this calendar year, but a new season at Bethesda. We are embarking on a new approach to the core of our community life: Sunday mornings.

As you may recall, we held a series of Sunday Morning Conversations this past spring as a result of our strategic planning and of feedback from other parish gatherings over the past several years. It became clear that we share several longings for our Sunday morning together, though we did not see the same clarity regarding how best to address those longings. The principal longings expressed throughout this process are:

1. Greater opportunity on Sunday morning for fellowship (with good food). People want to get to know each other better. 

Following that...
2. More time for Christian education, Bible study, spiritual discussion, testimonials.
3. Need to attract more younger members, get their participation in the service.
4. More personal connection with the clergy. Clergy need to be available during fellowship time.
5. A desire for a less congested timetable.
6. Shorter services.

We considered different schedules, types of content, and approaches to our various liturgies. In the end, we felt it too big a change to modify the basic schedule; so we will continue with our three-service Sunday morning beginning in September as we have in the past.

HOWEVER, that does not mean that we will not see a different Sunday morning. Oh no. We are significantly re-working our plans for fellowship and food, the scheduling of our clergy, the Education hour, and the 9:00 a.m. service to address as faithfully as we can those longings. We also intend to make smaller adjustments to other aspects of our Sunday offerings as well.

In the coming weeks, we will present various aspects of our new Sunday mornings in this weekly e-mail. We will also send a parish letter in the first part of August that will detail this as well. We want everyone to look forward with excitement and readiness to the fresh start we will experience when we begin this season in September. We as human beings and as children of God are always growing in our faith, and our parish life must also grow and evolve along with us and the world around us. This work, faithfully led by Vestry member Barbara Callahan and a diverse team of parishioners and staff, will enable just that: our growth and vibrant life as Christians, full of the joy of loving and serving our Lord.

Father James+ 


8:00 a.m. Service

July 27, 2017

I am excited about our new Sunday mornings at Bethesda. Our conversations last spring shaped this plan far more than did the preferences or predictions of me or the staff or of the committee leading the process. Over the next eight weeks, as we prepare to discover together the fresh and exciting ways that our Sunday mornings will lead us more deeply into the presence of God, we will provide a glimpse of various components of the program and reflect on how our new plans will address the challenges and longings we discussed last spring.

Today, we are looking at the 8:00 a.m. service. Yes, there will continue to be a service at 8:00 a.m. each Sunday. It will continue to look pretty much just like it has as long as anyone can remember. We use a liturgy called Rite I in The Book of Common Prayer that includes older, Elizabethan language forms (lots of "thee's" and "thou's" and so forth)--a liturgy that is some of the most beautiful, poetic English ever composed. This language is not always easily understood, but it evokes more than it instructs, and at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, that's probably okay.

This service must end by 8:45 a.m. because we have to get ready for another service at 9:00 a.m., and most Sundays, we do, in fact, end by then. One of the most noticeable changes at this service will be that we will not give announcements after the Peace. We will say a welcome and point out announcements printed in the leaflet. At this and the other services, we will be collecting questions about our Anglican/Episcopal tradition and will be briefly answering one each week.

The other most visible change to this service is that all the clergy will not be present. Again, this will be true at the 9:00 a.m. service as well, as we will be asking one of our clergy to focus on being a presence in the fellowship time and the Education Hour. We will be offering a more complete fellowship time following this service as well, but I'm going to let Fred Staley tell us about that another week.

Until next week then, let's begin to pray for open and excited hearts and minds for our new Sunday mornings at Bethesda. Let us pray that we will see, through this wonderful mix of old/familiar with new/fresh, all the ways that God will, indeed, lead us into his presence.

Father James+ 


9:00 a.m. Service

August 3, 2017

As you've seen over the past couple of weeks, we have started communicating our new plans arising from our Sunday Morning Conversations this past Spring. One of the areas that we really wanted to take a look at was the 9:00 a.m. worship service.

From our conversations, we decided that the 9:00 a.m. service could no longer be defined by just being a "lighter" version of the 11:00 a.m. service. It needs to have its own identity and purpose. With that in mind we decided to focus on this desire to pass down our Episcopal worship traditions, not just to young people but also those who are new in the faith and not always familiar with Episcopal worship customs. That made the purpose of this service very clear. The 9:00 a.m. service needs to be a learning space that encourages Bethesda members and guests of all ages to explore our tradition and participate in service leadership.

Beginning with the switch to our three-service schedule in September, we will unveil a new take on what happens at 9:00 a.m. at Bethesda. First, children of all ages will participate in worship with the entire community. We will no longer offer a separate worship experience for children on the Sunday School hall during the Liturgy of the Word. In fact, we will have a reserved area just for children and youth in the front pews. Also, we will encourage children and youth to serve as acolytes, lectors, and Eucharistic ministers for this service.

Second, the homily for this service will emphasize learning. The rotating group of preachers will focus more on the questions of "how" and "why" from our lectionary readings as well as engaging those things that you've always wondered about Episcopal worship at Bethesda but may have been too afraid to ask. This doesn't mean you should expect a children's sermon every week, but you should expect a teaching sermon every week.

Finally, the service itself is going to be streamlined with fewer readings and hymns. The goal being that the service ends by 9:45 a.m. each week in order to allow for a full hour of Christian education following worship.

With all of these changes come new educational tools that we'll be able to offer families with children, middle and high school youth, and even new adult members at Bethesda. You'll be learning more about those educational offerings and how they fit into the 9:00 a.m. worship service soon. In the meantime if you are looking to learn more about our traditions, or you just have a spirit of curiosity, we hope you will come check out our 9:00 a.m. worship service this Fall at Bethesda.

Greg Knight, Director of Children and Youth Ministries


Middle Way Liturgy Group

August 10, 2017

Did you know that the Middle Way for our younger parishioners will help them learn and experience our wonderful Anglican tradition?

Beginning on September 20, we will now offer a Liturgy Group for our littlest parishioners at the Middle Way on Wednesdays. As we move through the Church seasons, we'll lead our children to His presence. Children in kindergarten through 5th grade will be the new up-and-coming leaders at our 9:00 a.m. service. In addition to the church year, parts of the church, the saints, our hymnal and prayer book, they will also learn how to serve as an acolyte, reader, usher, and more! The year's creative curriculum follows our seasons, feast days, and special services to give our young ones an in-depth connection to worship. We hope to see your children attend and become a part of our new 9:00 a.m. worship service.

Jessica Hitchcock, Children and Youth Ministries Coordinator


Breakfast on Sundays

August 17, 2017


One of my favorite commercials on TV is the one for the dog treats called Beggin Strips. The human offers the dog a treat and the dog thinks it is bacon, evidenced by the narrator voicing the dog's thoughts which consist of the word bacon over and over. I thought of this commercial every time I saw the results of our conversations about Sunday morning. The number one result, in a landslide was more fellowship and better food. On Sunday mornings, that can only mean bacon, so bacon is coming to Sunday mornings!

First, I want to talk about how Fellowship will happen on Sunday mornings starting September 17. Aided by our new movable wall in the Parish Hall (prayers that it is finished by the 17th), the west side of the hall will be for fellowship all morning. Adult forum will be in the east side. We will set up a full breakfast, with a rotating menu, starting at 8:30 a.m. If your practice is, or will become, attending the 9:00 a.m. service, come early and have breakfast. If your practice is to attend the 8:00 a.m. service, come have breakfast after service and then stay for Adult Forum and Sunday School. We will keep the full breakfast up, replenishing it until 9:30 a.m. If you are a late service person, come have breakfast and then attend Adult forum or Sunday School and then the 11:00 a.m. service. If you can't drag yourself here before 9:30 a.m., a simpler fare, Fellowship Finger Foods, will be available in the Parish Hall West until 1:00 p.m.

We all know, bacon isn't cheap. The food and the extra staffing needed to make this happen is going to cost Bethesda about $14 a person. The Vestry has approved offsetting a majority of the cost through December by using some of the surplus from last years' budget. We will charge $5 per person for the full breakfast. For this to continue into the new year it will have to be budgeted. So, we would welcome gifts above and beyond the $5 per person or increases in gifts to the annual campaign so this can continue.

BONUS! The clergy will change their routine on Sunday mornings so that one clergy each week will be available for fellowship. Starting at 8:30 a.m., one of the clergy, on a rotating basis, will be in the fellowship area. The hosting clergy will stay for fellowship with the parish until time to convene the adult forum and will return to fellowship before the end of the 11:00 a.m. service. If you have always wanted to ask one of our clergy a deeply significant question, such as do they like their bacon soft or crispy, you will have your chance.

Fred Staley, Associate for Administration


Education Hour

August 24, 2017

One of the consistent themes of comments from our listening sessions in the spring was that the Bethesda community longed for more opportunity for Christian formation, which was music to my ears, because lifelong education is at the center of our faith as Christians and especially Episcopalians.  We cannot grow unless we learn about our personal faith and about our Christian faith in the context of others. With scripture, tradition, and reason as the three-legged stool of Anglicanism, the shortening of any one leg compromises the balance of the other two, and our faith stagnates instead of grows.

In the model of Sunday mornings, we begin on September 17, we have created a space for adult Christian formation that enjoys a full hour.  In this new structure, one of the Bethesda clergy will serve as hosting priest each Sunday, welcoming people to breakfast beginning at 8:30 a.m. and remaining in the Parish Hall to extend hospitality throughout the morning.  As hosting priest, that clergy person—who will not have been in the 9:00 a.m. service and will arrive into the 11:00 a.m. service after it begins—will also convene the adult forum at 9:50 a.m. and ensure its conclusion at 10:50 a.m., thus dedicating an hour for more depth of discovery as we grow toward more a mature faith and richer spirituality. With these adaptations to our schedule, not only does it ensure a fuller time for Christian formation without encroachment by a 9:00 a.m. service that gets out late or a priest who has to tie things up quickly at the end of a session and rush to the 11:00 a.m. service, it also allows for the rotation of parish clergy to spend unhurried time as hosting priest during breakfast and without liturgical pressures as convener of the adult forum. 

After much prayer and a concentrated effort on the part of many people, we are excited about the possibilities the new Sunday morning schedule affords.  This fall our adult forum offerings include conversations about the church's role in the public square, the incredible depth of Celtic spirituality, the liberating beauty of the enneagram, the gospel-bound journeys of generosity, maintaining mental health amidst the pressures of the holiday season, and visits from friends and guests of the parish including Bro. Mark Brown SSJE, The Rev. Canon Scott Gunn of Forward Movement, The Rev. James Reho of Lamb of God Lutheran/Episcopal Adventure, and Joey Schewee of Life in the Trinity Ministry. The catalogue will have a full listing of Sunday morning offerings and will be updated as any changes occur.

We are excited about the opportunities for Christian formation the new Sunday morning schedule affords and look forward to a rich year ahead together.

Father Burl+


Clergy Responsibilities

August 31, 2017

Where are the clergy? 

How often I hear this question, especially on Sunday mornings, or about Sunday mornings. It sometimes seems as if we clergy need the ability to be in several locations at once: leading the liturgy, preaching an inspiring sermon, greeting those coming in and out of the service, teaching a class, responding to a pastoral need, and enjoying the fellowship, all while being quiet, reflective, and prayerful. We all know that the clergy cannot be everywhere at once, but the desire to see more clergy presence is well-founded and worthy of consideration. It was, you may recall, one of the most articulated longings from our Sunday morning conversations last spring. 

As we move into our new vision for Sunday mornings, we are going to deploy the clergy in some new and different ways to increase a clergy presence in more places. While we have three full-time priests plus two non-stipendiary deacons, along with occasional assistance from retired clergy who attend, we will now ensure that at the least, we fill two important clergy roles each Sunday.

The Preacher

The Preacher will preach at the 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. services and preside at one or more of the three services. This priest will likely not greet people before services but will greet folks afterwards. In an effort to preserve some sacred time in the midst of the hectic schedule of a Sunday morning, the Preacher will be scarce between services and most often absent from the adult forum and the hospitality offered in the Parish Hall until after the 11:00 a.m. service.

The Hosting Priest

The Hosting Priest will focus on fellowship and education. The clergy in this role will be in the Parish Hall from before the beginning of breakfast at 8:30 a.m. through the adult forum. The clergy in this role will be will be responsible for convening the forum (though not necessarily leading it) and for moving everyone on to the 11:00 a.m. service at its conclusion. Entering the 11:00 a.m. service after it has begun, this priest will assist in distributing communion as needed, departing shortly thereafter and returning to the Parish Hall for hospitality after the service, thus assuring that a priest is always present during fellowship time, as well as during the adult forum.

Other clergy will serve in various ways each Sunday. For example, if not the Preacher or Hosting Priest, clergy might preach at the 9:00 a.m. service, lead the Adult Forum, preside at one or more of the services, offer prayers for healing, assist with communion, greet people before or after services, or serve in other ways. On special Sundays, such as All Saints and Holy Week, this will work differently, of course, as we will not have the same offerings of fellowship or education on some of those occasions.

Please bear in mind that we are trying something new in an effort to respond to the thoughtful feedback we received. As we do so, we intend to continue to listen and learn and therefore to make adjustments as we go along.

Your Bethesda clergy look forward to being more available on Sunday mornings, an opportunity afforded by this restructuring, so join us for hospitality, for fellowship, and for rich offerings for spiritual formation at Bethesda-by-the-Sea this year. We can't wait to see you!

Father James+