Monday, August 18, 2008

Visit to St. A's

In response to Kirkepiscatoid's comment from yesterday, I'll tell you about my visit to St. A's sooner rather than later.

In a couple of words, very nice. I knew it would be.

Where I live, there are three Episcopal churches. Each is in a discrete area of the city, each serves a discrete population although certainly all are welcome at any of them. The church that we are in the process of leaving is the original Episcopal church in the area, jokingly called the "Mother Church." The lovely building, originally constructed in 1887, is Dakota sandstone and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It historically has been the stereotypical "frozen chosen" church of the monied conservatives as well as those whose families went back in the church to the time of Dakota homesteading (which is an indication of prominence around here). When we first moved to the area in 2002, it had a very dynamic, highly educated rector with whom both T and I immediately felt a personal connection. The church was in the process of revamping the children's education program which turned out to be very successful (until the event mentioned below), it provided the space for the area's EfM program, provided a regular service of Holy Eucharist to a local retirement home, and other things. But, the rector wanted to make more changes and thus developed a tension between the monied and homesteader folks who saw the church as a "country club" (which I wrote in a letter to a priest associate in 2003) and newer members who were more progressive. Also, the rector developed some complications in his personal life which his enemies (those who are change agents always have enemies) jumped upon, which ultimately led to his forced early retirement in 2006. This in my opinion irrevocably damaged this church--the rector had planned to retire anyway in 2007, but the way it was done was the issue. Many of the newer, more progressive folks left (either TEC entirely or for St. A's), and the few that were and are left find it difficult to revive the lassitude found there now.

St A's, on the west side of town (12 minutes from my house up the canyon) is a 50 year old parish that was a church plant from the mother church. It has a more contemporary building and a more progressive spirit (God is NEVER addressed as "he" in the liturgy). There are more younger people there. It is a smaller congregation than the mother church. The current rector has been there only four years, and is an amazing lady. That church has lots of can do spirit and energy at present. (And you will find it a fairly LGBT friendly congregation, as friendly as one can be around here.) My acquaintance Robbinsdale Radical is an active member, whom I first met when he and his family were at the Mother Church.

St. M's is on the east side of town whose membership is predominately Lakota Sioux. If my memory serves me correctly, that mission was founded ~ 60 years ago so that the monied folks at the "Mother Church" would not be troubled by Indians in their midst--i.e., as a result of racism. I've been to meetings there and other events; the hospitality there is second to none. The vicar is an amazing person who works hard for the indigenous people in TEC. His calling is to serve the people at St M's however he can and I doubt he will ever leave except to retire. As I have more than a few drops of indigenous blood in me, I thought to visit there as I greatly admire the vicar, but there is no 8 am service and a very long drive.

The three churches collaborate on VBS, deanery meetings, EfM, Lenten services, Quiet Days, and whatever else is special. So we all have met the active people in each congregation. And for that reason, Taciturn and I pretty much knew what we were getting when we visited St. A's yesterday.

Friendly people, Rite II spoken liturgy (we are 8 o'clockers and usually get Rite I), three women on the altar--the LEM, the deacon, and the rector--a challenging sermon, and the baptismal font front and center. One has to walk by it to approach the altar for communion. There is a lovely garden with a cascading fountain in the back and both services next week will be there. Unfortunately, I have to work next weekend but T is looking forward to going.

The fact that T wants to attend a new church by himself is telling!

On the way out we spoke to the other deacon, who was one of my EfM mentors. She was happy--and shocked--to see me there. We walked arm in arm for a minute as I casually told her I'd visit with her another time. Again, the entire story is for a select three, and I'm developing the Cliff Notes version for everyone else. When that is developed, I'll post it.

Meanwhile, I have meetings today!


Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I'm so sorry about the recalcitrance of the frozen chosen at your old place. It does, however, sound very encouraging that T. is comfortable enough to go to service at St. A. by himself.

How difficult for you to have to uproot yourself from your church when you're planning to move soon anyway, but spiritual nourishment is so crucial during transitions.

Sending you positive thoughts.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Excellent story. I think it will work for you for now.

FranIAm said...

Wow- what a post. Thanks for telling this to us, very enlightening about your church life there.