Monday, June 28, 2010
Our already small parish has, for the last several years, seen shrinking membership and pledge income. Tonight we had a meeting where our part-time paid priest, in conjunction with the vestry, announced that according to any analysis that makes sense, the parish isn't viable anymore. He and the vestry strongly recommend that we close the church, probably within a year.
This has been coming for a while, so I don't think anyone was completely surprised, but everyone's upset. It will be a huge loss. I'd already started thinking about other places I might go if this happened -- although none is ideal -- so at least I feel like I have options. (One of the reasons for our closing is that this area has too many Episcopal churches for its size.) I hope I get to keep preaching; my license is good diocese-wide, but whether I'm invited to preach will be up to the leadership wherever I wind up.
God's everywhere; I know that. I just hope I'll be able to find a place where the people welcome me as warmly as folks at St. Stephen's did, even though I'm eccentric and liberal and outspoken, and not very Nice even when I try to do Good. Sometimes contrived, and often rickety.
I'm getting ahead of myself, though. St. Stephen's will be around for a year or so; we already have meetings and barbeques planned, and we'll continue to worship, and everybody's being offered a lot of pastoral care to get through this.
I think I'm saddest about the loss of the building: our beautiful little sanctuary, with its hand-carved altar (made by a former rector who's the grandfather of the husband of one of our current priests), and the stained-glass windows made by the parishioners about twenty years ago. I trust we'll find good homes for all of that, though.
I do have to say that I'm really tired of grieving. Mom hasn't even been gone three months, and we're having Dad's memorial service in two weeks, and I'd hoped to be able to take a break in here somewhere, to go for a while without another major loss. But that's not up to me.
One of my favorite bumper stickers says: "I know God won't give me more than I can handle. I just wish He didn't trust me so much." And yes, many other people are going through much worse right now, and anyway, it's all an opportunity for resurrection. Right?
But it's still sad.