Monday, June 28, 2010

Church Closing

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.


  1. It is sad. Our old church is in the same position. The parishioners are getting older and the ranks are thinning. They are thinking of going to a part time minister. Our stained glass windows were all done by Gordon Couling a long time member now deceased. I can't imagine leaving them behind. There is so much history in the building. However, everything is for a reason. Maybe we all need a good shaking up. Maybe we are stale and in a rut. Maybe we have stopped thinking outside ourselves. Maybe we need to stop thinking of how we can get others to join us and start thinking of rejoining the world. Who knows. That's a lot of maybes. Life is an adventure, yes? Something good will come of all this if we are but patient and leave ourselves open.

  2. Anonymous8:05 AM

    Oh, Susan! I am so sorry ...

    Thinking of you and your church with love and prayer,


  3. That is so sad about your church. I'm sure you'll find the right fit eventually with a new one, but as one who has no church home right now, I know it's not fun looking.

  4. oh. no.

    i am so sad to hear this.

    may we offer prayers for your parish at my church?

    the proper name of your congregation?

  5. Thanks, everybody. Flask, the name of my congregation is St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Reno, NV. Thanks!

  6. I'm so sorry, Susan. Yes, you will find a new church home, but the loss of the one you love is so hard.

  7. hello susan.

    i just wanted to let you know that today during our prayers we did offer some up for your church.
    our pastor's theme this morning was history and community.

    today we held out service as we do twice yearly at the historical home of half of our congregation; we are a federated church-


    - and i don't know if that means anything to you, but around here it's a blend of more than one denomination.although we meet only in one building, the original home of one of our constituent congregations still stands as a historic community place (built 1833)and we do meet there for the sunday closest to july 4 and for our late service on christmas eve.

    i'm not sure exactly why i'm telling you all this except that maybe our history and our plce of meeting this morning gave us a keen feel for the sorrow and uncertainty of a community no longer able to support a parish building.

    in our case as with many new england churches, we merged with a congregation of another denomination with all the attendant difficulties of sorting out differences of doctrine or of tradition, or disposition of the real estate.

    it was long before i was born, but we still sometimes feel the merger with varying degrees of comfort.

    there's something even pleasing to me about this history, this clinging together of people of faith, a necessary return to the fundamental elements, a necessary acceptance and civility.

    and our prayers are with you.

  8. Thanks so much, flask, both for the prayers and for sharing your own congregation's story!


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