Friday, January 16, 2009

Church planting?

There seems to be lots of impetus for planting new Episcopal churches in the US to stem the declining numbers. I suppose there are places where new parishes could grow and be healthy. But what about those of us who already exist and are basically limping along unable to afford clergy? Or find clergy who can work part time? Or find supply priests?

Who pays the people who try to start new Episcopal missions? Are they volunteers? Or "working" priests? Might they be better used to grow an existing parish somewhere rather than start competition?

Is it better/cheaper to start anew without the encumbrance of a building? Should those of us with historic structures be forced to leave the buildings? Seems a peculiar idea since TEC is suing to retain many probably useless buildings which may just be a money drain.

Much of what I read on the blogs and the HoB/D list relates to urban situations. What about the rest of us? We seem to be expendable. Nobody cares about a parish with ASA of 50 or 20 or however many Episcopalians.

The problems with TEC are not how to deal with homosexuality or whose interpretation of scripture is right or wrong or even declining membership. The problems are all these small parishes who carry on the traditions and are now struggling to exist as seminary education creates massive debt for graduates, when students can even be recruited, and clergy salaries and benefits are simply not affordable.

Personally I would prefer seminary trained clergy because they tend to have broader experience and are more interesting. I'd give that up just to have a reliable supply priest who will be there a couple of Sundays a month for the eucharist and take care of weddings and funerals. I'd be happy to have a deacon. I know many find the idea repulsive but perhaps we need to have vocational education for priests for situations like ours?


sharecropper said...

Perhaps the bishops should not have turned down so many middle aged women in the late 80s and early 90s when they applied for priesthood. The Church Pension Fund tried to tell them a shortage of priests would occur now, but no one listened.

And, I agree, let's rebuild our small churches, giving them the assistance and resources they need - which may mean moving the current priest (if there is one) along and putting in someone who is trained in church renewal and planting.

I would like to see more small churches and fewer huge ones.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Well, and my concern is in our diocese, all the rural parishes in the north half of the state are gone except us and Hannibal. The church that is being planted is in the well-heeled part of Columbia, MO. I don't want my denomination to become an "urban/suburban" church.

There are needs for viable rural Episcopal congregations, it's just that they will not have the financial base.

It's a concern, but I don't quite know how to voice it.

forsythia said...

Another ominous sign (at least to me) is that even here in an urban/suburban area, so many of our churches are served by "priests-in-charge." This seems to suggest that these congregations are waiting for a rector to appear. I don't know what the story is.