Reaching out saves a congregation

Many congregations in the Episcopal Church, in regions that have been hard hit due to changing economic conditions and conflict in the denomination, have been struggling to survive. One congregation in Tennessee has come back from the brink by opening its arms and its doors to some of America's newest arrivals.

According to the article in the Tennessean, All Saints Church in Smryna the turnaround began when Anglicans refugees from Myanmar began to attend the congregation and invited other recent Anglican immigrants to join them:

"'It's a classic example of the Advent story,' Williams said. 'We could not find God, but God found us. In this case, he appeared to us in the form of 70 people who came from Myanmar.'

Eight months ago, the future of All Saints looked grim.

All Saints had been limping along since a 2006 church split, when the rector and most of the congregation left to join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, one of several conservative rivals to the Episcopal Church.

The remaining 20 or so church members left behind couldn't afford to pay the mortgage on their building."

When the refugees began to attend, at first their needs threatened to overwhelm the congregation. But the members rallied and began to recognize resources (like arable land owned by the congregation) that they hadn't before. By allowing the new members to raise crops on the land, keeping a tithe for themselves and giving the rest away, the larger community rallied to support the efforts of the congregation and now the church is well on its way to be being a stable, active and vibrant part of the community again.

Read the full article here.

Comments (1)

I think this is an important story to raise up. I also noted this comment in the article:

When former members of All Saints formed St. Patrick's Anglican Church in Smyrna, the Karen refugees initially went with them. But their bishop from Myanmar urged them to return to All Saints, where they were joined by new arrivals straight from the refugee camps.

Clearly, that is one "Global South" bishop who has believes there is still faith in the Episcopal Church, and that "new structures" are really questionable.

This story is also published at USA Today at http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2008-12-01-tenn-church-refugees_N.htm.

Marshall Scott

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