Many Episcopal Church buildings are found in urban or downtown settings. A century ago this was were their parishioners lived. But that's not the case today. St. Bartholomew's parish on Park Avenue in New York City is one of the premier examples of how congregations need to transform the way they function in order to survive and flourish.
An article in the New York Times today profiles the congregation and their rector, The Rev. Bill Tully.
Speaking about why Tully accepted the call to St. Bart's:
"“I came here for the risk of it,” he says. His job as rector of St. Columba’s, the largest parish in Washington, “was getting too cushy after 14 years.”
And after 14 years at St. Bartholomew’s? Cushy address, certainly, Park Avenue at East 50th, but the luster stops there. “There was a question of whether we should even be here, of whether it is too costly to be running a world-class landmark in the middle of New York City, a place where real estate is one of the religions,” he says. “We exist in a city where it takes a lot of trouble and expense — $8 million a year — to keep the door open.”
But open it is. As is Café St. Bart’s, an upscale restaurant in the church’s community house with a menu more sybaritic than ecclesiastical. Mr. Tully introduced it in 1995, and even performed waiter duties on Day 1. “As I told our board, ‘If you think running a church in New York City is hard, you should try running a restaurant!’” The cafe is bustling, as is the 10-bed shelter, the food pantry and the soup kitchen, which served 80,000 meals to the needy this year."
The article lists the challenges facing the congregation today now that it has rebuilt a healthy congregational life. Specifically it details the costs of maintaining the historic building and fundraising efforts that are just beginning.
You can read the rest here.