Next month, on 6 JAN 2017, the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will have been in full communion for 16 years. The approval of the document, Called to Common Mission, outlined the agreement between the two US denominations to share mission whenever the opportunity was presented. One of the groups of members of both denominations to seek to take advantage of the opportunities opened with Called to Common Mission were the Episcopalians and Lutherans in Big Sky MT. Their joint parish, All Saints, is one of the Common Mission successes that the Episcopal News Service is lifting up as the historic anniversary approaches.
Although there have been bumps along the way, one issue that the two groups didn’t have to haggle about was whose building would become home to the combined parish. Neither congregation had a building. The joint parish doesn’t own a building to this day. As a further step in their ecumenical journey, the parish shares a community worship space, Big Sky Chapel, with a Roman Catholic parish and a local Christian fellowship.
At first, the combined group struggled with accounting decisions regarding the parish’s financial obligation to the respective episcopal jurisdictions, TEC’s Diocese of Montana and the ELCA’s Montana Synod. The group was also concerned about decisions regarding funds donated by visitors from other denominations. In the end, All Saints parishioners decided to pool all funds and to send equal portions for the support of both parent jurisdictions.
Respecting the heritage of both groups, All Saints alternated celebrating Episcopal and Lutheran liturgies. At first, there were folks who only attended worship services where their denomination’s liturgy was used. Today most parishioners are past that and attend services in either liturgy. In JAN 2016 the parish called it’s first full-time minister. The Revd Miriam Schmidt was ordained by the ELCA. Church attendance numbers upwards of 90 when Big Sky is in season.
The photos and the original facts were gathered from a story by the Episcopal News Service.