Recently I was asked to contribute a short 3 sentences on why I am a part of my local Parish Church. An interesting assignment considering that my original church, St. Luke's Episcopal, and our sister church, St. Andrew's Episcopal have recently merged to become St. Andrew and St. Luke Episcopal Church. These two churches have not been without friction over many decades.
St. Luke's was the first to be organized in the latter part of the 19th Century, and it was a wealthy congregation. St. Andrew's was built for the working class of the area and was a poorer congregation. St. Andrew's also came to be defined in the mid-20th Century as a predominately Black church with a strong African-American and Caribbean congregation. One can imagine the current of bigotry and systemic racism that runs (sometimes not-so-subtly) just under the surface.
Since about 2000, both parishes have been working to mend the relationship. St. Luke's was invited to participate in a Food Pantry started by St. Andrew's, and our Diocese installed a Deacon who's ministry originally was to facilitate what was known as an Inter-Parish Initiative. The Food Pantry project had taken off, and to this day is a mainstay ministry of St. Andrew's and St. Luke's congregations. The Inter-Parish mission, though successful early, fell away as the Food Pantry gained success. Our Deacon was reassigned to another ministry in the Diocese, leaving the 2 congregations to continue their work without her.
A succession of Interim and/or part-time Priests-in-Charge, or Vicars at both churches, while helping their respective congregations over various hurdles, and celebrating victories of their own, did not complete the goal of an eventual coming together of the two Parishes.
About 3 years ago, St. Andrew's called it's current Vicar, Rev. Williams to a half-time position. At the same time St. Luke's was looking for a new Vicar, having been served for the prior 7 years by a beloved, but a retired priest who had been called to assist "for a year or two" originally. Rev. Williams was called to St. Luke's on a Quarter-time basis. The two congregations were now tied by a single priest, and the synergies began to be developed between the two Vestries that would eventually lead to this year's merger.
Which returns me to the task at hand; a short three sentences on why I'm a part of my church.
I am a member of St. Andrew and St. Luke Episcopal Church for so many reasons. We have a thriving ministry serving our hungry neighbors, and I have developed friendships that I hold dear to my heart. And while we have obstacles left to surmount, not the least of which is our own truth and reconciliation process related to past harms, I believe that like any family, we care for each other, and that we love each other. And we can worship and spread the good news of Jesus Christ together.