A Tale of Two Bishops

A Tale of Two Bishops

This article first appeared in the The Mendocino Beacon and the Fort Bragg Advocate.

by Patricia Karch

Episcopal Bishop Barry Beisner,
& Lutheran Bishop Mark Holmerud

It is no surprise that churches are facing the same economic problems as other governmental and private institutions.These hard economic times call for changes from “business as usual” to exploring the possibilities of something unique.

Saint Michael’s Episcopal and Trinity Lutheran Churches are beginning the process of adapting to a changing world by initiating a discussion of shared ministry. The process was begun by a suggestion from Bishop Barry Beisner of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California more than 18 months ago when St. Michael’s was reluctantly terminating the contract of its rector due to economic conditions. At that time it was suggested that St. Michael’s join with Trinity Lutheran and share a pastor as the Lutheran and Episcopal Churches have an agreement in place that their pastors may serve in either church. Then two months ago Trinity Lutheran was faced with a similar problem when they were forced by economics to not renew the contract of their pastor. St. Michael’s has survived by hiring supply priests (priests from other congregations or retired priests who substitute in different parishes) and Trinity by having a priest from St. Michael’s serve communion there once a month and by utilizing lay deacons to conduct prayer services. Neither congregation is entirely satisfied with this arrangement.

On a recent Sunday members of both congregations (47 in all) met together in St. Michael’s Larsen Hall to discuss the possibilities of shared ministry. Present to lead the discussion were Episcopal Bishop Barry Beisner and Bishop Mark Holmerud of the Synod of California. After a delicious lunch, and prayers, introductory comments were made by both Bishops. Four points that they made were very reassuring to those parishioners who were skeptical and reluctant to embrace this shared ministry concept:

1. “Don't ever make the mistake of thinking of this as a merger. It is a sharing. Sharing means keeping the traditions of Trinity Lutheran Church and St. Michael's Episcopal Church intact especially the unique liturgies of both. Sharing means cooperating and beginning this cooperation in small steps”.

2. This is a slow process and will take place over a length of time. It is organic and comes from the grassroots rather than being imposed from the top

3. The dioceses do not have a blueprint for this process. There are several examples of mutual cooperation between Episcopalian and Lutheran Churches in both dioceses and each of them are different. Each church can discover its own wishes thru meeting and sharing fun times together.

4. The dioceses see themselves as smoothing the way for the churches to do what they choose to do. The dioceses will take care of the legal requirements and contracts and insurance etc. for the churches so they can implement the plan they choose.

These presentations were followed by questions from the congregations:

What do we have in common?
We have shared services in the past -Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Holy Week. Also our liturgy (the order and words of the service, hymns etc.) is very similar.

How can we keep this friendship and desire to share going?
Have meetings together, share services, share humanitarian projects, joint prayer chain, women’s group, men’s group, cook together, have money raising events etc.

A lively discussion followed the session and Episcopalians and Lutherans left the hall together still in conversation.

1 comment (Add your own)

1. Judith Rose, St. Patrick #39 wrote:
I love it! In my mind and heart this is exactly how Christ would want it. Blessings on all!

Tue, March 19, 2013 @ 7:47 AM

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