Saturday, October 31, 2009

Let My People Go!

St. Mark's Chapel, Port Royal, South Carolina is in need of a letter writing campaign. This small group of Episcopalians is located in the heart of +Mark Lawrence's diocese. Yes, +Lawrence is looking more and more like he is going to leave the Episcopal Church (yes, I know he says not but so did his mentor, John David Schofield) and it looks as if he is not willing to allow true Episcopalians to go with their heart. In this instance, St. Mark's, a would be mission, wants to become a mission and stay with the Episcopal Church. Alas, Bishop Lawrence has not permitted this to happen, yet.

Here is the vision statement of St. Mark's:

Where We Are, How We Got There
And Where We Hope To Go

St. Mark’s Chapel, Beaufort, SC

Viewing St. Mark's Chapel as a work in progress guided by the Holy Spirit, we envision this statement as well to be a work in progress which will continue to evolve and mature as we do.

Who We Are and How We Came to Be
Anticipating the population growth on Ladies Island, in the mid 1990’s there was dialogue concerning establishment of an Episcopal mission in northern Beaufort County, an idea which unfortunately never materialized. The interest in such a mission resurfaced following the 74th General Convention of The Episcopal Church (TEC) in 2003 when St. Mark’s Chapel formed under the leadership of The Rev. Mr. Roger William Smith, a retired Episcopal priest. Initially, eight people met at his house and began a ministry which now averages over 20 communicants each Sunday. Overall, our mailing list includes about 60 individuals, mostly confirmed Episcopalians. Upon Mr. Smith's recent retirement, the chaplaincy was assumed by the Rev. Dr. Robert Hansel, also a retired Episcopal priest.

Initially we were a house church that met in one another’s homes bimonthly. Realizing the need for a “consistent” location (to avoid confusion and attract additional members), in the fall of 2007 we relocated to the Room by the Bay of the Sea Island Inn in downtown Beaufort. In April 2009 we moved to the Port Royal Lodge in Port Royal. We now meet there every Sunday at 10:00 a.m. Overall, we practice a shared lay/clergy ministry approach to worship and leadership of St. Mark’s Chapel. We have been fortunate in the availability of several priests to celebrate Holy Eucharist. When clergy are not available to celebrate Eucharist, we enjoy lay-led Evening Prayer.

St. Mark’s continues to be a Total Ministry fellowship engaged in outreach. Total Ministry means that we encourage all members, not just the ordained, to offer themselves to the community. Representing our chapel, St. Mark’s members have been active in Family Promise, a program for homeless families in Beaufort County, and in RxAccess, an ecumenical effort to assist eligible clients in applying for free or reduced–priced medications. In addition to hands-on outreach, we have provided financial support for Habitat for Humanity, mission work in the Dominican Republic, the Child Abuse Prevention Association and have been one of the leading diocesan supporters of the Episcopal Relief and Development program.

We view church as existing to support, confront and challenge members to engage the world in Christ’s name. We believe church life respects differences, openly addressing them directly while seeking resolution, reconciliation and acceptance. Accepting challenge, our chapel anticipates and welcomes change as part of God’s action. Underlying all we believe is our commitment to follow Jesus’ Great Command: Love God and love your neighbor.

We are shaped by an educational ministry which focuses on the teaching of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit for change in contemporary life. Due to the age of our members, we have not yet developed a children’s program but look forward to that as we increase in membership. Several of our members have experience in planning and leading Christian education.

To understand St. Mark’s Chapel, one must understand the context in which it has evolved. The Diocese of South Carolina is a group of primarily conservative parishes which tend more and more to emphasize their Anglican roots vs. the Episcopal. It seems to be leaning toward the theology of GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference sponsored by the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans). While we respect this difference in religious perspective, this apparent departure from TEC is a major concern of ours: We have no desire to leave TEC. We believe that the Holy Spirit is guiding us in ways to live via an ever-evolving understanding of the Message of Christ.

St. Mark’s celebrated its fifth anniversary in November 2008. During those five years we have made several attempts to be recognized officially in the Diocese as a mission. Our first venture was a meeting with clergy and wardens of St. Helena’s Episcopal Church (the only Episcopal Church in northern Beaufort County) to discuss the possibility of becoming a parochial mission of that parish. By mutual concurrence, vast theological differences precluded such a relationship.

Our next step toward formal Episcopal status occurred in the winter of 2007 when we attended at St. Helena’s a meeting called by then Bishop Salmon who, over the years, had been supportive of St. Mark’s and posited that “it was not nice to be in exile,” leading to our hope of becoming a diocesan mission. Present in addition to Bishop Salmon and Bishop-Elect Mark Lawrence were the rector of St. Helena’s and his two wardens as well as their Bishop-in-Residence Alden Hathaway. The final decision about our status was passed to the hands of Bishop-Elect Lawrence who, after he was consecrated, declined to recommend to the Diocesan Convention the admission of St. Mark’s as a diocesan mission. .

After that disappointment, a fruitful meeting with the vestry of All Saints Episcopal Church, Hilton Head, resulted in All Saints’ request to the Diocese that St. Mark’s become their parochial mission. In October 2008, a delegation from St. Mark’s met with the bishop to discuss that possibility, and he, again, opposed the admission of St. Mark’s to the Diocese even as a parochial mission. Since that meeting, the members of St. Mark’s have entered into a period of discernment to explore who we are, decide where we want to go, and articulate our role in spreading the Gospel.

What We Believe

In meetings of the chapel committee and in full meetings of the congregation, we have committed to continue as a nurturing, inclusive group, accepting all people regardless of ethnic background, age, lifestyle, economic circumstance or sexual orientation. While we would like to be recognized as part of the Episcopal Church, that need not be our primary focus. We will continue to follow the canons and liturgy of the Episcopal Church (and the Diocese of South Carolina as long as it remains within TEC). Eventually, we expect to grow from a chapel to a mission to a church with hope of being a fully accepted member of our diocese and TEC.

Our theological outlook is characterized by scripturally-based, intellectually rigorous, imaginative preaching and teaching. We see St. Mark's Chapel as a place of worship in the Episcopal tradition: We appreciate theology that invites questions and requires our intelligence as well as our discernment. Devoted to the Biblical sacrament instituted by Jesus, we view ministry as a privilege and obligation of all baptized persons. Baptized members have a vocation from God and the gifts necessary for ministry. The primary work of the laity is to support the needs of one another and of those in need and at risk. The primary work of the clergy is to equip members to care for one another and other children of God.

St. Mark’s emphasizes an insistence on Christian morality (what is good and loving) but an avoidance of moralism. We accept the heritage of the apostolic faith and the Gospel of Jesus Christ as well as the apostolic order which was established within the church.

Aspirations

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for….” Hebrews 11:1

St. Mark’s Chapel's hope is to model the health and integrity of diversity in TEC by becoming a viable institution accepting The Episcopal Church's emphasis on scripture, tradition and reason as necessary for the Church’s foundation. We base our hopes and intentions on two major considerations.

First, the demographics of our county strongly suggest the need for an additional Episcopal institution. The southern portion of Beaufort County has three recognized Episcopal churches offering diverse services to 72,00 people (an average of one church per 24,000 people). However, in our northern portion, only one church serves 70,000 people. By comparison, Charleston and its surrounding area has 31 Episcopal churches offering service to an average of 19,500 people. Clearly, there is a need for more Episcopal churches in Northern Beaufort County.

Second and primary is St. Mark’s desire to meet the needs of Episcopalians in northern Beaufort County who seek a progressive Episcopal alternative, one that can be fully supportive of TEC. The only recognized Episcopal community in Northern Beaufort County is theologically conservative and limits its support of TEC. Our vision is to fulfill the need for an alternative as we continue evolving as a worshiping community of loving, caring, accepting, serving individuals. As a congregation, we expect to continue growing into the essence of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

We will continue striving to create a community that participates with the clergy and with the community, committed partners in ministry to the world that God has created for us, being good stewards of our earth and God-given gifts — providing the most effective ministry we can offer. Our witness and service to Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit will be organized around five key elements of calling: Service, Worship, Education, Evangelism, and Pastoral care.

“Our worship together celebrates and mediates the reality of God, our learning together draws us deeper into the way of Jesus, and our acting together seeks to incarnate ‘the dream of God,’ namely, compassion and justice in the world of the everyday.” Borg, Marcus, and N.T. Wright. The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions, Harper-Collins, 1998. 245.



Organizational Vision

Our organization structure has a stewardship mission focus: The Vision is that of an ongoing commitment to being good stewards of the gifts that we have received from God—mobilizing everything for the most effective ministry we can offer. Our congregation patterns its witness to Jesus Christ by organizing around five key elements of the Chapel’s calling:

•Service — Practical support and direct assistance to individuals and families in our community who are in-need or at-risk; paralleled by extended mission outreach and financial contributions for the alleviation of problem issues in the larger community of state, nation, and world.


•Worship — Using both the historical and contemporary resources and traditions of the Episcopal Church to enable people to experience in personal and corporate terms the presence and power of God.


•Education — Equipping people to understand the Christian Faith, to recognize its implications which touch all things, to work and give generously for the spreading of the Word, and to live creatively their Faith within the context of everyday life.

•Evangelism/Growth — Opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s presence that alone has the capacity to change and renew all people as co-creators of the Kingdom of God.


•Pastoral Care — Supporting those who are struggling with illness, isolation, disease, and death by surrounding them with God’s love as it is revealed by our own acts of compassion.
All members of our Chapel community are expected to become involved in at least one of these five areas of St. Mark’s Chapel’s calling.


Bishop Lawrence is located on Facebook and here is his diocesan address:
The Right Reverend Mark Lawrence
XIV Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina
Diocesan House
126 Coming Street
Charleston, SC, 29403

Do not let the good people of St. Mark's Chapel be buried in the "Anglican Diocese of South Carolina".

10 comments:

Grandmère Mimi said...

Fred, Bp. Lawrence's Standing Committee seems to be leaning rather heavily on him to leave TEC, and they're scheming about if and how they will do so.

When the leadership of a diocese stays in TEC, hanging by a thread, and use every occasion to undermine the church, that is nearly as bad as leaving, because so many in the diocese are left without a voice and without pastoral care, and the atmosphere is poisoned.

I'm game for writing a letter to BP. Lawrence on behalf of St. Mark's Chapel.

Paul (A.) said...

Perhaps they should maintain their status quo until Bp. Lawrence and his minions definitively leave or are deposed, and then they can join the reconsituted TEC (really) Diocese of South Carolina.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Fred, email me when you can. The address is on my blog.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Fred, are the folks at St. Mark's in touch with The Episcopal Forum of South Carolina?

Lynn said...

I was wondering why they didn't try to work with All Saint's...now, I see they have. I have close contacts in that area, but the information coming out since GC (Anaheim) is pretty confusing to people.

For you East Coast golfers - this is fairly close to Hilton Head Island - near the South Carolina/Georgia coastal border. And all you U.S. Marines, not far from Parris Island.

susankay said...

Can you ask for alternative oversight? Quite popular in some quarters.

Country Parson said...

I'm confused by one statement saying that many of the more conservative parishes in the diocese are leaning more toward GAFCON and Anglican roots than Episcopalian. As far as I can tell, GAFCONites are more like very conservative evangelicals dressed up in vestments and using Anglican rites, but that is a far cry from being connected to the roots of Anglicanism. If there is any English rootedness it's likely to be Cromwell and his Roundheads.
CP

Fred Schwartz said...

CP,
Please see the website of GAFCON. That will provide all the data necessary to make a disticntion.

View from the Pew said...

Please - your little commune has grown to 20 regular people on a Sunday morning? The last thing this Diocese needs is another life-support "parish" sucking funds from the Diocesan teet. Monies should be directed toward those missions that are growing and have the chance to thrive. This has every appearance of a malcontented gathering, not a mission.

Fred Schwartz said...

To view from the pew: we began with one malcontent and 12 scruffy fishermen. 20 has got that beat all to pieces!