Growing Christianity in South Reno

Pooling the resources of former missionary dioceses, neighboring congregations, and the Diocese of Nevada, a new congregation called St. Catherine of Siena has formed under the leadership of the Rev. Laurie Chapelle and several lay people in suburban South Reno.

Described as “evangelism on a shoestring,” the effort reveals a corporate approach to mission with laity “on loan” from nearby parishes to help with leadership and to build up the congregation, the mission has been in existence since Lent. The area is a fast growing area with 35,000 residents, 43% of whom have no church background whatsoever and of those 65% say they would prefer, were they to be in a church, a traditional-type experience.

A story in Episcopal Life On-Line by Pat McCaughan tells of their work.

[A] tri-parish coalition contributed financially and provided secretarial support as well as St. Paul’s treasurer Dick Stufflebeam, who helped write a grant proposal to the Domestic Missionary Partnership (DMP).

The DMP is a group of former mission dioceses which receives yearly funding from the churchwide budget in support of mission projects. The dioceses — Alaska, Eastern Oregon, Eau Claire, El Camino Real, Idaho, Mississippi, Navajoland, Nevada, North Dakota, Utah, and Western Kansas — pool the funds and redistribute them as grants to support missions like St. Catherine’s.

Chappelle found worship space for a nominal monthly rental fee at the chapel at Bishop Montague Roman Catholic High School and February 4 was the target start-up date.

“We did what they call in retail, a soft opening, using word of mouth, newsletter articles and had 102 people at the first service,” she said. “We realized that a lot of people were there who probably wouldn’t be with us every week, but it was a lovely show of support for us.”

“It was an interesting opportunity to help grow Christianity, so I volunteered to go,” recalls Barsalou, 48, a St. Paul’s vestry member. “I’m one of those people who likes to fill gaps. My son Denis said he wanted to lead, instead of to follow. For me, it was getting a chance to help people realize, you can do this.”

St. Catherine’s offers an 11 a.m. traditional Rite II Eucharist on Sundays without prayer books because they couldn’t afford them and “there’s no place for us to store them,” Chappelle said. Everything necessary for worship is contained in the bulletin. “There’s no Episcopal gymnastics, no book juggling and we’re using recycled paper and are recycling the bulletin in an attempt to at least reduce the impact,” Chappelle said. The service is preceded by 10 a.m. adult and youth Christian education.

Attendance averages 50 to 60 weekly, enough that Chappelle is considering creating a stewardship team. Eventually, St. Catherine’s will transition from worshipping community to parish status and create its own vestry.

Episcopal Life OnLine: New Reno Church Taps the Unchurched.


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