Filed under church growth, but that may be misleading—the Rev. Michael Ruk is one of an apparently growing number of priests that are heading up more than one church, according to the Bucks County Courier Times.
Doubling up this way is a new phenomenon in the Episcopal Church. The Episcopalians — like many mainstream denominations — are finding there aren’t enough clergy to go around and because most Episcopal churches have small congregations, few can support one full-time minister, Ruk said.
“It’s an economic move, an example of thinking outside the box. It will be quite an adventure,” Ruk said.
Bishop Charles Bennison was also interviewed for the article, noting that this trend wasn’t necessarily a sign of shrinking attendance so much as a reflection of the times. During the colonial period, it was necessary for people to be close to their churches.
… Early American settlers developed a pattern of building many small Episcopal churches very close to each other, each with its own full-time clergyman. The church was the center of a community’s social life and the faithful needed to be able to walk to their houses of worship.
The invention of the automobile and the increased diversity of the population soon found many Episcopalian worshippers traveling to bigger, more centralized churches, Bennison said.
“The early setup was an economic model for church life that is no longer practical,” the bishop said.
“Yoked” parishes and parish clusters are related arrangements with one or more clergy pastoring multiple churches. In some cases, Bennison noted, a church might sell its property and disband to become part of another Episcopal church.
“But just because a church closes, doesn’t mean it’s dying. We’d rather have 100,000 people worshipping in 80 churches than 25,000 worshipping in 150 churches,” Bennison said.