Worshipping God in uncertain times

UPDATE: See below for news of the letter from Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies.

At least five congregations of 47 parishes in the Diocese of San Joaquin, including Holy Family and others in Lodi, Stockton and Hanford, have distanced themselves from the decisions and said they planned to remain affiliated with the Episcopal Church. Here is a report from the LA Times describing what it was like in those places this past Sunday.

One day after the Diocese of San Joaquin became the first in the country to break ties with the Episcopal Church, the Rev. Keith Axberg sought to reassure and cheer up his congregation, the only one in this city that is expected to remain with the national church.

“There are things that are going to take time and much we don’t know,” said Axberg, rector of Holy Family Episcopal Church in northeast Fresno. “But our purpose is to gather here to worship God . . . and I’m thankful you are here.”


At Holy Family, a simple, modern church with white walls and a peaked roof, a larger-than-typical crowd attended Sunday morning services, including visitors and newcomers who said they were drawn by the congregation’s loyalist stance.

“I felt I needed to be here today to support Episcopalians,” said Joan Pitcock, a former professional golfer who said she usually attended another Fresno Episcopal church, St. Columba, but was considering switching to Holy Family. “It’s nice to have this church to go to.”

Elly Row, whose Episcopal church in Madera was closed by the diocese in 2004, has attended Holy Family ever since. She said she was saddened by the split, but glad her new church would remain with the national body.

“I can’t believe all the churches that are going the other way,” Row said.

“We all believe in God and I can’t believe that he would look down on people who aren’t just exactly alike. This church welcomes everyone,” she said.

Richard Jennings, a vestry board member at Holy Family, said he knew many in the parish were anxious about the future. But he said he found himself surprisingly relieved Sunday that the vote, after months of anticipation, had been taken, even though he and others had deeply opposed its outcome.

“It’s like a boil that’s been there a long time and you have to lance it to heal,” said Jennings, a dentist. “Now we can do that.”

Another parishioner, George Wade, agreed. “The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin is very much alive, despite what everyone thinks,” Wade said. “We’re going to be growing in fertile ground now that the weeds are gone.”

And, last,

Axberg, Holy Family’s rector since 2003, urged his congregation Sunday not to worry about the future. He told them about the convention votes and answered a few questions about steps likely to be taken by the national church.

Finally, he asked them to pray for all involved in the diocese’s continuing struggle, including for Schofield.

First one, then all, rose to applaud their priest.

Read the rest: LA Times- Some parishes won’t secede.


President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson writes following the voting in the Diocese of San Joaquin to assure the Diocese and its faithful members that they are still supported by the leadership of the Episcopal Church. She highlights the need for prayer and safe space for those who remain in the Episcopal Church. Read it all here

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