Sunday, December 30, 2007

How You Can Help Episcopalians in San Joaquin

This is an advocacy piece I wrote originally for my parish blog. I edited it for a larger audience.

When you've finished reading this, please click on the red Remain Episcopal button in the sidebar. Here you will learn about the struggle that the continuing Episcopalians in the Diocese of San Joaquin are facing. You will see who they are, and where they are, and what you can do to help.

My best friend lives in this diocese. She is a member of St. John’s, Lodi, and Contingency Representative to the Remain Episcopal board. Her charge for the past few years has been to help strategize in preparation of a diocesan vote to secede from the Episcopal Church. This vote, first passed in December 2006, was finalized at the San Joaquin convention this past December 8. Her own parish, relatively “liberal,” is safe—but she, and now I, have many friends and acquaintances who worship in exile. (Learn more about these communities here and here.)

For two and a half years, I was very peripherally involved in the struggle in San Joaquin. It was my friend’s work; I supported her, but never claimed it for my own. That changed this past December 23. Andee and I went to St. Nicholas, Atwater, to witness what happened there when the erstwhile, ex-Episcopal bishop of San Joaquin showed up for a visit on short notice. What I saw there crystallized my own calling to minister to the forgotten, the mistreated, the exiled. The vicar, Fred Risard, had only recently dared to speak out against the diocese’s move to split from the Episcopal Church and align with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. John-David Schofield proceeded to fire him, in front of the congregation, during the liturgy. Two days later, on Christmas, John-David locked Fred out of the building. His authority to take either of these actions is highly questionable, as he is no longer an Episcopal bishop.

St. Nicholas Episcopal Mission will be worshipping at the Atwater Community Center, Sunday mornings at 10. Fr. Fred's salary is being paid by contributions primarily from outside the diocese of San Joaquin.

I’m currently hoping to do my Field Education in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. My heart is with the exiles, and I very much want to be part of the re-birthing. Meanwhile, asking for your support is easy to do.

These things are most needed now:

Financial donations. Anything you can give is needed and appreciated. Money goes to further publicity, pay legal fees, and support people like Fr. Fred Risard.

Witnessing. Fr. Fred mentioned that other vicars, clergy who serve at the pleasure of the bishop, had spoken with him. He may represent the first of many confrontations. If you can, worship in the Central Valley. If you hear of a threatened community, go there. Be present to that community, and share what you saw, when you come home.

Worshipping in solidarity. The closest continuing Episcopal parishes to the Bay Area are St. John’s, Lodi and St. Anne’s, Stockton. Further south, there’s Holy Family, Fresno and Church of the Saviour, Hanford. In Atwater, St. Nicholas Mission welcomes everyone to join them in worship. Communities in exile exist in Bakersfield and Turlock, where the parishes voted with the diocese to secede. Faithful Episcopalians hold services elsewhere, most often without benefit of clergy. This means that they pray in community, but rarely receive Communion. (It isn't hyperbole to say that this schism is starving people.)

Worshipping courageously. If you have a chance to worship with a congregation whose leaders voted to leave the Episcopal Church, visit there, too. During announcements or coffee hour, let it be known that you are visiting in support of those who want to stay in the Episcopal Church. Be prepared for some possible unpleasantness--but realize that your visit may be life-saving to some who believe they are isolated and without hope.

Prayer. Hold San Joaquin before God, in your hearts. There are human beings on all sides of this struggle. We speak of it differently, but all seek God, and healing.

On Sundays I’m not at St. Aidan's, I’m usually in the Valley. If you are interested in worshipping in San Joaquin, and don’t particularly want to go alone, please contact me through my profile.

Father Jake has been following developments in San Joaquin for years, and has been collecting the witnesses of others (including, recently, me). He is the best place to start, if you want to educate yourself quickly.

The relevant postings on my personal blog are here.

Thank you.

UPDATE: One of the commenters at Jake's place mentioned that there were people from St. A's in attendance at St. Nicholas' first Sunday in exile. (Yay, thank you!) If that was you, would you be open to telling your story in this thread? If you'd be more comfortable, you can e-mail me and I'll do it. Public anonymity is OK. They/we are looking for windows on what it was like there--and I'm just plain proud of whomever it was, for going.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I know who you are. Thank you, so much.


Cheryl said...

Kirstin, it is wonderful to hear you express your sense of vocation in the Diocese of San Joaquin. You have my prayers, and support. I am in solidarity with the exiles, and fortunate to share in Basil's ministry as interim rector at St. John's in Lodi - at the heart of the Remain Episcopal movement.
God Bless, and Happy New Year,
Cheryl Parker-Matthews

bart said...

Thanks Kirstin!

You might know that I have been trying to help Remain Episcopal anywhere I can. I also almost never post to blogs (as managed comments I do not really trust them). 2 things:

. There apparently is also a Remain Episcopal group meeting in Visalia at a retirement community there (and sometimes in Madera, I have heard). Maybe there are even others? And one wonders about the parish at Lake Isabella.

More Major point:

. Nothing beats physically going there (we have gone to both conventions and RE gatherings after). Besides pastoral care for the Remain Episcopal "faithful" this is a swell opportunity to build a new church mostly from the ground up, with Remain Episcopal groups as the beginnings - it can be a church that embraces diversity from the get-go.

Much love,

Bart Bartosh (and Tony Saponate!)
Lay-vicar, St Matts, El Camino Real
VP, Integrity Western Region

Kirstin said...

Thank you both, so much.

Bart, I don't know, but I'll find out. In NOLA right now and about to be very busy with that--but I know who to ask.

Peace and love.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Kirstin, thank you for this update on what's happening in San Joaquin. I'll see you soon.

pj said...

Kirstin, get down wit' your bad self! And thanks for stopping by my blog today, too. You rock.

Kirstin said...

Thanks, Mimi and PJ!

Leslie, St. Francis in Exile, Turlock said...

Dear Kirstin,
Thank you so much. You have no idea how much the love and prayers of all of you sustain us.
Hi Tony and Bart! Thanks for your support as well.
Double Blessings,

Kirstin said...

Leslie, I think I have some idea. :-)

Thanks for coming by! It means a lot to me, to see how strong you all are. I'm glad for anything I can do to support you.


David said...

What pj said ;) (wish I had an excuse to come out to the Dio of SJ...)

Kirstin said...

What kind of excuse do you need, David? Visit me in NOLA, and we'll come up with one. :-)

alanwalace said...

Kirstin, thankyou for all the support you havee given us here in the EPISCOPAL Diocese of San Joaquin, recently abandoned by it's Bishop. It was wonderful to meet you at St Nicholas'. Your reporting has been wonderful. A couple of Items you might be interested in:

1) Fred's Father, Martin Risard has formed a new mission in Sonora for continuing and returning and new Episcopalians, St Mary's In The Mountains. A fresh start for the Episcopal Mission here in Sonora. We felt we had to begin with a new church because the other two in Town went with the Bishop maybe someday they will recant and return, but we have to serve those who remain faithful to a church that is all inclusive and does accept women preists. There are many folk up in these hills and mountains that have falleen away from the church because of this diocese unwillingness to accept women preist or gays. Fortunately My Father has the Fire in the Belly at the age of 82 and with parkinsons disease to build his 6th or 7th mission ( whose counting?) from the ground up. So those of you out there don't be affraid to step out and answer the call. Go forward with the spirit of God and renew our dynamic Episcopal Church. Amen

2) I was in San Francisco for personal reasons, and attended Church at Grace Cathederal, where they had a Solomn high mass, it was packed to the brim. It was a wondeerful experience. Apostic? I say not, HERITICAL? I SHOULD SAY NOT,unlesss one subscribes to JDS' retoric. The entire alter party was female from the celebrant to the acolytes. The preacher was male, the very Rev Allan Jones the dean of the cathederal. Who by the way illuded to our fair diocese in his sermon. By the way the celebrant and cantor, cantored in the most beautiful cantor voice I have ever heard completly on key.

I had luch with some people I met at coffee hour. And they were very interested in what was going on in the diocese. It was agreat day to say, and I was invited back. And I will take them up on the invitation in the future. we all parted with the same question, why does JDS hate himself so much and why is he taking it out on the people of San Joaquin? These people knew him when he was in The Diocese of California.