This morning I was called to prayer when I read the latest e-bulletin from Cherie Harder, president of The Trinity Forum (ttf.org). Writing candidly yet graciously as parishioner of The Falls Church (VA), she summarizes the outcome of the legal battle that has been raging for the last several years between the church and its Diocese:
This Sunday is the last that I and thousands of other parishioners will worship at the Sanctuary of The Falls Church in Virginia. Earlier this year, a judge ruled that despite the fact that The Falls Church is older than the Episcopal diocese, and that over 90 percent of the church parishioners voted to leave the Episcopal diocese, the Falls Church—and six other Anglican churches—would be required to turn over its buildings, facilities, and financial assets to the Episcopal Church.
While the court ruling still seems unreal, the language is stark and its execution imminent. In short order, the deed to the sanctuary will be signed over to the Episcopal diocese, and the church property and most of the financial assets—from computers to communion silver, and including tithes given by parishioners earmarked for non-diocese ministries—will be transferred to their ownership. After this Sunday, the congregation will meet in various school gymnasiums—a few weeks at a middle school, followed by a month at a high school – as the schools are able to accommodate, and until a more permanent home can be found.
Not ending on a pessimistic note, she points to the redemptive elements occasioned by this excruciatingly painful process and loss of the physical property:
If leadership lessons are best transmitted through example, our congregation has been schooled by a Rector and vestry that have met confusion with prayer, opposition with courage, attacks with humility, setbacks with grace, and uncertainty with faith. There is an undeniable intensification of the fervency of prayer and worship, reflecting a keenly felt need for divine guidance, wisdom, and charity.
I am grateful for the stand taken by this parish, as well as others including The Truro Church in Fairfax. I am also grateful for the posture of hope felt in Cherie’s words, for it is evidence of God’s grace and protection against seeds of bitterness that the evil one is attempting to sow. All of this reminds me of a particular verse of the hymn “The Church’s One Foundation,” which I have sung since childhood and which I have included below. This Sunday I will be praying for you, Cherie, Rector Yates, the faithful flock of The Falls Church, and the six other parishes as you end one season and begin another.
Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed:
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song!