February 8, 2009
In the company of my wife, Barbara Rockefeller, I have been attending St. David's Episcopal Church in S. Yarmouth, MA. Barbara is on the vestry, so I have been well supplied with information on the status of the church.We attended the annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, held in Hyannis.
The long-time rector of St. David's retired in September. A married couple serve as interim pastors. The average Sunday attendance in February is about seventy adult worshippers at the 10 a.m. service. Funerals are frequent, baptisms are few, new members are rare. The median age of adults looks to be about seventy.
At the annual parish meeting, the senior warden announced that the number of pledging units was reduced by 35 from last year. Some are deferring a pledge because of uncertainty about their financial situation. We are all living on social security, pensions, and distributions from investments.
In short, St. David's Episcopal Church is no longer a going concern. The search committee has been estopped from receiving names for a new rector, because the church cannot afford to pay a full time person. The search consultant has recommended that we consider a part-time priest.
In informal conversations with various powers that be, I have identified our choices as liquidation, merger, or separation from the Diocese of Massachusetts. Four Episcopal churches in New Bedford combined into one last year. Other Episcopal churches on Cape Cod are in a predicament similar to St. David's, and thus might be amenable to merger. Three larger Episcopal churches on Cape Cod, blessed with affluent and supportive congregations, may be surviving.
Disassociation from The Episcopal Church is unthinkable to the present members of St. David's Church. They are uniformly supportive of all the radical actions of TEC, revere the presiding bishop as a messiah, and have canonized Bishop Robinson as a contemporary saint.
I don't have any problem worshipping at St. David's; my theology remains unshaken. And the people are wonderfully welcoming. I have volunteered to lead a course in "How to Read and Understand the Bible," drawing on my experiences at Brewster Baptist Church.