< Episcopal News and Current Events -- News About ECUSA: August 2006 Episcopal News and Current Events -- News About ECUSA: August 2006
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A Prayer For This Web Site
Almighty God, you proclaim your truth in every age by many voices; Direct, in our time, we pray, those who speak where many listen and write what many read; that they may do their part in making the heart of this people wise, its mind sound, and its will righteous; to the honor of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
"For those who Influence Public Opinion,"
Book of Common Prayer, page 827

In our church, neither a person's gender nor their sexual orientation matter; what does matter is how they serve Jesus Christ as Lord.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A Trial by Fire at St. John's Church

A joyous report of a church which has a rebirth today; after a trial by fire, they said they were returning; and they did. Quincy, Illinois is in the southern part of that state. PAT

By Steve Eighinger
Herald-Whig Staff Writer

At first glance, the sheer beauty is almost breathtaking.

The striking, clean look of the open-beam ceiling dominates the rebuilt nave and altar areas at St. John's Episcopal Church, Quincy's oldest house of worship and one that was gutted by fire four years ago last week.

"This is God's house," said the Rev. H.W. "Sandy" Herrmann, almost in a whisper. "This is where he resides, and there is something special about that."

God's house is open for business again.

The congregation and community will celebrate the rebirth of St. John's during a 4 p.m. service today, a gathering that will mark the rededication and consecration of the church at Seventh and Hampshire, which was originally built in 1852-53. The church itself dates to 1837.

Preceding this afternoon's rededication and consecration will be two morning services at 8 and 10:15.

The $5 million project, beset by construction snafus and assorted other delays, comes to fruition this afternoon when each one of its new 384 seats is expected to be filled.

For Herrmann, it will be an emotional day. This afternoon's service marks the end of his 11 years as rector of St. John's.

Earlier this year, he accepted a pastorate at St. David of Wales Episcopal Church in Denton, Texas, but wanted to stay through the rebuilding of St. John's.

The Rev. Jim Derbyshire of Peoria will serve as interim rector at St. John's while a replacement for Herrmann is sought.

"It's an exciting time," Herr-mann said. "It's a new beginning in a new space, and there is a new mission."

Among the scheduled guests at today's service are Mayor John Spring, former mayor Chuck Scholz, Fire Chief Scott Walker and Police Chief Rob Copley.

"Everyone along the way has been so gracious and so many people have assisted, people who wanted us to get this place back together," Herrmann said. "The city, in particular, has been so helpful."

Also on hand will be the Rev. Keith Ackerman, bishop of the Diocese of Quincy, which is headquartered in Peoria. Ackerman will officiate today's ceremonies, which will begin with a half hour of music at 3:30. A reception will be held in Upson Hall after the service.

St. John's member Don Gnuse, senior warden at the church, said he will always remember other churches in the community stepping forward after the fire. He said denominational lines were non-existent.

Gnuse said St. John's members were offered places to worship and given donations and other forms of assistance from other churches and individuals in the community to help in the rebuilding effort. More than $25,000 was given.

"We would never have seen this day if others had not come forward," Gnuse said. "That's what it's all about and it has left a lasting Christian witness."

Gnuse said it is now time to look forward.

"We were sad four years ago, and there were some tough times," he said. "Now, it is time to rejoice."

The new St. John's is a product of countless workers and technicians, starting with nationally recognized architect Walker C. Johnson of Johnson Lasky Architects in Chicago.

"Walker Johnson is an architect grounded and trained in historic church preservation," Herr-mann said. "He helped us design an interior that matched the historic significance of the period of the 1850s."

At the time St. John's was originally built, the church bell tower and nave cost a combined $10,000.

"We were able to maintain the historic exterior while im-proving on the interior," Herr-mann said. "This is now a 21st century user-friendly church."

Also playing important roles in the reconstruction were architect Darin Prost of Architechnics and general contractor Greg Fischer of A. Fischer Builders, both of Quincy.

"A lot of good friendships have been built through all of this," Greg Fischer said.

Peters Heating and Air Conditioning, Brown Electric, Sparrow Plumbing and Heating, paint contractors A.H. Kemner and Sons, Bill Vonderhaar Masonry, Blick's Construction, Abbey Carpet, Sohn Carpet World, Adams Florist, Brennan and Brennan Law Firm, Classique Signs, Doors-N-More, Doyle Renovating and Construction, Gem City Concrete, Heinz Electric, JK Creative Printers, McClean Concrete, Mitchell's Quik Print, Tel Tech Communications, the Business Centre and Moore's Floors were other contributors to the rebuilding effort.

Each detail of the fire and the ensuing rebuilding project is etched in Herrmann's mind.

"The fire started at 4:04 a.m. Aug. 23, 2002," Herrmann said. "That's when lightning struck the church."

The incredible irony was that fire crews were called to the church twice during the 12 hours preceding the fire. Smoke alarms had gone off, but both times firefighters could not find anything wrong after walking through the building.

The disaster wound up being the proverbial blessing in disguise. Numerous problems were uncovered during the investigation into the fire, including how unsound the structure was.

"The termite damage was so bad that we were told a wind of 40 mph or more could have caused the building to implode," Herrmann said.

Other serious problems also surfaced. Some of the walls were bowed, others needed to be leveled. Later, a debris field 90 feet beneath the surface was discovered, which caused delays in the reconstruction, which originally figured to take between 18 and 24 months.

During the four years of work, services were held in the parish hall. Out front of the damaged building there was always a friendly reminder to passers-by. A sign read "We're Still Here."

"At times, the rebuilding was a painful process," said Ben Miller, junior warden of the church. "But we put our faith in God and (today) is going to be a glorious day."

Maintaining the church's intricate design and workmanship were paramount from the beginning, Herrmann said. For example, all of the church's stained-glass windows were re-moved and warehoused in Peoria. They later were sent to a company in Fairfield, Iowa, to be cleaned and repaired.

Much of church's interior and roof were destroyed, but the stone walls and bell tower were left standing. They served as the framework for the new church.

The pews that will be occupied today came from a church in Joliet that had closed.

"When I contacted (officials) in Joliet, I found that the church was from the same period as St. John's and I asked them if we might be able to purchase the pews," Herrmann said. "After explaining to them what had happened with the fire, they said we could have the pews ... at no cost. They were happy to assist."

Herrmann returned to Quincy last Wednesday to tie up loose ends and begin final preparations for today's service. As he walked through the reminders of a four-year journey, he stopped and looked as construction workers laid the last carpeting, adjusted lights and swept up debris.

There was an obvious feeling of accomplishment present, one that seemed to grip all who have been involved.

"From what we had in the old church, to what we have now ... it's almost as if it is a completely different building," Miller said.

In many ways, it is.

In Herrmann's eyes, there is a reflection of more than simply fulfilling a goal. When he surveys the new St. John's, he is, at times, almost at a loss for words.

"When you walk in, you sense you are in a holy place," he said.


Contact Staff Writer Steve Eighinger at seighinger@whig.com or (217) 221-3377

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Do You Realize or Comprehend the Damage Katrina did to Churches in New Orleans and Mississippi?

Several months ago, our Bishop, Rt. Reverend Dean Wolfe asked all the churches under his jurisdiction to partner with a sister church either in Louisiana or Mississippi. We have been helping as best we can since that time. I am passing along today an article from Thursday's Christian Science Monitor which discusses just how dire the situation remains there for your consideration. PAT

from the August 24, 2006 edition - http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0824/p17s01-lire.html
To raise New Orleans, lift churches, pastors urge
By Jane Lampman | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
African-American churches historically have been the heart and soul of black communities, and the Rev. C.T. Vivian - a Martin Luther King Jr. confidant from Atlanta - believes they hold the key to restoring New Orleans' neighborhoods.
So he and a pastor from the city, the Rev. Dwight Webster, have formed Churches Supporting Churches (CSC), a national initiative to revitalize 36 churches in the 12 hardest-hit areas.

When the levee broke last August, Pastor Webster's house in the devastated Ninth Ward filled with water, and his wife's small business was destroyed. Their Christian Unity Baptist Church was built 12 feet off the ground, however, and is now back in shape. Though some 65 percent of its members are still scattered across the United States, they'll soon be holding services every Sunday.

For other black pastors in the city, the struggle has been even grimmer.

"Almost 80 percent of city churches have been destroyed," says Mr. Vivian, who's been galvanized by the crisis, "and guys have two mortgages - for their home and their church - and no money coming in." Vivian and Webster envision partnerships connecting 10 churches across the US with each local congregation.

CSC is but one of the initiatives the African-American faith community has undertaken to respond to hurricane Katrina's unprecedented impact on the Gulf Coast.

As soon as evacuees were shunted in random fashion onto airplanes, church coalitions formed in several US cities to help evacuees locate family members, resettle, and plan for the future.

Individual black churches have raised huge amounts of money to help those in distress, and they continue to send volunteers and resources to the region. For example, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago gave $160,000 to Dillard University and has a partnership with the school. Fountain Baptist Church in Summit, N.J., has pledged to raise $1 million for Gulf Coast restoration, including funds for job training and housing projects.

A national consortium of black churches - the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference - created a 9/11-style commission to ensure that the voices of those most affected wouldn't be drowned out during the recovery and rebuilding.

The Katrina National Justice Commission - involving leaders from the clergy, academia, business, and the professions - held public hearings this summer in New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Houston. Evacuees, first responders, public officials, and representatives of charitable groups told their stories.

Although the US Congress also held hearings, "we felt that African-American churches connect with people that the government would miss or ignore," says the Rev. Otis Moss III, a pastor at Trinity United and a Proctor conference trustee.

The testifiers highlighted, for instance, the particular challenges such emergencies present for those with limited resources, and for citizens who are disabled or immobile in their homes for medical reasons, says the Rev. Dr. Susan Smith, of Columbus, Ohio, the commission chair. "Preparedness plans have to be more detailed than in the past," she says. The need for mental-health support was also apparent, as suicides continue among those affected, she adds.

Commission findings and recommendations will be published early next month. The report will address four issue areas: disaster and relief, the restoration process, public policy, and African-American church and community preparedness. It will call for a federal Katrina assistance fund; a bipartisan commission to monitor the recovery, including contracts; and participation of church and community-based groups in preparedness decisionmaking at every level.

"FEMA and Red Cross testimony affirmed that they were very weak in certain areas, such as cultural competence," says Dr. Iva Carruthers, general secretary of the Proctor conference. The conference aims to provide training for black churches in emergency preparedness.

This Sunday, Aug. 27, there will be special commemorative worship services at Riverside Church in New York City and other sites across the country.

Webster, meanwhile, meets in monthly seminars with other New Orleans pastors struggling to maintain contact with dispersed congregations while rebuilding. (Someone donated a website so his members could keep in touch. He and his family are still in California, which puts him on the "red eye" flight frequently.)

CSC aims to strengthen the health and unity of pastors and congregations as they return to the city and rebuild bricks and mortar as well as the spiritual life of the congregations. CSC hopes to enable them to be agents for change.

"We need to bring neighborhoods back, not just one church here and there," Webster says. "We can do that if we get these 36 churches up."

To accomplish this, CSC is seeking 10 churches from across the US to partner with each local congregation for three years (360 partner churches in all), to help with spiritual, financial, and technical assistance. The National Council of Churches has agreed to act as the group's fiduciary agent; and several denominations and ecumenical groups (including Mennonites, Church of the Brethren, the Baptist Peace Fellowship) have signed on.

The situation remains daunting. But as a pioneer of the civil rights movement, Vivian knows how to persevere and what spiritual resources to draw on. His new dream, he says, is that success in New Orleans "will serve as a model for other parts of the Gulf Coast."

• To contact CSC, call: (504) 915-4987.
Copyright © 2006 The Christian Science Monitor.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

We Keep Plugging Along

Not a lot to report at this time; our Thursday night community suppers are still getting a rather good turnout; We always have enough food to feed a hundred visitors, but sometimes the hot weather has kept people from venturing over to join us; nonetheless, 75-85 men, women and children from the community always come around on Thursday beginning at 5:30 PM. I suggested to our vicar, Father Eytcheson that it would be a good idea to include Evening Prayer starting at 5 PM for anyone who wished to attend prior to the supper, but no answers on that yet.