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The Developing Relationship between

St Mark Lutheran And Christ Episcopal Churches In Norwich CT

(Hugh James, April 1, 2017)

Following recent meetings of the St Mark Church Council, Christ Episcopal Church’s Vestry and our local Lutheran/Episcopalian Steering Committee, I thought it would be useful to take this opportunity of updating you on recent developments, and how they will affect our future.

At the end of May, Niki Harvell, Vicar at St Mark, will leave that post as she seeks a call to another church and she will be ordained a minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Shortly afterwards the Rev Les Swenson will finish his term as Interim Minister at St Mark. June, therefore, seems the appropriate time to start making the changes that we have been talking about for many months now.

So, we will start worshipping together at the beginning of June, and for the period June through September we will alternate monthly between the two church buildings, starting at St Mark. The reason for choosing to go to St Mark first is that they will be losing their clergy and so using their building will provide some degree of continuity as they adapt to having an episcopal priest presiding at the services.

When we are at St Mark we will be using liturgies from the (Episcopal) Book of Common Prayer. When we are at Christ Church, the liturgy will be from Evangelical Lutheran Worship. To make it easier for people to follow the service we will be using bulletins which contain the whole service each time – at least for the first few months. We will be using hymns from the host church’s hymn book so that we do not need to carry large numbers of hymn books back and forth! Geoff, St. Mark Church’s musician, Jesse, Christ Episcopal Church’s music director, and CEC’s music group will co-ordinate who plays when and where for the services.

Each Sunday we will hold two services: a said Eucharist at 8:00am, and a sung Eucharist at 9:30am. There will be two coffee “hours”: between the two services and following the second service. The exception to this will be August 24, when we will hold an outdoor eucharist at Mohegan Park followed by games and a picnic.

We will be using either the Book of Common Prayer or Evangelical Lutheran Worship. To be canonical and to maintain the integrity of each of our traditions, we will not be “mixing” the two liturgies. We will be using one or the other, and I have given my personal commitment that we will respect and maintain both those traditions. Exactly how we do that will be the subject of much future discussion and experiment. Would it be better, for example, to alternate month by month? Or Sunday by Sunday? Or should we have one Lutheran and one Episcopal service every Sunday? There are many ways of approaching this, and there aren’t any right or wrong answers. We will need to be prepared to try things out and then decide what suits us best.

Many of the details of our worship still need to be decided. For example, at Christ Church we administer communion with eucharistic ministers moving along an altar rail, where people kneel or stand. At St Mark the ministers stand in one place and the people come to them. We still need to discuss how we do that. The acolytes, the altar guilds, the lesson readers, intercessors, choristers, musicians, ushers and others will all want to know how their particular roles will be affected, and many of those details still need to be worked out.

There is, however, one principle that I want to have clear from the start: that whatever we do, we do it together. So that we work together jointly in whatever ministry or outreach we undertake. So, for example, on any and every particular Sunday we have altar guild people, or ushers, or acolytes (etc) from both churches. It will mean more work, and less doing things the way we always have, but it will mean that we get to know and love one another better, more quickly.

So from the beginning of June, I will effectively be the minister for both churches, and St Mark will begin contributing to the costs of that ministry. The details of this are still being discussed, but for those who keep a careful eye on our accounts, you will begin to see significant changes.

I am thankful that I will be assisted in ministry by Ann Perrott. But I would be grateful for your understanding that the pressures on me and others will increase. It won’t be because there will be more services, but the pastoral care and administrative sides of my ministry will be greater and changing: and not just for me, but wardens, treasurers and others as well.

Of course, there are many things that we do beyond worship – for example, the Food Pantry, the Community Garden and the School of the Arts. In the short-term these will remain where they are. By September we will be in a much better position to make longer term decisions about our buildings. You’ve heard me say, on many occasions, that this is not a simple decision and many people in both churches have strong emotional ties to their own building. There are pluses and minuses for each building. We need to consider them from many different perspectives, for example: situation and visibility, ease of access for the disabled, parking, long term maintenance costs, regular running costs, suitability for Sunday and weekday worship, possibilities for midweek ministries, such as the food pantry and CCSArts, sale-ability, provision of space for offices and educational facilities, and the list goes on. We have set up a small working group, which is considering all of this and taking advice from experts on many different aspects.

 We have also set up, or are setting up groups:

  • to look at our joint worship,
  • to make financial plans, and
  • to consider our vision and future mission, so that we do not lose sight of why we come together.

So to summarise the worship pattern:

June - Worship at St. Mark Church

8:00am - Said Eucharist Service - Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (BCP)

8:45am - Coffee Hour

9:30am - Eucharist Service – BCP

10:45am – Coffee Hour

July - Worship at Christ Episcopal Church

8:00am - Said Eucharist Service - Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW)

8:45am - Coffee Hour

9:30pm - Eucharist Service - ELW

10:45am – Coffee Hour

August - Worship at St. Mark Church

8:00am - Said Eucharist Service  - BCP

8:45am - Coffee Hour

9:30pm - Eucharist Service - BCP

10:45am – Coffee Hour

Last Sunday in August (8/24/17) – Outdoor Eucharist & Picnic @ Mohegan Park

September - Worship at Christ Episcopal Church

8:00am - Said Eucharist Service - ELW

8:45am - Coffee Hour

9:30pm - Eucharist Service - ELW

10:45am – Coffee Hour

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