Dear Beloved St. Philip Family,
I am going to begin with a very difficult reality: the closing of St. Philip, in its current form, is virtually inevitable. The only thing that will change this is the development of a larger, actively engaged community living out God’s presence at the corner of NE Knott and Rodney, and the corresponding funds to support that community. Without both of these elements, we simply cannot continue long-term in any effective way.
Many of us want a miracle, and we want to avoid a decision in the hopes that someone will rescue us. However, death precedes resurrection. As a person of faith, I will hardly refuse a miracle; I hope and pray for one every day. But also as a person and priest of faith, I must lead according to the reality before us. As your priest who loves you, I would rather that we face and move into reality together, loving and supporting one another in our grief, than that we hope someone else is going to come along and fix it.
Imagining a Joyful Rest
The beauty of looking at reality now, taking the time to discern together now, is that if we decide it is time to rest in the lord, we decide the timeline and how to celebrate our life together. We can tell our story, share the passions and commitments that have made this community unique, we can tell the story of our joy. We can ask the following:
- How can we share our story? Perhaps a digital timeline of this place, its people, and God’s work in the midst of our ancestors (click the link!)?
- The Diocese of Oregon owns our building, land, and remaining assets if we close. How would you like to ask that the diocese use our resources for the blessing of others? Should we ask the diocese to explore affordable housing across diocesan-owned properties? Or perhaps fund the Missioner for Racial Reconciliation? Or create a fund that supports anti-racism training and work across the diocese?
- Do we want to continue to worship together at another parish? Part of a decision to close St. Philip could include being welcomed as members in another nearby parish.
Our African-American members are feeling, in their guts and in their grief, the reality that this church is no longer the black church it once was. This change has been happening for decades. To even ask the question of closing feels like doing to St. Philip what was done to the homes and businesses buried under The Colosseum, I-5, the empty Emmanuel Hospital blocks, and what was Vanport. Yet the members of St. Philip have done so much over the years to be an enduring vital presence in our community, even with the changes we have experienced. We can grieve together, even as we celebrate what has gone before.
Be the Answer
All the questions (and a few more) from the meeting on December 11th are specifically addressed in this post (you may view the meeting on YouTube, and review the handout). As I listened and reflected on the questions, they all fall into four groups:
- How are we joyfully building our community through mutual support and formation?
- How and with whom are we joyfully sharing our community?
- What do we need to shelter our community, to keep our building useful and hospitable?
- How will we shelter our most vulnerable with our building and land?
Now, change every “we” to “I”: How will I joyfully build, share and shelter?
Each of us may have different answers: “I am doing all I can joyfully do” or, “what was joyful to me before just isn’t anymore,’ or “my joy is now elsewhere,” or the question, “how does my joy intersect with the needs of this time and place?”
In the next six months, how do you want to joyfully love God, neighbor, and creation through St. Philip? I am asking you, you specifically, what do you want to lead, organize, participate in, that helps to build, share, and shelter our community?
If this community is to stay open, then you must be the answer.
It is easy to think that returning to how it was done before will solve the problem, but drawing ne folks is primarily three things: proximity (all of our new folks live nearby), message and practice (people are drawn by a gospel of liberation lived in a multicultural and queer-friendly way), and our creative and collaborative eucharistic worship.
Time to Decide
Whether St. Philip continues or rests in the Lord, we as a community must celebrate the joy of all that was done before us. We need to decide by our actions and participation if we are able to practice joy in this place, in this time, with the people that are here, now.
At this Sunday’s congregational meeting, we will talk about what joyfully resting in the Lord could look like, what a new life together might look like, and ask “what am I willing to do in the next six months to work towards either a new life or a joyful rest?”
At our Annual Meeting on January 29th, we will have an opportunity to make both our 2023 financial pledge to St. Philip, and more importantly, a pledge to step in and try something new in the next six months.
While I am gone on Sabbatical (March 13th-June 13th), this community will be lay-led. For three months, a clergy-person will be present to lead Sunday Eucharist, as you have planned it. Pastoral emergencies that require sacramental presence will be led by Father Bob and Mother Alcena, but pastoral care will be in your hands. Take this time to discover what gives you joy, and, if you can continue to do it in a way that is sustainable for you. Because even with a full-time clergy, the future of this parish is in your hands.
When I return from my Sabbatical , we will take a look at what the Spirit is stirring in our midst. This could be the reinvigoration of something old, it could be something new. It could be the recognition that it is time to rest in the Lord.
Blessings to all,