Thursday, July 30, 2009

Episcopal group returns home After years in limbo, members happy to be back at Fifth Street church

From Petaluma CA-

St. John’s Episcopal congregation returned home this month, and Sunday marked a full-circle journey.

Visiting Bishop Barry L. Beisner presided over a choral service and the baptism of baby Cali Ann Louise Joyce.

“There are world struggles, changes, challenges and gifts,” Beisner reminded the congregation Sunday. “Amazing grace, and here we are. It’s not the end; only the next step in the journey. We have arrived in this place, and now (have) the additional gift to serve.”

For St. John’s, June marked the return of church members to the historic Fifth Street church after a 21⁄2-year odyssey to re-establish its legal right to regain the building and the majority of its $450,000 outreach endowment.

In December 2006, members of the original congregation split from St. John’s Episcopal Church as part of a larger national break by conservative congregations over same-sex blessings, ordination of a gay bishop and the authority of Scripture. The breakaway St. John’s Anglican Church continued meeting in the church, an 1890 shingled sanctuary and rectory.

The remaining Episcopal members re-formed under the Rev. Norman Cram, who came out of retirement to conduct services — first in a parishioner’s living room and later at Elim Lutheran Church.

A settlement recently was reached with St. John’s Anglican congregation after a unanimous California Supreme Court ruling involving churches in a similar situation in Southern California.

“To be back home means we can reach outside of our border to the community of Petaluma,” said Cram. “Currently, we have been exploring areas in which there are vacuums in ministry.”

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