Thursday, April 17, 2008

St. Andrews, Peachtree City, Georgia, is Alive and Well

St. Andrew's in the Pines Episcopal Church and The Right Reverend J. Neil Alexander, Bishop of Atlanta, will install Paul Elliot as their new Rector tonight. Here's part of the local news report about the event:

...The Rev. Paul Courtright Elliott, interim pastor since March 2007, will become the permanent rector of Saint Andrew’s in a celebration to be held Thursday, April 17, at 6:30 p.m. at the church, 316 North Peachtree Pkwy. in Peachtree City. A reception will follow in the parish hall. The community is invited.

Elliott, a native of Huntsville, Ala., is a graduate of Birmingham Southern College, has a master of divinity from the General Theological Seminary in New York City, and is completing a doctorate in pastoral counseling at Emory University Candler School of Theology.

Ordained as a priest in 1996, he has served as associate rector and chaplain to the school at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, Northeast Atlanta. While at St. Martin’s, and continuing his studies, Elliott served as a counselor at Care and Counseling Center of Georgia near the Emory campus...
So, what is significant about this celebration? Consider this article that appeared in the same local paper just a little over a year ago:

...The downward spiral of The Episcopal Church (TEC) came home to Peachtree City, Ga., this past weekend when a local parish, St. Andrew’s-in-the-Pines, voted 145 to 67 (or 68 percent) on Sunday, Feb. 4 to separate from the national church and the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta.

The church’s vestry, or governing board, subsequently voted to honor the parish’s overwhelming desire to depart from TEC.

The vestry also voted to join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) – the U.S. missionary branch of the Anglican Church of Nigeria – in order to maintain the parish’s ties to the worldwide Anglican Communion...
From what I can gather, following this vote, Bp. Alexander took a "hands on" approach to this situation. He notified all the members of St. Andrews that he would meet with them on February 15. He was barred from entering St. Andrews by the leadership that had voted on February 4 to join the Church of Nigeria, so the meeting with the Bishop had to occur at a neighboring Episcopal Church. Here is part of Bishop Alexander's statement to the faithful Episcopalians of St. Andrews:

...Moving now to the future. Let me reiterate a few things most of you have already heard from me by way of the mail, but I believe they bear repeating. St. Andrew’s-in-the-Pines Episcopal Church is a parish in good standing within the Diocese of Atlanta. It will continue to be so. I cannot change that fact. Neither can a vote of a congregation or a vestry. The only body that has the authority to alter the relationship between St. Andrew’s and the diocese is Annual Council. In this wonderful country of ours, all are free to practice their religious faith as they see fit. Some of our number choosing personally to disaffiliate with us in no way alters the fact that St. Andrew’s is a parish of the Diocese of Atlanta. To be a part of The Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Atlanta was the vision of the founders of St. Andrew’s, and nothing short of an action of Annual Council can alter that vision, nor lessen our resolve toward keeping all of the commitments that vision implies.

So, I take it as a given that those who so desire will continue to be St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church into the future. As the bishop of the Diocese of Atlanta, I can assure all of you that we are commited to rebuilding St. Andrew’s to greater strength than it has ever known before. Given that St. Andrew’s has been abandoned by its vestry, it is important that those who desire to continue with us gather as soon as possible to pray, to identify, and to elect a new vestry to work with me to guide St. Andrew’s life into the future...
So, that's what they did. They voted in a new vestry, and adopted the mission statement "Growing in Grace" and stepped into the unknown. They were able to reclaim their building, and in March, 2007, called Paul Elliot as their interim priest.

It wasn't easy. They had to start over again with about 80 souls, and a big mortgage. Now, a year later, they have about 200 people in church and about 25 children attending "children's chapel" every Sunday.

We hear more than our share of sad stories about continuing Episcopalians being forced out of their churches. It is refreshing to hear one once in awhile that should give us all reason for hope. Much credit needs to be given to Bp. Alexander for his quick response to the need for leadership and pastoral care, as well as the faithful people of St. Andrew's, who were willing to step out in faith in spite of what must have seemed like insurmountable obstacles.

St Andrews in the Pines Episcopal Church is alive and well in Peachtree City, Georgia. Thanks be to God!

Keep the people of St. Andrew's and their new Rector, Paul Elliot, in your prayers today.

Pray for the Church.


No comments:

Post a Comment