Welcome home: St. Edward’s ready to take next step

September 2016 Posted in Arts, Culture & History, Community

By Kristine Thomas

The members of St. Edward’s Episcopal Church in Silverton took the journey to learn about other churches and faiths.

Now, they are encouraging others to give it a try.

Especially people who have quit attending church services for one reason or another. Or those who are curious and want to see how another faith worships.

St. Edward’s Episcopal Church members and the vicar invite community members to their Welcome Home celebration Sunday, Sept. 11, 10 a.m. at the church, 211 W Center St.

“We encourage people to step out of their comfort zone,” member Heather Lewis said. “We welcome everyone.”

They were welcomed at other places of faith this summer.

The Rev. Shana McCauley along with her congregation took a “sabbatical,” by closing the church doors and attending other places of worship in June, July and August.

Labeling this journey “The Holy Experiment,” the congregation was divided into three groups. Members visited Silver Creek Fellowship, Trinity Lutheran in Silverton and Trinity Lutheran in Mount Angel in June; Episcopal churches in July and three different places of worship, such as a mosque or a synagogue in August.

McCauley said by stepping outside their own church and stepping into the community to see and learn how other faiths worship, it will give her congregation ideas on what they want to do to move their church forward.

As she begins to meet with members, the questions she is asking is, “What do we know now as members and having participated or not participated in the Holy Experiment about who we are as St. Edward’s?”

What they know for certain is they do not want to close St. Edward’s. They are determined to find a way to continue to serve the community.

Founded in 1956, St. Edward’s, like so many mainstream churches, has declined in membership for the last several years.

Describing this period as the “Second Reformation,” McCauley said many churches are searching for answers on how to serve, especially when many people believe they do not need a church to have faith.

On a warm August evening, McCauley met with Heather Pilkington, Heather Wright and Heather Lewis to discuss what they learned this summer.

The woman laughed about the challenges of attending a new church – such as not quite knowing how to take communion or what to do during a service.

At each place of worship visited, they made notes about what they liked and what ideas they would like to use in their own church. They also noted they like how their vicar will read a passage from the Bible and then share in her sermon how it applies to the present.

What each of the women discovered is being a member of St. Edward’s feels like home.

“We found we were appreciative and loyal to our clergy,” Pilkington said. “I feel this experiment brought us closer together. I think we will come out stronger as a congregation because of this.”

Pilkington said it was exciting to learn about the different places of worship that she visited and wishes she could have gone to more. Lewis enjoyed attending the Baha’i service in Salem.

“In the Baihi’ faith, they believe it doesn’t matter what people call God because he is the same. They believe there is no wrong way to worship as long as people have faith in something.”

The church is not closing

At least twice a day, Wright said it happens.

“People come up to me and tell me that St. Edward’s is shutting down,” Wright said.

And patiently, Wright explains “no” that’s not an option.

“Our church feels like our home,” Wright said.

“We are here to stay,” Lewis added. “We are a tight community. We now know what we need to do to get the community involved in our church.”

For McCauley, her sabbatical gave her time to think, pray and focus on improving her health. She also given a great deal of consideration to how she wants to lead her congregation. In the past, she said, she was more of a listener, gathering input. Now, she said, she understands each member of her congregation and knows what it will take to lead them toward a common mission.

McCauley said one sermon she heard while on her sabbatical that inspired her had to do with The Karate Kid.

In the movie, Daniel asks Mr. Miyagi to teach him karate, which he declines at first. Daniel’s training begins with menial chores such as waxing the car and painting the fence. Thinking he is learning nothing, Daniel eventually learns each chore is teaching him muscle memory to make defensive blocks, McCauley summarized.

Attending church and listening to the Gospel is in a way, McCauley explained, the same thing. “What we practice in church, we are able to take into the world. If practice servitude and being accepting and loving in church, then we will show that in the world,” she said.

The three women who met with McCauley agree they want to build their church’s mission around something that provides them with the opportunity to be the hands of Christ working in their community.

For example, they may decide to minister to the homeless or work with at-risk children. By doing this, they may be going out into the community, rather than expecting people to come to them.

“We want to find a way to bring Christ to people through our work,” Pilkington said. “I came back from this experiment more renewed and with a deeper purpose. I want to see our church become more hands on and reaching out to the community.”

And for those who are wondering if they should attend a service, Lewis kindly encourages them to visit St. Edward’s.

“We promise our vicar won’t be thumping on the Bible,” she said, laughing. “She makes God relative to our everyday lives.”

“We make room for everybody,” Pilkington said.

If you can’t make it to a church service, they invite the community to visit them at their Oktoberfest booth where the St. Edward’s members will be serving deep fried mushrooms and zucchini, biscuits and gravy, sweet potato fries and ice tea. Don’t be surprised if you get a kind invite to attend church.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.