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Monday, November 19, 2012

A Tale of Two Churches

Yesterday afternoon Don Bushyager and I attended the gathering of 75 or so folks at True Anglican Church in Monongahela for a Service of Thanksgiving to celebrate the opening of their new church building on East Main Street.  In addition to Don and me, Anglican clergy from Brownsville and Uniontown attended as well as the Church of Christ, Methodist,  and two Baptist clergy from Monongahela.  It was a pleasant surprise to see old friends and erstwhile Anglicans, Darrin and Trish Ford, from Donora among other guests from the community.   

The Holy Spirit was present and active!  We listened to readings from Holy Scripture, prayed and sang a combination of staid Anglican hymns like "Alleluia, Sing to Jesus", old gospel hymns like "It is Well"  and "His Eye in on the Sparrow" and renewal choruses from the 1980s like "Glorify Thy Name" and "Surely the Presence of the Lord is in This Place".  And the Rector, John Fierro, preached with fire in his belly!   The service was a real testimony to the hard work and commitment to the gospel by the people of the former St Paul’s Church who left everything behind and moved into the former Italian Social Club.  It was also evident this came to pass in large part because of  John's 14 years of faithfully preaching the gospel and lovingly caring for the people in his charge.  Church leadership guru, John Maxwell, in an oft quoted phrase sums up John's ministry in the Mon Valley,  "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."  John cares and his people care for him and they follow his leadership.  

As we drove through Monongahela on West Main Street we passed by St Paul’s Episcopal Church.  The sign in front proclaimed: “Open to All  -  Closed to No One”.   This seems to be the meme of the congregations occupying former Anglican properties.  For example, our former electronic sign at St David’s often flashes:  “St David’s Warmly Welcomes All”.   They seem to be suggesting that the Anglican parishes somehow don't welcome everyone to their churches and now somehow the newly occupying Episcopalians have corrected that alleged deficiency.  

Last Saturday Bishop Mark Lawrence in his speech to the Special Convention of the  Diocese of South Carolina explained this mistaken perspective quite clearly:  “But I must say this again and again. This has never been about who is welcome or not welcome in our church.  Its about what we shall tell them about Jesus Christ, his mercy, his grace and his truth – it is about, what we shall tell them when they come and what we shall share when we go out.”

Just sayin',  DDW


  1. The sign at the old St. David's Church may read "The Episcopal Church Welcomes All" but the parking lot is virtually empty. I wonder why that is? Maybe it is because they have no message, no Gospel and no salvation. They say they welcome all but really welcome none - at least into the Kingdom of God and what else is a church for?

  2. Delighted to hear the story of such a great "fresh start" for the True Vine congregation, and I entirely join your applause for John's long and faithful ministry. He is a great pastor and priest, and he and Shirley I know continue to share so many wonderful gifts and blessings of Christian friendship.

    There are so many hard and I think often unintended consequences to the decisions we made in 2008, with much collateral damage. But God is always, as a friend of mine commented the other day, the perfect opportunist, with the power to spin gold from the strawy mess of things we leave in our wake. I think, hope, we can pray for the gifts of the Spirit to fall as well on the efforts of those who are also in their prayers and ministries in the reorganizing St. Paul's. And in St. David's too. There have been so many mistakes on all sides, so many missed opportunities, so pervasively a mix of high aspiration and low performance, that we might simply pray that our Lord would have mercy on us all, and bless us in spite of ourselves . . . .

    Bruce Robison