I may be part time in my employment, but I am reasonably active in the life our our diocese.  Many of our congregations are small.  Historically, small congregations have been very persistent.  The smallest churches are families, and they survive difficulties that would swamp larger congregations.  That has been true.  And I’m pretty sure it will remain true.  What’s changing, at least in the Episcopal Church model, is how we’re going to have to do ministry.  We’ve been talking about this on a diocesan level.

Episcopal Churches are, generally speaking, Eucharistically centered.  That is, Holy Communion (the Lord’s Supper) is a pretty standard part of our Sunday celebration.  People miss it when it’s not there.  Our Book of Common Prayer specifies celebrating the Eucharist (or Great Thanksgiving) as the norm on Sundays.  And for us, this requires a trained Priest.  We do local ordination of Priests, raising people up from a congregation to serve in that place.  But we have always required that they serve under a “seminary trained” Priest.  So we’ve done things like cluster congregations to maintain (and pay) seminary trained clergy to carry out oversight.  For our smallest congregations, this is now proving economically impractical.  So some of our congregations will not have Communion regularly on Sundays.  Or the models are going to have to change.

Mind you, we know that vital congregations of whatever size are really about the formation of Christian communities that care for each other, the people and needs of the community around them, and ultimately for all of God’s creation in which we have been gifted to live.  But Episcopalians generally feel that part of this is to gather and be nourished by the Lord’s Supper (of which he told us, whenever we gather, to do this in memory of him).  So this is a particular challenge for us.

We have no answers yet.  But we are beginning to look at a variety of practices.  We are looking for the best practices, to support the life and faith and work our our congregations.

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