On Sunday, October 24 at 3 p.m., I will lead the final service at St. Stephen’s in Elwood. Many of you will remember the people of this congregation and their faithful ministry, and I hope you will consider joining me to mark this holy ending with gratitude for all of the faithful lay and clergy leaders who have served in that place. I note with particular thanks that St. Stephen’s, founded in 1893, raised up the first vocational deacon in our diocese, the Rev. Overton Sacksteder III, in 1953.
St. Stephen’s began considering whether to close before the pandemic. The decision was not an easy one, but my conversation with one of the church’s leaders confirmed my sense that the congregation’s remaining members—four people on most Sundays— have made a faithful choice. I trust that God blesses all that St. Stephen’s has been and invites us to dream about what new opportunities for ministry await us in that community.
This will be the first time in our ministry together that a church has closed, and while we grieve the end of any congregation’s ministry, our faith assures us that holy endings make way for holy beginnings. In our diocese, we are deeply invested in providing support and resources for congregations seeking new ways of participating in God’s mission, and my staff and I are eager to talk with any congregation about the programs, training, and consulting that can help revitalize congregational mission and ministry. But occasionally, a congregation’s prayerful and considered decision to end its life together is the most faithful choice. That is the case at St. Stephen’s, Elwood, and I honor their decision even as I grieve the loss of any of our congregations.
I look forward to seeing those of you who can join me in Elwood on October 24, and I ask your prayers of thanksgiving for St. Stephen’s ministry as we bring it to a close.