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Letters lament, explain church closing

Editor:

Re: Spesutia Church, Saint George's Parish, Closing

Thank you for the recent articles on the editorial page concerning the Spesutia Church closing. The family have been associated with the congregation for more than two centuries so that action by the Bishop is disturbing, to say the least. Though we wrote the Bishop requesting him to revise his actions, we received notice today from the Diocese that he shan't. The closing might inflict substantial environmental damage to the oldest Episcopal church in the County (and the State) if this happens.

I do have a question, though, on your article. How does one resurrect a congregation once a church is closed by such actions as the Bishop here? I would not think parishioners would remain in the faith after such treatment.

I gave a copy of the letter the Bishop originally sent to current members of the congregation – perhaps you may be able to see it to get an idea of arguments for closing (which, except for declining attendance, we disagree with).

Thank you for any further public comments.

Griffith and Victoria Davis

Havre de Grace

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Davis:

Thank you for your letter to Bishop Sutton regarding the suspension of services at St. George's, Spesutia Parish, Perryman. The bishop asked me to reply given my history of working with the parish.

This is a difficult time for the wider church, not just St. George's. The diocese is looking at all of our ministries and what our response might be to the world in which we now find ourselves witnessing. One thing is certain, the way we have done church the past 200 years is not working now.

Given your family history at Spesutia Parish, I can only imagine how this must feel. Just as your ancestors were the leaders who made decisions in their time, this is our time. We are the leaders who have been entrusted with the stewardship of the church. As the chief steward of the diocese, the bishop takes very seriously his charge.

That episcopal stewardship extends to all property in the diocese. Each parish holds its property in trust for the diocese and each diocese, in turn, holds all church property in trust for The Episcopal Church. That is a matter of canon law. Our records indicate the parish house was built in 1935. If, as you assert in your letter, your relative donated funds to build that house, it was a gift to the church. Gifts to the church do not revert to the givers or their decedents if a church suspends weekly worship services.

As for the cementer funds gift, there is no record of restrictions on that gift at the diocese. Please provide a copy of that if you have it. You may contact Mrs. Karen Stewart, comptroller of the diocese, to make arrangements to turn over all parish financial records.

Bishop Sutton did not make this decision lightly. After the Standing Committee agreed St. George's was an imperiled parish, the Bishop's Assessment Team offered its advice. And the bishop consulted with the Harford region clergy who will help discern the future of ministry in the county. It is a process that will take at least five years. Let us all take this time as an opportunity to see what the Holy Spirit has in mind for our church in the 21st century.

In Christ's peace,

(The Rev. Canon) Dan Webster

Canon for evangelism and ministry development

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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