Pat McLaughlin is the treasurer of Holy Trinity Church Inwood. She attended a meeting at Diocesan House on January 31, 2017. Here is her reflection.
Today I had the opportunity to participate in the meeting to launch the CSS [Congregations in Strategic Settings] initiative held at Diocesan House. It was informative both to know that Holy Trinity is actually in the forefront of this new and challenging adventure and to get a better understanding of who our partners are in this journey.
Of all the facts and ideas presented, I took to heart Bishop Dietsche’s comment that “no matter what, we can’t have the same 20 people in the same 10 pews.” The long-term goal is to grow the parish as part of a community.
It strikes me that as Episcopalians we rarely talk about why we do things. I think we assume that everyone knows that we have good and kind motivations. It’s important, however, to be clearer about the why. Unlike many churches or other religious groups, we don’t require membership or fees. We’re inclined to be open and receptive to all comers — all good things.
. . . but you could run a kids club or a YWCA with those motivations.
Is it fair to suggest we be clear that our reason for staying is maintaining the presence of God in the community as seen and interpreted from an Episcopal church perspective? Do we put people off by making clear that we make sacrifices (and offerings) to make this facility available to the community? Could that reason, that “why,” be reason enough to expand our community?
I was struck by the fact that of the 10 buildings reviewed in the presentation, many were by significant architects and in fact beautiful in themselves. For over a hundred years, if you walked by the building or even looked in that direction your spirit was lifted and fed by that beauty. You might not even realize that was the case, but beauty in our surrounds uplifts in ways we just don’t recognize. The diocese could trade on the beauty of the building and simply sell them for secular development. Remember the Limelight? That parish sold the building outright and it was developed into a notorious nightclub with the qualification “… former Episcopal church.” It was a blight on its community until it closed down. The lack of long-term thinking on the part of those originally responsible for the parish seems to have lived beyond the life of the nightclub. We didn’t do that community or ourselves any favors.
Even today the diocese could simply sell the land, replace buildings of significant architectural richness with prefab buildings, and again take that money and move it to charitable efforts. Many would find us justified in doing so. What requires us to stay?
I believe the only way we can stop some developer from laying waste to the community in the name of profit is to claim the reasons Holy Trinity, an Episcopal church in Inwood, New York, sees it’s mission:
- The Episcopal Church’s desire for growth, its own growth as well as the community’s. Our growth comes from spreading the Word of God and the good works we do in His name. We aim to grow the community as our message and our works become apparent to its citizens
- The Episcopal Church’s commitment to the community it serves because we see ourselves as responsible for our stewardship, not merely to a “good neighbor” policy
- The Episcopal Church’s desire to be a presence to support the needs of the community and to join in working through the inevitable changes that every NYC community faces over time
I’m not sure I’ve articulated this very well — it’s really just a small seed germinating at the back of my mind. I know that there are many reasons to build community, to support the needs of a particular geographic area and I’m only focusing on one. I just want to add that I think we should be clear we are not a service industry, for profit or non-profit. While as Episcopalians we tend to deference and respect, we don’t need to conceal our true motives. We are here and we want to remain here because we believe that God’s presence makes a difference.