“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Galatians 6:2 (ESV)
Dear East Tennessee Friends,
On June 24th, at a socially distanced and masked meeting at Diocesan House, the Vestry of St Thomas Episcopal Church, Knoxville, met with me and Canon Michelle Bolt. In a meeting that included many moments of holy silence and deep sighs that God understood perfectly, the St. Thomas Vestry voted unanimously to engage a process of closing their parish church, with their last day scheduled for All Saints Day, November 1st.
In this COVID-19 season, many of us are experiencing grief in small and large ways. I humbly ask that you also find space now to grieve and pray for the parish family of St. Thomas. Any of us who have been shaped by sacred spaces and parish communities understand how much our story of God is made material and tangible by the place that is church for us. For the people of St Thomas, on November 1st, their story of God will change, not end.
A Diocesan Pastoral Care Team is preparing to walk with the people of St. Thomas in the coming weeks and months. We plan to find ways to capture the stories and blessed memories of parish life there and share it with the wider Diocesan community. The Rev. Howard Hess and The Rev. Deacon Lee Ragsdale have offered to serve as identified pastors to the St. Thomas parish in these closing days.
I would also ask that each East Tennessee parish church add St. Thomas, Knoxville, to your Prayers of the People between now and November 1st. Pray that God’s Spirit would remain with them as they seek to discern what is next for them in God’s story, as our friends in Christ who share in the Episcopal witness in East Tennessee.
As Christians, we proclaim a Gospel where Resurrection follows death. Now is a time, all the more, to live as if Resurrection and renewal await all of us.
Pray for St. Thomas. Pray for me. Pray for each other. Pray for our fragmented world, in need of healing and hope.