From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopalians: Presiding bishop joins anniversary celebration at church in Key West, Florida

Date Wed, 12 Feb 2003 16:39:45 -0500

February 12, 2003


Episcopalians: Presiding bishop joins anniversary celebration at 
church in Key West, Florida

by Mary W. Cox

(ENS) Even though it was a Saturday morning rather than Sunday, 
there was standing room only at St. Paul's, Key West, on January 
25, as Episcopalians from throughout the Diocese of Southeast 
Florida joined with St. Paul's parishioners--and Presiding 
Bishop Frank T. Griswold--in celebrating the 170th patronal 
festival of the oldest congregation in the diocese.

Responding to Bishop Leo Frade's urging to make the event "a 
diocesan family gathering," parishioners from churches in Palm 
Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties spilled out of buses, 
vans and cars and began to fill St. Paul's more than two hours 
before the 11 a.m. service. A congregation estimated at more 
than 750 filled the pews, as well as chairs set up in every 
available space inside the church and on the side porch. Some 
worshipers stood in the back of the church, and children sat on 
the floor in the center aisle.

In addition to Griswold and Frade, Assistant Bishop James 
Ottley, Onell Soto, retired assistant bishop of Alabama, and 
about 40 diocesan clergy and six interfaith clergy representing 
Key West congregations participated in the service.

Skateboards and all

With the resounding call of a conch shell horn and the skirling 
of bagpipes, Verger George Noel led a grand procession, 
including acolytes, choir, church and community leaders, 
visiting clergy and the four bishops out of the church grounds 
and around the block to Mile Marker 0, where the bishops and 
archdeacons paused at the spot marking the beginning and the 
ending of U.S. Route 1. The procession gathered some of the 
city's young people, with a gaggle of skateboarders and inline 
skaters falling in line as the procession moved down Duval 
Street to St. Paul's. 

In his sermon, Bishop Griswold reflected on the conversion of 
St. Paul, telling the congregation that, like Paul, "we must 
each undergo conversion...that lays claim to everything." Like 
"the reluctant apostle Ananias," who ministered to Paul, we are 
"instruments of salvation for each other." He told the 
congregation that "each one of you, by your baptism, is called 
to be a minister of reconciliation."

St. Paul's welcomed the presiding bishop by presenting him with 
a conch shell horn, which, according to vestry member Jim 
Richardson, "symbolizes our oneness with the land, and with the 
sea around us." After a demonstration of conch horn technique by 
9-year-old Norman Alexander, who sounded the horn for the 
procession, Griswold managed to make a sound with the shell, 
much to the delight of the congregation. He thanked the parish 
for the unique gift, saying, "I can truly say I don't have one!" 

Richardson read a proclamation from the City of Key West, 
recounting the history of the parish and naming the day as a 
festival to be celebrated by the community in honor of the 170th 
anniversary of St. Paul's.

New archdeacons

Frade congratulated St. Paul's on its anniversary, saying, "We 
talk a lot about missions and evangelism. Well, this is what 
happens when a church is planted -- and grows..."

Smiling, he added, "I'm glad the City Council way back then 
[1831] had such good taste as to petition the Diocese of New 
York to send a priest to start an Episcopal church."

The service was also the occasion of the formal induction of the 
Ven. Dr. Bryan Hobbs and the Ven. Paul Rasmus as archdeacons for 
the diocese. For both archdeacons, having this service at St. 
Paul's had particular significance: Rasmus was rector of St. 
Paul's for eight years before taking his new position on the 
diocesan staff in December of last year, and Hobbs, who comes to 
his new ministry from 24 years as rector of Holy Sacrament in 
Pembroke Pines, began his ministry in the diocese in Key West.

After the service, the day's festivities continued with food and 
entertainment on the church grounds.


--Mary Cox is director of communications for the Diocese of 
Southeast Florida and editor of the diocesan newspaper.

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