From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[ENS] SAN DIEGO: Fallbrook congregation to return to church on Easter

From "Matthew Davies" <>
Date Sun, 12 Apr 2009 10:06:27 -0400

>Episcopal News Service
>April 9, 2009

SAN DIEGO: Fallbrook congregation to return to church on Easter

A 'resurrection moment' for St. John's, says Bishop Mathes

>By Pat McCaughan

[Episcopal News Service] After meeting in a local community center for
two and a half years, members of St. John's Episcopal Church in
Fallbrook in the Diocese of San Diego will celebrate Easter back in
their church home.

"This is a great moment--a resurrection moment--for the people of St.
John's. They've been meeting there since 1891 and can tell you stories
after stories of holy moments in that sacred space," said Bishop Jim
Mathes of San Diego in a telephone interview on April 9.

Instead of officiating at the St. Paul's Cathedral, as is customary on
Easter, Mathes will instead be at St. John's 10 a.m. April 12
celebration. "This is where I'm supposed to be, celebrating the
Resurrection of Jesus."

The entire diocesan community is invited to share that moment, he
said. "The people of the diocese have shown we can care for each other
deeply and support each other in times of challenge and times of great

St. John's senior warden, Kathy Wood, said she is overjoyed. "God is
everywhere, but our history is in that building," she said. She and
other parishioners were displaced in 2006 when dissident members voted
to realign the parish with the Diocese of Luwero in the Anglican
Church of Uganda but claimed the property on Iowa Street in northern
San Diego County.

A member since 1955, Wood said, "I've worked on the altar guild and
sung in the choir for most of those years. We know who donated each
beautiful gift for the altar and sacristy. Caring for my church is a
sacred trust and I'm glad to be allowed to do that again."

On March 11, the California Supreme Court dismissed a petition for
review, effectively ending claims that dissident members had the
authority to take possession of the church building and corporate

The justices' decision let stand an October 21, 2008 appellate court
ruling in New v. Kroeger that property and assets of congregations are
held in trust for the mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church and
the diocese. The Fourth District Court of Appeals had unanimously
reversed a San Diego County trial court ruling that California law
permitted a vestry to amend parish bylaws in order to quit the
Episcopal Church.

Mathes said representatives of the diocese met with dissident
parishioners to begin to work out details for the hand-over of
property and other assets. "Obviously, it's an ongoing process," he

He was not present at that meeting but said he would be delighted if
those members were present at Sunday's Easter celebration. "It would
be a moment to reconnect as one Body in Christ," he said.

Two other San Diego area churches, St. Anne's in Oceanside and Holy
Trinity in Ocean Beach, are still held by breakaway congregations.
Mathes said he hopes they will eventually return those properties to
the diocese. "I would hope it would have the effect of having them
recognize and honor the constitution and canons of the Episcopal
Church under which those congregations were founded and ministered for
so many years," he said.

Patty Campbell, a St. John's member, agreed. "It would have been
perfectly fine if they had wanted to disagree and go off in a
different direction," she said. "We would have said 'Godspeed!' and
given them hugs. But to leave the Episcopal Church and continue to
operate as directors of the Episcopal corporation-that isn't right."

Meanwhile, parishioners like Frankie Schwederman, thrift shop director
for 12 years, began to focus on ministry once the transition is
accomplished. The thrift shop "has historically raised $10,000 a year,
all of which goes to outreach programs in Fallbrook," Schwederman
said. "We have a team of 20 volunteers who are ready and eager to get
back to serving our community."

The Episcopal Diocese of San Diego encompasses 50 congregations in San
Diego, Imperial and Riverside counties, and in Yuma County in Arizona.

-- The Rev. Pat McCaughan is Episcopal Life Media correspondent for
Provinces VII and VIII. She is based in Los Angeles.

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