Tuesday, September 17, 2013
The former Rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church and retired Bishop of Alabama The Rt. Reverend Henry N. Parsley, Jr. preached and celebrated the Eucharist at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd on Sunday.
In his sermon based on the assigned scripture readings about the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost son, Retired Bp. Parsley spoke of the rejoicing of God.
“All of these characters are ecstatic in finding that which had been lost. All throw a big celebration. ‘Rejoice with me!’ say the shepherd and the old lady say, ‘kill the fatted calf!’ says the father. The stories become one great heavenly party thrown in honor of repentance and homecoming. Each, Jesus says, is like the rejoicing of God and the angels.... It is no less than God himself who is the first one on the dance floor, the God of the universe who is not a damning God but a dancing God. ... We must heal our divisions and get on with this witness. The world needs the Gospel and it needs the Episcopal Church."
Established in October 2012, the church has grown from 15 members at the first service to now over 60. Without a building, the community has worshipped every Sunday at 11:30 a.m. at the Wesley United Methodist Church.
“It is humbling to have the hospitality of the Wesley United Methodist Church,” said Good Shepherd member Eleanor Koets. “They said ‘We don’t care about the politics, we just want to do the right thing’.”
Beginning without a church of their own was difficult but it helped the community grow closer together and in faith.
“This is the community of the people,” said George Tupper, another member. “A building is not to be worshiped, it is a vehicle to worship in.”
“All of the prayers and scripture seem to talk to us,” said member Jane Tupper. “We are a new people like the new Christians and the early Church.”
The church received donations from Episcopal churches from San Diego, California; Asheville, N.C., Texas, and Virginia among others. Donations included Books of Common Prayer, vestments, hymnals and a communion set.
The Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg, Bishop of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, said that the Church of the Good Shepherd community has been strong during the rebuilding.
“They could have joined other Episcopal churches but they have a strong sense of community and will apply to be a mission church in February.”
To be admitted as a mission church, the Church of the Good Shepherd will have to apply to the Secretary of the Annual Convention of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina on Feb. 21-22.
The Rt. Rev. Porter Taylor, the Bishop of Western North Carolina will preach at the church on Oct. 6. Koets said that the bishops' visits is an important event “to (the church) it is like the president is coming.”
“For the bishops to come,” said Koets. “It is symbolic that we are very much a part of the Episcopal Church.”
Member John Wilder said that everyone with the church helps out instead of a select few, something that he believes is rare. Sally Ziter, a new member, said that after searching for churches for three years, she found the right one for her at the Good Shepherd.
“It’s so welcoming and family-oriented,” said Ziter. “It was like coming home.”