You can never go home again.
You can never go home again.
Last week the Virginia Supreme Court handed down a ruling in the dispute over the historic Falls Church property which may provide a path home for the continuing congregation of the Falls Church Episcopal.
When the congregation of the historic church voted in 2007 to leave the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, not all of the parishioners agreed with the decision. A small group of those parishioners acted on their belief and determined to continue meeting as a congregation loyal to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.
They met first in the home of a longtime leader at the Falls Church. A young navy chaplain, home from duty in Iraq and assigned to minister to wounded soldiers at the Bethesda Naval Hospital, volunteered his time to lead them in worship. The congregation quickly outgrew the home. The leaders of the Falls Church Presbyterian Church offered to allow the continuing congregation to worship in the loft of their church.
Some three years later, as the litigation over the disputed property has continued to run it coarse, the continuing congregation continues to worship regularly in its borrowed space. The congregation today numbers more than two hundred. The young chaplain was hired as the priest in charge. A second priest runs the congregation’s Sunday school and youth ministry. A music director supports the worship services and leads the choir. The congregation has been visited in the loft by all of the Episcopal Bishops in Virginia and other leaders in national church. They have an active vestry. They have an address, an office, an altar, and use the bible, hymnals, the Book of Common Prayer in worship. An astonishingly high percentage of the members contribute financially to the church. There have been births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, and other milestones in the congregation since the break. The congregation has many active ministries – focused on supporting family, the military, housing, food, and the needs of youth in the area. They have really good food after their services.
The members of the continuing congregation are aware of their situation. They know what happened, they know what they are and what they are not, and they have as good a sense as possible about the difficulties they face in the future.
The continuing congregation of the Falls Church Episcopal has managed to largely transcend the dispute. They love each other. They are loyal to their church and faith. They are committed to ministry in their community. They are beyond grateful for the prayers and support they receive. They are forgiving of the misunderstandings and unpleasantness which has occurred and which they know will continue to occur. They are sincerely repent of their own transgressions.
The members of the continuing congregation of the Falls Church Episcopal may some day worship again in their historic church property, but they, and the home they would return to, has changed forever.
Because you really cannot go home again. Not exactly.
Michael Gardner is a quixotic citizen and founder of the Blueweeds community blog.