Holy Innocents' Episcopal Church

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From the Staff @ HIEC

A Grateful Senior Warden Shares a Few Thoughts

“A time of transition” is a phrase that we’ve used since last Fall and will continue to use until sometime in 2018 when we begin our new chapter with a new rector. During our parish profile development and subsequent search for a new rector, we will transition in many ways, some already known and some still to come. A parish the size and scope of Holy Innocents’ has many moving parts with many wants and desires, many ties to history, and many dreams for the future. It is a place of “many”, including many, and I mean MANY, devoted parishioners whose hearts, minds and hands have a place in HIEC’s history.

The literal rebuilding of our parish five years ago was equally welcomed and dreaded by me and possibly others as well. The existing structure was considered “just fine” by some parishioners and “long overdue for a rebuild” by others. I will be honest in recalling that bringing down the towering white Celtic cross was nothing short of painful for me as it was a Holy Innocent’ icon particularly from my 1970s childhood. But, the newness that emerged in this expansive space of glass and light is amazing. Who ever knew the power of a living room, or Bishop Commons as it’s formally named?! Such a gathering space, a meeting space, a “sit down and catch up by the fire” space! And the Marian blue that soars above the choir, which seemed out of place at first but now is breathtaking with the play of light in the morning. We came together as a community of the faithful and our bounty at times almost feels undeserved to me as I wrestle with God’s grace so often.

The gifts that brought the building plans to life are testaments to the love that we have for our church home. Our fellow parishioners, whose names are now prominently noted throughout the church are responsible for the beauty of our new or renewed worship spaces and gathering places. Shakespeare’s line of “a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet” comes to mind when thinking of the gifts given to HIEC, most notably in the recent years, but really, all throughout our history. For example, the beauty of the brass alms basins used in Christ Chapel and given in Nellie Peters Black’s name are as important today as they were when first given a century ago. Our gifts live long beyond us for the benefit of those who will come after we have departed.

As you know, the church has no income other than gifts from parishioners. Call them pledges, offerings, loose plate donations, shares of stock, bequests, income earned on endowments -- they are all considered gifts to be handled with care. As I’ve learned from my time on the Vestry, some gifts come with strings attached, and some are given freely. The various entities and individuals who work on behalf of the parish are to be thanked for their gifts of time and attention. They do not take their responsibility lightly and that is a fact I can attest to from watching their work, or as just stated, their gifts of time.

The color that now pours into Christ Chapel is from a recent parishioner gift. I have learned that in the Episcopal Church, the rector has significant influence and say over the worship space including its presentation and modifications. In working with both the donor and the architect, a design was imagined and has since been installed to its completion. The clear glass above and to the sides of the new stained glass remains intact as a key and breathtaking component of Christ Chapel. The gift of the colored glass married with the gifts of the clear glass reminds me of the beauty of God’s creation married with the beauty of human artistry. These gifts from God intermingled for our benefit and joy. Art. Nature. Clarity. Light. Every element presented in tandem so that we can see what we want to see based on where our heart and minds are at that moment in time.

Again, the phrase, “a time of transition”, comes into play. Our Episcopal experience is one of tradition and familiarity as well as transition into newness. One is not better than the other. Old is not better than new. New is not better than old. The marrying, or blending of both is what grounds this cradle Episcopalian.

At the parish retreat in February, the attendees worked together to write a Collect of Transition which is now read in the liturgy each Sunday. If you have not heard it yet, here it is:

O God, you are our guide, full of grace and caring, whose patience, acceptance, and love have impacted and sustained our community since 1872. We are grateful for all of the blessings we have received. Give us courage, guidance, clarity, and openness in all things, that we may be faithfully engaged during this season of transition. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

When we were adding, deleting and editing phrases as a group, God bless Frank Bishop who added “since 1872” in his great voice! At first, it felt very out of place. But it’s so needed! That within our Frank Lloyd Wright inspired design from Frank Bull and Tom Ventulett, we have the juxtaposition of an almost 150-year history in a building that feels so light and open rather than heavy and closed.  A history since 1872 of giving and loving parishioners who have made this place my true “church home” since elementary school. A history where I can sit in the pew as part of a three-generation family eager to embrace and welcome newcomers into the Holy Innocents’ family.

As your current Senior Warden, I follow in the footsteps of some outstanding prior Wardens who I look to for advice, insight and inspiration.  I am humbled without words on a regular basis when I look around me and take stock of all that we are. Thank you and know that I, my fellow warden Marie Thomas, and each member of the Vestry and the Clergy are available for you should you wish to talk, share, or dream for the future. Thank you for your gifts and let’s transition the heck out of this time together—side by side—with the light streaming in.

Comments (3)

Lisa Shunnarah on Apr 22, 2017 12:33pm

I am so proud to call you my friend! What a beautiful article.

Alice Ball on Apr 22, 2017 1:52pm

Thank you, Elaine.

Louis Gruver on May 3, 2017 11:58am

My grandmother (Ginny Clise)who passed away a few years ago, god bless her soul, would be so proud of this written statement you made about the church she came to love. She started the mission long time ago, put her heart and soul into it for all of her years, and watched it grow from small, meeting in what used to be the lower schools cafeteria adjacent to the Ventullet gallery, to the ever changing worship space you have now. The people may move on, but nothing has changed in how HIEC continues to exist both as a church community but a community as a whole. Keep up the good work

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