Tuesday, December 28, 2010

An end to one Anglican tradition in San Diego

On Sunday, the parishioners of Holy Trinity (ACNA) in San Diego held their final Sunday worship service in the sanctuary (a half mile from the Pacific) that they have called home for six decades. Having surrendered their legal fight with the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego, on Thursday their rector will hand over the keys to the diocese.

A brief story ran last week in the neighborhood weekly, the Peninsula Beacon. On Wednesday, the San Diego Union-Tribune is running a major feature story on this, the last Schism II church in San Diego to surrender its building. (The next to last parish, St. Anne’s of Oceanside, gave up their property a year ago.)

Attending services on both Dec. 25 and 26 at Holy Trinity was very poignant for me, and not because this was the second time I witnessed an ACNA parish surrender their building to TEC. This one was more personal, because this is the parish that my father once attended.

At both services, Fr. Lawrence Bausch, SSC made reference to the move. The Christmas service emphasized Christ coming for our eternal salvation, and thus the need to focus beyond temporary and temporal concerns. The Christmas 1 sermon highlighted some of the history of the parish, which began worship at an Ocean Beach home on Trinity Sunday 1921. (A 95-year-old parishioner attended both the first service and Sunday’s final service in their longtime sanctuary.)

Despite the sadness, it was no surprise: this move has been a long time coming. Holy Trinity (along with St. Anne’s and a third parish in Fallbrook) was first sued in 2007. Other than St. James Newport Beach, I believe all the other California churches have given up on their fights against their respective dioceses. (TEC litigation against the Diocese of San Joaquin poses different legal issues.)

I’ve followed the Holy Trinity situation intermittently over the last three years. Last summer, the vestry and then an all parish meeting decided to abandon the legal appeals and hand over the building to the TEC. As I understand it, the expenditure was certain but the benefit highly uncertain, and at this point the church leaders decided that it was time to move on (both figuratively and literally).

Unlike in Oceanside, the diocese was in no hurry to get the building back. There is a very liberal parish, All Souls, less than two miles away. There is no rump “Episcopalian” membership of Holy Trinity — the entire parish is leaving lock, stock and barrel. Unlike the other disputed properties, the diocese does not even list Holy Trinity in its church finder. Plans to hold a Jan. 9 service as the nucleus of a new congregation seem unlikely to succeed. At the same time, the Union reports that the diocese wanted $2 million to sell the building and was unwilling to rent it to Holy Trinity.

Meanwhile, the “farewell to the building” service (with about 100 people present) was the most crowded I’ve seen since the litigation began. I only recognized a handful of people, in part because (as with elsewhere in California) people have been moving to lower cost locations as the economy has soured.

As the Union article notes, the Holy Trinity faithful are moving (literally) next door to the sanctuary of a much larger LCMS parish, Bethany Lutheran. Sunday’s service concluded at Bethany with a joint prayer between Father Bausch and Pastor Steven Duescher. The combined congregations sang “The Church’s One Foundation” from the Lutheran Service Book (words by Samuel Stone, tune by S.S. Wesley).

However, in the shared space, Holy Trinity will have a less than desirable Sunday worship time: 8:00, before the home parish (10:30), Immanuel Korean Church (12:30), and a non-denominational church (5:00). The facilities (especially parking) are spacious, but the time will be a challenge over the long haul.

Fr. Bausch was called to Holy Trinity in 1979, and he fits the parish so well that it’s hard to imagine the parish with anyone else. How many Episcopal (let alone Anglican) priests are regular surfers? However, his position at Holy Trinity is perhaps a fluke, since in 1979 he was also being considered at another Anglo-Catholic parish in the diocese, St. Michael’s of Carlsbad. The rector called to St. Michael’s in 1979 retired in 1995, and his replacement was forced out earlier this year by the Bishop of San Diego. Once the largest Anglo-Catholic parish in the diocese, St. Michael’s is now destined to become a bastion of high church progressives as its Anglo-Catholic members have formed a new ACA parish, St. Augustine of Canterbury.

In some ways, however, the San Diego ACNA parishes — even without permanent facilities — seem on a more sound foundation than much of ACNA — perhaps due to the mutual support that they provide to each other. Five San Diego area parishes are among 19 in the Diocese of Western Anglicans. These five in San Diego County (population 3 million) contrast with three in Los Angeles County (population 9 million). In part, this seems a testimony to two doctrinally sound (and one decent) bishops who preceded James Mathes, keeping them in the ECUSA longer than most of the West Coast — whereas L.A. and Bay Area are home to many Schism I parishes (ACA and APCK, respectively) that formed decades due to local heresies by people like Jim Pike.

Still, any parish without a building has a long row to hoe. Holy Trinity starts with their 1928 BCP (which the diocese had no use for) but will need to rebuild most of the other assets it had accumulated over the past 90 years.

Update: Photos taken during and after Dec. 26 worship service.

1 comment:

Padre Eric Menees said...

I applaud the strength of character and soundness of faith that prompted Fr. Bausch and the good people of Holy Trinity to leave their property. God blesses those who step out in faith - the other San Diego Anglican Parishes that have also stepped out in faith have been blessed beyond our wildest imaginations. Holy Trinity will be similarly bless and will be well supported by San Diego Anglicans!
Fr. Eric Menees