By the Rev. Todd McDowell, Rector

Todd - announcements_optThe Day of Pentecost is almost upon us, and with it the celebration of our merger with the people of St. Matthew’s Church. May 19, 2013 will certainly be among the most memorable days of celebration in our 154-year history, as we join the people, mission and ministries of two parishes into one. The last eight months of discernment and transition have been very busy indeed, but those months of hard work allow us to proceed with confidence knowing that the Holy Spirit is leading us and “making all things new.”

This exciting time is not without heartache, especially for our sisters and brothers from St. Matthew’s who join with us in this new ministry. We can learn much from their courage and conviction, their strong sense of community and mission. Much work has been done and continues to be done to make for a smooth transition. All that remains is for both communities to use their charism of hospitality, one that is shared deeply in both congregations, to go above and beyond to welcome one another, as we would welcome Christ, into this new family of God! For some this will involve forgiveness and reconciliation, for others it will simply mean taking the time and initiative and seek opportunities for fellowship with one another.

As we combine both parishes into one, you will see changes to staff and in our building and grounds. The two clergy from both congregations will be working together for the continued and expanded mission that we have found ourselves called into. I will serve as Rector and the Rev. Doris Westfall will serve as Associate Rector. Her particular oversight will be pastoral care, mission and development; a role which will benefit the parish with her many gifts for ministry. Just as with previous clergy, we will share in the preaching and liturgical life of the parish, and will both be involved with many aspects of parish life.

Our ability in January to hire Janis Greenbaum with oversight of Christian Formation for children, youth and adults, makes it possible for the Rev. Doris Westfall to focus on mission and development, in addition to pastoral care. This brings a new strength to our merged parish, and much of this is possible because of the financial resources that St. Matthew’s brings into this merger.

The Rev. Doris Westfall has been the rector of St. Matthew’s for seven years and has postponed her sabbatical for the last few years to see their discernment and merger through to this point. It is now time for her to take her fourteen-week sabbatical. St. Matthew’s will continue to pay her stipend and compensation through the end of 2013.  Her plans are to be present for the celebration of the merger on Pentecost and the following two weeks, and then she will leave for her long-overdue sabbatical and rejoin the parish for the celebration of our new patronal feast day – St. Matthew – Apostle and Evangelist, on Sunday, Sept. 22. As Grace does not have a particular feast of name, we will adopt St. Matthew’s Day as our annual celebration. The fall parish picnic is being planned on this day as well.

As part of the way we will honor and remember the mission and ministry of St. Matthew’s, we will move a number of sacred and significant pieces to our new home. Their “Christus Rex” which hangs in their chapel will be placed in our parish hall. The brass cross that hangs in their narthex will be placed in our lower level lobby. Their altar will be placed in the LeVielle Conference Room. Their processional cross will be used with ours and a beautiful jeweled chalice, which they use on major feast days, will now be used by the joint parish for our most special of Holy Days.

So much more will be part of our joining together, but for now and in the months ahead the most important role we can have is “to welcome one another, as we would welcome Christ”!

Frequently Asked Questions about the Merger:

When will the merger take place?

We will begin worshiping and serving as one congregation on Pentecost – Sunday, May 19, 2013. However, the finances of the two parishes will remain separate until the Diocese of Missouri officially approves the merger at Diocesan Convention in November.

What name will our combined church have?

The merged congregation will be called Grace Episcopal Church and will worship at Grace’s current facilities in Kirkwood. We have several plans to incorporate St. Matthew’s name into our parish life together, including the addition of a new prayer garden. We’ll also be adopting St. Matthew’s Day, September 21, as our patronal feast day.

Who will serve as our clergy?

The Rev. Todd McDowell will serve as the Rector and the Rev. Doris Westfall will be the Associate Rector of the merged parish beginning May 19. Mo. Doris’ salary and benefits will continue to be paid through St. Matthew’s pledges until the end of 2013.

What happens to St. Matthew’s church building and property in Warson Woods?

The Warson Woods building and land will be sold. Important and sacred items from St. Matthew’s history will continue to be used by our joint parish. Items coming to Grace include St. Matthew’s chalice; the Christus Rex, which will be hung in our parish hall; and a brass cross, which will hang in the lower level lobby.

What happens to the money from the sale of the Warson Woods property?

St. Matthew’s is making four $15,000 grants to selected ministries (to be announced May 12). They are also generously contributing $140,000 for additions at Grace, including a new prayer garden, labyrinth and an expansion of Grace’s columbarium to include those currently interred at St. Matthew’s. The remainder of the proceeds from the sale will establish a St. Matthew’s Fund for Mission as part of the Grace Legacy Funds.

Will our ministries remain separate?

We intend to fully integrate our parish families by including ministries from both parishes. The following members from St. Matthew’s have already joined leadership committees at Grace:

  •  Lyn Ballard & Doris Schaefer – Vestry
  • Bob Schaefer – Finance Committee
  • Don Neubacher – Endowment Fund Trustees

Do you have additional questions about the merger?

Please contact Fr. Todd or Mo. Doris for more information:

todd.mcdowell@gracekirkwood.org
doris.westfall@gracekirkwood.org.

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