Greeting, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is not now, nor has he ever been in communion with the Episcopal Church of the United States. Frankly, he’s never been a member of any Episcopal/Anglican Church. He’s attended more than a few services in the Episcopal/Anglican Church, but that is about it.
Readers of this space are likely familiar with the ongoing secession of various Episcopal parishes in Virginia from the Episcopal Church of the United States (ECUSA) and their joining the Anglican Communion (under the auspices of a branch of the Anglican Church in Africa). The secession (schism if you will) has been the subject on an ongoing battle in the courts. You see the congregations that seceeded took their physical church buildings with them. Here is a little overview from the Washington Examiner.
If you happened to read that piece you might recall seeing that St. Stephen’s Church in Heathsville, VA is among those churches in the thick of the dispute.
So now your Maximum Leader is coming to the point… You might recall (from the last post) that your Maximum Leader went to visit his in-laws over the weekend. The path from the Villainschloss to the in-law’s runs through Heathsville, VA. For many years your Maximum Leader has driven by St. Stephen’s and always notices the wooden Victorian structure as he passes.
(NB: Indeed, he always tried to guess the age of the building as he passed. It is a little game your Maximum Leader plays in his mind while he drives across Virginia. He tries to guess the age of old homes or buildings based on what he knows of building styles and trends in VA. In the case of St Stephen’s he knew that although the congregation was established in 1664, the building was much later. He figured from the style of the church that it was likely built after the Civil War, but prior to 1900. He has toyed with dates from 1870-1880. And he learned recently from the church web site that the building dates from 1874.)
When St. Stephen’s left the ECUSA your Maximum Leader knew that there were bound to be some hard feelings. The tangible sign of the change came a little while after St. Stephen’s organized with the Anglican Communion. The sign was, in fact, the church sign. The old sign in front of the church was white with the crest of the ECUSA and it read “St. Stephen’s Church, Episcopal, Est 1664.” Then one day there was a new sign. It wasn’t white, but sort of gray. The crest of the ECUSA was gone and in its place was a symbol like a compass rose. The new sign read “St. Stephen’s Church, Anglican, Est 1664.”
Down the road about 50 yards from St. Stephen’s Church (Anglican); the first church sign appeared outside what had heretofore seemed to be a nice sized private home. Now within a stone’s throw of each other are a little white church which is St. Stephen’s (Anglican) and a nice house which is St. Stephen’s (Episcopal).
This past weekend, your Maximum Leader met his in-laws in Heathsville to go to the Farmers Market at the courthouse. While standing on the green behind the courthouse, he started talking to his father-in-law and a family friend about the church split. At some level your Maximum Leader knew that the split had to be hard on the tiny town of Heathsville. He knew that a significant portion of the original congregation (perhaps 20%) had not supported leaving the ECUSA. Those people are now the core of St. Stephen’s (Episcopal). He imagined that the Episcopal congregants were likely bitter and angry. Well, listening to the friend of the family describe it, the schism has torn some families apart. Two families were in fact pointed out to your Maximum Leader. They stood on opposite sides of the green. He is sure their physical position happened to be coincidence at that moment in time. But to hear the tale, these were close families. They were neighbors, friends, and at the distant cousin level related by marriage. Now they will not speak to each other. The kids no longer play together or even socialize at school. The adults avoid each other in public. It was sad to see. If your Maximum Leader had been more bold (and had the time) he’d have actually approached the people directly and asked them about the experience. He isn’t sure why he would want to hear the lurid details of the sad story from the actors themselves; but he does. He isn’t sure what he could learn from that. Perhaps it is a twisted voyeuristic tendency in him? At some level he wants to hear the story of what happened at the congregational level.
Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure that he’ll ever hear the tale directly from the people themselves. At some level just putting faces to what has happened in this tiny town has been enough to humanize the story…
In case you care to… Here are two web sites for you. St. Stephen’s (Anglican) and St. Stephen’s (Episcopal).