The Hartford Courant
Watertown – It was the last Sunday service at Christ Church. Unable to go “further in a church that continued in a false gospel,” the entire congregation, including the rector and church leaders, will sever ties with the national Episcopal Church and reform under a new name: New Hope Anglican Church.
One of the “Connecticut six,” the half-dozen churches in the state diocese that disagree with national leadership on departure of scripture, including the appointment of a gay bishop, the congregation will trade its historic building on the town green for a free community room at the Thomaston Savings Bank around the corner.
The Sunday service will be held at the bank, starting Jan. 6, until they find or build another house of worship.
“We need to celebrate today, but we need to recognize there is a dying,” the Rev. Allyn Benedict said in his final homily at the church. Reading off an overhead projector, church members sang hymns enthusiastically, clapping and raising hands in acknowledging their faith. They hugged one another, wishing peace.
The church was founded under the Church of England in 1764. In 2003, Benedict and several other Connecticut rectors clashed with Connecticut Bishop Andrew D. Smith, who supported the naming of V. Gene Robinson as New Hampshire’s bishop. Robinson is gay. Benedict and Christ Church leaders also feel the national church is rejecting scriptural authority and traditions of the church.
In cutting affiliation with the national leaders, the congregation has agreed to give up its church buildings and property, estimated to be worth $7 million, and its name, “Christ Church Parish.” The congregation also ended its participation with the other Connecticut churches in a protracted legal battle against national leadership over church real estate, deciding that “it’s not worth living under this oppression just for the property,” said Paul LePine, the senior warden. Four of the “Connecticut six” have also ended their connection to the national church, LePine said.
“It’s a tragedy when relationships fail,” LePine said. “There’s a relief of being free of that dysfunctional relationship we’ve been in for many years.”
LePine’s daughter, Rachel, 15, commented that while leaving is the right thing to do, “it is sad.”
“That’s kind of why we named it New Hope,” she said.
“We’re just moving on to where we’re supposed to be,” said Chris Varian, who was married at the church and has been a member for three years. “It’s a transition. It’s a lot of history and a lot of memories. It’s bittersweet.”
Copyright (c) 2007, The Hartford Courant, Conn.