Beginning this first weekend of July 2011, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh plans to re-establish congregations in at least three locations that have been without an Episcopal Church presence for several years.
Plans are set to resume Episcopal services at St. James Church in Penn Hills on July 3, followed by a reopening of St. Thomas Church, Barnesboro, in Cambria County on July 17, and a resumption of services at St. Christopher’s Church in Warrendale later this summer.
“Just as the Diocese of Pittsburgh itself has been rebuilding over the last few years, we are now turning our attention to rebuilding congregations in areas where Episcopalians have been underserved throughout the diverse regions of our diocese,” said Bishop Kenneth L. Price, Jr.
All three church properties are owned by the Episcopal Diocese and are either being vacated by the congregations that have been using them or have not been used for various periods.
St. James Episcopal Church, Penn Hills
The first Episcopal-led services at St. James, Penn Hills, in over two years come one week after members of its current congregation moved to a new facility.
The parish, one of the oldest in the diocese, ceased to actively participate in 2008 when many former diocesan leaders and clergy, including St. James’ rector, left the Episcopal Church. Earlier this year, the rector informed the Episcopal Diocese that he and his parishioners had chosen to relocate by the end of June.
“We decided to be there immediately after the move to maintain an Episcopal presence for any parishioner who wishes to stay, as well as to welcome anyone from the larger community who wishes to join us,” said Bishop Price.
In a letter inviting current members to remain at their church, Bishop Price emphasized that the decision of the St. James leaders to relocate was voluntary. “At no time did we ever ask for the congregation worshipping at St. James’ Church to leave the building,” wrote the bishop. He noted a “spirit of open cooperation and courtesy” by those handing over the building to the Episcopal Diocese.
The first service at St. James is set for Sunday, July 3, at 9:00 a.m.
The church is located at 11524 Frankstown Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15235. Bishop Price has appointed the Rev. Vicente Santiago as the Priest-Developer for the continuing congregation. This marks a return to St. James for Father Santiago. He served as its rector as recently as 2006.
A discussion of plans for the parish will take place following the July 3rd service.
St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Barnesboro
A historic church in Northern Cambria that has been closed since 2004 will again be the site of weekly services starting July 17 at 10:00 a.m.
St. Thomas, Barnesboro, had been merged with St. Luke Church in nearby Patton.
Weekly communion services will now return as a new ministry team of Deacon Ann Staples and Chris Baumann go about rebuilding a congregation in that rural community on the eastern-most edge of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.
The Rev. Staples has been a driving force in re-establishing St. Thomas as an active Episcopal parish. She was a leader in both the original parish and in Patton, and has maintained an Episcopal ministry in Northern Cambria as director of the Coal Country Hang-out Youth Center, which provides programs and services otherwise unavailable to nearly 6,000 youth in a three-county area. She will be the liturgist for the new congregation.
Chris Baumann will serve as parish administrator and preacher. He is currently in the process of becoming a deacon in the Episcopal Church.
The two have reached out to the Northern Cambria community, inviting former St. Thomas parishioners to return to their old church, along with those who are seekers or not committed to any church.
St. Thomas, Barnesboro, is located at 1201 Chestnut Avenue, Northern Cambria, PA 15714.
St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, Warrendale
The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is planning to resume Sunday Episcopal Church services at St. Christopher’s, 925 Sheraton Drive, Warrendale, in the near future.
St. Christopher’s, like St. James in Penn Hills, was once an active parish in the Episcopal Diocese. Its congregation has moved to a new location and no services have been held there since February.
The reopening of St. Christopher’s allows the diocese to again serve the growing communities of northern Allegheny and southern Butler Counties.
Bishop Price is assembling a ministry team and has appointed the Rev. Dr. Stephen Smalley as Priest-Developer for the new St. Christopher’s congregation.
Diocesan Plan for Displaced Episcopalians
The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is committed to allocating financial and personnel resources to minister to those who wish to remain Episcopalian but are no longer served by a local church. Bishop Price has appointed the Rev. Canon Dr. Jay Geisler, Rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Brentwood, and Canon for Formation, to head this pastoral ministry. The re-opening of the three parishes is the result of that commitment.