Thursday, July 01, 2010

Sunday Morning Worship at Nashotah House -- an Update

I have received many responses (and many assurances of prayers) from my earlier post regarding the Sunday morning Eucharist at Nashotah House and would like to give you an update. I am pleased to say that this service is going well and is an immeasurable blessing to those who are attending. Attendance has ranged from 39 to 65, with an average attendance of 47 for the past eight Sundays. We expect attendance to grow once the fall semester begins and families return from summer vacations.

We are excited by the number of families with young children who attend. We have begun a nursery, staffed by volunteers, during the Sunday morning service. And we look forward to beginning educational opportunities for all ages in the fall.

Beginning on Sunday, July 11, we will offer an adult class featuring a six-week video series by Dallas Willard, renowned teacher, writer of the acclaimed The Spirit of the Disciplines, and one of today's most brilliant Christian thinkers. The series we will be using is entitled The Divine Conspiracy and is a study of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Child care will be provided during this class.

In previous years, Nashotah House has offered a Vacation Bible School, when we have had enough children on campus and parents who are interested. This year, we will again be offering a Vacation Bible School during the week of Orientation, August 23-27. Some of our Sunday morning worshipers have volunteered to help with the VBS. This will allow student spouses to attend Orientations sessions, while offering a fun opportunity for all the children of our community.

I want to apologize to the Nashotah community for poor communication regarding our Sunday morning plans this past spring. From discussions with the trustees and faculty, it has become clear to me that I often have a tendency to work on plans by myself or with a close group of advisers and not to unveil these plans until I believe there is something substantial to present. In this instance, the lack of public communication on my part allowed a lot of false rumors to begin and spread concerning what we intended to do on Sundays; and this, in turn, caused anxieties and distrust on the part of members of our community. I am deeply sorry for that. And, if you are one of those affected by this situation, I ask your forgiveness. I hope you all know that I would never do anything that I did not earnestly believe was in the long term best interest of the House, but I certainly could have handled the planning and communication regarding our Sunday morning activities better than I did.

One of the questions some people have asked concerns the impact of our Sunday morning worship on Zion Episcopal Church in Oconomowoc. Some of the individuals attending Sunday morning worship at Nashotah House formerly worshiped at Zion. But most of these people are not long term members of Zion. They began attending Zion following disruptions in other congregations in the Milwaukee area because they saw Zion as a faithful church and a refuge.

When Zion's rector, Fr. Thad Butcher announced his intention to retire, some members said they simply could not go through another search process. Some have gone to the Roman Catholic Church. Others have decided to join various non-denominational churches in our area. But some, including individuals who are long time friends, Trustees, and Foundation members at the House indicated they would like to worship here if we could accommodate them. Our worship services at Nashotah House always have been and always will be open to anyone who wishes to attend. However, I have also made it clear that we are not a congregation in the canonical sense. We do not receive or issue letters of membership, and we have no desire to compete with any local congregation. We simply want to make a pastoral response to those who look to us for help.

Fr. Steve Schlossberg has been serving at Zion during Fr. Butcher's sabbatical with my blessing. It is my prayer that he can continue and that Zion will prosper. As we have done in the past, with initiatives such as the Lake Country Youth Ministry and our Field Education program throughout the Diocese of Milwaukee, we want to work cooperatively with the congregations in our area and not compete with them.

At the same time, we recognize that Nashotah House offers a unique array of spiritual resources. We have worked hard to offer the ministry of Nashotah House to new constituencies such as those who enroll in our distance learning programs, the members of the Archbishop Ramsey Society, and our Lay Associates who come here from all over the country to make retreats. Similarly, we want to be a spiritual resource for people in our area who can benefit from our what we have to offer and, in turn, enrich our community by their presence.

Despite the mistakes in communication and other road bumps we have experienced in getting to this point, I am thankful to God for the opportunity to be of service in this way. And I look forward to what God will do in our midst.

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