The Death of a Congregation

 When I first moved to Oakland in 1980, I had no plans on attending church services at an Episcopal Church anymore. I had been raised in the Episcopal Church and felt it was time to try something new. I had seriously thought about joining the Quakers, as I had attended a Quaker school as a child, and I think that they are part of the reason that I have turned out the way that I am.

 After living here a few months, I woke up one Sunday and needed to go to an Episcopal service. I was living with an aunt at the time, and we looked in the Yellow Pages and found a couple of congregations that were close by. We went over to the first one, but something about it told me that I wouldn't like it, so we went to the other one. She dropped me off, and as soon as I walked through the doors I knew I was in the right church. 
 After a few years, I changed to the current congregation that I am in now. What I liked about it was that it was a Church Family that was welcoming to all regardless of sex, sexuality, age, color, etc. I had planned on only being involved in a couple of things (acolyte and the choir,) but was going to limit my activities. Before I knew it, I was involved with much more.
 I was elected to the vestry, and I enjoyed it. I have not only been just a Vestry Member, but have been elected the Jr. Warden and even the Sr. Warden. I currently serve as only a member of the Vestry. Over the last five years I have watched as the church has been dying. The sad part is that the congregation doesn't seem to want to do anything about it. I had brought up ideas and I keep hearing excuses as to why we can't do certain things. When we needed to get our roof redone, I brought up the idea of going after grants. I was told that churches can't get grants for that. When I went back to visit my father and was at his congregation (the same congregation that I grew up in,) he told me about them getting grants to replace their roof. I get back here and explain to the vestry about what happened with then, the vestry said that this is something that we must do. I sent an email to the person that said that they would contact my father's church to find out what information that they had. I sent it to them. Someone else said that they had a friend who wrote grants and they would contact them to find out if they would be willing to help. Months go by and no report as to progress. I finally ask at a vestry meeting, and was told that the person never got the email and the other person hadn't even bothered to contact their friend. I resend the e-mail twice in a reply to something that they had sent me. I know that they have never bothered to make the call. With the other one, they contacted their friend and the friend said that she didn't have the time. I asked if her friend would be willing to help someone (myself) via email, the person said that they would check, and to this day I have never heard an answer. So we end up having to go to the diocese and ask them for the money. The condition with the money is that if the current priest were to leave before we finished paying the money, or if we came back to the diocese to have a conversation about becoming a mission.
 I brought up the idea of having a monthly breakfast between services on the first Sunday of the month. Each month a person/group/family would prepare a meal and we would charge say $5. The host would have donated the expense, and the money would go to the church since we aren't bringing in enough in the plate to even pay the Gas & Electric bill. I was told how that wouldn't work, but someone had a microwave that we could raffle off. Still haven't seen the microwave or anything being raffled.
 The church has historic Stain Glass windows that could never be replaced. My bet is that they are worth three to five million dollars. In the windows of the chapel, they are beginning to fall apart. The faces on two of the windows have faded away. Most of them are beginning to collapse. One of the members of the congregation contacted 5 or 6 different places about getting them repaired. Each place came out to inspect them, and most of them sent estimates on cost. The person comes to a vestry meeting and talks about it, two months in a row. If you were to look at the Minutes of the Vestry, nothing appears about what was said. 
 Because of my involvement on an ethnic commission in the diocese, I was asked to be apart of a group that was drafting a strategic plan for multiculturalism and multi-ethnicity in the diocese. Someone from my congregation was asked to find a plan from another diocese. This person never got a copy of the other plan, but got involved in the group. The day after the plan was passed at convention, this person stood in front of the congregation and talk about what a great person he was for creating this plan and getting it through convention. The fact that I was apart of the group wasn't even mentioned. Just recently the Assisting Bishop came for a visit to the congregation. Prior to the service, he came over to my direction because of the music that I was playing. This same person came over and began talking. The plan came up, and I mentioned that the two of us were apart of creating the plan, then the other person said in effect that the plan wouldn't of come together without all of the work that he did and that I was only apart of the group. I walked away.
 About 5 years ago I committee was put together to come up with a pricing chart, rules and regulations, and a new form to be used. Nothing occurred as the committee never met. A couple of years ago another committee was put together to do the same thing. I wasn't on either committee. I proceeded on my own to put all of these things together, and presented them to the committee and the vestry. The committee met once, and my work went to the vestry who voted to pass it. Credit was then given to the committee for all of the hard work that they did. When it was mentioned that the credit should really be given to me, the reply was that it should be given to the committee, not to me. After a few months, I asked that the record be corrected and that I was upset about what had occurred. I was told how wrong I was for asking such a thing and that I shouldn't of gotten upset. After a bit of time, it was decided that an apology should be given to me. I still haven't gotten the apology.
 I brought forth the idea of doing a monthly Movie Night. The idea for this was to advertise it to the neighbors to get them to just come into the building, and hopefully we could get a couple of them to actually attend church there. I figured with the number of apartment building in the area, their had to be a few lacked Episcopalians/Anglicans, and maybe we could get a few to attend. I was hoping also that we could raise the number of English speakers since they are the ones who actually tithe in a recognizable way. After a few times of this event, people felt it was more important that we should show films that have Spanish subtitles than to try and grow the congregation. 
 I'm getting long with this, so let me tell you about today and why the blog (I hate that term) has the title that it does.
 At last months meeting of the vestry, I brought up the idea of putting a committee together for deal with the maintenance of the campus and other property. I suggested three names. Two of the people were sitting there and said that they would be on it, and someone else said that they would ask the third person. At todays meeting, the third person was their for a little bit. They still hadn't been asked. The person left and even though I and that person said that they hadn't been asked to be on it, neither the person who was suppose to ask or the other two bothered to ask. After the person left and I said something about blowing the chance to ask the person, excuses were given.
 Another issue came up and I said that this is something that I have brought up before with the vestry and that I was told how wrong I was with other excuses. I was then told that I had never done that before, and that excuses weren't given when I had brought it up.
 Later when am idea was brought forth about planning for the future, and voting on putting a committee together of three people to plan the way that we will do it, I will then told how wrong my idea was on just having three people, and that we should have two committees doing this. After a bit of back and forth, people wanted to no longer go with what they already voted to do, and the Jr. Warden then asked for a vote. He asked for the Yes Votes, but failed to ask for the No's and Abstains. I mention this, and they have a problem with it, but they go ahead and ask the questions. I and one other abstained.
 It was during the debate during the last thing where I finally decided that I had had enough. I realized that putting anymore effort into trying to get this place from just doing nothing but continue to die, to a place where it wants to live is not going to work. It is time for me to find a place that wants to live. A time to find a place that doesn't have a bunch of excuses as to why we can't do something, to a place that wants to do things to grow and Live. If the diocese were to ask me to stay where I am, I don't know if I could. Life is too short to stay in a place that is doing everything that it can to die, and wants to fight the ability to Live and Grow.
Time Tired.

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