On Sunday afternoon, the Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton was installed as the rector (pastor) at St. Stephen. The parish is made up of those in the Oak Harbor area who stayed loyal to the Episcopal Church after fellow parisoners at St. Stephen's decided to pull out of the church and place themselves under the "alternative oversight" of an Anglican bishop in Recife, Brazil.
About 250 people showed up, including 35 members of the clergy and two Episcopal bishops: It was a welcome display of support for the loyalists, who found themselves largely abandoned by the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia after their brethren decamped late in 2003.
Diocesan Bishop Vincent Warner and St. Stephen's negotiated a "covenant agreement" last year, under which the Anglican congregation will continue as the building's dominant user until the year 2014. The Episcopal loyalists at St. Stephen were told to accept it or face withdrawal of financial support from the diocese.
Taber-Hamilton had to celebrate Christmas Eve eucharist at St. Augustine's-in-the-Woods Episcopal Church more than 25 miles away in Freeland. She had to press to use the church's main sanctuary for Sunday afternoon's installation service.
The Diocese of Virginia has sued to regain control of the property of Truro, The Falls Church and other congregations that have decamped. The Diocese of Olympia took a different approach.
Warner thanked St. Charles for giving him a staff that could be folded to fit in the small trunk of the bishop's Corvette.
The loyalists in Oak Harbor were, by contrast, cast to the wind. "My husband and I sought refuge in the Methodist Church," said Shirley Viall, a former senior warden (lay leader) at St. Stephen's. The Vialls eventually joined the congregation at St. Augustine's-in-the-Woods.
A nucleus of parishoners contined to meet in each other's homes. They found allies in the clergy: Bishop Hampton; the Rev. Charles Forbes, who started the congregation in the 1950's; and Taber-Hamilton, whose husband is rector at the church in Freeland.
The loyalists were finally able to get a meeting with Bishop Warner last spring. It turned out to be a bizarre affair, with Warner singing Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" and "It's a Wonderful World" to the group....
Very nice piece, Joel. One quibble: it's V. Gene, not V. Eugene.