A further example

File:St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Tombstone.jpg

If you are still convinced that the world has gone to hell in a hand-basket and it’s beyond saving, allow me to demonstrate how well we’ve done when things were worse.

In 1882, Endicott Peabody suspended his seminary studies to save a struggling church in a small Western border town. The old building had burned down, and the former priest had given up because attendance was sparse to begin with: The town was largely populated by unchurched, illiterate people with very chaotic lives. While there were people with steady jobs and stable families, they were usually recent transplants from back East. Most locals were fugitives, miners, ranch hands and prostitutes. Even if they wanted to attend church (they didn’t), their jobs left little free time for services.

Social breakdown was total. Shortly after Peabody arrived, the local gang of cattle-rustlers murdered a policeman who wasn’t on their payroll. They planned to make an example of him by killing his entire family, so the fallen officer’s older brother chased the rustlers into the desert and shot them all to death. Peabody, who had just started holding services in a courtroom, was one of many friends who supported the aspiring businessman’s rampage. Nobody believed they lived under the rule of law, so nobody bothered to pretend.

In this environment, Peabody’s outreach included house calls, refereeing baseball games, passing out a collection plate in any of 101 saloons and conducting funerals. The best part of the job was that there were only three other churches competing with the saloons for 10,000 souls. Sadly, people didn’t always visit Peabody’s services. Those who did were more often convinced of his charisma and sincerity than the Gospel he preached. He also refused to referee the miners’ ball games until the players attended Morning Prayer.

But in six months, local Episcopal church membership had climbed to over 100 (unbelievable for that place and time), an excellent choir had formed, and funding for a building was secured. Core membership had not expanded quite as much as hoped outside of cradle Episcopalians and the town’s more mainstream citizenry, but Peabody and the Church had earned the goodwill and maybe even the prayers of many. Peabody returned to seminary, became a priest and founded a school.

These stories were first reported in the local paper, the Epitaph. Locals still take pride in having the only adobe Gothic parish church ever built. The murdered officer was Policeman Morgan Earp; Wyatt, who avenged him, was among the donors who contributed to the construction of St. Paul’s, Tombstone, Arizona (pictured above). Peabody founded Groton School on a model of muscular Christianity and devotion to public service that we would do well to imitate.

There is nothing new under the sun. Let us be attentive!

Sources:

“Religion Arrives in Helldorado”
“Tombstone Memories”
“Boot Hill”


If we want to survive, we must:

  • Pray. Really hard.
  • Tell people we love them, they matter and that we want to serve them. Ask what their needs are. The average Anglican Millennial convert is an educated theological hobbyist of either sex from a Protestant background. We must get them before Rome and the East. A smaller contingent are nones who are willing to visit church for a friend, or alienated Romans. We must work on reaching the few in every generation who just realize they need redemption, which is more important than bishops and sacraments and liturgies anyway. Without drastic social change, there are no other significant convert fields, and there won’t be any others.
    • I predict that some of the best solutions will come from study of the slum Ritualists or the Methodist circuit-riders. You watch.
      • When some groups simply don’t want what we have to offer, fine. Let’s conduct ourselves so well that we at least have their respect.
  • Tithe.
  • Have a web presence. If people cannot Google “Anglican [insert name of city here]” they won’t even find out that you exist. Then they’ll join someone else’s church and be lost. We’ve spent decades losing hundreds of people that way. Maybe even thousands.
    • The site for St. Mark’s, Portland is an ideal example of a no-fuss website.
  • Drastically increase our fertility.
    • Conversion just won’t cut it. Don’t rely on immigrants, either. They may be religious and have kids, but their kids become spoiled Americans as soon as they can. I know. I grew up with them. They came here for that standard of living. And by the way, there won’t be Global South missions if the Western money dries up, so you don’t get to give up on us worthless Millennials. Sorry!
  • Establish parishes with a geographic spread that makes it possible for most Americans to have an Anglican church within driving distance. I’m lay, so I don’t know what’s involved in making that happen, and I don’t mean to downplay the difficulties that may be involved. But we have to try.
  • Encourage confirmands to establish and follow secular Rules of Life to match the devotional ones. Living within one’s means. Holding doors for women. Honesty in business. There must be discussion about how these things are taught so that nobody spreads made up “rules.” Classes in parish halls? I’m open to suggestions.
  • Produce media in line with our ethos to form our people and inform outsidersIsolate our people from mass media until they have difficulty understanding it, and are happy that way. Currently, they’re so isolated from the Christianity that they have difficulty understanding it, and are happy that way.
  • Resurrect the Brotherhood of St. Andrew to socialize young men and teach them basic skills. They need it.
  • Reach out to Evangelicals and Mormons. Many want something deeper. They also tend to have kids!
  • Lobby for an economic structure that makes large families feasible, against gentrification, and against part-time work without benefits. Families are expensive. We can’t build churches that just end up in the wrong neighborhood. Without economic reform, we’ll be nomadic slaves to our minimum-wage jobs until they’re automated. Everybody will have forgotten about religion by then.
  • Severely punish institutions that interfere with our agenda. Boycott businesses, cut off donations to politicians, the whole nine yards.
  • Encourage our children to study or train for jobs which others cannot do. This will protect us as it did the Copts and the Jews.
  • Provide secular, church-sponsored social events to reinforce the notion that making theology into a hobby isn’t the only way to be a sincere convert or a good person. Swing dancing is fun.
  • One issue with the First Catholic Revival is that nobody studied why its many sodalities and fraternities survived or failed. We need to find out what works. Case studies!
    • Example: I wrote this essay for catharsis, but I don’t know if I can monetize it. Now, I can’t save or tithe off of the increase. Next time, I’ll be smarter.
  • Canterbury Houses. Millennials typically leave religion in college. Those who remain Anglican have no support, especially from the campus Christian club, which regards them as pagans. We must have more dignity than to care.
    • Anglicanism is notoriously thin-spread, but there are enough Anglicans in Texas that the student-led Anglican Aggies successfully petitioned the Rt. Rev. Jack Iker (III Fort Worth) for recognition as the Anglican club of Texas A & M.
  • Develop a plan for absorbing mass conversions. I wish ACNA had done this better, because it had a few. Frontier Episcopal missions chose Lay Readers to say Matins, Litany and Ante-Communion. They either stepped down when clergy could be provided, or were sent to seminary and priested. That model could work if a large group “made their submission”[1] and we couldn’t catechize them en bloc.
    • Aggressively vet incoming clergy from other churches. We might consider a total ban on clergy from certain traditions because of their detestable enormities. They should renounce ministry as a condition of confirmation. Give a supply priest a full time job instead. The problems we seen in other churches have often come from the reception of marginal clergy from unstable groups whose natural gifts are inferior to ours.
  • Absorb those who still remember us.
  • Above all, admit it: The black hats won; the white hats lost. The credits are rolling. Show’s over. We’re getting ready for the sequel.

[1] Yeah. I went there 😉

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