Friday, October 12, 2012

Faith, Tradition, and Change

Ten authors, an editor, and countless stories, reports, interviews, charts, photos of churches and bishops—it’s all here in This Far by Faith, Tradition and Change in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, recently published by Penn State University Press.

It begins with a helpful introduction by David Contosta, a history professor who is editor of this volume as well as author of the last chapter. He explains briefly what each author is reporting on: the founding of the colonial church; the Revolutionary War years; and the church’s identity, spirituality, and organization in early Pennslvania. Our story continues with reports of new growth and new challenges in the 1820–40s; the church in the city; the gilded age and progressive eras, up until about 1910; and the church in prosperity, the Depression, and First and Second World Wars. Then we read of the church on wheels; problems of social justice and the counterculture; and lastly, a chapter called A Perfect Storm, bringing the history up to 2010.

The last few chapters are especially interesting because we who read about it now were involved in the pros and cons of some of the issues: civil rights, the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, the ordination of women, the church and sexuality, divisions and schisms, charts with reports on the ups and downs of membership and money, General Convention meeting in our city in 1997, and the 200th anniversary celebration of the Diocese of Pennsylvania in 1984.

We remember many of the names, what they stood for, how they helped us, and sometimes stirred us up. First of all, we appreciate and are thankful for Bishop William White, who in 1784 "coaxed the Diocese of Pennsylvania into being," and who, at Christ Church, Philadelphia, "presided over the birth of the national church in 1789."

And in our own day, who can forget Bishop DeWitt, Paul Washington, David Gracie, Bishop Ogilby, Bishops Bartlett, Turner, and Bennison. And so many others over the years, faithful members of the Standing Committee, various committee members, our vestry members, and friends in the pews with us. Thanks be to God for all of them.

There were many challenges and there will continue to be in future. But it’s good to know and remember our "more than two-century history" as we continue on our way....Add a copy of this important book to your collection on church history.

—Lois Sibley