Reflections on the closing of the Church of the Nativity
by Lola Michael Russell of the Bishop’s staff
One of the most powerful moments of our recent Diocesan convention was when the bishop announced that the Church of the Nativity, New Castle, had made the decision to close.
The Rev. Margi Pumphrey, resource priest, and Donna Cain, senior warden, gave a moving presentation at convention. Rev. Pumphrey said the Church of the Nativity will be ending its life as a parish on January 16 of 2022 after 70 years of ministry.
Rev. Pumphrey’s Comments
“We’ve had a good life, and we are dying a good death”, Rev. Pumphrey said. She went on to tell the history of the church, created from a barn, hence the fittingness of its Nativity name.
“Five years ago we did a life-cycle review,” said Rev. Pumphrey, “first as a vestry and then as a whole congregation. It was clear that we had to make hard choices. After much deliberation, discernment, and prayer, we decided the best option for us was to continue on as a congregation, knowing that we were facing continued decline and death. We set markers — markers for financial status, average Sunday attendance, and ability to properly maintain the property. The vestry reviewed the markers at set intervals and meanwhile the congregation was free to focus on our life together, placing emphasis on a few things done well: keeping faith, keeping fellowship, and keeping service — living life to the fullest. And that we have done now for almost five years.”
Donna Cain, senior warden, then took up the presentation:
“This past summer, our average Sunday attendance fell below the mark. It was time to begin planning for legacy, celebration, and leave-taking. This time has been difficult. There is loss and sadness. Yet there is acceptance and even some anticipation and curiosity of what is to come as we have designated one Sunday a month as ‘visiting Sunday’ so members have had a chance to visit sister churches in the diocese.”
Cain celebrated the church’s 70 years of being a good neighbor, and the legacy it will leave — “beautiful, well-loved and cared for appointments, some of which were gifted to Nativity at its formation, many acquired as memorial gifts, and some even passed on to us when the Cathedral closed. All holy gifts, blessed by their use, will now be passed on to other churches to enjoy.” She thanked the faithful regular supply clergy, especially Margie and John Pumphrey, Lloyd Casson and Nancy Calhoun, along with the many others who have stepped in now and then.
Poignantly, Pumphrey concluded:
“And we thank God for the nurture and nourishment and the beautiful worship space where we have lifted our voices in song, prayer and praise, shared holy food and drink, baptized, confirmed, married, and buried, and just plain enjoyed each other’s company. We thank God for the assurance that new life awaits. And so we continue to make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!”
All were moved by these heartfelt testimonies of faith. The bishop said that character is determined in how we act in adversity and called the Church of the Nativity a beacon for us all. He asked people in all the other diocesan churches to reach out to Nativity, to offer support, to invite people to join them, to let them know they are heard, loved, and honored, and to show love and openness to these brothers and sisters.
Prayers and an Invitation from SsAM
Please pray for the Nativity family.
The Vestry of the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew is writing to their vestry with our prayers and an invitation to come to SsAM at any time.
Below is an excerpt from the Prayers of the People for Christmas II composed by Christina Brennan Lee.
— Mary Morgan, Delegate to Convention from The Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew
Holy Messiah, Heartbeat of God, lavish special blessings upon the wise women and men who lead us in Your Church, as they prayerfully bring us Your words, works, and wonders on our life’s path toward Redemption. We pray especially for: Michael, our Presiding Bishop; Kevin our Bishop; Ed, our Celebrant; and Lloyd, our Rector Emeritus. We also pray for the Province de L’Eglise Anglicane Du Congo, for the Church of the Nativity and for the Brandywine Collaborative Ministries.