Mission to Parish
The NEW Story of Grace
WHAT IS A ‘MISSION?’
A mission congregation in the Episcopal Church is a faith community that relies on income from its parent diocese to balance the church’s budget each year. Grace New Lenox is one of about a dozen churches in the Diocese of Chicago that is classified as a mission, having received diocesan funds to round out its budgets for over forty-five years.
One of the most tangible aspects of a mission is that the deeds of its properties (in our case, the church grounds and the parsonage at 114 N. Pine St.) belong to the Diocese in this arrangement.
Furthermore, to distinguish a mission from the other type of church - a parish - there are a number of interesting differences. Technically a mission is the property of a diocese, therefore the Bishop is the Rector (the term for the lead pastor in an Episcopal Church). The priest in a mission is a Vicar, a Church of England term meaning “vicarious” of the Bishop. The lay governing body is called a Bishop’s Committee, in this arrangement as well.
And then there are intangibles. Churches are supposed to be giving to the diocese, not the other way around. A mission congregation is actually a scenario that ought to be avoided - a church should have its own fate in its own hands, and should be utilizing its resources to work outward. Becoming a parish therefore, has been a goal for Grace New Lenox for some time, and it speaks to something greater than $$.
So WHAT’S CHANGED?
In 2018, there was an explosion not just in attendance and new membership at Grace, but in financial pledging. A pledge is a promised gift by a churchgoer to be donated as an offering to the church throughout the year ahead. Grace New Lenox’s giving by its members increased approximately 30% in 2018, which allowed the Bishop’s Committee to develop a 2019 budget that did not rely on any outside funding from the Diocese of Chicago. The Vicar chose not to apply for the Diocese’s Vitality Grant in 2018, which had been the source of the financial dependency, and Grace New Lenox rose to the challenge.
The Canons of the Diocese (the by-laws for the diocese) provide for a list of tasks and permissions that must be addressed in turn for a congregation to apply to be essentially re-admitted as a parish in the Episcopal Church in its diocese. You can view that checklist below by clicking on the image on the left.
The first major steps have already been accomplished. We have submited a Notice in writing signed by over 50 members of Grace; we have received the Bishop’s approval. We have set a public meeting on September 22, 2019 at 11am to take an oral vote of the congregation gathered. The minutes of that meeting, along with a formal application for admittance to the Diocese of Chicago will then be submitted.
The next Convention of the Diocese of Chicago is Friday November 22, and Saturday November 23, 2019, in Lombard, IL, where the final vote of the delegates of the diocese will - we expect! - vote to approve Grace New Lenox’s reclassification and readmittance as a parish. And we will celebrate!
SOUNDS PRETTY GREAT!
It really is. Most of us have seen and heard that the Mainline Protestant churches (including the Episcopal Church) have been in “decline” for the past few decades. While that is subject to some interpretation (CLICK HERE FOR A GREAT RESPONSE TO THAT ISSUE), it is pretty amazing to have New Lenox’s 150-year-old ‘little church with the red doors’ bucking that trend - and showing the remarkable growth and vitality that is all thanks to God!