The members of St. Luke's Episcopal Church are looking at their upcoming homecoming as a time for a fresh start.
The event will be held at 10:15 a.m. Sept. 22 at the church with a luncheon after the service. As a prelude, a service of Choral Evensong will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 21.
The church is extending a welcoming spirit to former parishioners as well as people who want to explore the Episcopal faith, said member Jane Gable.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec) Debbie Burgan, chairwoman of the hospitality committee at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, will welcome people at the church’s homecoming. The church will invite former members to reminisce over photos and memorabilia of parish life and newcomers to learn more about the Episcopal faith.
During the last five years, the parish has been in transition with three interim priests serving St. Luke's since the departure of Pastor Christina Jillard in October of 2008.
The members of St. Luke are inviting back friends and fellow members to become reacquainted and to develop their plans to move forward.
"Come in and we'll talk," said member Joyce Remillard. "The Episcopal church is all about welcoming people in."
Remillard and her husband, Vince, had been members of another Christian faith tradition before joining St. Luke's a few years ago.
Remillard said they have experience a warmth at St. Luke's that they had not previously known.
"They put their arms around you and bring you in," she said.
"You are welcomed to have coffee after the service and always are included in conversations," she said. "You feel like you are part of the church."
Gable said it is in those conversations that the church wants to engage former members as it goes forward - to let everyone know they have a voice in St. Luke's future.
"We are not judging, come on in," said Remillard, referring to some people's hesitation to try again.
Both members said that the church has gone through some difficult times, especially without a permanent or seated priest.
After the last interim priest left in March, the celebration of the Eucharist has been sporadic with supply pastors filling the pulpit when possible.
When no priest is present, the members gather for a prayer service.
Remillard said people miss not taking part in Holy Communion, and it can affect attendance.
But the congregation is changing that.
Beginning Oct. 6, St. Luke's will have a supply pastor present for Holy Communion every Sunday through December, Gable said.
She is a member of the search committee. She said it is seeking an interim rector, and after a period of time, the committee will seek a permanent rector. Gable said the goal of the committee is to include input from other members of St. Luke's.
"People's opinions count," she said.
Beyond its Sunday services, the church is looking to enrich people's spiritual lives by offering a class to adults based on the historic Jesus video, said Remillard, publicity and marketing chairwoman. The course will be taught by her husband, Vincent Remillard, a retired language professor, whose avocation is history and religious studies.
Gable said St. Luke's is looking to explore ways to expand its children's education programs, too.
"It's important for families," she said.
Helping St. Luke's with its renewal is the Rev. Canon Robyn Szoke-Coolidge, who will be the celebrant for the service. She is canon for formation and dean of the Diocesan School of Christian Studies for the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania.
She has been working with St. Luke's in its efforts to rejuvenate the parish.
Gable said the homecoming is not only an invitation for people to return but an opportunity for people who are seeking a spiritual home to explore St. Luke's.
"The Episcopal church is open to everybody," Gable said.
She said it has a history of social justice and its outreach ministries, liturgy and music appeal to young adults.
In the Anglican tradition, the two-day event will begin with music or a Choral Evensong service.
Jim Dengler, organist and choirmaster for St. Luke's, said it follows the Book of Common Prayer.
"It is held every evening at Westminster Abby," Gable said. The sacred service of song, prayer and canticles focuses on meditation.
While the choir sings during most of the service, the congregation participates during the procession, recession and responses.
"Everybody has a role," Remillard said.