Why St. Bart's?

In the late 1950s, the Diocese of Michigan founded the Church of the Holy Cross in Swartz Creek, Michigan. The parishioners met in a one room school. In 1960, the name was changed to St. Bartholomew's when it became a mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in downtown Flint. IN 1960, the church and parish hall were built and dedicated. In 1992, the parishioners built the new parish hall with their own hands. (continued below)

In 2000, the congregation voted by more than 86% to leave the Episcopal Church because of its abandonment of the authority of Holy Scripture and tradition. St. Bartholomew's was the first Forward in Faith Parish to leave the Episcopal Church with her buildings since the founding of that organization.   Through the generosity of parishioners and other benefactors the parish was able to pay its mortgage off in five years.

Forward in Faith North America has provided Episcopal visitations for a number of years.  The Rt. Rev'd Keith Ackerman, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy, has been a faithful visitor and friend.  In 2007, the parish voted to affiliate with the Diocese of the Holy Cross

 

 

 

Annual Meeting 2017

You may or may not know that a couple of years ago the Bishop appointed me Director of Ordinands. This exalted title means that I am responsible for the education and guidance of those men who hope to be ordained or who were recently ordained. We meet about once a month on Skype. I bring in other priests from the Diocese so that they hear other perspectives. Two months ago I brought in Fr. Ostman, who talked about visiting the sick. He told the young men that when he visited the sick, he wears his cassock and expects his parishioners to greet him at a door with a lit candle when he arrives. He does not speak with anyone in the house and goes to where the sick person is places his pix on the table where the family has put down a white cloth, genuflects and begins the service. When the service is over he will talk with the family. This is a very old catholic tradition.

This month we had Fr. Needam. He told the young priest that he does not allow talking in the sacristy. They vest, they pray and then enter the church. There is no discussion of how Michigan did or whether or not the Tigers won. Having been raised in Michigan, he likes the same teams most of you do.

At St. Bart’s we have no sacristy. Deacon and I say our prayers as we vest and we do have chit-chat. We meet in the Narthex because that is where we meet. We pray and go into the church. We may spend five minutes lining up the youth choir or ten minutes lining up the adult choir especially if Larry Elliot and Micky are there.

As you enter his church, Fr. Ostman has a sign which says talk to God before the service and parishioners after the service at coffee hour. I am more relaxed than either one of the priests. I will speak to you when I visit you at home so that I know what to pray for. I hope that I show you by my visit and demeanor how important the Blessed Sacrament is. I tend to be more relaxed at the beginning of the mass and very serious once we begin the Canon of the Mass. I expect you to laugh at sermons but I also hope that you will understand that once the Consecration begins we are to be devoutly serious. This has some practical implications and implications of simple politeness. When you are talking with your husband during the lessons you are being rude to the Deacon or priest reading the lessons. When you are reading the bulletin during the sermon, you are being rude to the preacher. But when you talk through the consecration you are being disrespectful to God. These other priests are building a culture in their church which constantly reminds parishioner of the importance and glory of the Blessed Sacrament. I trust I have not shortchanged you by being more relaxed.

There is an old story, not a true story, but a good teaching story about the Blessed Sacrament. A Jew or a Muslim was being shown around the church by the Rector. He pointed to the Sanctuary Lamp and stated ‘that indicates that Jesus Christ is alive in the tabernacle’. The Jew or the Moslem looked at him and said ‘you really do not believe that or you would be on your knees right now’. Such should be the your reverence for the Blessed Sacrament.

I really think about this when some of you shake my hand after Mass. You have just received the Blessed Sacrament. You can still taste the wine, the blood of Christ. And you shake my hand and complain about the music, the spelling in bulletin, the name left out of the bulletin or the toilet which wasn’t flushed in the rest room before the service. When these complaints occur, I feel as if I have failed as a priest for the last thirty-three years. I have failed to show you the power and glory of God. Thirty-three years ago (and repeatedly since) I have asked you not to discuss business with me on Sundays. One, I am more likely when stressed and tired to say no. Two, I am likely to forget. I would certainly welcome "constructive criticism or potty alerts" better if you also introduced to me someone you have brought to church for the first time. You are welcome to give me feedback after you tell me the name of the child you drove to Sunday School. You are welcome to complain about the choice of hymns when you are taking off your choir robe. Otherwise, if it matters that much that you need to speak to me, call Tuesday between 10 and one, or call me at home on Monday or set up an appointment. Otherwise, you can expect push back from a frustrated priest. Better my push back than God’s on the day of Judgement. When you bring friends to church, when you bring children from your neighborhood, when you bring your grandchildren I hope I thank you. If I fail to, tell me and I will apologize. Because I, as your priest, should rejoice just as the choirs of angels do when you introduce people to Christ and his church.

One of our parishioners told me they were glad 2016 was over. We certainly lost some friends and very faithful parishioners last year. Many I had known since I came here in 1984. They served on vestry, Trustees, repaired things around the church and rectory. They guided our church and built the addition in the early 90’s. Scripture would tell us that they were the lights of their generation.

Think about your nuclear family. If you have outlived your parents, which, is the way it is supposed to be, you lost your family’s historian; you lost the person who could tell you about the other family members; you lost the person who could tell you when the roof was redone or the electrical panel was installed or the wiring replaced. Because of these deaths our parish is going through a similar experience.

We have lost trusted leaders. These were people who were in church every week. Now, new leaders must step up to the plate. I pray every day that Our Lord will send us new leaders who are excited by the Holy Spirit and take their baptismal vows seriously.

2016 has taken its toll in other ways. I am sure you will agree that it has affected us emotionally. It is called grief. We have spent much time and energy. Think of the work our women have spent on funeral dinners in the past year. All of which has been done gladly because that is what a family does. It has meant that the clergy of the parish have spent more time on sick calls. Last year, 352 sick calls were made. Included in this figure were two hundred and four private communions taken to the sick of the parish. It is the goal of the clergy to visit you every day when you are in the hospital. It is our intention that we are with you and your family when you leave this world. If one assumes that a hospital call takes a minimum of an hour then 352 hospital calls represent eight work weeks. The church is to be with you when you enter this world and when you leave it. You have all heard people say that on a tomb stone there is a date, a dash and a date. What is important is what you did during the dash. If you let us we will be with you during the dash and not just at the beginning and the end. But it is important that we, your clergy, be there at the end as the angels lead you forth.

Given that this has been a very rough year (and I haven’t even talked about politics) I would hope that all of us make a special effort to be loving and understanding and cut one another a break this coming year. For we need one another’s support and warmth. Do not forget to pray for one another, your clergy, and our church

I don’t know about you but I am also concerned about our attendance. In 2015 were averaged about seventy people a weekend. In 2016 it was closer to sixty. In the past two months, we are in the fifties. I have shared some of this before, but we also must recognize that ours is not the only parish or church to experience diminished attendance. I was told that the Lutheran church down the street has an attendance in the 30’s. They were always larger than St. Bart’s. In 2015, the closest year the Episcopal church posts statistics, when we were in the 70’s, St. Andrews downtown was about 35, Grace church, Lapeer fifty; Christ Church, Owosso thirty; St. Christopher’ Grand Blanc 125; St. Dunstan’s 32; St. Judes’s, Fenton Ninety; Trinity Flushing twenty-five; and our mother parish, St. Paul’s in the mere 70’s (their 8 o’clock was usually 30, and their 10 o’clock was 250 in previous decades). When I arrived here thirty-three years ago, each of these parishes were larger than St. Bart’s by as much as five times. Most were two or more times the size of St. Bart’s. Given that this is happening nationwide, we are doing incredibly well.

In terms of programming, we also excel in comparison to these other churches. Our junior choir is larger than St. Paul’s. We have regular Sunday School, youth retreats, and youth activities. We also have women’s retreats (one is coming up in April), a large, well-functioning altar guild, the Holiday Bazaar, and other events. We host Al-anon, AA and the Flying Aces. So we have much to congratulate ourselves on and be grateful for.

However, I have told you many times over the years that we do not compare ourselves with others but with Christ. Are we all that we can be in Christ? What does it say to a stranger when they walk into a half -empty church? Believe it or not, I am one of the youngsters at the 5:30 service and I couldn’t even step over a cat without nearly killing myself a month ago. Our ten o’clock service is about 1/3 to 1/4

teens and children on most Sundays. But most of them come from homes in which the parents do not come to church. My wife picks them up and brings them to church.

Last year we had four First Communions, one Confirmation and 6 Baptisms. Many of them were conditional baptisms meaning that the adults did not know whether they were baptized and they certainly did not know if they were baptized in the name of the Trinity. Does that tell you anything about the world we live in?

Many of these are from families who do not contribute to the parish monetarily. But if we can show just one of the young people the glory of God’s Kingdom the angels in heaven will applaud. To some extent the same is true with the sick we visit. There are three people in nursing homes whose family has had no association with the parish at least for nearly two decades. But we visit them and give those who are able to receive, the Sacraments, just as you visit your sick relatives even if they do not know who you are. It is who we are as Christians. From a worldly point of view it is an illogical use of time and money. But from Our Lord’s point of view, it is who we are and what we do.

On the other hand, there are times when the church must act in a very logical and business-like manner. We must be good stewards of the marvelous portion that God has given us. (We are the only Anglican church that left the Episcopal with its property since the 1970’s and we have received several generous bequests from non-parishioners. One foundation gives us every other year $7500 for our endowment fund and a family member of that foundation gives us $10,000 a year, which is as much as Mrs. Mott gave St. Paul’s when I was there. They do this because you were willing to risk all for the faith. We are their hope, in God, for a new renaissance of the Anglican church. )

Sadly, our own financial commitment is not all it could be. We take a thousand dollars a month out of the Robinson Fund to pay our bills. Our expenses exceed our giving. There is a part of me that is very unhappy that we are taking money out of "savings". Yet, in a few years, for a practical and similar example, when I become 70 and a half, I will have to take 4% out of my retirement accounts. If my mutual funds make five percent, my principle will actually grow. If I make three percent it still will take many years before the principle is gone. If we manage our investments in a prudent manner, we will be good stewards and St. Bart’s will endure to see yet another new century.

This partly because two maiden ladies left us over two hundred thousand dollars. If the number of our parishioners should continue to decrease for a while, it will become more and more important for each of us to remember St. Bartholomew’s in our will. This year Donna Hall left us an insurance policy worth more than $25,000. Bill Berry left us 10% of his estate.

Now why is this important? We have endured and thrived when many churches, local and national, have closed. We have young people when many churches have no children.

My ju-jitsu instructor is fond of saying that we shouldn’t sell our martial art short. Sometimes I think we sell our Church short. Our Sunday lessons go back hundreds of years; if not more than a thousand years. Our worship goes back to the time of the Apostles. That which is taught goes back to the time of the creeds. We have forms of meditation going back to St. Benedict. Your body may need yoga but your soul needs St. Ignatius. My son sells my books on these subjects to people all over the western world. They pay money for thoughts and reflections that you hear every week. Avail yourselves of the gifts God has given you..

We may be one of the few parishes who remain to light the way to a new generation of Christians in a hundred years. Be grateful for what you have and please, please share it with others.

 

 

 

 



Our Heroes

By

Fr. Gene Geromel SSC


It is no secret that if you want to encourage a certain type of behavior then you reinforce that behavior. In the least, you say “thank you”. I would like to officially thank some of our parishioners for bringing new members to our church.



Several years ago I mentioned that we owe Diane S. a debt of gratitude. Becoming a member of St. Bartholomew’s she brought her daughter-in-law, Treka. Treka also brought her mother, Mary. Diane also brought her daughter, Jody. Eventually all of these women brought their families. She also brought a granddaughter and her siblings. Diane and Mark are active members. Treka and Brad’s three children can be seen in Sunday School, Junior Choir and serving at the Altar. Mary and Tony can be see working around the church. She is on Altar Guild and teaches Sunday school. Jody serves on the Altar Guild and Rob, her husband, is on Vestry. Their children not only attend Sunday school but sing in the Junior Choir. Oh, and did I mention that Jody brought her friend, Liz? Elizabeth and her husband Matt were married at St. Bartholomew’s. Five couples and ten young people; all because Diane liked what she saw at St. Bartholomew’s.

Walk into the Sunday eight a.m. service and you will usually see the back row is full. Several years ago Dawn began attending St. Bart’s. She told her mother about our parish. She and her good husband began attending. But Bob and Helen also brought Charlie and Nancy. There are now five people sitting in a pew which was usually empty three years ago. Did I mention Nancy is on Altar Guild?

A couple of years ago Matt began bringing a classmate, Kenzie, to services and youth activities. She is now in our youth group, choir and Sunday school and attends St. Michael’s Conference. She and Matt’s family invited her mother to church. Kelly was a Sunday School teacher this year. If in the last month or so you have seen a new face sitting in the pew with Matt’s family, that will be Mary, a friend of Matt’s mother.

Everyone comes to Christ in their own way, but usually it means that someone else invited them to Church. St. Bartholomew’s is fortunate that we have people who are willing to tell their friends and relatives about our parish. You are our heroes.

Finding St. Bartholomew's Anglican Church

By

Clara Coppola

 

The quest to find the type of Anglican (or at the time, Episcopalian) church that we preferred, started before we moved to Michigan. In fact, it started before we knew we were moving to Michigan. John had grown up in a traditional Episcopal church in Forestville, NY, now headed by Fr John Mears. St Peter’s was technically a “mission” church, but included everything we were seeking- traditional mass, an adherence to the traditions of the church, and the avoidance of unnecessary “tweaking” for political correctness.


 

We were newly married, and had just moved to the “Chicagoland” area of Illinois. In the eighteen months that we lived in Illinois, we tried out at least five different churches. One was extremely modern, hip, and large. Its size almost guaranteed that in the handful of times we attended, we met no one, including the priest. We trialed another church in the area, headed by a very kind lady priest who included very politically-correct terminology in the prayers, used the form of the BCP that omitted key sections of the Nicene Creed and there was a lack of the prayer of penitence. There was also a large, circular altar area, and the strange tradition of a “Jesus doll.” The “Jesus doll” was a stuffed toy, made to look like the stereotypical image of Jesus, that each family took turns bringing home each week, for purposes that John and I couldn’t quite determine. A third church advertised itself as a traditional Episcopalian church, but was actually a very nice, charismatic-type church that included blue jeans, guitars, and contemporary music (and none of the traditional liturgy). The fourth church was almost an hour away. St. Mark’s in Geneva, IL was a very traditional, very welcoming little stone church that did offer exactly what we were looking for. We were sort of an anomaly, as most of their parishioners had passed retirement age, but we attended this church for a while, until we discovered that only a mile from our house, a traditional Anglican church had opened its doors. As much as we had enjoyed St. Mark’s, we did want something closer to home, so we tried it out. We thoroughly enjoyed All Saints Anglican Church in Bolingbrook, IL, and ended up attending for the remaining months that we lived in Illinois. When we decided to make the move to Michigan, we wanted to avoid the grab-bag style of church-seeking that had resulted in some strange Sunday mornings, so we asked Fr. John Hines to help us gather a few names and places where we could start our hunt. Not knowing exactly where we would be living, he gave us a list of a couple of names and places.

Once we had moved to Michigan, we started looking. Most of the churches on his list were on the other end of the state, but one was located in Plymouth. We drove all the way there to discover that the services were held in the dining area of a retirement home.

Weeks passed, and we were not finding anything that fit our criteria for a church that continued to worship in the traditional way, while eschewing the brazen and sometimes crazy strides other Episcopal churches were making in an effort to out-PC one another. We were at a stand-still, and had no real direction in which to head. We did search online, but generally found little except for church websites that boasted “openness” and “expanded thinking” and other worn out key phrases of which we were generally wary. One day, John stumbled across a newspaper article online that discussed a “deposed priest” at a church that was a couple of counties away. The fact that he even found this article, and within this article found that little statement that grabbed his attention was purely providential. The dense, text-only website was pages into the search engine, and the part that discussed Fr. Gene Geromel wasn’t until the middle, but it popped right out to John. St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church in Swartz Creek has been our church ever since January 2007.



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