The Reverend David Ward and the Reverend Roderick Sinclair had come to St. Paul's as assistants in 1968 after Charles Perry and Richard Baker left. During the search for a new rector they served together as Associate Rectors and Chaplains until December, 1969 when David Ward was called as Rector and Rod Sinclair became Director of Special Ministries. When Mr. Sinclair left St. Paul's to become Episcopal Chaplain at Auburn University, Mr. Ward called the Rev. John Ruef as his Associate in 1971. He was succeeded by the Rev. L. Roberts Graves, Jr., who served as Associate until 1976.
Although St. Paul's still faced many major challenges, a healing began to take place within the parish. A more gradual approach to change and a new willingness to accept diversity were probably the main reasons for this healing. In his first sermon after becoming Rector, David Ward said, "A few weeks ago suggested that our great need in this church is to be reconciled to each other. We need a healing of our divisions and a constant striving for that kind of openness and trust which will allow us not to overlook or to forget our differences, but to examine them honestly and without distortion. We must look for unity but not for uniformity or unanimity."
The first major issues dealt with in this more gradual and inclusive style were the liturgy and the schedule of Sunday services. By 1970, the 9:30 and 11:00 services represented two very distinct congregations. For three years a rich combination of services gave each congregation the opportunity to experience Morning Prayer and Holy Communion using the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and the Proposed New Liturgy. That enabled parishioners to become familiar with the new liturgy while still affirming the traditional forms of worship. Members of the congregation were invited to learn more about the changes in the liturgy and to express their own reactions to it by attending Sunday morning discussion groups and by taking part in parish opinion surveys. The summer schedule, which combined the two congregations into one 10:00 service, was also a part of the gradual process of introducing the new liturgy.
Although many people in the 11:00 congregation continued to prefer Morning Prayer according to the 1928 prayer book for the main service, in February, 1973, the parish agreed to a ten week trial of one combined 10:00 service of Holy Communion using the 1928 prayer book and the Proposed New Liturgy on alternate Sundays. At the conclusion of the ten week trial period that liturgical schedule became the standard practice of the parish until 1977 when the vestry removed the 1928 prayer books and placed the new 1979 Book of Common Prayer in all the pews.
The ordination of women to the priesthood was another difficult challenge which the parish was able to meet by using the same gradual and inclusive approach. The clergy and the vestry led the way in publicly supporting the ordination of women, but the congregation was again given many opportunities to learn more about both sides of the issue and to express their own opinions through study groups, parish meetings and questionnaires. That process of corporate involvement can be seen in a letter Mr. Ward wrote to the congregation in November, 1974, addressing the question of whether or not one of the eleven women ordained irregularly in Philadelphia should be invited to St. Paul's. "If I were to take any action involving an invitation to one or more of the Philadelphia Eleven it would be done on the basis of our corporate willingness to acknowledge the validity of their priesthood and our clear desire that it should be experienced among us."
While the process of education and decision-making about the ordination of women went on, other important steps were taken. In 1974 the vestry certified Constance Ward to become a candidate for Holy Orders, and in 1975 David Ward participated in the ordination service of four women priests in Washington, D.C. However, he made it clear that he was doing that on his own and not as Rector of St. Paul's. In 1976 at a meeting of Region 15, Mr. Ward presented the arguments in favor of ordaining women. Although by 1977 there were still differences of opinion on the ordination issue, in the spring of that year the parish celebrated the ordination to the priesthood of Constance Ward. There was strong interest in hiring her as a third member of the clergy staff to acknowledge both the parish's enthusiastic support of women priests and the outstanding ministry that she already was carrying out at St. Paul's. However, lack of money made it impossible to offer her any more than a very part-time position.
The parish finances posed a very serious problem. The crisis was caused by a continuing decline in pledges and an increased commitment to outside giving. By 1978 the number of pledging units was only half of what it had been in 1965, even though there was an annual increase in the size of the average pledge. Each year the church was forced to adopt a "bare-bones" deficit budget, and to meet expenses by selling church property that was not being used by the parish. That property included a house on Fendall Avenue that had been the home of the assistant minister, and the former St. David's Mission in Greene County which had been left to St. Paul's in the previous owner's will. Despite the constant shortage of money, the parish continued an active outreach to the local community and to the larger world. A parish committee gathered data about hunger among local school children and was able to get a pilot school breakfast program started. St. Paul's sponsored a Vietnamese refugee family, and through an organization called FEAST, parishioners were urged to address seriously the problem of world hunger.
This was also a time when the importance of the arts in the life of the church was recognized and experienced. The choir became known for its excellence on Sunday mornings and during special services such as Choral Evensong. The 1975 Ash Wednesday service included a performance of David Ward's play "The Containers", and the Wednesday evening Lenten programs included a participatory drama which involved the congregation in a re-trial of Christ. From time to time parish artists designed the cover for the Sunday bulletin.
The ministry to the University also moved in some new directions. Perhaps the most dramatic program was the exchange between St. Paul's and St. Thomas Roman Catholic Church in which Mr. Ward and Fr. Stickle celebrated the eucharist together at both churches. An exciting new program began when the vestry voted to make the Booker house a part of the church's outreach to the University. Since acquiring the property in 1969, the church had rented it out to a fraternity to cover the costs of owning it. In 1978 a group of students who were active at St. Paul's presented a plan to create at the Booker house a Christian Community for students and other young adults. Since the house needed several thousand dollars worth of repairs, and since the Booker House Community was an as yet untested idea, its formation was an act of courage, but one which the vestry agreed was consistent with St. Paul's historic mission to the University.
Last Updated on Monday, 25 June 2012 13:23