On thinking about new beginnings, the historian in me came out and I was immediately drawn to the story of my own parish.
In 2009, I began formation in the United Independent Catholic Church. I was appointed lay administrator for our ministry, SS Cyril and Methodius UICC was created. We began celebrating with simple prayer services. My friend (and at the time, partner) Rick and I would set up a small table in our living room with a candle and a cross. We read from the scripture, celebrated a spiritual communion (no elements) and prayed. Not long after, a friend joined us. We grew from three of us to five and soon rented space at a local UCC church. I was ordained a Deacon in Dec of 2010 and ordained to the priest hood in May of 2011.
We continued to grow and hit a group of about 10 within a year. Many of these were “regular visitors”. Our official membership remained at five. I have always said, “What we lack in numbers, we more than make up for in devotion”.
We celebrated Mass weekly on Sunday evenings (we later switched to Saturday evenings) held several fund-raisers, and annually had a booth at the local LGBT Pride festival. We had a lot of interest, but never seemed to go higher than five members. We did finally reach six members by Easter of 2013.
By mid-2014, we were becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack communication with, and support of any kind by our Bishop, and felt that we were going nowhere fast. We began a period of discernment to decide what we were going to do. The decision was made to leave the UICC. We investigated many other Independent/ Old Catholic jurisdictions. None quite fit our needs and desires. That is until one of members suggested that I speak with one of his Facebook friends, Fr. Ken Nelan. This was the New Beginning for our small parish.
The year, 2015, will go down as a very good year for my parish. In June, I began talks with Fr. Ken. We discussed our joining the IOCC (later OCCI). I felt a sense of renewal, and brought the idea of leaving the UICC and joining OCCI to a vote. It was unanimous to leave the UICC and begin joining the OCCI.
In June, our six-month period of discernment began. I requested, and received Episcopal protection and temporary faculties from Bishop Godsey. I began the incardination process and informed the Presiding Bishop of the UICC of my choice to excardinate from the UICC. Our parish was formally welcomed into the OCCI at a special Mass of Celebration in January of 2016.
Since then, both I and my parishioners have felt a strong sense of renewal; and rejuvenation. For me, professionally, the collegiality and the communication amongst my fellow clergy has really helped me become a better priest. I no longer feel like I am alone and floating around in limbo. In my former jurisdiction, it took days or weeks to get any kind of response to a question. Now it is almost instantaneous. It has been like night and day by comparison.
I am so thankful for the existence of Convergent Streams. It has been a fabulous place for me to express the many rambling thoughts going through my brain. Congratulations on six years of spreading the Word through the many viewpoints of all the fabulous writers.
As we begin a new year, I feel refreshed and energized; ready to explore new avenues to bring the Love of God and the teachings of the Christ to the people that need to hear that God loves and cares for them no matter what.
Rev. Fr. Andrew Smith grew up in Appleton. WI. He studied Theology, Philosophy and Sociology at Lakeland University in Sheboygan, WI and completed his theological studies at Holy Redeemer Seminary of the UICC. Fr. Andrew was ordained to the diaconate in December of 2010 and to the Order of Presbyters in May of 2011. He entered his novitiate in the Order of Preachers Old Catholic in August of 2016 and took his three- year vows in May 2017. Fr. Andrew is pastor of St Dominic Old Catholic Church in Oshkosh, WI. He enjoys cooking, reading, writing and is an avid history buff.