Nearly 100 people turned out for the final service at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection. Afterward, they processed with crosses, candles and an altar down the street to their new worship space.
A sign greeted them: “Resurrection Anglican Church. Welcome home.” The congregation is now under the auspices of the Anglican Church of Uganda.
The Episcopal Diocese of Chicago retains ownership of the church building the congregation had been using.
Addi Moore, 52, of Naperville said the decision to leave the Episcopal Church was decades in the making. The denomination had drifted from the historic Christian faith, she said. Treasured stories from Scripture had been called into question, from the virgin birth to the resurrection.
Then, four years ago, a gay bishop was ordained in New Hampshire.
Now, a lesbian priest is on the slate of bishop candidates in the Chicago Diocese.
“It’s sad to leave, but God is going to do amazing things with us,” Moore said. “He’s just going to blow our socks off.”
The 90-minute worship was a joyous, upbeat celebration with guitars, tambourines and drums. Children waved colorful flags, while worshippers sang with their hands outstretched toward the heavens.
In his sermon, the Rev. George Koch called the split “a gentle leaving.” He said the congregation modeled their faith by handling the situation with prayer instead of strife.
“We have persisted in being love to the Diocese of Chicago and the bishop of Chicago, and they responded in kind,” he said.
The Rev. Scott Hayashi, a diocesan representative, read a letter from Bishop William Persell, who thanked the congregation for carrying out its decision “with grace and integrity.”
“We will continue to hold you in our prayers,” the letter said.
Afterward, Hayashi and Koch hugged.
Resurrection is a young, multi-racial congregation where hugs flow as easily as peals of laughter. Dress is casual, worship is informal. Often, members rest a hand on a neighbor’s shoulder when in prayer.
“We’re a close family,” said Catherine Clark, 66, of Batavia. “Anyone can come here — black, white, gay, straight — and be loved.”
Lynne Bowman, 59, a lifelong Episcopalian from Barrington, called the move bittersweet.
“We have tried to allow the love of God to be part of everything,” she said. “But it’s still painful.”
The new worship space was a quarter mile walk from the church. As the worshippers processed, a guitarist strummed, while others yelled Nigerian warrior cries.
Longtime members said leaving the Episcopal Church was tough but that the walk of faith is never easy.
Younger members such as 24-year-old Chris Lyon of Carol Stream said it wasn’t a big deal.
“The church isn’t four walls, but the people,” Lyon said. “Next week, it’ll be the same people, just different walls.”