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Joyous occasion marks joining of ministries

St. Simon of Cyrene is the historically African American parish in the Diocese of Fort Worth. In January 2009 the Episcopalians at St. Simon were "clapped out" of their building by people who had left The Episcopal Church along with former Bishop Jack Iker and other diocesan leaders. As the Episcopalians, including founders of the parish, quietly filed out, those people who had chosen to throw their lot in with Bishop Iker applauded at their departure.

It was such a painful moment that, nearly two years later, talking about it could still bring tears to the eyes of those who experienced it.

But that painful moment has now been transformed by a joy, for on Sunday September 12, the people of St. Christopher Episcopal Church enthusiastically "clapped them in." As the people of St. Simon walked into the sanctuary, the people of St. Christopher stood as one person and applauded wildly amid laughter and tears of happiness.

It was part of a welcoming ceremony and liturgy as these two groups of "Christ bearers" joined forces. In the months after being "clapped out," the people of St. Simon worshipped in private homes and then in the new chapel at St. Christopher. On Sunday the Rt. Rev. C. Wallis Ohl dedicated that chapel as the Chapel of St. Simon of Cyrene as well as celebrating at the Eucharist.

After the bishopís sermon, representatives of both parishes stood before the bishop. The Rev. Bruce Coggin and Senior Warden John Meeks from St. Simon said, "We rejoice in Godís call to work and worship among you."

The Rev. Bill Stanford and Senior Warden Bill Walker of St. Christopher replied, "With joy we welcome you as our brothers and sisters in Christ."

And both congregations responded with this passage from Ruth: "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and Your God my God."

The Eucharist and the Chapel dedication were followed by a festive reception in the new Family Life Center, which was dedicated by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in February 2009 when she was in Fort Worth to preside at a Special Convention to reorganize the diocese.

A video of the dayís events can been seen here.

St. Simon and St. Christopher remain separate parishes of the diocese even though they have joined forces in common ministry. St. Christopher also houses the temporary diocesan offices because former Bishop Iker still holds possession of the building and diocesan records, even though he has left The Episcopal Church.

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