Requiem for the Church of the Redeemer -
just for the building, not for the congregation

(Below is full text of Senior Warden letter of Jan. 20, 2011 - an update to the earlier assessment letter to the congregation dated Dec 14, 2010)

Iconic complex of buildings simply known to many as "Redeemer" can no longer be safely used, nor economically brought back to building code. Like any grieving process, we will all go through a time of mourning, and people reading this will grapple with this news in their own way.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

On Tuesday night, Bishop Andy Doyle, Bob Schorr, and Mary MacGregor came to Redeemer to meet with the Vestry about the results of the Facility Assessment Report and the options for our future. Bob is the Coordinator of Congregational Development and Mary is the Director of Leadership Development for the Diocese. I have attached the Report to this e-mail, along with the Congregational Assessment done in July of 2005. We met for two hours in the basement, and the Vestry stayed to talk for another hour after that, while so many of you prayed in the nave for all of us.

“For I know

On Sunday, February 27, we will hold our last service in this building. It will celebrate the life and ministry of Redeemer that God has poured out in this place. The Rev. Canon Ann Normand will be the celebrant. In our conversation with Bishop Doyle, he reminded us of the influence that Redeemer parish has had not only upon the Diocese, but much farther. He said that what we have to do now will be very hard, leaving our building behind, but that if we are successful in growing and revitalizing our parish as a community church that reaches out in mission to our neighborhood, we may serve both our neighborhood and the larger Church. We have a neighborhood full of need; we can become an example of a church that successfully reaches out to make less the depth of our world’s grief. The way is difficult, and we do not yet know the way that we should go, but there is hope if we continue faithfully

The need to vacate the building comes from the fact that the building is no longer safe to occupy. According to Tellepsen Construction and Studio Red Architects, the existing condition of the electrical, mechanical, and plumbing systems, the chunks of concrete separating and falling from our buildings (“spalling”), the lack of a fire alarm system, and the inadequacy of emergency exit signs and lights is more than enough to revoke our Certificate of Occupancy, if the Fire Marshall inspected the buildings. The cost of addressing just these issues would be $5 – 7 million. Neither our congregation nor our Diocese can afford that; and even if all those things were repaired, our congregation can no longer afford to maintain the building. Nevertheless, the Bishop told us that “the temptation you must resist is to say that it’s all over now.” It’s not all over now, unless we choose that, and we have the freedom to choose otherwise.

the plans I have for you” declares the LORD,

The Bishop, Bob, and Mary presented four possible options for the continuing life of our congregation: (1) mission status, (2) diaspora (dissolve the congregation and everyone go wherever each one chooses), (3) become a house church, and (4) lease the vacant building of the Santa Cruz mission. Most of our conversation regarding the options centered on the possibility of leasing the building left behind by the Santa Cruz Mission. It’s located at 710 Medina, about four miles east of our current location. Bob promised that the cost would be reasonable and that we could use the location to buy time to decide what we will ultimately choose to do. The move need not be permanent. There may also be some possibilities for a temporary location in our immediate neighborhood, and we plan look into those; but this Saturday, Bob will give the Vestry a tour of Santa Cruz. Our hope is to do whatever God wills us to do in this situation. So once again we appreciate all of your prayers, especially for wisdom, discernment, and courage.

“plans to prosper you

The past is always with us, but in order for us to prosper as a congregation, we will have to find a way to change from that past—to throw out the bath water, but keep the baby. And we will need not only to speak those words, but to act upon them as a body, no matter how difficult that might be. We must together find a way to contemporize our tradition and draw from our storehouse both new things and old, leaving behind what we should, and as Bob encouraged us, “daring to imagine a different future” and to make it happen for the good of all concerned. Just as the Bible so many times counsels us to choose to “take courage” or to “take heart,” I believe we can also “take hope” and choose a different future.

and not to harm you,

This Sunday, January 23, we will hold our annual parish meeting: all will receive the annual ministry reports, and we will elect new Vestry members and our delegates to the Diocesan Council this February. I know we will also discuss the attached Facility Assessment, and Bob Schorr will be with us at this Sunday’s service to answer any questions the Vestry cannot.

On Saturday, January 29, Mary MacGregor will return to Redeemer to lead a congregational workshop for our Vestry and other leaders to help us begin to formulate both a plan and a vision. Both are crucial to our future as a congregation. I don’t believe it will be a future as glorious as we remember our past to have been, but it will be a future in which we can be good and faithful servants, both to God and to our neighbors in this community.

plans to give you hope,

At present, there are no plans to sell the triangle of property where the church is now located. The Bishop couldn’t promise that won’t happen sometime in the future, but stated that he had no plans to do so now. After February 27, the property will be secured, and we will work with the Diocese to inventory records, artifacts, and archives. Eventually the buildings will be torn down, leaving at least the bell tower due to the contract with T-Mobile for their cellular system—until that contract is completed.

hope and a future.”

None of us can see the future, and I don’t know what the specific will of God is for our congregation. But I know his command is to follow him. My hope is that we follow him together through all the struggles we’ve endured to a place where we have what our Bishop named “the chance to give a gift of re-birth,” not only to those around us, but also to ourselves. This will be difficult, but it is also a chance for new life. I think about the LaROCA tapestry in our Parish Hall that quotes Jeremiah 29:11, but I’ve also been cautioned to read chapter 28 along with 29.

The nature of the plans God has for us, as well as their timing, is God’s choosing, not ours. Jeremiah cautioned the exiles to build houses, plant gardens, have children and grandchildren, to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you” and to “pray to the LORD on its behalf,” because it would be seventy years before their grandchildren and great grandchildren would have the opportunity to return and rebuild. My hope is that it will be possible to return and rebuild God’s church on that triangle of land; but whether that is God’s will or not, I don’t know. And if it is, I do not know how he intends to do that or when, but I wish to keep my heart open to the possibility, and I hope to live to see it fulfilled. I trust that his command to us as individuals and as a congregation is to follow him, regardless of whether that leads to the place we want to go or not. I pray for all of us to have the wisdom, discernment, and courage to follow well—as Abraham did, as Moses did, as Jesus did. May we live as good and faithful servants lending our hands to any good that God offers us the opportunity of doing—wherever we are.

Daniel Coleman, Senior Warden 2010
Church of the Redeemer, Houston

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear,
for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

—Thomas Merton, from Thoughts in Solitude

See 2009 report &
charts on finances
and membership as
attached to Senior
Warden's e-letter.



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