Thursday, September 18, 2008

Episcopal Church Closing Reservation Churches

Several Episcopal congregations on the Pine Ridge Reservation (South Dakota) will close by Nov. 30 because of declining members and pledges that have made it difficult to pay the bills, two pastors said Wednesday.

Of the 15 Episcopal churches on the reservation, the Argus Leader has confirmed five will close. The affected churches are St. Barnabas Church south of Kyle, St. John's Church north of Oglala, St. Alban's Station north of Porcupine, St. Timothy's Church south of Potato Creek and St. Andrew's Church near Wakpamni Lake.Another church - Church of the Advent north of Pine Ridge - will switch to station status or have a few services a year, said the Rev. Agnes Tyon, who also serves St. John's and once was pastor at St. Alban's Station.

Tyon and the Rev. Cordelia Red Owl, who serves St. Barnabas, St. Timothy's and St. Andrew's, said they received a letter in early August from the Episcopal Church Diocese of South Dakota about the closures."Congregation numbers have been declining and (they) are not meeting insurance or pledge payments," Red Owl said.

Even one church's historical significance doesn't seem to play a factor in keeping it open.St. John's near Oglala was in Pine Ridge when it was used as a hospital to treat the injured at the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890, Tyon said. Years later, St. John's moved north of Oglala.The church is struggling to pay the electric bill, insurance and fees, such as a $150 annual fee to the diocese, she said.

"You think of how many were married and buried there," Tyon said of St. John's. "It's very sad. People knew what they had to do."

The Rev. Craig West, dean of the Pine Ridge Mission and pastor of four churches on the reservation and the mission area, would not confirm whether any other congregations would close. West referred questions to Bishop Creighton Robertson of the Sioux Falls-based diocese Wednesday night.

Robertson was not at work Wednesday and would not answer questions at his home Wednesday night.

Read it all here.

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