In Pennsylvania’s capital, a mission is reborn

By Linda Arguedas
Posted Apr 26, 2013

ens_042612_standrews[Diocese of Central Pennsylvania] Sometime this summer, St. Andrew’s in the City will become the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania’s newest mission.

Founded as a mission more than a hundred years ago St. Andrew’s in the City rapidly grew into a parish in the thriving area of Allison Hill in Harrisburg. With movement out of the city during the post-World War II period, St. Andrew’s in the City established a mission church in the Linglestown area of Harrisburg – St. Andrew’s in the Valley.

With the rapid movement of residents out of the city and the economic decline of Harrisburg due to the loss of industry, the demographic of the city changed. Over time, the economic vitality of the city shifted to the more suburban valley. The parish continued to operate as one with one vestry and one rector, but the city church faced increasing challenges as the neighborhood of Allison Hill changed and the parish got older.

St. Andrew’s in the City still provided the endowments to pay off the Valley church’s mortgage and gave significant operating funds to the valley church. But a move grew to collapse the city church into being just the valley church.

Bishop Nathan Baxter, a son of the city of Harrisburg, sent his staff in to see what the city church wanted to do. The staff met with a congregation that had lost hope and felt bad about itself. Members had been told they were a burden on the valley and needed to close, and they were afraid of losing their church.

Through a process of Appreciative Inquiry, the congregants explored their history, mission and new ways of being church. They invited a Baptist church to use their facilities, which generated income as well as making a statement to the community. Later a Mennonite church began using the facility, too.

“Now we are heeding God’s call and re-establishing our church with a new mission to the community,” said Troy Thompson, a lifetime member of St. Andrew’s. “St. Andrew’s has been touched by the Spirit, and our energy and fire have to be replenished to spread God’s word.”

St. Andrew’s in the City is now one of four “enterprise zones” being redeveloped by the diocese. The idea is to assist churches identified as ones where growth might be obtained by thoughtful investment. In the process, the diocese will become a “learning diocese” as it studies each zone and learns from its efforts.

“We expect mistakes. We expect successes,” said the Rev. Ted Babcock, canon to the ordinary. “Each new enterprise zone provides the diocese valuable information on how to go about strengthening our presence in Central Pennsylvania and the city is one of four now redeveloping their ministry.”

At St. Andrew’s, he said, “The Spirit has manifested itself in a call to plan and execute a radical makeover of the parish building. The old is coming out, and the new is coming in.”

The process began April 13 with “D-Day,” or Dumpster Day, when members asked two parishes and the other mission church of the diocese to come and help them clean out the city facilities in preparation of an “extreme makeover” to begin on June 1.

More than 30 people came to help. In less than three hours, they cleaned the entire church and former rectory of years of debris and other “stored” items that had built up. The cleanup filled a large dumpster, and some of the more valuable items were contributed to the Valley for its own tag sale.

On June 1, more than 80 people from throughout the diocese are expected to help with the makeover. The first two floors of the church building will be painted. Old wiring will be replaced and the plumbing repaired. Afterward, new carpeting and a new tile floor will be laid. So far, St. Andrew’s has raised more than $50,000 to begin the makeover.

The church’s neighbors are taking notice of the revitalization. One Dumpster Day, onlooker Sonja, a Hispanic pastor who lives next door to St. Andrews in the City, said, “This restoration is bringing the church back to life in the community.

“I wonder if there is room for our Hispanic neighbors to do Bible study?”

— Linda Arguedas is canon for events, programs and communications in the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania.

Comments (13)

  1. Sarah Dylan Breuer says:

    I just want to have a clear idea of this.

    The reborn mission of St. Andrews in the City is currently and commendably lending space to Baptist and Mennonite congregations, and has led one pastor of an existing Hispanic congregation who lives next door to wonder whether she might also be allowed to use the premises for bible study.

    All this is very good.

    In terms of future action proposed for St. Andrews in the City, I understand from this article that an “extreme makeover” costing about $50,000 is planned to make the physical plant more broadly useful.

    Sounds like good stewardship of the property.

    Is there other missionary and/or other congregational activity proposed as part of the rebirth of St. Andrews in the City as a “Mission Enterprise Zone”?

    Many thanks, and blessings!

    1. Ted Babcock says:

      St. Andrew’s in the City is working to develop and focus its mission using the Appreciative Inquiry process. Once they complete that process they will be able to create a parish profile for their search for a clergy leader.

      “The Extreme Make Over” will cost about $25,000 to replace old rugs, tiles and the cost of materials for the scraping sanding and repainting the first two floor of the church building . Most of the labor is being donated by the Harrisburg Convocation with help from other convocations. We are hoping for and expecting 80 or more on June 1st for the makeover. The mission also needs office equipment desks (2), chairs (6), computers (2), software and a printer, as all that equipment currently resides with the other half of the parish that the mission is being born from.

      Part of the money raised comes from the donations made by the Baptist and Mennonite Churches. The rest is being raised by the new mission itself. Finally, they are part of diocesan wide program to establish four “new ventures” so we as a diocese can learn what we need to do to help our church to thrive again.

      St. Andrew’s is the city mission of the diocese where we can learn how to go back into the city and re-establish the Episcopal Church’s presence. We have a “new venture” in Potter County, a rural area in the northern tier, that is now almost a year old and thriving. Another “new venture” is in State College, PA and is an effort to learn how to better bring university students and professors into the church. The fourth venture is located along on the Maryland border and it is a mission already, but it is in need to strong support to move to a parish statues (independence) within the next 3-5 years. We are committed to helping them achieve parish status while we learn from that experience – successes as well as our frustrations.

      As a diocese we want to learn how to thrive and are committed to finding ways to spread the Gospel and bring others to Christ. We are committed to becoming a “learning diocese” that is not afraid of mistakes or failures as they are opportunities to learn from.

      Hope this brief outline helps you and others understand what we are trying to do as a diocese.


      Ted Babcock

    2. The Rev. Harry L. Knisely says:

      Yes, of course there is, and most importantly, the energy level of this congregation to do so is truly remarkable. I refer to them as the 100 % group. There will be in place a strategic plan and the intent to continue to develop that plan in the coming years. As I have said before, if you do not think we intend to do this, just come by the building at 1854 Market Street, worship with us and learn how we reach out and welcome the people around us.

      There is some updating of the physical properties, but more importantly they are putting in place the spiritual disciplines to grow and thrive at the corner of 19th and Market Street in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It is gratifying that I write this on the eve of Pentecost, and I want to add, that their great energy for this work is the evidence of the reality of how the Spirit is moving in our midst. This is a wonderful people, and there is nothing they cannot do.
      Inviting all interested persons for an on site visit.
      Come Holy Spirit Come!
      The Rev. Harry L. Knisely+

  2. Sarah Dylan Breuer says:

    Thank you for responding, Ted.

    I did not gather from your response, though the diocese’s missionary desires are strong, how St Andrews in the City will meet the criteria for “Mission Enterprise Zones” in GC2012 A073, particularly:

    “Resolved, That Diocesan Standing Committees and Bishops partner to create “Mission Enterprise Zones,” defined as a geographic area, as a group of congregations or as an entire diocese committed to mission and evangelism that engages under-represented groups, including youth and young adults, people of color, poor and working-class people, people with a high-school diploma or less, and/or people with little or no church background or involvement.”

    The ENS article represents St. Andrew’s in the *City* (not just the diocese as a whole or its rural activities) as being a “Mission Enterprise Zone” — and not just one of them, but a public exemplar of how Mission Enterprise Zones are being implemented.

    As a member of Executive Council, I am particularly interested in how Please explain at your earliest convenience how St. Andrew’s in the City is implementing GC 2012 A073. I’d love to hear as well how the other three “Mission Enterprise Zones” met the criteria for funding under A073.

    I am particularly concerned about the ambiguity of the process as you’ve described it given that General Convention specified in particular that “each Mission Enterprise Zone feature a strategic plan to start or redevelop a congregation that is intentionally multi-cultural, incorporating the presence and leadership of under-represented generations, socio-economic groups, races, ethnicities and/or languages,” among other criteria.

    It sounds like the “Mission Enterprise Zone” in question has no strategic plan at all at present, but is undergoing a process of Appreciative Inquiry to hire a cleric who might develop one.

    Given the lack of any specific plan (and if there is one that isn’t publicly disclosed, please do feel free to contact me personally any time, day or night) for an Episcopalian congregation to do anything in particular at St. Andrew’s in the City other than hire a cleric, how has the congregation decided that whatever it’s doing next requires 2 (and only 2) desks and 6 (and only six) chairs are needed?

    It seems to me that whether any desks and what kind and number of chairs are needed for the office would be the function of what was going to happen in the facility. And so far the plan is to remake the facilities — deciding whether and where carpeting is needed, and so on — based on no plan at all.

    This is a matter of serious concern to me as a member of Executive Council. I would be asking these questions privately had ENS not raised this mission as a model (and perhaps the first one — I haven’t noticed any prior ENS articles on this subject, though I might have missed some) of what GC 2012 A073 “Mission Enterprise Zones” are funding.

    I look forward very much to hearing what the plan is to ensure that A073 funding is going toward the purposes for which the resolution allocated them.

    I admit also some disappointment that, given our GC-adopted mission emphasis on horizontal networking, that the diocesan plan for MEZs seems to start with furniture and buildings, continue with clergy, and stop after one cleric is hired. I look forward eagerly to ENS reporting about the communities MEZs will reach — who’s there, what THEY care about (I’m guessing that unchurched people don’t have a solid idea about how many desks they want in the office of the church that doesn’t exist yet), and how A073 funds are helping Episcopalians engage their real, local communities where and with respect to what they care about.

    GC 2012 Resolution A073 was not, I think, passed because GC felt that dioceses needed more desks and chairs. I think it was passed because bishops and deputies alike wanted to fund new ideas and initiatives, and in particular to engage communities that are (to our shame) new to TEC.

    I will be asking my colleagues on the appropriate committee as well as Council as a whole to keep an eye on what’s happening. I expect it to be inspiring and innovative, as I’m sure your diocese’s plans for A073 funding will be.

    Thank you for speaking up, and I look forward to ongoing conversation.



    1. The Rev. Harry L. Knisely says:

      I am the Sunday priest who has worked with this congregation off and on since 2005, and during 2007 & 2008 was the Interim Pastor, and Since 2011 have been the associate priest of Saint Andrew’s Church, Harrisburg. I assure the parties who seem to be willing to discuss this subject on line, to accept an invitation to attend a service and meet the people. We gather every Sunday at 8 am and promise you will be welcomed and are welcome.

      This congregation at the moment has had eighteen months of leadership by the Diocesan Staff, and as of this time, the people, who are diverse in age and race, are working, all of them, and have for months to affect this process. Unlike few things I have witnessed as an Episcopal Priest of forty-four years, they are one hundred percent involved and active in this process and work. If you cannot make a Sunday service and at least see us face to face, how about attending our Bible Study on Wednesday evenings at 7 – 8 pm. We are currently studying Ephesians. I only hope the National Church is capable of doing its work and doing it as well.

  3. Anne M Watkins says:

    Dylan, the grants that are budgeted and will be made available through A073 have not yet been expended. The enterprise zones in this article seem to be a function of what the Diocese of Central PA is doing and envisioning within itself. Whether they apply for and / or are eligible for A073 Mission Enterprise Zone funding remains to be seen. A subcommittee of Executive Council’s JSP for Local Mission & Ministry is working with Tom Brackett now and at our June meeting of EC to draft the criteria and process for these grants. I hope this helps clear up some questions or confusion.

  4. Sarah Dylan Breuer says:

    Thanks, Anne. That helps a lot. I see not that the article just says it’s an “enterprise zone,” not that it’s a “Mission Enterprise Zone.” This is one reason I like such discussions — folks like you and Ted are generous enough to answer questions and correct mistaken impressions! Blessings to you both, and to the congregation.

    1. John Standard says:

      You need to take a break from the ENS website if rants like that one are how you’re going to act while on the executive council.

  5. CATHY KALASKY says:

    St. Andrew Episcopal Church in Harrisburg, PA: One Parish, one Vestry, one Rector, two locations. The City location is not a Mission Church yet. While no one can deny that the “improvements” are needed, the Vestry of this parish has not been informed, consulted, or given the opportunity to approve any of the recent or planned activities of the Diocese.

    1. The Rev. Harry L. Knisely says:

      I would agree Cathy, and I can only wonder when the Vestry became 10 members allowed from the Valley Congregation and only 2 from the Allyson Hill Congregation? Historically, there is only one corporation, and that is a legal canonical process if it is to change. It might be different today if we had left set representation at six for each altar’s congregation.

      1. Dorothy Kapnic says:

        The Vestry has never “become” any set proportion. Any member in good standing is eligible to run for vestry. Since the City location has an average Sunday attendance of about 12 and the Valley congregation has an average Sunday attendance of around 85, it not logical to suggest 1/2 and 1/2, but rather 1/7 city and 6/7 valley. During my term on Vestry (mid 2007 – mid 2010), elections were usually with a slate of exactly the number of vestry members needed so as to ensure that the city church WAS represented on the Vestry. (Finding members who are both qualified and willing to serve is always a challenge.) By the way, Fr. Knisely was the interim for a total of 14 months, Dec 2007 thru Jan 2009.

  6. The Rev. Harry L. Knisely says:

    In May we started a Wednesday night Bible Study, which will resume in August after taking the month of July off. It has been well attended and others from the Harrisburg have enquired about the study and one has joined us on a regular basis. We are studying Ephesians, which is an excellent presentation of the ministry of a congregation.

    Actually, I was the Interim from September 2007 until December 2008. By this time our Bishop, Nathan D. Baxter, has interceded with the congregation. It is important that we follow both Diocesan and Natonal Canon Laws about the incorporation of congregations.

  7. The Rev. Harry L. Knisely says:

    This will be literally my last word and comment about this news item, concerning a new mission in Harrisburg, and the date of the news release was April 26, 2013. First, since I served Saint Andrew Church as its Interim Priest in 2008, it has always been a presumed division of the vestry of 2 from the City, and 10 from Linglestown. I have not attempted to understand how that came to be, but clearly, I believe I could suggest that it is neither canonical nor sound.

    Second, I have carefully studied and factored the attendance of the City congregation and it is clearly not 12 or about 12. Which is used by Dorothy Kapnic to justify and 1/7 & and 2/14 split.
    In fact the last three years the attendance has been averaged at 20.0 in 2012, 21.1 in 2011, and 18.3 in 2010. If the attendance for the Linglestown congregation is indeed on average 85, if one were to attempt a split membership for vestry representation it should be 3/12. But I do not believe the split of the corporation board (the Vestry) is either proper or valid.

    Third, as many people know from the current discussions, this is at times used for some to be a way to split the financial figures for any separation of the two altars or the congregation. If one considers that there literally was no congregation in Linglestown before 1980 and no building before 1986, the part of the congregation that gathers around that altar would not exist with a generous generation of church planters a generation ago.

    Finally, it has been interesting and at times frustrating to listen to the conversation about so much that is at stake in this work. For me the bottom line is this. Literally the physical, spiritual and emotional energy in the new mission work at the city site is of 100% of the congregation. It has been remarkable to witness this focus and hard work. I congratulate them and wish them well. God speed dear friends.

Comments are closed.