San Joaquin diocese celebrates return of Turlock church property

By Pat McCaughan
Posted Jun 11, 2013
Episcopalians resume services June 9 at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Turlock, California. Photo: Al Galicia

Episcopalians resume services June 9 at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Turlock, California. Photo: Al Galicia

[Episcopal News Service] With the rap of his crosier on the church door and a trumpet fanfare, San Joaquin Bishop Chet Talton on June 9 formally ushered in the future of St. Francis Episcopal Church in Turlock. “We’re moving forward with mission, ministry and the work of reconciliation,” he said.

The standing-room-only gathering of about 150 sang “All are Welcome,’ a theme reflected throughout the homecoming festival celebration of the church, the first to be returned to the diocese after negotiated settlements with former members who left the Episcopal Church in 2007.

“We can now turn all of our resources to sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ and engaging in Christ’s mission in the world,” Talton said.

“At the heart of that mission is reconciliation. All are welcome. All means all, including those who differed with our churches and left; they are welcome. At center in our celebration of return is that we can devote ourselves wholly to mission and ministry.”

Vera Sahlstrom, who turned 94 a day earlier, said she couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present.

“I spent 30 years on the altar guild here and 30 years in the choir. I’ve got so many memories here. It’s good to be home,” she said.

Her grandson, Paul Voorhees echoed the sentiment: “I was born and raised in this church. It’s good to be home, it’s happiness.”

The Rev. Kathie Galicia, priest-in-charge of the congregation, said she received the keys to the church a week earlier and the returning congregation held its first service there June 2.

“It’s wonderful to have the church back,” she said. Overwhelmed by the support of visitors from across the diocese, she added: “This is like having a giant open house. I want to do this every Sunday.”

St. Francis members had worshiped in various locations the past six years, after theological differences split the diocese in 2007. Former members had left the Episcopal Church but had attempted to keep the property.

State and federal courts have consistently ruled that church properties are held in trust by the diocese for the mission and ministry of the wider Episcopal Church.

Returning Episcopalian Nedra Voorhees, 74, echoed an often-repeated sentiment that coming back to worship “felt like coming home. It was a strange sensation, when I walked in that first Sunday morning, it felt like I had never been gone.”

The congregation numbered about 40 at that first Sunday worship, she added. While meeting elsewhere, members had drawn sustenance, she said, from each other.

“It was a wandering and a soul-searching time,” she recalled. “My commitment to Christ was strengthened by not having that security that somehow a building provides for you. You come to rely more on your relationship with God than on a building … when you’ve got to do a lot more work to make it happen.”

She added that: “It’s an exciting time for the whole diocese, a turning point.”

Her sister Beryl Simkins, agreed. “It’s time to move on,” she said. “We need to be about being Christians in Turlock. We have learned so much from this experience. I learned that the people are the church.

“We’ve learned never to take the church for granted. We appreciate each other so much. Everybody helps these days. Everybody takes responsibilities and does whatever needs to be done.”

In Ridgecrest, where St. Michael’s Church was also returned to the diocese, the Rev. Linda Huggart said she’d just moved into the church rectory.

The congregation, which had been meeting as All Souls at the historical society building, was adjusting to returning to their property.

“If we can do it out of a box for five years, we can certainly do it in a church,” she said. “We’re kind of taken aback now that we’ve got pews and sound systems and organs.”

For Dee Dee Cox, 88, a long-time member, the return was joyous.

She said the church “was very precious to me. The church has meant a lot to me in my life here and my life in general,” she said. “So, it was difficult to be removed from it, but we carried on in a different way.

“Now, I’m feeling joyful,” she said but added that “it’s also sad. What happened was an unfortunate loss for both congregations.”

As the result of favorable rulings by the Kern County Superior Court, conversations are also underway regarding the return of other congregations in Bakersfield, Delano and Sonora. Other disputed properties throughout the diocese are in various stages of litigation, according to diocesan chancellor Michael Glass.

Another church property, St. Paul’s, Modesto, was returned July 1, 2009 prior to litigation.

“It’s been really emotional,” said Terrance Goodpasture, a St. Francis member since 2000. “There’s lots of enthusiasm that we’d like to keep going forward.”


Comments (20)

  1. Brad Sleeper says:

    I am relieved that this struggle is over.Now I can continue to practice and uphold my Christian beliefs. I sided with the Anglcan theology because of a strong belief in true bibical scripture. I put a lot of time and treasure in the support of St Francis property. I can truthfully state that we never ever said that anybody – I mean anybody was not welcome in the church. Your main theme that all are welcome in the Episcopal Church is not necessary because everybody is always welcome in any true Christian church. You “Episcopalians” left of your own accord and were not forced out-You all signed a letter of withdrawal of your own free will. Lastly- I remember having non-christian attitudes (hate) exihibited toward us Anglicans. I do not dislike gay people -only pity them.

    1. Brad Sleeper says:

      Why is moderation necessary? I speak the truth under my rights as a citizen in a public forum.

      1. Orianna Lee says:

        Answer to your question: Moderation is necessary to prevent spamming and inappropriate material from being posted.
        You have also confused ‘truth’ with opinion; your opinion has clearly been stated and posted, leaving your rights as a citizen in a public forum in tact.

        1. Brad Sleeper says:

          My “opinion ” is based on truthful facts.

          1. Zachary Brooks says:

            Brad, the verdict is landed and there is nothing to be done now. Try to move on to forgiveness.

    2. tom carter says:

      I am sure that gay people will pity you too

      1. Ruppert Baird says:

        They will. All sinners pity the faithful.

  2. Rev. William Underhill says:

    Glad to hear all this. It’s good news, like the Gospel.

  3. Brian Ticknor says:

    Wonderful news. OBTW, my family lived in Ridgecrest when I was in the fourth grade. Then we moved onto the post for fifth and sixth grades.

  4. The Rev. Harriet B. Linville says:

    May the people of St. Francis, Turlock, continue to carry the joy and enthusiasm they are feeling now. As one member said, time to be Christians. There is so much work to be done in God’s world.

  5. Brad Sleeper says:

    Someone does not like my comments-Thirty pieces of silver.

    1. Orianna Lee says:

      Brad Sleeper, Jesus is price-less, keep your silver. Your comments are inciting; not insightful.

      1. Brad Sleeper says:

        It cost the National Episcopal Church more than thirty pieces of silver to take back St Francis property. I am very disappointed over all of this. Politics as usual- it has split a strong national church. I always thought good Christians could arrive at a true reconcilliation. enough said -I am thinking of going back to my New England puritanical church that I was raised in.

        1. Zachary Brooks says:

          If the schismatics are truly interested in reconciliation, they are perfectly free to come back to the Church. What can we who remain in TEC do about it?

  6. Al Lingo says:

    As always true, we had to go through a Crucifixion before we had the Resurrection!! Now is the time for the Restoration!!


  7. David McCain says:

    Prayers of thanksgiving are extended to the members of St. Francis Church whose exile has now come to an end.
    And please let me say this in response to Brad Sleeper’s assertion that he does not dislike gay people — he only pities them — Our Lord did not ask you to like “like” or “pity” anyone: He commanded you to love them. John 13:34

    1. Brad Sleeper says:

      You have to love someone to pity them.

  8. Richard Bdwell says:

    Blessing on all. Welcome home!

  9. Stan Haye says:

    I am a member of All Souls/St. Michels in Ridgecrest. I would like to comment on Mr. Sleeper’s statement that all are welcome in any true Christian church, which I throughly agree with. However, I can say, without disparagement or judgement, that there must be a lot of non Christian churches in Ridgecrest because All Souls Episcopal is the ONLY church in Ridgecrest that truly does welcome all souls. This is one of the very good reasons that I am a member.

    1. Brad Sleeper says:

      I do not understand your reasoning-it sounds biased.

Comments are closed.