Episcopal Church in Western Oregon’s convention to vote to close three parishes

By Shireen Korkzan
Posted Oct 12, 2023

Saints Peter & Paul Episcopal Church will close in December 2023. Photo: Saints Peter & Paul Episcopal Church

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church in Western Oregon’s diocesan convention will vote to close three parishes at its annual meeting on Oct. 28, according to an Oct. 6 press release.

The parishes set to close are St. John’s Episcopal Church in Toledo, Ascension Episcopal Church in Riddle and Saints Peter & Paul Episcopal Church in Portland.

Each of these communities has come to a point in their common life when it became clear that it was time to close,” Western Oregon Bishop Diana Akiyama said in the press release. “While it is true that their decision to close is an ending, it is also an opening for something new to begin. In this moment, however, we live into the grief that accompanies loss and change, knowing that grief is a reflection of love, and love beckons us forward into the hope we know in our resurrected Christ.”

The diocese doesn’t intend to sell the properties, though plans over what to do with them haven’t been determined yet, according to the press release.

St. John’s was established as part of the Yaquina Bay Mission in the late 1850s, predating the town of Toledo. Its current building was built in 1937 and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1990.

Ascension was established as a preaching station in 1905 and became a diocesan mission in 1951. Its congregation had been “intimate” for decades, averaging between a dozen and 20 parishioners each week. However, worship services haven’t been held since the parish’s vicar, the Rev. Robert Lonergan, died in 2017.

Saints Peter & Paul Episcopal Church formed in 1968 from a union of two southeast Portland parishes, St. Paul Episcopal Church and St. Peter Episcopal Church and School. Since its inception, Saints Peter & Paul has maintained an emphasis on community, particularly active ministry to women who’ve been marginalized by sex work, addiction or poverty. The parish’s Spanish-speaking community had been growing since establishing a bilingual community in 2011, but later became unsustainable during the COVID-19 pandemic. The diocese is currently exploring the possibility of developing Saints Peter & Paul’s property into affordable housing for the community.

Saints Peter & Paul will host its final worship service on Dec. 3. There will be a morning worship service celebrating the second Sunday of Advent, a special evensong and a community dinner in the evening.

By the very nature of their unique contexts and worship life, each congregation has lived into the mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church in Western Oregon in distinct and transformative ways,” Akiyama said in the press release.

-Shireen Korkzan is a reporter and assistant editor for Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at skorkzan@episcopalchurch.org.