I spent the afternoon of Father's Day at a service that marked the closing of a local parish, Trinity Church, Weymouth (this may or may not have been more painful than the kids making me breakfast in bed -- though I wouldn't know since I always leave for the early service before they're awake).
I'd never been to such a liturgy but they're becoming more common as parishes close all over the country. I won't comment on the liturgy itself -- it was presided over by Bishop Bud Cederholm who did an admirable job striking a tone of hope in the midst of difficult circumstances. But what struck me more than anything was the emotion displayed by some of the long-time parishioners. There were tears and there was tangible grief. In this sense it felt like a wake, albeit with the whole church building serving as a wide-open casket.
While we talk about the "community of the baptized" and the "priesthood of all believers," I still don't think a parish can thrive without strong clergy leadership. Yes, it takes an entire congregation working together with a common mission for sustainable, long-term growth and vitality but a lack of clergy leadership can do irreparable damage to a congregation. Some priests are natural leaders but I think leadership skills can also be learned and if we're not focusing on leadership skills in the training of clergy we're failing the people of God.
I do wish the best for the few remaining parishioners at Trinity, Weymouth. I pray they will eventually feel the power of the Resurrection through this experience of congregational death. And that they will soon find a parish out of which they can continue to live out their baptismal vows.