Prince William News
Wed., Feb. 13 - On Feb. 6, the St. Paul's Episcopal Church's "priest in charge," the Rev. Sean Rousseau, received notice from the larger Diocese of Virginia bishop that his parishioners would eventually receive an official upgraded status from the church hierarchy.
St. Paul’s Episcopal set to receive official recognition
© Gainesville TimesThis past week marked a big one for a little congregation in Haymarket.
On Feb. 6, the St. Paul's Episcopal Church's "priest in charge," the Rev. Sean Rousseau, received notice from the larger Diocese of Virginia bishop that his parishioners would eventually receive an official upgraded status from the church hierarchy.
Instead of simply being deemed a congregation in formation, St. Paul's is now on track to being deemed a "mission" church, which is one step below a full-blown parish.
That means that the Diocese's lay and clergy leaders will be recognizing the church as a burgeoning entity worth further supporting with more money and other resources as St. Paul's attempts to become a more independent vessel capable of supporting itself and its own mission.
Instead of approving St. Paul's right away, Rousseau explained the thought process by the Diocese is that a congregation has to "have a period of time to prove ... that they can do this" as a functioning church.
Rousseau said he didn't know when, exactly, the diocesan standing committee would actually give its formal approval but an endorsement by Bishop Susan Goff, who is set to stop by St. Paul's on Sunday, March 17, is an indicator that the diocese is taking St. Paul's seriously.
Also, on Feb. 10, St. Paul's installed its first "vestry", which is essentially a board of directors.
That group consists of senior warden Jackie Clattenburg, junior warden Gerald Thacker, register Glennie Forbes and treasurer Hunter Herron.
Prior to the vestry, "we just winged it here for a while," according to Herron, a Heritage Hunt resident.
All of this comes less than a year after Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows ordered that the physical property of St. Paul's and six other Anglican churches whose congregations broke away from the Episcopal Church last decade be turned over to the Diocese of Virginia.
Given that the Episcopalian congregation at St. Paul's essentially had to start over from scratch following the litigation, the Diocese of Virginia set aside what is called a "Dayspring" fund specifically geared to help St. Paul's and the other break-away churches reform.
"What you see is what we have," said Rousseau as he explained the church's current assets.
At this point, St. Paul's sends over money it raises from collections to the Diocese of Virginia with the understanding that the cash will eventually be returned to the church once it is fully functional on its own.
Part of that functionality includes the church being able to run its own bank accounts, for instance.
In the works for St. Paul's over the next few months is the addition of a Sunday school and a second Sunday church service scheduled for 8 a.m.
There is currently a children's Liturgy of the Word, which basically is the Christian gospel being preached to kids in a way that they can understand separate from a routine mass.
"We have a lot of kids," said Kerry Rousseau about the congregation, about 10 or so of whom sing under her direction in the children's choir.
During the next several months of 2012, from spring through early fall, St. Paul's brought in a number of priests before Rousseau signed a three-year contract to lead the Haymarket church, which he began to do on Sept. 1.
A married father of three from South Riding whose wife Kerry is expecting their fourth child, Rousseau explained that he is set to lead the church with the understanding that he may be on longer than just through 2015.
The hope for him and others is that the church will continue to grow in membership and pay all of its own bills, essentially weening itself from the Diocese until it can sustain itself.
So far, the numbers suggest that the church is growing but still has a long ways to go before packing the pews every single service.
When Rousseau took over in September, roughly 30 people attended church on Sundays.
Between 40 and 50 people now generally celebrate the church's lone mass at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays, according to Kerry Rousseau.
Ninety people attended on Jan. 27 and other numbers fluctuated between 36 and 65 people.
The local significance for St. Paul's and why its functionality is noteworthy beyond just the Episcopalians is that the church property itself in the Town of Haymarket is a registered historical landmark.
In its backyards and off to each of the sides, the cemetery at St. Paul's is a burial site for both confederate and union soldiers from the Civil War that came to Haymarket when the church served as an outpost during the Battles of Bull Run.
Former Haymarket Mayor George Hulfish, for whom the Hulfish House is named along the Town Center property, is also buried there along with scores of others in plots dating back to the 1800s.
For some members of the church, their family ties to St. Paul's go back generations.
Last year, the entire congregation on Sunday could fit under one tree outside as they wore name tags in a getting-to-know-you sort of fashion over cake.
"If you broke 20 (then), it was a big deal," said Herron.
"We've grown a lot" since then, added his wife Fran Herron.