Monday, June 25, 2007

1997 --An Advent Story

Just north and west of Newark lies the town of Bloomfield. From its beginnings as a Presbyterian settlement in the 18th century, Bloomfield was always a hard working place that rewarded its inhabitants with a decent, but unpretentious standard of living. According to the last census, about 70% of the employed residents work at low-level management and white collar jobs, with another 18% doing blue collar work.

In 1997, the Diocese decided to close two of Bloomfield's three Episcopal Churches. Blakeney hasn't been able to learn anything about one of them (Ascension) , but has come across some interesting facts about The Church of the Advent, on William Street. Advent was founded in the first half of the 19th century, and was housed in an unusual clapboard church which sat on a rather large piece of property. During the baby-boom years, the congregation expanded and built a seperate, modern church on the rest of the property. Under Bishop Spong, the traditionally minded congregation shrank, and retreated to the original church building.

Even this vestige of tradtionalism had to be wiped out. While the parish was more than willing for the diocese to sell off the larger part of the property, the Diocese insisted that the old building had to be put up for sale,too. The parish was declared extinct, and sold to an evangelical church.

The proceeds from the sale were $531,000. Almost one-third of this amount was used to buy a house for the "Oasis Missioner". Oasis is the GLBT ministry of the diocese; at that time the missioner was Elizabeth Kaeton, one of the most radical priests in ECUSA. Most of the remaining money was used to help construction costs at the Diocese's new headquarters.

The happy part of this story is that the evangelical church seems to be flourishing in the newer part of the Advent property. However, it appears that the old building the Diocese refused to spare, is still standing empty.