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BAKERSFIELD, CA: New Trinity Anglican Church nears after years 'in the wilderness'

BAKERSFIELD, CA: New Trinity Anglican Church nears after years 'in the wilderness'

By Theo Douglas
October 27, 2015

After being without a sanctuary of their own for two and a half years, Trinity Anglican Church members will break ground in December on a new $9 million, 27,000-square-foot complex in the southwest that includes worship space and a preschool.

The ceremony, planned for 1 p.m. Dec. 5 at the northwest corner of Buena Vista Road and Campus Park Drive, will feature a brief prayer service and dedication by Father Karl Dietze, rector at Trinity Anglican Church, and Bishop Eric Menees of Fresno.

It's just the latest milestone for the congregation, which split from St. Paul's Episcopal Church in a microcosm of the nationwide philosophical schism of the mid-2000s that saw congregations in the valley and around the country leave the Episcopal Church and align themselves with the Anglican Church.

The Anglicans differ over doctrinal issues including the interpretation of scripture, the ordination of women and gays and the blessing of same-sex unions.

But Dietze and The Rev. Dr. Tim Vivian, the priest in charge at St. Paul's, both said there is no ill will between members of the two churches.

"We know we've been here in Bakersfield since 1879, and we know we're building on what the followers of Jesus left for us," Dietze said. "We're not really seeing any kind of schism or any kind of hardships. We're really just seeing it as God's faithfulness to us and the opportunity to build for the future."

Vivian said Anglicans and Episcopalians may yet reach common ground. He pointed out Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury proposed last month inviting all 38 national Anglican church heads to discuss how the congregations can somehow stay together despite their differences.

"To me, the reason I am an Anglican is we've long agreed to live together, and we disagree over some things but we're going to stick together on what we consider the core things. Such as the faith," Vivian said. "That's my personal take on it and that's why I really do wish them well."

John Pryor, Trinity Anglican's communication chair, said his fellow church members have been "quote-unquote 'wandering in the wilderness' for 2 1/2 years." But he struck a hopeful note, adding average Sunday attendance of 225 is on the rise.

Officials will begin using a new liturgy shortly, he added, with a traditional message in a more modern language.

"This is new liturgy, taking the best of both, that more ancient language and our contemporary language and combining them both," Pryor said. The congregation currently numbers more than 500.

Trinity's odyssey included a court battle with St. Paul's over legal right to church property on 17th Street, a matter decided for the Episcopalians in 2013.

After many months worshipping elsewhere, first at Olive Drive Church in the northwest and now at St. John's Lutheran Church in the southwest, the Anglicans have moved relatively quickly this year to create their new home.

In the spring, they purchased nearly three acres that will later be part of Belcourt, a Seven Oaks residential development planned southwest of White Lane and Buena Vista Road.

On Oct. 13, the city's Board of Zoning Adjustment approved the project's conditional use permit.

Dietze and John Karnes, the project architect, said building permits will likely follow this fall, so -- El Niño permitting -- construction can begin in January.

Crews will build the fellowship and temporary worship building, a learning center for Sunday School and adult bible studies that will house 52 preschoolers during the week, and an administration building.

Officials plan to have the three structures ready for occupancy by October 2016, and to begin enrolling preschoolers by January 2017.

The church sanctuary will be built later.


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