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NORTH CAROLINA: The "Miracle Church" of Morehead City

The "Miracle Church" of Morehead City

By David W. Virtue

MOREHEAD CITY, NC--All Saints' Episcopal Church is a "miracle church" according to its leaders and laity.

By any human standard it should not exist.

Its birth grew out of a former Episcopal parish - St. Andrew's - which split from the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of East Carolina. After a bitter legal dispute over property ownership, Bishop Clifton Daniel III got possession of the church property, and a treasury of over half a million dollars. But at the end of the day he kept only 25 parishioners, had to put in a new parish priest, and has been forced to reduce the parish to mission status. In time it will die. In the meantime the Bishop is stuck with the bills.

The new All Saints' parish, which is a member of the Anglican Mission in America has over 300 members and goes from strength to strength, according to its rector and parishioners.

Mary Lena Anderegg, whose husband David is on the vestry tells the story. "When we left, our brethren and sisters in Christ in Morehead City reached across denominational and congregational lines to encourage and support us. Seven churches offered to share their facilities with us to worship, even offering to adjust their own worship schedules," she told Virtuosity.

"The first week we were out of St. Andrew's building we had Sunday night praise and worship at a Baptist Church; a Wednesday prayer and communion was held at a medical facility; an interdenominational men's prayer group met at Catholic church, a 10am Sunday service was held at a Methodist church and other Sunday morning services were held in an elementary school gymnasium. One pastor even took a day of his vacation to worship with us the first Sunday we were out of the building."

"We didn’t lose the church we gave up the building and kept Jesus," said Anderegg.

Then they were offered a rental warehouse property at Westridge Center on Highway 70. It has three bays of a warehouse, an office complex, sanctuary, and it has been set up permanently for us. "We have adjoining offices for Sunday school rooms, and it's ours till we find land to buy and build."

Things immediately kicked into high gear, said the Rev. H. G. Miller who took over as the rector following the retirement of the evangelical Rev. C. King Cole.

No one could still the excitement or stop the growth. "People came from all over. We were offered four church organs, and people who only worshipped with us occasionally ponied up another $135,000 in interest charges on the treasury (money held in escrow for legal fees) which the court required. It looked like Bishop Daniels had won.

"The usurious interest payment of $135,000 was money that was taken from us. St. Andrew's Church Treasury had $400,000 which we had to turn over plus the interest of $135,000. It was paid off in10 days. They got the money but we kept Jesus."

"But one bank loaned us money for 'start-up expenses' even though we had no physical assets for collateral. Another bank gave us office furniture. A private school gave us classroom equipment and furnishings for our Sunday School and generic office supplies and equipment.

"A lady called and offered us two bishop's chairs from an old church, a lectern as well as donations of fabric for banners, chairs, lumber and foam. We began to collect silver pieces and jewelry to melt to replace the chalices and patina we had to leave with the building. Three Catholic brothers in Christ gave us an ingot each for the chalices because 'we want to be a apart of what you are doing'."

City planners worked with the new church and towage was provided to move the granite rock on which is engraved the church's mission statement. A 'paint day' drew 70 people with non-members and summer folk coming out to help.

"What was sown in tears (receipt of the Appellate Court's decision) has been reaped with songs of joy with a coming together of God's people for his glory. We have finally come home."

Anderegg said she has seen other church splits over a 40-year period, but it was never like this. God has done and is doing a miracle each day. The church holds three services on Sunday plus a praise and worship on Sunday night with a youth group of over 200 attending. The church now has 320 members, more than it did before the split.

The new pastor, the Rev H. G. Miller (he took over from the retired C. King Cole) came from Phoenix Valley Cathedral. He was leading a Pentecostal Church which became an AMIA church when the leaders decided they wanted oversight of a bishop.

Of those who remained in the old church, Anderegg had only this to say, "they are lovely people who just don’t get it."

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