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One Church's Story: Christ Church of the Ascension, Paradise Valley, Arizona

One Church's Story: Christ Church of the Ascension, Paradise Valley, Arizona

A Network Parish-in-Focus Story

PITTSBURGH, PA - Christ Church of the Ascension is a Network parish in the Diocese of Arizona, overlooking the city of Phoenix.

More than 500 parishioners worship on any given Sunday. Christ Church, founded in 1963 and a Network affiliate since September 2004, is a "Christ-centered, Bible-based parish worshipping in the Anglican tradition."

Since many perspectives are represented in the parish community, Christ Church has developed an aggressive education and communications program to keep members informed of challenges facing the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

"Being a Network parish in the Arizona desert, we felt somewhat distant from decisions being made on the national level," said Jane Allred, a vestry member and senior vice president of a major digital marketing firm. "Those decisions, however, still impact us, and they were not being actively discussed within our diocese. Life pretty much was cruising along as it always had for us.

We were running Alphas, confirming dozens of parishioners at a time, opening a pre-school, and practicing our 'radical hospitality.'" "Many parishioners felt that the consecration of a bishop 2000 miles away in New Hampshire had little to do with our ministry at Christ Church.

It was then that we realized we had some parish education to do should we ever be called upon to make informed decisions regarding ECUSA and its role within the Anglican Communion," continued Allred.

This past February the parish Communications Committee, led by Allred, launched a concerted effort to educate its parish on the state of affairs of the Episcopal Church USA by mailing and emailing a series of "white papers" to every parishioner on topics like "Why Truth Matters" and "One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church: What is it and why is it important?"

The mailings included response forms encouraging members to write down their reactions or questions and send them back.

The white papers, contemplative in nature and theological in content, were intended to educate, inform and promote dialogue. The series sought to balance the media hype that focused solely on sexuality, by exploring issues like the authority of scripture and the divinity of Christ.

The ten communiqués to the parish have found a wider audience by ending up on blogs like "Titusonenine" and orthodox Anglican News Service "VirtueOnline."

Another Christ Church parishioner, Kathi Fairman, has developed a course called "What (on earth) is happening in the Anglican Communion?," a four-part series including a DVD with survey data, attractive graphics, and powerful quotations, and an instructor's manual. The series is not only sold in the local parish bookstore, but also being offered as a course in 33 states. The course charts how changes in faith and practice have conspired to separate large portions of the Episcopal Church from mainstream Anglicanism over the last 40 years.

"Our diocesan convention supported the spirit of the Windsor Report. Our parish, led by our rector the Rev. Kenneth Semon, is praying that the Windsor Report is followed to the spirit and the letter as defined by the Primates at Dromatine," said Allred. "We, here at Christ Church of the Ascension, are moving forward with the ministry that God has called us to in the Phoenix area, while making sure that no matter what happens at General Convention in June, no one at our parish can say 'I had no idea that this was happening in our Church.'"


This is the second in our series entitled Network Parish-in-Focus, highlighting churches that are doing effective ministry and mission. To access some of the resources mentioned above, go to www.christchurch-az.org.

The Anglican Communion Network is a biblical, missionary and uniting movement of North American Anglicans in fellowship with the worldwide Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion Network is comprised of over 900 parishes and over 2200 clergy. The Anglican Communion Network operates under the legal name of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes as a tax exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service code.

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