The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

March 31, 2013

Smaller churches stay true to tradition

BY MARY WICOFF
Commercial-News

DANVILLE — At the 147-year-old Church of the Holy Trinity, tradition reigns.

“People come and worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,” said the Very Rev. Geoffrey Scanlon, who has been rector at the Episcopalian church for 25 years. “This place feels prayed in.”

Hundreds of people have made the place holy by their presence since the church was built in 1866, he said. “They have come and worshipped and brought their joys and sorrows. That is exciting to me.”

In a changing world, people like tradition — something solid. “The only thing that’s stable is coming to church on Sunday,” he said.

The people in his congregation like the tradition; they like knowing what to expect, and they’re not distracted by technology.

In fact, a microphone is the only sign of technology in the sanctuary.

“We’d rather spend the money on people’s needs than a flashy website,” Scanlon said.

Instead of having its own website, the Danville church piggybacks off the diocesan site — http://www.episcopalspringfield.org/.

It does have a Facebook page — http://www.facebook.com/HolyTrinityChurchDanville — which Scanlon updates every day with scriptures, prayers, saint days, events and other information. It gets a lot of hits.

While he doesn’t use Facebook for personal use, Scanlon likes it for the church as it keeps people informed and connected.

Like most pastors, Scanlon wants cell phones turned off during services, saying, “We’re here in the beauty of holiness; why disturb that with outside chatter?”

Instead, people need to be connected to the real person — Lord Jesus — during the service, and need to focus on that, rather than outside matters.

In fact, a sign, written in calligraphy, just inside the church says: “This is God’s house. Be silent in it lest he speak to thee and not be heard above the noise of thy chatter.”

During the liturgy, which is Anglo-Catholic, people feel involved when they sing the age-old songs out of hymnals and listen to the priest in person, he said.

While silence is valued, the congregation does tend to lift its voices in song — loudly, he said with a smile — led by Tom Harrigan on the organ.

Although the Church of the Holy Trinity is small with about 140 members, Scanlon said, “We’re very caring for the needs of the community.” The church has a food pantry, for example, and Scanlon described his parishioners as loving and caring.

Harrigan, who has been organist 10 years, said it doesn’t bother him that Holy Trinity isn’t steeped in technology. That has its place in some mega-churches.

But, he sees the younger members looking for a solid foundation, something unchanged from week to week.

He said he likes knowing what to expect each Sunday. “I feel very reassured by all that,” he said.

Faith through Facebook

Smaller churches might not have websites, but Facebook is a tool that’s accessible to almost everyone.

Co-pastors Chris and Don Prouty with Latter Rain Fellowship use Facebook to share scriptures and testimonies. Sometimes, Chris will forward posts that have a Christian message to them.

Also, she said, “I contact people and private message them to see if they need prayer or encouragement. I have actually led someone to the Lord on here in private messaging.”

Facebook is a good tool in witnessing, she said, especially with those who don’t go to church, and who have asked her for information about the Bible.

“I have had people begin attending church again,” she said. “I’m not saying it’s solely from me or Facebook, but I’d like to think it may have had something to do with it.”

Most react well to her posts, and only one person wanted to argue with her — and that was about politics.

Chris said she’s certain that she — or, rather, God — has helped people through difficult times and has prayed for many on Facebook. She said she prayed with one woman on Facebook for her asthma and she was healed by God’s power when they prayed together.

Chris stressed that she doesn’t take credit for anything; God tells her what to do and he does the work. “I have no power except his power that he’s given me,” she said.