Sudanese Ministry at St. Paul's
St. Paul's is home to a Sudanese congregation that meets weekly for prayer and fellowship. Join us for worship at 2:00 p.m. each Sunday. For more details contact the parish office at 703-549-3312. This congregation is led by the Rev. Thon Moses Chol, who was ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacons on February 27, 2011, at St Paul's Church.
For more information on our ministry inside South Sudan, visit our outreach page.
A Letter from The Rev. Oran E. Warder (The Week of November 14, 2011)
Last week I read the latest statistics about our church. Sadly, our national church continues to be in decline – we are now under 2 million members in the United States. Only 10% of our congregations grew in membership in 2010, and blessedly, St. Paul’s was one of them. In fact, for the last decade St. Paul’s has grown with over 100 new members every year and has doubled in size. I am pleased to report that so far this year we have added 160 new members bringing our total membership to now over 2,400 people. As we all know however, it is not simply about the numbers, our mission is about making disciples, it is about changing lives for the sake of the gospel – and that is the true measure of our success.
I think as a parish, we have our second rector, William Holland Wilmer to thank for helping to set our direction. He served the church in America at its lowest ebb. It was after the revolution and at least half of the clergy either fled to Canada or returned home to England. There were several years during Wilmer’s tenure that things were so bad in the Diocese of Virginia that the annual council could not be held because they could not attract a quorum for the meetings. Dr. Wilmer served St. Paul’s when the obituary for the Episcopal Church was being written by those inside and outside the church. Yet he believed that we had something of substance to offer, a moderate, thoughtful and reasonable voice of Christianity. And here is what set him apart: He believed that what is best for St. Pauls’ is also best for serving the whole church – it was not just about us. He started a seminary to form and shape new leaders, he founded new churches, and he encouraged those congregations to welcome the stranger and to be engaged in mission beyond themselves. Our church was literally built on that foundation – that is our inheritance.
As you know I am currently on my way to be with our mission partners in the city of Juba in the new nation of South Sudan. At the invitation of Archbishop Daniel I will attend the General Synod of the Episcopal Church of Sudan. This gathering happens every five years and is the first such gathering since Independence. The Episcopal Church of Sudan now spans two nations, both filled with struggle and seemingly insurmountable difficulty. I pray that my presence and the presence of others from the west will serve as a sign of encouragement and as a witness of our solidarity. The Church is at the center of the work of reconciliation – and this suffering church is exploding in growth – now over 4 million strong. There are more Episcopalians on the continent of African than in the rest of the world combined, making us the third largest Christian body in the world.
I am convinced that explosive growth of the church in Sudan is because the people of Sudan know that their daily existence is totally dependent upon God’s grace and on the community of others. The same is true for us, of course, but it is somehow easier for us, in the US, to live with the trappings and the illusion that we can make it on our own. That is one of the reasons that this mission partnership is so important – so vital for us. This relationship is only one of the many of ways that God is at work among us.
As many both inside and outside the church are again predicting its demise, we, by the grace of God have been working to reverse the trend, not for ourselves alone, but the whole church.