When beloved doors close

Our community is getting close to a heartbreaking anniversary: It was almost 10 years ago, on Feb. 27, 2009, that the Rocky Mountain News published its last edition. And not a day has gone by since then that I haven’t missed that venerable Colorado institution.


I spent 24 years there as a reporter and editor. Losing the Rockywas like losing an old friend who had seen me through good days and bad. It was the steadiness of my Rockypaycheck that allowed me to buy my house, to take vacations, to enjoy a secure lifestyle, and, when the time came, to fund a seminary education. 


Hard as it was for me to see the Rocky die, I know it was much harder for others. I already had a change of vocation in mind. But I know lots of folks who would happily have stayed at the Rockyuntil they retired – or until they died. The closure of the Rocky sent people who’d known each other for decades scattering in many directions, and while most eventually landed on their feet, this was something no one wanted. 


I am certainly grateful for the kindness people showed to me in the months and years following the Rocky’s closure, the words of solace and encouragement, the help finding new outlets for my work. 


This month, our Colorado Episcopal community lost another venerable institution: St. Martha’s Episcopal Church in Westminster. Nov. 4 was that congregation’s last Sunday.


They were a congregation much like us: Founded around the same time, about the same size as us, with demographics very similar to ours. What did them in was a huge plumbing expense they simply didn’t have the resources to cover. The same thing could easily have happened to St. James when our boiler failed a few years ago, were it not for Sue Lewis, whose legacy gift to us provided us with the cushion we needed to survive that monstrous expense.


In the weeks to come, we may see some St. Marthans visiting us here at St. James, as they scatter and seek to find new church homes. When they come, let’s make them feel especially welcomed and cared for. They have been through a traumatic experience, and let us hold them in prayer, encourage them, be gentle and compassionate to them, and above all be welcoming and gracious to them. 


Some tangible reminders of St. Martha’s are already here with us. We purchased their refrigerator, and it’s now in our kitchen. We also received a portable stereo from one of their classrooms, their sanctus bells and, perhaps most significantly, a stunning wood and porcelain crucifix, which will be installed on the red wall in our newly painted narthex. 


I hope that seeing their things being put to loving use – particularly the crucifix – will be a comfort to the people of St. Martha’s. I hope some of them will choose to make St. James their new home. But whether they come here, or to some other Episcopal parish, or some other church altogether, please do keep them in your prayers. And keep the church in your prayers. Like newspapers, there are many churches that will be forced into closure in coming years. May God be with us all as we seek to become the church we are called to be.