This blog has a funny name. It is not, of course, either written by or about St. Paul. Instead, it is about St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania. I hope that explains the two apostrophes. Using the word “epistle” to refer to the blog is, I suspect, a transparent play on words.
I should be quick to clarify that that this blog is about St. Paul’s, but by no means is it by St. Paul’s. It is an unofficial blog with no formal connection to the church’s leadership. I am simply a parishioner who has a tough time keeping his opinions to himself.
I am not a cradle Episcopalian. I was reared Presbyterian and was confirmed in the Episcopal Church in 1982. I came to St. Paul’s in 1987. I have never been on the Vestry, though I was on the now-dormant Parish Council for a time. I have been a member of various committees, and, for many years, was Audio-Visual Coördinator, a now-dormant volunteer position. By virtue of being Audio-Visual Coördinator, I served on the Worship Commission and was its secretary. I have sung in the St. Paul’s choir almost since the moment I first walked in the door. I am a computer consultant and writer, and my computer and writing skills have, from time to time, been put to use in the parish.
I should also disclose that I am a liberal (whatever that means), as well as something of an Episcopal Church activist. For most purposes, I expect that these facts will be largely irrelevant here.
Why this blog?Except in the very smallest parishes—St. Paul’s is definitely not one of those—communications are always problematic. Parishes tend to consist of weakly interacting small groups of more strongly interacting individuals. Official communications from the church may or may not tell parishioners what they want or need to know, and parishioners may or may not take advantage of the information that is made available to them. There is invariably too little feedback to leaders from ordinary parishioners, absent a major crisis, and those responsible for parish communications work hard to avoid the perception that there might even be problems, let alone crises.
I have often thought that many parishes could benefit from an independent newsletter, but, in times past, that has not seemed a practical idea. Some time ago, I created a Web-based computer bulletin board to facilitate conversation among parishioners of St. Paul’s. This was spectacularly unsuccessful. People did not participate, and I was told by a Vestry member to take down the bulletin board and surrender the domain to the church. I did neither, but it really didn’t matter. The experiment was a failure.
St. Paul’s’ Epistle represents a second attempt to facilitate parishioner conversations outside the normal official and unofficial channels. I will do most of the writing, and parishioners can comment on what I say. I will continue to write, even in the absence of comments. I am receptive to the idea of guest essays and even to the idea of regularly sharing the blogging duties. Volunteers, anyone?
You can surely expect posts here decrying matters with which I am unhappy. I hope to report on good things that are happening at the church that not everyone will otherwise know about. I will also report on issues of, shall I say, limited interest. I hope that parishioners will find this blog interesting but not intrinsically subversive.
As some readers may know, I have a Web site, Lionel Deimel’s Farrago, and a blog, Lionel Deimel’s Web Log. Is St. Paul’s’ Epistle really necessary?
Perhaps the most important reason to create a new blog is to separate posts by audience. A reader of my other blog in California likely has little interest in St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon. Similarly, many of my fellow parishioners have little interest either in the church-related or the non-church-related posts on Lionel Deimel’s Web Log. Each blog can be read by anyone, but segregating topics discourages all but parishioners from visiting here, thus allowing us to talk about potentially embarrassing issues without displaying our dirty laundry too publicly. (Think of it as drying our laundry on the back porch, rather than on the front porch.)
Anyway, I love St. Paul’s and wish only the best for it. Let’s explore together how this blog can make a positive contribution to the parish. When you discover this blog, tell you fellow parishioners about it.
One final note—I’m working at making the blog look attractive and helpful. Bear with me if the blog looks different each time you visit. It will settle down eventually.