GEORGE: Center for Community
History of St. Andrew’s and GEORGE: Center for Community
In mid 2011, St. Andrew’s accepted Bishop Greg Rickel’s offer to explore whether the disbanded St. George Episcopal Church could become a self-sustaining/independent Episcopal mission center focused on serving young adults and the marginalized. A design team, consisting largely of St. Andrew’s parishioners, was created. This team worked within the community to identify opportunities on which George could build partnerships and ministries. It identified five missional ministries: a coffee house, young adult worship, “Episcopal Street Walkers – a ministry of companionship,” an afterschool laptop program for local youth and a non-profit company, Pro-Use Produce. Efforts toward realizing this mission center, which were jointly funded by St. Andrew’s and the Diocese, began in January 2012.
2012 and early 2013 found George working to maintain existing relationships, realizing ministries that could not be sustained and discovering an opportunity as a venue for the performing arts. During the second half of 2013, George welcomed a newly ordained priest for a two year curacy. During the curacy, George held art workshops, art shows, musical performances and theatrical productions. It also offered a Wednesday night Vespers service and a monthly alternative liturgy (communal meal) while supporting a community garden, community meetings and an Eagle scout project. George‘s “art” efforts were additionally supported by a one time grant from the Episcopal Church’s Domestic & Foreign Missionary Society through its Mission Enterprise Initiative.
In mid 2015, the curacy ended without having achieved the Bishop’s goal. George did not have a congregation or sufficient partners and income to support its independent operation. Faced with $180,000 in needed facility repairs, the Diocese questioned the future of George. By the end of 2015, the costs were deemed too high to continue the mission at George. The Diocese of Olympia plans to close GEORGE at the end of June 2016. Read the Bishop’s letter about this decision here.
George brought many opportunities to its neighborhood and to St. Andrew’s. It provided a place to experience community, faith and art. It gave new Episcopal clergy an opportunity to explore non-traditional faith practices and pathways to God. It allowed St. Andrew’s to consider other possibilities of ministry, while also helping us understand the realities of need, proximity, good timing and financial necessity. George was a welcome chapter in the life of St. Andrew’s which will be missed.