St Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church
930 Harding Memorial Parkway  Marion, Ohio 43302-6314
(Church by Marion General Hospital)
Rev. Craig Lewis  - Church Telephone: 740-387-9414

email: stpaulmarion@gmail.com
 
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Churches sharing a pastor
Lutheran minister helps Episcopalians
BY JOHN JARVIS (from The Marion Star)
 
Two churches, one pastor.

In an unusual arrangement between two denominations, St. Paul's Lutheran Church and St. Paul's Episcopal Church are sharing one spiritual leader.

Pastor Craig LewisBeginning earlier this month, the Rev. Craig Lewis, pastor for St. Paul's Lutheran at 930 Harding Memorial Parkway since 2002, began also serving the parish of St. Paul's Episcopal, 197 E. Center St.

"I think both churches were in a position where they were just kind of trying to come up with creative ways to keep both places open," Lewis said, estimating the Lutheran church's membership to be about 40 and the Episcopal congregation to be about 25.

Martha Wright, spokeswoman for the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio, of which St. Paul's Episcopal is a part, described such a situation of sharing pastors between the two denominations as "not all that unusual. There are at least two other situations like that in our diocese. Often it's a case where the churches are nearby, and they can share a pastor or a priest."

The Rev. Cathy Schibler, assistant to Bishop Marcus Lohrmann of the Northwestern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, said such arrangements have grown in number since the two denominations became full communion partners in 2001. She said the Marion partnership is the second one in the Northwestern Ohio Synod.

"It's been fun," Schibler said. "I think it's broadened our perspective of what it means to be a church in the world together. And, yes, we do have some smaller churches that are struggling and can't always place (a pastor) full time. If we can share with our full communion partners, great, and I think we might see more of that."

Vicky Tornes, senior warden at St. Paul's Episcopal, said the two congregations held a combined Thanksgiving service and the St. Paul's congregation will be attending St. Paul's Lutheran for Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season.

"Everybody's really happy about this," Tornes said.

She said Lewis is a comfortable fit for her church.

"He's pretty well-known in the community and knows other church people, which can be helpful," she said.

Lewis was ordained as a Lutheran minister in 1990, graduating from Trinity Seminary in Columbus. His first congregation was in Hagerstown, Md. He came to Marion from Resurrection Lutheran Church in Sandusky.

He welcomed the opportunity to serve St. Paul's Episcopal.

"I love it," Lewis said, and referred to a former rector for St. Paul's Episcopal, the Rev. Ted Blumenstein. "I just feel like Ted, who is passed, he would smile at this ..., because the churches are pulling together. It's not like we're going to merge. We're just sharing more resources in a cooperative effort. I think both churches want to serve the greater Marion community."

He said he also knew the Rev. John Holliger, the most recent rector for St. Paul's Episcopal, who retired to accommodate the parish when it lost a significant source of revenue when the Louise Kling Trust dissolved in 2011.

"I just think I was always kind of drawn to St. Paul's Episcopal," he said. "They tend to be more open on some of the social issues."

The Episcopal parish, he noted, hosts Alcoholics Anonymous groups, a Narcotics Anonymous group and operates a food pantry.

"It's really kind of a beacon," he said. "I think of it as kind of a light in the downtown city environment. I would try to do whatever I could to just help out."

Jeannie Brewer, a member of St. Paul's Lutheran, said she's pleased with Lewis' new role, too.

"I think by sharing Craig it has given him a new spark," Brewer said. "I can tell it in some of his sermons, that he just has more energy."

The average age of St. Paul's Lutheran is more than 70 years, she said.

"It can be depressing when your congregation isn't growing, and now you have more than one purpose. I just think it's great that both churches are being able to continue worshipping."

Originally published in The Marion Star, February 18, 2012
 
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