We are seventy churches in Western Oregon that celebrate God’s unconditional love as we serve the world in Jesus’ name. (https://www.diocese-oregon.org/about/churches/). We are clustered along the two great north-south roads in Western Oregon discussed elsewhere in the profile: about one quarter of the churches are along 101 and the rest along or near I-5.
The population of our churches reflect the population of Oregon. Most Episcopalians in Oregon (like most Oregonians in general) are in the greater Portland Metro area, with these churches accounting for more than half of the Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) of the diocese as a whole; but more than half of our churches are south of Portland in medium sized cities like Salem, Eugene, and Medford, and small towns like Dallas, Cottage Grove, and Brookings.
Like most dioceses in the Episcopal Church, Oregon’s churches vary in size, and are responding differently to a changing culture. We have churches with single digit ASAs and we have churches with 200, 300, or nearly 600 on a Sunday. The vast majority are in the middle with 70% of our churches having more than 10 and fewer than 100 worshipping on an average Sunday.
Clergy and lay leaders collaborate to engage in ministry from rural to urban environments, from large to small communities. Sometimes our churches have to be creative to have clergy. Among our seventy churches, you will find traditional models of clergy leadership along with churches experimenting with alternative models like yoked parishes, multi-vocational clergy, and trained local teams sharing the responsibilities.
How We Worship
We rejoice together in God through beautiful ritual, ancient practices, and evolving traditions. Worship practices vary throughout the diocese with Rite I, Rite II, Enriching our Worship, and the so-called Rite III “Order for Celebrating a Eucharist,” sometimes even all within the same parish. From corporate worship with the Eucharist or the Daily Office to personal practices like prayer beads and labyrinth walking (we have a lot of labyrinths!) people across the diocese are praying in a multitude of ways within the Episcopal tradition.
On any given Sunday, you will find Episcopalians in Western Oregon worshipping in English, Spanish, or both! The diocese has ten churches that offer Spanish language services, with two more expected this fall. Many of these churches are in or near Portland, like Santa Cruz/Holy Cross in Gresham, which was the first congregation to offer a Spanish-language service over thirty years ago, but several are along the coast, like Santiago/St. James in Lincoln City, and south of Portland, like Santa María/St. Mary’s in Woodburn.
Music is an important part of our worship life. As you travel around Western Oregon, you will mostly hear Hymnal 1982 hymns played on the organ and piano, but you can also enjoy flute accompaniment on Sunday morning at St. Andrew’s in Florence, Celtic Harp music at Trinity in Ashland’s Celtic Evensong, a Jazz Sunday at St. Paul’s in Salem, or a Eucharist with The Beatles, Queen, ABBA, or Godspell at St. John the Baptist in Portland.
How We Learn
We are always working to grow in our knowledge and love of God. In Sunday Schools, Adult Forums, Bible Studies, online and in person, we are working across the diocese to learn. Prince of Peace in Salem offered an innovative Godly Play based summer camp this year called Building Faith Brick by Brick. Grace Memorial in Portland, St. Aidan’s in Gresham, and St. Paul’s in Salem run summer art camps. Each fall, a new Catechumenate Class starts at St. Timothy’s in Salem, a year-long journey to learn about the faith. The One Buck Seminary at St. Martin’s in Lebanon brings together parishioners and community members for lively theological conversation.
How We Serve
Called in our baptisms and empowered in our confirmations, we engage in ministry to love as Christ loves us. We roll up our sleeves here in Oregon and get to work, proclaiming our faith not only in word, but in deed. It isn’t possible to name all of the ministries that congregations in this diocese are engaged in, but there are a few categories that are common throughout the diocese: food insecurity, housing, the environment, justice, and education.
Food insecurity is a major issue that many of our churches are involved in. For example, St. Thomas in Eugene grows food in partnership with Food for Lane County at the Grassroots Garden, while St. Andrew’s in Portland partners with a local urban farmer to grow fresh fruits and vegetables in their front yard for their food pantry. There are a lot of food pantries across the diocese: St. Bart’s in Beaverton, St. Matthew’s in Eugene, Grace in Astoria, and St. John the Divine in Springfield to name just a few. Among our more specialized food pantries, the Episcopal Campus Ministry next to the University of Oregon runs a food pantry for local students twice a week to deal with the growing challenge of food insecurity on college campuses, while St. Martin’s in Shady Cove hosts a once-a-month food pantry with food not only for humans, but for pets! The people of St. Matthias in Cave Junction serve lunch twice a week to their hungry neighbors, while St. Stephen’s in Newport hosts a Monday Stone Soup supper for the community.
Housing is another critical need facing our communities. Church of the Resurrection in Eugene recently built four tiny houses for previously unhoused individuals. St. Edward’s in Silverton is building small cottages for single women who are then supported with further wrap-around care.
Oregonians care deeply for the environment and Oregon Episcopalians are no exception as we work to care for God’s creation. For example, St. Michael & All Angels in Portland has been GreenFaith-certified and St. Mary’s in Eugene helped establish a carbon offset program for faith communities with two local non-profits that will plant trees. Rogation Day activities are held throughout the diocese, like the Rogation Day blessing at St. Timothy’s in Salem.
Many churches have been actively involved in justice work with the LGBTQ+ community for decades. Numerous congregations across the diocese are Believe Out Loud Parishes, working for the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the church and in the world. Episcopalians are present at Pride Festivals throughout the state, including the Portland Pride Parade, where the bishop marches with other diocesan leaders. Over the past few years, several churches have become actively involved in immigration justice issues. For instance, St. Michael & All Angels/San Miguel y Todos Los Angeles in Portland became a Sanctuary Church in 2015.
Many churches are involved in education efforts beyond faith-based education. For example, St. James/Santiago in Lincoln City has a K-6 school and partners with Oceana Family Literacy Center in providing ESL for adults along with tutoring, art and music for youth. St. Thomas in Eugene has a vibrant preschool. Todos Los Santos in Hillsboro, Santa Cruz in Gresham, and Santa Maria in Woodburn work with Plaza Encuentro to provide adult education from reading and writing basics to getting a GED and helping people study for the citizenship exam.
There are so many other needs in our communities that Episcopal Churches are addressing. St. John’s in Milwaukie has a clothing closet for children. St. John’s in Bandon has a medical loan closet where they loan out equipment like walkers, crutches, and shower stools. Episcopalians across the Portland Metro Area join together at Sts. Peter and Paul in a ministry called Rahab’s sisters, which provides a safe place for women who have been exploited, offering food, coffee, and personal hygiene necessities. Trinity Cathedral in Portland is engaged in critical interfaith dialogue work to bridge the divide, while St. Mary’s in Eugene is engaged in an interfaith effort to help refugees and asylum seekers in our community. And who hasn’t done a bicycle blessing at their church?
This just scratches the surface of the ministries that faithful Episcopalians are doing across Western Oregon. If you want to learn more about the ministries our parishes are engaged in, one place to check out is the weekly Congregational Close-ups, available at https://www.diocese-oregon.org/category/congregational/.