Holy Trinity, International Falls

The Ven. Lee Grim

Holy Trinity, International Falls

How does a onetime 345-member Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in a very remote rural International Falls community, that has lost almost one half of its city’s population since industrial and population downsizing began in the 1970s, remain viable and innovative with a current parish of 35 members?

If our Christian social mission is to do whatever we can in immediate circumstances to bring the life of this world into closer alignment with the values of becoming the beloved community, how do we effectively accomplish that with 10 percent of our former church membership?

The Rev. Canon Leonard L. Hamlin, Sr. of The Washington National Cathedral penned,  “As disciples, we are invited to be followers of Jesus not for what we can get, but for what we have been gifted to give.” Further, he noted that theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminded all of us that there is a cost for discipleship. We must not miss opportunities to thrive and flourish because we are seeking to not be identified as a follower of Jesus by speaking up in life’s most problematic circumstances. Hamlin also observed, “There is a cost that must be considered so that our witness may be consistent no matter what the context.”

Our call at Holy Trinity was to be consistent and have a faith so rooted in Jesus that we would not miss opportunities to thrive and flourish. We encountered problematic circumstances when we could no longer monetarily sustain a seasoned full-time seminary trained priest.

How could we maintain our vitality? With encouragement from ECMN leaders we slowly became innovative and overcame resistance to change. It took us almost seven years but we decided to establish a total/shared ministry congregation. During that time we were served by supply and several part time interim priests. Over 30 congregants finally discerned what we were gifted to give for positions on a new team. Consequently a team of eight members was formed. We studied and prayed four years to be ordained and commissioned in 2006. Elected members stepped up and made discipleship the core of our parish’s liturgical business. Later new team members were discerned and ordained in 2011 and 2013.

Since 2002 we have gone through three team training cycles and ordained two priests, two deacons, and six commissioned members from within our parish family. We gained Anglican and Lutheran clergy as mentors. The Vestry continues to manage the secular business of the church, but since 2006 the team and liturgy committee became responsible for directing our liturgical, spiritual, and musical affairs.

That move to faithful innovation led to bold changes in our church. One stipendiary, seminary trained priest was replaced by non-stipendiary team members and all in the parish living up to their baptismal covenants. We were released from budgets we could no longer meet. We were no longer mainly inwardly focused on money and buildings.