California Country Church turns around after adopting Total Ministry
The Good Shepherd Episcopal Church has risen from the dead. Or the almost dead. The 127-year-old church, snug in
the centre of Cloverdale, has seen a recent resurrection in its congregation after it nearly died out.
The church opened its doors in 1888 as a little carpenter gothic church constructed out of redwood. It was run by retired
clergy willing to drive long distances, as none lived in Cloverdale.
During the tenure of the first half-time vicar, Reverend David Powell, the church went through the first of many changes throughout
the decades. In the 1990s, the congregation began to reinforce the church as it neared its centennial celebration. Infrastructure
work continues today
“When I came, people kept getting older,” said the Rector, who has been with the church since 2006. “A bishop
asked me to go up there (as a retired priest volunteer) and warned I might be doing a lot of funerals.” By 2008, the
congregation shrank to 15 members. Four years later, only three members remained. Today, the church is at its highest population,
with roughly 65 people calling Good Shepherd home. “It’s the largest our congregation has ever been”
In 2010, Good Shepherd began transitioning from the traditional priest-led congregation, “where the priest is the boss,
”to a total ministry congregation. “This is a way in which everyone gets to join in,” the priest is limited
to sacramental ceremonies and confessionals.
The transition, which took about two years, required a mental shift for the congregation. “It works for us because this
type of ministry involves all the laity,” “It’s like the early church used to be in the third and fourth
centuries. This is going back in a way while moving forward with a new model.”
With the new model, there is opportunity for shared leadership. Currently, three congregational members are working to become
priests, as the Rector is 80 years old and “technically retired, and lives out of town.”
“God willing we’ll have a couple of priests and a deacon,” Everyone in ministry is a volunteer.
The Rector acknowledges that not every congregation could make such a shift. It helps that the congregation feels like a family,
“It was 2012 when I moved and first started attending Good Shepherd. It was small, just 10 people there. But people
were friendly. It felt like I was home,” one lady said. “It just had a welcoming feeling to me.”
Another agreed. “I used to be a ……... Getting up for church on Sundays was always ‘Uuuugh.’
But now we wake up and it’s ‘Quick, quick! Get dressed. Let’s go,’ “And if you aren’t
there you’ll be getting phone calls.”
Along with their willingness to take care of one another, the church’s open mindedness and desire to participate in
its community are main reasons for the ministry’s success. “Our congregations is deeply involved at every turn”.
In fact, the church is heavily involved in the Cloverdale community.
We at Braidwood could not help but see the similarities between Good Shepherd’s Ministry Model and ours. Indeed they
are almost the same. It is a great encouragement to us that God has given both parishes the same vision for ministry in small
country parishes for now and into the future. Currently we are praying about our involvements in the wider community and the
ministries we can offer – this is in addition to the refurbishment of the Parish Hall for community use.
God is being very good to us and with him nothing is impossible.