St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Independence — 50th Anniversary

St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Independence, recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of its founding.

The Rev. Dr. Douglas P. Johnson One-minute read.   Resources


St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Independence — 50th Anniversary

St. Michael’s feast day is generally observed throughout the wider church on September 29th each year, but in striving to be faithful to remembering the anniversary of the actual date of the first worship service at St. Michael’s (September 3rd, 1967), our St. Michael’s feast day was transferred to September 3rd.

It was a grand day. We invited folks from far and wide — really anyone who had ever been touched by the life, history, and ministry of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church. We invited former clergy, we prayed for clergy and former parishioners alike who have had their heavenly birthday and entered into larger life. St. Michael’s Church was full and each person there was loving and praising the Lord of Life.

This was not just another day in the life of St. Michael’s, but rather a day in which we could strive to attract both former and potential new members. The celebration was a day to not only remember our patron saint, Michael, but also to give thanks for the life, history, witness, and ministry of this community of faith as it has offered itself to the work of God down through the years.

We wanted everyone to think of this as a kind of “Reunion Sunday”. We wanted everyone who was currently an active part of St. Michael’s or had been in the past, or who would like to be in the future to come and join us in our celebration. We especially wanted to welcome any who had been baptized, confirmed, or married through the ministry of St. Michael’s.

We had lots of pictures and videos providing a living description of the life of St. Michael’s throughout the last fifty years. They showed us praying together, laughing together, learning together, praising God together. Many pictures as well showed our living ministry in our food and necessity pantries which are very active in the Independence community, and are one of our most vital outreach ministries. I am constantly amazed at the amount of work this small group of people does — it seems there is more outreach happening here than in most churches three or four times our size.

Following our very lively worship, we had a barbeque dinner under a tent in the church grounds — all catered by a loving and grateful God. The day was certainly a time of God’s grace, hope, and vision for our small church as we continue in our mission to win souls for Christ. Many thanks to our 50th Anniversary Committee who worked so wonderfully and with such loving devotion to make our day such a great day of offering to the Lord.

Fr. Johnson has been the Priest in Charge of St. Michael’s, Independence, since 2016 and has previously served the diocese as the Vicar of Christ Church, Lexington, as Canon to the Ordinary, Chaplain at St. Luke’s Hospital, and on more diocesan departments, committees, and commissions than he can count.

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Food Pantry, Necessity Pantry & Christmas Toy/Winter Hats Ministry

St. Michael’s, Independence – ministry now offers toys for children up through age sixteen

The Rev. Dr. Douglas P. Johnson Five-minute read.   Resources

Christmas toys ready for collection at St. Michael’s Supplied image

I have been a priest in The Diocese of West Missouri, both active and retired, for nearly thirty-five years. So, I have become familiar with many of our congregations and their various ministries. St. Michael’s Episcopal Church is one of those. Granted, I saw it mostly from a distance until I became their Interim Rector early in the fall of 2016.

St. Michael’s is certainly not one of our larger congregations with an average Sunday attendance of less than 100, but they are some of the hardest working folks I have ever seen in the Church. This hard work is reflected in every area of their life and allows them to see God at work in the deeper recesses of the soul. Given their size, the amount of their outreach ministry is especially noteworthy and almost beyond compare.

Our Food Pantry is open twice a week for whoever needs it – no pre-qualifications or vouchers needed. Our Necessity Pantry is open twice a month, voucher needed, and provides almost any of the basic necessities of life that you could think of. Did I mention that we also operate a clothes closet on the side, striving to keep clothes reflective of the current season? All of this serves about 250 families or just over 700 people each month. It is an amazing and a wonderfully graced ministry of the Lord!

In the middle of December as we opened the doors on our Necessity Pantry, our annual Christmas Toy and Winter Hat Ministry also went into full gear.

Let me explain. Although a good number of folks at St Michael’s contribute toward this ministry financially, spiritually, and physically by working at the Necessity Pantry, the lion’s share of the work on this is done each year by Cecelia Carter. Cecelia is the one who gathers together our delegated resources, both those we have raised and those she has brought together. This year, for the Christmas Toy Ministry, those resources have approached $2000, not to mention all the toys which were just brought in by folks. Because of God’s grace working through Cecelia and the people of St. Michael’s, we were able to give out hundreds of toys to families who would have had nothing under the tree otherwise. This is a labor of love for Cecelia and none of it would happen without her.

Let me tell you just a little bit about Cecelia. As a youngster, she recalls the times that the only Christmas she ever really experienced was from donations being given to the City Union Mission. She will tell you the story about how one of the gifts she longed for was a Bible and that years later she happened to be at a dinner party where one of the guests commented about a young girl he had come across years before at the Mission, and that all she wanted for Christmas was a Bible. The two, as it were, were finally reunited. Much of her working life was spent as a social worker at the City Union Mission where she found herself involved with much the same sort of thing. She was always trying to find toys for children at Christmas. She continues to live life with a soft, gentle soul and a longing for the Lord. She found her way to St. Michael’s in 2011. It seems now as though that was a path led by God. She first began collecting toys to distribute through St. Michael’s when Mother Pat Miller (the rector at the time) made announcements about families using our Food Pantry having additional needs for Christmas. And then it began, as God placed it upon Cecelia’s heart to act.

The first year toys were collected just for children up to five years of age. Gradually the age began to rise as both Cecelia as the folks at St. Michael’s saw the larger need. This ministry now offers toys for children up through age sixteen. To begin with, Cecelia did all of this by herself and actually guarded it from others. But she has learned to open herself to God’s grace as well as this has become more and more a ministry of the body of Christ gathered at St. Michael’s. Cecelia is still very much the one in charge though.

The amazing thing is that parents, when they come in, don’t take the toys you think they might take. Greed does not seem to be the motivator for the majority of those we serve. 

The Rev. Dr. Douglas P. Johnson is Interim Rector at St. Michael’s, Independence.

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