Change, collaboration, and grace are timely words to use when describing the Villages Episcopal congregation in San Jose.
The Villages is a senior community of about 4,400 people living in 2,500 private residential units in the Evergreen area of San Jose. The congregation was founded by members of St Philip’s Episcopal who lived in The Villages during the early 1970s, when gasoline shortages were at their peak. To save the 25 families a 16-mile round trip to St. Philip’s, weekly services were established at a local meeting room in The Villages. St. Philip’s provided clergy, members made an altar and cross, and the congregation began holding services.
Today members still meet in the community’s Montgomery Center, converting the meeting room into a place of worship every Sunday morning. However, in recent years attendance has steadily fallen at St. Philip’s and The Villages congregations. With St. Philips being an aided parish and having a part-time priest-in-charge, the parish could no longer maintain services at The Villages.
With help from the Diocese of El Camino Real, the congregation interviewed parishes in the San Jose area. Trinity Cathedral expressed interest in having The Villages congregation join them and continue holding services at The Villages. Through a thoughtful and prayerful discernment process lasting several months, The Villages’ worship community voted to realign with Trinity. The transition will take place Sunday, November 2 at a joint service at The Villages on the Sunday closest to All Saints Day.
“The relationship between Trinity, St Philip’s and The Villages has been very gracious,” explains Canon Jesus Reyes. “There’s a strong sense of collaboration and a harmonious consideration for each other.”
“It is interesting to note that Trinity was the sponsoring parish of St. Philip’s in the 1950s, so there is truly ‘spiritual DNA’ in this decision,” said The Rev. Peggy Bryan, who served as priest-in-charge at St. Philip’s for the past two years. “The entire discernment and research process was amicably carried out by Villages lay leadership with sensitivity and a beautiful, caring spirit.”
“One of the lessons we can learn from this collaboration between parishes is how constructive it can be,” Canon Reyes adds, “even when it means that one parish will lose members and the other will benefit. They have all been very generous in both letting go and in recognizing new opportunities.”