WESTERN NEW YORK: Diocesan ministry center to be established

June 16, 2010

The Episcopal Diocese of Western New York has decided in principle to move its diocesan offices, according to a news release from the diocese.

The diocese's trustees, diocesan council and standing committee made the decision June 14 to move the office from its Buffalo location to the former site of Holy Apostles Episcopal Church in Tonawanda.

The small Holy Apostles congregation had remained after the majority of the clergy and laity of what was known as St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church decided to leave the denomination. The diocese closed Holy Apostles in December 2009. The Holy Apostles community still gathers weekly in the church for lay-led Bible study

The release said that the decision to move the diocesan offices "was made with a certain heaviness of heart as many in the diocese have a great fondness for the building that has housed the diocesan offices since 1951."

"This move signals a shift in perspective and a new vision for our ministry in the 21st century," Bishop J. Michael Garrison said in the release.

Three proposals detailing various degrees of renovation to the Tonawanda property were presented during the June 14 meeting, the release said. Moving the diocesan office to the site of a functioning parish or simply remaining in the building in Buffalo was also discussed, along with the option of selling the Tonawanda property.

The release said that "clear consensus" for renovating and moving to the Tonawanda site was reached. Diocesan trustees are now charged with adopting one of the three proposals and formulating a plan for total financing. Proceeds from the eventual sale of the existing diocesan office will be used to fund renovations at the new diocesan ministry center, the release said.

The decision was made for five reasons: the Buffalo office is not handicapped-accessible and structural restrictions prevent any cost effective plan to do so; the building cannot support 21st-century communications; limited storage space has forced the staff to use bathrooms as file rooms; staff members are separated onto several floors, limiting collaborative efforts; and there is the potential to accommodate gatherings of up to 200 people at the Tonawanda site.

"We will be welcoming a new bishop next year, and it is important that he/she see we are committed to a vision of growth," Jim Eaton, treasurer of the diocese and chair of a task force that worked on the options, said in the release. "Being able to work within an updated facility is a key part of that vision."

The diocese considered relocating its office five years ago but the expense involved precluded the move. Renovations at the new ministry center are expected to be completed early in 2011.

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