December 30, 2016,
Dear Friends and Family of the Diocese of Eau Claire,
I am delighted to share this wonderful story about the Christmas Eve service in New Richmond. It is a testament to the good work Mother Catherine Kuschel and the good people of Saints Thomas and John Church are doing together.
In November this small congregation of fewer than 10 people anticipated an even lower than usual Christmas attendance. Several of its more active members had become shut-ins and were unable to navigate the steep steps at the church. Mother Catherine, in taking a page from Father Bob Hoekstra’s Chapel of the Resurrection in Chippewa Falls, looked for an alternate site that would enable as many of the Church’s people as possible to attend.
Around Thanksgiving Mother Catherine found a chapel at Deerfield Care Center in New Richmond. It was Presbyterian, but the chaplain couldn’t be there because he was responsible for two other facilities. Both the chaplain and the management supported Mother Catherine’s proposal. She then talked with the congregation about moving the service to Deerfield. The members supported it and wanted the Christmas Eve service opened to anyone desiring to attend. They even put a color ad in the local paper letting everyone in New Richmond know about the service.
Mother Catherine got bulletins printed courtesy of Christ Church in Woodbury, MN, and Deerfield Care Center had a full Episcopal Church Christmas service that Mother Catherine described as “Bethlehem on the Road.” 44 people attended! The parish is considering doing this again on Easter. Few people in the Diocese know that in 1889 a tornado demolished Sts. Thomas and John’s first worship space. That tornado also leveled most of New Richmond. For the next 15 years the congregation worshipped without a permanent facility.
Mother Catherine believes this history helped the members support the radical change of shifting Christmas worship to Deerfield Care Center. Here is what Mother Catherine had to say about her congregation: “They are an amazing little band of disciples. All those years the congregation worshiped without a building has built into their genetics an amazing flexibility. I am indeed blessed to be serving them.”
I have said many times that in the Diocese of Eau Claire we have learned that necessity is the mother of invention. This is certainly true for Saints Thomas and John Church in New Richmond, and God has blessed their resourcefulness. May God lead all of us to be bold in 2017! With my love and best wishes, I am,
Your brother in Christ,