The President's Corner
Recently, I was contacted by my friend Jeff Fowler, who is a dedicated member of All Saints Episcopal Church. Jeff and I have known each other for several years, often crossing paths in our various volunteer activities. He kindly invited me to his church where I was inspired to write this latest rendition in my running series on Parma’s wonderful places of worship.
Upon entering the church, I met Reverend Canon Nancy Wittig. As we began to talk, I became fascinated by her amazing story. In fact, afterward I “Googled” her and found that we have one of America’s heroes of women’s rights in our midst.
Growing up in 1950s and 60s America when women were still marginalized, Rev. Wittig’s parents clearly instilled in her the belief that gender has no place in determining one’s station in life. In fact, she went on to earn a B.A. at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a Masters of Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary. She later became a deacon in New Jersey in 1973. Then, she and ten of her female colleagues made history in 1974 by being ordained the first women priests in the Episcopal Church. The Philadelphia 11 created quite a controversy within the church, as female ordination had not yet been approved. However, in 1976, due to their work and that of their supporters, the Episcopal Church finally recognized the ordination of women as priests. Rev. Wittig attributes her rebellious nature to the Civil Rights Movement, the anti-Vietnam experience, and, “most importantly, knowing that the Gospel speaks to women, as well as men.”
Rev. Wittig has only been in Parma since October and is the interim Pastor of All Saints until the parish selects a new leader to take the place of Pastor Heather Hill who was reassigned to a parish in Hawaii. The Reverend has three children and seven grandchildren whom she adores.
Like many of Parma’s churches, All Saints was born in Cleveland. In fact, the parish began in the Scranton-West 25th area before moving to Parma in 1950. According to oral history, their first services were held in that year “in the Recreation Hall of the City of Parma” and, later “in Parma Junior High School (Ridge and Ridgewood).” Then, in 1952, the congregation raised $10,000 to purchase their current property on Ridgewood at Ames. Groundbreaking for the current church took place in 1953.
The Episcopal Church has its roots in the Church of England (Anglican), which broke with the Roman Catholic Church during the Protestant Reformation precipitated by King Henry VIII’s divorce from Anne Boleyn. Jamestown, Virginia – the first permanent English colony in America – was an Anglican settlement. Following the American Revolution, the Anglican Church in American separated from the Church in England and became known as the Episcopal Church. Two-thirds of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and Presidents George Washington, James Madison, James Monroe, Franklin Roosevelt and Gerald Ford were members of the Episcopalian faith. Further, The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. is the seat of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. The motto of the Episcopal diocese of Ohio is “God loves you! No exceptions!”
All Saints is dedicated to serving the greater Parma community. In fact, they are very proud of their mobile food pantry, which takes place every third Saturday of each month from 9:00 until 11:00 am. Commencing in 2014, this partnership with the Cleveland Food Bank will celebrate the 500,000th pound of food donations to the needy this month. This little parish proves that a small number of faithful, loving people with big hearts can accomplish incredible things. The parish also rents out its hall, which can host 80 to 100. Sunday services are held at 8:30 and 10:30 am, with Sunday school at 9:45.
In closing, I want to thank Rev. Canon Wittig, Jeff Fowler and Ray Heitland for taking the time to enlighten me about their parish and faith. If you would like to find out more about All Saints Episcopal (8911 West Ridgewood Drive) visit them online at www.allsaintsparma.org, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 440-888-4055. Best wishes for a healthy and warm spring!
Parma City Council President Sean Brennan