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Why start a new worship service in Harrah?



Emmanuel Episcopal Church's parish is based in Shawnee, Oklahoma and is blessed to have two “retired” priests worshiping and serving alongside us. Both are great helpers and provide me (and all of us) with wise counsel. They also have many good ideas. For example, Mother Elizabeth began and leads both a Lectio Divina group and Retreat in Daily group for members of our parish.


Over the past five years Father Tom Newman has had an idea that wouldn't go away. He has consistently mentioned to me how quickly Choctaw and Harrah are growing, how the towns are so close to each other that they seem like one city, and that neither has an Episcopal Church. Father Tom has also reminded me that he and his family live in Harrah, and that our congregation is blessed with enough clergy and people to plant a chapel in one of those places.


He has repeated this idea often enough that it finally lodged itself in my brain. Eventually it found its way into my regular prayers. Last summer when the vestry and church leaders completed the diocese Congregational Vitality Assessment, we met with the Canon for Congregational Vitality, Stephen Carlsen, to discuss our assessment results. Over the course of that meeting, I officially brought up the idea with our Vestry. I was not surprised that the Vestry was interested, but I was very surprised when Canon Stephen told us that Bishop Poulson would, “love it if we undertook that mission.” I later met with Bishop Poulson in person and confirmed Canon Stephen’s assertion.


Emmanuel has done this sort of work before. I learned this by reading the excellent history book produced by our 125th Anniversary Book Committee. In 1937, when the Rev. H.B. Smith was the Rector, our parish planted a chapel in Seminole that eventually became Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church.


Here are the key elements of our plan so far.


1. We are going to start small.

No plan we could develop would succeed apart from God. Please join me in prayer for this effort. If this plan fails, we will pat ourselves on the back for trying and move on to new things. If this plan succeeds, we will thank God and move on to new things. Either way, we will try to gain wisdom from the experience. The efforts in Harrah/Choctaw will be mostly led by Fr. Tom Newman. As Rector, my primary focus will continue to be at our parish in Shawnee.


2. We are going to meet in a pub.

For the last few months my prayer has been, “God, if you like this idea, show us where to start.” A member of our parish lives in McLoud and seems to know everyone in McLoud, Harrah, and Choctaw, and he has been on the prowl for a location for a few months. Recently, I told him the story of a church whose first meeting place was a bar in Austin (Saint Albans). Bars were often used by churches because they were closed on Sunday. As we were discussing it, we wondered if The Black Raven Pub, an Irish pub in Harrah, was closed on Sunday. It is, and, of course, he knew the owner.


3. We are not in a hurry.

My prayer is that in the future there is a strong healthy parish in Harrah or Choctaw that develops out of our (and God’s) efforts. But in the meantime, we are going to have a small chapel, or second campus, of Emmanuel meeting in Harrah on Sunday mornings and led by Father Tom Newman, but folks in Harrah/Choctaw can join us in Shawnee on Wednesday evenings, at Vacation Bible School, for Church Camp, for Breakfast on Broadway … you get the idea.


4. Services at the "Harrah Chapel" will begin on Easter Sunday 2023.

The first service of Emmanuel’s new chapel was on Easter Sunday, April 9, 2023 at 10:30 am at The Black Raven Pub, at the fitting address of 1878 Church Avenue in downtown Harrah. These services will be led by Father Tom Newman with one of our deacons assisting.


Who is this service for?

All are welcome to attend this service. Those with questions about this new service should call Emmanuel Episcopal's Shawnee offices at (405) 273-1374 or email us at tom.dahlman@emmanuelshawnee.com .

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