Episcopal bishop visits several sites in Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 June 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

MEDINA – The bishop of the Western New York Diocese for the Episcopal Church spent several hours in Orleans County on Wednesday, visiting sites in Albion and Medina.

The Right Rev. R. William Franklin is pictured with Robert Waters, a member of the St. John’s Episcopal Church in Medina. They are pictured at City Hall in Medina after Waters showed Franklin the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame. Several Episcopal churches in WNY were built with Medina Sandstone, some nearly 200 years ago.

Franklin is the 11th bishop for the diocese since 1839. He has a doctorate in church history from Harvard University.

He stopped at several historic sites in Orleans County on Wednesday and sees potential for the community to utilize its historic assets, including the churches.

Franklin visited the Pullman Memorial Universalist Church in Albion, a site that includes 40-plus Tiffany stained-glass windows. The church was built with money from Albion native George Pullman, who amassed a fortune with luxurious railroad sleeping cars.

Franklin said Pullman is an influential figure in the local and national history. The bishop also wanted to see the church building in Albion.

Bob Waters shows Bishop Franklin the Sandstone Hall of Fame. Franklin highlights St. Paul’s Cathedral, a big Episcopal church in Buffalo that was included in the first class of the Sandstone Hall of Fame.

“It is unusual in a small town to find a big, beautiful Universalist church,” he said.

He visited the historic downtown business districts in Albion and Medina, learning about the history of the communities. He also had lunch at the Shirt Factory Café and was given a tour of Baxter Healthcare in Medina.

“These are fascinating towns,” Franklin said.

As bishop, Franklin leads 59 congregations in eight counties. He visits each church at least once a year, often showing up just before the service and staying for a luncheon. He wants to do more than just visit for a service and a meal. He wants to help connect the congregations to the community.

Many of the Episcopal churches are struggling with members. The local Episcopal churches have a dozen or fewer people on most Sundays. The churches are sharing clergy.

Franklin said he is working with church leaders throughout the diocese to plan a “sustainable” future for the churches.

“My goal is to keep all of the churches open because every one is precious,” he said.

Franklin met with members of the St. John’s Episcopal Church. Cynthia Kiebala, one of the church wardens, was pleased to see the bishop touring Orleans County and supporting the congregations. Kiebala said the churches may have small numbers, but she sees big value in the congregations.

“We have outreach ministries and concern for one another,” she said.