TURLOCK -- "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation! O my soul, praise him, for he is thy health and salvation! All ye who hear, now to his temple draw near; praise him in glad adoration."
If the 67 parishioners at St. Francis Anglican Church here were troubled over last week's lawsuit seeking their property, they didn't show it as they fervently sang the traditional hymn Sunday.
The song has been around since the 1600s, nearly four centuries before a split hit the U.S. Episcopal Church over the interpretation of Scripture. Anglicans say they haven't abandoned their faith but have moved to the oversight of the biblically conservative Anglican church worldwide.
The biblically liberal Episcopalians say the Anglicans can leave, but the property was held in trust on behalf of the national Episcopal church, and thus belongs to it. Nationwide, more than 50 lawsuits have been filed to recover such property.
St. Francis, one of 40 parishes that followed Anglican Bishop John David Schofield, is the first of 10 self-incorporated parishes in the San Joaquin Diocese to be individually sued by Episcopal Bishop Jerry Lamb.
But aside from a brief mention by the Rev. Gerry Grossman at the beginning of Sunday's service, the lawsuit and the larger church split weren't mentioned.
"We're about God's love here; we're not coming here with our fists up," he said.
Grossman's sermon was on 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul's missive about love, which includes this verse: "Love is not rude. It is not self-seeking; it is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs."
"Nothing is more valuable in your life than the love of Christ," Grossman said. "We're to show love to others and move beyond hurt and injury."
After the service, most people stayed to chat.
"I was a cradle Episcopalian," said Barbara Frahm, 72, who has been at St. Francis since 1970. "There's the feeling of the spirit here; it comes out from the parishioners, including the ones who aren't here anymore."
About 20 left the church in 2008 and are meeting as St. Francis Episcopal Church in another church's facility.
Jeff DeGraff, 41, said he was "baptized here, married here, have two kids here. I love this church. I like our close-knit family atmosphere -- we all are here for each other."
Like others, he said he had close friends who were among those who left to remain Episcopal and misses them.
"But I'm here for the long haul," he said.
Carole Weise, 91, was one of the church's original members who met on the second floor above the downtown Montgomery Ward building before the church was built on Main Street.
"This is family to me," she said, waiting on a friend to give her a ride home. "I helped build this church; that's why I stayed. I played the piano here before they got an organ."
Michael Aguiniga, 29, has been at the church for three years. His wife, Rachael Simpson, 25, is the music director. He grew up in a Pentecostal church but said he has found a home at St. Francis.
"We've been through a lot," he said. "We definitely have a stick-to-it-ness bond."
Roger Maxwell, 44, was a delegate to the diocesan convention in 2008 when the diocese voted to leave the Episcopal Church. St. Francis, he said, "feels like my home. For someone who spent 20 years out in the world all alone, it feels good to be home."
Russ Rappley, 62, is a recent transplant from Michigan who said he found the church by shopping around. He and his wife have attended St. Francis for six weeks and plan to remain there.
"They act like a family," he said, echoing others' comments. "They are a church who actually loves people."
Bee staff writer Sue Nowicki can be reached at 578-2012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.