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The Episcopal Diocese of Western New York has decided to organize a mission parish in a rapidly growing residential area of the Town of Amherst.

Bishop David C. Bowman said about two-thirds of the 25 people who met in St. Bartholomew's Church, Town of Tonawanda, earlier this week indicated they are "seriously committed to starting a new parish and ready to begin holding services.

"The interest and enthusiasm was better than I expected. I'm very encouraged about the whole thing," said Bishop Bowman.

"They were real excited. They were even throwing around some possible names (for the new parish)," added the Rev. Canon Nathaniel W. Massey, deputy for congregational ministries.

The next step, Bishop Bowman said, will be to decide when and where to begin holding worship. Those questions will be addressed during a meeting July 22 at St. Pius X Catholic Church, 1700 N. French Road.

A Eucharist and a tour of an 11.2-acre site for a new church in northern Amherst also will be on the agenda, said Canon Massey. There have been two or three offers of facilities for holding services, he said.

The diocese bought the property, now considered prime real estate, at North French and Hopkins roads about 30 years ago with expansion in mind.

Bishop Bowman said the Episcopalians who expressed interest in establishing a new parish live in the area but have not joined a church, plan to move to the area soon or belong to Episcopal parishes some distance away from their northern Amherst homes.

"Some were members of other parishes who are interested in helping to start a new parish but have no intention of leaving their own parishes," he said.

Canon Massey said that before a mission parish can be established formally, the people who want to start it must petition the diocese. In this case, he said, that probably will be done in October, when the diocese holds its annual convention.

The usual pattern for establishment of a new Episcopal parish is to hold services in a home or meeting hall for two or three years before building a church.

Diocesan officials have said that a recently conducted demographics study determined a new church in northern Amherst could grow to 100 families within five years, making it self-supporting.

The diocese has 69 parishes with about 26,000 church members in Western New York.

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