This isn’t your typical Catholic church.
There’s no incense. No gothic-style building. The congregation doesn’t believe the pope is infallible. And, the priest, the Rev. Tom Altepeter, is married.
St. Clare Ecumenical Catholic Community has been worshiping in homes throughout Spokane since June. So far about 20 people attend the services, which take place every other week.
Altepeter, founder of the church, said St. Clare’s is a place for “dissatisfied Catholics.”
“We’re trying to provide people with a spiritually enriching faith community within the Catholic tradition,” he said. “In the Roman Catholic Church, so many individuals aren’t being fed where they’re at. This is an alternative that they might be comfortable with.”
He said St. Clare’s is “a different way to be Catholic,” though he noted St. Clare’s doesn’t want to compete with the Roman Catholic Church, adding that anyone who is content in their church, should stay.
In terms of dogma, he said the Ecumenical Catholic Communion, to which St. Clare's belongs, has the same essential beliefs as the Roman Catholic Church. Both denominations follow the teachings of Jesus, the Nicene Creed and honor sacramental and liturgical traditions.
Where the two differ greatly, he explained, is in discipline.
“We re-examined the discipline pieces. We ordain men and women we welcome open gays and lesbians,” Altepeter said.
Priests, he added, are not required to be celibate.
He said that the church has a bottom-up approach, which means everyone has a say. Bishops are elected and clergy are called by the local ECC communities.
It’s a little different in Altepeter’s case, since he brought the ECC to Spokane. He recently moved to Spokane from Wisconsin, where he was leading an ECC church. Prior to the priesthood he worked as a psychologist.
Altepeter said St. Clare’s has two main goals — spiritual enrichment and service toward others.
For meeting locations, contact Altepeter at (509) 361-0463 or RevTom@StClareECC.com.
Where we Worship is a new SpokaneFAVS feature that profiles different houses of worship in the Spokane area. To have your organization featured email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tracy Simmons is an award-winning journalist specializing in religion reporting and digital entrepreneurship. In her approximate 20 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti. Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas, Connecticut and Washington. She is the executive director of SpokaneFāVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Washington. She also writes for The Spokesman-Review and national publications. She is a Scholarly Assistant Professor of Journalism at Washington State University.