Reconsideration of the Ruffin House Name

THE OUTCOME: November 21, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

I, Lisa+ and the Vestry are ready to share with you our reflections and resolutions concerning the Ruffin House name. 

The Vestry has taken all the conversations and all the written communications, seriously: we have
heard a mix of responses with people very committed on both sides of the Ruffin House renaming. We sifted those and considered them deeply and prayerfully. After this process of listening deeply and broadly to the congregation—of trying to understand and honor all points of view, the Vestry has unanimously decided to change the Ruffin House name to the “The Parish House” for a period of at least twelve months. We will be working toward a name in that time—or settling into naming the building after the function rather than a person. Time and future conversation will tell, and we will consider how best to go about renaming in time. But for now, we rest and live together, in what we hope and believe will be a creative and loving place.


Click here to view the compiled communication.

Please read it thoroughly, as it reflects five months of prayer, listening, and deep consideration. Your vestry has gone above and beyond any expectation we could have of them for faithful service to the parish. 

Yours faithfully, Robert+


As mentioned in our Sunday Forum discussion on July 26, the vestry, Lisa, and I are inviting the parish to do some reading around Thomas Ruffin and the original naming of the Ruffin House. Here are some papers to get you started:

  • Attached is the essay Robert wrote in preparation for the zoom Adult Forum on August 16, 2020 as St. Matthew’s begins the process of reconsidering the Ruffin House name. It is titled “Making All Things New” and is an autobiographical account of where Robert sees himself and St. Matthew’s at this particular time.

On Sunday, August 23 Lisa+ led us through an exercise to help shape our prayer and conversation as we take on the question before us of whether or not to change the name of the Ruffin House.

This week we will offer three additional times to prayerfully approach the question. Like Sunday morning, there will be ample opportunity for quiet reflection as well as sharing, for those who feel moved to share.  Please bring pen and paper, a hard surface to write on, and if you have one, a candle or a votive.  We’ll use the candles as an outward and visible sign that connects us to one another and to mark the time as sacred.    These will all be on the Meeting Zoom Channel:

  • Tuesday evening, August 25, from 7:30 to 8:30 pm, Lisa Frost-Phillips will lead a guided Ignition based reflection story of the rich man and Lazarus, found in Luke 16: 19-31.
  • Thursday morning, August 27. at 8:00 a.m. led by Robert
  •  Saturday, July 29, afternoon at 4:00 p.m. led by Robert

Below is the material Lisa used on Sunday morning.

Try walking through the examen, using St. Matthews rather than yourself.  In these steps, I have substituted in St. Matthews to help you do this.

1. Begin with prayer.   Acknowledge St. Matthew’s impoverishment and inability to see fully or clearly.  Name before God the things about St. Matthew’s for which we are grateful.  Pray for wisdom and discernment for St. Matthews as she is guided by the Holy Spirit.  Pray that St. Matthew’s may be for everyone, just as God is for us.

2. State Simply and Clearly a Particular Position: Imagine St. Matthew’s taking a position regarding Ruffin House and write it out.  For example, St Matthew’s will continue with the Ruffin House name OR St. Matthew’s will take down the name of Ruffin House.

3. Identify Points of Consolation:  What are the points of consolation with this decision? The root of console is consolare– to comfort, to encourage, to cheer.  Where would this decision bring comfort, encouragement, peace?  What is right and good about it?  Think here in terms of the past, present and future.

4. Identify Points of Desolation: Where does this position bring desolation? What are areas of sadness, or fear, or anxiety?  Of misgiving or discomfort? The Latin root of desolation is “to abandon” or “to empty.” What is being abandoned?  Where is there emptiness?

Think in terms of the past, present and future

5. Repentance: Where is St. Matthew’s being called to repentance?  Where are its shortcomings or failures to miss the mark in taking this position?   Where might it be blind?

NT definition of repentance: to go beyond the mind that we have, the world that we “know.”  Where is St. Matthew’s being calling to go beyond the mind that it has, the world that it knows?  Where is St. Matthew’s being calling to repentance?

6. Calling by God: With this position, where is God calling St. Matthew’s?  How is God calling St. Matthew’s forward?

Daily Examen:

You might also find this framework helpful as a daily practice or in thinking about particular issues:

Lisa’s adapted form for praying using the examen:

1, Open with prayer for gratitude and for discernment, being led by the Holy Spirit.

2, State the particular situation or something about your day that you want to reflect further about.

3, Name points of consolation.

4, Name points of desolation.

5, Repentance: Name places where you might be coming up short or missing the mark.  Where are you being called to go beyond the place that you are in, the mind that you have?

6, Calling: Where are you being called by God now?

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