Last week I was fortunate to attend the annual gathering of the North American Province of the Society of Catholic Priests. The SCP is a society of clergy of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada who are devoted to priestly spirituality and catholic evangelism. More information is available on the society’s website. This year the conference was in New York City at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Times Square, and the theme was Steeped in Grace - Baptismal Ecclesiology. This theme grew out of the concern of the diminishment of the role of baptism in the Anglican churches of North America, especially due to the growing practice of communion without baptism.
Three excellent lectures were offered by the following distinguished scholars:
The Rev’d Dr. Maxwell Johnson - "What Comes First Matters: Baptism and the Eucharist in the Church Today."
The Rev’d Dr. Lizette Larson-Miller - "Holy Baptism and the Rhythms and Thresholds of Life."
The Rt. Rev’d Dr. J. Neil Alexander - "Baptismal Ecclesiology and Holy Orders: How They Relate and How They Are Distinctive"
My favorite part of the conference was the worship at St. Mary’s Times Square. St. Mary’s has always been an icon of the Anglican Catholic movement in the Episcopal Church, and the worship offerings were superb. Sung Matins was prayed each morning, and we were also privileged to attend a Solemn High Mass for the Feast of St. Francis, as well as Solemn Evensong and Benediction. But even though the worship was very good, I was even more impressed by how St. Mary’s keeps her doors open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm each day. The space is a refuge for the people of Times Square. Throughout the day many people would be resting in the pews, receiving solace and comfort within a very busy urban environment.
I have been reflecting upon how churches can keep their doors open for the public. My guess is that most churches are locked up for most of the week, only opening for Sunday mornings. If a church is open throughout the week, it is doubtful that the church will have weekday services. What was convincing about St. Mary’s was that they were open, and that there was a visible community doing the work of prayer and worship. The church was vibrant when visitors entered.
We are not able to have the church open every day from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm at St. Mark’s, but I am thankful we are open daily for the mass and Daily Offices. This is a step in the right direction. What we should avoid is only being open for an hour or two on a Sunday morning. Not many businesses could succeed with such business hours.
As we continue with our stewardship campaign this fall, I think it is worth reminding ourselves of the gift that St. Mark’s is. We are actually open daily for prayer - something that very few churches could claim. Many of you have been availing yourselves to the daily services, and if you have not, please come and join us. The worship schedule is on the website. All are welcome to join us in the worship of God.