I was invited by some friends to join them for Sunday Eucharist at All Saint’s Episcopal Church. The church itself is a beautiful Gothic style church located across the street from City Hall in Pasadena, California. As I entered into the vestibule, I was greeted by very pleasant people who handed me a copy of that day’s liturgical prayers and music.
The music was beautiful and the verses ended crisply, I recalled a Catholic choir director who shared with me that the way that Catholic priests say Mass could make neurotics of most musicians. The other thing about attending an Episcopal Sunday service that always struck me is that it is sort of like listening to the BBC. We both speak English, but they just do it so much better.
I smiled as I read the directive “Silence is kept” on the liturgical program (should I spell that programme?) The differences were not as pronounced as when I took a course in Shakespeare at UCLA, but they reminded me of my old English professor and I could imagine her smiling. The homily was very well constructed and focused on sufficiency. What is enough? How Americans answer that question as opposed to people in Third World nations. I thought of St. Theresa’s quip regarding material goods “you think you own them, but in reality they own you.”
The priest made the point that each of us can make a difference. She quoted the Dalai Lama “Anyone who feels that they are too small to make a difference, has never shared a bed with a mosquito.” We were encouraged to sign petitions to Senators Boxer and Feinstein asking for passage of National Health insurance with a meaningful public option.
After the Liturgy ended, I walked out into the warm California sunshine and decided to enjoy a quiet breakfast. I needed some time to reflect. The whole liturgy was extremely similar to what I have experienced at countless Catholic liturgies. The vestments, the songs, the setting; in fact, the Episcopal version seemed more traditional than what most Catholics experience at the average Catholic Church on Sunday.
I walked back to All Saints and joined several parishioners in the cloister of the church. There was a table with the petitions to the California senators. There were various other tables as well, a welcoming table for new parishioners and visitors. There were various parish organizations present, including Extension University learning opportunities for theological studies, printed sermons for the past year, choral music DVDs and Cds, an outreach to the poor, an LGBT table, etc. I had the pleasure of speaking with various parishioners several of whom shared how they had come to All Saints from diverse backgrounds and had found a welcoming home.
Yesterday I was listening to National Public Radio; the journalist was reporting that Episcopal USA had approved the advancement of lesbian and gays to the episcopacy. The journalist went on to mention that there are two such candidates to become bishops in California. NPR further reported that this decision had placed Episcopal USA on a collision course with more conservative members of the International Anglican Community and this at a time when tensions are already high over the consecration of Gene Robinson as a bishop.
I sat there in my car after the news program ended and thought how amazing it is that these people prefer justice to security. I felt sorrow and somewhat embarrassed that Catholic bishops lack that courage. Then again, in all fairness, Catholic bishops rarely are asked to seriously discuss any such important issues and unlike their Episcopalian counterparts, they have no “vote” to decide such matters. They are merely told what to teach and publicly state. The vision of the late Pope John XXIII of Episcopal collegiality seems to have died with the late pontiff. On a practical plane, the Catholic Church has one bishop and thousands of “assistants” with the Curia (Vatican bureaucracies) acting as an intermediary.
The result of all of this is divorced and remarried Catholics in Europe who find themselves excluded from the Eucharist and LGBT people who are driven away from the Church of their baptism. Bishops who are more preoccupied with the administration of material goods than with being the Teacher of the Faith in their Diocese. Bishops who are more concerned with “avoiding scandal” and preserving material assets than with extending justice to the victims of pedophilia.
When I said my first Mass at my last parish, the choir sang, “All are welcomed here.” I winced when I heard them sing that song, because my predecessor had informed me that they would send LGBT parishioners across the street to the Methodist Church, since they could not offer them services at St. Paul’s.
The choir did not sing, “All are welcomed here” at All Saints Episcopal, but the community silently proclaimed that invitation by their actions.
- Boycott the Knights of Columbus
- A wedding sermon.
- An open letter to my parish community.
- Why was a college student in the car of drunken Archbishop-elect Cordileone at 12:26 AM, when Cordileone was arrested for a DUI?
- When the Church married Same-Sex couples.
- How It All began
- The Supreme Court’s Decisions and the New Mason-Dixon Line
- What the Vatican & American bishops DO NOT want you (and Politicians) to know.
- The Morality of Sex, gay & straight.
- San Francisco in archbishop Cordileone’s sight