Monday, September 24, 2012

Open Doors and the Church of One's Youth

Go to this link to see a picture of the church in which I grew up.

I was raised in All Saints' Episcopal Church in Millington, New Jersey. When I was 14, we moved to Lewes, Delaware and joined St. Peter's Episcopal Church, which is the subject of the above link.

I remember St. Peter's with great fondness. When I was there, through high school, college, and my first wedding, the organ was on the opposite side - the left of the current picture. The altar was not detached as it is now, so the priest faced the altar with his back to the people.

Father Moon was rector then. St. Peter's was "low church"; Father Moon was more anglo-catholic. Every Sunday, in low church style, he wore cassock, surplice and stole, as my priest in New Jersey had worn. But on Easter and Christmas he was "allowed", as the mother of one of my friends put it, to dress up - alb and cope up until the Eucharistic prayer, when the cope came off and was replaced by a chasuble.

And we had incense. My piano teacher was the choir director. She taught us how to not have incense interfere with our singing. She said, "Breathe it in, really breathe it in, just one time, and after that it won't bother you." It worked for me!

For a couple of weeks around Easter and Christmas I was the organist, giving Mrs. Albertson a vacation. I'm not an organist. I'm a pianist. But Fr. Moon would work with me, set up my stops for me, and I was even able to put in a pedal once in awhile.

I taught Sunday school. I played the piano for the Sunday school service. My brothers were acolytes. I wanted more than anything to be an acolyte. But I was a girl, a young woman, and it was not allowed. So I had to teach Sunday school and sing in the adult choir with my mother. Meanwhile, once  in awhile, I would sneak into the priest's sacristy and read the prayers for vesting and the order of putting on the Easter and Christmas vestments. I remember, once, sitting on the floor, outside that vestry, out of sight, watching Fr. Moon pray and vest.

Now I'm a priest. Fr. Moon was still alive when I learned I was going to seminary. I was not entirely sure he approved, but he was kind.

It's a pleasure to see that photo of St. Peter's Lewes and to reflect on from where I came. The article by Fr. Mark Harris, however, makes my heart ache. St. Peter's was always open. I serve a church that is open only when there are people in it. The building is open at times all during the week, but the front doors are only open on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings and early afternoons. I want more than anything to just leave everything unlocked 24-7-365, like St. Peter's.

What would it hurt, compared to what good it could do? Vandalism? Theft? Fire? So what, compared to a sacred space, open and inviting to all comers. My church may close in the next twelve months, unless there is a miracle. Why not take a chance and throw those doors open, with a permanent sign:

1 comment:

Barbara said...