Chasubles and Tee Shirts
On Sunday, I was in church at the opening of our vestments exhibition “Liturgy and Lace” while my Curate was in Center City in a booth at “Outfest” the gay festival. St Clement’s has taken part in this festival for several years, and a good many of our members have helped staff the church stall, but this year was different. Fr Ethan wore his clerical collar, and all the helpers had special tee shirts with “St Clement’s Church” on the front, and the slogan “Worship like it was 1099″! on the back. We had several hundred rosaries in a big basket, and Fr Ethan reports that he blessed over 200 of them, using the recipient’s name, and gave them to them. I have heard from others that it was an extraordinary time of grace, when young gay people who had been rejected by their own churches found a priest and a church that welcomed them and assured them of the love of Jesus and his blessed Mother. There were tears and happy faces mingled.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I was presiding over an exhibit of glorious silks, brocades and needlework in wonderful vestments, fine chalices and monstrances, unique illuminated missals etc. All were gifts or acquisitions of past parishioners and clergy of St Clement’s. And the exhibit has been received with a mighty “Wow factor” in many of the visitors. The more instructed have talked about “the beauty of holiness”, and others have said things like “This shows that people cared for their church by giving or making these beautiful things”.
I have thought about the chance coincidence of these two events and how our two priests were doing quite different things at the same time, and I have concluded that we were doing exactly the same thing, the thing we were ordained to do – preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The old Rector was welcoming people of all sorts to the church, which was full of traditional organ music, vestments, statues, pews, altars, etc. I was answering questions both learned and incredibly simple. I was trying to show that in St Clement’s we have a special beauty which exists not for itself but so that people may get to know God through his Son, who became flesh and thus blessed all creation, reaffirming his earlier judgement (in Genesis) that it was all “very good”. I was hoping that some would be touched by some of the outward expressions of our faith and return to learn more of its inward meaning.
Meanwhile, down on 13th Street, the young Curate was doing much the same. He was assuring people that there was a Church which accepted them as God made them and that they were loved by God as a father loves his children. The fact that many of them were gay and had been rejected by other churches made them suspicious of all Christians. And this was reinforced by the hateful bunch of evangelical protesters who shouted through megaphones that they would all burn in hell! Our church, and other Episcopal churches present at the street festival, was trying to show them that God had made them gay and that their faithful loving unions could be blessed.
No doubt both Fr Ethan and I failed to get the entire Good News of Jesus Christ through to most of the people we talked to. But if even a few people are helped in their sometimes difficult pilgrimage by our seemingly very different activities, “Liturgy and Lace” and “Outfest”, we will not have been wasting our time.