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Rosaries by the Hundreds

2013 October 18
by Gordon Reid

On Sunday, after a delightful Mozart Solemn Mass and a delicious Coffee Hour, I took a cab to 13th & Spruce, and joined half a dozen members of St Clement’s (who had been at the 8 o’clock Mass) who were manning our stall at Outfest, the gay street festival held in October in Philadelphia’s “Gayborhood”.

Our members wore tee-shirts which had the St Clement’s logo on the front and “Worship like it’s 1099″ on the back, plus our web-site address. I went straight from church in my Canon’s cassock, purple buttons and magenta cincture and all. In front of our stall on easels were two magnificent posters, one of which showed several pictures of members of the congregation at receptions or coffee hours, and stating “No matter who you are, you belong here”. The other has three pictures, with a slogan under each: “Saints, Sacraments, and Smoke”. The top picture showed our statue of St Clement; the second, a photo from a High Mass; and the third, someone being censed with a very smoking thurible. On the table in the stall, we laid out a selection of rosaries in a variety of colors.

From 1 to 5 p.m. our members chatted to some of the hundreds of people passing by, and asked them if they would like a rosary. Those who said Yes were directed over to me and chose a rosary in the color they liked. Then I asked their name and blessed the rosary for them. One of the others then gave them the pamphlet I wrote on how to say the Rosary, and a picture of Our Lady of Clemency, with the Novena prayer on the back. I was touched at how many of them were clearly moved by this, and many kissed the rosary or made the sign of the cross, indicating that they were probably Roman Catholics. Many of them asked about the Episcopal Church and said how pleased they were that our Church had a presence there. Others commented on the   fundamentalist Protestants just a block away, who had a microphone, and were  proclaiming that all  gay people would be going to Hell. For that reason too, I was glad to be there. And we were not the only Episcopal church with a stall; I saw the one from Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square, and believe there was one also from St Luke and the Epiphany.

I blessed over 300 rosaries, in each case saying the name of the recipient and, believe me, it took all of the four hours I was there. Sceptics will say that most of them will just be hung around people’s necks, or laid aside and never used. But if even a few dozen of them start people praying  (or encourage them to return to praying) it will have been well worth the effort of our team. And, as I said, our very presence there at a festival where hundreds, if not thousands, of gay people were enjoying themselves (and there were a great many non-gay people there too: it was a particular pleasure blessing rosaries for some of the children) demonstrated that not all Christians condemned them for loving people of the same sex.

And if some of the people we met and talked with decide to come and worship at St Clement’s, that would be an even greater blessing. At least they know that our doors are wide open if they choose to come. Jesus had to eat and drink with Pharisees and publicans, sinners all, before they became his followers. Scholars tell me it is unlikely He gave them rosaries (!),  but He did give them love, which is what our little plastic rosaries symbolized.




4 Responses leave one →
  1. Murray Small permalink
    October 18, 2013

    Bravo!!! Fatto bene,Fr. Gordon.
    I have very fond memories of the parish pilgrimages to Walsingham from St. Michael & All Saints ,Edinburgh.
    May we all continue to ask Mary’s prayers for mankind.

  2. Sebastian Morris permalink
    October 18, 2013

    It was truly a moving and wonderful experience.

  3. Stephen permalink
    October 19, 2013

    Once again, it was heart-warming to read that Saint Clement’s was officially present at OUTFEST. Is this the second year that your parish ad a booth at this event? I wish one of the Tridentine Communities in the RC tradition would follow your fine example, but that is one of those things that seems so unlikely, that i’d have to drop a coin to see if gravity still worked if it ever happened. God Bless you, Father Reid! and all of your parishioners as well!

  4. October 21, 2013

    Wonderful ministry. You’ve inspired me…

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