A long-time Episcopal priest who has spent his career in academic life (the last decades at Stanford), I have known and participated in a fair number of parish churches. Mary Layne and I joined St. Mark’s seventeen years ago, and are grateful beneficiaries of its ministry and mission. Rather than write abstractly about this church’s character and virtues, as we see them, let me simply make observations about “a day in the life of…”
This past Sunday’s gathering of the people of St. Mark’s had some special features: the great hymn, For All the Saints, commenced the service, and after the opening prayers and biblical readings, Matt preached a pithy sermon joining the Beatitudes from Luke to the parish’s identified reasons for being. It is stewardship season, a time for measuring the commitments of our lives and resources in terms of this congregation’s needs and goals. That aspect of being and staying committed played out before our eyes in the morning’s baptisms: a large group of adults made strong pledges on behalf of three babies who neither cried nor squawked as they became “Christ’s own, forever.” Droplets of water from the font were sprinkled fell on of all of us as the children’s parents and sponsors paraded these new saints (read: members) up and down the aisles of the sanctuary.
What followed in our worship was “standard” practice: the passing of the Peace, and our movement forward to encircle the table where, after prayers for ourselves and others, communion happened—God’s care for us, conveyed in food and drink for our life journeys. All this in took place in plain sight, accompanied by familiar music, and the palpable sense of being a people joined together, come what may. Though there was “dismissal” and final blessing urging good courage, compassion, and peace as we dispersed, on that morning many stayed for brunch and a discussion concerned with the question of how St. Mark’s people would tend to the church’s inner vitality, and just as importantly, how we would continue to extend welcome and help to strangers, near-by or at a distance.
I believe it’s possible to “read” a group, even as a member of it, by paying attention to its professions of what matters, by its personality, and even its corporate body-language. My own short-hand impressions of a day in the life of St. Mark’s are meant to convey what the Greggs have found here: superb liturgy, excellent preaching and teaching, a clear sense of ministry to those within and those beyond the church itself. The community atmosphere and vibe of St. Mark’s is easy to register by parishioner and visitor alike. “Open the doors and see all the people,” and there they are: unpretentious, inclusive, good-humored, thoughtfully serious, life-loving, and faithful.
What a privilege it is to be in, and to support, St. Mark’s Church.