Peter’s Corner: After Pentecost and some media surprises
The glorious feast of Pentecost has come (June 9) and gone, but, as we know, it hasn’t really. Henri Nouwen tells us that the spiritual life is really the life of the Spirit of Christ in us and that a wonderful way to keep the Spirit in our everyday lives. And not only Pentecost but Trinity Sunday has also come and gone…and not too long ago (June 21), the season of Summer officially began. So perhaps we’re really in a season of “comings and goings.” And, we’ve just blinked and suddenly it’s the 2019 version of a long July 4th weekend.
But let’s go back for a moment to the Memorial Day weekend, or shall I say Memorial Day week…a week when our daughter was married and a week when a wonderful, somewhat surprising, story about Saint Stephen’s appeared on the front page—“above the fold” as we are told—of the May 27, 2019 Philadelphia Inquirer. And then, less than a month later, having picked up the Inquirer piece, the national Religion News Service ran another story about Saint Stephen’s in its June 23 “Morning Report.” There were other ancillary stories, but these were the two big ones. There is, though, another story, a different one, namely, a “review” of one of our daily worship services by the “Mystery Worshipper” of a group called “Ship of Fools,” and I will turn to that story next time when I write about how we offer worship at Saint Stephen’s.
For now, it’s worth a few words about what the two major news articles suggest about Saint Stephen’s. Both articles identified Saint Stephen’s as a place which, since it reopened in 2017, has been “finding a new mission.” At the same time, however, the articles—wisely, perhaps—don’t define or fully explain the elements of this “new mission.” Put very simply, at Saint Stephen’s we see our “new mission” as something right out of the Gospel of Matthew, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Chapter 25, verse 35) and out of the 53rd chapter of The Rule of Saint Benedict, the title of which is “The Reception of Guests.” Such a “new mission” has at its core, (1) hospitality, i.e., to welcome and (2) accommodation, i.e., to make room for. Benedict’s rule goes further in saying that “great care and concern are to be shown in receiving the poor…[and dispossessed] and pilgrims, because in them more particularly Christ is received.” (Chapter 53, pp. 52-53). This may sound very common-sensical, fundamental, and perhaps even simple, but following the Gospel is none of these things.
What we believe at Saint Stephen’s is that we are called to the work we do and the service we provide, all of which is grounded in “to welcome” and “to make room for.” And what I want to believe is that people, including the print media, have noticed this about us. I hope so.
More next time.
Father Peter K.