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There is a tradition, in communities on both sides of the Atlantic, to roll one’s eyes whenever I say, “K Street”!
I find myself incessantly deploying stories of St. Paul’s not because I feel the need to feel superior to other programs or to make a point that the way we do it is the most sound, but because this parish is stunningly adept at doing so well in so many realms. But what does that mean?
Let me try to describe what I’ve found in four years here: our mission of Christ-like living via a ministry to the whole person.
Beauty. People around the world know the name St. Paul’s, K Street because we create a very rare experience, itself one of the raisons d’etre of Anglo-Catholicism. For me, our smoky, terra cotta-flavored nave is not only a respite from earthly things, but a gateway to celestial ones, and the steadfast home of some of my fondest memories in music and beyond.
Quality. St. Paul’s has changed the way I think about creating something. When we decide to present an experience, an offering, we do it at the highest quality we can muster using the resources we have. It should be a lesson for all who create.
Formation. I’ve learned an immense amount at St. Paul’s, and from many angles. Some of this formation comes from the simple act of singing a year’s worth of services and learning about the significance of each vestment, reverence, prostration, and counterclockwise procession. Some of it comes from educational programming. Some of it comes from an incidental story from a 40-year church veteran in a quiet corner of a coffee hour. Whatever form it takes, it never stops.
Fellowship. St. Paul’s people are my friends. This is not “polite conversations over coffee after mass” fellowship (although that is an important part of the welcome that drew me and many others in); these people are my anchors in Washington, especially as the built-in social resources of my college years begin to fade. These are the ones that will last. How firm a foundation!
Purpose. This is not a church buzzword, and I think it should be. St. Paul’s is a model for a band of people devoted to a cause, who are fulfilled when they serve it. Neither snow nor gale nor any other earthly inconvenience will stop us from offering the mass (even if by a solitary priest in his chapel), or delivering food. St. Paul’s reminds me of the life-affirming power of having a reason to do something.
This all spells out one thing: a ministry to the whole person. That’s St. Paul’s, that’s Anglo-Catholicism–and that’s rare. That’s why we need to ensure it survives into tomorrow.