In New York for a Church Center staff meeting all next week, I got to worship at my old parish church, St. Mary the Virgin, in Times Square on Christmas II. One of the great anglo catholic shrines in this country, “Smokey Mary’s” never fails to disappoint in the care and quality of the liturgy, the simple Gospel-based preaching, and splendid music.
In convincing my friends that the current rector of St. Mary’s really is moving them into the 21st century, I used to smile and say, “Hey, the parts of the liturgy that aren’t in Latin are Rite Two!” And it is true that they have retained the long tradition of great classical Mass settings at the 11 a.m. service (in addition to simpler liturgies at 8 and 9 a.m.) but people there know the Latin, sing the hymns and worshippers’ parts with gusto, and above all else, know that they are encountering the Incarnate One every Sunday in Word and Prayer and Sacrament in that great liturgical space.
Oh, I would love to see more women in liturgical leadership and am not sure I agree that creating a west-facing Altar would “mar the architectural lines of the building” but I appreciate a worshipping community that cares deeply about worship, celebrates the fullness of the Christian year, season by richly observed season, and with both daily Offices and Eucharist.
Not every parish can (or perhaps should) do all that St. Mary’s does, but The Episcopal Church needs places like it to uphold the quality of liturgical worship and remind us what it means to form a Christian community primarily by worshipping the Triune God “in spirit and in truth!” Don’t miss it the next time you’re in New York!