When (Not) in Rome

While many are concerned about the declining numbers of mainline denominations, I believe the Episcopal Church will always be just fine as long as Roman Catholics continue to marry Presbyterians. Or Methodists.

Here in Hingham we have a lot of former Roman Catholics gracing the pews at St. John’s (including my wife). And it seems as if, despite the Pope’s best efforts to capitalize on the tensions within the Anglican Communion and draw Episcopalians to the “one true faith,” new former RCs are showing up around here every week.

At the suggestion of a parishioner, I’m offering some helpful guidelines to Recovering Catholics new to the Episcopal Church. “When in Rome” has morphed into “When in a church that looks vaguely like something you’d find in the English countryside.”

1. It’s “Ah-men” not “Ay-men.” Fonzie was not an Episcopalian. Though many tongue depressor-wielding doctors apparently are.

2. When I make a reference in a sermon to “my little boys” it’s not something creepy. I really do have two children.

3. If the initial shock of seeing a female priest at the altar is too much, we have defibrillators on hand.

4. It’s okay to dress up a bit for church. Really.

5. If you come to the communion rail and stick out your tongue, I will give you the host. But first I might stick my tongue out back at you. Or ask you to say ahhh–men.

6. You won’t hear me preach about the evils of birth control. The only time I’ll bring the pulpit into the bedroom is if you ask me to do a house blessing.

7. You can still refer to a liturgy of communion as “mass.” Other names are the Holy Eucharist (preferred) or Holy Communion. This is so that I can offer the occasional service of “Mass on the Grass” during the summer. And, face it, nothing rhymes with eucharist with the (sort-of) exception of Bucharest.

8. Feel free to open the Hymnal and actually sing the hymns. Yes, we typically sing all the verses. Sorry. Fortunately most of us are pretty good singers or, if not, our choirs know all the tunes. After all, there’s no book titled “Why Episcopalians Can’t Sing.”

9. If your grandmother insists that you’ll go to hell if you step foot inside another church besides St. Stanislaus, feel free to wear a disguise when you arrive. It’s easier than getting into a conversation about theology. Plus, your secret’s safe with me.

10. You see? Stained glass doesn’t have to be ugly! When we refer to our church being built in the ’60s, we mean the 1860s.

I hope this little primer will help anyone with a Roman Catholic background who is curious about trying out worship in the Episcopal Church. Oh, and one more thing: yes, you are welcome to receive communion at St. John’s or any one of our many branch locations.


3 Comments on “When (Not) in Rome”

  1. Barbara Starrett says:

    My partner and I have become fans even though we faithfully attend another Episcopal church. Please keep them coming.

  2. Father Tim says:

    Thanks, Barbara!

  3. Evelyn says:

    Don’t be so hard on the R-Catholics as I was one for 50 years, and when I changed I became Orthodox. hmmm And I graduated 8th grade from St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr School in Chicago…good Polish Catholic School. The Church is beautiful and my sister still attends it. Many R-Catholic churches are stunningly beautiful especially the old world European style churches. And if you want beauty in all forms, well that’s the Orthodox Church…sung Liturgy, beautiful and incomparable icons, incense, the works! The thinking in the Orthodox Church is that when you worship you might as well worship big-time and with all living and dead saints, music, flowers, beauteous icons, smells and bells…gotta’ love it!

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