Walking Our Faith: Who Goes to Church? A Profile of the Episcopal church of Saint John the Baptist (column)
Walking Our Faith
During most Christian worship services, there is a moment after the Lord’s Prayer where the pastor asks the congregation to turn and give one another the “sign of peace,” in the form of a greeting and handshake.
At the Episcopal church, St. John the Baptist, in the little yellow church at 100 S. French St. in Breckenridge, the congregation is so friendly and outgoing that this greeting can quickly devolve into smiles, chatter and laughter until finally the Rev. Charles F. Brumbaugh, known as “Charlie,” is compelled to interrupt and direct everyone back to their seats to continue the Mass.
Last Sunday, under the timber frame open air pavilion of Carter Park with a clear view of our majestic mountains, I joined 200 parishioners and visitors in the annual Mass on the Grass. This Mass and the church picnic afterward have become a summer tradition in Breckenridge.
As we sit facing the altar with the backdrop of mountains, it is impossible not to make the connection between God and nature, surrounded by mountains, wildflowers and the scent of pine trees, we are in God’s cathedral. I believe this comes from within us, not from a specific ideology.
The open-air Mass therefore, first serves to connect the congregation to God through the beauty of his creation, in a way that could never be replicated within the walls of a man-made building, no matter how ornate.
Second, because it is out in the open, Mass on the Grass invites those who might never cross the threshold of a formal church to pull up a seat or stand at the back and participate in a Christian worship service.
Full disclosure, three months ago I began a part-time job working three half-days as the Parish Administrator of St. John’s. (However, I happily remain Roman Catholic and a member of St. Mary’s, right across the street.) Yet, my history with St. John’s goes back to when I first arrived in Breckenridge three years ago.
St. John’s has a generous spirit of volunteerism and community involvement. So, when I met Maggie Ducayet at a luncheon for the Breckenridge Music Festival and she invited me to join a knitting group that met weekly at the Next Page bookstore in Frisco, I had no idea that this group was a ministry Maggie had started to knit prayer shawls, which are distributed through St. John’s and St. Anthony’s hospital.
Later, when Maggie invited me to join her team at the weekly Tuesday community dinner at St. John’s, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, until Pat Hoogheem called and said that her husband Verne would be by in his Jeep to pick me up in the middle of a snowstorm.
That was three years ago. I am still a member of the knitting group and still a member of one of the many teams that commit to cooking and serving the community dinners which provide free meals every Tuesday of the year to hundreds of local families and young seasonal employees.
So when I read that church attendance is down and people no longer find God or traditional churches relevant, I find it difficult to jive with the enthusiastic, spirit-filled people I find at many churches in Summit County, like St. John the Baptist. Which is exactly why I’ve determined to profile as many of these churches as possible to inspire those who are not part of a church community to find one that fits their needs and beliefs.
With this goal in mind, I’ve asked Charlie, Rector and Episcopal priest of St. John the Baptist to answer this question in his own words: “Why should I come to St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church on a Sunday morning?”
“Are you a first-time visitor, or a long-time church attender? Are you a far-flung friend who visits the High Rockies seasonally, or a Summit County local? Are you a follower of Jesus, or are you seeking deeper meaning wherever it may be found? No matter who you are, where you are from, or where you might be on your life’s journey, you’ll find good company with fellow pilgrims and searchers at St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church!
“This place is holy. This place is fun. I love this church, and I think you might too! This church is named after our patron saint, John the Baptist, that crazy, living-on-the-edge zealot who pointed to Jesus and said, ‘This guy is the real deal. He loves God. He loves all people. Live like him!’ And so we do, trying our very best, with God’s grace, to be a welcoming community practicing hospitality, spirituality, and service — in short, embodying the love of God.
“Of course, there are many ways to embody the love of God, our neighbor, and our selves. And we hope you’ll find that sweet spot that both challenges and nourishes you, and others you meet along the way. Life is an adventure! Jump in with us!
“The Episcopal Church shares the historical and spiritual heritage of the Church of England. (You may have seen our enthusiastic Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, preach at the royal wedding of Prince Henry and Meghan Markle!) As such, we seek the ‘middle way,’ which means that we share aspects of both the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions, especially the twin emphasis on Word (Holy Scripture) and Sacrament (most centrally Baptism and Communion).
“An essential aspect of the Episcopal/Anglican tradition is that each individual is ultimately responsible for making his/her own decisions about the faith and life’s other important choices. To this end, each person is encouraged to develop an ‘informed conscience’ by prayerfully meditating on Holy Scripture (the Bible), exploring the tradition (the experience of holy men and women through the ages), and consulting their own God-given reason in the light of their own life experiences. And, equally important, each individual is nourished, supported, and challenged by participating in the life and ministry of the worshiping community.”
Find out more about St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church at StJohnsBreck.org. If you would like your church featured, email Suzanne at: email@example.com
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