Saint Mary’s Episcopal Church is located in Arlington, Virginia, and is the largest and perhaps most visible Episcopal Church in the region. With over 1900 members made up of many new families and individuals, the congregation skews young in age. Children are a vital part of their ministry, and the church articulates a special responsibility for their care and education and for ensuring their full involvement in the life of the Church. Saint Mary’s commits one quarter of its annual parish to the needs outside the walls of its church, and encourages its parishioners to participate in community outreach. Their project is entitled Forming the Body: Sunday Worship as the Foundation of Discipleship.
Project: Forming the Body–Sunday Worship as the Foundation of Discipleship
Worship is the center of Saint Mary’s–the heart from which all life of the parish flows. It is the source of our creativity, power, and authority. All that we undertake as a community and as individuals stems from the primary experience of liturgy.
Our parish takes not only its name but its priorities from the figure of Mary. Just as Mary’s first act of worship, the Magnificat, articulated a concern for the poor, so does our worship lead us into specific, embodied obligations. Saint Mary’s has long emphasized outreach, giving a quarter of its budget outside the parish, and parishioners are active in a variety of ministries with the poor. Similarly, we have a particular care for the children in our midst. We have put many resources towards our Sunday School, Music, and Youth program, and swelling numbers of young people on Sunday provide evidence of this dedication.
We hope, through the ISM’s Congregations Project, to examine more closely the connections between our prayers and our actions.
In particular, we want to consider how the two sacraments at the heart of our weekly worship–Baptism and the Eucharist–prepare us to embody Christ for one another. How do we live into the covenant that we make as we baptize infants? What does the way we prepare adult catechumens tell us about their obligations to their neighbor? We believe that Eucharist is an opportunity for us to receive the body of Christ, and then to become that very body for a world that needs to be fed. How does our liturgy articulate and strengthen that connection?
Through the ISM Congregations Project, we would like to consider more carefully how we are living into the identity of our patroness. Our worship is the genesis of all that we do as a parish–it articulates our values and priorities, and in that very articulation so deepens them. When is our worship most effective at communicating Mary’s joy and Mary’s compassion? How does it form us to follow in her footsteps? How do our songs, our prayers, and our preaching all prepare us for real, incarnate discipleship when we walk outside the church’s doors? Where might these things be changed, clarified, or strengthened?
2609 N Glebe Road
Rev. Andrew T.P. Merro, Rector
Gregory Hooker, Minister of Music
Margaret Adams Parker, lay leader