We are a worshipping community, experimenting with what it looks like to bake a neighborhood church from scratch. We practice a weekly rhythm of worship, including a 5 p.m. Sunday Evening Liturgy with weekly Eucharist, Matins (contemplative morning prayer) on Wednesday mornings at 7:30 a.m., as well as building relationships through service, and communal study and reflection.
Why call it a Mission then?
Many of us have been religiously homeless, or spiritually unemployed. We want to create a place in the neighborhood to find a safe haven to hear about the truth of our unshakable identity as God’s beloved children. We also want to be an active community, doing work, and producing things to share with our neighbors. For us, mission is about always being ready to welcome the newcomer who is seeking to know the love of God, while also actively seeking to discover where God is happening out in the world, and to celebrate it.
What’s worship like?
Each week, we welcome people to “liturgy” – which means “work of the people.”
Which means, we’re gathered together to work. To participate. To produce. And not just consume. We follow the ancient liturgy of the church (communal confession, call and response chanting, scripture readings and a homily, a weekly Eucharist, and other old-time goodies).
But we also seek to perform fresh improvisations on ancient themes. Each week, following the homily, there’s a time of Open Space, where we can quiet and contemplation in our week, and respond to the Word with all of our five senses, making art, writing prayers, reading poetry, and other spiritual practices. And other than the homily and Eucharist, the service is entirely run by the gathered people. Even our music is self-produced: we sing a mix of old-time hymns and African American spirituals, and always a capella. So it’s less about perfection and more about communing together with God and one another.
Eucharist? Does that mean this is a Catholic Church?
Actually, SWM was started as a new mission of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and Pastor Matthew is an ordained missionary in that denomination. But our spiritual makeup is much more colorful. We’ve got Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, Buddhists, Doctor Who-vians, anarchists, the un-churched, the de-churched, the re-churched, the anti-church, and everything in between. We also do a lot of ecumenical work with the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester and with St. Joseph’s House of Hosptiality, a Catholic Worker community in the South Wedge.
So who’s welcome, and who’s not?
God’s family already includes all people, from every race, gender, orientation, age, class, and even creed. We’re just doing out best to catch up, and long for the day when all of these categories fade away. We’re a bunch of doubters who can’t seem to shake the love of God, and we believe people’s questions and struggles help us all know grace better. We don’t have membership, and whether you visit once or come every week, you are welcome at Christ’s table. Grace is for all and for you…whether you like it or not!
Are there children at SWM?
Absolutely! Every week during worship we have two Red Cross certified shepherds who help care for the kids during the scripture, sermon and Open Space portion of the liturgy, often doing interactive activities that reflect what’s going on upstairs. And after we pass the Peace, the children are brought upstairs and invited to participate in receiving and serving the Eucharist. They can even scream and be distracting if they so choose…because who isn’t, once in awhile?
Are you going to ask me for my money at church?
Sort of. We don’t pass a plate, but we do have a Gratitude Table. During Open Space, folks are invited to write something for which they are grateful in our Gratitude Journal, and if they feel led, they can place an offering in a basket. We believe financial giving can be a joy, and we strive to make sure all giving is directed straight back into our service in the neighborhood.