Advent: Who are we?
Who are we? We are a community of Christians whose local roots go the middle of the nineteenth century. We worship in a landmark worship space as we have for the last 150 years. We are a congregation of The Episcopal Church and a part of the Diocese of New Jersey. Our worship and how we approach our faith have elements that would be familiar to one coming from many different backgrounds, whether one of the Protestant traditions or Roman Catholic or Orthodox. The celebration of the Holy Eucharist or Mass or the Holy Communion is our central act of our worship; but the study of scripture, preaching and congregational singing are important aspects of our worship lives.
We look to the Bible as the word of God, but believe that it must always speak to us in our own time and place. God has given us intelligence and our own experience to engage with and claim the gifts of scripture. Our liturgy follows the Book of Common Prayer which is similar to those used in other parts of the world wide Anglican Communion. Our worship moves from simple liturgies to those that claim the richness of our tradition from centuries past.
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More about Advent
Cape May is a resort community. Folk come from around the country and indeed from around the world to vacation and play. They also come to worship and join us in fellowship. Some come once. Some return for generations. One of the busiest times of the year begins at Memorial Day and ends in September. Certainly it is a time for traffic and not always being able to find a place to park near the church. The place after all was originally meant for horses not automobiles.
Advent is also a year round community. Some of those who are regular worshipers in the winter leave from June to September to worship at St. Peter’s in Cape May Point, a summer chapel which is only a couple of miles away. Those same folk return in the fall and some continue on in summer with the tasks of parish life (altar guild for example) even though they are worshipping at St. Peter’s. There are those who are here only until the snow begins to fly. There is the annual retreat to Florida or somewhere else that is warm. The point is that this congregation changes throughout the year. Advent is 3 or 4 different communities depending on the season.
It is also a place that is diverse in different ways. For many years the diversity reflected Cape May. So there were families that had their roots in fishing or farming or in one of the strong communities of color. As those different groups have changed so has Advent. Now the diversity tends to reflect those who arrive in Cape May to live, often in retirement. They come from Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York and bring with them their own expectations. All of them join those who grew up in Cape May either year round or in the summers.
For a priest looking out over the congregation on Sunday morning the diversity is obvious in worship. There are those who bless themselves and those who do not. There are those who stand and those who knell. Some come from parishes where bells were an expected part of life. Some are surprised. The common element is one of respect. We all know that we come from different social, ethnic and liturgical backgrounds.
Another mirror may be what keeps the parish busy; and it is busy. Take a look at the calendar. There is always something going on. During the program year a typical week will show multiple Bible study gatherings, a bell choir rehearsal, meetings of our women’s and men’s group, a book group, altar guild and a very busy outreach committee. The outreach committee coordinates hands on projects in the community and organizes the distribution of financial resources with which the parish has been blessed. All of this of course is to say nothing of meetings where the community uses our facilities for 12 step recovery programs or for concerts in the church. It is all pretty much non-stop.
Who are we? We are all of this. We are the lay Eucharistic ministers who bring the sacrament to those who are infirm and housebound. We are the young acolytes who serve on Sunday. We are a small but faithful choir that leads us worship on Sundays and holy days. We are the altar guild that prepares for worship and assists at weddings and funerals. We are the volunteers who feed the youth of the annual Diocesan Choir Week. We are ECW and its rummage sales in the fall and spring. We are the priests visible in our hospital and rehabilitation facilities and throughout the community. We are the ones who make our thanksgiving for all of God’s gifts. We are all of this.