A House of Prayer for All People / Boston Cathedral

Tegan Northwood’s striking photography of the mosque-cathedral of Córdoba in Spain was accompanied by her plea for the building, now functioning as a church, to be used by Muslims for their Friday prayers (see the previous post in the archive).

I don’t know how common it is that church buildings invite use for Jumu’ah prayer, but one fine example I know is the Cathedral of St. Paul, the Episcopal (Anglican Communion) cathedral of the Diocese of Massachusetts. Heading in or out of the building on Fridays (as I often did, as then Priest Assocaite of the cathedral congregation, The Crossing) means being caught up in crowds of Muslim persons coming or going to pray.

Taking seriously it’s strapline “A House of Prayer for All People,” the cathedral shelters Muslim salat each Friday. The prayer is now held in the recently refurbished space which has a massive labrynth built into its stone floor. But that’s not all: there are rich Christian celebrations and different forms of witness through the week. So in addition to Sunday morning liturgies of eucharist—when the altar-table stands at the heart of the labyrinth with the assembly seated in circles around—many other ministries take place or take off from the space. A further Sunday assembly, in Mandarin, gathers a community of persons of Chinese heritage. On Monday, there is one expression of MANNA (“Many Angels Needed Now and Always”), a multifaceted ministry of, with, and by homeless and roofless persons—a highly communalised eucharist usually held in the open-air on Boston Common across the street from the cathedral.

And on Thursday evenings, The Crossing: an emergent worshipping community comprised of mainly young adults among others, at which plainchant might mingle with jazz, the gospel reading might be sung spontaneously by all accompanied by the drone of a Shruti box, breaking open of scripture begins with one person but turns to conversation with many others joining in, extemporaneous prayers of the people could be long and winding around the needs of the world as one person after another voices their petitions, the whole assembly stands orant (arms raised, hands up-facing) for eucharistic celebration and then ministers the gifts of the table to one another, and the gathering often tips out of church onto a justice march, justice work or protest. 

MANNA and The Crossing regularly take their liturgy outside. The accompanying photos show the cathedral space, The Crossing at prayer, The Crossing celebrating eucharist at Boston Pride, bishops Tom Shaw and Barbara Harris riding in the Crossing car in a Pride parade, and the Crossing in dialogue with other Pride marchers—the word on the street.

Hospitality like hosting Jumu’ah prayer or getting on board with gay pride disturbs some Christians,* and delights others. Welcome to church.

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For more, see: www.stpaulboston.org and www.thecrossingboston.org (on which the images below are found). For more on the renovation of the cathedral, see: http://www.contextarc.com/religious/

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* For, for example, the Anglican Church of Australia’s response to The Episcopal Church’s development of marriage rites for same-sex couples, see https://extranet.generalconvention.org/staff/files/download/21045