Dancing Saints Feeding People and Welcoming All

Last weekend, I visited St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco. I went out of a sense of necessity--they are known for cutting edge liturgy drawn from eclectic sources and for practicing communion of the unbaptized. No project on contemporary Episcopal liturgy could ignore them. I wanted to include their food pantry in the project, too, because they see that work as integrated with their liturgical life. I went with a bit of skepticism, though, because I tend to have a different view of baptism, and because I am wary of anything that looks too gimmicky--and I've encountered a few priests who looked at St. Gregory's and appropriated the Ethiopian parasols and ethnic fabrics and applied them as a veneer over their own, same-old liturgy. San Francisco is a long haul from home, so I wondered if the payoff would be worth the travel.

The experience was stunning. Liturgy and action are integrated there. God's overwhelming love is mirrored in their extravagant hospitality. The food pantry gave me a glimpse of the Kingdom. The liturgy is well thought-out and executed-- no wasted movement or sloppy verbosity. The "set dressing" is secondary to the spirit of the liturgy. And if I lived in San Francisco, this is where I would go to church.