St. Mary’s was in the forefront of racial integration in the Episcopal Church and in Philadelphia, advocated early and strongly for the inclusion and ordination of women, was an early home in the city for lesbian and gay religious advocacy organizations as well as being a safe gathering place for lesbian and gay youth in the city. For four years, our bell tower provided sanctuary to Vietnam War resistors, and as an early response to the AIDS epidemic, we founded a respite center for children and families affected by HIV/AIDS. Today, we serve as home base for UCHC, an interfaith homeless feeding program, partner with the Nationalities Service Center to support newly arrived refugees in our city, and strive in all things to live out our faith with our hands and feet.
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Because of our commitment to honor and respect the dignity of every human being, St. Mary’s Church makes every effort to make the language of our worship conform to our conviction that the nature of God embraces both male and female and that women and men are equal in God’s sight. We take our Bible readings and Psalms mostly from the New Revised Standard Version, sometimes modified to retain original meanings while avoiding gender specific references to God. In our liturgies, we make minimal but significant and important changes in the language of The Book of Common Prayer and its supplements in accord with our commitment to gender inclusive expression. Some historical texts, like the Lord’s Prayer, that are widely known and loved are used in familiar translations, as are copyrighted materials such as hymns and anthems. In those texts, as in the ones that are changed, we recognize and affirm both the feminine and masculine in God, as well as all the dimensions of God’s boundless creative love which we can yet neither imagine nor express.
*Thanks to St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. and the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London
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