Hello from Locust Walk! The season of anticipation is almost complete, and we await the Christ-child, preparing room for him in our hearts and at St. Mary’s. Each week, as the choir chants the Advent prose, we light another candle on the wreath, watching and waiting as those tiny flames grow into the blazing light of Christmas.
Our congregation continues to be a beacon of Christ’s light in University City and beyond. Campus ministry has grown into weekly Student Suppers and Bible Study, followed by a new candlelight Compline service with its own growing congregation. In the fall we joined with Christian organizations on campus to present “Camp Night” as part of Penn’s New Student Orientation, roasting marshmallows and singing church camp songs with upwards of 200 students on Perelman Quad. We opened St. Philip’s chapel on Tuesdays for mid-day mass, and throughout the year on difficult days in our national life to sit vigil with the local community in prayer for solace and strength, lighting votives under the gaze of the statue of Our Lady.
Our music program remains a bright light in our life together. This year our ever-growing, all-volunteer choir sang the Fauré requiem, and plans a Bach cantata for Lent 2017. The spring semester saw mid-week free community concerts for our neighbors, and in Epiphanytide we will be presenting two performances of Amahl and the Night Visitors, featuring “Amahls” from both the Philadelphia Boys and Girls Choirs. We will also be debuting our first musical fundraiser, Seasons of Love, benefiting the outreach ministries of the parish, with a Broadway cabaret of love songs conveniently scheduled right before Valentine’s Day. Tickets are available for both events!
Our gospel work beyond our doors has included an ongoing relationship with the Nationalities Service Center, which assists newly arrived refugees in Philadelphia, including a shared winter coat drive with St. Mary’s Nursery School. For the third year in a row we provided Christmas gifts to students in the Episcopal Community Services after school programs, and we remain the administrative home of the University City Hospitality Coalition, serving two meals weekly from our parish hall. Sadly, this year we said goodbye to two longtime members of the parish- Morris Sterling, who died on May 7th, and Denis Hazam, who died on November 18th. St. Mary’s alumni/ae from near and far returned to celebrate the lives of these two saints of our congregation, and shared stories about the part this parish played in their own lives.
I invite you to take a look at our new quarterly newsletter online at stmarysatpenn.org, as these are only a few highlights of our common life in 2016. While there you can check out our new online giving page, and make a contribution to the ministry of the parish- all that we do here at St. Mary’s is made possible through your love, prayers, and financial gifts. Thank you for your continuing support of St. Mary’s, and come and see us in 2017!
The Rev. Mariclair Partee Carlsen
Rector and Episcopal Chaplain to the University of Pennsylvania