A visit to St Mark’s

“There’s nothing like a good snake story”

Rev. Carla Robinson

March 14, 2021

Yesterday I had the opportunity to preach at St Mark’s Cathedral. I had the chance to preach of the words of Jesus: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.”

The cathedral is preparing to resume limited in person worship starting March 21st. Yesterday was a “test run” for March 21st. For me it was a chance to preach to preach in a nave with more than five people present. It felt quite good. I miss preaching to an assembly that is present locally. I was thankful for the opportunity to preach to group in the same room with me.

I have not been inside the cathedral’s main nave for a few years. Since my last time there a number of building renovations and property improvements have happened. There was quite a bit to see and to take in. However coming in from the office entrance I went at once to what I consider to be the Holy of Holies: The Altar Guild Sacristy.

As I stood there the woman who had Altar Guild duty for the day came in and was clearly surprised to find me there. She said, “Oh. Rev. Robinson. Welcome.”

In reply to the question that was on her face (which was “What are you doing in here?), I told her that Altar Guild was the first liturgical ministry I was invited into and that it holds a special place in my life. She looked surprised again and said, “Hmm. I didn’t know that about you.”

After vesting and preparing myself for worship, I slipped into the nave and ditched my shoes in an out of the way spot. Though many things in the cathedral space have changed, the floor of the nave has not and my feet immediately recognized its familiar features. I closed my eyes and let the sensation of my bare feet against the floor conjure up a flood of memories and images from my years at St Mark’s. So many faces of amazing people I met at St Mark’s. So many sacred remembrances of experiences there.

As I prayed I felt humbled by and thankful for what the community of St Mark’s gave me. St Mark’s is where I learned the reach, the joy, the power and the beauty of the ministry of the laity. St Mark’s is where I learned how to be a lay person and how to claim my baptismal ministry.

I grew up in the church but I didn’t learn how to be an adult in lay ministry. I went from high school to college to seminary to ordination. It was not until I left the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and came to the Episcopal Church that I learned what it meant to be a lay person. It was at St Mark’s where I experienced lay ministry first hand. It was best thing that happened to me on my journey to ordination the second time around.

The worship service itself brought me to tears at a couple of points. Both moments were around hymns. “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” was one of my mom’s favorite hymns and we sang it at her funeral. The hymn seldom fails to bring me to tears. The other was “Deck Thyself my Soul with Gladness,” which took me straight back to the church where I grew up, St Philip Lutheran Church in Cleveland, Ohio.

Still the highlight of the service had to be receiving Eucharist. First off, it’s been a long time and I lingered prayerfully over the host before consuming it. Also I was aware that I was at the same rail where I first knelt and received communion for the first time in the Episcopal Church 22 years ago. Seem unreal that so much time has passed.

After the service, I greeted a few people at the door. I took off my vestments. I quietly slipped out of the cathedral as the group was debriefing the experience in preparation for March 21st. I drove home feeling spiritually full and thankful. It was a good visit.

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