My Church Hosted a Pagan Ceremony. Here's What Happened Next
10/06/2039 8:08 AM ET
My Church Hosted a Pagan Ceremony. Here's What Happened Next
by Rt Rev. Peter Greene
Rector, St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church, Manhattan

CC BY-SA 4.0 "St. Bartholomew's Church on Park Avenue between East 51st and East 52nd Street in Midtown Manhattan, New York City during "Summer Streets", when seven miles of streets are closed to vehicular traffic, including Park Avenue from 14th to 72nd Streets." by Beyond My Ken | Writer image: CC0 1.0 Untitled by StockSnap | Images were croppe. Images used for illustration purposes only. Image changes released under the same license as the original.
St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church, Manhattan.
On Saturday last week, St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church hosted a "ceremony of thanks".

It was conducted by members of a coven of local Wiccans for the purpose of expressing spiritual gratitude.

We began at 5:30 a.m. with a small gathering made up of regular attendees, some of the church's leadership, and of course our Wiccan visitors. After greetings, our guests performed some preparation, setting the stage for our spiritual adventure!

The chancel had been cleared and candles were lit in a circle. A small table was prepared with a runner with symbols, on which were placed various kinds of offerings.

I and three other church leaders accepted the coven invitation to participate.

We began by arranging ourselves in a circle around the priestess, beautifully adorned in a white silk robe, and chanting whilst she invoked the blessings of the spirits.

Offerings of milk, wine, and honey were made. They were mixed together with the four elements: water, soil, powdered charcoal (to represent fire) and the mixture was then blown on by the priestess (to represent air). She then dabbed a small amount and applied it to our foreheads.

We finished by each offering our thanks and devotions to the spirits sustaining us. The ceremony was over in 15 minutes, after which we treated our guests to pastries and asked them questions about their faith.

Wicca is a diverse faith with a rich tradition which reaches across times, places, and cultures. It sustains a large number of people's spiritual needs globally and is a key cultural resource in the Western World today.

With paganism on the increase we felt it prudent - not to mention hospitable - to invite some members of that community to share their cultural individuality with us. St. Bartholomew's has a proud history of interfaith outreach and we were truly blessed to be able to witness this outworking of God's grace in our fellow man.

We are aware that our decision to host the coven did not sit easily with some members of the church, but we were convinced that the Lord's will is inclusion in His church. Christ turned away nobody, nor do we when an opportunity to be blessed with someone else's unique spiritual outlook is presented to us.

St. Bartholomew's has been criticized in some quarters for inviting the coven but we stand by our actions as a measure of the grace we have been offered through Christ Jesus. That we permitted it and participated in it does not diminish our grace, it enriches it through the diversity of spiritual expression we find in other people.

I have spoken to other leaders, and we are considering inviting the coven to return and bless our church. We may even ask their priestess to guest preach for us, so all can share in the wisdom available through the Lord's grace.

We're thankful for all of His glorious creation and look forward to more opportunities to engage other religions.

If you live in the New York area and are looking for an inclusive, non-judgemental place of worship, I invite you to partake in our vibrant community, where will do our best to serve and love you in whatever way you need!

Christ the Lord would ask nothing less of us.
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