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Charles Wilson and I were shooting the breeze at a clergy conference. He was then rector of St. Philip’s, Columbus and I was then rector of St. Andrew’s, Pickerington a suburb of Columbus. Between the two of us we got this hair-brained idea for one of these parishes to surprise the other of these parishes on a Sunday morning in a “Flash Mass”. One parish would show up at the other parish’s principle Sunday service without telling them!
Instead of letting the idea float carefree away from our brains we actually held on to the idea, kept talking about it, and even better actually ended up doing it!
Next came the planning. Comparing calendars, we noticed that on Saturday February 6, 2016 St. Philip’s was hosting a large conference on Racial and Social Justice. St. Philip’s is a predominantly African-American Episcopal parish and was the host of the conference. It made sense to plan the Flash Mass to be the following day and to have St. Andrew’s – a predominantly white Episcopal parish – travel to St. Philip’s for it! Therefore Sunday, February 7th at 10:30 was the principle service of worship for St. Philips BUT it became the same place and time for the principle worship for St. Andrew’s too!
Senior wardens and music directors were brought into the planning. Hymns were selected, bulletins compared, liturgical instructions were shared, St. Andrew’s car pools were arranged and secretive parking maps were distributed to St. Andrew’s parishioners. St. Andrew’s did NOT put the location of the Flash Mass into its announcements so as not to tip off anyone at St. Philips. All Sunday announcements at St. Andrew’s were general until the day of.
On Sunday, February 7, 2016 St. Andrew’s brought its parish banner, two acolytes, 75 photocopies of the processional hymn, a 10:00 congregation and a hushed tone. After the St. Philips choir and altar party processed in, St. Andrew’s was right behind them. People in the pews turned around to see from where all these other voices were coming and began to smile when the St. Andrew’s banner become visible. The service was glorious and the hymn singing got the place swinging and swaying. St. Andrew’s stayed for coffee hour (the 8th sacrament). New friends were made, stories were shared and we all went home a little more like the Body of Christ.
The Rev Paul Williams, Subdean of Christ Church Cathedral, former Rector at St Andrew’s, Pickerington