Habemus Altare

For those especially under 40, the Episcopal Church (and its companion churches and faith traditions) no longer seems a credible place in which to engage God, learn to pray or to give ourselves in ministry. We seem, to those outside us, exclusive and opaque.

Those of us who love the traditions (and habits) of institutional Christianity might feel somewhat wounded by the seeming disinterest in the practices we have come to live by. But if the Episcopal Church is to thrive in the 21st century, it must do three things. It must develop a clear, missional identity. It must project that identity outward and invite people into it. And it must take seriously the needs and concerns of those who come toward us and adapt to the new life and energy they bring.

Does that mean that we will no longer continue to worship in our stately Anglican ways? Of course not. But it does mean that we will need to find new modes of liturgical, musical, and theological expression to complement the great traditional strengths we already have. And this is not new behavior for Anglicans. Queen Elizabeth I forged a pragmatic consensus between Catholics and Protestants in 1559. Bishop William White of Pennsylvania led the first General Convention of the Episcopal Church to a uniquely American way of governance in 1789. The church opened itself up to the sacramental ministries of women bishops, priests and deacons in 1976. We have always been a pragmatic, evolving tradition.

The Rev. Gary Hall, the new Dean of Washington National Cathedral