If you live in or around Richmond, VA, and haven’t heard of the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Lenten series, you need to make yourself aware. Moreover, you need to make yourself attend. This is not a new tradition they have just begun; for over 100 years they have sponsored this series, which features notable preachers and yummy lunches each weekday during Lent.
The 30 minutes worship service take place at 12:30 and is centered around the proclamation of a preacher, many of whom are featured several days during a week. While an Episcopal service in style, it will certainly not feel at all foreign to a River Road worship attender, and prompts are given throughout to make even the most casual worship attender feel comfortable.
Hundreds of volunteers from churches all around the area help prepare and serve the lunches. There are two seatings (11:45am and 1:00pm) so you can eat before or after the service. The proceeds from the $8 lunches are given back to the community through various organizations that serve the needy. You sit down at a long table with strangers and enjoy good conversation over a hot meal. (I highly recommend the cheese soufflé, available every Wednesday; the crabcake, served every Friday, is also quite tasty. Actually, it is all really good!)
I admit, I always have grand plans of attending several times each season and I’m lucky if I get down there even once. It can feel like a bit of a hassle to head downtown, particularly when confronted with finding parking. But once I get over my hesitation, I never regret going. For every time I go, I come away enriched and nourished. I have never left disappointed.
I made a particular effort yesterday to attend in order to hear the Reverend Nadia Bolz-Weber, founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. I had read her New York Times best selling theological memoir, Pastrix: the Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint, and was intrigued. She gave those in attendance a new way of looking at the story of Adam and Eve in the garden, that perhaps it is not so much about disobedience as it is about covering up and rationalizing our mistakes that puts us at odds with God. God made everything good, not perfect.
I hope yesterday was not the only time I’ll make it to the series this season. Next week, I hope to go hear The Rev. Dr. John Kinney, Dean of the School of Theology at Virginia Union and a dynamic speaker and preacher. For those who enjoy a little less orthodoxy from time to time, you might consider going to hear the Rt. Rev. John S. Spong, who will preach Monday through Wednesday during Holy Week. (He will also offer a series of six meditations on Matthew’s Passion from 1:00-3:00 p.m. on Good Friday.)
If you are thinking you’d like to go sometime, let me know. I can use the extra motivation to attend and would love to join you!