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Church opens sanctuary to all for weeknight solitude

Church opens sanctuary to all for weeknight solitude

Many churches turn themselves inside out trying to figure out how best to welcome visitors, get them quickly engaged in church life, make sure they get to coffee hour and quickly sign up for parish committees. One church has made time inside the space of a week to let visitors in and leave them quite blessedly alone. From the Virginia Pilot:

Vicky Koch was looking for a quiet place to sit and be still with God during the week.

She found that at Emmanuel Episcopal Church during its open sanctuary for prayer, reflection and meditation – from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays. The weekly opportunity started Oct. 8 and is open to all, whether church members or not. …

On a recent Tuesday, Koch spent 45 minutes reading hymns, praying and writing in her personal journal. She made sure to read a chapter from Matthew, which she said is one of her favorites.

“It’s a time to sit and be still without conversation, so I can hear God speaking to me,” said Koch. “I think it helps on your journey, whatever your journey may be, to hear what God is saying to you.”

Opening the church doors on Tuesday nights was the inspiration of parishioner Richard Pulley, who says this quiet open time “allows people to take a step away from the world outside and come into a sacred space to relate to God, spirit and take time for them.” What a lovely idea, especially as we enter the Advent season. Read full story here.


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William R. MacKaye

St. Stephen and the Incarnation in supposedly dangerous Washington, D.C., is open from 8 a.m. to 8 or 9 p.m. every day of the week except Saturday. Interestingly, many of the people who work for nonprofits based in the adjacent parish house have taken to using the church as their entrance to their offices.


I don’t know if they still do it or not, but my parish in Ft Worth used to leave a small chapel open 24/7, while locking the doors to the nave. It was a pattern I found when I moved away to college, too.

Here in Rhode Island, though, everything is locked up tight. I don’t know if it’s the change in regions, or the change in the times. At least most RC parishes have daily Mass. The vast majority of Episcopal parishes here only have the Eucharist on Sundays, and *maybe* Wednesdays (my parish and maybe St John’s, Newport being the exceptions).

I understand the concerns about safety and theft, but there really ought to be a way to work around it. In a time when lots of people feel cut off from the church, actually locking them out seems counterintuitive.

Bill Dilworth

Jonathan Chesney

I’ve always adored the 24/7 openness policy; I think it has a lot to say about the church to the world, ideally.

I’ve worked in places that are in areas where (reasonably or fearfully,) parishioners were concerned about safety as well as theft. Any best practice advice or thoughts in that regard? How to be as safe as possible, without giving into prejudice or fear, while keeping the church open as a sanctuary to all?

Ken Campbell

The Church of The Holy Spirit in Orleans, Cape Cod, Massachusetts has been open 24/7 for prayer and meditation since the day the church was consecrated on the Day of Pentecost in 1933! Ken Campbell

Ann Gaillard

Because my parish is a small-town parish, we so far have been fortunate in keeping the church open daily from 8:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m. (sometimes later) for anyone to come in to pray, sit, take refuge from the cold, etc.

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