Questions & Answers

What to expect at Mass?

The flow will be recognizable: Opening Song, Sign of the Cross & Greeting, Opening Prayer, Readings, Response, Prayers of the People, Eucharistic Prayer, Doxology, etc. You’ll notice a few things we do that are different. We choose to use inclusive language in our readings, prayers, and songs. Interactive by design, you’ll hear the voices of our members sharing after the homily, during the prayers of the people and the Eucharistic prayer. Our Eucharistic Ministers present the gifts. Everyone shares in blessing/invoking the Spirit and saying the words Jesus said at the Last Supper. Whether in the chapel or on Zoom, all are welcome to communion. Our liturgy typically concludes by 10:15 am eastern time.

Why is there talking after the Homily?
We believe in participative liturgy and value the wisdom of community members’ lived experiences. Each week during our time of sharing immediately following the homily, anyone in the chapel or on zoom is invited to share a brief insight from either the readings or the homily. Our experience has been that engaged sharing powerfully opens and deepens the message. We ask that people remember the ABCs of sharing and ensure their comments are Audible, Brief, and Christ-centered.
How SMM is different?

Several of our practices deviate from a traditional Roman Catholic parish. Highlights include:

  • We use inclusive and expansive gender-neutral language to refer to God. Rather than referencing God as Father, Lord, or King, we may choose to say Creator, Love, Holy One, Source of Life, Merciful One, Abundant Grace, etc.
  • At the beginning of each liturgy, we invite anyone new to introduce themselves.
  • We select our readings from multiple lectionaries and translations and integrate the writings of mystics and inter-spiritual wisdom teachers.
  • We intentionally tell the untold stories of courageous biblical women that are not included in the cycle of Sunday lectionary readings. A few named include Shiprah & Puah, Deborah, Esther, Bathsheba, Prisca, Junia, Priscilla, Lydia, and Mary Magdalene. Many unnamed are referenced only by where they came from or their relationship to a man, for instance, the Syrophoenician Woman and Simon’s mother-in-law.
  • After the homily, we welcome anyone briefly sharing an insight from the readings or homily.
  • Our Prayers of the People are not drafted in advance, they surface organically from the community members present.
  • Our Eucharistic Ministers present the gifts and stand at the table with the presider.
  • We use a variety of Eucharistic Prayers.
  • The entire community, in the chapel and on zoom, is invited to extend their hands in blessing and say the words of Jesus together.
  • Our Kiss of Peace in the chapel is extended. We greet each other with care.
  • We use different versions of the Prayer of Jesus.
  • Everyone, no exceptions, is welcome to the table.
  • Our language mirrors our beliefs. Rather than “I am not worthy,” we say, “Jesus, you make us worthy to receive you, and by your word we are healed.”
  • The presider is the last to go to communion.
  • Our monthly charities are proposed by community members and voted on by the community.
  • Our activities/events evolve organically, often in response to an offer by a member to lead. This is how Friday morning prayer, Lectio Divina, Reiki Share for Peace, Book Club, Hiking Club, T’ai Chi Chih, You Are Mine LGBTQ+ Support Group, and our programs during Advent and Lent began.
What’s the difference between Catholic and catholic?
The word Catholic comes from the Greek meaning “through the whole, universal, world-wide, all-inclusive.” When capitalized, often people mean the hierarchy and orthodoxy of the Roman Catholic Church. When described with a lower-case “c,” catholic means “universal” and “inclusive,” the people of God. By this distinction, SMM leans more catholic than Catholic.
What's the history of SMM and how was it formed?
In 2007, the Community of Saint Mary Magdalene was born in a field of dreams. Like the premise of the popular movie, the founders believed, if “we” built it, “they” would come. And come they did, from all over the five county Philadelphia area and the states of Delaware and New Jersey. During the COVID pandemic, our zoom Sunday liturgies attracted people from all over the United States, the United Kingdom, and Belgium.

The founders of the community emerged shell-shocked from the implosion of another intentional Eucharistic community determined not to replicate the patriarchal leadership of either the institutional church or the small community they had just left. They were resolved to build a discipleship of equals where all members had an equal voice. In the new community, there was to be no eminence of degree. The liturgy was to be the work of the people rather than the priest. The community was to be owned and operated by its members rather than by an outside entity or by the ordained members.

The Sunday liturgy reflects the community’s belief in the equality of all people before God as it organically grew from a tiny group of ten into what the community is today. After the homily, members of the community are invited to give their brief reflection on the readings. Parishioners offer the prayers of the people. The Eucharistic ministers offer up the gifts at the Offertory and remain with the priest at the altar during the Eucharistic prayer. The entire community prays the Eucharistic prayer and raises their hands over the gifts at the Epiclesis. The community prays the words of institution together.

The community empowers members to use their considerable gifts. Some are readers, others are Eucharistic ministers. Some provide opportunities for community prayer and study outside of Sunday liturgy. Others tend to our charitable giving. Some have been called to preach and others to preside at liturgy during the absence of the priests.

All Christian sects/denominations/churches are the heirs of early Christians, growing organically from their respective understanding of the gospel. What separates one denomination from another is so small, it is really not worth mentioning since Jesus promised that whenever two or more are gathered in his name, he will be present. Prior to the pandemic, the Community of St. Mary Magdalene, two United Methodist, and one Lutheran congregation participated in annual ecumenical worship services.

The Community of St. Mary Magdalene meets every Sunday in person and on zoom for a Eucharistic liturgy at 9 o’clock eastern time. All seven sacraments are available. There are many opportunities for prayer on zoom: First Fridays, Friday prayer services during Advent and Lent, and Lectio Divina. Community members lead an LGBTQ+ support group on zoom, engage in Reiki on zoom, and hike together through God’s green forests.

In their imperfect way, members of the Community of St. Mary Magdalene try their best to love one another and the world as Jesus commanded. The community has come this far by faith, leaning on our God, and trusting God’s holy Word. God has not failed us yet.