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St. Paul's Episcopal Church: Service and Community in Brookline

By David Boegaard

St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Brookline, recognizable for its beautiful stone construction and prominent tower, is over 150 years old. St. Paul's has weathered a lot in its long history, including a devastating fire in the main sanctuary in 1976.

But rather than allowing the tragedy to shut the church's doors, St. Paul's opened them wider. "The St. Paul's community decided to rebuild under two conditions," says communications manager Eliza Marth. "First, 10% of the annual budget would be tithed to charity and justice organizations and second, the sanctuary would be open to the wider community." These covenants have become foundations of the spirit of the modern St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

"St. Paul's is a warm and welcoming community," says Marth. "People in all stages of life are invited to St. Paul's," notes Marth, "no matter where they are on their spiritual journey with or towards God."

One thing that stands out about the church is its attention to the needs of families. "The community invites families to be a part of the church service with a children's corner for the little ones," says Marth. But St. Paul's goes much further than this, providing education programs for children and adults at times that allow children and adults to attend together. And the church doesn't only strive to accommodate children- it actively appreciates their presence, suggests Marth. "The noise of children in the sanctuary is seen as an important aspect of worship at St. Paul's."

Of course, music provides an essential part of the service at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. As is fitting for an inclusive church with a long history, the music includes a variety of styles. "We enjoy a mix of traditional and contemporary hymns," says Marth, "supported by our lovely choir."

One place where St. Paul's shines especially bright is in the area of service to the community. The church describes its service wings as "ministries." "St. Paul's has a deep commitment to 'Faith in Action,'" states Marth, "with seven different ministries seeking to be a force of healing in our world."

The ministries include St. Paul's Ministry Outside the Parish program, which provides grants to nonprofits and community organizations- grants that total 10% of St. Paul's annual budget. St. Paul's also participates in summer youth enrichment programs, monthly educational programming for people of all ages. And these are only some of the services that St. Paul's parishioners provide.

Church members bake pies for the Food Pantry, make care packages, and participate in the city's annual Walk for Hunger. The Food Pantry has been running out of St. Paul's for a long time, though it no longer controlled by St. Paul's. "The Brookline Food Pantry is now an independent non-profit that was originally founded by the St. Paul's community," notes Marth. "The Food Pantry is an important ministry to the church with many members who volunteer and donate."

The Church opens its sanctuary space to public events, and many different concerts and other kinds of gatherings in the Church, each week.

St. Paul's also offers some special opportunities for parishioners to grow closer in faith and community. "My favorite event at St. Paul's is the Annual Parish Retreat," says Marth. "We retreat at the beautiful Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference center in New Hampshire." This serves as the location for reconnection and renewal. "Here, we deepen relationship with each other, with God, and with our families."

Above all, Marth wants to make sure that community members from Brookline and beyond recognize that the church welcomes them. "Please stop by St. Paul's, join us for worship, or feel free to visit us on Facebook! If you are new to the community, we would love to meet you."

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