Many gays and lesbians who attended church in their youth, began to feel ostracized by homophobic dogma as they grew into adulthood. Some congregations have tried to reach out to these children of God by welcoming them into their church families. In June of this year, three American Christian denominations addressed LGBT issues at their national conventions.
Over the next few months, Camp will profile a few local congregations and extra-ecclesiastical organizations as a service to readers who are searching for ways to reconnect with the faiths of their childhoods or looking for a new place to worship.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
On the periphery of Kansas City’s downtown government district is a rustic cathedral. Dwarfed by glass and art deco towers, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church is an example of Victorian Gothic architecture. Finished in 1888, its interior is made of Kansas City brick laid with red mortar, and capped with Warrensburg limestone. Caned chairs, a 32-foot high marble altar, and a mammoth pipe organ are often lit by sunlight diffused through the painted art glass windows. The 19th century structure is on the National Register of Historic Places.

St. Mary’s is part of the American Episcopal Church, whose governance is invested in bishops; a new presiding bishop being elected every nine years. The presiding bishop elected this year, Katharine Jefferts Schori, is the first female in that role. Delegates to the Episcopal General Convention in Columbus, OH, passed Resolution B033, which recommends that diocesan leadership “exercise restraint” when considering the consecration of openly gay bishops in the American wing of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Bishop Jefferts Schori supports the blessing of same-sex unions and has said that she does not regard homosexuality as a sin.

The urban congregation that is now St. Mary’s was originally named after the evangelist St. Luke; it was this group that lent its name to St. Luke’s Health System. When the parishioners moved the church to its current location, they built on land paid for primarily by the Troost family (the same family the city recognized with Troost Avenue). It was the wish of the family that the new building be named after Mary Troost; hence the current name of the congregation and building.

Having been chartered in 1857, the congregation celebrates its sesquicentennial next year. St. Mary’s is the oldest Episcopal church in Kansas City, Missouri. The building is regarded as one of the finest acoustical spaces for performances in the area, according to Rev. Lauren Lyon, Rector of St. Mary’s. Every year St. Mary’s, which has a deep interest in the arts, plays host to the Summerfest chamber series concerts on four Sundays in July. There is also an organ recital series once a month on Sundays from September through May, and the church St. Mary’s is available for other group performances throughout the year.
In the 150 years St. Mary’s Episcopal has weathered in Kansas City, its membership has risen and fallen over the years.

Rev. Lyon now sees opportunity for growth with the renaissance of downtown and the commensurate increase in downtown residential space. She and her parishioners want St. Mary’s to be visible in the community as an active congregation. Rev. Lyon cites an amazing hospitality and the fine welcome first-timers receive at the church for this success. She says well over 50% of those who visit decide to become members.

For more than a decade St. Mary’s has been an open and affirming congregation with an extremely diverse makeup. Its theology is considered to be Anglo-Catholic—similar in ceremony but more progressive in belief than Roman Catholicism. According to Rev. Lyon, while allowing for a great latitude of individual conscience, thought, and belief, the congregation unifies itself through common ritual and public worship.

Sunday services:
8 AM and 10 AM
Additional 6 PM service September through May.

St Mary’s Episcopal Church
1307 Holmes
Kansas City MO 64106

One ministry to which the membership of St. Mary’s Episcopal is committed is Downtown Outreach Inc., a 501(c)3 corporation organized by the church. Downtown Outreach provides free lunches on Saturdays in the parish hall, serving an average of 200 meals each week. The ministry also hands out weekly around 50 bags of groceries to needy households.

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Photo by Alonso Reyes on Unsplash

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