The Rev. Edward Meeks and his flock attended to a “million and one details” last week in the run-up to a momentous day for their church. People to talk to. Flowers to arrange. Food to cook. And, of course, the new sign.
On Sunday, Christ the King Church â€” Anglican â€” became Christ the King Catholic Church.
The Towson congregation of about 140 is one of the first groups in the United States to join a new “ordinariate” established for those who want to be Catholic but hold on to Anglican traditions. The largest Anglican church in the country to do so, it follows in the footsteps of Mount Calvary Church in Baltimore and St. Luke’s Parish in Bladensburg.
Liberal stances by Anglican leaders, particularly Episcopalians, have driven some clergy and members to the Roman Catholic Church. But Meeks, who studied to become a Catholic priest as a young man, speaks not of rejection but of reunification â€” becoming one with the “authentic apostolic authority” of the church that dates back 2,000 years.
“We’re just overjoyed by this,” said the Rev. Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, who heads the U.S. ordinariate, the equivalent of a diocese but national in scope. As parishioners of all ages scurried past to take their seats for the Mass, he added, “It’s such a healthy community â€” you can see it’s full of children.”
The parishioners who became Catholics Sunday morning were joining the church for the first time or returning after years apart. A handful of parishioners haven’t decided whether to make that leap, though they’re remaining in the congregation.
Others left. The 140-member church had about 200 parishioners when it started down the road to Catholicism almost two years ago, losing both those who didn’t want to be Catholic and those who opted for a more traditionally Catholic experience.
That loss has been painful, parishioners say. But they add that the transformation from Protestant to Catholic has not been acrimonious â€” in contrast to the roiling discontent that produced the Church of England more than 450 years ago and that spawned Anglican churches around the world. Some parishioners who went elsewhere return for social events.
“We’ve still got a good relationship with virtually all who have left,” Meeks said.
For Meeks, known as Father Ed, the journey to this day was circuitous. [More]