The phrase “Picnic Church,” which I coined some years ago for the outdoor Eucharist connected to our Annual Parish Picnic, seems to have a much larger incarnation and following.
“Mass on the Grass” seems to be a real thing, especially among Roman Catholic and Episcopal parishes or organizations.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore had a huge Mass on the Grass in 2012. The outdoor service was followed by a bonfire and a Christian rock concert. The Archdiocese advertised, “It’s not as large as Woodstock, but Mass on the Grass will feature a concert in a field, and it promises to be plenty big.”
In August, the SS. Francis and Claire Catholic Church in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and the Catholic communities at the University of Colorado at Boulder each held a Mass on the Grass.
In September, both St. Gabriel the Archangel, St. Louis, Missouri, and Holy Family, Glendale, California, held their annual Mass in the Grass.
The Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut holds a weekly Mass on the Grass each Saturday at 2:00 p.m. outside the Friendship Center in New Britain, sponsored by eight Episcopal parishes and organizations.
Perhaps I should change my language and get on-board.
At Holy Communion, we have made fabulous progress with the renovations to our parish houses (Blaisdell and Greenwood) and with our partially finished driveways and parking lots. The new Cheney Parish Hall kitchen is complete, as is the children’s play area immediately outside, and Sunday worship in the parish hall is going just fine.
The Parish Office administrative suite, Vaughan Welcome Center, Blaisdell Lower Level, music suite, youth suite, and second and third floor meeting rooms are all complete and beautiful. Truthfully, only the nave and gym/wellness center remain.
But with construction fences and temporary parking lots still in place, we do not quiet yet have enough room for a Mass on the Grass. So, this Sunday we’re picking up Picnic Church and heading northward to the St. Columba Conference and Retreat Center, our Episcopal camp.
This Sunday's 10:30 a.m. service will be a true Mass on the Grass, as we will worship in the St. Francis Outdoor Chapel, a permanent chapel with an altar, benches, a wrought iron Gothic arch, and a reredos of huge trees.
Music for the service will be led by our Parish Choir, donned not in vestments but comfortable, cool attire, and we will have Celtic instrumental music played by fiddle, flute, Irish whistle, and guitar.
Following the service, we will have a bona fide southern “dinner on the grounds,” featuring Memphis’ famous Stephenson’s SuperLo Foods fried chicken, which has become somewhat of a Holy Communion tradition.
SuperLo’s fried chicken is reason enough to attend church at St. Columba this Sunday morning, by the way.
Mass on the Grass will return to our church campus for the next year’s Annual Parish Picnic, with worship beneath our own huge trees, potluck lunch in front of the church portico, and games on the restored front lawn.
Episcopalians traditionally dislike change, but maybe I should consider Mass on the Grass as a permanent change for Picnic Church – something that I will consider.