The Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields is an Episcopal parish in the Diocese of Pennsylvania that is centered on the worship of God, the ministry of all baptized persons, and the call to be agents of Christ’s love in the world.
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Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields
8000 St. Martin’s Lane
Philadelphia, PA 19118
215.247.7466

The Rev. W. Jarrett Kerbel

St. Martin's Cloak

The Cloak is a collection of audio vignettes—stories that reveal parishioners’ faith journeys. Share your thoughts by sending us an e-mail.

I think it’s a value to allow controversy, to encourage controversy ….

Charlie Day

Charlie Day came to St. Martin’s in the late 1970’s and joined one of the first EFM (Education for Ministry) groups in the Diocese. This experience launched his sense of “mission” and social consciousness and led to his involvement in nuclear arms control and, later, the environmental movement. Charlie particularly values the church’s willingness to encourage diversity of thought and to risk controversy.

I think it’s a value to allow controversy, to encourage controversy, and to create a climate in which it doesn’t get out of bounds. I think the Adult Forum process, which very frequently involves round table discussions, encourages that because people aren’t afraid to speak up in a small group and have some back and forth at the table. And then, later on, that frequently gives them the courage to say what was on their minds when we get reports back to the full group.

One of the things that St. Martin’s does is to hold food events in the church—actually clear the benches away, clear the pews away and have a dinner there, have a band, have a concert. These are things that a lot of churches would be a little up tight about. But the original Christian churches, of course, met in people’s homes, and there were no boundaries between the food services and the church service.

So that’s something that St. Martin’s isn’t afraid to do.

I’d also mention in terms of things that have taken place in the church two outstanding events, in my mind, done on Sunday evenings. One was Steven Charleston, the dean of the divinity school in Boston, who gave a very moving and wonderful talk that affected everybody deeply.

The second was Gene Robinson, who came in …. Some people would think that that would be controversial. Here’s the gay bishop who’s been in the headlines who’s been praised on the one hand and criticized on the other. He was invited down to be with us worship with us and give a talk. It was a wonderful talk. In a way it had everything to do with being gay and nothing to do with being gay. Because the word barely crept into what he was saying. But it was a very moving and meaningful discussion.

So, the church doesn’t shy away from things like that.

I think St. Martin’s allows and encourages a great deal of diversity in terms of how people approach their faith, what they believe in. They can feel free to defend their beliefs at the same time that they respect the beliefs of other people.

So, you have a wide range of basic theological approaches in the congregation and all are okay. Nobody is being critical. Not that they wouldn’t want to talk about those ideas and facts and wrestle with them in conversation. But the people are respected and the diversity is expected to be there.

I think that’s why one of the things that attracts people to St. Martin’s is the fact that you do have a very rich liturgy, you have wonderful music, a wonderful variety of worship services, very, you might say, traditional – some traditional, some not so traditional, like the 9 o’clock folk mass. But there is a lot of tradition and sort of classical church involved at the same time that there is room for wide ranging discussion on issues of social and theological matters.