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An Anglican church opens for English-speaking worshipers

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The following is excerpted with permission from a fairly new-to-the-blogosphere writer. He is part of a new church mission whose leader is a priest who is a personal friend of ours. We’re excited that a new, open and progressive worship option has come to the expat community of Mérida and wish them well as they grow their congregation. This was originally posted March 20, 2016.

By Philip Andrew “Spike” Merrick

My siblings and I were not raised in the Catholic Church. I had always loved the traditions and music and the beautiful ceremonies of the Catholic Church, but as an openly gay young man growing up in the mid- to late-20th century, I simply could not join a church knowing full well that I would always be a second class citizen.

Fr. José Arruda
Fr. José Arruda

Sixteen years ago, my Mom, Pat Merrick and I joined the Episcopal Church, which is part of the Worldwide Anglican Communion, stemming from the Church of England. Mom passed away peacefully in her sleep, in my arms during the night of Good Friday 2014, here in the lovely and ancient city of Mérida, after 92 of a life filled with love, laughter, beauty and adventure.  The next morning my sister and I watched as a white dove waited in front of the house.

When we moved here to Mérida, there was no Episcopal Church. The Roman Catholic Church service is almost exactly the same as the Episcopal service and in the beginning I felt fairly comfortable attending mass here. I must admit however that I’ve always felt bit like an impostor and an intruder, not being Roman Catholic.

Last year I stumbled into La Iglesia de las Monjas, which offered mass in English every Sunday, presided over by a wonderful pastor, Padre José Vieira Arruda. He is a delightful and very kind, compassionate man who was born in Portugal and grew up in Canada. He speaks fluent English and Spanish and I think several other languages as well. Padre Jose is a wise and spiritual soul who cares deeply for his little flock. I have come to count him among my very dearest friends.

The services were enriched by the lovely pipe organ music of the extremely talented Jim Smiley and the angelic operatic voices of Gary Cooper Hartman, Sharron McGrath and Peter Cline. At this church I met a lot of wonderful people whom I now consider to be my good friends. A lot of them are either Episcopalians from the US or Anglicans from Canada and England with a few devout Catholics thrown in for good measure.

st. luke's mission merida
St. Luke’s mission meets for worship at a previous gathering space on Calle 70.

Our little community had been together for quite a while by the time I wandered in and had been worshiping at Monjas until a couple of weeks ago when the new Catholic Arch Bishop of Yucatán decided, for various reasons I won’t go into here, that this was no longer appropriate.

Some of our members acted very quickly and by the following Sunday, we were officially a part of the Worldwide Anglican Communion, with the blessings of the Anglican Bishop of South Eastern Mexico. Our dear Padre José has come with us and he has begun the process of becoming an Anglican Priest.

We are now worshiping at the home of one of our members until we can find a church building of our own. Our first service as St. Luke’s Anglican Church had 65 people in attendance.

To paraphrase my friend and fellow parishioner Frank Kriegel, we feel like the new Christians of the first century who gathered in the homes of friends to worship, study and celebrate and keep the gentle teachings of our Lord alive by sharing a meal in holy communion.

My only regret is that Mom is not here in the flesh to experience the delight of this brave new beginning.

St. Luke’s, a mission of the Anglican Church of Mexico, offers an ecumenical Christian worship service in English at 10 a.m. A second service, in Spanish, is at 11:15 a.m. Worshipers gather at Casa de las Torres, C. 75 #503 x 62 y 64, Centro.

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