Each Sunday at 5:00 P.M. an open community gathers for prayer and reflection on the lines of jazz.
The community is diverse and includes people who live near and far, native and new New Yorkers, and people visiting New York City. Oftentimes churches will bring groups from their home congregations. Others are not Christians or are exploring Christianity for the first time in this supportive environment. Musicians from New York and throughout the world come to play.
As at every other liturgy of Saint Peter’s Church, everyone is welcome.
By nature jazz in an open art form, always growing and exploring new edges to music making. By nature the church, too, is always listening anew to the voice of God and holding all people in a safe and creative environment in order to explore what it means to be people of God.
Truth is, the church has not always lived up to its end of the bargain. Saint Peter’s Church is committed to building an environment where all are welcomed and affirmed. In this way Saint Peter’s Church is very much what many call it: “the jazz church.”
Jazz is a particularly effective resource for building inclusive community. Anyone can participate in making jazz. Even the most casual observer makes music when tapping or clapping spontaneously along with the beat.
Jazz is this infectious. It blurs the lines of listener and player, and draws everyone deeper into its contours. Jazz sounds like God because jazz reflects God’s way of blurring lines. It draws people closer to God and to one another.
Improvisation captures an always-growing faith. Jazz has many entry points. Entering into the music at any time and in whatever way is a vision for life together in community.
Traditionally this liturgy is called Jazz Vespers, though from time to time communion is shared during a Jazz Mass. Whether it is Vespers or a Mass, there is time to light candles, to celebrate the glorious light of Christ in the midst of an otherwise dim world, to receive and offer prayers for healing and peace. A meaningful sermon is always preached and a great band always plays and leads the assembly in song. Everyone is invited to sing. Sometimes there is dancing.
The gifts and talents people bring to community are regularly incorporated into this always-expanding liturgy and the hospitality offered around it. Coffee and conversation are shared before Jazz Vespers, and afterward a light supper is served. You are invited to participate in whatever way you are able.
While bands are lined up well in advance, persons wishing to play at Jazz Vespers should contact Ike Sturm, director of music for the jazz ministry.
Church and other special-interest groups traveling from other parts of the United States or abroad are welcome to send word of a planned visit by email or by calling the church office.