On the 3rd floor of the City Centre Mall in downtown, Edmonton you’ll find a vibrant faith community that worships daily at the St. Benedict chapel. Established in 2005, the chapel’s purpose is to make visible the presence of the Lord in the heart of the city. The 1,200 square foot chapel offers three daily weekday mass celebrations and the opportunity for confession and counselling. Hundreds of people attend mass regularly at this little space, which is frequently standing room only.
On Saturday mornings the chapel offers tea, coffee and the opportunity for a friendly chat for those who happen to pass by. Although humble and small, St Benedict chapel exemplifies the mindset of the new evangelization. Why? Well first, because the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel provides an opportunity for a personal encounter with God; the converted storefront is sacred space carved out in the midst of the ‘world’. It’s a place for silence. When I think about this, I can’t help but recall the passage from 1 Kings 19:11-12 where it’s revealed that only in silence is the Lord’s gentle whisper heard. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the mall, and the tantalizing ads which promise so much, there's a place where you can be still enough to hear God's whisper.
Ok Second, St. Benedict chapel meets people where they are. St. Paul the great evangelist worked as a tentmaker in the marketplace, and while he worked he proclaimed Christ to all who passed by. I imagine that Paul would find himself at home in the mall, preaching the good news to all within earshot. I compare it to archival images I’ve seen of religious men and women in front of make-shift tents pitched in the middle of the wilderness. In our day converting a storefront into a prayer space, has similar evangelical gusto.
Placing a chapel in the middle of the mall creates a space that is close enough for both the Tim Horton's employee or the CEO to slip out and spend some time in adoration. Finally, the chapel is in a public space, which reminds me that our faith has a public and social dimension to it. Our faith is not a private matter. Our faith is personal, but it’s not private. It’s a gift that we share with the world, it’s an invitation for all of us to come together to worship Jesus.
Find out more about the St. Benedict chapel here