The Rev. Daniel Ade at Saturday's services at Incarnation Chapel...

The Rev. Daniel Ade at Saturday's services at Incarnation Chapel in Carle Place. Credit: Howard Simmons

The worshippers sit in a circle facing each other instead of in rows of pews looking at the priest. There’s a 10-minute silent pause for contemplation. And when the service is over — on Saturday evening instead of Sunday morning — they share dinner together.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Carle Place closed two years ago amid declining attendance and what the bishop called a model stuck in the 1950s. He promised to reopen it “like a church in the 21st century.”

Now, says Bishop Lawrence Provenzano, that has happened. Two priests who spent 18 years leading the Episcopal cathedral in Los Angeles have moved east and brought some innovative ideas with them that might serve as models for other parishes.

The newly branded Incarnation Chapel, which opened in January, seeks to break some molds and revitalize a parish that was all but moribund and, at times, using a prayer book from 1928, Provenzano said.

The two priests are looking to create a more intimate, meditative and community-oriented model that will attract the “unchurched” — people not involved in any formal religion — or those who feel alienated from the church they do belong to.

The 5 p.m. church service is “small, it’s intimate, it’s quiet,” said the Rev. Daniel Ade, a co-head of the parish. “Our sense is that there’s a need for that now. There’s a need for community.”

The church hopes to reach out to those who feel alone, especially after the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of technology and social media that often leave people feeling connected on a superficial level but ultimately cut off, he said.

“There is such a crisis of loneliness in America,” he said. The church aims to be “a tonic against being locked into the world of your phone.”

Provenzano said he was “really excited” by the new experiment and that parts of it could translate to the other 128 parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, which has 40,000 members.

“The only other place where you see pews are in a courtroom and it’s to keep people away from each other,” the bishop said. “It’s to keep them in order. And that’s not what should happen in church.”

Congregants sing worship songs together a cappella in another innovation that helps build community, said the Rev. Mark Kowaleski, co-head of the parish.

He and Ade make the Saturday evening meals themselves — simple dinners of salads, stews, lasagna.

Beverly James, a lifelong Episcopalian from Westbury, said she started attending the services because they were on Saturday and more convenient.

“I love it,” she said. “When I got there, it was even better than I thought because it allows for the opportunity to be quiet and to center myself … It’s almost like being on a sabbatical. It’s a retreat for the soul.”

She still attends larger services at the nearby Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, the seat of the diocese, on Sunday mornings, but likes the smaller, more intimate setting of the new church.

“I’m really impressed with the spirituality of the whole thing,” she said. “I love the pomp and circumstance of the Episcopal Church, but sometimes you just need to be quieter and be in touch” with yourself.

The priests have moved the services out of the traditional sanctuary and into the more open parish hall, which allows for the circular seating. The sanctuary is now used for activities such as community meetings and, hopefully, a children’s camp this summer.

The new parish avoids buildings and grounds committees and the like because it is under the umbrella of the Cathedral of the Incarnation, whose staff handles the administrative duties of the chapel.

By having services on Saturday, it frees up the two priests to celebrate Masses at other parishes on Sunday mornings.

Ade and Kowaleski were the longtime co-heads of St. John’s Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, near the University of Southern California campus.

Part of their duties included overseeing the planning of a multimillion-dollar housing project of more than 200 apartments, including many affordable units.

Ade said the project consumed vast amounts of their time and energy. At the Carle Place church, they want the opposite — no committees, no rummage sales, just a place to worship.

They both retired about 18 months ago and decided to move to Long Island, where Ade grew up and still has family. They noticed the Carle Place church was closed and offered to reopen it.

They decided “it’s time for us to go back to being priests and not commercial real estate brokers,” Ade said. “We feel revitalized by this mission. It’s everything I hoped for.”

He stressed that the diocese had no intention of selling or developing the parish grounds.

The priests said early signs were promising. They are already attracting 25 to 30 people a week and sometimes double that. One 7-year-old who attended with his relatives asked to be baptized there, and was this month.

Some people are hearing about the service through word-of-mouth and are traveling from Wantagh, Huntington and Patchogue for it.

“Like any experiment, it might fail,” Ade said. Although, “I don’t think it will.”

The worshippers sit in a circle facing each other instead of in rows of pews looking at the priest. There’s a 10-minute silent pause for contemplation. And when the service is over — on Saturday evening instead of Sunday morning — they share dinner together.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Carle Place closed two years ago amid declining attendance and what the bishop called a model stuck in the 1950s. He promised to reopen it “like a church in the 21st century.”

Now, says Bishop Lawrence Provenzano, that has happened. Two priests who spent 18 years leading the Episcopal cathedral in Los Angeles have moved east and brought some innovative ideas with them that might serve as models for other parishes.

The newly branded Incarnation Chapel, which opened in January, seeks to break some molds and revitalize a parish that was all but moribund and, at times, using a prayer book from 1928, Provenzano said.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • An Episcopal church in Carle Place that was shuttered two years ago has reopened with a new approach that seeks a more meditative, intimate experience.
  • Two priests who ran the Episcopal cathedral in Los Angeles for 18 years are heading the new experiment.
  • Worshippers sit in a circle facing each other instead of in pews looking at the priest. Afterward, everyone shares a meal.

The two priests are looking to create a more intimate, meditative and community-oriented model that will attract the “unchurched” — people not involved in any formal religion — or those who feel alienated from the church they do belong to.

The 5 p.m. church service is “small, it’s intimate, it’s quiet,” said the Rev. Daniel Ade, a co-head of the parish. “Our sense is that there’s a need for that now. There’s a need for community.”

The church hopes to reach out to those who feel alone, especially after the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of technology and social media that often leave people feeling connected on a superficial level but ultimately cut off, he said.

“There is such a crisis of loneliness in America,” he said. The church aims to be “a tonic against being locked into the world of your phone.”

Provenzano said he was “really excited” by the new experiment and that parts of it could translate to the other 128 parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, which has 40,000 members.

“The only other place where you see pews are in a courtroom and it’s to keep people away from each other,” the bishop said. “It’s to keep them in order. And that’s not what should happen in church.”

Congregants sing worship songs together a cappella in another innovation that helps build community, said the Rev. Mark Kowaleski, co-head of the parish.

He and Ade make the Saturday evening meals themselves — simple dinners of salads, stews, lasagna.

Beverly James, a lifelong Episcopalian from Westbury, said she started attending the services because they were on Saturday and more convenient.

“I love it,” she said. “When I got there, it was even better than I thought because it allows for the opportunity to be quiet and to center myself … It’s almost like being on a sabbatical. It’s a retreat for the soul.”

She still attends larger services at the nearby Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, the seat of the diocese, on Sunday mornings, but likes the smaller, more intimate setting of the new church.

“I’m really impressed with the spirituality of the whole thing,” she said. “I love the pomp and circumstance of the Episcopal Church, but sometimes you just need to be quieter and be in touch” with yourself.

The priests have moved the services out of the traditional sanctuary and into the more open parish hall, which allows for the circular seating. The sanctuary is now used for activities such as community meetings and, hopefully, a children’s camp this summer.

The new parish avoids buildings and grounds committees and the like because it is under the umbrella of the Cathedral of the Incarnation, whose staff handles the administrative duties of the chapel.

By having services on Saturday, it frees up the two priests to celebrate Masses at other parishes on Sunday mornings.

Ade and Kowaleski were the longtime co-heads of St. John’s Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, near the University of Southern California campus.

Part of their duties included overseeing the planning of a multimillion-dollar housing project of more than 200 apartments, including many affordable units.

Ade said the project consumed vast amounts of their time and energy. At the Carle Place church, they want the opposite — no committees, no rummage sales, just a place to worship.

They both retired about 18 months ago and decided to move to Long Island, where Ade grew up and still has family. They noticed the Carle Place church was closed and offered to reopen it.

They decided “it’s time for us to go back to being priests and not commercial real estate brokers,” Ade said. “We feel revitalized by this mission. It’s everything I hoped for.”

He stressed that the diocese had no intention of selling or developing the parish grounds.

The priests said early signs were promising. They are already attracting 25 to 30 people a week and sometimes double that. One 7-year-old who attended with his relatives asked to be baptized there, and was this month.

Some people are hearing about the service through word-of-mouth and are traveling from Wantagh, Huntington and Patchogue for it.

“Like any experiment, it might fail,” Ade said. Although, “I don’t think it will.”

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