There are those who have wandered into the chapel at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Sunday afternoons because of a six-letter word.
Some stop out of curiosity.
“They are out walking their dogs on College Street, and they see the sign,” said the Rev. Hal Weidman, the rector at St. Paul. “We have had them come in wearing their exercise attire.”
And that’s fine, because the dress code at the weekly Celtic Holy Eucharist service is so relaxed that even the priest is in somewhat of a dress-down mode.
Weidman greets the late-afternoon worshippers in a cassock -- a close-fitting, ankle-length garment -- before briefly leaving the chapel to change into a traditional surplus and stole during the meditation part of the service.
Weidman began the Celtic Eucharist services in June 2012, to give the 145-year-old church a “spiritual kick start” and to integrate a new and creative, yet reverent, way to worship.
It has been promoted in an attempt to “reach a wider circle and opportunity to connect with God.” It is also part of an ongoing effort to attract student and young professionals in the College Hill corridor.
The community service is held each Sunday at 5 p.m. in the Beckwith Chapel in the Parish House at 753 College St.
Weidman spent about three months educating St. Paul’s congregation on the Celtic (pronounced kel-tick) worship tradition, which has been widely misinterpreted and misunderstood.
First, he said, “it has nothing to do with Boston’s basketball team.” Or the popular Celtic Woman group, which gave a concert at the City Auditorium three weeks ago. Or the druids, of ancient Gaul and Britain, who played an important role in pagan Celtic society by driving out evil spirits.
Weidman’s interpretation of Celtic worship is the more straightforward practice of Christian devotion and prayer. He describes St. Paul’s service as liturgical, monastic, meditative and prayerful, focused on “connecting our minds and hearts with God.”
It does not attempt to replicate the Celtic’s style of worship or expression of faith. However, he said the church adapts “ancient sources” as a foundation.
“Original Celtic traditions reflect acceptance of diversity and difference, a way of evangelism that shares the good news of Christ in the context of friendships, compassion for all of creation and living as a community of prayer,” Weidman said. “There is no need to be anxious about being evangelized. We do not methodically or forcefully convert anyone. We believe that God’s presence permeates daily life and transforms it, so that any task can become an encounter with God.”
Bible readings come primarily from Psalms, as well as the writings of St. John, the desert monks, poetry and storytelling. The congregation also participates in holy Communion.
He said the service usually attracts about 25-30 people to the intimate, 70-seat chapel. St. Paul’s is not the first Episcopal church to offer a Celtic worship service. In the past, Celtic services have been held at St. Francis Episcopal Church on Forest Hill Road.
Weidman has a background in environmental science and health, and also served in the Air Force. He was ordained in 2002 and has been at St. Paul’s since 2010.
He often dims the lights in the chapel, leaving only the sunlight to filter through the eight stained-glass windows.
“We encourage relationships by reflecting hospitality and deep connections with each other,” he said. “As part of our worship, those present request prayers for healing and receive anointing.”
After the service, he said worshippers often gather for a “movable feast” -- dinner at a local restaurant.