The Thomas Mass

I just found this photo from the closing liturgy at the 2006 Politics and Spirituality Conference that the Center for Action and Contemplation and Sojourners co-hosted in Pasadena, CA. It was called a “Thomas Mass. ” The con-celebrants were Anita Amstutz, Richard Rohr, and myself. Jim Wallis preached.


The “Thomas Mass” was first created in Helsinki, Finland in 1988 by a collection of ministers of various denominations, artists, musicians, and civic leaders (hence it is not really a “Mass,” in the official Catholic sense). They wanted to create a prayerful service that would again fill their cathedral, but with seekers, searchers, and believers alike. They recognized that much of Europe had become a continent of skeptics, and so they named the service after St. Thomas “the Doubter.”

After an initial attempt to create an ecumenical and new liturgy, they realized that it basically had the structure of the historic Catholic Mass. It immediately began to spread across Europe.  The Thomas Mass avoids the usual denominational turf, arguments, and leadership, while still offering a deeply sacramental structure where disparate groups can gather in a faith-filled way.

It retrieves the historic meaning of the very word “liturgy” as a collective work of the people. One of the strengths of the Thomas Mass is that it emphasizes full participation instead of mere listening or “attendance.” It was a wonderful experience.