Continuing Home

The ongoing saga of a Continuing Anglican church home, as seen by a member of the laity.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

6th Day of Christmas: Visitors and Camels

I can't say I was feeling very good this morning, having woken up way too early with a bit of an intestinal upset, but I was on deck to serve this morning and so I went anyway. I'm rather glad I did.

We welcomed several visitors this morning, including Mark who had visited us last year from down south. I remember last year Mark and I had talked about my visiting his church (Saint Luke's Santa Ana) when I was to be in Long Beach, CA, for a week of meetings last June, but it didn't happen. They had services Sunday morning and Wednesday evening. I was prepared to attend Wednesday evening (Sundays my meetings start at 7 AM and I'm not free until 7:30 PM), but my travel budget was cut last year and in order to make all the year's primary meetings I had to cut well back: instead of leisurely flying down Wednesday I flew down early Thursday morning, missing several hours of the first meeting (a bad thing, as it turned out).

Another couple really enjoyed their visit, saying that we're quite a friendly church. Well, that's how St. Bartholomew's was when I first visited, almost 25 years ago, and I guess it's never really changed. They say they'll be back in April; I'll look forward to that, though with my luck I'll be flying to D.C. for another week of meetings that Sunday.

(Luck: we are hosting the diocesan Synod this year and I am the main organizer -- and just learned that the wrong dates for Synod had been published and yes, it coincides with April's week of meetings. I also wanted to attend Archbishop Provence's enthronement, but I get home the night before from January's week of meetings in New York; it could be a big expense and definitely difficult timing to get to the enthronement in time.)

Fr. Daniel and Matt had a surprise for us during Announcements: next week the Outreach Group will begin a three-week study of John Stott's "Why I Am A Christian."

And I was a little surprised to see the Wise Men missing from the windowsill where they were in the last posting. I found them after the service, across the Nave next to the Creche.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Camels Are Coming

Earlier this week I'd noted that the creche was set up without the wise men in it. I'd wondered where they were keeping the figures, but didn't think too much about it.

I discovered them yesterday morning after the service, on a window sill the other side of the Nave:

Friday, December 28, 2007

4th Day of Christmas: Holy Innocents

Today it was Matins & Mass again, this time for the Holy Innocents (the slain children of Bethlehem). The combination of the Morning Prayer Old Testament lesson and the Communion Gospel reading was a little eerie, with the latter echoing the former.

OT (Jer. 31:15): "... Thus saith the Lord; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children, refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not."

Gospel (Matt: 2:17-18) "... Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not."

I don't know if it would necessarily be different back then when infant mortality rates were likely many times higher than they are now in the US, when it's pretty much expected you'll raise your newborn to adulthood, but there are few things more terrible today than losing your children.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

3rd Day of Christmas: St. John, Apostle & Evangelist

This morning, despite have been up long after my accustomed bedtime last night watching the first of the three Lord of the Rings videos we are watching this holiday, I managed to be awake in time to brave the snow flurries* to attend Matins & Mass again this morning, the Third Day of Christmas. (*Those who haven't lived in Seattle have no idea what a mess snow brings to this area with a bad combination of little equipment, hills, inexperienced drivers, and aggravating climatic conditions; many places that get more snow are better able to deal with it.)

We had a smaller turnout than yesterday, but I had reconfirmation that it's been a long time, if ever, that I have attended Holy Communion on this day. None of the Collect, Epistle and Gospel were familiar, and Fr. Daniel's extemporaneous homily on St. John brought in elements of his life I had not known. ("Extemporaneous" means, in part, that it will not appear on the church website -- at least not until we work out a way to record audio, but maybe that's going a bit too far.)

I was shocked to learn at the beginning of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto (I think in sorrow of a friend who lived in Pakistan for a while and fell in love with the country and its people, in much the same way Kathy did with Iran), and local killings (in nearby Carnation WA). Fr. Daniel rightly referred to his most recent Advent sermon in this regard.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

2nd Day of Christmas: St. Stephen's

I don't think I have come for Mass on St. Stephen's before. But this morning Fr. Daniel and Matt conducted Matins and Mass (Morning Prayer into Holy Communion) and a small band of us were there.

The reason I don't think I've attended on St. Stephens is that the reading "for the Epistle" about his martyrdom was not familiar, the way it would have been for regular Sundays -- for the period during which I was the sole Lay Reader I would definitely had read and remembered it. (The first martyr, our Ordo Kalendar designates St. Stephen as "Protomartyr.") Not that the story itself was unfamiliar, though perhaps long forgotten -- but seeing Saul appear in this brief reading was startling. Clearly it's been a long time since I've had my nose in Acts.

The correlation between the Collect, Epistle and Gospel for today was, perhaps one could say "inspired." But Fr. Daniel had a surprise in store for us, in the selection of one of the hymns. To the very same tune of an old and familiar Christmas carol telling a story set in this very day of St. Stephens' ("Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen"), was a hymn about martyrs, Hymn 136 in our American 1940 Hymnal:

Let us now our voices raise,
wake the day with gladness;
God himself to joy and praise
turns our human sadness:
joy that martyrs won their crown,
opened heaven's bright portal,
when they laid the mortal down
for the life immortal.

Never flinched they from the flame,
from the torture never;
vain the foeman's sharpest aim,
vain each fierce endeavor:
for by faith they saw the land
decked in all its glory,
where triumphant now they stand
with the victor's story.

Up and follow, Christian men!
Press through toil and sorrow;
Spurn the night of fear, and then,
O the glorious morrow!
Who will venture on the strife?
Who will first begin it!
Who will grasp the land of life?
Warriors, up and win it!
"Never flinched they from the flame": Ouch. For all that I've been through, I still don't know that I could meet that standard.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Putting the Mass back in Christmas

Somebody pointed me to this interesting page, All About Christmas, which along with plenty of information about Christmas, customs, dates and much more, also notes:
Unfortunately, in recent times, the Church has taken a backseat to food preparation, gift opening, and other festivities that are unrelated to the primary festivity: celebrating the Incarnation of God. Many people mention the need to put Christ back in Christmas, but the need is greater than that. As an Anglo-Catholic (Anglican) priest I heard speak once noted: people also need to put the "mass" back in Christmas."
Guilty as charged, somewhat, though I did attend Mass this morning (making up for missing Midnight Mass last night?). And as a result of accompanying my sister on a visit to her husband who is pretty far gone with Alzheimer's, and a slow drive home through the snow (which oddly is not falling here at all), dinner preparations and all the rest didn't start until mid-afternoon.

But I found the webpage interesting, including the speculations on why we celebrate Christmas on December 25th (the suggestion is that it's rooted in a Jewish, not pagan, custom) and the reminder that that's not the point at all.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve Evensong

For all the earlier forecasts there was no rain this afternoon and evening, which was nice. And though I arrived a few minutes later than I'd intended, there was still just enough light in the sky to get a reasonably good picture of the church decorations -- admittedly they could have been better, but it was pouring quite heavily when we put them up.

Inside Fr. Daniel and Josephine (on the organ) were working with the choir, and Claire and Kathy were warming up their flute and harp.

One small hitch in the service: it's been our tradition to have the "empty stable" at the beginning of the service, with the children bringing up the figures at one point in the service to make the creche (all but the three wise men, who are added at Epiphany) -- but this year with so many children in the choir there weren't enough for all the figures, so younger children were drafted, resulting in plenty of happy confusion.

I'm dreaming of a wet Christmas

Well not really, but that it what it looks like we'll be getting. It seems like we've been getting an unusual amount of heavy rain lately: heavy enough on Saturday morning that when the discussion of putting up the outside lights that morning, instead of during the Greening of the Church, the consensus was to wait -- it couldn't be worse on Sunday.

So of course it was. Unfortunately there were issues with the strings, and places to put them. (The door used to be flanked by a couple of bushes, but they became overlarge and so were removed earlier this year.) But the lights are up and the tree branches that had grown in front of the parking lot cut away, so we're almost ready in the lighting department. I just have to go to the church this afternoon with an extension cord and a light for the drive entrance and we'll be set. (Kathy's harp will go too, to adjust to the church for this evening's service.)

And the forecast? Showers. (And maybe chance of snow, depending upon the weather website.) I just don't remember past Christmases being this wet.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

St. Thomas the Tank Engine

Yesterday on the church calendar was St. Thomas the Apostle. Doubting Thomas, celebrated on the darkest day of the year (and it has been an unusually dark time lately, even for the Pacific Northwest, noon a couple of days ago looked almost like dusk). Instead of 7:30 AM Matins we celebrated Morning Prayer and Holy Communion at 10 AM. A nice combining of the services that gives us an Old Testament reading in addition to the Epistle and Gospel.

And one hymn, sung a capella. Although the hymn is an Easter hymn in the Hymnal, some rubric somewhere permits it to be sung in Advent, for St. Thomas, if only selected verses are sung. This explained the odd appearance of the hymn board. And I seem to recall that Fr. Daniel noted this was the one time we'd sing "Alleluia" in Advent.

While preparing for the service, Fr. Daniel remarked that little Danny was excited to be coming to church that morning, because his favorite character is named Thomas -- Thomas the Tank Engine.

With that I wasn't too surprised to see a Thomas the Tank Engine toy in the Parish Hall this morning during the Men's Breakfast. But I learned more about Thomas the Tank Engine from Fr. Daniel. The original story is over 60 years old, written by an Anglican clergyman in England. I'd only just heard of it, but apparently is becoming ever more popular with books, videos and more.

The question of "tank engine" was raised during the Men's Breakfast this morning; it seems it's another term for steam locomotive. Steam -- the older men in the group remembered "steam shovels" (the predecessor to today's hydraulic backhoe shovels), some of the younger didn't seem to know the term. (Books like this are what I remember.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"Fr. Sparky?"

Over on Fr. Daniel's blog, he notes his two years' stint as an electrician's assistant! I'm shocked, I tell ya! Shocked!

(Is that the source of his high-voltage sermons?)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The joy of Being Home Again, sort of

Those who know me know I really hate travel, for all my job has become one thoroughly bound up with it, but I have learned to deal with such. My travel does have its ups: I get to see interesting places such as Vienna, & Cairo & New Delhi & Beijing &... -- and it has its downs: I have to deal with the local cuisine (which can be but is not always a bad thing; I have an amusing story of how I learned that chickens' feet can be quite tasty) among other things.

One thing I figured out quite some time ago, though: There's No Place Like Home, and I'm always glad to get back. Today was the 3rd Sunday in Advent, though due to illness and travel it was my first Advent Sunday at St. Bartholomew's. Rose Sunday (which will never be the same after the entry in Wannabe Newbie Anglican blog about the Sunday the vestments were pink!), in honor of Mary. More surprises, including a delightful intro prior to the procession with organ, Fr. Daniel and Claire (were there others? I didn't turn around to see).

What have I missed the past two Sundays? I may never know, though at least I've read Fr. Daniel's excellent sermons.

But I also did not come back the same as I left -- after a week and a half of always being somewhat formally dressed I felt the need to at least wear the tweed jacket (my source of warmth in Vienna, with overcoat against the cold rain) and tie, with good slacks. Rather formal by Pacific Northwest standards, and I heard it from fellow parishioners after the service. I just felt I had to dress more respectfully, in the midwestern manner in which I was raised.

But I was home again where most things were familiar. Okay, the church school has a new Advent banner and there was a new Advent candle lighting ceremony introduced while I was ill/away. Still, it's home and I'm glad to have a month here before I take off again.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Hard Readings and the ChristKindlMarkt

Although I've been away most of Advent so far, and absent from the Sunday morning discussions, I've kept up on my own with the readings for the season in the book "Love Came Down: Anglican Readings for Advent and Christmas" (Christopher L. Webber) that Fr. Daniel has selected for us to read this season.

It's not been easy reading in a season normally given over today in this country to parties and preparations despite the season's penitential predecessors -- the subject of the first week was "death", the next... hell? A lot to think about, and I can only be glad I've not been in the American Christmas shopping scene so far, to confuse the issues.

Not that it's all been remote in my travels. Upon request from family I visited the famous Vienna ChristKindlMarkt (Christ Child Market), held in the shadow of one of the larger churches. The scene is nothing if but joy, for all the commercialism in the booths, and the popularity of the Glühwein (traditional mulled wine) and the Weihnachtspunsch (traditional Christmas punch) is quite understandable, especially once one has tried these on a cold, wet winter's day.

The commercialism therein? No worse than in America. But at least créche scenes are not verboten, and in that I think they may have the advantage -- they are permitted to think out loud and publicly about "the reason for the season."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Everywhere the same

One of the things I have read about the (traditional) Anglican liturgy is that no matter where you go in the world, it's always the same service. I've never really had the opportunity to test that on my international trips because, it seems, Sunday is usually the day I am heading out, or arriving. This time it was different; because I was in the UK last week I flew to Vienna on Saturday and I had Sunday completely free.

On investigation it turned out that there was an Anglican church, Christ Church, Vienna, just a block from my hotel. So Sunday morning I got up & dressed and walked over through the bracing icy morning air for the 8 AM Holy Communion (BCP).

It being the early service, I was not surprised to see that mostly older folk were present (I guess I'm becoming of an age with them), and not many. I could tell I was the new face, though, but that's okay. What church doesn't welcome the visitor?

When I entered, a parishioner in the Narthex advised me that for the service I should take one of the small books on a nearby table -- obviously the prayer books. Once seated, after prayers, I opened the book. It took a little fumbling to find The Order For Holy Communion (it wasn't in the Table of Contents, oddly), but I kept it open until the service began.

I hardly needed to, though. The service was almost identical to ours; I could have said it by heart (literally?), and the language throughout identical. Okay, in print it was the "Holy Catholic[K] and Apostolic[K] Church" (cap [K]s for emphasis), the Lord's Prayer followed Communion instead of preceding it, prayers were said for the Queen and not the President but... the rest was identical. (Which I cannot say for any of the American Episcopal 1979 or later services.)

I suspect some of the announcements of the progression of the liturgy such as calling out page numbers, explaining that in Advent certain things were excluded, etc., were provided for the benefit of this unknown visitor. If so, it was appreciated but in this instance unnecessary.

I was just delighted to be almost halfway across the world yet participating in a beautiful Holy Communion service in which I would have been perfectly at home... even at home.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Trees of St. Mary's

When traveling abroad one expects from time to time to encounter "And Now For Something Completely Different" moments and in this I have rarely been disappointed, but I never expected it to be something Anglican.

Thursday and Friday featured long technical sessions in the London area (Horsham), but one of my colleagues there had planned a treat afterward. We took a half-hour trip to visit his church, St. Mary's Church in Goring-by-Sea, where they were conducting a special event, their second annual Community Christmas Tree Festival -- and I have to say, I have never before seen its like.

The church was filled with Christmas trees! 61 of them, to be exact, each one named, erected by and representing a church group, local business, club or association. The decorations were as varied as the sponsors, sometimes featuring photos of the group members, sometimes artwork, sometime other things. The tree named "Bee-Fit Children's Fitness" (tree #24), sponsored by an organization called "Bee-Fit," was filled with paper bees crayoned by children, for example. A rather amusing tree was named "Why We Need a Parish Office" (#60), by St. Mary's Parish Office, and filled with reminders of all the many activities of the parish office. Some were simply fitting, such as "London Bells" (tree #1) by St. Mary's Bellringers. One interesting tree was the "Poverty Tree" (tree #4): stark and bare, with the only decoration (that I remember) being an iron chain wound through it.

Just the names of many of the trees tell stories: "Singing Bows" (tree #20, Sephton Music Group), "The Nativity" (tree #29, St. Mary's Clergy, placed in the Sanctuary), "Goring Past and Present" (tree #35, Goring Residents' Association), "St. Mary's Dustbusters" (tree #52, St. Mary's Cleaning Group; I imagine they'll have some extra work when this display comes down!), "Tree of Dreams," "Freedom with Mobility," "In the Bleak Mid-Winter, "Praying Around the World" and so on.

Some businesses were represented, such as "Guy Wakeford Plumbing" (tree #46, no prizes for guessing the sponsor though I seem to recall it being filled with little card ornaments with plumber's wrenches on them), and the amusingly named "Seasons Meatings" (tree #57, John May Butcher).

One I'm sure Fr. Daniel would like to have seen was "The Catechism" (tree #30, St. Mary's Sacristans), the other tree in the Sanctuary, Epistle side.

Of course, there is a purpose to all of this, as noted in the guide. Not only is it "a window on our community here in Goring," but it is a benefit for The Chestnut Tree House Appeal, the only children's hospice in Sussex, which does not charge families for care and which receives no government funding, so it is completely dependent upon private support.

Well done.

Monday, December 03, 2007


Longtime readers of this blog (if there are any) know what that title means: I'm on the road again with spotty Internet access and so things will likley be quiet for a while. This time I'm off to London (well, Horsham) until Saturday, then Vienna retuning home, Deo volente, Thursday, Dec. 14th.

Bob & Diane are delighted at the Vienna visit; they lived (and met) in Vienna, something that sounds so romantic I can't even imagine. I can't figure whether to be delighted (Vienna in December is apparently quite special) or in trepidation (Meine wenige Deutsch ist sehr schlecht), especially as it turns out I should not only have a good part of the coming weekend to tour, but since my Wednesday business got cancelled this morning and it would cost $1700 to return a day earlier, I have all of Wednesday free to tour too. Maybe they'll see this and send suggestions on what else to see...?

But in any event; I was too sick to make it to church yesterday. The church website's Announcements page, in Quote of the Week, references the choir's offering yesterday. I wish I could have heard it -- Fr. Daniel said they did well, and if he says that you can bank on it. He said it was a small turnout due to the weather (no surprise), but I wish I could have seen little Danny and Pru carrying the Church School's new Advent Banner.

Fr. Daniel also has a new sermon series going, for the four Sundays in Advent, on The Last Things: Death, Judgement, Hell and Heaven. Seems maybe dark for Advent -- or maybe not for what is after all a penitential season. Check it out, and tell me what you think.

Auf Weiderschreiben...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Snow and Choir

Just about the time the last of last night's dusting melted away, more snow came. Some friends in the south Sound report up to 6 inches. Right now we only have one, about 12 miles from St. Bartholomew's, but it looks like more is coming. One hopes the rain that's supposed to follow this comes soon, else it might be a bit of a low First Sunday in Advent which would be sad, especially with the choir singing, too!

The end of Trinity

Went around updating the calendars this morning. It was a little odd when I took down the November page of the Ordo Kalendar and saw that one speck of green, today, in a month full of purple, white and red. The end of the long season of Trinity is here.

And as a sign that winter is coming, there was snow this morning. Just a dusting here that's slowly melting away. But it looked like more came down to the west of us. I hope there wasn't enough to cause Fr. Daniel any difficulties this morning; even a little snow can cause a lot of trouble here, as he's discovered, due to hills, no salt, insufficient snow-removal equipment, and situations that turn it quite readily to ice. At lunch yesterday he recalled all the difficulties last year with the Advent evening classes, between the snow and the wind.