Rector’s Messages

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The Ministry of Hospitality

Dear Friends,


Many Christians do not know that throughout history the religious orders in the church, monks and nuns, considered hospitality as a key responsibility of the religious life. Monasteries always included a guest house and were the only safe medieval overnight lodging available to travelers and pilgrims. The sick and crippled were also taken in, sometimes for long periods. In England today, nurses are still called “sister” as a holdover of terminology from past centuries of religious orders’ healing ministry and hospitality. The Gospels clearly state Jesus’ call for us to “take in the stranger” and visit the sick. The parable of the good Samaritan illuminates this aspect of the Christian calling. And do not forget how in the Old Testament we are taught by the story of Abraham that through hospitality to guests and strangers we “may be ministering to angels unaware.” The fate of Sodom was Gods’ retribution for its failure to show hospitality to the sojourners who were welcomed by Lot. We could find many more examples in Holy Scripture.

 Today, we Christians must find new ways to express and embody this tradition. Certainly it is a main reason why most Christian denominations support our active ministry to refugees and those who have been persecuted and driven from their homelands. Likewise, our parish churches are involved in programs to feed the hungry and provide overnight shelter to the urban homeless and troubled in mind or spirit. It is a ministry that has led to Ecumenical sharing, since in any given town or city one congregation seldom has the resources or manpower (usually mostly lady-power) to provide meals or lodging on a continuing basis, so, in most localities seven or more churches share the weekly round of hospitable service. Our churches need to consciously be places of hospitality on Sundays. Most congregations have breakfast or coffee hours, and everyone, not just appointed greeters, must show a welcoming attitude to visitors no matter what their race or social class. Do we only talk with our friends on such occasion or do we try to bring those we don’t know into our circle of fellowship?

Finally, hospitality is not merely doing nice things for strangers and visitors. The attitude we show to each other and to outsiders is of critical importance. It must be an attitude of kindness, not fault-finding or indifference. I will always remember the first time I heard a performance of Handel’s Messiah. It was at the Naval Academy Chapel, and right afterwards a young lady, who was a friend of those I was with, came up with a copy of the oratorio’s score and announced, “they made six mistakes,” while the rest of us were thinking of all the beauty we had just heard. Some of us seem to come to worship God with the same attitude, looking for mistakes in the bulletin or music we don’t like. I hope we can all show more kindness to each other in this regard; giving compliments and suggesting things that we would like, rather than looking for things we don’t like (which may be things someone else does like). If such an attitude of mutual kindness could pervade our gatherings, the atmosphere would be noticeable and attractive to visitors and newcomers. Episcopalians at large don’t do as well as some other denominations in creating an atmosphere where both grief and joy can be shared and where mutual kindness and real caring are evident and experienced. Some have called Episcopalians “God’s frozen people.” It is the ordained pastor’s job with the other church staff to join in and foster a positive welcoming atmosphere but it must be in cooperation with every other member of the community of faith, not as “professional” substitutes for a comprehensive spirit shared by all our members.

Remember the last worlds of our Maundy Thursday Gospel.   Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another: Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another: By this everyone will know that you are my disciples; if you have love for one another.” That is the true meaning of Christian hospitality.

Yours in Christ,

The Rev. Dr. Tom Bauer

 

 

 

Can There Be Any Day But This . . .” Part 2

Dear Friends,

Our Episcopal Church along with our Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox brethren has attempted to bring back the ancient tradition of making the Great Vigil of Easter on Saturday evening the first and most important service of Easter Day (like Christmas Eve).   In most churches that I have served, many people have come to love this service, even though it may be long if Baptism and Confirmations are part of it. The most joyful and wonderful experiences have been when two or there parishes can get together to plan it and have a bishop present for the service. In New York City, my church (Good Shepherd) teamed up with Transfiguration and Incarnation parishes so we could have a full choir, a bishop, candidates for baptism, confirmation and a full church. Maybe your new rector can get one of our bishops to come next year and make it our largest attended Easter service. This year those of you who want to come with me will participate with the Church of the Redeemer in this beautiful service (beginning at 5 PM). You must remember that in Jewish tradition the new day did not begin at midnight, but at sunset. For the early church, Easter Eve was the ideal time for new converts and families to be baptized and confirmed as Christians; to begin their new lives in the church on the day Christ was raised by God from death, vindicating his ministry of love and forgiveness as God’s anointed Messiah.

The service starts with the lighting of the New Fire (Agios Theos). This goes back to very ancient times (documented in 162 AD) when the Patriarch of Jerusalem would enter the Edicule, the tomb where Jesus was buried (now a free-standing chapel inside Constantine’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem) which had been sealed shut with wax. He would (and still does today) await the miracle of Holy Fire. All the crowd outside waits in darkness until the Patriarch shouts “Christ is risen,” and appears with candles, lit from the miraculous fire. Everyone else lights their candles from his, passing the light throughout Jerusalem, and sending it by messenger to the rest of the Christendom. Today, in the Orthodox church, messengers take the light by airplane to Greece, Russia, the Balkans, etc.

In the West, we also begin our liturgy by lighting new fire and from it a paschal candle symbolizing the risen Christ. We bless new water in the font with the candle, then we carry it into the church singing “The Light of Christ” with the response “Thanks be to God.” Next, the deacon sings a wonderful song called the Exultet, traditionally ascribed to St. Ambrose in the mid 300’s. The words recall the Biblical symbol of the pillar of fire which led the children of Israel through the Red Sea to the promised land and similar deliverances. The largest paschal candle recorded was 36 feet tall in Salisbury Cathedral during the middle ages. From the candle, all lights in the church and candles of the congregation are lit. Vigil lessons recall the mighty acts of God, from creation to Jesus’ resurrection, catechumens are baptized and confirmed by the Bishop and, with shouts of joy and ringing of bells, the Eucharist of Easter begins and Christ banquets with us in his new kingdom, renewing his pledge to us of everlasting life.

Since we will not be having an Easter Vigil here, our morning services will begin with a brief ceremony of lighting and blessing the Paschal candle (Prayer Book, page 284) The priest will sing, “The light of Christ” and people will respond, “Thanks be to God.”  (Hymnal S68). Instead of the peace we will shout “Alleluia, Christ is risen” with the answer “Christ is risen indeed, alleluia,” and also “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and giving life to those in the tomb” (Prayer Book, page 500). That is the Orthodox tropairan sung in Greek and Russian churches. Another difference in the Easter service is that even though we do not have a baptism, we will reaffirm our baptismal promises in place of saying the creed (Prayer Book, page 292). Another ancient Christian custom is for a deacon or the priest to sing a special “Alleluia” after the Epistle reading, this is found in our hymnal #570. The people will repeat it back again. It is my fervent hope and prayer that as we reenact the events of Holy Week together it will become a powerful reality in our lives today and not just a charming story from long ago. I believe the words of the old spiritual “If you don’t bear the cross, then you can’t wear the crown.” Or if you prefer something more English and traditional listen to the words of George Herbert’s poetry:

Since we will not be having an Easter Vigil here, our morning services will begin with a brief ceremony of lighting and blessing the Paschal candle (Prayer Book, page 284) The priest will sing, “The light of Christ” and people will respond, “Thanks be to God.”

(Hymnal S68). Instead of the peace we will shout “Alleluia, Christ is risen” with the answer “Christ is risen indeed, alleluia,” and also “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and giving life to those in the tomb” (Prayer Book, page 500). That is the Orthodox tropairan sung in Greek and Russian churches. Another difference in the Easter service is that even though we do not have a baptism, we will reaffirm our baptismal promises in place of saying the creed (Prayer Book, page 292). Another ancient Christian custom is for a deacon or the priest to sing a special “Alleluia” after the Epistle reading, this is found in our hymnal #570. The people will repeat it back again. It is my fervent hope and prayer that as we reenact the events of Holy Week together it will become a powerful reality in our lives today and not just a charming story from long ago. I believe the words of the old spiritual “If you don’t bear the cross, then you can’t wear the crown.” Or if you prefer something more English and traditional listen to the words of George Herbert’s poetry:

The Sun arising in the East,

Though he gives light, and th’ East perfume;

If they should offer to contest

With thy arising, they presume.
 

Can there be any day but this,

Though many suns to shine endeavor?

We count three hundred, but we miss.

There is but one, and that one ever!

 

Yours in Christ,

The Rev. Dr. Tom Bauer

 

“Can There Be Any Day But This . . .” Part 1

Dear Friends,

Holy Week and Easter are drawing nigh, the exact dates which are determined, as always, in relationship to the full moon date following March 21st. There are many ancient Christian customs connected with this Holy Week that help us understand and participate in it with deeper meaning and benefit.

For starters, most of the world uses a version of the Latin Word Pascha (Greek—Paskha, French—Pâques, German—Paisken, Russian—Paskha, Spanish—Pascua). All these are derived from the Hebrew word Pesach, the Passover, because the basic meaning of the feast is that the Day of Resurrection is the Christian Passover, and much of its tradition is meaningless, unless we keep this thought in mind. Passover is the anniversary of the great event when God delivered Israel from slavery and bondage in Egypt. Easter is the anniversary of the day when God delivered all humanity from slavery and bondage to sin and death. God demanded that the Jews sacrifice a lamb and smear its blood on their door posts and the angel of death would passover those households delivering them from His judgment on the Egyptians. Likewise, Jesus Christ’s blood on the cross and in the sacrament delivers us from judgement for sin and eternal death, giving us hope in our resurrection with Christ to eternal life.

How did we get the word Easter? Easter was a pagan Anglo-Saxon Goddess of the sunrise and the spring. The word East also is named for her. In the northern hemisphere, the spring comes close to the time of Jewish Passover and all European Christians regarded the East — facing towards the Holy Land and Jerusalem — as a sacred direction since the sun arises and the Son (of God) arose there. The festival color for Easter is white, and the Latin word for white, alba, is also the word for sunrise. In the Frankish tongue, the word for sunrise is Ostern, so that is another way we inherited the Easter instead of Pascha for this greatest day of the year.

The purpose of our worship from Passion (Palm) Sunday through Easter Day is not just to learn about the events that have saved us from eternal damnation, but rather to reenact those events in symbolic ways so that they become present realities to us and in our lives. Religion is not a spectator sport, we are all players on the field. The old spiritual asks the question “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” and after a good liturgical Holy Week, we should be able to answer “Yes I was!”

That is why Palm Sunday is now known as Passion Sunday, because it is a kind of “preview” of the whole week ahead, with its main focus on all of us reading the Passion Gospel together (Matthew, Mark or Luke) taking the parts of Jesus, the Priests, Peter, Pilate and the crowd. We all are guilty of Jesus’ death as we cry out together “crucify him!” The rubrics request that we gather outside of the church and have a procession to the church door which represents the gate of Jerusalem reenacting Jesus entrance accompanied by children and others bearing palm branches.

On Maundy Thursday, in many churches, they hold a Passover dinner with all the traditional Jewish foods and ceremonies before (or after) the reenactment of the last supper, complete with Jesus’ washing of his disciples feet. This year, I will ask to wash the hands of volunteers, which in our culture has the same meaning as washing feet (think of the hotel restroom attendant offering you a towel.) We hear Jesus’ new Maundy (commandment) “Love one another as I have loved you!”

We share the offering of his life in the consecrated bread and wine and we go with him, symbolically, into the Garden of Gethsemane where his betrayal and arrest are reenacted by stripping the altar and sanctuary of all beautiful and dedicated things. In many churches, people volunteer an hour at a time to hold prayerful vigil before the remaining blessed sacrament reenacting the disciples who were asked by their God “could you not watch with me one brief hour?”

On Good Friday, we reenact the journey of Jesus from his scourging to the cross both at noon, in an Episcopal version of “the way (stations) of the cross”, and later at 7 PM as we read St. John’s Passion Gospel and then venerate a rough wooden cross, similar to that on which Jesus died. We feel loss and sadness; we do not know that there will be any resurrection. We leave in silence and sadness and fear, just as “all his disciples forsook him and fled!”

(Part 2 will appear in our Easter Messenger)

Yours in Christ,

The Rev. Dr. Tom Bauer

 

 

 

 

In Quires And Places Where They Sing . . .

Dear Friends,

We have been planning a wonderful Lenten Wednesday evening program beginning on Ash Wednesday, March 1st. (Yes, Easter will come early this year!) We hope all parish members and friends will make it part of their personal discipline for Lent to come to at least two of these programs which are being listed and discussed in detail elsewhere in this messenger. In my article, I want to stress one of the Wednesdays and explain the Anglican tradition behind it, so that we will have maximum attendance that Wednesday. I am talking about March 15th when we will present a service of Choral Evensong in the English Cathedral tradition.

As you will know, Manakin Church is blessed with ta wonderful choir and a fine organist, Rita Gulliksen. The music program she leads is quite extraordinary in its quality for a parish of the size (and I’ve been around to many churches during the last 60 years). We have dedicated, talented singers (and could always use more, if other wish to volunteer.) Our church building is acoustically splendid for music and the whole congregation seems enthusiastic in their offering of hymns and psalms to the Lord each Sunday.

So, let me talk about the beautiful and inspirational experience you will enjoy. First, let me remind you of a great theological principle behind all of our worship. We do not come to church services primarily to learn from the Bible or sermons; we do not come just to bewail our sins and pray for forgiveness or ask God to give us things we think we need. Jesus tests us, “God knows already what your true needs are!”

We do not even come to ensure that our children get a moral upbringing, and certainly not just to socialize and get the support of friends. The main purpose of worship is to offer praise and thanks to God for “All his goodness and loving kindness to us and to all mankind.” And each of us is expected to offer the best that she or he had in such praise and thanksgiving; “our time, talent and treasure.” We place beautiful silver and gold vessels on our altar! Many churches have magnificent art work, stained glass or intricate mosaics. We want to offer to God the best that we have. So likewise, the music we play and sing is not primarily for our enjoyment or entertainment, but is part of offering the highest quality of praise that we humans can offer. One famous physician/author said that what we should “beam out” into space in hopes of reaching other inhabited worlds, to let them know about us, should not be mathematical formulas or images of our great inventors, but rather “the music of J. S. Bach”, but then, he said, “We could be accused of boasting.” So, that is where the concepts of a worship service entirely sung by well prepared and dedicated musicians come from.

The early church sang psalms and new songs about Jesus. In the medieval church the music gradually developed from the great monastic tradition of sung praise seven times a day. As the church and the arts prospered together after the dark ages, the greatest composers and musicians of each generation offered their works to God through “antiphons” (anthems and settings of monastic praise at vespers, compline, etc. Song schools grew up in connection with major abbey and cathedral churches where the monastic voices were augmented by those of trained students, professional singers and skilled organists. Emperors and kings founded and funded choirs whose duty it was to offer the most beautiful music they could to God every day or the week, whether there was any congregation or not. Rulers took their choirs with them where they traveled through their realms. Some remnants of the medieval tradition remain in Europe in such organizations as the Sistine Chapel Choir and the Vienna Boys Choir (which provided the worship music of the Imperial Court of Holy Roman Empire.) The Royal Chapel Choir of Denmark is another survivor. In Germany, we still have the famous choir Cantata and Choral Tradition at Bach’s St. Thomas’ Church in Leipzip. In France at the time of the French Revolution, the religious choral foundations were virtually wiped out. In England, however, the medieval and renaissance tradition continued more than in any other nation. At the time of the Reformation Archbishop Cranmer consolidated the monastic ideal and custom of a daily round of praise into two “offices”, morning and evening prayer, in the English tongue not Latin. They were commonly called “Matins” and “Evensong,” as in the old English Christmas card, “Pray you dutifully prime your matin chivre ye singers; may you beautifully rhyme your eve-time song ye singers! Although Henry VIII abolished the monasteries and chantry chapels, the cathedral and college “foundations” and the endowments for this choir schools and singers were largely left intact, and some great monastic churches, like Peterborough, became cathedrals for their respective dioceses. The greatest composers of the Tudor and Stuart monarchies (Elizabeth I to James II) wrote for these choirs; Williams Bryd, Thomas Tallis, John Dowland, Thomas Tompkins, Orlando Gibbous, Thomas Weelkes, Henry Purcell, Williams Smith, John Merbeck, etc.

Many of the choirs they wrote for have lasted through the centuries such as the monarch’s choirs of St. George’s, Windsor and The Chapel Royal (St. James and Hampton Court), the singing boys at Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral, those at Winchester, Your, Canterbury, etc. and of course the collegiate foundations at Kings College and St. Johns College, Cambridge and Christ Church, Magdalen College and new college Oxford. After the 18th century, Latitudinarian period, the Romantic/Victorian era saw another great blessing of great composers of service music for Matins and Evensong, including Samuel Wesley, Edward Elgar, Charles Stanford, John Staimer, Felix Mendelssohn and Charles Wood. This heritage has contained into our own tme with Benjamin Britton, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Edward Bairsow, Hubert Parry and William Lloyd Webber, father of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Joanna Trollope’s popular book and TV movie (1995) “The Choir” depicts the present day trials, tribulations and glories of keeping this choral traditions alive and well.

The prayer book of 1662 (still the official English book) uses the rubric “In quires and place where they sing . . .” (and similar rubrics) giving service instructions pertaining to this ongoing choral tradition.

Essentially, Evensong is our 1928 service of evening Prayer completely set to music an chant, with the congregation participating verbally in the creed, intoning the Lord’s prayer and joining the choir in a hymn. Our choir and organist are putting much work into preparing this service for March 15th, and we hope it will inspire your hearts and minds to thank God for all of his wonderful gifts to you and yours, even in the midst of our penitential season of Lent. We know that some of you have been to England and heard Evensong there, and hope many more of you will have that rewarding religious opportunity in the future.

Yours in Christ,

The Rev. Dr. Tom Bauer

 

E Pluribus Unum

Dear Parish Family,

There are many religious light bulb jokes: How many Lutherans does it take to change a light bulb? None. Lutherans don’t believe in changes! How many Mormons does it take? Five. One man to change the bulb, and four wives to tell him how to do it. There are also many religious food jokes. The Romans Catholic hierarchy is like Irish stew. The savory chunks of meat sink to the bottom while the fat rises to the top. (That was told to me by a Catholic priest). And what about us? The Episcopal Church is like a fruit cake, a variety of fruits and nuts all held together by the dough! Some say “if you don’t laugh, you will have to cry!” Now is a time in our national life when we must ask the question, “What keeps America together?” Are we one nation just because of the dough—because of economic interdependence, or do we share some basic values and beliefs that are essential to our national well-being? Our national motto on the Great Seal of the United States, E Pluribus Unum, is Latin for “out of many, one.” The traditional meaning and origin of the expression was that out of many colonies, which became states, emerged a unified nation. In recent years, it has acquired the additional meaning that out of many peoples, races, religions and languages a single nation has been created. A London-based Huguenot, Peter Motteau, originally coined the phrase for his eclectic magazine “The Gentleman’s Journal”, (1692-1694).

Following the cataclysmic recent election, however, it has been revealed how deeply divided the country actually is. We are not living up to our motto: we are not one! This is more than slightly the result of two decades of emphasis on political correctness and diversity as cardinal civic virtues. Too many Americans have begun to trumpet the agendas and uniqueness of their own subgroup and what differentiates them, rather than trying to articulate and emphasize what unites us. Thus we have Tea Party Americans, NRA Militias, Black Lives Matter Americans, Latino/Latina Americans, Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender Americans, Women’s Liberation Americans, Americans with Disabilities, Evangelical Americans, and many more special interest groups. Will we ever be able to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again? America’s founders, largely basing their thought on essential religious and ethical principles, strove to create a new nation where privileged birth and uniform religious affiliation were no longer the underpinning of the social order, but where individuals had equal rights balanced by equal social obligations, where (as in Anglicanism itself), the rule of tradition and scripture was balanced by recourse to reason, debate and peaceful democratic transition and where executive, legislative and judicial authorities were balanced and separate. A just balance of power and initiative was the goal. Some have blamed the elevation of the virtue of toleration to be the highest modern civic virtue as a main reason for our present divided state. And it is true, if we examine the origins and purpose of toleration, that we find it has become a seriously distorted version of what our forefathers intended.

After centuries of decimating religious and territorial warfare, the 18th century “Age of Reason,” led by such thinkers as John Locke, ascribed to a doctrine of peace through toleration of differences UNTIL the divine gift of human reason could provide answers which all disputing parties could accept. Differing religious parties and different political parties would learn to reason together, come to compromise solutions, and avoid the disastrous bloodshed that had engulfed the previous centuries.

The point is that toleration was regarded as a virtue of temporary truce between adversaries, not as the ultimate ethical attitude and solution to all conflict. Therefore, today, the false concept of relativism — that truth is unknowable, therefore that all values and lifestyles are equal and acceptable—is a key factor eroding our objective of unity. Likewise many conservatives believe that toleration means others can have their own “media,” but that one has the right to ignore them and listen only to commentary and news they agree with. We Christians have the additional values of forgiveness, love of neighbor and love of enemies to guide us in reformulating a sense and purpose of national unity. Such virtues are not merely sloppy sentimental attitudes, but the determination to value every person as a child of God and to treat others not just as they demand to be treated, but in light of God’s will as to what is in their best interest and the interest of the whole society. That is the way we must love our own dear children, not merely indulge their individual immediate wants, but to consider the needs of the whole family and its future. This is not easy to do! I suggest that we all begin by focusing our minds on what unites and should unite us, rather than on what divides us. That way—to use an old advertising slogan— “we keep our eye on the doughnut and not on the hole!” That is the beginning of our way back to making E Pluribus Unum a proud affirmation, not a forlorn hope.

Yours in Christ,

The Rev. Dr. Tom Bauer