December 24 & 25, 2009: Christmas Eve & Christmas Day
Service bulletin/ Order of Service for Lessons & Carols
My first Christmas at St. Bartholomew's was the occasion for a number of changes for both me and that portion of Christ's flock committed to my care here on the Eastside.
First, it saw the debut of our new organist. She takes the place of a dear parishioner who had been donating her services for quite some time; this in addition to giving of herself in a number of respects at church as well as in her everyday life. (A gifted harpist, vocalist, artist and veritable favorite of the Rector, she surely won't be left alone!) The new organist was highly recommended by the head of the Organ Department at the University of Washington, herself being one of the nation's premiere organists. Once Ahra settles into the groove here -- we're the toughest church organ gig in town -- she'll be a key part of my longterm vision for St. Bart's.
Though the use of incense was the norm every Sunday and major feast day at St. Luke's (its use in the context of worship is mentioned 84 times in the Bible!), we had not yet used it at St. Bart's during my several months here. Such was the most visible of several recently implemented changes in the Chancel, each and all of which have been made easier by my newly-appointed liturgical Master of Ceremonies. Larry is also a newbie to St. Bart's, coming from a sister parish in Los Angeles and trained by one of my very favorite priests and liturgist par excellence. He has been most helpful and encouraging, as have the rest of the crew of acolytes and readers.
And finally, there have been several small changes to the Eucharistic Rite but nothing major until now: the Gloria in Excelsis Deo (St. Luke 2:14) has now been transferred from the end of the liturgy to its rightful, historic place as "the crowning hymn of the Procession." While I pretty much consider myself to be a "Prayer Book Catholic," moving the Gloria from where it had mostly been from the 3rd (or possibly 2nd) century until the reign of Edward VI is something by which I'd rather not abide (thankfully, our Archbishop and all other bishops with whom we're in communion agree). The original Book of Common Prayer had it right, and messing it up had at least as much to do with power, money and politics as it had to do with heretical theology. More on this subject later...
|So all went well enough. Though we unexpectedly got something other than the familiar tunes for a couple of the carols at the early service, Ahra's playing was strong enough to carry us through. The Gloria at the First Mass of Christmas sounded -- dare I say -- something like "the song of the angels" that it is and a call to worship in the presence of the Lord rather than a farewell dirge after the worship has concluded. And the Schola Cantorum sang beautifully... again.|
Following a couple services with lots of joyful singing, smoke, bells, children and a surprising number of visitors on Christmas Eve, a quiet, simple said Eucharist on the morning of the Feast of the Nativity with a much smaller group of the faithful in attendance was a more than pleasant way to complete the first round of the Twelve Days of Christmas.
November 30, 2009: Tent City 4
The concept of tent cities is not a new one as especially the UN-sponsored encampments in Darfur and other sites of both natural and man-made disasters have made the news in recent years. They can also be found at sites of religious pilgrimage such as part of Islam's Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Moreover, anyone who has paid the slightest bit of attention to the work of our armed forces in the Middle East in recent years -- or at least who have watched old episodes of M*A*S*H on television -- know that such encampments often serve as temporary homes to the brave men and women who serve our nation.
Then there's Sheriff Joe Arpaio's tent city for criminals in Maricopa County, Arizona, and hippie-type communes...
But what's going on in the Seattle area is somewhat unique. Tent Cities 1, 2, 3 and 4 are homeless encampments. Now homeless encampments are by no means unique; indeed, they exist in a number of metropolitan areas across North America. But here they have sponsoring organizations and are quite well organized with strict curfews and guidelines for their residents who are often employed and well on their way to lining up permanent housing. Tent City 4, which serves the Eastside, houses a maximum of 100 residents and is hosted for a few months at a time by various church congregations, usually in their parking lots. In addition, various organizations (usually churches) provide hot meals to tent city residents. St. Bartholomew's Church, due especially to the work of a former parishioner, is one of the organizations that regularly does so.
Not that I knew all this when I arrived here a few months ago. When I heard that we were involved, I was eager to learn more about Tent City 4. I talked to members of the sponsoring organization and visited the site on a couple occasions, getting the grand tour of the place and speaking with its residents to get a good idea of what would be expected of us and how we could best serve those to whom we'd be ministering. In addition to making some new friends and having the opportunity to hear the stories of some of the residents and even providing some pastoral/ spiritual counsel, the experience came in handy since the parishioner who got us started is a former parisnioner who really did the lion's share of the work on behalf of the parish during earlier feedings.
|It was important to me that if we were going to continue this work, it should be a real community effort; and following the Eucharist one Sunday morning shortly before our scheduled visit to Tent City 4, I put it to the parishioners: "What will you do to make this thing work?" And surprise, surprise (not!): they responded beautifully.|
The adults provided a plethora of lasagnas, salads and drinks (milk, orange juice, water, sodas and hot beverages), while Paul organized a homemade pie-making session for the youngsters. Watching these eager young guys and gals, and the adults who worked so well with them, was arguably the highlight of the whole endeavor. Take a look:
And tell me that these pies weren't the hit of our visit to Tent City 4!
We had a strong turnout -- including a goodly number not seen in the images above and below -- on the cold, damp evening that saw the good folks of St. Bartholomew's Church acting as the hands and heart of Jesus near downtown Bellevue on the Feast of St. Andrew. Of particular note again were the youth who came out, and whom I accompanied on a tour of the encampment led by one of the residents. It warmed the hearts of those we served to see: 1) all the variety of food (including vegetarian) made available to them (most groups just serve up a big generic pot of something with each resident getting an equal scoop); 2) a group of visiting Christians who spoke with them and were not condescending; 3) a priest/ pastor who wasn't afraid to share a bit of the Good News and pray with them (yes, there were several remarks made about this). It warmed my heart to see the children of God charged to my care so graciously reaching out to their neighbors, who were very grateful for the visit.
One of my former professors, C. Stephen Evans, had the following to say in summing up Soren Kierkegaard's thoughts on God's command to love your neighbor as yourself:
The command is directed to rich and poor, educated and uneducated, powerful and insignificant. Each person has the capacity to love; each person has the need for love. God has put this "in the foundation" of every human being... The Christian is required to have the ability to look beyond and around all worldly differences, to refuse them to distract from the task of loving the neighbor... Fundamentally, love is a capacity to care for the well-being of the other and to do what one can for the other's good, whether that be much or little in an external sense. The greatest good one can do for one's neighbor is to help the neighbor become more loving!
As regular participants in providing food, gifts, sanitary and health-related items to Hopelink, Lovelink, Operation Iraq, our seminarians, Guatemalan missions, Tent City 4 and more, I think that while there's always room for improvement in sharing the expectant hope and joy that resides within us in the form of neighborly love (though I'd like to see a congregation around here that does significantly more per member), methinks we're well on our way.
Pray for the residents of Tent City 4 on the Seattle Area's Eastside as they seek employment (many already work), housing (13 of the original, current encampment residents have already found permanent homes) and warmth during this cold, dark season, but most of all for hearts and minds to come to knowledge and love of that inestimable gift of eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ.
October 11, 2009: Institution as Rector of St. Bartholomew's Church
|Archbishop Provence was here on Sunday, October 11th, to institute me as Rector. After the Letter of Institution was read, Senior Warden Matt Baddeley ceremonially handed over the keys to the parish church facilities, and the Archbishop solidly preached on the relationship between a Rector and those committed to his care. I could not have been more honored to have him, Dcn. Ed Miller (back from heart surgery), Fr. Scott Herb from St. Mark's, Portland, and of course, the precious souls committed to my charge and care all on hand, in addition to new friends.|
The previous evening, the Archbishop and I enjoyed an early evening walk from his hotel in Redmond Town Center to The British Pantry in downtown Redmond, which takes up a good bit of a shopping strip center with a gift shop, grocer and bakery, in addition to the Three Lions Pub on one side and Neville's Restaurant on the other. We started at the pub where, after some time had passed, I was working on a porter and heard a kind voice say (with an English accent, of course), "You must be Father Davis. There's a party from St. Bartholomew's Church waiting for you next door." We looked at our watches and realized that we had lost track of the time, then hurried over to Neville's where a number of us had agreed to host His Grace for dinner. One of our Vestry members who happens to be from the Motherland suggested the place; what a good suggestion it was! Shepherd's pie, bangers & mash, fish & chips, custard tarts and other authentic British grub in cozy, unpretentious surroundings provided the perfect venue for a wonderful evening, which served as the perfect prelude to a wonderful day.
Archbishop Provence formally institutes me as Rector of St. Bartholomew's Church.
October 4, 2009: Ecumenical Event hosted by St. Jude's Roman Catholic Church, Redmond, WA (all photographic images courtesy of St. Jude's Church)
One of the very first calls I received whilst settling into my new digs at St. Bartholomew's was a warm welcome from a representative at St. Jude's Roman Catholic Church, in addition to an invitation to join them for an afternoon of musical praise and prayer during the afternoon of Sunday, October 4th. They informed me that they would go on to invite the major local Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian Church pastors and their respective congregations as well (somewhat controversally, the friendly folks from the local LDS church ended up being welcomed as special guests also). After accepting the invitation, I was asked if we could bring our choir, to which I responded,
"Well of course we can!"
The first chance I got (the following Sunday), I approached the good people of St. Bart's -- not entirely certain how they'd react to the commitment I'd made on their behalf -- and said,
"Alright, folks, we've got to put a choir together."
Procession of clergy during October 4th's ecumenical service hosted by Fr. Dave Rogerson (front, just right of center) and St. Jude's Roman Catholic Church. Hymn: "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee"
|And this is exactly what we did. We set the bar rather high when deciding to take on Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus for the event. I particularly liked the idea for several reasons: 1) it is a hymn of Eucharistic adoration that sets the tone for a greater awareness of the central fact of the Christian Faith (the Incarnation) as well as the focus for both more joyous and reverent worship at St. Bart's in the future (the Real Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament); 2) it is a hymn with roots at least going as far back as the 9th & 10th Centuries, which takes us back to the time of the Christian Unity for which our Lord prayed as recorded in St. John 17; therefore, it was appropriate for the ecumenical event in which we were engaged; 3) it is a hymn with which we as Anglicans have a good deal of history and identity as a branch of the Church Catholic -- in the earlier, pre-Norman Invasion era as well as post-Reformation one such as when it was first beautifully rendered in English by William Byrd (though we actually sang it in Latin) or more recently by Sir Edward Elgar; and 4) it is a hymn, as set in this case by Mozart, which was at the very peak of our ability as a choir. We had an opportunity within our grasp for a sign and symbol of that of which we're capable, not only as a choir, but as a parish church.|
So yes, a lot was riding on this rather ambitious endeavor, but the newly-recruited singers dutifully -- and even a little eagerly -- got right to work.
Not that we could get enough work done as an ensemble. With short notice on the rehearsals, work, illness, school, soccer practice and various and sundry other circumstances kept all the singers from actually singing together until the St. Bartholomew's Sunday Eucharist. (The St. Jude's event was roughly three hours later.) We had to resort to sectional and partial-group rehearsals, in addition to solitary work with musical scores, recordings and some online resources provided by a parishioner who is currently enrolled at a music conservatory in the upper Midwest.
One would never have known as much, however. The hard work under less than ideal circumstances paid off in a big way and to the glory of God. If this proud papa may say so... they were terrific!
The response from those in attendance, including the other choristers who sang under professional directors in well-established choirs, was almost overwhelming. Immediately after the service, I was swarmed by countless individuals who could not say enough about our musical offering. The eyes of two or three welled-up with tears as they emotionally recounted what they'd heard a little earlier.
The Schola Cantorum (L to R: Matt, Nancy, Bill, Kathy, Fr. D, Paul, Claire, Nancy, Genevieve & Rose)
|I think that St. Bartholomew's was to a good extent primed for such a moment by my predecessor, The Rev. Dr. Daniel McGrath, whose doctorate happens to be in choral conducting (his wife and former St. Bart's organist held a Ph.D in piano performance). Two of the singers in the choir had previously sung under his direction, and he had done much to increase awareness in the parish of our Anglican musical heritage, which is without par in Christendom. The work he did in this area is certainly something upon which I aim to build and for which I'm grateful. When I tagged our new choir as the Schola Cantorum (translated: "School of Singers"), I was only mildly surprised to learn that Fr. McGrath had given the same name to the earlier group. So perhaps it could more accurately be referred to as a re-formed and reconstituted Schola Cantorum.|
|And I believe that phone call from St. Jude's several weeks earlier was providential in that it motivated us to begin working toward what I envision to be an active group that regularly provides congregational support, the singing of the Minor Propers, occasional anthems and Psalms (particularly on High Feast Days), and possibly even an alternative Mass setting or two. |
I've been known to say that when the Church does come back together, it's going to look a lot like our approach to faith, order and worship, and it wasn't lost on me that the congregations that assembled Sunday afternoon sang Anglican hymns, the Roman Catholic choir presented an Anglican anthem, the Methodist minister spoke repeatedly about past Anglicans and that we brought the ceremony to a close by reciting the Anglican translation of the Lord's Prayer.
But this is not time to be smug but rather to begin to "walk worthy of the vocation to which we are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering; forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Ephesians 4:1-5).
Here are some images from the event's reception:
August 2009: Final Mass as Rector of St. Luke's Church, Redding, CA
(all photographic images by Martin Brown)
The Collect for Purity is offered; the Kyrie, Gloria in excelsis & Collects for the Day are chanted
Thursday, September 3, 2009
My dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
I thank Fr. Lester Westling, who has been invaluable to me as an assistant, mentor and dear friend, for granting stability and continuity during the transition period. I particularly commend your Senior Warden, Robert Scott, for his effective leadership over the past couple months, in addition to the Vestry, Parish Sexton and Treasurer, all of whom I believe were providentially placed in their respective roles for this moment in time. And my family and I cannot even begin to express our gratitude for the love, support and generosity that the faithful have demonstrated in your thoughts, words and deeds during our time in Redding.
Left: Senior Warden makes announcement
Further announcements & sermon (only three people seen in this image were members in 2003)
Pray each day for my friend and your new Rector, Fr. Jeffrey Smith. I pledge my support for him and am confident that you will not only find him to be uniquely qualified to take St. Luke's to the next level, but that he will bring the pastoral heart of the Good Shepherd for all who are charged to his care. At the same time, I am both grateful and hopeful that he will find the support of each of you who serve with dedication, compassion and expectant hope for the future. That has been my experience of the overwhelming majority of you, and I know it will be no different for him.
The prayer and blessing that I invoke upon you at this time is for an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit so that you may be filled with faith, hope and charity as you "push out into the deep" (to quote Jesus and Fr. Westling) and toward even greater heights than we knew during our more than six years together.
Offertory, Blessing of Incense, Censing of Altar & Oblations, Clergy & People, and Prayer of Humble Access
|Presentation of the Gifts: "Behold the Lamb of God"|
I could not be more proud to have served our Lord alongside you, am humbled by the Sacramental bond that has developed between us and could not be more pleased to call each and all of you lifelong friends from this point on.
Affectionately yours in our Lord,
The Rev. Fr. Robert T. Davis, Rector
Administration of the Blessed Sacrament & Blessings
Dismissal & Blessing
Kneeling during the Extinguishing of the Altar Lights
Scenes from the farewell reception