A Note From The Rector

Today, June 24th is normally celebrated as the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist.  It is not celebrated as such today because very few feasts supersede the normal Sunday celebration of the Lord’s Day.  This is because each Sunday is to be celebrated as a “little” Easter, a feast of Jesus’ Resurrection, and the Resurrection transcends and supersedes every other day and event in the Christian faith.  So, we transfer the feast of Jesus’ cousin, John, to tomorrow.

The Gospel of Luke chapter 1 recounts the events surrounding John’s conception and birth in relationship to Jesus’ conception and birth.  It is not entirely clear from the Scriptural account when John was born, but it is does seem clear that Elizabeth was pregnant for some months, perhaps five or six, before Mary conceived.  So, when the traditional date of Jesus’ birth became December 25, the date of John’s birth was set six months “before” that, on June 24/25.

This scheme also roughly corresponds with the winter and summer solstices.  There is a theological reason for this association. It is encapsulated in John’s words about Jesus from the Gospel of John: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  This theological statement is symbolically encoded into the Christian calendar. Starting around the Feast of John the Baptist (and the summer solstice), the days get shorter.  This represents John’s decrease, until Christmas (and the winter solstice) when Jesus is born and the days begin to get longer, representing Christ’s “increase.”

There are lots of traditional ways to celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist, as well as a lot of interesting folklore associated with the day.  Some of this represents the mixture of Christian customs with customs and celebrations surrounding the summer solstice that originate in northern European pagan traditions.  A lot of this stuff is quite interesting, and learning about and recovering some of these customs might be worthwhile, as long as we do not lose sight of the theological significance of the day.  Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father , prophesied:

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; *
he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior, *
born of the house of his servant David…

You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, *
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
To give his people knowledge of salvation *
by the forgiveness of their sins.
In the tender compassion of our God *
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the
shadow of death, *
and to guide our feet into the way of peace


A Note from the (Former) Rector: History of Connect-by-Night at Holy Apostles

by the Rev. Steve Snider (Rector 1991-2006)

We began sheltering circa 1994, I think it was, with a group of interdenominational parishes coordinated by an organization called Shepherd’s Place. Sally Griffith, now a parishioner of Holy Trinity Rittenhouse Square, alerted us to the organization and affected the marriage between CHA and Shepherd’s Place. We signed on and a core group of parish volunteers quickly expanded to the numbers you have today. I advocated and Sally was our first coordinator by default! She did a great job. Looking through the 2006 directory, the year I retired from CHA, I count 40+ families or individuals who stepped up to host and prepare bag lunches, drinks, sanitize, etc. Many of them are still helping today. I also remember our earliest volunteers now departed: Win Becker, Sr., Peter Cadwallader, Bonnie Davis, Ray Dyer, Bob & Carole Moore, Vince Raimondo, Harry Sibley, Sandy Smith, Gene Stivers, and I hope for forgiveness for missing anyone else.

Prior to our first year of hosting, we sent flyers around the neighborhood and the result was predictable. Some neighbors called to complain; some anonymously called the township resulting in a surprise inspection, albeit with an apology from the inspector; some called and offered to help. Ultimately, we had many more neighborhood helpers than complainers. After the first couple of years the nay-sayers stopped saying, well, ‘nay’.

When we first began, we were assigned winter months, and thus helped to save many from freezing on the streets. We needed to put a hold on our involvement in 1999 when the parish hall underwent re-construction. When we re-joined the rota for the month of July, which worked well since we had just installed air-conditioning in the parish hall.  We have been helping people avoid heat related catastrophes ever since.

At some point in the mid-90’s, Shepherd’s Place ceased to exist and the sheltering operation came under the auspices of Connect-By-Night social services in Upper Darby. Largely, CHA and other parishes hosted the overflow from the permanent shelter located at 63rd & Market in Upper Darby. That shelter was overwhelmed by the first year of its opening. At first our guests – numbering from 25 to 60 people each night – included children, most often with their mothers and sometimes with both parents/partners. In time, the children began to disappear for an assortment of reasons, some of them good.

I am so pleased and give thanks to God that CHA continues in this life-saving outreach. By my count 2018 marks the 24rd year in this sacred endeavor…anyway, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.