A Note from the Rector – 5/24/20

We have all felt this long and terrible absence from our normal experience of Church.  As great as it is to be able to use technology to stay connected, it isn’t the same as meeting face to face.  We have missed receiving the Eucharist, singing together, and simply being with each other in the sacred space that we have all come to love—the building of Holy Apostles.  This past week, the bishop released a detailed, comprehensive plan that we will need to follow in order to re-open our building and begin worshipping together again.  This process is going to be challenging, and it is going to require creativity, patience, determination, and a firm trust in God.  We are going to have to be committed to finding a way forward together in uncharted waters over the course of the next 18 months or so.  The most important thing is that we are committed to caring for each other and journeying together with each and with Christ.  It is also important to remember that measures outlined by the bishop are temporary.  We will get through this together.  Here are some highlights of the plan for re-entering our building, along with my commentary that situates the plan for us.

+ When the Governor deems that Delaware County is in the “yellow” phase, and when CHA has met all of the protocols required by the diocese, we can begin having in-person worship together again with restrictions (see below).  The criteria for entering the yellow phase is that there are less than 50 new cases per 100,000 residents per day averaged over 14 days in the county, along with adequate PPE for health workers, and adequate testing available.  We are right on the county line, but we have to follow Delaware county because the majority of the land upon which the church is situated in located in there.  

+ In the yellow phase, we cannot have any worship gatherings of over 25 people.  Our average Sunday attendance in 2019 was 56, although it is less in the summer months.  Allowance also needs to be made for guests and visitors. Believe it or not, we often have more visitors in the summer (especially late summer) than normal, even as regular attendance is down. So, we will need to determine how many extra services we will need in order to comfortably accommodate everyone who wants to attend and make sure that everyone’s spiritual needs are met.  We will also need to create a system for coordinating who comes to which service in order to avoid overcrowding.  

+ Thorough disinfecting will need to take place in-between services.  Having one or more services outside when possible might help to alleviate some of the strain and cost of disinfecting.  

+ Masks will need to be worn by everyone except when receiving Communion.  I will be allowed to take off my mask while preaching and while praying the Eucharistic prayer, but I will wear a mask while distributing Communion.

+ Thankfully, we can celebrate the Eucharist together.  Bread and wine will be consecrated, but Communion will be received in one kind only—the bread.  

+ Strict social distancing will be observed.  We will have to sit and stand at least 6 feet away from each other (except those who live with each other), and we can’t shake hands or hug during the peace.  We will have to change the way we receive the offering. We will also have to change our habits for entering and exiting the building.

+ Congregational singing cannot happen for awhile.  This is because evidence suggests that singing can spread the virus farther than normal speech, up to 27 feet.  We can have a lead singer along with instrumentalists, as long as the singer is 30 feet away from everyone else (a potential challenge in our building, but we will be creative).  We can also creatively use our virtual choir recordings.  

+ Live-streaming the services and other on-line worship opportunities will continue.  Some of us may not be comfortable to come back right away and we will need to continue to offer other ways to connect.  One of the blessings of this time has been that we have been forced very quickly to adapt, and I hope we will continue to utilize some online services even after all restrictions have been lifted.  

Phew!  It is a lot to take in (the 26 page document is even more detailed!), but with God’s help we will continue our worshiping life together while doing everything we can to keep each other safe. There may be some of us who do not feel comfortable returning right away and that is ok.  There are tough decisions we all need to make.  Please know that however you decide to be involved with your church right now, you will be always be loved and supported.  No matter what!  As you read this note or read the bishop’s protocols, you might have questions or concerns.  Please reach out to me, or to John Day our Senior Warden.  I am more than willing to speak with you about any of this.  Like I said, this is going to require some patience and I want to make sure that we are all on the same page as much as possible.

As the vestry and I make plans for re-opening the building, it is important that we have more information to make the best decisions.  We have created a survey to help us in this task.  Please complete this short survey at your earliest convenience.  There is a convenient online survey, and I am also sending print surveys to those who I am aware do not have internet access.  If you would prefer a print survey, let me know.  I cannot stress enough how important this information will be for us.  There are no wrong answers.  Don’t be discouraged, trust in God, and remember that nothing can separate us from God’s love for us.  

A Note from the Rector – 3/29/20

12 days.  As of the day I am writing, that’s how many days since I last received the life-giving food of Christ’s body and blood.  It’s been a decade since I’ve gone that long without receiving the Eucharist.  I’ve seen and heard many people talk about how this is a time to realize what we have taken for granted in our lives.   For me, the Eucharist is on the top of the list.  I am sure I am not alone.  The Eucharist has come up a lot, as I’ve spoken to people from our parish in the past two of weeks.  More than one person has wondered if we could do a digital Eucharist, where each person gathers their own elements of bread and wine and I bless them remotely over the internet live-stream.  I have been moved by these conversations and the desire to participate in the great Sacrament of the Church that they express.  I love and admire you all for the strength of your faith and your hunger for the healing food of the Eucharist.  

The thing about the Eucharist is that it is inescapably physical.  The Eucharist embodies the incarnate, the en-fleshed, body of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is made present in the elements of wine and bread for the physically gathered community of the body of Jesus Christ, otherwise known as the Church…otherwise known as you.  This is a material, personal, face-to-face act of thanksgiving and sacrifice.  While the internet can do many things for us, especially in this time of crisis, it cannot simulate the immediacy and intimacy of the Eucharist.  The essential physical nature of the Eucharist is expressed in the Book of Common Prayer in the only instruction during the Eucharistic prayer for what the Celebrant (the priest) must do with their hands.  When saying the Words of Institution–“This is my body…” and “This is the blood…” the priest must touch the bread and touch the chalice.   It’s not that I have magic hands or that there’s anything special about me personally.  It is that the priest (who is standing in for the bishop, actually) represents the entire gathered assembly, offering up everything we have as a sacrifice of praise to God and receiving everything back, blessed, broken open, and dripping with God’s grace.  Good WiFi is no substitute for the real thing.  

As a priest I could celebrate the Eucharist with only another member of my family present.  But to do this for my consolation only, would be (to my conscience) a selfish act.  The intention of the heart is key here.  I do not question the motivation of priests who are celebrating the Eucharist in the absence of a congregation.  I am personally grateful that many of my colleagues have continued to pray the best prayer of the Church (the Eucharist) and to offer up the body and blood of Christ for the healing of our lost and broken world.  But for us, the vestry and I decided that we would livestream Morning Prayer instead of Eucharist as our main service for the time being.

So, we’re in a pickle.  In direct consultation with the Commonwealth’s health department, the bishop has suspended in-person worship services through the first Sunday of May.  I cannot even express how sad I am about the implications.   We cannot gather in person for Palm Sunday, or any of the services of Holy Week, or on the most important and glorious and meaningful day of the entire year—Easter Day.  Nevertheless, the bishop’s decision is the right one.  We need to stay home to save lives and to reduce the pressure on our healthcare system.  This is what loving our neighbor requires of us, and to violate that love—even for the sake of something so intrinsically good as gathering together to worship—is wrong.  

As unprecedented as all this sounds, we are not alone in this.  Our ancestors in faith dealt with similar and even more difficult circumstances.  As the fly said when he fell into the preserves…I’ve been in much worse jams than this.  The Church has lived and faithfully thrived through much worse jams than this.  It is also helpful to remember that not too long ago the norm in the Episcopal church was Morning Prayer three Sundays a month and Eucharist one Sunday a month.  In the Middle Ages, despite daily Eucharists celebrated in most churches, the average faithful Christian would only receive the Eucharist once or twice a year—perhaps only on Easter and Christmas.

The Book of Common Prayer also offers a way forward for us who so desperately want and need the Eucharist:

“If a person desires to receive the Sacrament, but, by reason of extreme sickness or physical disability, is unable to eat and drink the Bread and Wine, the Celebrant is to assure that person that all the benefits of Communion are received, even though the Sacrament is not received with the mouth.”

BCP, page 457

This concept is known as Spiritual Communion.  Even though we cannot receive with our mouths, God’s grace is imparted and made present to us through the holy desire and intentions of our hearts.   We are embodied people and Spiritual Communion is no permanent substitute for the material Eucharist, but in this time, it will carry us through.  So going forward into Holy Week we will create opportunities to make Spiritual Communion and to sharpen the desires and intentions of our hearts toward union with God and each other.  And when this thing is over, and we can gather again, we are going to have one heck of a party and one heavenly Eucharistic feast together.  

Right now, do not doubt that God’s loving presence is everywhere.  God is with you right now.  God hears our cries and sees our desperate moments.  Lord, hear our prayer and let our cry come to you.  Lord make speed to save us.  God make haste to help us.  Amen.   

Coronavirus Update from the Rector

Dear Holy Apostles,

Grace and peace to you from God.  The consensus of the CDC and other health officials is that, along with washing your hands, social distancing is a vitally important part of mitigating the spread and severity of coronavirus (COVID-19) in our community.  Social distancing means keeping away from large gatherings and creating a wider “personal bubble” when you are out in public.  And most importantly, it means staying home and away from others when you are sick.  These steps are essential parts of taking care of ourselves as well as loving our neighbors as ourselves. 

However, the danger is that in the process of social distancing we will end up emotionally and spiritually isolating ourselves.  In other words, I worry our reactions to the COVID-19 health crisis—especially reactions that are driven by fear—will only add to one of the pandemics that has gripped our society for some time, the virulent and insidious pandemic of loneliness, isolation, and despair. 

Emotional and spiritual distancing isn’t going to help anyone.  There is, in fact, a direct link between spiritual health and physical and emotional health.  This essential connection has not diminished because there is a new and scary public health emergency.  We need to maintain our spiritual connection to God and each other.  The question is:  how do we as a church take prudent precautions against the spread of infectious disease while maintaining a sense of community and spiritual care which imbues life with meaning and makes it worth living in the first place?  This is a difficult but not impossible balance.  I wrote last week about the precautions we are taking at church including wiping down high-touch surfaces before and after services, exploring alternatives to handshakes and hugs during the Peace, and increasing the amount of hand washing that goes on before Holy Communion.  I also wrote about the sufficiency of only taking Communion in one kind, the bread.

At this time I want to reiterate what you have undoubtedly heard from many sources: please stay home if you are sick.  Also if you are sick, let me know so that your faith community can provide you with support.  This is a time for solidarity not stigma.

If you are a member of a group that is particularly at risk of serious health complications, please consider your options for spiritual and emotional support carefully.  If you feel comfortable coming to church, please do so, as long as you are not sick.  A second option is that I am more than willing to bring the Holy Sacrament to you in your home.  I am currently healthy and will be monitoring my health carefully.  With God’s sustaining help, I will be available for eucharistic visitation, pastoral visits, and prayer.

Another option is to participate in our worship services digitally.  We are working to make digital options available by this weekend for those who are sick or who want to stay at home.  Digital interaction is not the same thing and face-to-face interaction and participation, and it is not sufficient or sustainable in the long-term.  But as a short-term stopgap it may be the best option for some to connect.  Be on the lookout for links to livestreams of services and other activities. 

Unless the bishop tells me otherwise, I will not be cancelling Sunday Eucharist or weekday Morning Prayer.  During this difficult time we need more prayer and more sacraments, not less.  As one of my friends put it, the prayers of the faithful are the most powerful tool we have in times of crisis.  I stand firm in my conviction that the sacrament of the Eucharist is given by God for the healing of the whole world.  It is more important than ever to continue to offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God and pray for grace and healing on behalf of a broken and anguished world. 

In consultation with the vestry, I will be making decisions about whether to cancel other church activities on a case-to-case basis, including Lenten group activities, Bible Study, and various committee meetings.  I spoke with the Rev. Doris Rajagopal today about the Darby Mission Supper next Tuesday night.  She has not cancelled the supper at this time.  Assuming nothing changes in the next several days, I would like for us to go forward with providing the meal.  However, I am strongly discouraging folks who are at high risk of health complications due to coronavirus from attending the meal.   When the time comes we will decide with Doris whether to deliver the food and leave, or to stay with a smaller group of volunteers and help serve.

Most importantly, don’t isolate yourself from this lifegiving body, our church.  Even if you cannot be physically present please reach out.  Call me if you need to talk.  Call each other.  Let’s check in on each and make sure we’re okay.  Above all else, pray for each other and for the safety and well-being of our community. 

Know that God is with us in difficult times.  God has not abandoned the world.  Jesus came into the world as a human to live among us and to demonstrate that God’s love is in solidarity with human suffering.  We are Christ’s body.  We are called to demonstrate to a suffering and fearful world that God is still present with us now. 

Peace & Good,
James+

Announcements – 2/2/2020

Worship

† We will bless candles for Candlemas immediately following Morning Prayer this morning, which begins at 8:30AM.  Blessed candles will be available at the 10AM service of Holy Eucharist (see today’s Note from the Rector for more information).

† Healing Prayer will be offered today, February 2, at the 10AM service.

† Are you friendly?  We need you! Our greeter ministry is one of the key ministries of our church.  Greeters welcome visitors, make people comfortable, hand out service leaflets and take up offering.  They make sure the service runs smoothly. Starting in October, we will be organizing a monthly Greeters breakfast with the Rector, probably at a local restaurant.  If you’re interested in serving God in this way, talk to Jim Jervis or Fr. James.

† Morning Prayer is offered at 8:30AM on Sunday mornings and at 9:15AM Tuesdays through Fridays.  Anyone can pray the service privately using the Book of Common Prayer or one of a number of smartphone apps!  See the last section of the digital edition of the “Acts of the Apostles” for details.

Outreach

† Our annual Connect by Night shelter program concluded last month. We made over 1,500 lunches and provided many different gifts to our guests, who were very thankful for the support. Thanks to all the many people who took part this month, and particularly to our weekly supply captains: Peter Patton, Lyn DeSilets, Michelle Gallagher and family (thanks also for the socks), Judy and Jim Jervis and Beth Johnson. Thanks also to the Philadelphia Bible Reform Church, the Woestmanns (who organized a book distribution), and the Gentiles (who covered Christmas and New Year’s Eve).

† There are lots of opportunities to participate in Holy Apostles Outreach through our various programs:

      – Delivering items to a food pantry in Northeast Philadelphia

      – Meals at Darby Mission (3/17). Other ideas are welcome.

Children and Youth

† Nursery childcare is available during the 10:00AM Sunday service for children ages 3 and younger in the Godly Play Room.

† The Holy Apostles Choir School is off and running.  If you have a potential student, apply today.  More information is available at holyapostlespa.org/choir-school/. Please forward this information to friends and neighbors who may be interested. Contact Deb Stambaugh if you have any questions.

Parish Life

† Please don’t miss the Annual Parish Meeting and luncheon after our 10AM worship, Sunday, February 2.  We’ll review our budget for the year, elect new vestry members, and praise God for all the wonderful things happening in this place. In an effort to cut down on paper waste, print copies of reports will not be provided at the meeting. We will digitally project information during the meeting. Print copies of the 2020 Budget will be provided. You can also print your own: Visit the Annual Meeting page to access the budget and all reports in a printable format.

† If you have an announcement to be included in Acts of the Apostles, please send it to holyapostlescomm@gmail.com before Thursday at noon of each week.

† Don’t forget to enter the church through the Parish office door and grab a “Church Member” badge from the office during Daycare hours (7:00AM – 6:00PM Mon-Fri)!

† The Cash for Causes Program at Giant Supermarket:

· Purchase through JT Wertz

· 5% of card value is given to Holy Apostles operating fund.

· Can be used in store or when ordering Giant groceries through Peapod online delivery service.

Education

† Join us for BASICS class, every 3rd Sunday at 9AM.

· Third Sunday Basics Class will continue February 16 with a class called “What is liturgy?”

† Bible Study on Deuteronomy, Thursdays at 11AM.  All are welcome.

† FacePsalm online study of the Psalms: bit.ly/2ndKq9o

Announcements – 5/26/19

Worship

† Today is Rogation Sunday.  There will be a special procession and blessing in Wynnewood Valley Park immediately following 10AM Eucharist.

† May 30th is the Feast of the Ascension.

† There will be no Morning Prayer on May 30 & 31.  James will be at his nephew’s high school graduation.

† Morning Prayer is offered at 8:30AM on Sunday mornings and at 9:15AM Tuesdays through Fridays.  Anyone can pray the service privately using the Book of Common Prayer or one of a number of smart phone apps!  See the last section of the digital edition of the “Acts of the Apostles” for details.

Outreach

† We will continue collecting non-perishable food items for the food pantry of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia.  Look for the collection box in the hallway outside the parish hall.

† Our next all-church Darby Mission Meal: 9/17/19.

Children and Youth

† Nursery Childcare is available during the 10:00AM Sunday service for children ages 3 and younger in the Godly Play Room.

† Sunday School: Children Preschool – 2nd grade and 3rd – 8th grade attend Sunday classes at 10:00AM, the same time as the church service starts; children join their parents in the church in time for communion. Classes are held on the 1st, 3rd, & 4th Sundays of the month. On 2nd Sundays children attend church with their parents, either the 10:00PM Holy Eucharist service or the 5:30PM Family Worship Service. When there is a 5th Sunday, children attend church with their parents, with some of the children taking part in leading the service.

† The Holy Apostles Choir School is looking toward it’s grand opening in the Fall of 2019.  If you have a potential student, apply today.  More information is available at holyapostlespa.org/choir-school/. Please forward this information to friends and neighbors who may be interested. Contact Deb Stambaugh if you have any questions.

Parish Life

† The All Parish-Sunday School cook-out is Pentecost Sunday, June 9th.  Sign up to bring a side-dish outside the parish office.  Main course, drinks, dessert will be provided.  Bring a friend!

† 2019 Happy Hour Dates

            Bring a drink and a snack or appetizer to share.  We’ll hang out     on the lawn weather permitting. 

            May 31—THIS FRIDAY 6:30PM

            June 28

            July 19—*date change*—with a special musical guest

            August 30

† New Parish Communications Coordinator: We are happy to announce that Dan McKeon, a graduate student in creative writing & publishing will be joining the church staff in June.  Dan will be responsible for our printed and online communications! 

† The Rev. Jim Robertson who was our deacon here from 1992-94, is being ordained to the priesthood in Diocese of Central Pennsylvania.  Jim reached out to church with an invitation, and a request for our prayers.  The ordination will be June 15, 2019 at 10:30AM at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral in Harrisburg, PA.  An invitation posted in the parish hall provides more information. 

† Don’t forget to enter the church through the Parish office door and grab a “Church Member” badge from the office during Daycare hours (7:00AM – 6:00PM Mon-Fri)!

† The Cash for Causes Program at Giant Supermarket:

            -Purchase through JT Wertz

            -5% of card value is given to Holy Apostles operating fund.

            -Can be used in store or when ordering Giant groceries through    peapod online delivery service.

Education

† Bible Study is held on Thursdays at 11AM.

† Liturgy Lab: This summer we will be exploring the meaning and purpose of liturgy with 5 “Liturgy Labs.”  Liturgy Lab will begin with a brief discussion of some aspect of liturgy.  During our worship that day we will incorporate an experiment that will further explore or illustrate our topic.  Donuts & Discussion from 9:15am—9:45am, service begins at 10am.  It’s going to be fun! 

            June 16– What is liturgy, anyway? 

            June 23– Morning Prayer vs. Holy Eucharist, a duel to the death?

            July 7– Does changing the room change how liturgy feels?

            July 21– The Bible (and its many translations) in liturgy.

            August 4– All the pieces of the Eucharistic prayer you wish you knew the fancy names for.

Announcements – 5/19/19

Worship

† Next Sunday, May 26th is Rogation Sunday.  There will be a special procession and blessing in Wynnewood Valley Park on that day. 

† Morning Prayer is offered at 8:30AM on Sunday mornings and at 9:15AM Tuesdays through Fridays.  Anyone can pray the service privately using the Book of Common Prayer or one of a number of smart phone apps!  See the last section of the digital edition of the “Acts of the Apostles” for details.

Outreach

† We will continue collecting non-perishable food items for the food pantry of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia.  Look for the collection box in the hallway outside the parish hall.

† Our next all-church Darby Mission Meal: 9/17/19.

Children and Youth

† Nursery Childcare is available during the 10:00AM Sunday service for children ages 3 and younger in the Godly Play Room.

† Sunday School: Children Preschool – 2nd grade and 3rd – 8th grade attend Sunday classes at 10:00AM, the same time as the church service starts; children join their parents in the church in time for communion. Classes are held on the 1st, 3rd, & 4th Sundays of the month. On 2nd Sundays children attend church with their parents, either the 10:00PM Holy Eucharist service or the 5:30PM Family Worship Service. When there is a 5th Sunday, children attend church with their parents, with some of the children taking part in leading the service.

† The Holy Apostles Choir School is looking toward it’s grand opening in the Fall of 2019.  If you have a potential student, apply today.  More information is available at holyapostlespa.org/choir-school/. Please forward this information to friends and neighbors who may be interested. Contact Deb Stambaugh if you have any questions.

Parish Life

† The All Parish-Sunday School cook-out is Pentecost Sunday, June 9th.  Sign up to bring a side-dish outside the parish office.  Main course, drinks, dessert will be provided.  Bring a friend!

† 2019 Happy Hour Dates

            May 31

            June 28

            July 26

            August 30

† The Rev. Jim Robertson who was our deacon here from 1992-94, is being ordained to the priesthood in Diocese of Central Pennsylvania.  Jim reached out to church with an invitation, and a request for our prayers.  The ordination will be June 15, 2019 at 10:30AM at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral in Harrisburg, PA.  An invitation posted in the parish hall provides more information. 

† Don’t forget to enter the church through the Parish office door and grab a “Church Member” badge from the office during Daycare hours (7:00AM – 6:00PM Mon-Fri)!

† The Cash for Causes Program at Giant Supermarket:

            -Purchase through JT Wertz

            -5% of card value is given to Holy Apostles operating fund.

            -Can be used in store or when ordering Giant groceries through peapod online delivery service.

Education

† Bible Study is held on Thursdays at 11AM.

† Liturgy Lab: This summer we will be exploring the meaning and purpose of liturgy with 5 “Liturgy Labs.”  Liturgy Lab will begin with a brief discussion of some aspect of liturgy.  During our worship that day we will incorporate an experiment that will further explore or illustrate our topic.  Donuts & Discussion from 9:15am—9:45am, service begins at 10am.  It’s going to be fun! 

            June 16– What is liturgy, anyway? 

            June 23– Morning Prayer vs. Holy Eucharist, a duel to the death?

            July 7– Does changing the room change how liturgy feels?

            July 21– The Bible (and its many translations) in liturgy.

            August 4– All the pieces of the Eucharistic prayer you wish you knew the fancy names for.

A Note from the Rector – 5/19/19

Series of Vestments: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

In this on-going (never-ending?) series on garments for worship (AKA vestments), we have in the fourth week come to the two items that are most properly called vestments in the first place: the stole and the chasuble.    

The stole is the long, scarf-like thing that is worn draped around the neck.  If the wearer is a deacon the stole is worn fastened to one side like a sash.  If s/he is a bishop they wear the stole draped down the front.  A priest wears the stole the same way, or sometimes they will cross the stole in front to differentiate themselves from the higher office of bishop.  Along with the chasuble, the stole usually matches the color of the liturgical season.  Right now, for the Easter season, it is white.

The stole’s exact origins are shrouded in the mists of time.  It may be related to pre-Christian religious garments in southern Europe.  It has often been compared to the priestly ephod in the worship of the ancient Israelites and the prayer shawls of modern-day Judaism.  It is likely related to garments given to magistrates and other public officials in the Roman Empire to denote their office.  This function seems to relate to the fact that the way a clergy person wears the stole tells you something about their office (a deacon, or a bishop or a priest). 

Whatever the historical development, I find the deepest significance of the stole in the story of Last Supper. As we celebrate on Maundy Thursday, this is the night that Jesus put an apron or towel around himself and stooped to wash his disciple’s feet.  The stole represents that towel.  So, even as the stole functions as a distinctive mark of the office of a clergy person, it is also always a symbol of servanthood.  As Jesus told his disciple at the table, if any one wants to be a leader, they must be a servant of all (Matthew 20:26).  I generally wear a stole anytime I am doing something sacramental like consecrating the Eucharist, anointing the sick with oil, baptizing someone, or blessing a marriage.

On top of the stole, a priest who is going to celebrate Eucharist may wear a chasuble.  The chasuble is sometimes called theEucharistic vestment, because it is only worn for the purpose of Eucharistic celebration.  Let’s face it, the chasuble is a fancy poncho.  It’s a direct descendent of the outer cloaks worn in the Roman Empire in the 4thcentury.  Back then, these cloaks were worn by everyone.  As fashions changed in the early middle ages, bishops and priests alone held onto the chasuble, and it became the main garment used for the liturgy.  

Like the rest, the chasuble has accrued a symbolic meaning.  This can be seen from the traditional prayer for putting on the chasuble, which in its original Latin dates to the middle ages: “O Lord who hast said, ‘my yoke is easy and my burden is light’: enable me so to bear that I may attain to thy favor and abide in thy love.”  This prayer quotes Matthew 11:29-30: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” In placing the chasuble around my neck as a yoke around the neck of an oxen, it reminds me of this promise of Jesus, which finds its counterpart and fulfillment in a commandment: “take up your cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24).  

To be clear, it is not just the priest who is meant to take up Jesus’ yoke, and carry his cross.  This is for all of us.  Remember, the chasuble is a Eucharistic vestment, and at the Eucharist the priest is a symbol and a stand-in for the whole gathered community.  It’s not me as an individual up there, but all of us offering our gifts of wine and bread, of thanksgiving and praise to God, and receiving those gifts back from God, broken open, transformed, overflowing with grace that is the balm of all who are weary and heavy-laden.  This whole operation only makes sense when we’ve all yoked ourselves to Jesus, when we’ve all gathered ourselves underneath the saving health of the cross.  All these vestments are meant to help us participate aesthetically and symbolically in these truths.  Next week I will finish this exploration of vestments by talking about a few odds and ends.

A Note from the Rector – 5/5/19

This is the second part of a series of “Notes” about the meaning and purpose of vestments.  Last week I gave an overview of the topic, and a general theological statement about vestments.  Next, I will explore specific garments, starting from the inside and working out.  One thing to note: this stuff has tradition behind it, but, while many people (God forbid I include myself here) can get sort of fussy about vestments, there are no official guidelines in the Episcopal church or instructions in the Book of Common Prayer about vestments.  

The first robe I normally wear on Sunday is not, properly speaking, a vestment.  It is a long black robe called a cassock, which used to be “street wear” for clerics rather than a garment set apart for worship.  The cassock was meant for everyday use.  This can be illustrated by the BBC series “Father Brown Mysteries” based on the mystery stories of G. K. Chesterton, featuring Mark Williams as the eponymous sleuthing priest.  Father Brown is almost never seen without his cassock on.  He even rides countryside on his bicycle wearing it. These days, the everyday wear of clergy people, known as “clericals,” is more commonly the black shirt with a white collar.  More often than not, I only wear my cassock on Sunday mornings.  For me, it serves the purpose of setting Sunday and Sunday worship apart as something out of the ordinary.  

What’s worn over the cassock is much more important.  The robe worn over the cassock is called an alb, which is short for the Latin word, albus, which means “white” (an etymology which might be significant for fans of the Harry Potterseries, written by an Anglican lay woman by the name of J.K. Rowling).  The alb derives from the everyday clothing of ancient Rome. Originally it was similar to the Greek toga.  It is a garment not limited only to priests, deacons, and bishops.  Anybody serving in the liturgy may wear an alb, or a similar garment (I’ll get to similar garments in a moment).  This is because, first and foremost, the alb signifies the ministry of all the baptized.  In the 4thcentury (here we go again), a pilgrim named Egeria travelled to Jerusalem and observed the Easter ceremonies of the Church in Jerusalem. During the Easter Vigil, Egeria observed a number of baptisms of adults (infant baptism was not very common in the early centuries of the church).  Those to be baptized were separated by gender, and they disrobed before they were baptized by full-immersion.  When they came out of the water they were given an alb to put on to signify that their sins had been washed away, and they were now forgiven participants in the risen life of Christ.  So, in one sense, the alb signifies the state and ministry of all the baptized. 

In Revelation 7:14, the author sees a vision of a great multitude of people from every people group and nation, standing before the throne of God in heaven holding palm branches.  They are all wearing albs, and the author is told their robes are white because they have washed them in the blood of the Lamb, who is Christ himself.  All these white-robed saints had experienced persecution and martyrdom.  On several occasions, our liturgy refers to the white-robed army of martyrs.  This is the origin of that reference.  So, the alb signifies the state and ministry of the baptized, and also the purity and faithfulness of those whose commitment to Christ extends even unto death and beyond. I am reminded of these symbolic meanings every time I put on my alb with this prayer: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, and cleanse from me all stains of sin; that, with those who have made their robes white in the blood of the Lamb, I may have grace to attain to everlasting happiness.”

A local, northern European variation of the alb, called the surplice is another white garment that I sometimes where.  The surplice is cut differently than the alb, with a wider neck, and reallybig sleeves.  It is not worn with a cincture (robe around the waist).  Over time, the usage of the alb versus the surplice was differentiated so that, a surplice is generally worn by those who are not actually celebrating the Eucharist (clergy or lay), and for services such as Morning Prayer where Eucharist is not to be celebrated at all.  It is part of what is known as “choir dress,” vestments for worship other than Eucharistic worship.  On Sundays when we have guest clergy who are not leading us in the Eucharistic prayer, you will notice they will wear either an alb and stole (I’ll talk about the stole next week), or a cassock, surplice, and stole.  The priest leading the Eucharistic prayer will wear a chasuble over his or her alb and stole.  This usage, of course, is not universal.  

Announcements – 4/28/19

Worship

† Healing Prayers will be offered today after Holy Communion

† Morning Prayer is offered at 8:30AM on Sunday mornings and at 9:15AM Tuesdays through Fridays.  Anyone can pray the service privately using the Book of Common Prayer or one of a number of smart phone apps!  See the last section of the digital edition of the “Acts of the Apostles” for details.

Outreach

† We will continue non-perishable food items for the food pantry of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia.  Look for the collection box in the hallway outside the parish hall.

† Our next all-church Darby Mission Meal: 9/17/19.

Good News

† April 28th, Montgomery County will be using the back portion of our parking lot on Sunday, April 28th for a Bike Safety Rodeo in conjunction with the Penn Wynne Civic Association Earth Day Celebration (in the park).  The event will be from 1PM – 4PM.

† Save the Date: Haverford Heritage Festival – Sunday, June 2.  The church will have a booth.

Children and Youth

† Nursery Childcare is available during the 10:00AM Sunday service for children ages 3 and younger in the Godly Play Room.

† Sunday School: Children Preschool – 2nd grade and 3rd – 8th grade attend Sunday classes at 10:00AM, the same time as the church service starts; children join their parents in the church in time for communion. Classes are held on the 1st, 3rd, & 4th Sundays of the month. On 2nd Sundays children attend church with their parents, either the 10:00PM Holy Eucharist service or the 5:30PM Family Worship Service. When there is a 5th Sunday, children attend church with their parents, with some of the children taking part in leading the service.

† The Holy Apostles Choir School is looking toward it’s grand opening in the Fall of 2019.  If you have a potential student, apply today.  More information is available at holyapostlespa.org/choir-school/. Please forward this information to friends and neighbors who may be interested. Contact Deb Stambaugh if you have any questions.

Parish Life

† James will be the Diocese of Pennsylvania Clergy Conference this week from Monday – Wednesday. 

† The Rev. Jim Robertson who was our deacon here from 1992-94, is being ordained to the priesthood in Diocese of Central Pennsylvania.  Jim reached out to church with an invitation, and a request for our prayers.  The ordination will be June 15, 2019 at 10:30AM at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral in Harrisburg, PA.  An invitation posted in the parish hall provides more information. 

† Don’t forget to enter the church through the Parish office door and grab a “Church Member” badge from the office during Daycare hours (7:00AM – 6:00PM Mon-Fri)!

† The Cash for Causes Program at Giant Supermarket:

               -Purchase through JT Wertz

               -5% of card value is given to Holy Apostles operating fund.

               -Can be used in store or when ordering Giant groceries through     peapod online delivery service.

Education

† Thank you to all who participated in our Lenten Soup Group series!  Look for more adult education opportunities in the near future!

† Bible Study is held on Thursdays at 11AM.

Diocesan / Community Events

† Mental Health First Aid Training (Youth) – May 4—8:30a-4:30p. St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Germantown.

† Community Veteran Culture Training / Healing Ceremony – May 6-7 starting at 8am.  Cranaleith Spiritual Center, Philadelphia.