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 – 3/10/19

Today is the first Sunday of the season of Lent.  This morning we join in the prayers of the Church using a very ancient form of prayer—the Great Litany.  The Great Litany is the real deal; the big time; the major leagues of prayer.  This prayer was first assembled in response to a 4th century volcanic eruption.  It was further shaped by political uncertainty, war, and medieval outbreaks of the Black Plague in Europe.  In 1544, the Great Litany was the first part of the Liturgy to be translated (and heavily edited) into vernacular English by Thomas Cranmer.  Five years later Cranmer finished the first Book of Common Prayer, which stands at the fountainhead of our own style of worship.  Cranmer’s version of the Litany melded medieval catholic spirituality with the theological concerns of the Reformation.  Martin Luther’s hand can still be detected on the version of the Litany that is in our prayer book.

At one time, the Great Litany was prayed by every Anglican parish every Sunday.  These days, even though it is included in our version of the prayer book, it has fallen into disuse.  This is a real shame. As one scholar writes, the Litany is “a most careful, luminous, and comprehensive collection of the scattered treasures of the Universal Church.”  It holds together the reformed and catholic strands of our tradition, and it articulates the needs, anxieties, and suffering of humanity with a power that is rare.  More than that, the Litany is a profound reminder that we need to rely on the grace and mercy of God.  This is equally true today as it was in the 4th century, or the 14th.  Our life depends on God, whether we recognize it or not.  And the fact is, we often don’t recognize it.  Lent is a good time to correct that, so let’s do it with style.

This morning’s service is going to feel different.  We will begin the service by chanting together this ancient, beautiful prayer. The choir is going to march around the church really slow, and any children present might feel like joining in the march, which would be ideal as far as I am concerned.  My experience is that children intuitively understand the grandest and most sublime parts of liturgy, even if their response to them don’t always strike us adults as appropriate.  It’s going to take some time to chant the Great Litany, which is okay.  Don’t be anxious.  This is an opportunity to lose yourself in the mystery and the majesty of something bigger than you, something more important (really, it is) than the busyness and anxieties and luxuries of everyday life.  I promise it will be worth it.  I also promise to keep my sermon short.  🙂

For more on the history and use of the Great Litany see this excellent article from the Living Church magazine.

A Note from the Rector 10/7/18

Today we celebrate St. Faith’s day, the feast of the patron saint of St. Faith’s Episcopal Church in Havertown. Over the past several weeks, I have been writing in this space about our history. As an integral part of this, I write today about the history of St. Faith Episcopal Church. I will begin with St. Faith herself. Sometimes known as St. Foy, she was a young girl who lived in the Aquitaine region of France and was martyred for her faith in Jesus at the end of the 3rd or beginning of the 4th century (approx. AD 297-304). She was probably one of thousands of Christians martyred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. According to St. Jerome, she was martyred by being made to lie down on a red hot brazier (notice the brazier depicted on the St. Faith’s Banner).

What follows is some of St. Faith’s parish history mostly from A History of the Diocese of Pennsylvania by Rev. J. Wesley Twelves.

St. Faith’s in Havertown began as a small community worshipping in private homes in 1930. The Rev. William Powell conducted services in the Brookline School House during 1932. In October 1932, the Convocation of Chester (now the Delaware Deanery)* decided to officially start a mission.

Ground was purchased on Brookline Boulevard and Allston Rd. With the help of the diocese a chapel building was erected in 1933. The Rev. William Powell was in charge of the mission until 1943. A parish house was added in 1934 and a rectory in 1937. The Rev. Aaron Manderbach served from 1945 to 1950. The mission assumed parish status in 1946. The Rev. Christopher J Atkins became rector in 1951, and the current church building was built in 1957.

St. Faith’s was closed in 2015. With prayer and discernment, many members of that congregation chose to move their membership to Holy Apostles. We are so glad they did. They have brought energy, dedication, and joy to our parish, along with their commitment to the Darby mission and other ministries. They have been inspiring, and truly life-giving to Church of the Holy Apostles. Though they are absolutely integral to us, and are part of this church in every way, we still desire to honor the legacy of St. Faith’s as an extraordinary place, and a spiritual home to many extraordinary people.

Besides the people (who are the true treasure of any church), we possess many of the treasured sacred vessels of St. Faith’s church some of which we are using today. These include the parish banner, processional cross, silver bread box, offering plates, and the brass Gospel book cover that we re-dedicate today as the St. Faith Gospel Book. This beautiful piece of artisanship depicts the symbols of the four Evangelists, with Christ Enthroned in Judgement in the center. It was originally given to St. Faith’s for the glory of God in 1982 by Janet Walens in memory of her mother, Veda McClenahan. I am very grateful that we can now cherish it together and use it to beautify our worship.

Finally, the Rev. Doris Rajagopal, missioner to Darby, is with us this morning. She was raised up for the ordained ministry at St. Faith’s. She is beginning to hold regular Eucharist services in Darby and needs some sacred vessels for this purpose. It is right and fitting that we share some of the St. Faith’s treasures (held by us in trust of the diocese) for her beautiful, on-going ministry to the borough of Darby.


*Our diocese is broken up into smaller geographical areas called deaneries, each led by a Dean.  The Delaware deanery covers much of Delaware county. Holy Apostles, right on the county line, is actually part of the Merion deanery.

 

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.

Steve+