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.   

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 – 5/19/19

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.

Announcements – 5/12/19

Worship

† Sunday May 12: Family Evening Worship—5:30PM

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

† Worship Committee Meeting: Tuesday, May 14 at 7PM.  Anyone is welcome to come and take part.  We will discuss summer and fall   worship plans.  We’ll meet in the Memorial Room.

† 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

† A big THANK YOU to Wyatt Delevan who completed 8 hours of community service for a Boy Scout merit badge by cleaning and organizing the attic storage area and the boiler room, and cleaning the choir room. 

† 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.

† James is planning to offer a special summer adult education program on Sunday mornings while the choir is not in session.  Stay tuned for details. 

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.