The Meaning of the Red Doors

Facing Remington Road, our church building has three sets of doors that are painted red.  Recently, they all received a new coat of red paint:  A huge THANK YOU to our senior warden and his wife, John and Linda Day, for taking on the project of sanding, filling in the cracks, and painting.  

Red doors on churches is a centuries old tradition.  It is believed to have begun in medieval England, when churches were deemed outside of secular law, and were therefore places where anyone could seek refuge and sanctuary from pursuit or violence.  No one, not even the Sherriff of Nottingham would dare pursue a criminal or violate the holiness of a church with violence of any kind.  The person being pursued could enter a church, plead their case to the priest, and ask for sanctuary.  Red doors came to signify this special sanctuary.  In a related way, red doors are also symbolic of the blood of Christ.  There is a connection here to the story of the Passover in Exodus chapter 12 when the blood of a sacrificial lamb was spread upon lintels and doorposts of the dwellings of the people of Israel to protect them from the last and most horrible plague that God sent upon the Egyptians because of their oppression of God’s people.  When the angel of death saw the red blood on the door posts it passed by that house.  In the Eucharistic prayer we say, “Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed for us.  Therefore, let us keep the feast.”  Our liturgy references this story and the notion that in the same way that the blood of the Passover lamb represented safety and salvation for the people of Israel who were bound in slavery in Egypt until God set them free, so too the blood of Christ shed for us on the cross becomes the sign of our salvation, sanctuary, and freedom.  The red door symbolically says, “Here is a place to find spiritual sanctuary and peace that is a result of the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf.”  The red door is a sign to all who are weary, tired, our pursued by trouble, that within they might find the peace of Christ.  But not just within the doors or walls themselves.  The peace of Christ is found within the community of Christ, within our proclamation of the word and within our sacraments.  Indeed, it is no coincidence that the door is the same color as the wine found in the chalice of Eucharist.  

Seeing the beautiful new coat of red paint on our doors is all the more poignant for me coming back to the building after a time away on vacation.  I cannot help but think how it is impossible right now–and frankly unsafe–for all of us to pass through these red doors together at the same time and receive the safety and sanctuary and sustenance of Christ’s Body and Blood as one church body gathered in our beloved church space.  This remains an excruciatingly difficult time.  But the doors and the building itself are reminders and symbols—important, but not the most important.  The peace and love of Christ is within us as a community that strives to stay connected in many ways despite the dangers and strictures of this time.   As a sign and a real bond of that love, if you cannot make it to one of our small Eucharistic gatherings in person, please do watch online, and join us for nightly Compline.  If you are comfortable with it, I am more than willing to bring Communion to you at your home (or front porch or lawn) as a tangible connection to the gathered Body of Christ, the Church.  We can do this carefully, and in ways that minimize risk.  There is, of course, always risk, and we each need to weigh very carefully what is the right engagement with Holy Apostles for us and our families at this time.  Whatever is right for you and your situation, whether it is staying home and attending online, coming to an outdoor service, or attending our small 10AM Eucharist, please know that Jesus offers you sanctuary, solidarity, and peace, and that nothing can separate you from God’s love.  

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

A Note from the Rector – 10/13/19

This is a special Sunday.  I know I’ve written that before, but really: this is a special Sunday.  Today we are honored to welcome our Mother parish, Holy Apostles and the Mediator for a special shared Eucharist AND we are honored to welcome Madeleine Diana Fleckser into Christ’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church through the Sacrament of baptism.  Each of these two events are exciting and wonderful in their own right, but they are also integrally connected.  Our history reveals part of this connection.


In 1868, the vestry and rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square decided to establish a mission church to serve the growing post-Civil War population of southwest Philadelphia.  They partnered with Church of the Mediator in Philadelphia. The church that grew from that partnership was Church of the Holy Apostles, first located on 21st & Christian streets.  By the early 20th century, Church of the Holy Apostles became the largest parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.  In the early years of the 1900s there were 5,000 children enrolled in the weekly Sunday School. Around this time, Church of the Mediator and Holy Apostles decided to partner, and a new building, Chapel of the Mediator, was built on 51st and Spruce streets in West Philadelphia in 1919.  The establishment of this chapel reflected the congregation’s movement from south to west Philadelphia.  As this migration increased after the First World War, the Chapel of the Mediator flourished, while the congregation which met at the original Holy Apostles diminished. 

In 1944, the original Holy Apostles building was sold and the parish was consolidated in West Philadelphia.  The church was renamed Holy Apostles and the Mediator. In 1950, Holy Apostles and Mediator established the Chapel of the Holy Apostles in Penn Wynne.  This reflects the fact that many members of the congregation were moving farther and farther west into the suburbs, a movement that has been dubbed “white flight.” 

The funds from the sale of the original building on 21st and Christian streets were used to buy this property and build the parish hall.  Throughout the 50s, Holy Apostles and the Mediator raised money to build our church building, while financially sustaining this new congregation and ensuring that its first priests, Robert Bauer and John Kolb were paid.  When the church was built in 1959, the furniture from the original Holy Apostles in South Philadelphia was installed here: the altar and reredos (the wood panel behind the altar), the pulpit, the lectern, and the baptismal font.  Thus, Holy Apostles and the Mediator is responsible for the holy physical objects that shape our worship of God here in Penn Wynne every week.  

The font that baby Maddie will be baptized in this morning was originally given to the church in 1896 by George C. Thomas, who was, along with his wife, the primary benefactor to Holy Apostles in all of its incarnations.  Over more than a century, hundreds, if not thousands, of people have been baptized in this very font. That means something. Baptism is a spiritual and mystical tie which binds every Christian in every time and every place to each other and to Christ.  This baptismal font is a tangible, physical link between what has ultimately become Church of the Holy Apostles, Penn Wynne and Holy Apostles and the Mediator. It is a physical reminder that our histories and destinies in Christ are bound up with each other.  We are because they are, and this font reminds us of the debt of gratitude that we owe our Mother congregation, whose generosity benefits us every Sunday and especially on Sundays like this.  Hopefully this baptismal font will serve today as a symbol of our friendship, our mutual love for each other, and the joy we share in worshipping our God together as sisters and brothers.

In Christ,
James+