A Note from the Rector – 5/26/19

A series of vestments: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

A blessed Sunday of Rogation to you.  Also, I wish everyone the best during tomorrow’s remembrance of those who have died in service to this country.   

We celebrate Rogation day the Sunday before the Feast of the Ascension, which is this Thursday, May 30th.  Rogation comes from Rogare which is the Latin verb “to ask.”  Rogation is a time to ask for God’s blessing on the agriculture and the resources of creation.  It recognizes these resources as gifts from God upon which all humans rely for life.  Our celebration of Rogation Sunday involves a procession to Wynnewood Valley Park next door, where we will read some scripture and pray a brief series of prayers and blessings.  It is also reflected in today’s Prayers of the People which are excerpted from the Great Litany.  The Litany is traditionally prayed on Rogation days because it represents the universal Church’s intercession and petition for itself and for the whole world. The prayer book version of the Litany that we pray in a much abbreviated form (we chanted the whole thing on the first Sunday of Lent, if you remember) was composed in 1547 by Thomas Cranmer as a pastoral response to ongoing wars between England, Spain and France.  It is truly one of the treasures of our Anglican heritage.  

The past four weeks I have been writing about vestments.  I promised to come back to that fancy cape thing I wore at the Easter Vigil, and will do so by discussing choir dress a little more.  Choir dress refers to vestments worn when there is no celebration of the Eucharist, for instance at a service of Morning Prayer, or Evensong. Choir dress is cassock and surplice (I wrote about those in the second part of this series), followed by an academic hood if the person is so entitled.  Clergy can then wear a black scarf called a tippet.  A tippet is generally wider and longer than a stole and is always black. Military chaplains or clergy who served in the military may attach any metals and other honors to which they are entitled to the tippet, and it is customary to sew patches to the tippet representing dioceses or seminaries.  As you can see, there is more of a customary usage to choir dress that has to do with titles and ranks and styles.  This puts it at odds with some of the theology of vestments that I have been trying to convince you of in previous posts, but it also pertains to the fact that ours is a church with a long and varied history and embedded tradition.

 Choir dress was very common before the 1979 prayer book when Morning Prayer was the principal Sunday service in most Episcopal churches on most Sundays.  Pictures of the earliest services here at Holy Apostles show the clergy and choir so appareled.  Also part of choir dress are “preaching tabs” small white bands of cloth that hang from the neck, typically denoting who is going to preach; and several variations of black hats: one called the Canterbury cap that has three corners, and one called a biretta that has three corners, a “fin,” and large pom-pom on top.  Trust me, I know how ridiculous that sounds.  Google it sometime, and then you will know how ridiculous it looks!  Much of the garments in choir dress share a common origin with academic regalia (the mortar board is related to the biretta) and with the traditional attire of the legal profession (Supreme court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s white neck ruffles are related to preaching tabs).  The reason for this has to do with the fact that the earliest universities of the western world were institutions of the Church, and the first lawyers trained at such institutions were canon lawyers, that is, lawyers engaged in the interpretation and litigation of the Church’s laws and policies (yes, they’re that complicated!).  

The cope is also part of choir dress.  The cope is a semi-circular cape-like garment, open at the front, and held in place by a clasp of metal or cloth.  It probably shares its origin with the chasuble: garments worn by dignitaries of the Roman empire in the 4thcentury.  It came to be used as garment “in choir” and especially for processions.  Processions in the medieval church were often longer than just a leisurely jaunt down the center aisle of the church, and were often outdoors.  On Rogation days in medieval England (some places retain this tradition today), it was common for a procession to encircle the boundaries of the entire village, or parish, with stations along the way for prayers and scripture and blessings to be said.  This is called “beating the bounds.”  Our procession to the park this morning originates in this practice.  Aren’t you glad I don’t want us to process down Haverford road to City Avenue and then back up Earlington Road!  That’s not to say I didn’t entertain the thought…

Anyway, the cope is worn by the clergy and by cantors in these sorts of processions, and at other formal services that involve a lot of movement.  The cope is never worn during the Eucharistic prayer, so if a priest wears the cope for the first part of the service—as I did for the Easter Vigil—then it replaced by the chasuble before the Eucharistic prayer begins.      

The cope that belongs to us came from St. Faith’s.  It was made by J. Theodore Cutherbertson a  vestment maker based in Philadelphia in the early and mid-20thcentury.  It is a very fine piece of work, made of silk and velvet.  

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.