A Note from the Rector – 9/13/20

This week was week two of school for Haverford school district and the first week for Lower Merion.  It’s been quite a week for my family as we’re learning all over again how to do online school.  It won’t take long before my kids, members of a generation who are dubbed “digital natives,” know their way around Zoom and other applications far better than I do.  It’s an understatement and a cliché to mention that this is a difficult time for families trying to juggle jobs, school, childcare, and mountains of uncertainty.  And the difficulty of one demographic does not minimize or discount the hardship of others.  I don’t know anyone who isn’t struggling in some way.

As a community of Jesus-followers, Holy Apostles has a lot to offer during this time of adversity.  One of the things it is able to offer is something in short supply these days, grace.  Grace is the freedom from shame, competition, and inauthenticity that can only come from knowing that you are truly loved no matter what.  It is related to the realization that your worth as a human being does not depend on your efficiency, your ability to achieve goals, your online teaching skills, your bank account, your house, your car, your children’s college admissions, or any other metric society uses to categorize and measure.  Grace cuts through all of that like butter.  

All grace originates in God and God’s invincible, unflappable love for us.  Through our connection to God–our worship, our prayer, our generosity, our fellowship–we have access to an unlimited supply here at Holy Apostles.  Grace means no matter who you are, or what you’ve been up to you are welcome to join us, either for online worship or in-person worship this weekend.  We have two services: our normal 10AM service (livestreamed), and a new, bi-monthly outdoor service geared toward families at 4:30PM (off-line but with ice cream).  

Grace also means that you are loved and valued even if you can’t make it to church this weekend.  Grace means God won’t give up you no matter what.  If you can’t make it to church (online or in person), my advice is, don’t stay away for too long.  Find some way that you can engage and stay connected with this grace-filled community. There are plenty of barriers at this time. It isn’t safe for everyone to gather like normal. It can be hard to engage online. But, please find some reminder of grace, even if it’s just a phone call with a church friend and a quick prayer. Know that Holy Apostles is here for you.  

The grace and love and peace that is found in worshipping God together is something I am convinced we all need.  Humans are made for worship.  If we’re not going to worship God, we will surely find something to worship.  It’s just that our other religions—careers, possessions, pleasures of all kinds—do not leave any room for grace at all.   

A Note from the Rector

We have had a “hybrid” worship service for about two and half months now.  Since mid-June, we have held small, in-person gatherings on Sunday mornings and have live streamed these services on our Youtube channel.  Someone asked me the other day what has been the most surprising thing about my first three years at Holy Apostles.  The first thing that came to mind is that I would never have predicted three years ago that I would become a tele-evangelist.  I am still surprised that during this pandemic we have adapted so well to be able to produce an hour long Youtube video every week.  Of course, this would not have happened, and it would not continue to happen without the dedication and ingenuity of some talented and knowledgeable folks. 

Those of you who have been to an indoor Eucharist lately know that the stuff we need in order to produce our online videos is sort of in the way.  The biggest distraction for in-person worshippers is a camcorder on a tripod set up next to the baptismal font, and right in front of the pulpit.  Faithful volunteers move the camcorder throughout the service in order to capture the readings, sermon, and music.  I have not heard any complaints, of course.  We’re all just happy to have church.  But I also know that it is jarring and distracting to prayer.  It has worked well as a short-term solution.  However, it has become clear that this pandemic is not a short-term problem.  As awful as it has been, this time has allowed us to imagine further ways that we can be witnesses to God’s love on the internet.  With that in mind, the vestry decided to invest in technology that will allow us to continue to livestream our services—and vastly improve the video quality of those live streams—while also getting rid of that unsightly tripod in the middle of the worship space.  So, we’ve contracted with an audio-visual company to install a remote controlled camera with a powerful optical zoom lens in the back of the nave (near the exit sign).  This camera will be able to capture everything that happens in our service in high definition.  Operated from the “command center” which has taken over our old organ loft, the camera will be completely out of the way.  It’s going to be pretty cool, but it will take a few weeks for all the parts to arrive and for the installation to happen.  

All that is left to say is that I am incredibly grateful.  I am grateful to the technology folks who know what they’re doing and have made it possible to stay connected during this difficult time.  I am grateful for the leadership of the vestry and their willingness and imagination to adapt to new circumstances.  I am grateful to those who have attended in-person worship and have faithfully taken care of each other by social distancing and wearing masks.  I am grateful for those who have joined us by watching online and who have contributed to our service using digital technology, including friends from around the country.  I am incredibly grateful that our parish’s pledging income has not decreased despite this difficult time, and grateful that this parish’s generosity toward those in need has, in fact, increased through an incredible outpouring of gifts to the Darby Mission and other outreach.  I am grateful most of all to God who never leaves us nor forsakes us; God who hears our prayers no matter where we pray or how good our WiFi is.  God is faithful to us and God gives us the patience to be faithful to each other in return.  

    

A Note from the Rector – 6/21/20

Happy Father’s Day!

It is with joy and some cautious trepidation that we begin to hold limited in-person worship this week along with maintaining our online presence.  I am very mindful, at this time, of folks who do not feel comfortable coming back to worship.  I’ve said it and others have said it: the Church exists well beyond the walls of a building.  It is essential to the task of being the Church to make sure that we are all taken care of and have ways that we can connect to God and each other, even while some of us will need to stay at home for a while longer.  

For those who are planning to come to church this summer, things are going to look different.  Beth, Lucas, and Paige Johnson made a great video that illustrates some of those changes.  If you are signed up to attend this Sunday, the video will give you an idea of what to expect.  I want to express my gratitude to the Johnsons for their work.  

The necessity of wearing a mask is one big change that extends far beyond just church gatherings.  Almost overnight masks have become ubiquitous in American society.  Unlike many other people in the world, Americans seemed to have an aversion to masks, and it is interesting to wonder why.  I have the (bad?) habit of making everything about theology.  So, I have been thinking about a theology of masks.  Before the pandemic, in line with much of American culture, I might have spoken of masks negatively.  I might write how we all wear metaphorical masks which hide our true selves.  We “put on” personas and outward attitudes and behaviors as if they were masks, to protect ourselves from shame, disappointment, or the vulnerability to pain that comes with being truly known.  And it’s still true that a mask can be a salient metaphor, but suddenly they’ve become much more.  Masks have become a daily reality.  

From the beginning of this crisis until now, public health officials—and behind them, the scientists who are studying the virus—have done a complete 180 degree pivot on the importance of masks as one of the keys to beating, or least surviving, this pandemic.  It is important to realize that when it comes to science and health, humans are no less fallible than in other pursuits.  Of course, besides fallibility, one of the most distinctive aspects of humanity is our ability to quickly adapt based on new information.  So, we adapt, and we wear masks because the best information we have suggests they are vital.  From a theological point of view, the most significant piece of data concerning how masks help reduce the spread of coronavirus is this: you wearing a mask does not primarily protect you, it protects others around you.  Your mask’s job is to prevent you from accidently spreading the virus unawares.  Ironically then, instead of hiding our true selves, the mask exposes something about our true selves.  We are intricately, inextricably, always and forever dependent upon each other.  In the final analysis, that’s probably why we Americans don’t like them on a symbolic or aesthetic level.  We are constantly tempted by delusions of individual independence.  Masks are symbols of our inability to care for ourselves; signs of our fragility and mortality.  They are a constant reminder that my health—to some degree, my very life—depends upon your responsibility and your choices, and vice versa.  We cannot survive or thrive without each other’s care and concern.  The famous South African archbishop, Desmond Tutu, expresses this very well when he writes and speaks about the traditional Southern African concept of “Ubuntu.”  In Tutu’s translation, Ubuntu means “I am, because you are.” Or, a person’s humanity is “bound up in the humanity of others.”  (See Tutu, No Future without Forgiveness).  My humanity is intimately tied to yours. We flourish together, or we die alone.   

This is all by design.  This is how God made us in God’s image.  The Trinity is an attempt to express the dynamic inner relationship of God’s persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The Three are not separate, but One God.  Their distinct persons are forever bound in a cosmic movement of unifying love.  God is always pouring God’s self out in love and God is always gathering that love back again to God.  By analogy, human inter-relationship is a big part of what it means to be created in the image of a Triune God.  Our inter-dependence upon each other is the foundation of human delight, love, and the giving and receiving of gifts.  All of this is meant to calibrate us and orient us toward experiencing God’s love and God’s life.  Human relation, when it is redeemed and restored to its fullness, is a constant invitation to be in relationship with God.  So, we wear masks not as a concession to authority (be it the governor’s or the bishop’s), nor as an outward expression of our own fear or weakness.  We wear masks as a badge of our love and care for each other, and our dependence upon each other’s love.  Masks are a gift to each other.  Like every gift, given worthily, they can be a token of our ability to participate in the giving, loving life of God.  Viewed in this sacramental way, masks are a perfectly natural thing to wear in our gatherings of worship.  

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 – 5/17/20

Today we observe Rogation Sunday, which is always the Sunday before the Feast of the Ascension (Ascension is this Thursday, May 21st).  Rogation comes from Rogare which is the Latin verb “to ask.”  Rogation is a time to ask for God’s blessing on agriculture and the resources of creation.  It recognizes these resources as gifts from God upon which all humans rely for life.  This aspect of Rogation days has often been marked, especially in Anglicanism, by a special form of procession called “beating the bounds of the parish” in which the parish congregation led by the priest would encircle the boundaries of the parish (usually a defined neighborhood or village), stopping at points to read Scripture and pray.  Especially In rural areas, an important part of these processions was to visit and bless farmlands and agricultural operations.  

This forms a Spring bookend to traditions of Autumn harvest blessings and of offering a portion of the fruits of our labor to God in thanksgiving for God’s blessings.  The Rogation Day trip around the parish is probably the origin of the Easter home blessing tradition.  For the last several years, our version of the Rogation Day celebration has included a procession to Wynnewood Valley Park next door, where we’ve read Scripture and offered prayers and blessings over God’s good creation that is represented there. 

Rogation-tide has also been a time to ask God for protection from calamities, including the ending of plagues and protection from natural disasters.  Here, it is important to remember that the Church has weathered many a pandemic in its 2,000 years history, and much more besides.  A special form of prayer arose in response to these calamities called the Litany.  The Litany as we know it originated probably in the 5th century.  Some scholars trace both the Great Litany and the first Rogation procession to a bishop named Mamerte who lived in 5th century France and held a Rogation Day procession with a call and response type prayer to ask God’s protection during a looming disaster.  The exact nature of the disaster, interestingly, is contested.  Some contemporary sources say it was a volcano threatening to erupt, others that it was a series of calamitous earthquakes.  One source claims it was an on-going attack on the city of Vienne by a demonic pack of wolves.  Whatever the case, the Rogation procession around the town and the tradition of praying the Litany as a petition for God’s protection has long been a tool in the Church’s toolbox of prayer.  It’s sort of like that giant monkey wrench you pull out when your home plumbing project takes a serious turn and you don’t have time to mess around anymore–that’s the Great Litany.  Rogation processions and litanies were common in Europe during medieval and early modern outbreaks of the Black plague.  In 1544, the Great Litany was the first part of the Latin Liturgy to be translated (and heavily edited) into vernacular English by Thomas Cranmer.  Cranmer was in a hurry to bring his version of the ancient prayer to the public as a response to England’s devastating wars with Spain and France.  Five years later Cranmer finished the first Book of Common Prayer, which stands at the fountainhead of our own style of worship.  

All that to say, it seems especially appropriate to keep the tradition of Rogation Day this year during this pandemic.  As part of our 10AM service this Sunday, we will have a small Rogation procession led by me and my quarantine-mates (my children).  I’ll pray the Great Litany–you’ll be able to follow along at home–while the kids march along with a processional cross and Deb records the whole thing on a camcorder.  It could be a solemn moment, a bizarre spectacle, or a complete disaster.  Probably it will be a little bit of all three.  However, pleading for the renewal of all creation and asking God for protection against grave dangers and an end to our affliction–all this is not a joke, and our intentions will be in the right place.  

There is another way you can participate in the celebration of the Rogation Sunday from your own home. Below is a short Scripture reading and prayer that you can pray alone or with your quarantine-mates in your own garden.   

Rogation Sunday Garden Devotions

Leader                          Blessed be the God of all Creation

Others (if present)       The Lord, our God, makes all things new

A reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans (Romans 8:19-23)

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

Thanks be to God.

Let us pray

Gracious God, along with all your creation we wait with eager longing.  Help us to be revealed as your children. Let us fulfill our small part in the great work of reconciling all things to you.  Let this garden be a sign of that day when creation is freed from its bondage to decay.  Bring order, growth, and tranquility to this place.  Send your blessing on this garden, on all the plants in my [our] care, and in all the creatures who visit and whose lives are sustained here as I am [we are] sustained here.  This we pray in the name of the Resurrected Lord, whom Mary Magdalene recognized as a gardener on Easter morning, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  

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 – 10/13/19

Worship

† Our preacher next Sunday, October 20th will be Jeremiah Mustered, postulant for holy orders sponsored by the parish.

† There will be an Altar Guild Meeting next Sunday, October 20th immediately following the 10AM service.

† Please submit names of beloved deceased persons to be prayed for at our annual All Souls Day Mass (Holy Eucharist).  You can email them to holyapostlespa@gmail.com

† 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

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

               –     Delivering items to a food pantry in Northeast Philadelphia

               –     Organizing supplies or gifts for our own Connect by Night shelter program coming for the month of December

               –     Meals at Darby Mission (3/17) or our annual holiday meal with the East Parkside Community Association (12/9). Other ideas are welcome. Please contact Joe Zorc (zorc@email.chop.edu) or see the sign-up sheet in the parish hall.

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 for 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

† Year-to-date statements for 2019 Stewardship pledges are available, pick yours up from the table in the hallway.  Those not picked up will be mailed.

† We are getting ready to refresh the hallway outside the church offices including some new paint, new furniture, and eventually new flooring.  As a result we have been moving some things around. The Lost & Found box is now located in the church office.

† 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

† Fall Soup Group: We are studying the lives and teachings of the Fathers and Mothers of the Church.  All sessions begin at 6:30PM

               October 23: Leaders of the Early Church

               October 30: The Seven Ecumenical Councils

               For a full list see our website: holyapostlespa.org/soup-group

† Join us for BASICS class, every 3rd Sunday at 9AM.  There will be a cycle of four classes, the first, Sunday Oct. 20, is on the Sacraments.

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

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

A Note from the Rector – 4/28/19

Christ is risen!  The Great Fifty Days of Easter is underway. I am grateful for the beautiful Holy Week and Easter day that we celebrated together.  During that time, I had three separate conversations with folks about vestments, particularly, the fancy looking cape thing that I wore on Palm Sunday and for the Easter Vigil.  In church-nerd speak, that thing is called a “cope.”  It comes from the same family of Latin words from which we get the words cape, cloak, chapel, chaplain, and a Capella.  In response to these conversations and questions I am going to use a few of my “Notes” to explore the meaning and purpose of the vestments that we use in our worship.  I will get back to the cope, but for the sake of clarity I want to begin at the beginning: what are vestments, why do we bother with them, and from where did they come? 

Simply put, vestments are garments intended specifically for use in the Church’s liturgy.  Their use ultimately derives from the worship of ancient Israel (take a look at Exodus 28 for a fascinating description of Israel’s priestly garments).  Their almost universal use in churches, and in some cases the shape and form of the garments themselves, dates back to at least the 4thcentury (have you noticed that a lot of churchy things date back to the 4thcentury?), although they have undergone a lot of development over the years. Today, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, and some Methodists and Baptists use some form of vestment.  The question is, why?  

I’ll discuss two interlocking reasons for the use of vestments in worship.  The first is beauty.  Our neighbor, Beth El/Beth Hillel on Remington Road has a beautiful rendering of Psalm 96:9 on their wall.  It is a verse that has guided the imagination of many Christian traditions as well, it says, “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”  Holiness, which means the condition of being set apart for use by God, is beautiful in all its forms.  God has set apart each and every Christian to be God’s agents of reconciliation, to be witnesses to Christ’s resurrection, and to worship and honor the glory of God. Just as holiness is beautiful, so should beauty point us toward holiness, and toward our Creator.  This orientation toward God is also the purpose of worship.  Worship, then, should also be beautiful.  A lot of what we do in our worship is done with the intention of being beautiful.  I believe that God loves and revels in beauty. Just take a look at the natural world. Also (duh), beauty is attractive to our fellow humans, and thus beauty has a role in evangelism.  So, beautiful worship is discipleship (orienting us toward God), evangelism (attracting others to the faith), and most importantly, pleasing to God.  Beauty is why we have stained glass windows, it’s why we have a good organ instead of collection of kazoos.  It’s also a big part of why we have vestments.  

The other main reason we have vestments is more important, though.  This reason is also present in that verse from the Psalms: holiness.  Try not to think about this in terms of morality, i.e. whether someone who is holy is “better” than anyone else in a moral sense. That isn’t what holiness is about. Holiness simply means set apart. In the case of humans, it is something done to us, not something we do.  Therefore, holiness does not signify worth or goodness, and is certainly not something to brag about.  We do use this word a little differently in reference to God, but that’s a topic for another day.  

As I said, all Christians are set apart; made holy by virtue of our baptism into the life and body of Christ.  Scripture puts it this way: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).  All Christians are priests.  Vocational priests and other ministers are called and ordained (set apart) merely as symbols and tokens of that fact.  

Priests, deacons, and bishops wear vestments in that capacity, as symbols and signs of the priesthood of all Christians.  Vestments are not about setting the minister apart from the congregation in some qualitative sense.  They’re not just meant to be fancy clothes in order to make me feel fancy.  Rather, vestments are symbolic of the fact that liturgy itself is a time, place, and activity which are set apart, demarcated from other time and other activities.  Liturgy, the worship of the church, is special.  It is holy.  The priest is a symbol for the whole people of God, and vestments are symbols of the set apart-ness of the activity that we come together to complete on Sunday mornings (and other times!).  

For me personally, vestments are practical.   There is a ritual to putting on vestments.  There are particular prayers prayed as the different garments are put on (the prayers are posted on the wall of the vesting sacristy).  Putting on the vestments is how I “put my game face on.”  It is how I prepare for worship; how I remove myself from my other roles and identities and forget my own cares and worries.  They are a tangible way of assuming my liturgical role as a symbol of God’s people, and—only by the working of the Holy Spirit—a conduit of God’s grace.  Vestments, then, are an important part of my spirituality and help me to do things that I have been called here to do.  

So, that’s why we have vestments in the first place.  In future weeks, I will discuss a little bit about the symbolism and history of particular vestments—including that fancy cape thing I was wearing the other day.          

Announcements – 4/14/19

Worship

† The service this morning will begin in the Parish Hall with the blessing of the Palms. 

† Easter Sunday will truly be a joyful day as we celebrate the Christ’s victory over death and welcome through baptism Maxwell Wagner into the body of Christ.  Max is the son of David Wagner and Jennifer Sibley Wagner. 

† Healing Prayers will be offered the second Sunday of Easter, April 28th. 

† 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.

† Sign up to sit with Christ at the Altar of Repose 9PM Thursday—9AM Friday this week.

Outreach

† We are 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.

Good News

† 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).  We need volunteers to help welcome people onto our property and to do crowd & traffic control.  Sign up on the bulletin board outside the church office.  Also, note this will affect parking for church on that day. 

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

Children and Youth

† Because Palm Sunday is a lot of fun, we have encouraged all families  to attend today’s 10AM service. Family Evening Worship will also be offered at 5:30PM for those who want to come to church twice!

† 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

† Official CHA T-shirts; $17; order yours outside the church office.

† Easter Flower Memorials– please have your memorials to the church office no later than this coming Tuesday, April 16. It is our custom to remember deceased loved ones in the light of Christ’s Resurrection with a stunning array of flowers on Easter day.  A letter was sent out this week.  Let the office know if you didn’t receive yours. The suggested donation is $8.00 per name.  Extra envelopes can be found on the Connect table.

† 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.