Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Discontents

I found myself upset over a number of aspects of today’s 10:30 service, an attitude not helped by participating in the Eucharist of the diocesan convention at Trinity Cathedral yesterday. That service ran quite smoothly, was enhanced by hearty singing by the congregation, and was presided over by an enthusiastic Bishop Price who was not constantly telling us what we were doing next or what page we were on. By contrast, Lou feels compelled to tell us what hymn we are about to sing and where we are on the page in the prayer book, even though we have just been reading from that same page! But these unnecessary interruptions of the liturgy—inserted, no doubt, in an attempt to be “welcoming”—are a perpetual complaint of mine and, likely, more members of the congregation than the rector realizes.

Today had its own special irritations that began with the procession. The crucifer in the south aisle didn’t seem to know where he should be (i.e, leading the procession) and didn’t seem to know to keep the cross vertical. At the recession, he didn’t know where to stand, and choir members had to walk around him. As I was processing, I was wondering why we no longer have flag bearers and why, in the summer, we had almost no acolytes at all. (Steve, who has taken on the role of acolyte master, often had to act as crucifer.) Lou’s sermon provided some insight into the acolyte situation. He bragged that St. Paul’s has 36 acolytes. He probably does not know that, not too many years earlier, we had 56! Our problem used to be giving acolytes opportunities to serve; Baptismal fontit is now finding enough acolytes to serve.

While I’m thinking about the sermon, I should mention that we were told that St. Paul’s attracted 50 new families last year, most of whom have remained. This sounds like an encouraging statistic, but Lou did not say how many families we lost in the past year to indifference, to other churches (including Dick Pollard’s), and to the fact that large numbers of families move in and out of Mt. Lebanon and the surrounding suburbs all the time. It is not clear that the membership of St. Paul’s is any larger today than it was a year ago. (See “Update: Is St. Paul’s Growing?”)

Perhaps most irritating was the celebration of baptism on the Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost. I have complained to the rector more than once about the scheduling of baptisms whenever he feels like it and have been told, essentially, that he will do whatever he wants to do.

Here, in part, is what the prayer book says about the matter on page 312:
Holy Baptism is especially appropriate at the Easter Vigil, on the Day of Pentecost, on All Saints’ Day or the Sunday after All Saints’ Day, and on the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord (the First Sunday after the Epiphany). It is recommended that, as far as possible, Baptisms be reserved for these occasions or when a bishop is present.

If on any one of the above-named days the ministry of a bishop or priest cannot be obtained, the bishop may specially authorize a deacon to preside. In that case, the deacon omits the prayer over the candidates, page 308, and the formula and action which follow.
It is clear that the reservation of certain days for baptism is not merely a casual suggestion of the church. The prayer book even goes so far as to authorize a deacon to preside at baptism if a bishop or priest is unavailable in order that the sacrament may be celebrated on one of the days set aside for it. I must point out that the Sunday after All Saints’ Day is but three weeks away. Could the baptismal candidates not wait another three weeks?

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against either children or baptisms, but I did resent that it was difficult to hear a lovely duet sung in church today because of the crying of infants, and I did not appreciate the camera whose flash was in my face during the service.

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