Sunday, December 5, 2010

All Saints Doing Fine

I’m sure that many parishioners of St. Paul’s have been wondering how All Saints Episcopal Fellowship, led by the Rev. Dick Pollard, is doing. Dick, for those who are new or have short memories, is a former parishioner of St. Paul’s who became a priest and was, for a time, on the St. Paul’s staff. He now heads a small congregation on Boyce Road in a former beauty shop. All Saints became an official part of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh at last month’s diocesan convention.

At that convention, Dick invited me to stop by some Saturday at 5 PM to join All Saints in their weekly worship. Only yesterday did I finally get around to taking him up on his offer. The fellowship’s Web site gave me some idea of how the physical facilities might look, but I didn’t know what to expect from the service itself. (Some pictures of the worship space are available here.)

The fellowship’s building was easy to find, though the location of All Saints within the building was not quite so obvious. There is a sign by the side of Boyce Road, but it did not face the direction from which I came. Fortunately, I knew the fellowship was in the same building as a 7-Eleven, which was itself hard to miss. The side door sported a makeshift sign, so I entered and wandered through a labyrinth of hallways and stairs—this is not a handicapped-friendly facility. I met an Airedale—a regular worshiper apparently—in the corridor just before I found the entrance I was looking for.

The worship space is fairly conventional and well-appointed. Its most obvious disadvantage is that people enter the room near the lectern, so one cannot arrive late—as several worshipers did—and do so inconspicuously. Seating is on pews, which include kneelers. The altar was dressed with what I am told were homemade paraments that did not look at all homemade. Blue, an alternative color to the more penitential purple, is being used at All Saints during Advent. To the rear and side of the worship space is Dick’s office. There is another room in the back that I assume is used as a sacristy and perhaps for other purposes. It sported a sign over the door that read “Undercroft.” Something like 25 people (and one Airedale) attended the service. Every time I counted, the number seemed to increase. I am told that there is seating capacity for about 40.

There was a simple bulletin, though it did have a full-color front page. The back page included the following:

All Saints Episcopal Fellowship

I wasn’t sure if I was violating some local norm by wearing my NO ANGLICAN COVENANT button, but no one remarked on it.

The service itself was quite familiar, a Rite II Holy Eucharist. There were a few unusual elements, but not many. (A “Prayer for the Coming Week” was thrown in, for example.) We sang four hymns accompanied by a too-soft electronic organ, though we sang only two or three stanzas of each hymn. (St. Paul’s parishioners who complain that our organ is too loud need to understand that an organ that does not produce enough sound makes everyone feel like a soloist, a phenomenon that makes most people uncomfortable.) The sermon was adequate, by Pollard standards, which is to say, above average. People were encouraged to kneel for prayers; I was probably the only person in the congregation standing other than the celebrant.

During the Eucharistic Prayer, one worshiper fell ill. She was apparently feeling cold and faint. Two doctors came to her aid, and the paramedics were called. They arrived in 12 minutes and took her to St. Clair Hospital. Needless to say, this interrupted the service. We said a prayer, and, eventually, worship was resumed. Somehow, we skipped over The Lord’s Prayer, but everything else went smoothly.

There were refreshments served after the service. Coffee was available on a back table, and food of various sorts were placed on the altar. (This, of course, would give some Altar Guild folks apoplexy, but no one at All Saints seemed to notice.) I was greeted warmly by a number of people I knew from St. Paul’s and spent some time catching up on family news.

Dick gave me a tour of space below the present “church” into which the fellowship plans to move when the congregation gets larger. The space is not conveniently arranged at the moment, but it is a good deal larger, so All Saints can grow without changing its address, though it will have to do some renovation. The new space is handicapped accessible.

From all I could see, All Saints is doing well for such a young congregation, and there is much to be said for the more intimate, close-knit church. The lack of a choir is something of a show-stopper for me, but not everyone has the same need for music that I do. I expect that All Saints Episcopal Fellowship eventually will become All Saints Episcopal Church and play a significant role in our diocese.

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