Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Review

I attended the Thanksgiving service at St. Paul’s yesterday, drawn largely by the promise that we would be singing all the familiar Thanksgiving hymns. The service certainly delivered on that promise. Here is a list of the hymns we sang:

“Come ye thankful people, come (H 290)
“We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land” (H 291)
“We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing (H 433)
“Praise to God, immortal praise” (H 288)
“My country, ’tis of thee” (H 717)
“Now thank we all our God” (H 397)

Additionally, Bryan Sable not only played the organ for the hymns but also sang a lovely solo (Sally DeFord’s “My grateful Spirit sings”), accompanied by the Clavinova. (Bryan even got second billing just under Lou on the service bulletin!)

I didn’t count the number of people in the congregation, but attendance was respectable for what is not a traditionally well-attended service. If my memory serves me correctly, Mt. Lebanon used to offer an ecumenical Thanksgiving service that was held at a different church each year. Since I never attended one of those services nor attended a Thanksgiving service at St. Paul’s, I don’t really know what passes for normal. In any case, yesterday’s attendance was not embarrassing.

Also, I was pleased to see our youth participating, both as acolytes and ushers.

Seated as I was in the nave, I got a different view of the service than I usually do as a choir member sitting in the chancel. This, however, was the negative part of the experience. Here are things I noticed:
  1. No one had turned on the lights on the high altar. This made the front of the church look darker than usual.
  2. The darkness in the chancel was enhanced by a burned out bulb in one of the chancel lanterns. From my vantage point, I could clearly see the outline of the non-working light bulb.
  3. No one turned on the light above the pulpit. The pulpit spots were on, however, so readers could be seen reasonably well.
  4. The flower stands were well-lit but conspicuously free of flowers. This seemed particularly unfortunate on a day when we were counting our blessings. No traditional Thanksgiving symbols were in evidence anywhere in the church.
  5. The speakers used for our non-traditional services obscured both the Episcopal and U.S. flags, as well as our 175th anniversary banner. It’s too bad we could not see Old Glory when singing “My country, ’tis of thee.”
When I began attending St. Paul’s, it was hardly the perfect parish. When it came to worship, however, St. Paul’s was obsessively attentive to details. If ever anything went wrong, everyone knew there would be hell to pay. That attitude is but a distant memory. That’s too bad. I really dislike leaving church with a mental list of all the environmental factors and actions, intentional or not, that detracted from the spiritual value of the service.

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