Worshipers at St. Paul’s on this first day of Advent were greeted not by our familiar large advent wreath suspended at the front of the (liturgical) north transept, but by a new brass candelabrum at the crossing on a brass stand. (See photo at right.)
I have no idea why the Memorial Fund authorized $1,000 to buy this unnecessary addition to our liturgical furnishing. (It sits on a brass stand that we already owned and which also cost about $1,000, by the way.) Someone suggested that parishioners have worried that the old wreath might fall down and hurt someone. The same could be said about the lanterns that light the church, however, or the organ pipes cantilevered over the sanctuary on either side of the high altar.
As you can see in the picture, the candelabrum currently sports a cheesy wreath, but I am told that a more appropriately sized wreath will eventually circle the central candle.
It is difficult not to see the advent of our Advent candelabrum as yet another abandonment of furnishings that have made the church special at St. Paul’s. We now seldom use our elaborate pulpit for preaching. The drama of lifting the lid on the font has been dropped from baptisms; the bowl of the font is now exposed before the service begins. And our spectacular and (at least in my experience) unique advent wreath has been replaced by a standard item from the CM Almy catalogue that can be found in hundreds of churches.
The lovely little ceremony of lighting the Advent candles and raising the wreath that once began our Advent services is yet another St. Paul’s tradition that lives only in memory.