Monday, August 26, 2013

Sound System for Dummies

Choir members have been quietly grumbling about the inability to hear what is going on in church. The new sound system has two small speakers in the chancel, but the sound level they produce is clearly inadequate. It is difficult to hear the scripture readings or sermon. Yesterday, I finally decided to say something about the problem, but before I did so, I took a look at the new equipment in the ambulatory. Although there are level controls accessible for sound system inputs (wired and wireless microphones), I could find no output level controls either on the front panel of the system or in back. Instead, there are pushbuttons for soft, medium, and loud sound.

I spoke to Paul Barker about the problem with the level of sound in the chancel, and he said that it was necessary to call in a technician to change the balance of the system. (Making the overall sound louder was clearly not the right solution.) This is ridiculous. Our new sound system seems designed for dummies who cannot be trusted to make even the most minor adjustments to the system. Instead, we have to call in a technician, who,  I assume, we have to pay for.

I was audio-visual coödinator at St. Paul’s for nearly two decades and often thought about what a new sound system should look like. I even served on two committees that solicited bids for a new system. The system we have now is nothing like what I thought we needed or what was bid by the vendors we spoke to.

The new sound system has its virtues, but it also has some serious limitations. That it was designed under the assumptions that we’re all idiots at St. Paul’s is certainly one of its faults.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Heretical Creed

From the viewpoint of one who loves The Episcopal Church, its prayer book, and its liturgy, St. Paul’s’ 8:45 Sunday service has little to recommend it. For a service described as “Family-Friendly,” it does little to inculcate appreciation for our Anglican heritage in young people.

Perhaps the most depressing aspect of the service is the singing of “The South African Creed” in lieu of reciting the Nicene Creed. The words to this song are the following:

I believe, I do believe, truly I believe it,
Truly I believe it, truly I believe it.
I believe, I do believe, truly I believe it,
Truly I believe it, truly I believe it.

I believe in God the Almighty Lord Creator,
Mighty Lord Creator, Mighty Lord Creator.
I believe in God the Almighty Lord Creator,
Mighty Lord Creator, Mighty Lord Creator.

I believe in Jesus the Savior of the people,
Savior of the people, Savior of the people.
I believe in Jesus the Savior of the people,
Savior of the people, Savior of the people.

And I do believe in the Power of the Spirit,
Power of the Spirit, Power of the Spirit.
And I do believe in the Power of the Spirit,
Power of the Spirit, power of the spirit.

As a statement of faith, this formulation is both boring and nearly devoid of content. In four verses, it articulates three concepts. The Nicene Creed offers more content in its first sentence. Even if one harbors reservations about orthodox Christian dogma, we are hardly doing our children a favor by “protecting” them from knowledge of it. All this creed does is acknowledge the Trinity, and that imperfectly.

David Mills, writing for Touchstone, had this to say about the South African creed:
At any rate, the South African creed is certainly sung to a very singable tune and does get the singers to declare their belief in God. It suffers only in being heretical. For though it has a trinitarian form, it does not say anything about the nature of the Trinity itself and the relations of the three Persons. God is Father before he is Creator, and Jesus is Son before he is Savior, and the Holy Spirit is he who proceeds from the Father before he is the giver of power to men.
I recommend reading all of Mills’ essay.

Somehow, the use of “The South African Creed” seems to have become an essential feature of the 8:45 service, a fact that provides an excellent reason to avoid the service and to keep our children away from it as well.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Summer Singers and the Bulletin

The Summer Singers, a group of professional musicians that rehearse at St. Paul’s in the summer, provided an exciting prelude and postlude last Sunday. I heard the group rehearsing “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho” just before the choir rehearsed in the church. I was impressed, though I couldn’t hear the group as well as I wanted to from my chair behind the singers. I was hoping to hear them better when they sang during the service.

I checked my bulletin to learn when “Joshua” was going to be sung. I could not find the spot in the service order. As it happens, the postlude was left off the bulletin. (It was later pointed out to me that the information I was seeking was mentioned under “Music Notes,” though it should have been listed after the dismissal as well.) Anyway, the more I stared at the order of service, the more confusing it seemed. As it happens, the problem was that the music for the Memorial Acclamation and The Great Amen were simply in the wrong places.

The errors in the bulletin were surprising, since we used Eucharist Prayer A both this week and last, so the only differences between the two bulletins should have involved music. However the problems crept into the August 11 bulletin, here is the offending text (click for larger image):

Panel from August 11 10:45 bulletin

I rushed out to the nave after the dismissal, and was in a good position to hear the very exciting rendition of “Joshua.” The Summer Singers are presenting a concert at St. Paul’s at 7 PM next Sunday (August 18). It should be well worth attending.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

New Doors

New door
New door nearest elevator lobby
(click on image for larger view)
I was excited to read in the weekly electronic newsletter from St. Paul’s that new doors had been installed to the parking lot. I had to stop by on the way home to see how they look.

There are three new doors, each of which is perforated by and flanked by large glass panels. The doors are sturdy and seem to seal particularly well. The expanse of clear glass is a bit disconcerting, but the new doors, qua doors, are quite attractive.

I’m sure parishioners (and certainly our sextons) will appreciate the latest building improvement. I do have three concerns about them, however.

First, there is the color. The doors are brick red, not the scarlet typical of Episcopal churches and the color used on the doors at the front of the church.

Second, I was disappointed that the door nearest the elevator lobby does not sport an electric door opener, a feature I expected and one that would be very helpful to the handicapped or to visitors carrying bulky loads into the church. I don’t know if a door opener is in the works. I hope it is.

Finally, however attractive the new doors may be in the abstract, they appear to be a Bauhausian addition to an English Gothic church. No doubt, we will get used to them. For me, now, however, the doors seem shockingly out of place.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Bye-bye Coke Machine

I was surprised to see Sunday that the Coke machine was gone from the cloakroom off the undercroft. The vending machine had lots of customers several years ago, when St. Paul’s offered after-school snacks and (occasionally) conversation. Apparently, the machine was getting little use of late, however.

 I am not going to lament the loss of the Coke machine, as I used it only once in a blue moon myself, and I don’t recall seeing others using it either.

Of course, the departure of the Coke machine frees up a bit of space in the cloakroom, though it isn’t an area with an obvious use. On Sunday, it was already occupied by a ladder and dolly. Alas, the cloakroom still seems to be thought of more as extra storage space than a welcoming place for members and visitors. (See “Cloakroom.”)