Monday, January 13, 2014

Sharing the Baptisms

Baptismal font
St. Paul’s baptized four children at the 10:45 service Sunday morning. It was gratifying to see so many baptisms and to have them performed on one of the occasions specifically recommended in the prayer book (i.e., on the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord, p. 312). I was surprised, however, that all four baptisms were performed by Lou. Perhaps this is what all the parents asked for, though I doubt it.

In times past, when there were multiple baptisms and multiple priests participating in the service, baptism duties were shared. Yesterday, however, Michelle’s duties were essentially reduced to those of an acolyte—she lit baptismal candles from the Pascal Candle. I might not have thought too much about this had Lou not made a point of how many people he has baptized. Is he aiming for a record? If so, why? Perhaps other priests should have a chance to get in on the action.

New Windows

I took some time yesterday to look at the new windows that have been installed on the first floor of the education wing. Like many of the old aluminum-frame windows, the new units are casement windows. They have wood frames and are gray aluminum on the outside. The new windows are very attractive, seem to work well, and are said to be exceedingly energy-efficient. They are double glazed, with gas between the panes. Although not now installed, there is provision for screens on the inside.

I think that the windows will not only decrease our heating bills, but also enhance the beauty of the building, as seen in the photos below. (Click on the pictures for larger images.

Old windows
Old windows on second floor

New windows
New windows on ground floor
Windows on the second and third floors that face the parking will be replace in the next few weeks. There are no immediate plans to replace the windows on the other side of the building.

I do hope that, at the very least, we will decide to replace the windows in the choir room. That room has windows on three sides and can be quite cold in the winter. The temperature in the room during rehearsals is often in the 60s, and it was 58º recently. (There is a clock with a thermometer on the wall, so this is not idle speculation.)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Evening Illumination

On Christmas Eve, as I usually do, I sang with the choir at the two evening services. I also played with the handbell choir, which provided music before the early service. My stations at the back of the nave and in the chancel were particularly good vantage points to evaluate the lighting for the service.

As the ringers waited to begin, acolytes were lighting the pew candles. Many years ago, when I was involved in preparations for the Great Vigil of Easter, the lighting of the pew candles was the subject of much discussion and planning. Back then, every effort was made to make the process both smooth-running and dignified. Fresh candles were used, so that the wicks could easily be reached over the glass chimneys, and tall acolytes were preferred to make lighting the candles easier. On Christmas Eve, however, as has lamentably become our practice, no chimneys were in evidence. Even though the candles were relatively short, one acolyte took candles out of their holders to be lighted by another acolyte. The lighted candles were then replaced in their holders. The effect was to turn a ceremonial task into a supremely pedestrian one.

Of course, I had to wonder why we even bothered with candles. It seems to have been forgotten at St. Paul’s that lighting for an evening service should not attempt to reproduce daylight. The lighting for Christmas Eve was apparently the same as for a Sunday morning service. The effect was to make the candles look downright silly.

Someday, I hope that worship at St. Paul’s will recover the sensitivity to ambiance and solemnity it once had.

Handicapped Access

Door from parking lot
New door from parking lot. The button to
open the door is at the right.
I was delighted when the automatic door was installed at St. Paul’s off the elevator lobby. I have helped more than one wheelchair-bound visitor enter the building from the parking lot in times past. It has been a cumbersome task and one that would be almost impossible without an escort.

Unfortunately, the new door and door opener have yet to provide reliable access for the handicapped. Ever since it was installed, I have pressed the button to activate the door opener when entering or leaving the building to see how well the new arrangement was working. In fact, the opener is virtually useless. I would guess that pressing the button works about once in ten tries. I have complained about this, but the automatic opener remains a cynical joke. Why can we not get this piece of technology to work? A door opener is not, as they say, rocket science.

As helpful as a working automatic door opener would be, that mechanism is not the only piece of infrastructure needed to facilitate access to the building by people with limited mobility.

Broken sidewalk
Broken sidewalk outside door to building.
Entering the church from the parking lot in a wheelchair is made difficult by the fact that the path to the door is uphill. As if this weren’t bad enough, the sidewalk outside the door is broken, presenting another hazard to anyone navigating the path to the door using a walker or wheelchair.

It is gratifying that St. Paul’s is making some effort to facilitate access to the building by handicapped persons. Unfortunately, we are not paying sufficient attention to details. We seem to be solving the access problem only in the abstract, rather than thinking about what a handicapped person actually faces.

Being a welcoming church requires more than self-declaration. Being welcoming requires putting ourselves in the shoes of visitors and asking ourselves what visitors want and need.

Postscript. I have suggested that we should have an automatic door opener on the handicap rest room. Even the able-bodied can find the door to this facility tough to open. An automatic door opener on the rest room would be very helpful and a thoughtful addition to our physical plant. Of course, the door opener would not be helpful if it worked only as well as the opener on the door to the parking lot.