Sunday, February 23, 2014

Premiere of “Holy Eucharist”

Worshipers at today’s 10:45 service heard the choir sing my hymn “Holy Eucharist” for the first time. I recorded the performance, and I wrote about it and linked to the audio file on my blog, Lionel Deimel’s Web Log. You can read my post and listen to the hymn here.

Eucharist elements

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Welcoming St. Paul’s

I attended church today with no particular axe to grind, but because of choir rehearsal, I resigned myself to skipping the annual meeting. Besides, it has been many years since any real decisions were left to the parish at large. My main concern for the day was a new composition by Doug Starr that some of us would be singing at communion.

As has become my habit, I tried the automatic door when I entered the church from the parking lot. As usual, it did not work. When I got inside, I noted that the wall switch  that apparently controlls power to the door was stitched off. I turned it on. It made no difference. I later discovered that there is a switch on the door opener over the door that needs to be turned on. Why is this switch not turned on all the time (or at least whenever the church is open)? Have we neglected to train our sextons? Are we saving electricity at the expense of people who might need help entering the church? There are some things about St. Paul’s that I simply fail to understand.

My second encounter with St. Paul’s insensitivity came when I tried to grab some brunch before choir rehearsal. Doug asked the choir to meet in the church at 9:45, but brunch was to start only at 9:30. Some choir members, faced with this situation, simply decided to eat breakfast at home. Others, myself included, tried to make a difficult schedule work. By 9:30, lots of food was out on the table, and several choir members encouraged me to begin filling my plate. They were right behind me, but I was the designated sacrificial lamb chosen to try to get food first. Before I could put any food on my plate, however, Karen Viggiano, who apparently decided to play Food Nazi, insisted that I wait until she had put out two more dishes. I explained that the choir was under time pressure, but that cut no ice with Karen.

After the choir rehearsed, I had to use the bathroom. I’m not used to doing this with my choir robe on. (I got a new perspective of what women deal with.) Anyway, I spent half a minute or more trying to untangle the toilet paper from its complex holder. This was made more difficult than necessary by the extraordinarily thin single-ply tissue the church uses. Wouldn’t it be more welcoming to use double-ply tissue? Would that unbalance the budget?

Whatever my frustrations, the service was satisfying, and I enjoyed the two anthems we sang, both of which were new for the choir. I’d love to know how worshipers felt about the new anthem from Doug. (He probably would, too.)

I left church on a more positive note, in spite of the snow. The automatic door had been turned on and actually worked. I wonder if it will be work the next time I come to church.

Friday, February 7, 2014

New Hymn to Debut February 23

Communion elementsI was delighted to learn at choir rehearsal last night that Doug Starr has programmed my new hymn, “Holy Eucharist.” The choir will sing it as a communion hymn at the 10:45 AM service on February 23. This will be a world premier. I have written several hymn, some of which have been sung at St. Paul’s. “Holy Eucharist,” however, is the first inspired by a specific prayer book text.

Worshipers at St. Paul’s hear new music all the time, mostly by Doug or members of his family. (So far, only Lydia has not contributed music for worship at St. Paul’s.) I am not a professional musician, however, and am grateful for both the inspiration and opportunity for performance in my home parish.

You can get a preview of “Holy Eucharist” by checking out the page about it on my Web site. The page includes links to the sheet music and to a sound file of the tune.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Candidate Forum

I attended the forum for Vestry candidates Sunday. I was pleased that two sessions were offered, which allowed choir members to participate fully. (The choir usually rehearses on Sunday morning between 9:45 and 10:30.)

Candidate brochure
I can confidently say that we seem to have six fine candidates for the four available positions on the Vestry. That said, I didn’t hear much to cause me to think one candidate notably better than any other. I was a bit surprised that candidate Mark Vito made a pitch for voting for Bob Johnston, not because he didn’t want to win, but because he wanted Bob to be available to continue as senior warden.

I have no doubt that Bob has been a fine senior warden, but it is beginning to seem as though he has lifetime tenure. Is this really a good thing? Retaining the same senior warden year after year is comfortable for the rector, but I doubt it is best for the parish. I wish we would return to the practice of former rector Bill Pickering. The senior warden was always someone serving his or her last year on the Vestry, and that person served for one year only. The warden was thus someone with leadership experience, less inclined to burnout, could bring a fresh perspective to the office, and could not be embarrassed by failing to be asked to serve another year.

Under Bill Pickering, Vestry candidates who were not elected joined the Parish Council, a group of parishioner advisers who met with the rector once a month. Parish Council is provided for, but not mandated, by the parish bylaws. There has been no Parish Council since Bill left St. Paul’s. Bob Banse was urged to re-establish the group and promised to do so, but he did not carry through on that promise. Parish Council took advantage of the enthusiasm of people willing to run for Vestry and provided the rector an independent council of advice with no decision-making responsibility.

But I digress. I was struck by a common theme among the candidates—bringing more people to St. Paul’s. There is nothing wrong with that goal, of course, but it is an institutional objective, rather than a religious one. No one mentioned anything about bringing people to Christ. Think about that. Nobody mentioned the three priorities for the diocese set forth by Bishop McConnell in his convention address: Public Gospel, Missional Communities, and Leadership Formation. I don’t mean to suggest that parishes should slavishly follow the lead of their bishop, but it might be worth considering whether priorities articulated by him could offer insight into the formulation of parish objectives.

Following the rector’s lead, candidates emphasized the strengths of our parish. In my role as perpetual gadfly, I asked what the candidates saw as St. Paul’s’ greatest deficiency. Not surprisingly, the panelists were not elbowing each other to be the first to answer this question, and not everyone did. It has been many years since the parish made a serious attempt to evaluate its weaknesses as well as its strengths.

Nonetheless, two ideas were offered that merit consideration. Annette Shimer suggested that we do not do publicity well, especially for music programs. Communications have been an issue at the church for as long as I can remember, so Annette’s comment came as no surprise. She deserves points for being willing to say something “negative.” More interesting was a response from Bob, who suggested that the parish tries to be all things to all people and really needs to set priorities. It would have been interesting to hear more on that subject.