Monday, September 29, 2014


Readers from St. Paul’s may have heard or sung some of the hymns I’ve written.  For the benefit of those who like my hymns (or might like them—I hope there are such people), I have listed all my serious hymn compositions on my other blog. You can read the post about my hymns and see the list of them with links to words, music, and annotations here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Zombie Threat

I have taken to reading Vestry minutes from St. Paul’s. Minutes for the past few meetings are posted on the bulletin board outside the church office, which assures that few parishioners will ever read them.

One item from the June minutes caught my eye. Under the label “Other Reminders” in the Senior Warden’s Report, we find this:
  1. We need owners for the Vestry Retreat Action Items
    1. Consider modifying our current services to incorporate some of the elements of Refuge.
Regular readers know that I was never a fan of Refuge, and I’ve written numerous posts about the service. (See, for example, my essays on the first and last Refuge services.) In reviewing my many comments about Refuge, I was struck by the fact that, over two years, Refuge never really got better and never developed a substantial constituency. It certainly never became the region-wide destination of which its backers dreamed.

In 2012, in my post on the last Refuge service, I wrote, with a certain sense of relief,
I attended the final Refuge service on November 18. (Officially, Refuge services are suspended, but I don’t expect them ever to resume at St. Paul’s.)
Well, the failed (and ill-considered) experiment that was Refuge is not resuming. However, the senior warden’s report for June suggests that there is a threat that, zombie-like, Refuge (or “elements” of it) may return to infect other St. Paul’s services.

What is this all about, and who is its champion?  Why is the issue being raised now? Which of our “current services” is vulnerable to the Refuge zombie?

The rector is responsible for Vestry retreats, and the senior warden is his right-hand man. Moreover, Lou was champion of Refuge and is responsible for the liturgical abomination that is the 8:45 service, so it is a fair guess that Lou is animating the zombie.

Because the venue for the service changes and because its two venues are very different, I suspect that the Saturday service is safe. The 8 o’clock service is a bare-bones, time-limited affair with a congregation not looking for innovation. Surely it is immune to the depredations of the zombie. That leaves the two principal Sunday services as zombie targets.

The 8:45 service already resembles Refuge in some respects, such as in its use of a full service booklet and its commitment to non-traditional music. This service, too, is under severe time constraints, so that, other than adding decoration and turning down the lights to make it harder to see, it is unclear what Refuge elements could be added. (On the other hand, could the service really be made worse?)

That leaves the 10:45 service naked of zombie immunity. As the final Sunday service, it could run longer without serious difficulty, and it is the service least changed by the arrival of Lou at St. Paul’s. (Lou has altered the time of the service, eliminated lighting changes, introduced unnecessary stage directions, and varied the presentation hymn, but the service remains a prototypically Episcopalian.) What elements of Refuge could be incorporated into it? We could, I suppose, print the full service in the bulletin, thereby assuring that hardly anyone at St. Paul’s uses or learns the prayer book. We could change the music. (This is the scariest prospect.) Given the number of worshipers, I think it unlikely that we could change our method of distributing communion elements or encourage people to wander around trying to make sense of inscrutable displays of unlikely objects. Might we place candles everywhere? Is anyone thinking of projecting images during the service? Heaven forbid!

I don’t really know what might be proposed at the Vestry retreat, but I hope that the Refuge zombie can be put out of its misery. The best advice I can give Vestry members to dispatch the zombie comes from Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide: “The brain must be obliterated, by any means possible.” Good luck with that.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ultreya this Saturday

Pittsburgh Episcopal Cursillo will be holding an Ultreya this Saturday, September 20. I know that there are a number of Cursillistas at St. Paul’s, though I don’t have a list of who they are. I hope that some will be able to attend.

The Ultreya will be at St. Michael’s of the Valley, Ligonier, at 3 PM. Bring a friend.

Details can be found on this flyer.

Note that Pittsburgh Episcopal Cursillo has a Facebook page here.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Martha Eilertsen’s Obituary

Martha Elizabeth Hay
February 13, 1962 – September 11, 2014

Martha Elizabeth Hay, 52, died peacefully in Spokane, WA, on September 11, after living with cancer for two years.  She was surrounded by her family.

Martha was born in Dillon, Montana. Her early years were spent in Montana, Kenya, and Spokane. Martha graduated from Ferris High School, enjoyed summers at Camp Cross on Lake Coeur D’Alene, and was an active member in her father’s Episcopal congregation, St. Stephen’s.

Martha attended Whitman College and graduated in 1984.  There, she met Jeff Eilertsen and in their 27 years of marriage, they raised two children and lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Pittsburgh, and Spokane. Martha’s professional path led to the Episcopal Church. She earned a Master of Divinity from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California, and was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 2003. Martha enjoyed and succeeded in the many aspects of ministry. She served as an Associate Priest at St Paul’s in Pittsburgh, PA and for three years led and grew her own congregation at St. Thomas in Canonsburg, PA. She had a special place in her heart for children’s ministry.

Martha found great joy in raising her children, spending summers in Montana, and creating art and beautiful spaces. She cherished time with the people she loved and her friendship circle was wide and diverse. The many friends and family who extended love and kindness throughout Martha’s illness are a testament to her ability to create meaningful relationships. Every helping hand and generous gesture was greatly appreciated and formed a true community of support for Martha and her family.

Martha is survived by her children Anna and Thomas Eilertsen, parents Rev. John and Marj Hay, sisters Julie Hay and Jennifer Steward, brother Michael Hay, Jeff Eilertsen, and her many nieces, nephews, and cousins.  

A memorial service will be held Friday, September 26th at 11am at The Cathedral of St John the Evangelist.

Those wishing to make a donation in Martha’s honor are encouraged to support Hospice of Spokane and continue the ministry of grace, comfort, and nourishment to which Martha was always committed.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Martha Hay Eilertsen Dead at 52

Many readers will remember St. Paul’s parishioner Martha Eilertsen, who became a priest at St. Paul’s in 2003 and served for a short time at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church in Canonsburg. (I wrote a poem for Martha’s ordination, which you can read here.)

I received a message today from Jacqui Och, a good friend of Matha’s, that read, in part
I just wanted to let you know that Martha died yesterday at Hospice of Spokane, after 2 years of dealing with cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer)—an incredibly rare, aggressive and fatal form of cancer  She was only in hospice about 10 days—she began failing rapidly and was largely unresponsive much of the time. Since she was young her organs were strong and it took some time. Her family was all there—both elderly parents, Anna & Thomas, her brother & sister, and Jeff (who has stepped up to care for Martha and be with the kids in spite of the divorce). Jeff said her passing was “very peaceful and graceful.”  
Jacqui visited Martha this summer and took the photograph below in July.

Martha Eilertsen