Today's is a lighter reflection as I had less time to spend watching the deliberations. I'm enjoying writing these reflections as it forces me to engage with what's happening with church governance halfway across the country! Yesterday, I said that I'd spend more time watching the House of Deputies. I changed my mind this morning, mainly because I had less time and needed to simplify. The Bishops spent the bulk of their time today deliberating resolution A059 about constitutional matters related to common prayer, but before we get there, here a few highlights about the rest of the day:
After Morning Prayer and a few opening items, the Bishops began deliberating amended resolution A129 about racial justice which the Deputies passed yesterday (see here for my thoughts from yesterday). It's the same as the original resolution without the word "forensic" before "audit" as that word has ominous connotations (note that the title of the resolution doesn't change despite the removal of "forensic" from the text of the resolution itself). As I said yesterday, this is a good thing.
The Bishops then considered resolution C012 concerning Christian Zionism. The Committee recommended that the House adopt it, but Bishop Eaton of Southeast Florida moved to refer the resolution to an interim body, opining that it was perhaps too complicated to be decided by a resolution like this. Bishop Sutton of Maryland argued against the motion to refer, stating that Episcopalians in Maryland conflate ancient Israel and modern Israel. He has instructed his clergy to add a word to Eucharistic Prayer B:
We give thanks to you, O God, for the goodness and love which you have made known to us in creation; in the calling of ancient Israel to be your people; in your Word spoken through the prophets; and above all in the Word made flesh, Jesus, your Son.
Personally, I've never heard of any personal or corporate conflation in this regard, but perhaps the context is different in Maryland. In any case, the motion to refer carried.
Amended resolution B008 about the Russian war in Ukraine sparked quite the conversation. If I remember correctly, the original resolution said one thing, then was amended to make it clearer that Russia was responsible, but then the original language of the resolution was re-substituted so as to acknowledge that in war, even the victims can and sometimes do commit atrocities. The resolution carried...which is fine, but I wish the Bishops would have passed resolution D032 which condemned the Patriarch of Moscow for his promotion of the war in Ukraine. They rejected this resolution either when I wasn't watching the livestream or as part of the consent agenda.
After a lengthy discussion, the Bishops passed resolution A127 calling for truth-telling about about The Episcopal Church's history with indigenous boarding schools. After what was recently uncovered in Canada, we need to do this work.
A resolution entitled "Building Community to Discern and Call Episcopal Leadership in the Episcopal Church on Navajoland" (substitute resolution D080) was unanimously adopted by the Bishops. I'm not familiar with this issue, but I encourage you to click "Explanation" on that link above and read about it. This seems like a positive move to me.
The following resolutions were passed unanimously with little to no debate: A096, A095, D026, A066, A024, D073, D093. I may have missed one or two as I had several phone calls during this part of the livestream.
Resolution D087 aimed to essentially cancel the General Board of Examining Chaplains. All of the bishops who talked about it giggled as if it were a silly resolution which was awkward to watch. I get the criticism of the General Ordination Examination, but have yet to hear of a decent alternative. I am sorry to report to those in the ordination process in West Missouri that they will still have to take the GOE. Blame the bishops!
The Bishops passed resolution A003 on Uniform Family Leave. Seems like a just decision to me!
Yesterday, I mentioned that the Deputies voted to pass resolution CO47 regarding a minimum standard of pay for vocational deacons. I've since learned from friends on social media and from the debate that the primary impetus for this resolution was to allow deacons to participate in the Church Pension Group's retirement options. Bishop Susan Snook of San Diego came to the microphone and said that her chancellor advised it wouldn't be legal as it doesn't meet California's minimum wage requirements. Bishop Andrus of California moved that it be referred to Committee, and the motion to refer carried by voice vote (with a couple of audible dissents). In my previous role as Chief Compliance Officer of a multi-state bank, we knew that HR changes that affected employees in multiple states were full of potential land mines, so we had a national HR legal firm review such changes before we rolled them out. I'm not sure whose responsibility it was in this case (the authors of the resolution? the PB's chancellor?), but the resolution and discussion has ramped up the hopes of many deacons.
The House of Deputies voted to elect Julia Ayala Harris as President of the House of Deputies. I have not followed this election and know nothing about the new President-elect or the other candidates, though I've heard good things about her from a couple of people who know her!
The Bishops considered a motion to pass resolution D076 which called for the Church to denounce crisis pregnancy centers and apologize for our previous support of them. Bishop Skirving of East Carolina spoke in opposition to the motion as he's seen some of these centers doing good work. The motion was tabled, which (I think?) means it will be taken up again later. What resonated with me is Bishop Skirving's comment (and I'm paraphrasing) that this resolution will accomplish nothing except for get people riled up about politics. It is certainly the shortest resolution I've seen so far, and it doesn't seem to be accomplishing much!
Resolution A126 passed with little debate and no opposition. I noted my concern about this resolution yesterday here, and still am left wondering what the point of this resolution is, especially considering the $100,000 price tag and the fact that the 1979 BCP is "memorialized." That said, both Houses are in step about the need to do this work, so we shall do it!
I was not present for the Bishops' deliberations about resolution A125 which seeks to establish a voluntary Episcopal Coalition for Racial Equity and Justice among dioceses and congregations. The motion passed and the resolution was adopted, and while I support the resolution, I have questions about the formula for the budget approved to enact it ("once the Coalition is constituted, it shall be funded with an annual draw on one-tenth of the trusts and endowment funds available for general use in the Episcopal Church’s budget").
This wasn't their last debate chronologically, but the Bishops spent a LOT of time on resolution A059 which proposed both constitutional and canonical changes around the definition of "The Book of Common Prayer." This resolution has morphed more than any of the others considered by the Bishops this Convention, but the surprise was learning that Bishop Doyle of Texas had gathered a working group over night to devise floor amendment 031 as a compromise between the two competing sets of language being discussed. If they put a video clip of this portion of the deliberations on the website, I will re-watch the entire thing, maybe several times. The content of the resolution is what it is, and I'm sure others will more aptly describe it, but I'm more impressed by the way Bishop Doyle humbly handled all of this. He repeatedly translated what one bishop said so that others could understand, he respectfully schooled bishops who were being silly, he recalled what was most important about the entire issue (Jesus!)...it was a really something to behold. The language the working group developed (floor amendment 031, linked above) passed unanimously. I was especially moved by the comments made by multiple bishops (of all stripes!) about how the discussion on this resolution had been the best discussion they've had in this House in recent memory. It was collegial, loving, prayerful, and encouraging, and I will watch the whole thing again if I can!
I won't be able to watch the morning deliberations because I have duties at church, but will get back to it in the afternoon!
I am watching the livestream of General Convention from Kansas City, and only when I can. I am not a deputy from this diocese. I am not a news reporter, and no one is fact-checking my comments. This is a reflection piece. It is not comprehensive as I choose to reflect on and offer commentary on the happenings at General Convention that suit my fancy. There are things I choose not to comment about that you might believe are very important. If you wish to read my thoughts, go for it. If you don't, I won't be offended. If you want news from reporters, click here!
The day began with the Holy Eucharist which is the "source and summit of the Christian life". The Bishop and Deputies worshipped separately, but Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's pre-recorded (and amazing!) sermon was piped into both Houses. Afterward, the deliberations came to a crashing halt when it became apparent that there was a wi-fi outage, making it impossible for anyone to vote. The Bishops' connection came back up first, giving them more time to deliberate and do their work.
Note that anytime a resolution is referred to a committee for further study, or a House adopts to take no further action on a resolution, for the purposes of this General Convention, the resolution is not passed and is essentially dead. Identical resolutions must be passed by both Houses in order for the resolution to be enacted, but that process won't begin until Sunday or so. For now, each House is organizing itself and plowing through the resolutions in the order it wishes.
First, the House of Bishops voted to refer resolution D058 to Committee. This resolution called for a revised liturgy for Good Friday, and would have required the use of a Bible translation in that liturgy that translates a certain Greek word in John 18 a particular way because of perceived anti-Semitism. The Good Friday liturgy as used in the Roman Church before 1959 contained a reference to the "faithless Jews" (Latin perfidis), along with archaic and unhelpful prayer for the conversion of the Jews. There is nothing of the sort in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. While I applaud the resolution's authors' intentions of trying to address rising anti-Semitism in this country (and one of the authors is a former priest of this diocese), I think this resolution was a solution in search of a problem, and would have introduced new prayers into the BCP that portray a doctrine of salvation that is not consistent with the teachings of the Church from the earliest days. Frankly, the notion of the General Convention micromanaging the translation of one Greek word in one particular Bible passage for a specific liturgy was a non-starter for me, especially given that we have fourteen approved Bible translations, two of which translate said Greek word in the suggested manner. It is no surprise that the Bishops unanimously referred this resolution to Committee without debate.
The House of Bishops voted to approve a floor amendment for resolution C023 which sought to add the commemoration of the Rt. Rev'd Barbara Harris, the first female bishop consecrated in both The Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion, to our Church's calendar of saints. This has been a controversial resolution since its inception as Bishop Harris died a little over two years ago, and there is a standard of waiting until at least 50 years after a person has died. The amended resolution that passed changes the focus from Bishop Harris as a person to the act of her consecration as the first female Bishop. Thus, the date of the commemoration was changed from her date of death to the date of her consecration, and so on. I support the amendments made to the resolution, and assuming the House of Deputies concurs, I look forward celebrating Mass on February 11, 2023, the 34-year anniversary of her consecration to the episcopate. I never met Bishop Harris personally, but it is said that at the end of an awful debate on homosexuality at the 1998 Lambeth Conference - which included 738 male and 11 female bishops - she was overheard saying (with a raspy, smoker's voice), "If assholes were airplanes, this place would be an airport." I'm a fan of both Bishop Barbara Harris and her consecration as the first female Bishop.
The Rt. Rev'd Martin Field, Bishop of West Missouri (resigned), was not elected to the Disciplinary Board for Bishops.
Subject to confirmation by the House of Deputies, the House of Bishops has nominated the Rt. Rev'd J. Neil Alexander as the tenth Custodian of the Standard Book of Common Prayer. While this is largely a ceremonial position, it gives me great comfort that the custodianship of the prayer book is in such good hands!
The Bishops then began to discuss resolution A059, which, among other things, would have changed the constitutional definition of "The Book of Common Prayer," ostensibly to regularize some of the liturgies that have been approved for trial use for years. This resolution has been concerning to me and many of my clerical friends as we made vows to uphold the "doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church", and it would have the unintended effect of including any liturgy approved by General Convention as liturgically and theologically binding on the clergy. Bishop Lawrence Provenzano of Long Island proposed a substitute resolution, and a long discussion ensued about clarifying the differences between the two. Ultimately, the substitute resolution passed 60 to 57, and after dinner, the Bishops voted to postpone the vote on the final resolution to give plenty of time for discussion. Stay tuned for more.
Meanwhile, the House of Deputies approved resolution C047 that establishes a minimum compensation for vocational deacons of $25 per month. Vocational deacons generally are not paid in The Episcopal Church, nor are deacons in the Roman Church (with the rare exception being when they act as administrator of a parish without a priest). This is the first I've heard about this issue, so I haven't had time to process it and form an opinion. It will be interesting to see how the Bishops respond.
After their dinner break, the Deputies debated resolution A126 which instructs the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to examine all the language of the Book of Common Prayer, The Hymnal 1982 and other approved liturgical material in regard to the colonialist, racist and white supremacist, imperialist and nationalistic language and content and develop proposals for amending texts. The resolution includes an allocation of $100,000 for implementation and passed overwhelmingly by voice vote. In 2018, the 79th General Convention "memorialized" the 1979 Book of Common Prayer for various reasons, so as the text is essentially not changeable, at least for now, I'm not sure what this resolution seeks to accomplish.
Resolution A129 would require a historic audit on the origins and sources of the financial and all other assets of The Episcopal Church that are directly tied to the enslavement of humans, the slave trade, and historical and current racial injustices, in order to tell the story of our history, with an allocation of $150,000.00 for this work. This resolution passed unanimously, and I support it, primarily because I've become aware that we need to have this conversation at St. Mary's. Mary Troost donated the land and most of the money for our building, and much of those funds were likely earned off of the back of slave labor at her husband's plantation. This is work we need to do, no matter how uncomfortable it is.
I will admit that I didn't catch all of the work conducted by the House of Deputies as I wasn't able to be bi-locate, even virtually. Tomorrow, I will spend more time with the Deputies.
General Convention always seems so bureaucratic and political. It is. But it's important work. Our system of church government has its flaws, but it seems to me to be better than the alternatives. Please pray for the Bishops and Deputies as they seek to faithfully govern our little corner of Christendom by the power of the Spirit!
Click here for the St. Mary's GC80 Hub.
The General Convention is the primary governing and legislative body of The Episcopal Church. With the exception of the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Constitution and Canons, it is the ultimate authority in The Episcopal Church, being the bureaucratic facility through which the collegial function of the episcopate is exercised. General Convention comprises two houses: the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. It meets regularly once every three years.
The 80th General Convention is being held July 8, 2023 through July 11, 2023 in Baltimore, Maryland. This year's convention is being held a year late due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the schedule is much shorter than normal with fewer people due to continued concerns about COVID-19. There are a multitude of other pandemic measures, some of which make sense to me (daily testing requirements for all bishops and deputies, masks, no eating or drinking on the floor, etc.) and some of which do not. For example, the Deputies and Bishops are worshipping in separate rooms rather than together, and even more bizarre, the President of the House of Deputies will not allow singing during the worship services while the Bishops are permitted to sing.
There are about as many resolutions for the Convention to consider as there were four years ago, but with half the amount of time to get the work done. This piece gives a great overview of all of this. Many of the controversial resolutions have been slated as “reject” or “take no action,” and otherwise referred them to one of the church’s interim bodies for further study.
While it's impossible to predict exactly which resolutions will come to the floor at this stage, I will provide commentary throughout the Convention on my thoughts on the various acts of Convention.
Please join me in praying for our Bishop and Deputies: Amanda Perschall, Alexandra Connors, Curtis Hamilton, Spencer Orr, Christine Morrison, Mtr. Anne Kyle, Fr. Jonathan Frazier, Fr. Chas Marks, Fr. Larry Ehren, and Fr. Sean Kim.
The music and texts mentioned in this post are available for download at the end, and may be used freely with attribution.
It is said that the authors of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer assumed that Rite One would quickly go the way of the dodo bird. Despite their alleged intentions, forty-three years later, the parish I serve as rector uses Rite One language at all services.
The Hymnal 1982 reflects that position as the service music for Rite One is lacking, specifically when it comes to complete settings of the Mass ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei). For example, the hymnal contains the Kyrie and Sanctus from James McGregor's Missa Verbum Caro (S-89 and S-117, respectively), but not the Agnus Dei he composed as part of the set. Because his Agnus Dei is under copyright, I asked our parish organist, Dr. Geoff Wilcken, to compose a suitable tune in the same spirit of McGregor's composition which is based on Hans Leo Hassler's sixteenth-century motet Verbum caro factum est . During seasons when the Gloria is suppressed (Advent, Lent, and the old pre-Lenten season), this constitutes a complete Mass setting, provided that the Nicene Creed is spoken or sung to a traditional chant tone (e.g. S-103).
St. Mary's uses Rite One language, but making every attempt to live fully into the 1979 BCP, we use this rubric on page 14 liberally: "In any of the Proper Liturgies for Special Days, and in other services contained in this Book celebrated in the context of a Rite One service, the contemporary idiom may be conformed to traditional language." This means that we use not only the two Rite One Eucharistic prayers, we also use the Rite Two Eucharistic prayers in Rite One idiom. Well, we've used three of the four Rite Two prayers as found in the Anglican Service Book, but Eucharistic Prayer C is not included.
Mr. John Wallace, a layman from the Diocese of Pennsylvania, recently set Prayer C to Rite One idiom, and Dr. Wilcken set the text to music in the spirit of Hassler's motet. It is a unique setting in that the entire Eucharistic Prayer - from the Sursum Corda to the Great Amen - is sung.
St. Mary's is using this setting during Shrovetide and Lent 2022, and we are pleased to offer it for use throughout the Church.
And the Word was Made Flesh
Kyrie: The Hymnal 1982, #S-89 (James McGregor) (listen here)
Sanctus: The Hymnal 1982, #S-117 (James McGregor) (listen here)
Agnus Dei: Click here (Geoff Wilcken) (listen here)
Eucharistic Prayer C in Rite I Idiom - text only (Tr.: John Wallace)
Eucharistic Prayer C in Rite I Idiom - sung setting (Music: Geoff Wilcken) (listen here)
Clergy Staffing Update
Dear St. Mary's Family,
The Episcopal Church is so named, in part, because we value the ministry of bishops (episcopal means "of or relating to a bishop"). Bishop Diane Bruce, our new Bishop Provisional, has asked me to serve the Diocese as Vocations Missioner, and having received the consent of our Vestry, I have accepted. In this role, I will provide oversight to the ordination process of the Diocese, working closely with the Bishop and Commission on Ministry in the recruitment, discernment, and formation of those called to vocational ministry in the Church, both lay and ordained.
This work will be above and beyond my full-time ministry at St. Mary's. In other words, I'm not going anywhere! Rather than increasing my compensation, at my request, the Diocese will reimburse St. Mary's for one-fourth of my compensation, giving the Vestry the ability to spend the money as it wishes. Last night, the Vestry approved my request to use some of these funds for a quarter-time (approx. 10 hours per week) Associate Rector position.
It is with delight that I announce the promotion of Fr. Sean Kim to Associate Rector of St. Mary's Church. Fr. Sean has been a faithful priest on the clergy staff at our parish since April 2019, serving in a non-stipendiary capacity. We will see a bit more of Fr. Sean in his new role as he will no longer serve at other parishes one Sunday per month, and he will be taking on more ministry responsibility in various areas slowly over time. Please join me in congratulating him!
Don't hesitate to reach out to me or either of the Wardens if you have any questions or concerns. See you soon in church!
Dear St. Mary's Family,
Merry Christmas! Despite the fact that Christmas trees tend to come down today, the Nativity of Jesus is so important that the Church bids us to celebrate it for twelve days ending with The Epiphany. The counting and numbering of the days immediately following the Nativity are confusing, so I thought I'd take a moment to try to unpack them. Links are provided should you wish to learn more!
The three feasts that follow the Nativity - December 26 (St. Stephen) , 27 (St. John) , and 28 (Holy Innocents) - are often referred to as a single entity: Comites Christi ("Companions of Christ"). From time immemorial in the Western Church, these feasts were so important that they always occurred on their proper day, even if it happened to fall on the Sunday after Christmas. In 1979, The Episcopal Church published a new prayer book with a new calendar that introduced a new principle: because Sundays are feasts of the Lord, they supersede all other feasts.
This is why we celebrated the First Sunday after Christmas yesterday, not St. Stephen's Day. In the Roman Church, poor Stephen was forgotten entirely, but in our Church, we move the Comites Christi feasts forward by one day (see p. 161 of the BCP). Thus, this year, here's how things shake out (along with Mass times, links, and some fun facts):
To read a comprehensive historical analysis about the liturgical time between Christmas and The Epiphany, click here.
I encourage you to leave your decorations up for the Twelve Days, and perhaps even some of them until Candlemas (February 2) as we do in the church. And I encourage you to make it a point to come to Mass on as many of these holy days as you can!
See you soon in church!
Relics at St. Mary's
It was midday on day two of a spiritual retreat at an old Benedictine abbey in rural Normandy. I was 23 years old and serving as a Southern Baptist missionary in Paris. I was praying silently in the church, and the sun shone brilliantly through the clear windows of the abbey church. As I finished my prayers, I decided to explore the interior of the church. As I walked toward across the transept toward the north chapel, the sunlight pointed my gaze to a small box on the wall with a clear front. As I got closer, much to my horror, it became clear that there was a human skull on display. Later, one of the monks explained that the skull belonged to Saint Wandrille, the monk who founded the abbey in the seventh century.
The skull was a relic.
The veneration of relics – both the human remains and the personal effects of saints – is deeply rooted in the earliest ages of Christianity, and in fact, predates the formal canonization of the New Testament. The bodies of early Christian martyrs were venerated by the church, including the remains of Ignatius and Polycarp, who were martyred in the second century. The Eucharist was celebrated over the tombs of Christian martyrs in the catacombs of Rome in the fourth century. The Second Council of Nicea in 787 A.D. affirmed the veneration of relics, clarifying that while God alone is worshipped, the saints – including their relics – are venerated. We do not worship the saints, we only honor and revere them. And we honor and revere them because, by their faithful example and their continued prayers, they lead us further into holiness and a closer union with God.
At the time I encountered the skull of St. Wandrille, my Protestant instinct was to brush aside the superstitious notion of venerating the bones of dead people in the same way I brushed aside the Eastern notion of venerating icons. But like many things the Protestant Reformers rejected as a result of medieval abuse and superstition, I began to wonder whether the baby had been thrown out with the bathwater.
The underlying principle behind the veneration of relics is the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. As one commentator puts it,
"In a nutshell, because God Himself was made Man for our sake and was incarnate of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary to redeem and divinize human nature, and because the glorified human nature of the Risen Lord communicates the Holy Ghost to the members of the redeemed human family, the communion of saints, and thus makes the bodies of the Saints to be temples, dwelling-places of the Holy Spirit, the bodies of those who are acknowledged to have possessed heroic sanctity in this life are honored, venerated as holy possessions of God and dwelling places of the Holy Spirit. A sober, healthy, balanced, sane, biblical theology of the Saints and of their earthly Relics is intensely incarnational and sacramental - the flesh is honored as the vehicle of the Spirit. By honoring the bodies of the Saints, and by honoring their holy Images, we are taught to honor each other and to recognize in the human body, redeemed and sanctified in Christ, the locus of the Spirit of God."
As we quickly approach the mystery of the incarnation of God at Christmas, it is fitting that we bless new reliquaries to house the relics of two saints of the church this Sunday: St. Cecilia and St. Theresa of the Little Flower. St. Cecilia was a third century martyr now regarded as the patroness of music, and St. Teresa of the Little Flower was a late nineteenth-century French nun who lovingly pursued holiness in ordinary life. They will fit in nicely with the image of the nine other female saints on the front panel of the high altar.
Like most first-class relics, there are very small pieces of the saint's bone encased in a small container with glass on one side and removable metal back. When the metal back is removed, there is a wax seal placed by the bishop who attested to the relic’s authenticity. We will display them on the altar during most seasons of the church year.
Relics remind us that our faith is gritty and earthy, and that God chose to enter into the grittiness of this world through human flesh and blood. Our veneration of relics is an outpouring of our belief in the resurrection of the body, and makes tangible the prayer requests we bring to the saints in heaven in the hopes that they pray for us to the Father.
We will bless the reliquaries on Sunday during the 10:00 Mass, and will offer the faithful a moment to venerate the sacred relics of these two holy women after the service has concluded. Saints Cecilia and Theresa, pray for us!
Dear St. Mary’s Family,
As we do every year during the Easter season, we are observing the sprinkling rite at Mass. Despite the mask, you may have noticed the look of joy in my eyes when I earnestly try to douse you as thoroughly as possible with holy water. It’s not just because I want to mess up your hairdo and get your glasses wet, it’s because it is such a joyful experience to remind you tangibly of your baptism. In the waters of baptism, we were buried with Christ into his death so that just as he was raised from the dead, we too might walk in newness of life. This is what the use of holy water is all about.
Holy water is simply water that has been blessed by a priest or bishop. It has been used for religious purposes other than baptism in the Church since the 4th century. Beyond its use at burials, blessings, dedications, and exorcisms, holy water has been kept in “stoups” at the entrances of churches for ceremonial cleansing since at least the 9th century. It is common to see members of the faithful dipping their fingers into the stoup and then making the sign of the cross when entering the church.
Holy water is also available to be used privately in the home. For example, when I say Morning and Evening Prayer at home, I place some holy water on my fingers and make the sign of the cross at the beginning of the service. It can also be used in cooking, and may be used to bless your home, car, or workspace.
I encourage you to use holy water regularly as part of your private devotions at home! Accordingly, this weekend and beyond, you may take a bottle of holy water home with you after Mass. By its use, may be tangibly reminded of your own death and resurrection with Christ in the waters of baptism.
 Romans 6:3-4, NRSV.
 See the articles on “holy water” and “stoups” in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by F.L. Cross and E.A. Livingston, Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom, 1997.
Dear St. Mary's Family,
This week, Kansas City issued revised guidelines for restrictions on gatherings as the rates of infection, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 continue to rise steeply. Generally speaking, indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people, though regularly scheduled church services are exempted from this limit, provided mask and social distancing requirements are followed.
The Vestry met last night, and despite the "exemption," we believe that it is prudent to increase the level of restrictions for attendance for in-person worship effective immediately:
Some churches in the area have chosen to discontinue in-person worship entirely. Why, you may ask, are we continuing to keep our doors open to the public?
As your rector and parish priest, I believe it is essential to provide access to public worship and to the Sacraments of the Church, provided that we can do it safely. We are sacramental Christians, meaning that we believe God uses physical things (e.g. bread and wine) to communicate his grace and love to us. While livestreamed worship is edifying and allows a significant level of participation, there is no way to transport the bread and wine from the altar at St. Mary's into your home. We've had no known instances of transmission during a church service in our parish, or in the wider Diocese of West Missouri, and as an obsessive reader about coronavirus issues as they relate to church services, I've seen no evidence of transmission in churches across the country that are being as conservative as we are with attendance caps, and mask and social distancing requirements.
We all know that saying at home as much as possible is the best way to reduce risk of transmission of the coronavirus. Many of you have decided not to attend in-person, or to attend sporadically, and I respect and affirm your decision. The clergy of St. Mary's are committed to providing the Sacraments to you either one-on-one at church or at your home (inside or outside, rain or shine!). If you wish to schedule such a visit, please email any of us individually, or contact us via this form.
We continue to pray daily for those who are sick with coronavirus, and for those who have died. We are also praying fervently for an end to this pandemic. Please continue to pray for me as I pray for you!
If you wish to register for in-person worship, click here, or call the church office at 816-842-0975. Click here to read our current safety precautions and guidelines.
For further reading and reference
Safer at Home COVID-19 Guidelines for Kansas City 11.16.2020
KCMO COVID-19 FAQs 11.16.2020
A Musical Update from Dr. Maglione
Greetings St. Mary’s Family,
I hope you are all well given the worldwide pandemic that has changed so much of our day-to-day existence. For me personally, it has been a trying time. Like many of us, I was thrust into drastically changing the way I do my job, which in my case meant massive changes to my entire course load at William Jewell College with a week’s notice this past March. Over the summer, I spent a great deal of time researching and re-thinking how music is taught, performed, and experienced in preparation for teaching this fall. Through this process, I gained some ideas that I think might work for St. Mary’s as well.
I know I speak for our St. George’s Choristers when I say that we greatly miss the community of the church, the solemnity of our worship, and the beauty of our choral and communal singing. In light of this, I do want to take a moment and publicly thank our St. George’s Scholars for their hard work learning difficult mass settings in ancient chant and solo after solo so that we could continue to have beautiful music in our services throughout the summer and into this fall.
Singing and COVID-19
Many of you may already know most of this information, but it does apply to all of us as we participate in a tradition with a history of communal singing. Early in the pandemic, a church choir from the west coast was identified as causing widespread transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that would lead to the coronavirus disease COVID-19. This put the music community on high alert and, across the country, music organizations closed their doors and canceled their seasons as a precautionary measure. We quickly realized that we would need music-specific studies that would inform us as to what are best practices to mitigate the transmission of the virus and keep our colleagues, friends, and families safe. In light of this need, several major music organizations (ACDA, NAfMe, CBDNA, etc.) banded together and funded a study through the University of Colorado. The second round of preliminary data released on August 6th with more on the way. If you’d like to explore this information, I encourage you to go here: https://www.nfhs.org/articles/unprecedented-international-coalition-led-by-performing-arts-organizations-to-commission-covid-19-study/
Basically, what we’ve found out is that the virus is transmitted through the air in tiny particles that are much more present when people are singing and playing instruments due to the speed and intensity of the air necessary for this activity. So, the accepted thought right now is that we can sing in small groups IF we wear well-fitting masks, stay socially distanced (6ft minimum depending on the location), rehearse outside or in a very well-ventilated area, and keep the singing to 30 (preferably fewer) minutes. However, this still increases risk, particularly for those who are immunocompromised or are in other high-risk categories as you’ve undoubtedly seen all over the news and social media. Therefore service the way we used to know it (at least musically) will not be able to happen until we have access to quick and accurate testing or a readily available vaccine.
What does this mean for music at St. Mary’s?
Fr. Charles and I are exploring every option to allow for some singing to occur during our services. We have reached out to local experts and colleagues from churches around the country to get a feel for what is and isn’t working with regards to pandemic-influenced music making. However, we will not make an irresponsible decision that would intentionally endanger anyone. So, there may be some beautiful harmony coming our way at some point this fall, but it won’t be until we have vetted the ideas and made sure we are mitigating as much risk of transmission as possible.
In the meantime, the St. George’s Scholars are attempting an experiment this week and they will be recording our first virtual anthem. I have already met with several of the singers to get started on the project and I think it will be lovely. Many of the St. George’s Choristers have said they would like to participate in future projects once we’ve mastered how to do this! If all works out, we will use this unconventional medium as an opportunity for the St. Mary’s music program to reach people through our YouTube channel and other social media platforms, and perhaps help us grow interest in our services both streaming and in person. So, keep an eye out! We will hopefully have our first offering done by this coming weekend (September 20 or so).
Thank you for your constant support of the music program at St. Mary’s. I love being part of this community and I look forward to the day that we can sing together again.
Dr. Anthony J. Maglione
Director of Music and Choirmaster
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
Fr. Charles Everson's love for music and liturgy led him to a suburban parish as a simple chorister, and as of late, to St. Mary's as a priest. He feels called to share the love of Jesus Christ with a broken world in desperate need of hope and reconciliation.
To the Glory of God and in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary
St. Mary's is a parish of the Diocese of West Missouri, The Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion.
1307 Holmes Street
Kansas City, Missouri 64106