In the two weeks leading up to the presidential inauguration, the Washington National Cathedral will offer brief online prayers for our nation, together with our interfaith and ecumenical colleagues, each day at 5:00 p.m. The Cathedral staff invite you to spend five minutes in prayers for safety, solace and national unity.
We in the Diocese of Virginia join with Episcopalians across the nation and around the work of a Novena – nine days of prayer from October 27 through November 4. This A Season of Prayer: For an Election has been organized by Forward Movement and The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations.
A novena is an ancient tradition of nine days of devotional prayers, often with a specific intention. In this time in our national life, we pray for discernment in voting and for the well-being of our nation.
As we move toward the election of leaders for the United States, may we all join in a season of prayer, committing to offer to God our fears and frustrations, our hopes and dreams.
Printable materials from Forward Movement are available in English and Spanish to download and use at home or with your congregation. These prayers, drawn from The Book of Common Prayer, can be printed out and tucked in a Bible or prayer journal.
+The Rt. Rev. Susan Goff
Suffragan Bishop and Ecclesiastical Authority
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thess. 5:16-18
Compline is a brief, meditative service of nighttime prayers, beloved of Christians around the world. It originated as the bedtime prayers in the monasteries,centuries ago, and appeared for the first time in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. The service includes a recitation of a psalm, one reading from the Holy Gospels, canticles, and prayers for God’s protection and guidance. It’s about 15 minutes in duration, so the perfect way to prepare for bed — whatever time that happens to be for you!
You can follow along in The Book of Common Prayer (p. 127), or follow the customized liturgy PDF that will be sent by email each week.
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I hope you will join us!
The music search committee has been meeting online since the stay-at-home order began. Our most recent work has involved the paring down of candidates based on their resumes and, in some cases, based on sample video clips they have submitted. The resumes we received from many of the candidates were very impressive, which made the “paring down” process challenging, but our search committee has reduced the pool to ten candidates. For the search committee, the most important part of our search process will be the in-person audition, where our finalists in the search will demonstrate their qualifications. In addition to keyboard skills, we also plan for each of the finalists to spend time with our choir in a rehearsal session to get a sense of how they work with people.
It was my intent to move forward with hiring our Minister of Music/Organist until the recent release of a report by a joint commission of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) and the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA). In this report, the commission outlined the heightened risk of the spread of COVID-19 infection by singers. Apparently, singing has become risky business in this environment.
Hopefully you all are aware that for the foreseeable future, sacred music as part of our gathered worship will be dramatically different than what we are accustomed to, and the pandemic will certainly sideline most choral groups for some time. Because we don’t have clarity about when or how choral music can return as part of our worship together, I do not believe we can protect St. Alban’s staff, volunteer singers, and our parish family from COVID-19 infection. Because of the current environment, I have reluctantly decided to suspend our search for a full-time choirmaster/organist.
I am determined to move forward with this process when there is a clear path to doing so safely and long-term. I have reached out to each of the remaining candidates to assure them that my intent is to resume the search process at such time as hiring a full-time musician becomes feasible. Of course, I will keep our parish family up to date on the activities of the music search committee when we are reactivated and are able to continue our work.
Dear St. Alban’s Family,
I hope you have seen the pastoral letter recently sent out from Bishop Goff in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In the letter, Bishop Goff relates that she met online with the clergy of the Diocese of Virginia and, as the Ecclesiastical Authority, directed that there will be no public worship at churches in the Diocese of Virginia through March 25. If you are aware of someone who might not have received her email, please pass it on to them.
Bishop Goff made it very clear that churches are, at the moment, not closing, and staff will be reporting for work. What does that mean for our parish family?
While Bishop Goff mentions “physically gathering for public worship,” I take her directive to mean that, in addition to our Sunday worship, there will be no church sponsored, or church-sanctioned, gatherings. This includes choir rehearsals, Lenten programming, Education for Ministry (EfM) sessions, Tuesday Eucharist and Bible Study, Chatting Fingers, Sunday School, Youth Group gatherings, Vestry and any of the other varied ways we gather.
While the doors will be closed for public gatherings and worship, we plan to continue live-streaming our daily office of Morning Prayer from the downstairs chapel, and are making plans to provide some kind of livestream of worship (either Morning Prayer or Eucharist) on the two Sundays we are apart. We will be reaching out to those we are aware of who live alone, to check in and make sure everyone is OK.
I hope you will take advantage of the technology with which God has enriched our lives to stay connected through our online worship and to stay connected with each other – checking on friends, neighbors, fellow parishioners and the most vulnerable among us.
I am grateful for Bishop Susan and Bishop Jennifer’s leadership in this difficult and challenging time. While we might be inconvenienced in the short term, not gathering in numbers helps to mitigate the spread for the community-at-large. In our conference call it was clear that this was a tough decision for them to make, but it was the right decision to make.
During this two week period, please do not hesitate to reach out to your parish staff and clergy if you are in any need, are feeling anxious, frightened or need someone to talk to. As Bishop Goff said in her pastoral letter, “do not be afraid. God is good.” Hold each other up in prayer. Now, as always, God is with us.
One foggy evening, when I was stationed in West Germany, I was driving through a fairly rural part of the countryside, when I noticed a rather eerie glow off to the right side of the road. As I got nearer, I realized that I was approaching a cemetery, and each grave was marked by a burning candle. I had passed that cemetery any number of times, but I had never seen it so beautifully illuminated. I later discovered that a local tradition was to place a lighted candle at the grave of loved ones on November 2nd – The Feast of All Souls’, or as we Episcopalians now call it, “The Commemoration of All Faithful Departed.”
Two venerable and beloved Church feast days happen this week – The Feast of All Saints’ and The Feast of All Souls’. All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows’ Day, is one of the principle feasts of the Church Year, and is set aside as the day when the Church remembers the saints of God – known and unknown. It is one of the few Feast Days that, when falling on a day Monday through Saturday, can be moved to Sunday (and, incidentally, it is one of the four Sundays especially appropriate for baptism.)
While the origins of All Saints’ Day aren’t known, its roots probably go back to the 4th Century, when a feast for all the martyrs was observed in May. It wasn’t until around 735 that Pope Gregory III declared a Feast of All Saints on November 1. While the Feast of All Saints’ celebrates the saints of God, known and unknown, who have died, All Souls’ Day celebrates relatives and loved ones (the “rest of us” faithful whose lives do not merit a day on the Church Calendar) who have died. All Saints’ and All Souls’ became inextricably connected – sometimes being called Allhallowtide or Hallowmas season, being observed on November 1 and November 2, respectively.
The Western Church began their observance of All Saints’ with a service of Vespers on the evening before, which would be All Saints’ Eve, or All Hallows’ Eve. It isn’t much of a stretch to see how simple, superstitious and pagan folk might embellish a commemoration of the departed with stories of tormented souls of the dead, demons and other evil spirits – becoming the festive day of Hallowe’en we’ve come to know and love.
The Feast of All Saints’ is especially important in the Episcopal Church. We often speak of “the Communion of Saints,” and All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day remind us of our belief that all Christians that ever lived, are living, and will ever be, are bound together in one Communion – the Body of Christ. All Saints’ and All Souls’ celebrates this bond as we continue the ancient practice of praying for the saints who have gone on before us and acknowledge that those saints in heaven are praying for us.
Please join us for our observance of The Feast of All Saints’ on Sunday morning, November 3rd, at 8:15 and 10:15. We will be observing The Feast of All Souls’ with a solemn Evensong on the evening of November 3rd at 7:00 pm. All are invited to attend this beautiful sung service, and to bring photos of loved ones who have departed this life and light a candle as a silent and visible prayer for them.
On October 6, we were joined at both of our Sunday morning services by some special furry friends for the annual Blessing of the Animals, in conjunction with the Feast of St. Francis. We are thankful for all of these faithful companions, and their good behavior, on this special day! Check out a few photo highlights below (photos courtesy of Barbara Hallman).
This summer, we are inviting YOU to vote for your favorite hymns! We will try to select as many of your favorites as we can during July and August — with our amazing choir taking the summer months to rest their voices, the congregation becomes the choir! Let’s raise the roof with the joyful sound of cherished hymns.
You can submit your favorite hymn online right here (just scroll down to fill out and submit the form), or ballots and pencils are available in the Narthex through the end of June — we hope that you will vote for yours! Make sure you include your name, and consider sharing a story about WHY you especially love your chosen favorite. The hymns do not need to be from the Hymnal 1982 — we will do our best to resource hymns from other denominations and other hymnals as we are able (according to our music use licenses.) If need be, we can print them in the Sunday bulletin.
I can’t wait to hear from many of you about the hymns you love–it may be hard to narrow it down to just one! I know it will be for me…
Favorite Hymn Nomination Form
Most people are familiar with Easter Sunday, with its familiar readings and hymns, and its feeling of joyful celebration. Along with Christmas Eve, it’s one of two services that are attended even by people who almost never go to church the rest of the year.
Less well known, though, is a very important service that takes place the evening before Easter, which we call the “Great Vigil.”
It begins in darkness, with lighting of the New Fire, from which the Easter (Paschal) candle is lit. That one small flame grows as it is passed from one person to another, and the first part of the service happens by the light of many candles, during the gathering dusk.
Through readings from the Old Testament, the Vigil tells the whole story of salvation, beginning with the creation in Genesis; and continuing with the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, as well as memorable words from Hebrew prophets.
The early Christians welcomed new converts through Holy Baptism primarily during the Easter Vigil. This year, we will continue that tradition — it’s always a joy to welcome a new person into the family of God! And we will all renew our own baptismal vows, and be sprinkled in Jordan River water.
Part of what makes the Easter Vigil fun is the fact that the service rarely stays in one place for long. Here at St. Alban’s, we start by lighting the New Fire in the Memorial Grove, and then the Old Testament readings and baptism happen while we gather around the font in the center of the church.
After the Resurrection is joyfully announced, we will all ring bells, the brass will play, and we will sing the Gloria in Excelsis for the first time since Lent began. The focus of the service then moves to the front of the chuch, where we celebrate the first Holy Communion of the Easter season.
Way back at the start of Lent — on Ash Wednesday — many of the children of St. Alban’s attended the children’s service, in which we “buried” the Alleluia under the Altar at the front of the church. At the Easter Vigil, we hope many of the children of St. Alban’s will come and help to UN-bury the Alleluia! And the children will help the celebrant announce the joyous moment when we recognize the resurrection of Jesus.
The Great Vigil of Easter includes a lot of memorable elements: fire, flickering candles, sprinkling of baptismal water, joyful music with a brass ensemble and choir, fragrant incense … and, of course, meeting the Lord at the altar in the consecrated bread and wine of Eucharist.
The Great Vigil is truly worship for all the senses.
I hope that you and your family will consider joining us this year for the Easter Vigil. It’s my favorite service all year long. You might just find you agree with me!
The 2019 Great Vigil of Easter begins at 7pm at St. Alban’s on Saturday, April 20.