Choir Notes: St. Alban’s Day

by Clarence Zuvekas

David BlackwellSunday, June 23 — Our anthem for St. Alban’s Day is O Thou, Whose All Redeeming Might, an arrangement of a plainsong tune by David Blackwell (b. 1961).

Blackwell previously headed music publishing at Oxford University Press and now freelances as a composer, arranger, writer and editor. He and his wife, Kathy, have written books for young string players and have conducted workshops on string teaching in Europe, Asia and Australia.

The text of today’s anthem is an English translation, by the Anglican cleric R.M. Benson (1824-1915), of an 8th century hymn.

Note: After the June 23 service, the choir will be taking its summer break.

June 18: Bernard Mizeki, catechist and martyr in Rhodesia, 1896

Today the Episcopal Church honors the memory of Bernard Mizeki, martyr.

Almighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of your love in the heart of your holy martyr Bernard Mizeki: Grant to us, your humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Bernard Mizeki was born in Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique) in about 1861. When he was twelve or a little older, he left his home and went to Capetown, South Africa, where for the next ten years he worked as a laborer, living in the slums of Capetown, but (perceiving the disastrous effects of drunkenness on many workers in the slums) firmly refusing to drink alcohol, and remaining largely uncorrupted by his surroundings. After his day’s work, he attended night classes at an Anglican school.

Under the influence of his teachers, from the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE, an Anglican religious order for men, popularly called the Cowley Fathers), he became a Christian and was baptized on 9 March 1886. Besides the fundamentals of European schooling, he mastered English, French, high Dutch, and at least eight local African languages. In time he would be an invaluable assistant when the Anglican church began translating its sacred texts into African languages.

After graduating from the school, he accompanied Bishop Knight-Bruce to Mashonaland, a tribal area in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), to work there as a lay catechist. In 1891 the bishop assigned him to Nhowe, the village of paramount-chief Mangwende, and there he built a mission-complex. He prayed the Anglican hours each day, tended his subsistence garden, studied the local language (which he mastered better than any other foreigner in his day), and cultivated friendships with the villagers. He eventually opened a school, and won the hearts of many of the Mashona through his love for their children.

He moved his mission complex up onto a nearby plateau, next to a grove of trees sacred to the ancestral spirits of the Mashona. Although he had the chief’s permission, he angered the local religious leaders when he cut some of the trees down and carved crosses into others. Although he opposed some local traditional religious customs, Bernard was very attentive to the nuances of the Shona Spirit religion. He developed an approach that built on people’s already monotheistic faith in one God, Mwari, and on their sensitivity to spirit life, while at the same time he forthrightly proclaimed the Christ. Over the next five years (1891-1896), the mission at Nhowe produced an abundance of converts.

Many black African nationalists regarded all missionaries as working for the European colonial governments. During an uprising in 1896, Bernard was warned to flee. He refused, since he did not regard himself as working for anyone but Christ, and he would not desert his converts or his post. On 18 June 1896, he was fatally speared outside his hut. His wife and a helper went to get food and blankets for him. They later reported that, from a distance, they saw a blinding light on the hillside where he had been lying, and heard a rushing sound, as though of many wings. When they returned to the spot his body had disappeared.

The place of his death has become a focus of great devotion for Anglicans and other Christians, and one of the greatest of all Christian festivals in Africa takes place there every year around the feast day that marks the anniversary of his martyrdom, June 18.

Hagiography written by James Kiefer. See more here: http://elvis.rowan.edu/~kilroy/JEK/home.html

June 15: Evelyn Underhill, mystic, 1941

Today, June 15, the Episcopal Church remembers Evelyn Underhill, mystic and writer, 1941.

To go up alone into the mountains and come back as an ambassador to the world, has ever been the method of humanity’s best friends. The windows of Christ’s Mysteries split the [Light] up into many-coloured loveliness, disclose all of its hidden richness…make its beauty more accessible to us…And within  this place we too are bathed in the light transmitted by the windows, a light which is yet the very radiance of Eternity.

The only child of a prominent barrister and his wife, Evelyn Underhill was born in Wolverhampton, England, on December 6th, 1875, and grew up in London. She was educated there and in a girls’ school in Folkestone, where she was confirmed in the Church of England. She had little other formal religious training, but her spiritual curiosity was naturally lively, and she read widely, developing quite early a deep appreciation for mysticism. At sixteen, she began a lifelong devotion to writing.

In the 1890’s, Evelyn began annual visits to the European continent, and especially to Italy. There she became influenced by the paintings of the Italian masters and by the Roman Catholic Church. She spent nearly fifteen years wrestling painfully with the idea of converting to Roman Catholicism, but in the end she discerned that she was called to remain as an Anglican.

In 1921, Evelyn Underhill became reconciled to her Anglican roots, while remaining what she called a “Catholic Christian.” She continued with her life of reading, writing, meditation, and prayer. She had already published her first great spiritual work, Mysticism. This was followed by many other books, culminating in her most widely read and studied book, Worship (1937).

Evelyn Underhill’s most valuable contribution to spiritual literature must surely be her conviction that the mystical life is not only open to a saintly few, but to anyone who cares to nurture it and weave it into everyday experience, and also (at the time, a startling idea) that modern psychological theories and discoveries, far from hindering or negating spirituality, can actually enhance and transform it. In Mysticism, she writes:

We are, then, one and all the kindred of the mystics; and it is by dwelling upon this kinship, by interpreting—so far as we may—their great declarations in the light of our little experience, that we shall learn to understand them best. Strange and far away though they seem, they are not cut off from us by some impassable abyss. They belong to us. They are our brethren; the giants, the heroes of our race. As the achievement of genius belongs not to itself only, but also to the society that brought it forth; as theology declares that the merits of the saints avail for all; so, because of the solidarity of the human family, the supernal accomplishment of the mystics is ours also.

She died, at age 65, on June 15th, 1941.

from A Great Cloud of Witnesses (Church Publishing)

June 14: Basil the Great, 379

Today the Church remembers Basil the Great, Bishop of Ceasarea, 379.

Almighty God, who have revealed to your Church your eternal Being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in Trinity of Persons: Give us grace that, like your bishop Basil of Caesarea, we may continue steadfast in the confession of this faith, and constant in our worship of you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; who live and reign for ever and ever.

Basil was born about 329, in Caesarea of Cappadocia, into a Christian family of wealth and distinction. He was baptized at the age of twenty-eight, and ordained a deacon soon after. Educated in classical Hellenism, Basil might have continued in academic life, had it not been for the death of a beloved younger brother and the faith of his sister, Macrina.

Macrina had founded the first monastic order for women at Annesi. Fired by her example, Basil made a journey to study the life of anchorites in Egypt and elsewhere. In 358 he returned to Cappadocia and founded the first monastery for men at Ibora.

Assisted by Gregory Nazianzus, he compiled The Longer and Shorter Rules, which transformed the solitary anchorites into a disciplined community of prayer and work. The Rules became the foundation for all Eastern monastic discipline. The monasteries also provided schools to train leaders for Church and State.

Basil was ordained presbyter [or, priest] in 364. In the conflict between the Arians (supported by an Arian Emperor) and orthodox Christians, Basil became convinced that he should be made Bishop of Caesarea. By a narrow margin, he was elected Bishop of Caesarea, Metropolitan of Cappadocia, and Exarch of Pontus.

He was relentless in his efforts to restore the faith and discipline of the clergy, and in defense of the Nicene faith. When the Emperor Valens sought to undercut Basil’s power by dividing the See of Cappadocia, Basil forced his brother Gregory to become Bishop of Nyssa.

In his treatise, On the Holy Spirit, Basil maintained that both the language of Scripture and the faith of the Church require that the same honor, glory, and worship is to be paid to the Spirit as to the Father and the Son. It was entirely proper, he asserted, to adore God in liturgical prayer, not only with the traditional words, “Glory to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit;” but also with the formula, “Glory to the Father with the Son together with the Holy Spirit.”

Basil was also concerned about the poor and, when he died, he willed to Caesarea a complete new town, built on his estate, with housing, a hospital and staff, a church for the poor, and a hospice for travelers.

He died at the age of fifty, in 379, just two years before the Second Ecumenical Council, which affirmed the Nicene faith.

from A Great Cloud of Witnesses (Church Publishing).

Summer Music: Nominate your favorite hymn!

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…

Fr. Paul

Favorite Hymn Nomination Form

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June 13: Anthony of Padua, 1231

Today, the Church remembers Anthony of Padua: priest, confessor, doctor, preacher, 1231.

O God, who by your Holy Spirit gave your servant Anthony a love of the Holy Scriptures, and the gift of expounding them with learning and eloquence, so that your people might be established in sound doctrine and encouraged in the way of righteousness. Grant us always an abundance of such preachers, to the glory of your Name and the benefit of your Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Read More

Choir Notes: I Will Not Leave You Comfortless

by Clarence Zuvekas

Sunday, June 16 — American composer Everett Titcomb (1884-1968) was influenced by the Second New England School of musicians (George Chadwick, Horatio Parker, et al.), French music, and, most notably, the plainchant and polyphonic traditions of 15th -16th century Italy.  He was largely responsible for reintroducing the latter forms into the Episcopal Church.

Titcomb served for 50 years as organist and choirmaster at the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Boston, whose choir is now merged with that of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral. We will be singing his Pentecost motet, I Will Not Leave You Comfortless, the sixth of his Eight Short Motets for the Greater Festivals of the Church.

June 12: The First Book of Common Prayer, 1549

Today, we remember the publication of the first Book of Common Prayer. It is typically remembered on a weekday following the Day of Pentecost. This year, at St. Alban’s, we observe it today: June 12. 2019.

Almighty and everliving God, whose servant Thomas Cranmer, with others, did restore the language of the people in the prayers of thy Church: Make us always thankful for this heritage; and help us so to pray in the Spirit and with the understanding, that we may worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The first Book of Common Prayer came into use on the Day of Pentecost, June 9, 1549, in the second year of the reign of King Edward VI. From it have descended all subsequent editions and revisions of the Book in the Churches of the Anglican Communion.Read More

June 11: Saint Barnabas the Apostle

The Episcopal Church observes June 11 as a major feast, a holy day commemorating the life and ministry of Barnabas, an Apostle of Jesus Christ.

Grant, O God, that we may follow the example of your faithful servant Barnabas, who, seeking not his own renown but the well-being of your Church, gave generously of his life and substance for the relief of the poor and the spread of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

“Joseph, a Levite born in Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), sold a field he owned, brought the money, and turned it over to the apostles” (Acts 4:36–37). This first reference in the New Testament to Barnabas introduces one whose missionary efforts would cause him to be called, like the Twelve, an apostle.

As a Jew of the diaspora, Barnabas had much in common with Paul. When Paul came to Jerusalem after his conversion, the disciples were afraid to receive him. It was Barnabas who brought Paul to the apostles, and declared to them how, on the road to Damascus, Paul had seen the Lord, and had preached boldly in the name of Jesus (Acts 9:27). Later, Barnabas, having settled in Antioch, sent for Paul to join him in leading the Christian church in that city.

Barnabas and Paul were sent by the disciples in Antioch to carry famine relief to the church in Jerusalem. Upon their return, the church in Antioch sent them on their first missionary journey beginning at Cyprus.

At Lystra in Asia Minor, the people took them to be gods, supposing the eloquent Paul to be Mercury, the messenger of the gods, and Barnabas to be Jupiter, the chief of the gods, a testimony to the commanding presence of Barnabas.

The association of Barnabas and Paul was broken, after their journey, by a disagreement about Mark, who had left the mission to return to Jerusalem.

After attending the Council of Jerusalem with Barnabas, Paul made a return visit to the churches that he and Barnabas had founded in Asia Minor. Barnabas and Mark went to Cyprus, where Barnabas is traditionally honored as the founder of the church.

Tradition has it that he was martyred at Salamis in Cyprus.

from Lesser Feasts & Fasts 2018

Would Jesus give to a panhandler?

A few Sundays ago, a gentleman came into the church seeking a ride and some financial assistance. In this specific case, this gentleman is well-known to your clergy, and has been using the same story for as long as I have been here, and perhaps even longer.  (Without going into details, his story is demonstrably untrue.)  He may have real needs (I truly don’t know), but his method is dishonest. Fortunately, he only got a ride out of our parishioners, and no cash.

What should you do when a panhandler comes to Church?Read More