From the Interim Rector - April Manifest 2021
From the Interim Rector
Our long fast has drawn to a close. On Sunday Epiphany will resume the weekly celebration of the Eucharist. Our fast from the Sacrament of Holy Communion began on Sunday, March 15, 2020. Except for a brief time in September and October when we tried to resume in-person worship, it’s been slightly over a year since we last shared in the Eucharistic Feast. While for now Holy Communion will only be offered at the 8:30 am service, my hope is that on Pentecost we can resume offering an in-person service at 10:30. And, while our long fast from the Eucharist has come to an end, there will still be other aspects of our shared life that we may still need to fast from. One that immediately comes to mind is Coffee Hour. While it is true that restaurants are now allowed to offer indoor dining, social distancing is still in place between tables and ideally the people sharing a table are in an insular “pod” or “bubble”. The hospitality of a parish coffee hour is quite different. Coffee Hour is a chance to catch up with a variety of folks or taking the opportunity to get to know a visitor or new member. For now it seems prudent to continue our fast from Coffee Hour as we wait and watch how vaccinations are proceeding and when we’ll be able to get off this infection-rate plateau we seem stuck on.
Music, or at least choral and congregational singing may also need to wait a bit. While the 8:30 Eucharist has by tradition been a spoken liturgy, Epiphany has a great love and appreciation for the music at our principal service at 10:30. Although we are seven weeks away from Pentecost and the resumption of that service, in all likelihood we will not be ready to resume the robust musical life of the choir and congregational singing quite so soon. Jeremy Jelinek, our Interim Organist, will certainly continue to provide the exceptional organ music he has been offering each week for our online worship, but congregational singing and choral singing may need to be eased into. Rest assured that Mo. Elise and I, along with Jeremy and our choir members will be continually evaluating when we can end this fast as well. Music isn’t just something we love to hear and to make, but is also deeply embedded in our worship of God. As soon as we can responsibly do so, we will again be able to “speak to one another in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:19)
Over these last weeks as we were preparing to resume in-person worship I have been reflecting on what this long fast from the Sacrament and in-person worship may have taught us. Certainty it has revealed that “where two or three are gathered together in my name there I am with them,” just as Jesus said he would be. That has been proven true time and time again through the online community we created through Morning Prayer, The Liturgy of the Word, Bible studies, and social gatherings. We have discovered that even through the most difficult days this last year brought us we have indeed held “fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, [knowing that] the one who has promised is faithful. And [we have continually] provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as [we] see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:23-25) And perhaps, this long fast from the Holy Eucharist has also awakened within us a deepening hunger after righteousness and truth. The noted preacher and author Reverend Barbara Brown Taylor wrote in 1999 the following words that from our current vantage point strike me as so very prescient. “My secret fear about church going,” she writes, “is that it works like a vaccine: a couple of drops under the tongue each week and pretty soon we are immune to the whole thing. The God-beseeching language requires no extraordinary effort. The summoning of the Holy Spirit expects no untoward response. Even the sacrament, when it comes, tastes more like breakfast than of sacrifice.” As we begin to break the many fasts Covid-19 has forced upon us, may we find that the Sacrament we are once more able to receive has become “more to be desired than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and the drippings of the honeycomb.” (Psalm 19:10)