On the afternoon of Advent 4, a number of parishioners and the rector gathered to “green” the church. Always a great event, it is the moment of transformation of our space, dressing it for Christmas eve and the wonder of the birth of the Son of God. It is one of those events a clergy person attends year after year that marks the passing of the years of one’s ministry. I enjoy the joy of the afternoon spent this way with whoever shows up for the festivities. Today’s was no exception. It was a good time, well spent.
This year, as we arrived, the South Sudanese congregation was finishing their afternoon service. The “greening crew” gathered in the library getting ready as the Eucharist was being completed. It was wonderful to hear the familiar Eucharistic prayers being said in a most unfamiliar language (Dinka). After their service, Fr. John and I talked about the joint Christmas eve service and he told me their choir wanted to share a traditional Sudanese dance and hymn celebrating the birth of Jesus at the late service Christmas Eve. I was thrilled about this addition to our joint service. It is truly amazing to worship this way. I should add that I joined them in the parish hall a bit later as they were practicing for their Christmas eve dance. I even joined in the dance. They appreciated my enthusiasm, though they did not invite me to join them in the dance . . . probably a good call on their part.
All in all, it was a good afternoon and we “greened” well!
A final note: several years ago, 2008 I think, a homeless man, Thomas Wasmer, IV, a member of our parish, participated in the “greening” of the church. It was Thomas’s last Christmas with us, for a few months later he died very tragically. Thomas is buried in the church yard. As those of you who were here during Thomas’s time with us will recall, Thomas set on the front row, pulpit side. We preachers had to be very careful in our preaching, as Thomas was prone to “enthusiastic” responses to our sermons, especially if we mentioned the devil or Satan. Thomas had a wonderful time helping “green” the church. At one point, he even climbed into the pulpit and tried a little preaching. He asked if I thought he was ready for Sunday morning? Tonight, I set down behind Thomas’s first row pew and quietly recollected the evening he helped “green” the church and his time as a member of the parish. As I set there, quietly in my own thoughts, my eyes fell on the small, brass memorial plaque attached to the inside of the pew. I had never noticed the plaque before. The pew was given as a memorial to Mary Kip Robinson. Mary Kip Robinson arrived at St. Paul’s in 1906, just as our wonderful church building was being completed and occupied by the parish 108 years ago. Mary Kip was the granddaughter of William Kip, the first bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California. Thomas occupying the pew of the granddaughter of the first bishop of California is interesting but not enough to garner much of a reaction. However, as any standing around will attest, as I read the memorial inscription I let out a loud, ‘oh my gosh!” You see, it turns out Thomas occupied the pew of the grandmother of the Koch brothers (yes, those Koch brothers)! Mary Kip Robinson gave birth to her daughter Mary Clementine in 1907, soon after arriving in Kansas City. Mary Clementine was baptized at St. Paul’s, confirmed at St Paul’s, grew up at St. Paul’s, and married Mr. Fred Koch in 1932 at the altar of St. Paul’s. Thomas would have enjoyed knowing he was sitting in such a “prestigious” pew. It was a perfect end to a wonderful night.