Category Archives: Christmas

Greening of the church

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.

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The homeless should be celebrated in every home

Last Saturday night the Kansas City Chorale did an amazing concert at St. Paul’s. You can listen to them sing  at this link.  By all accounts, it was an amazing evening of glorious music from their Nativitas album–their Christmas album.  It seems the church space fit the Chorale very well.  I listened to some of the rehearsal and it was as if the building resonated with their voices.  It was amazing, especially a piece called “Jerusalem” (not on the Nativitas CD), which was particularly powerful–and I only heard the rehearsal.  Sam reported the church was nearly full and that there was great rapport between the choral group and the crowd; perhaps because of the closeness of choir and crowd, maybe because the chorale was tired after two nights of performing and was more vulnerably present to the crowd.  In any case, Sam and others reported to me that it was a very effective setting and a powerful experience for all in attendance.  We are pleased to offer our church space for these kinds of community events.

Side note: Beau Bledsoe  and the ensemble Iberica will be performing the The Kilmore Carols December 19 at 8 p.m. in the nave.  The Kilmore Carols have “traversed history and geography since medieval Europe. They are ethereal and mystical with only a single melody line, which is ornamented, free-flowing, and unhurried. Complied by an Irish friar, William Devereux, living in Salamanca, Spain who returned to his native village of Kilmore in the County of Wexford, Ireland, they have been performed there every year in an unbroken tradition for over 250 years.  In our treatment of these carols we will feature a soprano, baroque instrumentation and traditional Ozark fiddle to reflect the different times and geographies that these melodies have lived.”

Now back to the story . . . Aside from the wonder of the KC Chorale, the building, and the receptive and appreciative crowd all coming together to share an evening of Christmas music, there was one more surprise in store for all that evening.  As it turns out, one of our regular homeless persons, not knowing what was going on in the nave, came and made his bed slightly to the side of the south door, the very door the guests would use to exit after the concert.  Sam had not thought to arrange for security (we really have so few problems), so there was no one outside to keep this homeless man moving.  he just plopped himself down, unrolled his bed roll, and was dozing by the time the crowd was leaving.  Several reported this to me Sunday morning.  While I am sure some were mortified, parishioners told me people seemed to pass by mostly concerned they might disturb the man’s deep sleep.

Perhaps this is a good moment to tell you that we know almost all the homeless people around the church.  We keep up with them.  I have talked with them and we have a bargain, I will not come down in the middle of the night and run them off and they will not do any harm to our facility.  Moreover, they must be gone by about 7:30 each morning.  Frankly, we benefit from this arrangement because it has saved us from a few occasions of vandalism and other mischief around the church.  Occasionally, they over sleep and I do have to wake them up and get them to move on.

Regardless, I am sure it was a real shock to some of the visitors to the concert.  However, there is a wonderful seasonal irony contained in this as well.  G.K. Chesterton , a turn of the 20th century English writer wrote, “Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home.”  So on this night of listening to beautiful and amazing choral music celebrating the mystery and majesty of the birth of Christ, the crowd encountered a homeless man asleep at the doors of the church.  I wonder if any thought how well this completed their evening?

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