Rector's Chronicle

January 2019

Dear friends,

I want to give over my Rector’s letter for January to this excellent article by Mary Lou Savage about the bicentennial. It has been a real joy to be Rector of this church at such a special time. The bicentennial has shown Christ Church at its very best. Hugely able, faithful, and committed people working together to build an affectionate, and effective Christian witness in this amazing Church. I believe the spirit of the founders, and more importantly, the spirit of Christ is found here

Your friend and Rector

Tim

Epiphany Evensong – Coming Home
 
The last event of our Bicentennial celebration was an Epiphany Evensong with a special reception in Keith Hall. That evening, to me, was a most fitting end piece to the 16 month-long odyssey.  
 
We started with a declaration of goals for the Bicentennial – to express gratitude, to build community, and to inspire growth.
 
We looked back and learned much about the Founders of Christ Church. We felt gratitude to them and all who followed, both for the courage to create and form our Church and for being steadfast and remaining faithful to God and to the life, work, and mission of Christ Church over these two hundred years. 
 
The first two events we held – the Founders Celebration in November, 2017 and the Tudor Place Garden Party in May, 2018 – were wonderful community celebrations. Important pieces of Christ Church’s history were highlighted at each event.  Our neighbors were invited to join us. They and passersby saw us serving food and visiting and children playing in the street in front of the Church. They saw us processing up to Tudor Place, singing hymns. We showed ourselves as a community committed to honor our history and to strengthen the bonds that hold us together in faith, worship, gratitude, and friendship.
 
And, then we came home.
 
We closed out the Bicentennial festivities in our Church with Evensong, Christ Church’s wonderful gift to us and the many guests who love that special service, and a reception in Keith Hall. Not so new, unique, or dramatic: Sunday Evensong and a reception.
 
And yet, it was very special. There seemed to be a glow about it, a spirit present that felt different.
 
As always, there was the music. The choir sounded more exceptional and inspired than usual. The Choral Introit, Truly the Lord is in this place, was sung at the first Bicentennial service in November, 2017. The text, drawn from Genesis 28, appears on the commemorative plaque at the back of the nave.  (This plaque was installed upon the completion of the restoration of the Church roughly 20 years ago.)
 
The Evening Service in D, by Edward C. Bairstow, one of the more elaborate, exuberant, and unapologetically "over-the-top" settings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, was perfectly appropriate for such a festive, historic occasion in the life of Christ Church.
 
We heard again, Gordon Silcox’s original Bicentennial hymn, How Blest Are We for Founders’ Gift, which has been sung at each of the three Bicentennial services, and were moved and transformed by the swell of sacred music from the organ, the choir, and the many voices in the pews.   
 
Christ Church is blest, not only by the Founders’ Gift, but by music brought to us by our exceptional Music Director and Choir, always inspired by and infused with the love of God and the uplifting and transforming energy of the Holy Spirit.
 
And, there was the word. The Rector’s sermon was particularly moving and inspired. Do hear it online if you missed it. The Shadow of Death, by pre-Raphaelite painter Holman Hunt, provided the vision for Father Cole’s exploration of the complexities of life combining joy and celebration with sadness and loss. 
 
The painting shows a young, fit Jesus standing before a sunlit window in the carpenter shop and stretching his arms upward as if easing muscles after a day of hard work. Behind Jesus, a shadow is cast on the carpenter’s tool rack creating an image of him crucified – the shadow of death. 
 
These threads of love, faith, and great loss and sorrow then were shown in the life of Founder Francis Scott Key and, of course, are present in each of our lives and in the fabric of the Christ Church community.
 
The Shadow of Death is a striking image that provides a good theological commentary and insights for life in a community of faith.
 
But, there is another figure in the painting.  Mary is kneeling off to the side and appears to be looking at or tending to the gifts of the Magi that have been kept all those years in a trunk.
 
I was more struck by this part of the image. Mary has kept the gifts. They have been kept safe over many years. They are part of her home. She visits them, knows them, loves them, and tends to them.
 
I think that, through all the activities of our Bicentennial, we each have become a Mary. We have been given valuable and unique gifts by the Founders and all who followed in the community of faith, worship, and love at Christ Church. Those before us cherished and tended the gifts well.  We are the present custodians to care for the real and spiritual gifts we find and live at Christ Church. It is our turn and our charge to tend what is in our hands well.
 
Father Tim, in his note of thanks to Bicentennial planners and the wide array of workers, remarked that, through the work of the historians and researchers, “we know ourselves better now having learned a little more about where we came from.”
 
I would add to this truth, that we know ourselves better now because as a community we have expressed gratitude for Christ Church, past and present, for each other, and to God. The Bicentennial in all its aspects – planning, implementing, and executing – has given us many opportunities to serve each other (literally and in other ways), to work together, and to care for one another. In essence, to build our community. And, in doing all that was done, we have shown ourselves to be a community of faith and a light to others.
 
And, perhaps we have become better, too!
 
Expressing gratitude, building community, and inspiring growth (of the Church and ourselves) were the goals of the Bicentennial. By any measure, I think we can declare those goals met and commit to carrying them forward throughout the rest of our tenure and beyond.
 
P.S. The reception was a triumph of good food, lively conversation, and deep community. Another lesson learned during the Bicentennial is that at Christ Church you can’t go wrong with the Brunswick Stew!