Happy Easter! I’m Off To Sing The Hallelujah Chorus

It’s that time of year again – I’m singing at the Easter Vigil tonight at St Nicholas, and we’re doing the Hallelujah Chorus tonight and tomorrow. Much like in 2007, in fact, but we’re much more experienced now, and the freshening we’ve felt with Father Manny beginning his tenure has been a LOT of fun!

I’m also the web and social media boffin for St Nick’s so I do the website, Twitter, Facebook, and whatever else that’s internet-y. So I’m always interested to know how people find St Nick’s. I’m also on the Welcome Committee, just  so that all makes a kind of sense.

Work is good too – not that busy, but expected to get busier after the “spring break lull.” One exciting thing: we’re all going to be working from home, the entire office. It’ll be a big undertaking but I’ve asked to be put on the list for the first wave. One of my teammates is already working from home and loves it, and I have a spare bedroom that’s small enough to be kind of ideal for a home office. All the tech gear and connection will be handled by the office, so we’ll be very interested to see how they deal with the wiring.

I’m looking for computer parts these days anyway; my desktop computer lost the graphics card I upgraded it with (WAAAAH!) so I’m limping along on the default one. So far it looks like we’ll swap for a bigger case and power supply, and then there’ll be room for a good quality graphics card. Hoping to spend less than $500 on it, maybe a lot less as prices are about to come down.

Anyway, Easter. My music is all collated, in spite of the best efforts of my choir mistress to keep throwing new pieces of music and hymns in that she planned for but never gave out because it was “in our Anglican DNA” and thus something we ought to know. Ah, well, it’ll be a good service and I’ll be very, very happy when we get through the “big stuff” like the Hallelujah Chorus.I also get to chant in the dark, which is always… fraught, but fun when it sounds good.

More later. Happy Easter, can’t wait to see who Bunny Stig turns out to be at church tomorrow.

Potential images for my banner from Hawaii trip, and Father Manny’s Purple Poncho

Ho, well, I never post anymore, blah de blah. We had a wonderful time in Hawaii, pictures are all still on my laptop and need to be culled and copied to my desktop machine. However, I found a few on the card that was in my camera this morning when I took a picture of Father Manny in his purple Lenten poncho (okay, church purists, it’s a chausuble).

Here’s one of his photo-op pictures, which will shortly be uploaded to the St Nicholas Facebook page and used on the website for the rest of Lent.

I enjoy “Faddah” Manny’s sermons so much; he’s open, friendly and approachable, pretty much as he is in this picture. Today’s sermon started out as a commentary on that famous reading from John that includes “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoso believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

OOH! Here’s the St Paul’s Cathedral Choir singing John Stainer’s “God So Loved The World,” a piece we sang at St Nick’s last year during Holy Week. I love singing this piece – and we’re only about 8-10 voices WITH the extra people who ring in for the big services. St Paul’s is a traditional Anglican choir with boy altos and sopranos. I particularly love the twitchy boy in the final closeup – he’s next to the kid that the camera zooms in on.

We sound a bit more like this choir:

Anyway, after that musical interlude, more photography and churchy stuff, and finally, a soaring bit of Hawaii.

The background was chosen because there was too much backlight when he was at the altar, coming from the windows behind him. He had someplace to be so I quickly directed him over by the font, which is “dressed” for Lent. Note the empty font pool behind him, and the arrangement of leafless branches; the symbolism is stark, but the potential for life and renewal is there in the coming of Spring and the water of Life. The folks responsible for decorating the church for the liturgical seasons have really been creative this year; they’ve been given free rein and the result has been interesting, engaging, and tasteful while also being innovative and working with a minuscule budget. I can’t wait to see what they do on Holy Saturday for the Great Vigil; the sanctuary will be full of light and spring flowers, I know that.

Today was nice as we had another new person attending with her young son, and last week’s new person was there with her daughter too. The kid’s program is really unfolding in a neat way -today was another of the “Children’s Gospel” Sundays, where the kids go to the Noah’s Ark area (a comfortable lounge with couches off the main gathering space) and conduct their own service and read the Gospel, then talk about it. They get invited forward before the first reading, and are then sent off to do their thing (supervised and guided, of course, but it’s their activity). They return to their families just before the Eucharist (communion) and we seem to have it working well. Other Sundays, they either are with their families, or they actually help conduct the main service; the committee that designed the program figures it’s easier for families to schedule things for specific Sundays due to the sports and extracurricular activities they’re signed up for other weeks.

In other churchy news that’s also funny, we’ve somehow put our hands (paws?) on an Easter Bunny costume, which belongs to St Bede’s Bensenville. They’re merging with us at St Nicholas in May, so there’s been some sharing back and forth (I need to try to take some photos next week to send over there of us as a “get to know you” thing). They are bringing some treasures with them – among them some stunningly beautiful Stations of the Cross, which have already been installed along our back wall and will be used (I think at the Good Friday service). But they also offered the bunneh suit, and Faddah Manny was game for running out the back at the end of the Easter Sunday service, de-ponchoing (he’ll be wearing the cream/gold festive chausuble that day) and hopping (heh) into the bunny suit. Well, that’s clearly not workable, so we’ll find someone else to be the bunneh. In fact, we need a Bunneh Stig.

We somehow need to meld this:

with THIS.

In related news, it appears that The Stig may simply have been hatched from an egg, so Bunny Stig is actually entirely possible.

And on that bombshell I’ll move on to the soaring pictures from Hawaii.

We went for a drive down along the North Shore one day on Oahu, and more or less blundered into yet another area that was historically significant in World War II, but had seen its glory days pass by, Dillingham Airfield. I have picture on the laptop of the signs for it, but quickly switched to a new card when I noticed some interesting activity on the tarmac.

Got it together quickly enough to get this and other similar pictures:

They flew around a bit, and then the glider was released and the little yellow plane came back down to line up for the next go-around. The glider landed:

Glider N387BA landing, its single wheel just inches from the asphalt

Managed to get it just before the single wheel kissed asphalt (OOH!).

Glider N387BA getting tow cable set for another go around Dillingham Field

It came to a stop and the pilot hopped out to hook up the cable for another go-around. Lovely day for soaring. I know very little about gliders other than the obvious, but this looked like a lot of fun. There were a couple of outfits there that seemed to be selling glider rides but it looks like this was flown by Honolulu Soaring. I can’t get the tail number to match up with them – glider N387BA is registered in Alabama, but there are mentions of it being at Dillingham. The tow plane is a pretty distinctive little yellow guy with a great big GRRRR!! toothy grin.

I’ve made banner images for a couple of the other pictures and will be adding more, you’ll see them appear if you refresh a time or two.

How to use the Facebook Photo Strip on your Fan Page | Make It In Music

I’ll work on this for my own Facebook page, which I totally neglect. More importantly, I’ll work on this for the St Nicholas Episcopal Church Facebook page, which I’m trying to keep reasonably up-to-date.

Detail of how to size photos to optimize for Facebook's photo strip

Facebook now allows all images to be viewed in their new photo viewer. Therefore, you want the images that you use for the photo strip to open up large if clicked on. When they are displayed in the photo strip the images are each 97 pixels wide by 68 pixels tall 97px by 68px.But, if you upload them at that size they will appear the same size – i.e. tiny – in the photo viewer.Most people have been recommending that you simply make your images 970 pixels wide by 680 pixels tall 970px by 680px, and this is fine, to a degree! It’s the same ratio, just 10 times bigger.The problem is that Facebook then shrinks the images to fit in the photo strip, but it doesn’t centralise the image – just to be difficult.

via How to use the Facebook Photo Strip on your Fan Page | Make It In Music

Gulnare Free Will Baptist: Why Christianity Is Losing Talented Young People (UPDATE: No Ban)

UPDATE: The church voted to overturn the ban; actually they were reminded by the national association that their resolution was invalid as it violated state and federal laws. Interestingly, at least 30-40 people voted unanimously to overturn, either emboldened or cowed by the news that it was illegal. No breakdown as to whether the abstainers all voted and the ones who voted to ban stayed home.

You’ve heard about this. After a talented young interracial couple performed a gospel song at a small Kentucky church they had been attending, the former pastor told the girl’s father the couple was no longer welcome at her childhood church, and then several months later the pastor brought up a resolution banning all interracial couples from membership, or even participating in worship services as musicians.

The young couple, Stella Harville and Ticha Chikuni, are now engaged, and have a bright future. Their former church is now embroiled in scandal, brought on by the actions of just 9 people who voted for the “not-racist” resolution, and also by the INaction of about 25 people, who either abstained or left before the ballot. The church’s future is less bright.

This is NOT how we’re supposed to “do church.” It’s sure not how it’s done at Holy Moly.

There were only about 40 people in church that day. As a member of a small church myself, I know how hard it is to attract young, dynamic people. You can’t do the work Jesus calls His followers to do (feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, offering support to the afflicted) unless you have a really committed, loving core. Jesus may have started with a few fishers of men (we had the St Andrew reading last week) but He had a compelling message that still moves people to accomplish much with little.

25 abstentions? No wonder young people have such a poor opinion of Christianity. Who else would be rejected by action or inaction?

The national body of Free Will Baptists had no policy on interracial dating or marriage, because they rightly saw it as a non-issue. Unlike most Calvinist Baptists, they don’t believe in pre-destination. That is, they don’t believe that a select few are potentially headed to Heaven, but that all humanity has free will and can choose whether to accept Jesus, etc. etc.

Sadly, Stella and Ticha probably won’t be going back, and neither will the rest of her family, and everybody else will vote with their feet.

Meanwhile, the now-former pastor who started it all insists he’s not racist or prejudiced. Maybe he just really, really didn’t like the song the couple performed.

I hope they put it up on YouTube, and I hope they end up somewhere that values their talents and commitment to each other.

The resolution approved by the Gulnare church says it does not condone interracial marriage and “parties of such marriages will not be received as members, nor will they be used in worship services and other church functions, with the exception being funerals.”

Ballots were cast after the service, attended by about 35 to 40 people, but it wasnt clear why so few people voted.The church member and former pastor who pushed for the vote, Melvin Thompson, wouldnt tell The Associated Press why he did it.

“I am not racist. I will tell you that. I am not prejudiced against any race of people, have never in my lifetime spoke evil” about a race, Thompson said earlier this week in a brief interview. “Thats what this is being portrayed as, but it is not.”

via Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church In Kentucky Revisits Interracial Couple Ban After Uproar

Fannie May Fundraiser: Chocolate Pix

We’re doing a Fannie May Chocolates fundraiser at St Nick’s and a friend who lives pretty far from me wants to get something. Unfortunately, we can’t do it by credit card (unless I maybe have her pay my PayPal account – IDEA!) or she mails me a check. At least getting the chocolates to her is a snap: I can put her mailing address on the order form and they’ll go direct to her.

She wants Mint Meltaways and an assortment, but I need to know which size box, and which assortment. Also, there’s sugar free Mint Meltaways now. Rather than put prices here, I’ll email them to her, as I don’t really want to take the time to set up a frickin’ shopping cart on Paypal that pays the church direct right now as I’d need to set it up with the Wardens’ approval and the tax ID and bank info (and I’d need to verify if Fannie May would have a problem with selling online, since they don’t do the fundraisers that way). I don’t mind absorbing the small service charge if my friend tries the Paypal route.

Here’s the goodies that I think she wants – sorry I didn’t have time to hunt down links, as Fannie May doesn’t have their holiday collection online yet.

There’s plain Mint Meltaways (8 oz. and 1 lb. boxes) and “holiday” Mint Meltaways (1 lb box). There are “no sugar” varieties available. Same with the Pixies (aka Turtles).

The assortment she wants is probably the Colonial Assortment (1 lb. or 2 lb. boxes)

There’s also pre-wrapped Gift Towers – the big one is 2 lbs. 8 oz. and the smaller one is “just” 2 lb. They’re handy as hostess gifts.

Scholar in Residence at Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation

This looks really interesting – you’d be surprised how many members of my immediate family are either going, maybe thinking about going, or at least intrigued by the concept.

Blogging this to be sure that they see the listing, in case they weren’t already planning on going.

Aside from the interesting concept of a humanistic religious community, I’m currently involved in an outreach project for Holy Moly, and one of the goals is getting exactly this kind of press release published. How’s it done? Who’s the contact? I’ve already gotten signed up to do something like this at the Chicago Trib’s “Local Community News” site and I need to make sure we’ve got a login for the Daily Herald. It’s hard to break through the wall and get the right contact there.

Rabbi Binyamin Biber, rabbi of Machar, the Washington, D.C. congregation for Secular Humanistic Judaism, will be “Scholar in Residence” Thursday through Nov. 6 at Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation.

In addition to his pulpit with Machar, Rabbi Biber operates the Humanist Chaplaincy Services of Metropolitan Washington, D.C., conducting public advocacy and education, social-change organizing, counseling, and Humanistic life-cycle ceremonies, including weddings for intercultural and same-sex couples. As a social worker and teacher experienced in working with all age groups, he serves as a veteran community organizer and educator on peace and justice issues, particularly focusing on the Middle East, on sexual minority equality and AIDS prevention, as well as on low-income housing and community economic development.

Biber is also president of the Association of Humanistic Rabbis and serves on the rabbinic cabinet of J Street, the largest U.S. Jewish group working for a two-state solution for Israeli-Palestinian peace and self-determination.

Rabbi Biber will speak on “Naturalistic Spirituality” at 8 p.m. Friday at the Heller Nature Center in Highland Park.

via Scholar in residence welcomed – Buffalo Grove Countryside

Chick-fil-A DO NOT WANT But They’re Coming Anyway

This is not all that good and joyful: anti-gay corporate poultry product shills Chick-fil-A are building a restaurant near me, I’ll pass it every day. Ugh.

Bet Chick-fil-A wishes this month would end. Over the past few weeks, the restaurant chain’s deep ties to the anti-gay movement have been exposed and uncovered by a number of activists, most notably Jeremy Hooper at Good As You. Whether it’s Focus on the Family, the National Organization for Marriage, the Pennsylvania Family Institute, or Exodus International, Chick-fil-A ties run deep.

Of course, the President of Chick-fil-A wants gay people to share no hard feelings. The restaurant will gladly feed homosexuals gobs of chicken sandwiches, after all. But when it comes to marriage, Chick-fil-A believes strongly that same-sex couples just don’t deserve equal rights.

via Yes, Chick-fil-A Says, We Explicitly Do Not Like Same-Sex Couples | Change.org News.

Notoriously Ignored Blog Pfalz Prophets Goes After Bigot Maggie Gallagher

My friend Pfalz Prophets has been blogging a bit lately on human rights issues for GLTB persons, and this post does not deserve to be notoriously ignored.

Disclaimer: I have sung in church with PP, and attest to his musicianship and scholarly chops.

I discovered a new hate group the other day, the National Organization for Marriage, thanks to my signing up with the Southern Poverty Law Center. Maggie Gallagher, the chairman of the group, issued a standard press release, to which I responded with this e-mail:”It has come to my attention that you are conducting a nationwide campaign opposing laws that grant same-gender couples the rights traditionally given only to hetero couples. Your most recent statements charge that those of us who support such laws are actually engaged in a campaign of hatred, attempting to silence your supporters by labeling them as bigots.”I have quite a great deal to say on this matter, because there are several issues here that need to be disentangled in order to be addressed:

via Beware of Pfalz Prophets: A National Organization for Marriage?.

Good Friday At Home

I was at home Friday, having planned ahead for once and asked for the day off for what is typically an extremely slow day.

I sang at the Maundy Thursday service, all went very well and it was very moving. I was disappointed that I blew the attack on the first “big” piece that we’ve been working on for months; when it came down to it, I pretty much funked the pitch for some reason, even though I’ve had no problems with it up to now.

We’ve got a good choir, and a good choir mistress, although she gets a bit shouty when I run late. There was a good laugh last night when she announced to the choir, “well since Ginny’s not here we can’t run the Exsultet (I share part of it with her, Douglas, and Father Manny, sung solo a cappella and together).”

I was all robed and sitting with my music in hand as soon as she said “the Exsultet,” and the others looked baffled and wondered why we couldn’t do it. “Ginny’s not here,” choir mistress Mary repeated, and I piped up and said “I’m here, I’m here!”

That was funny, at least, although later on it was not so funny as someone else was struggling with the heavy schedule demands of being in a choir during Holy Week. Enough said about that.

Other than my entry and non-absent absence it was a very moving service. We sang:
God So Loved The World

A bit more quickly than this, but it was just about as ravishing in the harmonies. We also did Pangue Lingua Gloriosi (Sing My Tongue The Savior’s Glory) and took turns singing verses solo and unaccompanied. I had the third verse, which in Latin was pretty opaque, but in English was “On the night of that Last Supper, seated (or reclining) with his chosen band, he the Paschal victim eating, first fulfills the Law’s command, then as food to His Apostles gives Himself with His own hand.”

Fairly dramatic, yes, but the original Latin is pretty convoluted to sing and I was glad to get through it with some sense of the words coloring the line. I was happy for Jess as this was her first year singing alone and unaccompanied; she took her line very well.

It was a quiet day yesterday, but then about half an hour before leaving there was a tremendous crash of lightning, and then it began to hail. David was dismayed because his car happened to be parked on the street in anticipation of the roofers’ arrival today, as they parked their dump truck/motorized skip in the driveway along with a stack of shingles. I managed to ease my car out of the garage and get going, and white-knuckled it a bit as I drove through torrential rain in a hard-pewter world. It was hard to see as sheets of rain were almost overwhelming my wipers, but I did make it in plenty of time.

Last night’s Good Friday wasn’t one we in the choir were “working,” it was designed by the Liturgy Committee (disclosure: I’m on it but more in an advisory mode) to be quieter and less “choral showcase-y.” It was REALLY well attended, in spite of the weather, I was really pleased! It’s always a sombre thing – I wore black and got choir mistress Mary’s approval, at least. We all sat wherever we wanted and weren’t sequestered in “choir jail,” so I sat with Katy. I miss sitting next to her (we’re separated now, we used to sit together when we were at Holy Innocents) and so it was very nice.

There were several people there last night that are relatively new – at least 5 people chose to come out on a blustratious night who have only attended a couple of normal Sunday services, very brave of them! I will say that transitional vicar Manny, who I hope will be tapped as “permanent vicar” as we go through the discernment, has been an outstanding leader and preacher during this time since Father Steve’s departure (it’s been a happy-sad transition, with minimal trauma and no broken relationships, thanks be to God). I will say that Manny’s preaching style is very engaging, very moving, very personal, and yet he doesn’t skimp on the scholarly unpacking of the text. He’s also the kind of leader who is great at getting people engaged, AND HE DELEGATES.

He’s also a fine liturgist, and I’m looking forward to tonight’s Great Vigil of Easter even though it’s going to be a long, emotionally taxing service fraught with opportunities to mess up musically. We always do a good job with “big” services, but this time around, the amount of advance planning (and advance tapping of acolytes, readers, and so on) has taken a lot of the last-minute guesswork out of the mix.

One really nice thing is that the two young people who acted as acolytes during all these services of the Triduum, carrying candles and such, were on the Liturgy Comittee and had a say in how we’ve done things, routes taken processing and recessing, and all that. I think it’s been a great experience for them – brother and sister who are pretty engaged generally, but really plugged in and getting a look at what takes place behind the scenes so that we can all “do church.”

There’s still the impromptu “past, would you like to be a chalicer” (offer the wine at Communion) during the service but we are a lot more organized and intentional about how things are going to go. And this is a really good thing.

Tonight’s service at St Nicholas Episcopal starts at 8pm and will be about 2 hours, and I’ll be pretty ticketed, but happy, when I get home.

Chicago Episcopalians pray for peace in Sudan – Chicago Tribune

Unfortunately, we didn’t do anything at St Nicks to mark this, as the energy at the time the Renk partnerships were starting was around keeping our own programs (and doors) open. This was all pre-merger with Holy Innocents and we all had other things on our minds.

Note at the bottom, Manya Breachear never fails to mention Teh Gay Bishop controversy. When Bishop Katharine visited St Nick’s in 2007, she was asked ONE question about gay clergy, and it was picked up by the Trib and the other papers and made headlines all over.

For nine years, Episcopalians in Chicago have shared a rare relationship with fellow parishioners in Renk, visiting the region regularly; helping build schools, homes and churches; and lobbying officials to pay more attention to troubles in the African nation. Renk Episcopal Bishop Joseph Garang graduated with a master’s degree from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in 2000.

Jackie Kraus, a parishioner at St. Michael Episcopal Church in Barrington, initiated the relationship after her first trip in 1998 when she discovered no roads led to Renk from the capital of Khartoum, forsaking the border town of resources.

“We here have resources that others in other parts of the world do not have,” Kraus said. “The relationship enables them to receive our resources and prayers.”

Bemoaning how the conflict in Sudan often is portrayed between the predominantly Christian and animist south and mostly Muslim north, Chicago Episcopal Bishop Jeffrey Lee said that animosity doesn’t exist in Renk.

“In Renk and elsewhere, people of differing faiths coexist in relative harmony when left to their own devices,” Lee said.

The relationship between American and some African churches in the Anglican Communion have been strained since the 2003 consecration of New Hampshire’s V. Gene Robinson, the church’s first openly gay bishop. But Kraus said those tensions have not been a distraction.

“God transcends all of that,” she said.

via Chicago Episcopalians pray for peace in Sudan – Chicago Tribune.