Unlike stalwart AKMA, who couldn't find his music after rehearsing several times, and had to "wing it" at his service, our trio (plus Paul the associate priest) performed the Exultet without too many noticeable bobbles. In rehearsal, I really struggled and I know Mary was thinking of pulling me out, but the last run through was clean and my voice (and throat) had opened up a bit. By the time we actually started, I was as ready as I was going to be and Katie and I stood together so that she could hold a candle for me.
We had all decided that singing by the cold, LED-generated light of the booklights was technically better, but aesthetically unpleasing, so all three choir members that were taking sections of the Exultet had a candle-holding buddy next to them. After that, instead of holding the candles for 45 minutes during the "dark" portion of the service, we put the candles down in sand trays set at the head of the four aisles.
The altar, as Steve had indicated, was moved to the center of the sanctuary and the seats were re-arranged in concentric rings around it with four aisles, thus from above it forms a kind of Celtic cross. Colorful banners were looped and twisted and hung from rings in the ceiling and arranged along all the walls, along with other embroidered banners and lots and lots of candelabras and dividers full of candles that are made out of wrought iron. The worship space was transformed from the stark and severe look it had borne all through Lent into a joyous and welcoming place.
After the rehearsal, we walked through where we would be standing for the Exultet and then how we'd travel from there to our places in the choir. With the chairs re-set and some extra decorative pieces and banners along the back wall, it was tricky negotiating a path. Also, we had to avoid stomping through the sand trays, because flaming choristers was not the spectacle we had in mind for our big night. And then we found that if we were willing to stand in the cold, we could go outside for the kindling of the New Fire and the lighting of this year's Paschal Candle, which must have been listed in the Almay catalogue as "Friggin' HUGE," as it's at least 5 feet tall. In its stand, after Paul walked it through the dark church, it's got to be a good eight feet tall. I feel bad for the guy that has to light it every week, even with the brass candle-lighting wands.
It was interesting being outside for the new fire and candle lighting; everywhere else I've been to church, it takes place back behind a crowd of people or just outside, with everyone else inside. At St Nick's, they were in the habit of having as many people as were willing to brave the cold be outside with them, or just inside the door, and then process behind the candle into the main church. We had already worked out that we choir members doing the solos had to follow behind Paul to get to our places at the heads of the aisles; thus we formed a cross as we chanted our parts.
I have to say, it was very nice and meaningful.
And then when that was over, we made it over to our seats, where we would be for the NEXT 2 1/2 HOURS (at least).
The first hour or more was taken up with the readings I mentioned before with all the creating and flooding and begetting and covenanting and what not. All in the dark, all with our ghastly pale booklights shining more or less on the music. The psalm-singing went all right, and then suddenly the lights came up and the fun began. The decorating of the church was a lot of fun to watch as we sang our happy covering music – lots of people jumped up to start bringing in all the plants and flowers, they had a bunch of those butane fire-lighter things to hand out to people who were helping to light all the extra candles that were all over the place (dozens and dozens of tea lights, the candleabras, and all the votive stands we brought over from Holy Innocents in the merger). Also, there were little golden bells to ring the whole time if they didn't feel like running around redecorating and lighting. Steve brought over flowers to set on the organ and piano, too.
Steve's sermon after all that panoply and "Anglican whickety-whack" was really thought-provoking. I'm paraphrasing here, but it was "in all the light and color and music and liturgy, don't lose sight of the real message and mission of what we're called to do, and by whom."
Good stuff, Maynard. Good reminder.
We had a good crowd – probably at least 90 or more. After it was all over, we enjoyed cake and visited and hung around chatting with everyone, but eventually we had to drag ourselves away to go home and sleep. When I got in my car, it was about 1130pm.
And then this morning we got up and went back and did it again – not all the special music, but some of the same anthems and hymns and some new ones. Once again, we had a good crowd – this time, 81 souls. A lot of them were the same people as the night before, but a large number of them (mostly young families and some others) were either entirely new people, or folks that hadn't been seen in quite a while.
It was really, really nice, actually.
One of the younger kids, Matthew, is really into priest stuff, and he often stands right at Steve's elbow at the altar during the part where the bread and wine are blessed. Now, as a curmudgeonly childfree grinch, I've grumbled about this before, but Matthew has won me over because he's a cute kid who obviously loves "doing church." Today, though, instead of sitting down with his mom after the blessing (or he often stands with Steve and holds something for him) he marched right along with the priests over by the baptismal Jacuzzi where they distribute the bread and wine during the Easter season. And then when Steve started to hand people the bread from the glass platter he uses, Matthew pretty much took over the task by picking the bread pieces himself and handing it to them. As I approached in line, I saw Steve hesitate, chuckle to himself, and assume a pose of "Okay, I'm just the guy standing here holding the bread plate for my main man, Matthew." It was quietly done, but amusing.
At the end of the service, Steve called Matthew forward to be thanked for his help during the service, and he came running out of the nursery where the kids had obviously been working on some Easter crafts project. Wearing big floppy fuzzy pink bunny ears, he hopped and ran forward.
Like I say – he's won me over. Funny kid, that Matthew.