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Sunday, March 21, Fifth Sunday in Lent

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, March 21 is the Fifth Sunday in Lent. Find the readings here.

Dear Friends in Christ,

This week’s worship videos are now available:

Morning Prayer, Rite II

Morning Prayer, Rite I

Spring is here and the forecast looks great, so who's up for a Sunday Stroll? Meet me at the bandstand in Stage Fort Park today at 2 pm for some masked fellowship and recreation.

First of all, my apologies for failing to include the closing voluntary in last week's videos. It was strictly an oversight, despite (or perhaps because) looking over them many times before uploading them. Today's video, though, is even richer in music than usual, including lots of great hymnody, a new setting of the second canticle and, as it happens, a double closing voluntary.

If you've been wondering why we had no saint videos for weeks, and then had one for Saint Joseph on Friday, the reason is that observance of Lent is supposed to take precedence over the observance of all but the most important feasts. (While Patrick is a bigger deal than Joseph in popular culture, the Church prioritizes the people most closely connected with Jesus.) The next such feast, and the last in Lent, is that of the Annunciation on March 25. However, when these feasts fall in Holy Week or Easter Week, the even greater importance of those weeks causes the feasts not to be suppressed, but "kicked" forward to the first available day on the liturgical calendar, typically the Monday after Low Sunday (the Sunday after Easter).

All this is typically only visible in places where Mass is celebrated daily, like larger churches and monasteries, but it's an important reminder of the great solemnity of Lent — and the greater joy of Easter Week, a "week of Sundays," which sadly is seldom observed in its fullness (or at all) because, if they were doing Holy Week and Easter right, the clergy and musicians have gotten tired and need a break! Still, the way we structure our time reflects our values, priorities, and indeed our identity as Christians, so there is still value in knowing what we "should" be doing, if only we had infinite energy and resources.

I only have the energy to make videos for Sundays, so this won't be the year I figure out how to give Easter Week its due. But our diocese is going to be releasing collaborative video services for the Triduum with great music and preaching. (You might even see me attempting to croak out one of the Solemn Collects on Good Friday, after a year of not chanting. If that doesn't put you in a somber mood, I don't know what will.) They will also be sharing some Easter resources with us, but more on that when the time comes.

As always, I hope you can spend some time with your church family at coffee hour, at noon:

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Here are Mark's music notes:

Organ Voluntaries celebrate the 334th birthday of J. S. Bach! I was surprised to understand now for the first time that he was born on March 21, 1685 of the OLD CALENDAR, and that with our “newer” calendar the date would be March 31, 1685. O well, we’ll observe it Sunday anyway! I'll leave it for you all to go down the old and new calendar rabbit hole!

We’ll hear “When in the hour of utmost need” at the beginning and his Prelude and Fugue in E minor. Many of Bach’s larger works have nicknames, mostly assigned long after he died. The Prelude is “Cathedral” probably named for the spaces for silence in the music which would roll around the arches in a gothic cathedral. The Fugue is “The Nightwatchman,” a job that doesn’t exist any more, unfortunately. This person would walk the streets and shout/sing at the top of each hour and sometimes report the news or sing a song. The fugue subject with a little “mordent” (a wavering sound) on the second and fourth notes perhaps sound like what these folk did!

During a sermon now probably 2 months ago I heard Bret quoting a hymn I knew well from my childhood “In the Cross of Christ I Glory, Towering O’er the Wrecks of Time.” Powerful words, but familiar from a tune that was drilled into me during Wednesday evening Lenten services growing up Lutheran in Lutherland (AKA Minnesota, with apologies to the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, and Pennsylvania, among others. I looked it up in our leaflets and realized I’d never programed it. I looked it up in the hymnal and realized there was a second tune. And that tune is by Bruce Neswick, a fellow Lutheran (and acquaintance), but serving nearly his entire career in Episcopal churches (Cathedrals in DC, Atlanta and currently in Portland OR.) This tune was unfamiliar to me but I had heard of its power. The tune is unusual in that it modulates between 2 tonal centers (key signatures). Well, I played it several dozen times (how many times does it take for you to know a tune well enough to love?) It grew on me, and the words became as powerful sung as they were when Bret recited them. I hope you listen to this singing 3 times and on the 4th, you’ll sing along!

Our final hymn is one of the mountain top hymns of this time of the church year, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” Prolific hymn writer Isaac Watts penned this in 1707. This text remains as Watts left it except for the common omission of the penultimate stanza:

His dying crimson, like a robe

spreads o’er his body on the Tree;

then am I dead to all the globe,

and all the globe is dead to me.

This hymn first appeared in the Episcopal hymnal in 1826! (The earliest hymnals had no tunes, just lyrics!) It was paired with the tune “Rockingham” shortly thereafter. It was originally written to sing metrical Psalms in 1790 (when all church music had to be from the Bible, or a metrical version of a Biblical text). It quickly jumped the pond and was published in Salem Massachusetts in “The Salem Collection of Classical Sacred Music” in 1805.



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