Earlier this week, the people of Saint Mark's were invited to create home altars to serve as a focal point for their Holy Week observances. Visit this post for details. Below are some of the photographs that members of the community have sent in to the cathedral or shared in the Facebook Group. Click to enlarge!
In the video below, Dean Thomason shows you some of the ritual objects that he will be using to observe Holy Week from his own home. Read on for more detailed instructions! (You may wish to print out this page for convenience—just hit ctrl-p!)
Holy Week is upon us.
Holy Week is the most solemn and sacred time of the Christian year, when we are invited by our liturgical tradition to contemplate the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and death. But more than that, we are also invited to take these ancient liturgies into our own hearts and consider what they might mean for us in this moment, opening ourselves to the possibility of grace and transformation. That more personal dimension can be a challenge while the cathedral building is closed during this time of pandemic. While livestreamed liturgies afford a way of remaining connected, there exists a temptation to engage with them as a passive spectator rather than a vital participant.
As with all livestreamed liturgies, during Holy Week you are encouraged to sing along with the music; speak the responses; stand, sit, and kneel (as able); and send out greetings electronically at the Peace. It’s about being connected—we are one Body, many parts.
Because Holy Week liturgies are especially designed to be multi-sensorial, in this guide you will find other practical, embodied ways of participating, meant to help you more fully engage with the Holy Week journey. It is our hope that the actions performed in the cathedral nave and the actions performed in your own home will feel like two aspects of a single integrated liturgy. It may be comforting and encouraging to know that many Saint Mark’s members, wherever they might be located, will be performing these same actions at the same time.
Engage with any or all of these practices as you wish or are able. You are very much encouraged to make them your own, adapting them as makes sense in your life and your circumstances right now. The important thing is to perform them with intention. Perform the actions slowly, remaining aware of what thoughts, feelings, or bodily sensations may arise. Consider all five senses: make note of how things smell, taste, sound, and feel in addition to how they look. It may help to use special objects or utensils that you don’t normally use or that you find particularly beautiful. At the same time, a ritual using a plastic tub can be just as spiritual as one using a crystal basin—the key is the thoughtfulness and attention you bring to the act.
And finally, keep in touch! Let us know, in whatever way is convenient, what the experiences of these liturgies was like for you. Take a photo and post it to Facebook or email to the cathedral. Call a fellow parishioner to share your experience. The community of Saint Mark’s remains one Body during this time, and we all look forward in prayerful hope to the time when we may embrace each other again in the Holy Box.
Checklist for the Week
- Home altar (including cross, a candle, and a bowl of water, in addition to other items meaningful to you)
- Cushions for kneeling (as able)
- Branches (for Palm Sunday)
- An aspergillum – a bundle of small fragrant branches for sprinkling (see below)
- Noisemakers and Bells
- Material for washing: A basin or tub, a pitcher, soap, several towels
- Food for the Agapé Meal Thursday evening (see below)
- Easter Eggs, real or plastic
- A sweet treat (berries, chocolate, candy, etc.) and/or sparkling wine or other festive beverage to celebrate the Resurrection
PREPARE IN ADVANCE:
branches, noisemakers, cushions for kneeling
Liturgy of the Branches:
All four Gospels tell the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, greeted with shouts of “Hosanna!” and cloaks and branches strewn in his path. However, only the Gospel of John specifies palm branches. Matthew and Mark mention branches without saying what kind they were, and Luke does not mention branches at all. We can imagine that those who greeted Jesus grabbed whatever branches were available.
You will need a branch to participate in the opening of the Palm Sunday liturgy, and it need not be from a palm. Is there a tree or other plant in your yard or in your neighborhood that has special meaning to you, because of an association with a particular person or happy memory? Or is there a plant which you have personally witnessed growing and changing over many years? Alternatively, take a walk in your neighborhood and be the lookout for a branch that strikes you as particularly beautiful. If you are at home with others, everyone in the house can have the same kind of branch, or each person can pick their own. Choose a branch that you can remove without damaging the plant, and which you can carry easily in one hand.
In the first part of the Palm Sunday service, you will be asked to raise your branches as they are blessed. As everyone sings All glory, laud, and honor, you are invited to make a procession around the room or around you home. Saint Mark’s Palm Sunday procession is famous for its raucous boisterousness, so if you’d like to accompany your procession with noisemakers and trumpets, you should! But only three verses of the hymn will be sung, so be sure your procession makes its way back to the start as the hymn concludes.
After the end of the service, you may place your branch(es) on your home altar, or in a vase nearby, or on your front door.
At two moments in the reading of the Passion Gospel, the congregation plays the role of the crowd, crying out “Let him be crucified!” Words will appear on the screen at this point, and you are invited to raise your voice. At the moment of the death of Jesus, everyone is invited to kneel for a period of silent prayer. If you would like to kneel, and this requires an extra cushions or other preparations in your home, be sure you have these ready before the service.
The Stations of the Cross
(Wednesday in Holy Week)
Processing is a fundamental aspect of the Stations of the Cross liturgy, or, as the Book of Occasional Services calls it, "The Way of the Cross." It is a ritual reenactment of Jesus’ final journey to his execution. In this video experience, the movement of the officiant between each station is depicted by images of shoes on the floor and the sound of footsteps. If you wish, you are invited to move your body in some way during these moments. This could mean moving to a different place in the room for each station, or simply walking in a circle and returning to your place between each station.
You are welcome to print a leaflet in advance and follow along (available at saintmarks.org/bulletin), but the text of the responses spoken by the congregation will appear on the screen, so you may fully participate in the liturgy without a leaflet, if you prefer.
PREPARE IN ADVANCE:
material for foot- and handwashing (basin, pitcher, towels); food for the Agapé Meal; a Bible; small cloth or paper towels
On Maundy Thursday we remember the events of the Last Supper, Jesus’ final meal with his friends on the night before he died. During the meal, Jesus stooped down to wash his disciples’ feet, demonstrating by example the humble service and love for one other that he asks of all his followers.
The first part of the Maundy Thursday liturgy will be livestreamed from the cathedral nave, beginning at 7 p.m. Then, after the homily, the Presider will offer an invitation to footwashing as we remember Jesus’ call to serve on another. The livestream will then pause. You are invited to engage in the footwashing ritual at this time. If you are in isolation with others, consider washing each other’s feet using a basin and pitcher as is our practice in the nave. If you are alone, or physical limitations preclude the washing of another’s feet, consider washing your feet in the tub or shower, letting water flow over your bare feet, mindful of all those who serve us in supplying clean water in our city, and all those who care for the bodies of others.
After the footwashing is completed, each person then engages in a handwashing ritual. The act of washing hands is an ancient holy act of preparation and purification, but in addition, in this time of pandemic, washing your own hands is a very real way of serving others. By washing our hands, we can all reduce the chance of infection and slow the spread of the virus, and in this way we express care and concern for everyone whose life is linked with ours, especially the most vulnerable. Perform this act slowly and with intention—consider using a special basin you have prepared, or rinse your hands using water poured out of a special pitcher or cup. As you wash, you are invited to speak slowly and with intention, the netilat yadayim, which Jews of the Orthodox tradition say every time they wash their hands:
Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with your commandments, and has commanded us concerning the washing of hands.
Following the washing, you are invited to partake in an Agapé Meal.
Long before there was a formalized ritual called “The Holy Eucharist,” followers of Jesus would meet in private homes to hear stories of Jesus’ earthly ministry, his death, and resurrection, followed by a simple meal including bread and wine, which they shared as Jesus commanded: “Do this in remembrance of me.” This is sometimes referred to as an “Agapé Meal” because God’s love (Greek: αγάπη) brought them together and bound them into one Body. This year on Maundy Thursday we are all invited to reclaim that ancient practice of a simple meal in the home, knowing that even if we live alone, we are joined with community of Saint Mark’s by sharing this meal.
This meal is not a feast. The food should be meatless, simple, and sparse. Appropriate foods for this meal might include: a vegetarian soup, cheese, olives, dried fruit (especially dates), bread (especially unleavened bread such as pita), and wine or non-alcoholic grape juice – or whatever simple fare is safely and readily available to you. You may wish to present the food in a particularly intentional way, perhaps using a special dish or utensils.
Immediately following the handwashing, gather around the table and remain standing as able. After a time of silence, two or three blessings are recited, as appropriate—one over the bread, one over the wine if it is part of your meal, and one over the other food. (The texts of these blessings are printed in the Maundy Thursday leaflet, available at saintmarks.org/bulletin or posted on the livestream page on the day of the service). If several are gathered, each participant first serves some food to all the others, and then all may dine.
As the meal nears its end, a designated person reads aloud chapter 17 of the Gospel according to John. Songs or simple hymns may then be sung together. The Agapé meal concludes with all saying in unison Psalm 63:1–8, followed by a concluding prayer, as printed in the Maundy Thursday leaflet.
Stripping of the (Home) Altar:
The livestream service resumes at 8:15 p.m. for the Stripping of the Altar. The ancient practice of stripping and then washing the altar ritually prepares the worship space for the Good Friday liturgy, while poetically calling to mind the stripping of Jesus’ body before his scourging, and the washing of his body after his death. When this ritual from the cathedral nave has concluded, you are invited to remove all the objects and decoration from your home altar as well, carefully and with intention, placing them in a special place where they will be accessible on Saturday. Then wash your altar using a damp cloth or paper towels. It will remain bare until the Good Friday .
Night Watch with the Altar of Repose:
As Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest, he asked his disciples to stay with him: “Could you not watch with me for an hour?” As a community, we are invited to keep watch with Jesus overnight, as symbolized by the reserve sacrament in the altar of repose. You can view this from your home overnight on the live stream, and you are invited to set aside thirty minutes to an hour to sit in quiet contemplation of Jesus’ journey to the cross.
PREPARE IN ADVANCE:
kneeling cushions, your home altar’s cross or crucifixion icon
The Good Friday liturgy is solemn and austere. The service at noon and the one at 7 p.m. are similar, the principal difference being that the noon liturgy is almost entirely spoken, while much of the 7 p.m. liturgy will be chanted.
Both during the reading or chanting of the Passion according to John, and during the Solemn Collects, you are invited to kneel at certain moments as you are able. Prepare cushions to kneel on if necessary.
The liturgy concludes with the Contemplation of the Cross. At this time you may place a cross or an icon of the crucifixion back on your bare altar.
The Great Vigil of Easter
PREPARE IN ADVANCE:
candle, matches or a lighter, a small container of water, aspergillum, bells, the remaining components of your home altar, a sweet treat, sparkling wine or other festive beverage
The Service of Light:
Before the service, the cathedral nave is in total darkness. The liturgy begins with the lighting of the New Fire and the Pascal Candle. Darken your own home as much as is practical. When the Paschal Candle is carried through the nave, light the candle or candles on your home altar, and light additional candles to the extent that can be done safely.
After we hear Holy Scripture, the Bishop will bless the water in the Baptismal font and sprinkle the participants with water as a sign and reminder of their baptism. At this time, you are invited to sprinkle yourself and others with pure water as an act of remembering your baptism. You many simply use your fingers to do this, or make your own aspergillum (sprinkler) using a few small branches, preferably from a plant with a beautiful fragrance, bound together with string or tape or wire. At Saint Mark’s, the tradition is to make aspergilla out of fragrant cedar branches, but consider using rosemary, juniper, jasmine, or even basil!
Proclamation of the Resurrection and the Gloria in Excelsis
At the high point of the liturgy, the Bishop shouts the Proclamation of the Resurrection, the great doors of the reredos are opened, and the cathedral is flooded with light. If you have bells, ring them now!
At this time (or any time after this) you may replace all the items onto your home altar which you stripped from it on Thursday. If you had been using a red cloth for Holy Week, now is the time to switch it for one that is white or gold. You may also place new items on your altar now that were not there earlier in the week, such as: fresh candles, Easter eggs, sweet treats, things you plan to include in your Sunday morning breakfast, an icon of the resurrection, or an image of the word ALLELUIA!
After the Vigil Liturgy concludes, before you go to sleep, you are encouraged to indulge in a sweet treat—such as strawberries, chocolate, or a pastry—and a glass of sparkling wine or other celebratory beverage.
If you are isolated with other people, an Easter egg hunt can be a fun activity either before or after the 11 a.m. livestreamed Eucharist—and not just for kids! Adults may be surprised at how much fun an Easter egg hunt can still be.
Enjoy your Easter breakfast, reach out to those you love with whatever device is best for you, and then participate in the Feast of the Resurrection via livestream at 11 a.m. – and remember to join early if you can, starting about 10:45 a.m.
Parishioner Carrie Kahler taught a class at Saint Mark's a few years ago on ekphrastic poetry, focusing especially on Saint Mark's own collection of icons. Three poems she wrote as a result of that class were subsequently published in the literary journal Image, issue No. 99. (You can view them on Image's website here, here, and here.) She has graciously offered to share them here.
After Rublev’s Trinity
Each face turned toward
a face at table leaving
always a space for
one more. An open
door to run through when someone
can’t quite make it home
on their own. Though the
wings work, humans haven’t got
them, and it’s hard to
converse from heights so,
in one hand a staff to lean
on. The other hand
ever reaches down.
After Prokhorova’s Saint Mark
There is no shadow
of turning here but there are
spaces for the dark.
Neither does the point
a horizon of
agreement pinned to
dancing angels, instead gold
visions at once see
desk with sharp quills curved to light
like the mind on the
feet that bear good news
After The Anastasis
who’s to say here what
is not when the hand firmly
grips the bird-light wrist
the face facing Eve—
her son’s as much as Mary’s—
furrowed long and lined
on her left Adam’s
cloak billows back in the blast
of blue air He brings
the deep blue behind
Him an almond of truth that
is, heaven that is
how we grasp after
holiness when gold leaf is
too dull we go dark
witnesses crowd each
other’s ears and each gestures
and each gesture sends
your glance heavenward
you stand just beyond the first
parents just this side
of death’s doors waiting
for the pull to light waiting
to leave the late night
On Thursday, March 26, Canon Kleinschmidt introduced the hymns to be sung during this coming Sunday's live-streamed service for the Fifth Sunday in Lent, on Sunday March 29 at 11 a.m. For the first time, we attempted to broadcast LIVE using Facebook. There were some difficulties, but it came out okay in the end! The video begins sideways, but the orientation is corrected about three minutes into the video!
Join us on Facebook next Thursday, April 2, 2020, at 4 p.m. for another LIVE hymn chat—introducing the hymns for Palm Sunday! (And upright the entire time.)
Intro to Sunday's Hymns: March 29, 2020
Canon Kleinschmidt introduces the hymns we will sing in the live-streamed service Sunday at 11 a.m. on March 29, 2020 from Saint Mark's Cathedral, Seattle, WA. [NB: Apologies for filming sideways for the first three minutes!]Posted by Saint Mark's Episcopal Cathedral on Thursday, March 26, 2020
The music program at Saint Mark's Seattle, somewhat famously, involves seven different choirs (Saint Mark's Singers, Cathedral Choir, Evensong Choir, Compline Choir, Junior Choristers, Senior Choristers, and Schola). During this time when choirs are neither singing for liturgies nor meeting weekly to rehearse, choir members are feeling separation and absence acutely.
Canon Kleinschmidt and Choir School Director Rebekah Gilmore made the following video to recreate the warm-ups which begin all choir rehearsals, when singers prepare our voices and our bodies for the work to come. At Saint Mark's, the children and adult choirs share many of the same warm-up exercises! The exercises included in the video are beloved by 5-year-old junior choristers and 50-year veterans of the Cathedral Choir alike.
When life gets rugged, I turn to a wealth of spiritual wisdom that has sustained me over the years. Here's a prayer that I am saying out loud now after meals. It comes from Gates of the House: The New Union Home Prayer Book, published by the Central Conference of American Rabbis:
"Let us praise God.
Praised be the name of God, now and forever!
Blessed is our God, of whose abundance we have eaten.
Blessed is our God, of whose abundance we have eaten, and by whose goodness we live.
Blessed is the One-Who-Is!Blessed is the [Holy One] our God, [Sovereign] of the universe, whose goodness sustains the world.
The God of grace, love, and compassion is the source of food for all who live—for God's love is everlasting.
Through God's great goodness we do not lack and will not ever lack.
For God is in the goodness that sustains and nourishes all, providing food enough for every living being.
Blessed is the [Holy One], Source of food for all who live."
"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone."
Community member Jo Ann Bailey, a professional seamstress and teacher of sewing, submitted this report below about making fabric masks for healthcare workers. (Last week on the cathedral's Facebook Group, there was a call from Providence Hospitals for help sewing masks, but they have subsequently engaged manufacturers, including a Mukilteo furniture factory, to produce masks in quantity and are no longer soliciting volunteers. The opportunity described below is a better option!)
A shortage of protective clothing for medical professionals is yet another complication of this current COVID-19 crisis. Fabric face masks from the community are now welcome as hospitals and clinics prepare for an increase in patients. While fabric masks are not to be used in the care of COVID-19 patients, according to the CDC, fabric masks are a crisis response option when other supplies have been exhausted. Fabric masks can also be helpful in other areas of patient care as supplies of PPE are depleted. Prior to disposable masks, fabric masks were standard use for hospitals. These masks can be washed and sterilized repeatedly as needed. They provide needed protection to health care workers as well as patients.
Seattle area JoAnn Fabrics locations [editor's note: no relation!] are receiving and distributing donated, community-made, masks. For store locations visit www.joann.com. Patterns and clear, easy to follow, instructions are also available here: https://www.joann.com/make-to-give-response/
A few helpful hints:
- Narrow elastic has recently followed toilet paper off the store shelves. The tie-on style of mask will probably be the best for now unless you have ¼” elastic in your stash.
- Use 100% cotton, tight weave, fabric. Use on both sides, or line the inside with cotton flannel.
- From the patterns and styles available, choose the one that best suits your supplies and skills.
Please email or call if you have questions. I would love to hear from you! Email at this link.
—Jo Ann Bailey
As we approach two weeks since the first public health directives upended our normal routines, with many in the interim faced with job loss, school closures, and the threat of illness coming too close, I am keenly aware that the stress of this disruption and the weight of the burgeoning health care crisis are bearing down on us, collectively and individually. It is difficult in the moment to find an unimpeded path to resolution and a return to normalcy (whatever that may look like). None of us are certain how long this will last, and that naturally enough prompts anxiety. And there is a deep sense of grieving intermingled in it all.
I name all of this, having had personal conversations or email exchanges with literally hundreds of you in recent days—I name all of this as we prepare for a very unusual Holy Week, and I am acutely aware of the fact that we are making our journey to the cross of Good Friday this year like no other year in living memory. But we do so ever-enlightened by the hope of resurrection. We are resurrection people, and we are called to live in a way that does not gloss the harsh realities of life, but rather holds those struggles in the context of resurrected life, trusting that something new is in the works, even if we can’t quite make it out just yet....
Yin and Yang. Sinner and Saint. Blessing and Curse. As they say, there are always to sides to a coin.
In this time of limbo, I find myself thinking about this daily. What is the take-away from all of this? What are we supposed to be learning? How are we going to make it through? Will this ever this end?
All around us, we are experiencing a new normal. Students are not in school, employees are being laid off (including me), some are working from home (husband), stores are closing, and many are in fear of contracting COVID-19. I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that this is a disorienting time for all of us.
The first few days of self-quarantine for my family was rough. It was a lot of learning to live together 24/7, adjusting to our new normal, and listening. As we head toward the end of the week, we have found our rhythm. For now. We are “plotting a different course than the one we had planned.”
In his sermon on Sunday, Steve encouraged us to look for outward signs of spiritual grace waiting to surprise us, bless us, and nourish us. Common things made holy for our spiritual benefit.
For everything I see as a loss, there is a blessing on the other side. Reframing my perspective takes some practice. During these difficult times, we must be diligent in looking for outward signs of God’s grace.
Reflecting back on this week I can see God’s grace, the Blessing, all around me. Life has slowed down. WAY down. And this is a beautiful thing.
I’m reconnecting with my family on a whole new level. We spend time together, and actually enjoy it! I am A LOT less stressed out. Without as much to do or worry about, the rhythm of my life has found a new equilibrium. And it makes me wonder how I can refocus my energy when this is all over.
I have been able to enjoy the sunshine and put energy and time (something I would not have had with our normal routine) into working in my yard. It has never looked so good! The bulbs are popping up, the trees are blooming, and the birds fill the air with their songs. Spring has arrived. Common things made holy for our spiritual benefit.
God is here in this time of wilderness. We can cling to his promise in the Sacraments and look for the outwardly visible signs of God’s grace in our everyday lives
I snapped a photo (attached) on my walk out of PCC this evening after being greeted by a brass band playing music together in the park. All of the musicians were standing at least 6 feet apart (practicing social distancing) while they played joyful music. Lifted my spirits immediately and filled me with gratitude!
I am standing with my cup of coffee looking out at our sun-filled back yard and enjoying the life at our bird feeder. Juncos, chickadees, towhees and house finches are our frequent visitors but this afternoon it is mostly chickadees and juncos. For me they are holy little spirits, clothed in feathers, emissaries of God’s love.
As I washed my hands this past week and used sanitizer for what seemed like the hundredth time, practiced social distancing, and did my best not to become hopeless, I’ve had this ongoing internal dialogue about what it means to live a Eucharistic focused life during a pandemic. I can’t stop reflecting on serving at the 11 a.m. Saint Mark’s service last Sunday. The “physical” pews and chairs in the Nave were empty. As one of the handful of ministers who stood on the platform for the Liturgy of the Table, it was clear to me that we were celebrating communion across time, space, and beyond the four walls of the Nave.
While the pews and chairs were empty, the Nave was not! The Cathedral Parish and beyond were clearly present with us. For me, this is a Lukan Road to Emmaus time where Jesus is walking with the two disciples and revealing the truth of Holy Scripture to them so they can hear and soon through the blessing of wine and breaking of bread can see. In today’s context, some of the visible signs of grace are simple as taking extra time to notice water and how I am washing my hands. Water is ritually cleansing and life giving. With the coronavirus, water can limit its spread and thus can be lifesaving. It is also being mindful of how fearful people are in public and especially in confined spaces like elevators. When I recognize this fear in others, it is to be gentle and to acknowledge the person with a kind gesture. In my home, we are making it a point to reach out to friends, family, and especially those who live alone and to make sure they are okay.
Living a Eucharistic focused life at its core is being called to community. It is seeing the presence of Jesus in the most common aspects of life. It is especially true as we navigate not having the ability to be physically present to those we love and to be in our faith community. I know that wherever The Liturgy of the Table is celebrated, it is celebrated for all of us, physically present or not..
Canon Michael Kleinshmidt introduces some of the hymns that will be sung in the live-streamed liturgy at Saint Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, Seattle, on the Fourth Sunday in Lent.
Every Wednesday night the community of Saint Mark's has been invited to join together for a meal in Bloedel Hall. That meal always begins with the table grace sung by the choristers of the Choir School and all the parishioners who are attending. During this time of isolation, if you would like to begin your Wednesday night meal in the same way, Canon Keinschmidt offers this video >
Be present at our table Lord;
Be here and everywhere adored.
These mercies bless and grant that we
May strengthened for thy service be.
For Saint Mark's member Amanda, the experience of social isolation and distance is not a new one. She recently posted this thoughtful reflection on the Saint Mark's Community Closed Facebook Group, and it is being reposted here for the benefit of community members who do not use Facebook. Please leave a comment below if you are so moved.
Hi church. I’m Amanda, my family started attending St. Mark’s this past summer. I’m stepping out in a moment of vulnerability to share my story a bit.
This social distancing, self-isolation, lots of handwashing, nervous “am I going to get sick” scenario the nation finds itself in is essentially how I lived for almost two years. I was dealing with significant health issues and isolation was my best option to be well.
For about two years I went almost nowhere indoors. I had next to no physical contact with anyone except my immediate family. When I did go somewhere I often ended up sick. I scrupulously washed after any contact with people. My hubby and son (who most of you know as the smiling 9-year-old in a bow tie) had to go through an involved process to clean up whenever they came home from somewhere. It was this past spring, almost a year ago, that my healthcare team decided I could start doing more.
I know how hard this is. I know how scary, frustrating, confusing, and lonely it is. In some ways, I am grateful people are going to *get* it now. A lot of people live like this every day. If you want to talk to someone who gets it, please reach out. If you’re lonely or scared, please reach out. (I’d also like to mention I’ve worked from home for years now and I am a homeschool consultant. I have lots of easy to implement resources and systems for those who are suddenly working from home and/or homeschooling).
Watching the service reminded me this time I’m not alone. That empty sanctuary and the distance between everyone present felt so strange, didn’t it? Yet it reminded me we’re all in this together. And God is in the midst of us giving us comfort. We’re gathering to worship and connecting as we can. It was holy and heartbreaking. Beautiful and sad. Lonely and united.
I encourage you to be incredibly intentional about cultivating community in any way you can. Reach out to multiple people a day. We live in an era where it is easier than ever to communicate. Keep communicating. Especially make sure to reach out to those with chronic illness, the elderly, those who are already feeling the financial pinch, those in your life with depression and anxiety, and those who care for people in these categories. And send real mail. When I was isolated getting mail was a lifeline. The internet is amazing and we should use it to connect. And there’s something about holding a letter in your hand that someone wrote for you that fills the soul in a unique way.
“Your people” need you now more than ever. This is an opportunity to shine God’s light and hope into a scared and hurting world. I hope it’s not an opportunity that is overlooked.
For many years, a devoted congregation has gathered each Thursday morning for a weekday service of Holy Eucharist. Similar to daily Evening Prayer, the Thursday Morning Eucharist will likewise be replaced at this time by a service of Morning Prayer offered each week using the Zoom online teleconferencing platform.
The service meets for the first time tomorrow, March 19, at 7 a.m., and then every Thursday morning after that until the cathedral reopens. The Sunday morning Eucharist is normally followed by a community breakfast, so this online service will also be followed immediately by a period of time to talk and be together. You can even enjoy your breakfast at that time if you'd like! This is a way of maintaining something like the typical weekly routine for those who have attended this service regularly, something very important for all of us at this time. All are welcome.
You will need a copy of the Book of Common Prayer in order to follow the service. The BCP is available online here. Like Evening Prayer, the flow of the liturgy may be unfamiliar at first, but will quickly become routine after a few weeks.
All you need to join in is a special link. (If you’ve never used Zoom, the instructions here will walk you through how to do this.) We cannot post that link publicly, so anyone who would like to participate should email Sarah Elwood at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A big thank you to Sarah and the entire faithful 7 a.m. Thursday congregation, as well as Cathedral Sacristan Michael Seewer, for making this online offering available to the whole community.
The video that was live-streamed carefully avoided images of the empty pews and chairs, except for a few special moments at the beginning and end—but for those few of us present in the church the emptiness was a constant, unsettling presence. Cathedral Sacristan and Head Verger Michael Seewer posted a personal reflection about his experiences last Sunday on his personal blog. Below is a brief excerpt. Read his full post on his personal blog.
As the liturgy was to begin, the Dean shared words of welcome with everyone joining us on the internet. It was weird. And then, the choir rang the bell to signal the start of the service. The crucifer got ready to lead the procession (of three people…our processions are normally 50 or 60 people). And it really hit me.
This is all so weird.
The church was basically empty. At least, all of the seats and pews in the main part where the worshiping congregation sits. We normally have several hundreds of people attending each service. I think it hit me then, just how much things have changed just in the last couple of weeks.
I keep telling myself that I’m not going to let this all overwhelm me. I live in a city over 2,000 miles from my family. And though I have some wonderful friends whom I love and trust, I have occasional feelings of loneliness, missing the lifelong friendships from my hometown.
In the midst of our liturgy this morning, the words of Scripture washed over me. The reading from Exodus and the story of the Israelites in the wilderness. The words of Psalm 95…the antiphon
Harden not your hearts as your forebears did in the wilderness.
over and over and over…reminding me…don’t lose hope in this wilderness.
Read the rest of Michael's reflection here.
Members of the cathedral staff completing final preparations for the first-ever livestream-only liturgy. L to R: Cathedral Sacristan Michael Seewer, Associate Organist John Stuntebeck, Dean Steve Thomason, Sound Board Technician Michael Perera, Associate Musician Rebekah Gilmore, Canon Cristi Chapman, Cathedral Videographer Christopher Brown. Photo by Communications Director Gregory Bloch.
Associate for Spiritual Formation Kelly Moody recently sent the following letter to the participants in Children and Family Ministries at Saint Mark's. Her reflection is relevant, however, not just to parents of young children, but to all of us, and so we are sharing it here.
“Everything has changed.”
We say that in Godly Play at the beginning of a new liturgical year, and it seems appropriate in the wake of the news all gatherings over 50 people are prohibited, restaurants, gyms, libraries and museums are closing, and public and private schools are cancelled until at least April 25. Everything external about the way we go about our daily lives has changed this week, and it’s making waves. The impact of these changes will vary among us, but the anxiety that comes with disruption and uncertainty will accompany each of us to some degree. That is to be expected, and I pray that we will be divinely gentle with ourselves and one another as we live into a new reality, and seek creative ways to support the emotional, mental, and spiritual health of our children and ourselves.
Though these external changes to our daily lives are temporary, we ourselves will be changed during this season, too. We will be formed by the cessation of gathering and activity in deep ways. It is always true that we are formed by our attention and action, but perhaps it’s easier to notice in unusual times like these- times of enforced ceasing.
As members of the Church, the Body of Christ, we have a model for living fully in the face of disruption, and seeing and celebrating God's presence in hard places. It is the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and the Eucharistic shape of our weekly worship. And as it turns out, it is the pattern of our liturgical calendar, too, which conveniently locates us now in the season of Lent, a time to cease. Every year in Lent, we remove certain things from our worship space and simplify our liturgy. We set aside aspects of celebration and feasting and distraction in order to turn our attention to God’s still, small voice. We are doing that in far more drastic ways this year! But we do so with intention each year to follow Jesus’s path of preparation for surrendering his life on the cross, knowing transformation will come through surrender, somehow. And so, we have a unique opportunity this year to practice surrender.
The question is, to what, or to whom will I surrender?
I am here to say that until this week, I had not yet been very intentional about surrendering to anything more courageous than the entropy of my own overcrowded and busy life this Lenten season. I'd even taken on too many Lenten disciplines! Truth be told, sometimes our churches become markets of frenetic activity, too, just like the rest of the world.
But not this year. This year we are given the gift of a remarkable ceasing. Folded into the worldwide disruption of COVID-19 is an opportunity to make a different Lenten choice; to show up to our own formation differently and listen to the still, small voice of God calling us gently and persistently to be still and know, and to be changed by that knowing.
The path before us is a bit rocky, but it is not uncharted. We are in the company of Christians throughout time who have found their way through disappointments and unexpected challenges by the light of Christ, in the presence of Christ, and with the love Christ. We are in the company of one another, and we will continue to be formed by our faith every time we gather for prayer and worship by livestream, or make contact with one another by phone, or meet together by Zoom in the weeks ahead.
And, we are in the company of Christ, now and forever. That will not change!
Peace to you and your families.
Join us for Daily Evening Prayer via Zoom, every weeknight at 6:30 p.m!
For many years, Saint Mark's has offered a spoken service of Daily Evening Prayer in Thomsen Chapel most weekdays at 6:30 p.m. (Read more about the history of this service here.) While the cathedral building is closed, the leaders of this ministry are continuing to offer the service online, using the Zoom teleconferencing platform.
To join, all you is a computer or phone with a camera, and a special link. We cannot publicly post this link online, so if you are interested in joining the service, simply email Cathedral Sacristan Michael Seewer at email@example.com for the information.
To participate in the liturgy, it will be helpful to have a copy of the Book of Common Prayer 1979, and an NRSV Bible. However, both are available online, and the leaders of the service will put the text on the screen to help you follow along. If you've never attended this liturgy before, the flow of the service can take a little getting used to, but don't let that deter you! After attending a few services it will become routine.
Contact Michael Seewer with any additional questions you may have. And heartfelt thanks to the lay leaders of this service, especially Sue Tait, for keeping this important offering alive.
During this "wilderness time" for the cathedral, Dean Thomason is encouraging everyone to read The Sabbath as Resistance: Saying NO to the Culture of Now. In future weeks, we will schedule online book discussion sessions using the Zoom platform—stay tuned!
Sandra Smith is a longtime parishioner who was recently named Cathedral Chaplain. Her perspective as an immune-compromised person is uniquely valuable at this time, when we are all forced to consider the effect that our choices and habits could have on others. She submitted the thoughtful reflection below:
Thank you all—the people of our Church and of our State—for participating in social distancing as we all navigate preventing and containing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. I am very proud of and grateful to our Church specifically, and our city and state governments, Seattle and Washington, for implementing social distancing as a norm.
As an immune compromised individual (living with cancer at this time of COVID-19), I am very aware of who is coughing nearby, and whether they cover their cough appropriately, and the distance between where they are and where I am. I have to be. I don’t have the robust immunity of someone who is healthy, so I may not have the ability to fight infection, and that can affect my health quite seriously and quickly. I don’t shake hands or hug people today, and don’t attend groups. I wash my hands fully and frequently, before preparing food, before eating, after using the bathroom, and after touching shared common area surfaces.
It may seem like a crazy response to someone who is healthy that I’m washing my hands so much, or distancing myself from those I care about, and constantly discerning all the surfaces I touch with a heighten awareness and vigilance. I want to protect all of you from the spread of this virus as much as I don’t want to catch it myself. I don’t want you to get sick, nor to unknowingly affect others like me whose health isn’t robust either. We are one people interwoven with each other.
So I am continuing to respond to life with an informed cautious response amidst this virus, now in tandem with the advice of my medical care team, the cancer support agencies I rely on, and my Church who have all sided with “an over abundance of caution.” I attended a family memorial exercising social distancing norms which was awkward and difficult to not hug, but the last thing I wanted to do was to transmit anything to my family. So not hugging was my way to love them intensely.
Let’s continue building up our community and family connections in creative ways by phone, web-conferencing, email, sending letters and texts, settling into the still place where I believe God resides, speaking to our hearts. As my mom always said, “This too shall pass.” Be vigilant.
While the cathedral building is closed, don't forget that the cathedral's outdoor labyrinth is open and available for a meditative, spiritual walk at any time. (Be sure to practice social distancing when you visit.) If you are new to walking the labyrinth as spiritual practice, The Veriditas organization is a good place to start.
The following is an excerpt from the Dean's letter sent out on March 7, 2020. For the full text of the letter, and information about Saint Mark's response to the current viral outbreak, please visit the cathedral's Coronavirus outbreak information page.
Every Lent we retell the account of Jesus’ forty-day retreat in the wilderness as a time of temptation, but also as a time of prayerful discernment, for Jesus and for all who follow him. Jesus began his worldly ministry in earnest only after that time apart. With this in mind, I wonder if we might see this time as not only a challenge but also an opportunity—to see it as being afforded a time in which life is changed, and to ask ourselves, for what purpose?
Or, to extrapolate, what if we were to frame this time in which many of the daily practices in the busy-ness of life are reduced, or withdrawn, for a time—in this way, can we see it as sabbath time? What would you do differently if you saw this as sabbath? More rest, more recreation (re-creation, as God intended), more quality family time, more time to pray, more time to journal, and to do so with intention. What will you do?
With the prospect of fewer meetings, and with this image of sabbath in mind and on my heart, I am engaging my centering prayer practice with more intention, and I am going to re-read two books—Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s landmark book The Sabbath, and Walter Brueggemann’s wonderful book Sabbath As Resistance: Saying NO to a Culture of Now. I might encourage you to explore one or both, and perhaps later this month, if the health crisis persists, as I expect it will, we will make plans to host on-line book discussion groups using Brueggemann’s book. (I’d encourage reading this book regardless!). We can and will continue to form community in life-giving ways!
We press on, friends, trusting in the pervasive presence and love of God as the guiding force for us all. I am grateful to be on this journey with you all! I am,
All who feel a connection to the community of Saint Mark's Seattle (where ever they might be) is invited to join the closed facebook group Saint Mark's Community Life during the Closure. The purpose of the group is to connect with each other and with the cathedral during this time of isolation, quarantine, and building closure. Check it out!
For those who do not use Facebook, content from the group will be posted on the Online Community Life page on saintmarks.org, so check back often.
Sunday, August 11, 11:00 a.m. • The Feast of the Transfiguration • Service Bulletin
(Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from One License with license A-706820. On occasion, we will remove sections of music from the archived version of the service, due to licensing restrictions.)