Anglican Primate’s Action and the Episcopal Church

As promised in our discussion on Sunday, here is a link to the official statement from the Anglican Primate’s meeting: http://www.primates2016.org/articles/2016/01/15/communique-primates/

There can be no official response from the Episcopal Church as the only body which speaks for us is General Convention, and it will not reconvene until 2018 . (There are, as one might imagine, an abundance of opinions!)

Michael Curry, our Presiding Bishop, has released his own statement here:  http://www.episcopalchurch.org/posts/michaelcurry/episcopal-church-presiding-bishop-and-primate-michael-curry-actions-anglican

Intinction

DonFrom Dr. Don Palmer –

This commentary has its beginning about 70 years ago. I was in the Navy, assigned to the USS LSM 314, an amphibious landing ship then in the Philippines. Our role included taking troops and equipment, heading onto the beach full speed, and discharging soldiers invading the area, attempting to take the territory from the Japanese. The task force was due to leave within a few hours. I found a Lutheran chaplain at the Army installation where we were loading, who agreed to hold a service of Holy Communion for members of our crew, and troops, who would like to participate. There was no wine aboard ship, and we substituted grapefruit juice. It was a meaning-full service; all of us, crewmembers and soldiers, were apprehensive of what the day would bring.

A few years later, back at Sewanee, I told of the incident as some of us students recalled our war experiences. A pretheological student, a real “Father Spike”, committed to propriety to the detriment of meaning, sniffed, “Of course, you realize that the service wasn’t valid. The Eucharist has to include wine.” I almost came unglued. It seemed to me that the Christ who changed water into wine for the wedding feast would have no problem with our grapefruit juice——- if He thought it was all that important.

This logically (?) brings us to customs and tradition in our Church. The history of which we are a part includes practices and customs that enrich our tradition, obviously to a greater degree among those who participate. A disappearing custom, surely, is the “chapel cap”, a wisp of cloth donned by female congregants who participated in the custom that they should wear a head covering when within the church. A custom, which I find very impressive, is genuflecting, and its more common variant, bowing ones head when walking in front of the altar cross. And the very vital, meaningful making the sign of the cross at appropriate moments during the service.

Such a custom, or tradition, is the practice of intinction, dipping the wafer into the wine in the chalice. To some extent, the practice (a) has been present for centuries, or (2) is recent, perhaps going back to 1870. The Biblical account of the Last Supper clearly describes a two-fold administration of the sacrament, each element with its own meaning. (The Eastern Orthodox breaks the bread into pieces, and the priest retrieves them with a spoon and administers the elements.) Historically, of course, a common cup was used, and the elements were given separately.

The commonly proposed justification for intinction is the possibility of transmission of infection with the use of the common chalice. Interestingly and importantly, several studies over many years have found no evidence of this. Metallic silver has a bactericidal quality. Wiping with a purificator, and contact with the metallic silver is very effective. And, surprisingly, careful studies find more challenging the dirt on fingers and under fingernails—which inevitably get dipped with the wine.

The Anglican tradition strongly favors the common cup, but the Church is sensitive to the needs and wants of us, who “profess and call ourselves Christians. “ Of supreme importance is our relationship to God, even with grapefruit juice.

Palm Sunday and Holy Week

DonFrom Dr. Don Palmer —

Nestled within the undulating curves of the Magnolia River, the beautiful town of Magnolia Springs developed from a Spanish land grant in the year 1800. By the end of the War Between the States, the little hamlet rapidly became a primary destination for the families and descendants of many of the soldiers who had fought on both sides. Families from Vermont, Chicago, St. Louis and other points north built homes, inns, and businesses along the river’s edge and were joined by native Alabamans and transplants from other Southern locations. With the beginning of the twentieth century, the water, from the many natural springs along both sides of the river, was officially declared “the purest in the world” by several chemical companies in Chicago.

Not long after Magnolia Springs was settled, Miss Gertrude Smith (a native of Hinsdale, Illinois) moved here and, finding no Episcopal church in the area, began having Sunday School classes in her home. Near the turn of the century, Mr. and Mrs. Otis Lyman donated land for a church and a community hall (until the church was completed, Sunday School was held in the community hall). With funds raised by Miss Smith, her sister, Ida Gates, and others in the community, the present church was constructed by 1905, with all labor donated by those who would attend. Its design influenced by Late Gothic Revival, the structure was built of heart pine, cut on the property where the church was placed. At some point after the completion of the chapel, a cross of magnolia leaves was put high above the altar — it remains in place today continuing to mellow to a lovely aged patina! Descendants of those who built the simple pine chapel include our dear friend Maude Skiba whose personal history is inextricably interwoven with the Chapel and the Springs. The chapel was well built, having withstood hurricane after hurricane, including the particularly violent hurricane of 1906. In 1916, the building was placed on a strengthened foundation after yet another Gulf Coast hurricane.

During the 1960s, the Diocese suggested closing the little Chapel but The Reverend F. Stanford Persons, who served St. Paul’s, begged to have the Chapel remain open — and so it did. By 1982 it was necessary to add a small combination parish hall-kitchen-office-restroom facility. But, by the 1990s the growing congregation realized that more space was necessary and construction began on our new Parish Hall with its fully equipped kitchen, classrooms, restrooms, offices, sacristy and vesting room. Dedicated by Bishop Phillip Duncan on August 5, 2001, assisted by the Chapel’s then priest, The Rev. John W. Phillips (whose grandfather had ministered at the Chapel in decades past), the new facility blended masterfully with the style of the historic Chapel. The original structure is now listed on both the Alabama State Register of Historic Places and the National Register. Over the 113 year history of St. Paul’s, twenty-two priests have been entrusted with the lives of the Chapel‘s congregants. The Rev. George G. Riggall answered our call in 2003 as our first full-time priest, and we became a full parish a short time later(after over 100 years as a “mission” of first the Diocese of Alabama and then the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast). In 2013, The Rev. Aaron Smith joined us as our second full-time rector and a new era began at St. Paul’s as we continue to grow and expand as a close knit Parish family!

God bless and keep you all. Donna

From Dr. Don Palmer— PALM SUNDAY AND HOLY WEEK

Palm Sunday ushers in the important commemoration of Holy Week and Easter Day, or the Day of the Resurrection. Palm Sunday recognizes our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem just five days before he will be crucified, a startling change of sentiment. The Messiah, the long-awaited “Son of David”, rode into Jerusalem among huge crowds celebrating the occasion by strewing palms along the path. The previous Sunday used to be called Passion Sunday, to commemorate our Lord’s Passion, initiating a two week period of “Passiontide”, but in recent years Passion Sunday has been celebrated on the same Sunday as Palm Sunday.

Then, rapidly and awfully, the emotions change. The week following, memorializing farewell, torture, death, and resurrection, is Holy Week. Our first specific commemoration is on Thursday, at the institution of the Lord’s Supper, at the feast of the Passover, the Pascha. In John 13:34 we read Christ’s admonition, “A new commandment I give to you,. that you love one another as I have loved you.” n.b.: Not just love one another as you love yourself, but as I HAVE LOVED YOU. (Latin for ‘new commandment” is “mandatum novum” from which we get the word “Maundy”.)

Occurring rather dramatically in the historic account of the day is the institution of Christ’s washing of his disciples’ feet, an emotion-laden event to which impulsive Simon Peter responded by exclaiming, “Not my feet only, but my hands and my head!” The rite of footwashing has become attenuated in various churches over the years, perhaps undeservedly.

Beginning in the evening of Maundy Thursday the Church recognizes three important days: from the evening of Maundy Thursday till the evening of Easter Day—three most holy, significant days. Latin for a three-day period is “triduum”; these are the “Paschal Triduum”. (Triduum has a difficult double “u”, and is pronounced similarly to ‘residuum”.)

Immediately following the service on Maundy Thursday the altar is stripped of all hangings, and the altar itself is washed. The bare altar, with no beauty in flowers or in trappings, is a stark reminder of the events to come. The celebrations of the Paschal Triduum are the evening liturgy of Maundy Thursday, the events of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Day.

On Good Friday we Christians recall the Passion, the Crucifixion, of Jesus, a most solemn day. The following day, Holy Saturday, commemorates the day during which Jesus lay in the tomb. Church services are simple. In the Philippines this day is known as “Black Saturday.”

The historic “Easter Vigil” is held beginning after nightfall on Holy Saturday, or early, really early, on Easter Day—the Day of Resurrection. The coming of the Day of Resurrection is symbolized by the lighting of the great Paschal candle. Soon there begin the glorious songs of the Day of Resurrection. “HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!

Food is of God

DonFrom Dr. Don Palmer —

This commentary has its beginning about 70 years ago. I was in the Navy, assigned to the USS LSM 314, an amphibious landing ship then in the Philippines. Our role included taking troops and equipment, heading onto the beach full speed, and discharging soldiers invading the area, attempting to take the territory from the Japanese. The task force was due to leave within a few hours. I found a Lutheran chaplain at the Army installation where we were loading, who agreed to hold a service of Holy Communion for members of our crew, and troops, who would like to participate. There was no wine aboard ship, and we substituted grapefruit juice. It was a meaning-full service; all of us, crewmembers and soldiers, were apprehensive of what the day would bring.

A few years later, back at Sewanee, I told of the incident as some of us students recalled our war experiences. A pretheological student, a real “Father Spike”, committed to propriety to the detriment of meaning, sniffed, “Of course, you realize that the service wasn’t valid. The Eucharist has to include wine.” I almost came unglued. It seemed to me that the Christ who changed water into wine for the wedding feast would have no problem with our grapefruit juice——- if He thought it was all that important.

This logically (?) brings us to customs and tradition in our Church. The history of which we are a part includes practices and customs that enrich our tradition, obviously to a greater degree among those who participate. A disappearing custom, surely, is the “chapel cap”, a wisp of cloth donned by female congregants who participated in the custom that they should wear a head covering when within the church. A custom, which I find very impressive, is genuflecting, and its more common variant, bowing ones head when walking in front of the altar cross. And the very vital, meaningful making the sign of the cross at appropriate moments during the service.

Such a custom, or tradition, is the practice of intinction, dipping the wafer into the wine in the chalice. To some extent, the practice (a) has been present for centuries, or (2) is recent, perhaps going back to 1870. The Biblical account of the Last Supper clearly describes a two-fold administration of the sacrament, each element with its own meaning. (The Eastern Orthodox breaks the bread into pieces, and the priest retrieves them with a spoon and administers the elements.) Historically, of course, a common cup was used, and the elements were given separately.

The commonly proposed justification for intinction is the possibility of transmission of infection with the use of the common chalice. Interestingly and importantly, several studies over many years have found no evidence of this. Metallic silver has a bactericidal quality. Wiping with a purificator, and contact with the metallic silver is very effective. And, surprisingly, careful studies find more challenging the dirt on fingers and under fingernails—which inevitably get dipped with the wine.

The Anglican tradition strongly favors the common cup, but the Church is sensitive to the needs and wants of us, who “profess and call ourselves Christians. “ Of supreme importance is our relationship to God, even with grapefruit juice.

Leprosy Lesson

DonFrom Dr. Don Palmer—

Sue Dees was nearly incredulous. Someone had told her that someone else had been told that a doctor somewhere—not in Fairhope but in the region—had diagnosed leprosy in a patient. We still have leprosy in the world, in the United States, even in Alabama. There are important things to learn from leprosy which are not just about leprosy.

Leprosy didn’t start with the Bible. Leprosy has been part of the human condition for over 6000 years, with description of the disease in ancient Egypt, China, and India. It can be, and until recent times it was, a disfiguring, repulsive, incurable chronic disease which stole patients’ families, friends, appearance, self esteem, livelihood, and their happiness, leaving only miserable semi-people

In 1894 Dr. Isadore Dyer and five patients with leprosy came upriver from New Orleans on a coal barge to establish, quietly and in a secluded area, a place dedicated to the treatment, the care of and the care for, patients with leprosy. It was sneaky. Another doctor, a friend of Dr. Dyer, had bought 20 acres of land with an abandoned farm and farmhouse. His announced purpose was to develop an “ostrich farm”. That was a ruse to obscure the presence of the dread leprosy. Dr. Dyer was the leader of dedicated people. Charity Hospital in New Orleans donated beds and bedding. Nuns of the Order of the Sisters of Charity gave their lives to care for these miserable children of God.

This was the beginning of what became Carville Leprosarium, the first institution in the country to be devoted to the treatment of leprosy. The bacteria which cause leprosy especially damage skin, nerves, the upper part of the respiratory tract, the eyes, and sometimes the pancreas and kidneys. Areas of the skin lose their pigment, and their sense of touch. Then, as a result of the body’s heroic fight to contain, to wall off, the germ, nodules and lumps form in the skin to the point of disfiguring the patient. Nerves are invaded by the bacteria resulting in loss of pain perception, which allows injuries to occur because pain didn’t warn the patient. Fractures and bone destruction occur.

It is impossible to conceive and even more impossible to calculate, the misery, the isolation, the rejection these patients have felt. Another huge and incalculable quantity is the dedication of those who chose to minister to these whom fate, disease, and society rejected.

We can cure leprosy now. Carville has closed. People with Hansen’s disease—a name for leprosy that avoids the prejudice against that word—are far fewer—-in our country. Annually there are 100 to 150 new cases—-in our country. Elsewhere, not in our country, there is still an enormous problem with the disease. There were 233,000 new cases reported in 2012.

A bit of a postscript. Human leprosy is what we worry about, of course, but armadillos, those “possum on the half shell”, are a natural reservoir for the disease, the only or nearly the only other mammal known to be infected with leprosy. A few cases in the South have been in people who had been in contact with armadillos. One individual with leprosy told of having killed an armadillo and eaten it. No comment.

Three Creeds

DonFrom Dr. Don Palmer

I just heard a muffled and consequently anonymous voice, “Three creeds? Don has finally lost it. I’ve been worried about him. We only have two creeds. Everybody knows that.”

Gotcha! The one we don’t ever seem to mention is the Athanasian Creed, approximately as old as the Nicene Creed. I’ll settle for an extra dessert, with suitable apologies. We’ll come back to #3 later.

The Apostles’ Creed, known throughout Christendom, is usually the first one we learn. There’s a small problem, however……we don’t know who wrote it. An ancient and beautiful legend holds that the twelve natural divisions that it falls into were each contributed by an Apostle. Unfortunately, that was evidently an invented legend, and like many legends, more fun than truth. The Apostles’ Creed is the oldest known and accepted statement of what we believe, the “Articles” of the Christian faith. “Credo” , ”I believe.” It is an elaboration of some of the baptismal affirmations, and first appeared in its present form after centuries of widespread use, in the sixth or seventh century.

The Nicene Creed is the product of the first Council of Nicea, in 325, which was called specifically to address a widespread heresy, Arianism, which denied that Christ was divine, proposing instead that Christ was created by God. The original and simple format was accepted. The Eastern Orthodox Church does not accept the Apostles’ Creed, and uses only the Nicene Creed, with a small change. The Nicene Creed, therefore, stands as the authoritative, yet eloquent, statement of what we hold as a statement of Christian belief in both the Western and the Eastern traditions.

The Athanasian Creed—;the creed we don’t talk about—;is something else. It is also known as the Creed of St. Athanasius, implying that St. Athanasius wrote it, but in fact it, too, is of unknown authorship. It is likely that it, too, was written by some unidentified French theologian, probably in the fourth century. St. Athanasius was a vigorous defender of the faith, with a strong preference for orthodoxy. Consonant with Athanasius’ scholarly orthodoxy, the Athanasian Creed is long (about 700 words) and is in the section of historical documents in the back of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP p. 864). The Church of England thoughtfully acknowledges our debt to these early churchmen. In England (not in Magnolia Springs or in these United States) the Athanasian Creed must be said or sung at Morning Prayer, Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, and Whitsunday.

Another document of importance in the Anglican Communion and hence the Episcopal Church is the Articles of Religion, commonly known as the Thirty-nine Articles. They, too, are to be found in the back of the Book of Common Prayer, beginning on p.867.

The anticipated difficulties encountered in making statements of faith, the development of consensus, and their publication can well be imagined. This is shriekingly evident to me as we see schismatic offshoots of the Episcopal and the Anglican Churches. Finally, after the learned theologians had been meditating for twenty (20!!!) years without producing a document, Parliament got into the act and—voila!—;a document was produced in 1571. Ipse dixit.

The purpose, the need, for the work of this group of theologians was crucial. The young Church of England, we Anglicans, was being picked on (really, picked on) by the Church of Rome, which had the strange and unwelcome notion that we Anglicans needed to call the whole thing off and go back home to the self-appointed Mama; and needled as well by the Lutherans and the Puritans, still in their early adolescence, who had their own ideas of what the Church of England should be, and think, and do. A tough assignment. Be firm, stand strong, but keep the flock intact. Listen to the opinions of others. And keep the faith. Be principled but malleable. But hold the Church together. Queen Elizabeth herself drew up some of the statement. The Articles were put into the American Prayer Book in 1801. They are a good read, for a better understanding of the faith, and an appreciation of English composition—our mother tongue.

But not during the sermon.