Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Keeping Vigil at The Altar of Repose

You Could Not Watch One Hour With Me (Vous n'avez pu veiller une heure avec moi)
Artist: James Tissot; The Brooklyn Museum Open Collection

“Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?”
~ Matthew 26:40

During the Vigil at the Altar of Repose, we try to answer Jesus' request with a strong "yes." In his agony at Gethsemane, our Lord asked a few of His disciples to keep watch with him in his time of trial, but this proved too much for them. In the all-night Vigil between Maundy Thursday (April 2nd) and Good Friday (April 3rd), we attempt some reparation for this failure, and for the human weakness that it symbolizes: thus the Vigil can be, for some, the final and deepest time of self-reflection in Lent. 

Following the Maundy Thursday Eucharist, the reserve sacrament is solemnly accompanied to an altar outside the sanctuary (in our case, in the music room), where it will rest until Good Friday: this is the Altar of Repose, and there the sacrament represents Christ in the garden at Gethsemane on the night before He was crucified.

From the time the reserve reaches the Altar until the commemoration of His passion the following day at noon, a constant vigil is kept beside Christ as embodied in the sacrament. Devout Christians will traditionally commit to spending an hour taking part in this Vigil, though those who are moved to special devotion may certainly sign up to watch for a longer period. Silence punctuated hourly by a sentence or two of reading is the norm.

If you would like to keep watch with Christ for an hour (or more), please sign up for whatever time suits you in one of three ways: 1) using the physical sign-up sheet posted outside the parish hall at St. Mary's; 2) using the virtual sign-up sheet found here; 3) by e-mailing your name and desired time(s) to David Carlisle at

Please be forewarned: this Vigil can be a time of surprising spiritual depth and even personal trial, but may also bring a feeling of closeness to Jesus that is difficult to describe.
~ David Carlisle

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Holy Week: an opportunity for spiritual growth

Holy Week—the eight days from Passion Sunday to Easter—is the holiest and most solemn time of the church year. It is also an opportunity for spiritual growth.

Holy Week began in the Early Church as the time when candidates for Holy Baptism were taken on retreat (put in seclusion) and given their final, most intimate instruction in the Christian faith. In many places the Passion Narrative in the Gospel according to Matthew was the template each day of the week had its particular readings about the last week of Jesus´ earthly life. In time that period was extended to the forty days of Lent, but the tradition of an intense time of scrutiny and prayer was maintained for many centuries.

Today Holy Week is still an opportunity for study, reading, and contemplation of those might acts by which we were given eternal life and freedom from sin and death. Passion Sunday, also known as Palm Sunday, is a sort of summary of the entire octave, but it is not a substitute. Each day of Holy Week has its theme and its own tenor. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday roughly chronicle the same period in Jesus´ life, including a distressing encounter with Judas as he enters into the treachery that will lead to the Crucifixion. Maundy Thursday remembers the Last Supper and the movement to the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus´ arrest. The stripping of the church of all of its finery and furnishings leads us into Good Friday and the silence of the grave. And then there is Easter …

A special opportunity is being offered by the good work of David Carlisle. An Altar of Repose will be set up in the music-meeting room down the hall from the church. The Reserve Sacrament is taken from the church and placed apart, in this special place, as a sign of the desolation of the death of Jesus. A sign-up roster is being created whereby you may sit for an hour or two, keeping watch with our Lord just as the disciples did so long ago.

Those who take the opportunity to experience Holy Week find their Easter celebration all the more meaningful and illuminating. I invite you experience the depth and breadth of the story of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you may know more fully the glory and promise of his resurrection.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Acquiring A Grand Piano | The Rev. Peter J. Van Hook

Acquiring a Grand Piano
in support of The Community Music Outreach Program at St. Mary's Church

Following on over two years of conversation and investigation, at its December 2014 meeting the Bishop's Committee of St. Mary's Church voted to establish The Community Music Outreach Program (CMOP). This ministry is intended to make the church building available to community and university music groups and students for rehearsals, recitals, and concerts. The Diocesan Council of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah approved a $9,000 grant to help us establish the program during 2015. Our own Serena Kanig Benish has been appointed to serve as the Program Coordinator, providing promotion, scheduling, and support.

Following Fr. Dick Weissert’s death, and in the midst of the conversations about the music program, discussions with the family led to the establishment of the Richard Weissert Memorial Fund, because of Fr. Dick’s love of church music and his participation in the church choir for many years. Gifts to the memorial fund have been designated both for acquiring a grand piano, and later for supporting the congregation’s music programs. Memorial gifts to the fund amounted to more than $17,000.

On Sunday, March 15, the Bishop's Committee voted unanimously to accept the recommendation of a small search committee—Serena Kanig Benish and Ruth Eldredge Thomas—to acquire a piano. This group, with the assistance of a number of others, worked for over eighteen months to define our needs and to identify the right instrument. The instrument we are purchasing is a ten year old 6’1” Kawai grand piano at a total cost of $15,000. We are well assured that this is a good investment of our resources.

Early on the Bishop’s Committee and I recognized that in order to accommodate the piano we would have to remove the current pulpit, as this is the only space available for the instrument. The pulpit was a very late addition to St. Mary’s Church, having been built and installed by parishioners in the 1950s. The original and historical lectern is to be restored to its position at the front the church, and small platform will extend the bottom step to the chancel for readers and preachers to stand on. This will substantially return the church building to its original proportions, and will allow for increased flexibility in the use of the building.

We—the Bishop's Committee and I—recognize that this is not a small or insignificant decision. We have for over two years discussed our vision for the church building, considered alternatives, and reviewed our priorities. We believe that the addition of the piano, chiefly for the Community Music Outreach Program, is the right decision as we seek more and more to serve the community in which we are placed. It will be a fitting symbol of the long and fruitful ministry of a man who served his Lord and his friends as a Deacon and Priest of the Church.


Photographs of the New Piano in the Studio.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Holy Week at St. Mary’s Church

The most solemn time of the Church Year is Holy Week, the octave (eight day period) from Passion Sunday through Easter. What follows is a description of what we will be offering during the week. You are invited to join in at any time, as you are able.

Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday) — The observance of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem to the acclaim of the crowds, and the reading of the Passion Gospel from Mark. This is an especially important day for children and their participation in our worship. During fellowship time we will be offering instruction on the making of traditional palm crosses.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week — These days are often overlooked, but each has its own them, its own story to tell. We will mark the days with simple worship and special music offered by both guests and parishioners.

Maundy Thursday — This is a very special day all its own. Tonight we will remember the Last Supper, at which Jesus washed the feet of his friends and instituted the sacred meal we call the Holy Communion. The service concludes with the solemn Stripping of the Sanctuary, during which all of the moveable decorations and articles of our worship are removed from the church in preparation for the sparseness of Good Friday. It is traditional to remove the Reserve Sacrament from the church and place it on an Altar of Repose, at which people may sit in meditation and contemplation.

Good Friday — The services of Good Friday are mostly identical, and scheduled to provide as much accessibility as possible for those who want to worship on this day. The service features the reading of the Passion Gospel according to St. John, a litany of special prayers for the world, and special music. The church will remain open all day and through the evening for those who would like to find a place of sanctuary and quiet.

Holy Saturday — The stillness of Jesus’ tomb is witnessed by the stark and brief service of readings and prayers. As is traditional there is no music, only stillness and introspection. (At St. Mary’s we have asked the Worship Ministers to gather for the service and then assist in setting up the church for Easter.)

Easter — Easter is all the more glorious when one has experienced the depths of the movements and events of Holy Week. St. Mary's Church will celebrate the day in glorious style with joyful hymns and glorious music.

The Bishop's Committe

The Bishop’s Committee of an Episcopal congregation is much like a nonprofit organization board of directors. The Bishop's Committee shares authority with the Priest-in-Charge as they work together to build up the Body of Christ and spread the Good News. The Bishop's Committee of St. Mary's Church meets regularly on the third Sunday of the month following the service. These meetings are open, and you are invited to attend. Please free to contact any of the members with questions or concerns.

All of the documents that the Bishop's Committee sees are posted are the Parish Web site.

The Rev. Peter J. Van Hook, Priest-in-Charge
Erik Heiny, Bishop’s Warden
Jim Meador, Junior Warden
Serena Kanig Benish, Clerk
George Benish, Treasurer
Patricia Castelli
Kirk Hepburn

Mari Miller

Adult Christian Education: An Outline of the Faith | The Rev. Peter J. Van Hook

In The Book of Common Prayer there is a wonderful resource called “An Outline of the Faith (commonly called the Catechism).” Unlike most catechisms it is not meant to be memorized. It is instead intended to be used as a discussion starter, as well as a reminder of important elements of our faith and practice.

Beginning on Wednesday, April 8, I will be offering an eight-week series of conversations based in “An Outline of the Faith.” This is a great opportunity to review and remember for current members, and a great introduction for those new or unfamiliar with The Episcopal Church. Topics to be covered include the nature of God, the role of the Bible in Anglican practice, the Church and its ministries, and the Christian Hope.

We especially encourage adults who are preparing for Baptism or Confirmation to attend this series. Recognizing the Wednesday evenings are not the best time for all, the series will be offered during the year at various times

Monday, March 9, 2015

David Carlisle & Tim Yanni Named Postulants by Bishop Hayashi

On Saturday, March 7, Bishop Hayashi announced the names of those he has appointed as Postulants for Holy Orders, including our own David Carlisle and Tim Yanni.

The length of postulancy varies, but is typically one to two years. The time involves meeting with the bishop, examination by the Commission on Ministry, along with physical and mental examinations. Postulancy is an initial time of preparation and testing for ordained ministry. Usually during postulancy the person begins their theological education. Candidacy for Holy Orders is the next stage in the ordination process, and is considered a significant step in the process toward ordination.

Tim Yanni began his theological education at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California, two years ago. At the Bishop’s request he was transferred to St. Mary’s Church earlier this year from St. James’ Church in Midvale, due to the departure of the Rector, leaving Tim without pastoral direction. Tim will be involved in Clinical-Pastoral Education (CPE) at St. Mark’s Hospital, Salt Lake City, all of this summer, and he will be participating as much as possible in the life and worship of St. Mary's Church.

David Carlisle will now confer with Bishop Hayashi about his own theological education. There are various options, including extended programs that would allow him to continue to live in Utah, as well as the traditional three-year residential programs.

St. Mary's Church has sponsored a number of people for ordination, including Fr. Dick Weissert, and the Rev. Brian Winter, who is currently serving in the Diocese of the Rio Grande in New Mexico.

Baptism is a beginning not an end | Peter, our Pastor

Historically, in The Episcopal Church, we baptized primarily infants who were then confirmed in their teenage years. As American society has changed fewer families have their children baptized. The result is a greater number of adults seeking to be baptized.

This has caused Episcopal clergy to remind people that baptism was always a beginning and not an end in itself. That is, baptism commences a new relationship with God through Christ’s death and resurrection in the power of the Holy Spirit.

One of the theological twists in all of this is that it is God who gives us the faith in which to believe in God. It is God who gives us the power to believe, it is God who leads us to baptism, it is God who covenants with us forever. In other words, we already and always have a relationship with God; in baptism the relationship is sealed and one is “marked as Christ’s own forever.”

So, the invitation to baptism is one in which the hospitality of God through the Church is expressed. The requirements to be baptized include the desire to be baptized, an ability to respond to the questions of the Baptismal Covenant with integrity, and a willingness and intention to continue forward in this new relationship with God in the context of God’s Church.

(By the way, the Renewal of Baptismal Vows for those who are already baptized, including Confirmation and Reception, is the action of an adult wanting to continue in the relationship that began at baptism.)

The first of several opportunities for continuing discovery for adults begins right after Easter. More on the exploration of “The Outline of the Faith (The Catechism)” later.

If you have not been baptized, or if you have questions about your baptism, you are invited to talk with me about it.

Holy Baptism is administered on the four major feast days of the Church Year: Easter, Pentecost, All Saints Day (November), and the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord (January).