Taizé Evening Prayer
A worshiper approaches an icon and touches it, perhaps kisses it, makes some human contact with God through its very physicality. Lighting a candle in the darkness and quietly chanting a mantra-like phrase, she finds that God is intimately present.
Against the bigoted stridency of much religion, St. Paul’s Cathedral upholds this experience of stillness and holiness. Evening Prayer in the style of Taizé, we have found, allows us to be quiet in community, to know a Divine Presence larger, deeper, and more loving than any one human being (or even several human beings) can be. And into that Presence we take the concerns of the world and of our hearts.
When we offer Evening Prayer in the Taizé style, God’s presence is hinted at in darkness lit by fire, simple chant, silence, and the possibility of being together in a way that modern life doesn’t easily allow. Lighting a candle takes a stand against fear and for hope. Touching an icon is a simple act of reaching toward the Divine. Chanting a prayer many times allows the experience of breathing together, sharing the same rhythm, aligning our sonic frequencies, being together in common prayer.
This is what the Taizé style has taught us: there is a profound sense of interdependent individuals both reaching out and reaching in – an elegant balance of interiority and community, a sense of intimacy with God and trustful vulnerability with each other. In a way quite different from the festal occasion that is the Eucharist, we need the quiet and the chant, the darkness and the fire. We need the icons, windows into the infinite.
After the service, a worshiper whispers softly to a leader, “Thank you. I don’t usually attend church, but this is exactly what my soul needs.”
It has been noted by many that, in the words of Dean Douglas Stone, of the Cathedral Church of St. James (Toronto, Ontario), cities “are now the dominant unit in contemporary culture,” and the churches within them serve an essential role as “incubators of social, environmental, economic and spiritual resilience.” Here at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, in the decidedly smaller but no less vital city of Burlington, we as the Cathedral Chapter see as our mission the support, encouragement, and uplifting of the Cathedral in its many ministries, near and far. In our ministry as a Cathedral Chapter we strive to share the message of vitality, creativity, openness and welcome that is St. Paul’s, in its unique character both in our Diocese of Vermont and in the wider world.
There are a number of central ministries to which we offer our prayers, support, invitation, and resources. These include:
- Innovative and inclusive liturgies, including Enriching Our Worship, the Sunday 8:00 AM Contemplative Eucharist, Taizé Evening Prayer, noonday mid-week Eucharist and Healing, and a regular sacramental cycle consistent with the spirit of the Church Year;
- Christian Meditation, offered at a variety of times and reaching well into the secular and ecumenical world, as an expression of quiet, silence, renewal, and embrace of the Holy.
- A large and vibrant music ministry of all ages, with a variety of choral expression including a busy youth choir program, Choral Evensong, and a regular round of Sunday choral liturgy.
- Cathedral Arts, an ongoing invitation to instrumentalists and singers from a wide range of settings such as UVM, the Burlington Choral Society, and others both local and national, who offer musical programming to the city and beyond, here at St. Paul’s. Also, Cathedral Arts embraces a vital ministry of exhibiting visual art in the Cathedral’s nave. Some of this work is shown in conjunction with the Episcopal Church and Visual Arts; other work is independently offered. All of it is imbued with the power of art to touch the soul.
- Regular diocesan hospitality in the form of Diocesan Convention; the Holy Week Clergy Quiet Day, Renewal of Vows and Blessing of Oils; Province I gatherings of Bishops and Staff, and other such offerings.
- The Hopkins Bookshop, a unique and deeply valued resource for all those, of many interests and of many faiths, who find here materials, books, devotionals, gifts, scripture, and other important expressions of the Spirit, for themselves and for others;
- Jubilee Ministry, St. Paul’s being the only recognized Jubilee Center in the Diocese of Vermont, based in part on its long and wide breadth of urban and social justice ministries, with such programs as VIA (Vermont Interfaith Action), JUMP (Joint Urban Ministry Program), BAMA (Burlington Area Ministerial Association), Integrity, and a range of initiatives in the area of refugee services. In addition, St. Paul’s continues to build bridges in global mission, primarily in El Salvador, with its support of Cristosal and the sending of a Youth Group in April 2013 for a Transformational Trip of learning, volunteerism, and support.
- Cathedral Staff and their role as resources to the wider Diocese and beyond, especially in the areas of music and liturgy, spiritual direction, and diaconal formation.
In every way, we as the Cathedral Chapter joyfully affirm and celebrate that St. Paul’s is “Your Cathedral, Our Cathedral.” Knowing Christ and making Christ known through these creative, exciting, innovative, spirit-filled, and inclusive Cathedral ministries is our joyful mission, to which we invite the love, support, prayers and participation of all.
Visit the Cathdral Website to learn more!
|Tony Galas, Sexton at St. Paul’s Cathedral, practices hospitality in his work. And that practice has intensified in recent years, in his welcome of volunteers from the community. Describing the transformative power of that hospitality, Tony says,
“I first met TL in September of 2009. He came to St. Paul’s for AA meetings. He told me recently that back then one of his only concerns was getting his next bottle.
“I was looking for some help around the Cathedral. Before long TL was here several times a week, going to meetings and doing volunteer work throughout the building – sweeping, mopping, minor repairs. Said it made him feel really good. As I think back, he always seemed so serene and peaceful after his hours here. In addition being grateful for all his help, I always felt so much better having worked alongside him.
“TL has had a regular job now for a couple years and doesn’t have time to donate the hours like before. Still goes to meetings, but with a vastly different set of priorities. Many of those priorities involve giving back to the community and making his mother proud of him. When he does come to the Cathedral for the occasional work day, he always leaves happier and more at peace. I do too. TL’s life has changed, partly because he has this place; so has mine because of the generosity of volunteers like TL.
When I started at St. Paul’s over 20 years ago it was because I needed a job to earn a living. Through people like TL, the parishioners and the wonderful staff here at the Cathedral, my work now feels so much more profound. There are many moments when I glimpse heaven and feel the love of God.”
Diocesan Choir Day
On Saturday, May 4, more than 50 singers from around the Diocese of Vermont gathered at the Cathedral for a day of music-making, learning and worship. Representing at least twelve parishes, these people experienced the compelling pleasure of coming together as one musical body.
This event was sponsored in part by the Cathedral Chapter; the Choir Day’s leaders included Music Directors rLee Adams of St. James’, Woodstock; Susan Dedell of St. Michael’s, Brattleboro; Peter Walker of St. Mark’s, Springfield; Carl Schwartz of Christ Church, Montpelier; Susanne Peck of St. Stephen’s, Middlebury; Jim Cassarino of Trinity, Rutland; and Mark Howe from the Cathedral.
Although people brought their own lunches, Cathedral parishioners Beth and Paul Gutwin supplied a lavish array of goodies throughout the day – coffee and tea, fizzy water, cider, scones, madeleines, clotted cream, fruit salad, and on and on. The extravagance of hospitality in this regard was a terrific welcome to Episcopalians from around Vermont, and a strong statement that this is the Cathedral of all the Diocese of Vermont.
In the morning, we sang together. At noon, we said the Noonday Office from the Prayer Book. After lunch, there were four workshops – on Gregorian chant, paperless music, Welsh hymnody in the Hymnal 1982, and vocal technique – each of which was enthusiastically received. Then we practiced some more, vested, and sang Evensong to end the day.
The importance of this event cannot be overstated. In a diocese as spread out as ours, in which most congregations are very small and have only small choirs, if any, there is enormous power in offering a place, a time, hospitality, and leadership, so that people can join in a musical experience of deep spiritual unity.