Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is hard to believe that it has only been five weeks since first arriving at St. James. The welcome given to my family and me has been incredible. Thank you for your hospitality. I look forward to years of serving together as the hands and feet of Christ through the mission and ministry of St. James.
There is an old saying my dad always said when I was growing up, “No one likes changing except wet babies.” One thing I hope you will experience with me is that I do not make decisions lightly or without reason, but rather prayerfully and with purpose. I realize that not everyone will agree with the reasoning and/or changes every time. However, please know that no change is made for change’s sake. As I am sure you have guessed, there are a few items that I want to share with you. Some were in the works before I arrived, and others come after Monday night’s vestry meeting.
- Campus Security - Before my arrival, the process was begun to increase security around the campus, not only for the school, but for all of our parishioners and facilities. This has been an ongoing discussion and debate in the life of St. James and not a new topic. There came a time in the past when the doors of the church were locked and no longer left open 24/7. Then a time came when fencing and gates were added as well as the addition of security from our wonderful deputy sheriffs. With where we are societally and with the continued growth in and around downtown, it became time once more to take new steps.
A new security system has been installed that is comparable to other downtown churches with schools. The big question is naturally, how will this affect you? The main thing is that visitors to the Parish Hall building and to spaces used by the school will need to check-in at the school or church office during school hours. With that said, people will not be required to check-in for noon Wednesday Eucharist, a funeral visitation, Gumbo, on weekends, or other church functions, as security and other procedures will be in place during those times. Know that we are also working to share this important information with all parents of the Day School so that we are all on the same page.
Please note that leaders of ministries needing access to the buildings should coordinate with Jacques Pourciau, Business Manager, to obtain fob access to the facilities so that the mission and ministry of St. James is not disrupted. Jacques can explain the options for obtaining access.
The vestry and I are saddened by the necessity of these steps to protect the children in our care, our parishioners, and our property. However, it is the world in which we live and is important for the safety of all of us at St. James. Know that this is a work in progress and we will have some kinks along the way. I am appreciative of your patience as we move forward.
- Prayer List - Pastoral Care is a passion of mine, and I love that St. James is a church committed to praying for one another. It is an important part of our life in Christian community. After much discussion with Fr. Ralph and the vestry, we are implementing a new procedure for the prayer list. Moving forward, a name on the general prayer list will be spoken for one month in the Prayers of the People at all three Sunday services. After that, the individual will move to the “Continued Prayers” list which is not read aloud, but printed in the bulletin. Names will stay on this list for an additional month. However, names will be added back to the list when requested. And, of course, those with long-term needs will be kept on the list. The prayers for the deceased will remain on the prayer list for two weeks and be included in the Prayers of the People at all three Sunday services.
St. James will also be adding to the prayer list those expecting a child. This gives us three additional lists: military, law enforcement, and those expecting a child. One of these lists will be included in the Prayers of the People in a given service each Sunday thus ensuring that the lists for military, law enforcement, and those expecting a child are prayed every Sunday but only one list within a single service. We will rotate the above lists to ensure that all three are prayed aloud in each Sunday service every three-weeks.
This procedure will keep us in better communication with those on our prayer list while ensuring that all the prayers of the parishioners are lifted up within our Sunday services and maintain the natural flow of the Prayers of the People within the liturgy. If you would like to add a name to the prayer list, please contact Sylvia Rabalais, Administrative Secretary, or any of the clergy. Also note that prayer cards are available in the pew racks in the church.
- Sanctus Bell - On my very first Sunday, numerous members of St. James voiced concern over the use of the Sanctus bell and that has continued from a wide variety of members since. Two reasons were primarily given to me. First, the use of the bell is a relatively new addition to the service at St. James and as such is not a long-standing tradition. Second, the ringing of the bell is often inconsistent in use and volume. In addition, it is worth noting that the original purpose of Sanctus bells was rooted in a time when the mass was in Latin (at a time when most people did not speak Latin) and the Eucharist was typically celebrated behind a screen out of the view of the people. The bell’s purpose was to signal to the congregation that something important was happening because the congregation could not see nor understand the words being spoken. Due to the fact that at the heart of Anglican sacramental theology the Eucharist is to be in the language of the people and performed in the public view, Sanctus bells were not part of our Anglican/Episcopal liturgical practices until more recently.
I know there are some who love the bell, but after discussion with the vestry as well as the individual who donated the current bell, we are retiring the Sanctus bell from use during regular services for those reasons listed above. The bell happens to be in the style of a meditation gong and will therefore make a great addition to contemplative prayer when needed.
My hope is that in all that we do, St. James will continue to grow from glory into glory and strength into strength.
The Rev. Chris Duncan