Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Church of the Incarnation, Santa Rosa

The Sunday after Christmas Day is traditionally a morning of sparse attendance in churches, but when we entered the sanctuary at 9:10 a.m. for the 9:15 a.m. service and no one was there...Well, we thought something might be amiss. Another person entered the building and said to us, "Did you see the 9:15 time on the internet as well?" Fortunately, someone else came and told us that the 9:15 and 11:15 had been combined into a 10 a.m. service for that morning, but we were welcome to join others for coffee. We instead took the time to run home to change the laundry.

Back at ten, there were pews open to choose from, but the sanctuary was inhabited, mostly with older folks, but also a couple of families with kids. The priest began the service with greetings and informed us that it would be a special service of Lessons and Carols. "Usually," he said, "the Carols and Lessons don't include Communion, but we're patching it on. Or rather, I should say, we're patching Carols and Lessons on to Communion."

I should say something about the church architecture, which is gorgeous. A flyer included in a bag of welcoming materials (with mini Snickers - score!) gives information about the art in the church and the church building itself. The congregation began in 1861, but building was begun on the present location in 1872. Though Ripley's Believe It Or Not immortalized the Church of One Tree in Santa Rosa, Incarnation's original structure was built with two redwood trees. In 1885 the church was quartered, drawn apart and enlarged, and then survived the 1906 earthquake. The church building is the oldest church structure in continuous use in Santa Rosa. One of those uses is ministry and meals to the homeless, including breakfast every Sunday morning before the first worship service.

It goes without saying (but apparently not, because here I am saying it), that it was appropriate and cool that we were celebrating the Incarnation at the church so named.

I was familiar with the choice of Scriptures, since they were pretty much the ones used at the Christmas Eve services I attended at First Presbyterian growing up. Something I've noticed about the reading from Genesis is that people always seem to chuckle appreciatively when Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the Serpent for the Fall. Everyone relates to the rebellion that made the Incarnation necessary.

I was struck by how many of the Carols we sang were of the variety that set Jesus' birth in the setting of a snowy European village (such as "In the Bleak Midwinter" and "The Snow Lay on the Ground") but another Carol was quite obviously set in Canada. "Twas in the Moon of Wintertime" includes such lyrics as "Within a lodge of broken bark the tender babe was found, a ragged robe of rabbit skin enwrapped his beauty round" and "The Chiefs from far before him knelt with gifts of fox and beaver pelt". Fortunately, the theology of these Carols is far better than the seasonal and geographic details.

All the Carols were sung from the Hymnal accompanied by the organ. (Except "O Come All Ye Faithful." It was played on the organ during communion and people began to hum and then spontaneously sing.) I enjoyed most all the Carols, but a note for what it's worth, "Go Tell It on the Mountain" is not at its best accompanied only by organ sung primarily by Caucasians.

This was the second Sunday in a row without a sermon, which was okay by Mindy. I'll share her dark secret -- which readers of this blog should probably be aware of -- she doesn't like sermons. Her father preaches, and her husband preaches, and she claims to enjoy and profit from both of our sermons (it seems best for family comity to believe this and not dig too deeply into the matter). But she often gets restless during the sermons of others, even other pastors she loves. But Scripture reading and singing bring her unending delight.

I'm always torn when churches have "the Passing of the Peace". Only saying "Peace be with you" to those around you seems rather impersonal at times. But as church pilgrims, knowing we won't return the next week, impersonal sometimes suits us best.
Service Length:                       1 hour 5 minutes
Sermon Length:                      No sermon
Visitor Treatment:                   During announcements near the end of the service, the rector came into the body of the sanctuary, asked first-time visitors to raise hands and gave each a bag with candy and information about the church
Our Rough Count:                  60
Probable Ushers' Count:         70
Snacks:                                    Coffee, tea, cookies, pie, yogurt pretzels, crackers with hummus, whole loaves of bread (seemingly available to take home)
"Angels from the Realms of Glory"
"In the Bleak Midwinter"
"Comfort, Comfort Ye My People"
"Lo, How a Rose e'er Blooming"
"Twas in the Moon of Wintertime"
"The Snow Lay on the Ground"
"Of the Father's Love Begotten"
"Go Tell It on the Mountain"

-- Dean