Preached by the Rev’d Nicholas Lang
St. Paul’s on the Green, Norwalk, CT
The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (transferred) – January 27, 2013
We’re continuing our celebration during this service of Evensong of our patron saint Paul, what Anglican’s call our “Patronal Feast.” As I noted in the sermon at this morning’s liturgies, Paul has given us much, much more than just our name. He has given us a legacy. Just as he went beyond his thinking and was transformed by the awesome light of God’s presence and revelation, so has this community opened its arms and hearts wide to everyone—no matter who they are or where they may be on their journey; no matter how much faith or how many doubts they may bring; even if they are bored Christians or curious pagans—and, perhaps, especially if they are either of those things. Worship remains the central piece of the life of this community and our commitment to make worship consistently excellent is supported by our strong music program. One of the ways we have invited people to experience worship other than on Sunday morning is through our regular offering of choral Evensong—something that has become a tradition here for more than ten years. It is a rich and much-loved part of our Anglican heritage and too few churches offer this liturgical treasure with any regularity and as more than a once or twice a year “concert.” We are an exception. We have celebrated solemn evensong at least once a month and here you will enjoy countless settings of the canticles, works by composers which are performed regularly across the Anglican Communion—from late Renaissance composers such as Thomas Tallis, William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons, to high Victorian geniuses such as Charles Villiers Stanford, Thomas Attwood Walmisley and to later masters of the form such as Herbert Murrill, Herbert Howells, Basil Harwood and even Gerre Hancock.. As we as a parish community face the stark reality of another year with a deficit budget and a diminishing cash reserve that will likely expire within two years, we struggle to keep our commitment to excellence in worship and, especially, to the time-honored and cherished tradition of things like Choral Evensong. Please excuse my departure from a completely scriptural based homily today as I ask your help in allowing us to continue celebrating Evensong at regular intervals. I do that by inviting your support in three ways: • If this tradition means something to you, if you truly value it and would miss it should we need to reduce how often we offer it, please let us know. Speak to me, our Director of Music— call, send an email or a note that we may share it with our broader leadership. (V at door today. BD). • Tell others about it. It is an opportunity for those who may be “church shy” or not feeling the need for morning worship to experience our ethos and sacred music program. Cost= ads. • Finally, would you consider supporting Evensong by underwriting one or more of our professional singers for an evensong service during 2013. It is really rather affordable and could make a difference in decisions we may be faced with. The event in the life of St. Paul we celebrate today—his conversion from persecutor and oppressor to preacher and evangelizer—is one of utter transformation. The reading from Acts we heard relates a piece of the story, the restoration of Paul’s sight after a period of blindness caused by the absolute brilliant glory of God he encountered on the road to Damascus. This is such an appropriate story for the parish community that bears Paul’s name for if we are about anything, we are about discovering the amazing grace of life transformation and offering the possibility in so many different ways to a wide and diverse group of people. And we are here—for those yet to come—as the witnesses to how that grace can change lives, has changed our lives and how much we want to offer that experience to so many others. Thank you for being here today to delight in the beauty of holiness. Thank you for indulging me in sharing our financial dilemma. Thank you for your support and affirmation of what we are all about here and all we do. Pray that we can continue to bring light into all the places in people’s lives where darkness abides and where hope is difficult to find, to grasp on to or even imagine. In the end, that is the legacy we’ve been given by our patron Paul.