Sunday, October 18, 2009

Missa Luba

Missa Luba [From Mark Laubach]
Dear friends,

Many of you have commented to me since diocesan convention with your enthusiastic reaction to the Missa Luba which
St. Stephen’s Choir sang at the Eucharist on Saturday morning. A number of you asked for more details,
so I thought I would post something here about what we sang, how we came to do it, and who were our wonderful guest
musicians (conductor, tenor soloist, percussionists) that morning.

What we sang was the Missa Luba (I believe Luba refers to the language of that part of Africa), which was arranged
and composed by Fr. Guido Haazen (d. 2004), a Franciscan Friar from Belgium, who arrived in the Congo in 1953 as a missionary.
The Missa was first performed and recorded in 1958, and uses traditional Congolese music. Bishop Paul has been eager to have
this sung at a diocesan liturgy for as many years as he’s been our bishop, and finally this seemed to be the right time
and opportunity to do it. I’m sure we’ll do it again in the future, and I hope to have more of my singers here for it
(too many of my choir members had unanticipated conflicts with this weekend, unfortunately) and fix the spots that didn’t
quite go 100% well! This music is not exceedingly demanding of the choir, though it goes better with more singers, and it’s
so very different from what a group like ours is accustomed to singing. So it was a bit of a stretch for us, both in terms of
numbers and stylistic awareness. But I think we felt as though it went quite well, and that the hours of preparation were all
very much worth the experience.

In Missa Luba, the greatest musical demands fall on the shoulders of the tenor soloist and the percussionists, all of whom
need to have some sensitivity to stylistic idiosyncrasies in performing traditional African music. We were supremely blessed
with a tremendous tenor and talented and knowledgeable percussionists. Our tenor soloist was Lazaro Calderon, a native
Puerto Rican who is now based in Manhattan and studies at Juilliard. (BTW, Lazaro will be making his Carnegie Hall debut
in a month, singing the lead role in Cavalleria Rusticana, I believe!) Lazaro came on the recommendation
of Andrew Krystopolski (a former organ and church music student of mine at Marywood University, class of 2005 – now
full-time organist & choirmaster at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Essex Fells NJ), who ended up conducting the mass
at my invitation. I thought Andrew would enjoy doing it and would “get” that style far better than I ever could, and I was
absolutely right. He was thrilled to be asked, and I was relieved to have one less job to do in a very busy weekend.
Lazaro was a joy to work with, as were the drummers, Monica Spishock, Robert Burns, and James Curtis. Although the choir
and I had been preparing the Missa Luba since late August, we put it all together with Andrew, Lazaro, and the drums after
Evensong on Friday night.

I am truly proud of the St. Stephen’s Choir members who worked so hard in putting together both Friday’s Evensong
and the Saturday morning Eucharist, all the while preparing the DuruflĂ© Requiem for November 1st here at St. Stephen’s (5 p.m.)
and again on November 8th (4 p.m.) at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and while preparing for the
Presiding Bishop’s visit for Evensong on November 11th! In this past week alone, our singers were here for 2½ hours on Thursday
evening, about 3½ hours Friday evening, about 2½ hours Saturday morning, and then again for about 2 hours on Sunday morning!
Their dedication and enthusiasm inspire me – they truly do model discipleship in action!

I would also like to thank all those from throughout the diocese who were here for the convention. Speaking for Fr. Daniel Gunn,
our wardens, vestry, staff, and parishioners, it’s a great privilege and honor for us to host convention and other diocesan events
here at St. Stephen’s. For me personally, it’s a particular joy to reconnect with so many “old” friends and make “new” friends,
and to accompany such enthusiastic congregational singing. (This means I can let the organ “wail” just a little louder
(perhaps a “guilty pleasure”?), and together we can create some uplifting moments in our corporate worship. As Bishop Paul often
says, “Church can and should be fun!”)

And finally, my deep thanks to Bishop Marshall, Archdeacon Stringfellow, and all the members of the Liturgy and Music
Commission who worked so hard on so many fronts to make the convention liturgies so well planned, smoothly executed, meaningful,
spirited, elegant, and reverent.

Peace –

Mark Laubach

Canon Mark Laubach, Organist & Choirmaster
St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
Pro-Cathedral of the Diocese of Bethlehem
35 South Franklin Street
Wilkes-Barre PA 18701
Telephone: (570)825-6653
Fax: (570)825-0430

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

If not a Democratic God, at least a Democratic Church

If not a Democratic God, at least a Democratic Church
Rector's Message
Written by Daniel C. Gunn
Wednesday, 07 October 2009
If not a Democratic God, at least a Democratic Church A few years ago I wrote an academic philosophy paper in which I argued that “God” is a democratic ideal. To attempt to summarize a twenty-plus page paper in a few lines would be futile, but in short I argued that the way we think about God is the triumph of a majority vote. Those who are in the minority with their views on God are the ones we label “heretics.” Orthodoxy, then, is whatever a majority of people believe. When I presented the paper to a scholastic theology society I was very nearly branded a heretic myself. I still think there’s merit to my idea. Recently while preparing to give a talk to a college class on the Episcopal Church I found myself making a similar argument. I told them emphatically that we are a democratic church even as we are also a hierarchical church. Certainly we have bishops, but our bishops are elected by the clergy and laity of the diocese. And yes we have a Primate, but that person is also elected. Even as rector, though the bishop appoints me, the Vestry first elected me. It is amazing to see how God can take the independent opinions of individuals and shape them into something to be used for good. This fall you have the opportunity to see our democratic church at work from every level and angle. Beginning with Diocesan Convention you can witness God at work through individuals. Even if you’re not a delegate you can volunteer to help make us a successful host. Then later in the month of October we will gather as a parish family for our Annual Meeting. At that meeting we will elect new Vestry members and delegates to the 2010 Diocesan Convention. You will also have the opportunity to hear about the state of your parish from the leadership and committee chairs. Finally, in November our Presiding Bishop, the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Ph. D., D. D. (I have been advised to just call her Bishop Katharine) will be with us for an Evensong, reception, and question and answer session. She will preach at the Evensong and following the reception she will make herself available to answer any questions you might have, time permitting. I think I’ll dig out that old paper of mine on the “Democratic God,” and give some thought again about how God works mysteriously through flawed, broken people. This fall will be a good time to think on this, even if it makes me a heretic.
Fr. Daniel

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Giants and Tempests

We all have giants in our lives, those situations and times in where all we can see is the size and the seemingly impossibility of the task at hand. Cleaning out a closet, quitting a habit, getting the kids dressed in the morning, readjusting the household budget, doing the taxes, finding your glasses.... from big to small these things can stop us in our tracks and leave us motionless.Tempests- when everything seems to be swirling around you and completely out of your control.A tempest day happened me not long ago. A day that started out normal and once it went out of control it went spiraling quickly, leaving me to move from one moment to the other and responding to each situation not leaving time to think or relax, until everything had resolved themselves and I sat down, sincerely thanking God for giving me the patience and strength to respond to each of the needs of those around me without losing my temper, or getting emotionally embattled.David faced a Goliath, literally. But not with sword and armor, but with stones and a slingshot and more importantly "in the name of the Lord" trusting in the God of Israel to deliver the giant into his hand. The disciples were in the middle of a tempest, their boat being swamped by the waves caused by the windstorm, waking Jesus to ask him, Don't you care that we are about to perish ?Rebuking the waves and calming the sea, he than turned to them and asked "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?"Faith and Trust, at once easy and difficult to do. Give me a computer, and a question - I can find the answer. Hand me a trowel and plants - I can get it planted.That GetterDone attitude is easier to do than to Trust and have Faith