Table Rock Talk January 2015

The Newsletter of Lawrencefield Parish Church

Three Kings anticipated

Spotlight on Epiphany

January 6 marks the Feast of the Epiphany, commemorating the journey of the three wise men from the East, guided by a star, to Bethlehem to worship the infant Messiah. The story is told in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 2, verses 1-15. Epiphany falls at the conclusion of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

The wise men are also known as the magi, from Matthew’s original word magoi. Magoi can also be translated astrologer or sorcerer. Tradition holds that the wisdom and knowledge of these three led to their being regarded as kings in their own countries. Thus Matthew’s magoi have also become known as the Three Kings. The Festival of the Three Kings (Los Tres Reyes,) takes precedence over Christmas in many parts of the world as an occasion for gift-giving.

With this ambiguity, scholars have debated who exactly the wise men were. An interesting article in the December 20, 2014 issue of The Economist surveys the various theories. This article favors the opinion that, because the three were associated with a star, Matthew’s reference is probably to astrologers versed in the ancient tradition of Zoroastrianism, who may have come from Persia. The traditional names Melchior, Balthazar and Gaspar were a later accrual to the story, as was their identification as kings. If they are kings from the far corners of the earth, the homage they pay to the Christ Child supports the pronouncement that “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow.” Later traditions held that the three kings epitomized the three ages of man: youth, middle-age and old-age. The author of the Economist article makes them, when taken together, “Everyman.” The article goes on to suggest that the three wise men are a type that includes such trios as Wynken, Blynken and Nod; the Marx Brothers, and the Three Stooges!

From the ridiculous to the sublime: The word Epiphany literally means “appearance” or “coming.” The Feast of the Epiphany marks the appearance of the Messiah to the wise men. The Feast of the Epiphany on January 6 also begins and gives its name to the season stretching from January 6 to the beginning of Lent (this year, February 18.) During Epiphany Season, the Sunday Gospel lessons will relate other instances of Jesus appearing as the Messiah. This year the Epiphany lessons are taken mostly from the Gospel of Mark (one is from John) and tell of Jesus being manifest as the Messiah in various healings and in the calling of disciples. The reading for the final Sunday in Epiphany is, as always, the story of Jesus being manifest as the Messiah to the disciples Peter, James and John on the Mount of the Transfiguration.

Lawrencefield News Briefs

Update on Angel Tree

Lawrencefield sponsored fifteen children for Christmas this year through the House of the Carpenter. Tags bearing children’s names, gender, ages, sizes and interests were available from the tree in the Narthex, enabling volunteers to personalize their gifts. A large carload of Christmas cheer was conveyed to the House of the Carpenter on December 12 for distribution to families in need.

Lenten Study Series to begin February 25

Plans are already afoot for the annual Lenten Study Series sponsored by the Wheeling Cluster of Episcopal Churches. This year we welcome again The Rev. Dr. Bonnie Bowman Thurston as facilitator. Dr. Thurston, a former professor of New Testament studies, is a poet and spiritual director now living in Wheeling. The series will consist of five Wednesday evening sessions taking place at St. Matthew’s, downtown.  Each program will be hosted by one congregation and will begin with a light supper at 6:00 p.m.  The host congregation will be offering soup and beverage.  Participants may bring their own sandwich to supplement.  Supper will be from 6:00 - 6:30 and the program from 6:30 to 7:30.  Mark your calendars now!

The Rector's Study The Rev. Cynthia Byers Walter

Art in Advent... and always

As you probably know, I led a tour of the Carnegie Museum of Art last month. This event was sponsored by ConneXions, the education arm of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia. According to the promotional materials:

Art has the power to move the soul. Thus the experience of art can be profoundly spiritual experience regardless of the subject matter. This guided art tour includes paintings and sculpture from the permanent collection at the Carnegie Institute of Art in Pittsburgh, asking the question, “What constitutes religious art?’ As we enter Advent, the incarnational nature of art is of particular interest.

Participants will be encouraged to respond to the works from the standpoint of their own spirituality rather than from an analytical or historical point of view. No previous experience with art appreciation is required, but rather an interest in supporting one’s relationship with God through the experience of the visual arts.

As a one-time double-major in art history and religious studies, this subject is of particular abiding interest for me. I had actually sketched out this tour in partial fulfillment of my coursework for my Spirituality, Liturgy and the Arts class at seminary last summer.

Our excursion in December began with our assembling early one rainy Saturday morning in the church parking lot. We had three carloads of people, and our learning began during the ride eastward to Pittsburgh. I distributed a small collection of art prints to each carload, and asked participants to discuss them in regard to the following questions:

What do you see? How is presented? What details do you notice? How do you feel about this work of art? Is this a religious work of art? What does this work of art say about God?

These questions formed the basis of our discussion as we looked at works of art Medieval, Mannerist and Modern. Tour included works that were obviously religious in intent and others with apparently secular subject matter. Some of the works inspired additional questions like, Why would you pair a picture of Madonna and Child with a depiction of the crucifixion? Why does the Virgin Mary’s bed look so much like a funeral bier? Why is this Pietà set in contemporary Pittsburgh?

Reactions to the works were varied. Christ Healing the Blind Man by Gioachino Assereto (1640) impressed some with its energy and drama, while other felt it was crowded and aggressive. This was truly a case where questions had no wrong answer. Reaction to art is profoundly subjective.

The discussion was liveliest when we talked about which work we would want to take home with us. One popular choice was a huge painting called The King and the Shepherd by British artist Edward Burne-Jones ((1888) which depicts an imaginary scene of two men, one opulently dressed, one poorly dressed, being led by angels on separate but converging paths, presumably toward Bethlehem. Another was a statue of John the Baptist by French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1878) depicting the saint as a strong, confident man in a forceful, striding posture.

It is hoped that this exposure to art in the context of faith will encourage the use of art and imagination in devotions and meditation. The Incarnation of our Lord in material form proves that matter matters to God. To make use of the material in our worship and our spiritual life only makes sense!

Vestry Vibes

Summary of the December 21 Vestry Meeting:

Vestry Declarations

New Vestry members signed the declaration required by Episcopal Church Canon.

Officer Elections

Barb Hinkle was elected Senior Warden, Scott Duymich as Junior Warden, Michelle Beihl as Register and Tom Farnsworth as Treasurer for the 2015 Vestry.

Vestry Calls

Vestry member were asked to call, after Christmas, Lawrencefield members from whom we have not received giving cards. Vestry should check with Financial Secretary Mary Frohme before making calls to see if cards have been received from the members on their list.

By-laws Amendments

Drafts for amendments to the bylaws were presented providing for vestry election by acclamation and declaration of a vestry vacancy due to failure to attend meetings. An additional amendment was proposed to changed the determination of an Annual Meeting quorum from “Seventy members in good standing, present, or such lesser number as constitute ten percent of the members in good standing” to simply “Ten percent of the members in good standing.” These amendments will be voted on by the congregation at the Annual Meeting in November. In the meantime, a Bylaws Committee consisting of Vestry Officers will review the Bylaws for any other desirable changes.

Bed & Breakfast

The Vestry approved the request of Lawrencefield Bed & Breakfast to use our parking lot on May 23 and June 13 for overflow parking. The B&B usually makes a donation in exchange for this favor.

Altar Flowers

The Vestry has usually donated altar flowers for the first Sunday in November. The Vestry voted to donate flowers this year in memory of Adelaide Luchetti.

Stewardship

The Stewardship committee has sent out a follow-up letter to those who have not so far submitted 2015 giving cards. They will meet again in January to make additional plans.

Coffee Hour

The “Birthday Party for Jesus” was successful, and the kitchen has been newly stocked with linens and basic supplies.

Pancake Supper

Barb Hinkle and Nancy Paulovicks will continue the tradition of offering a Pancake Supper on Shrove Tuesday, February 17.