The 225th General Assembly (GA) meeting of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) concludes this week on July 9. In more recent years, this meeting has been a week-long event, held every other year, in different states and at a large convention center. As was the case for many institutions in 2020, our GA had to abruptly switch to an online-only format which involved a few “technical difficulties.” Concerns lingered in 2021 in the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) over the pandemic status. When planning began for the 2022 GA, it was recommended that a hybrid meeting be held at our PCUSA national office, in Louisville, Kentucky. This necessitated some state-of-the-art technological upgrades, as so many companies experienced, given the immediate need to convert for a future which would include regular virtual activities!
This year, GA Commissioners and individual working committee Advisory Delegates were able to meet in-person, by assembling smaller groups over a span of two weeks. The attendees reported experiencing “a renewed spirit, more creative interaction and a feeling of passion in the room.” Now that their reports have been submitted, the final fourteen Plenary Sessions are taking place this week and all are being held on-line. By accessing the “pcusa.org” website and clicking on “Events,” “GA225,” “Docket,” anyone is able to attend. You can also scroll down to PC Biz, from the GA225 page, to review the Committee Reports under consideration by the GA.
As with any public organization there are the usual committee reports (i.e.: Finance, Operating, Health & Safety, Technology, etc.) that are filed. Religious institutions however can be somewhat unique in the addition of topical committee subjects. Our scope may also include committees addressing a diverse cross-section of issues affecting the human condition, especially in today’s world. Examples of some of the PC (USA) Committees providing reports in the Plenary Sessions this week include: Environmental Justice, Race & Gender, Immigration, Violence in the USA and the Mental Health Crisis, to name a few. Tuning into these sessions you will hear each committee’s findings, proposed initiatives to be undertaken with financial allocations suggested for each.
The theme for this year’s General Assembly is “from Lament … to Hope” and cites Hebrews 11:1,“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Through the works of PCUSA, our Mid-Councils, Presbyteries and Synods we gain assurance that there is hope, if we remain faithful in our convictions to create a better and equal world for all.
Bluff Point Methodist
Pastor Sandi continued to focus on Women in the Bible. We looked at Lois, the grandmother of Timothy. Timothy was a disciple in the making. Paul felt that Timothy was a product of his grandmother and mother’s faith. Pastor Sandi feels that true faith can be demonstrated, not inherited, and is individually claimed. She had us ponder whether where we are from- for some, it may not be a joy. She asked us who we have been inspired by? Who or what gets you to church? Is it a calling? Is it a moral obligation? Is it an impulse? Who is the spiritual calling in your family? These are all questions to ponder. For Timothy, his grandmother Lois was the grandmother of calling and duty.
Mark your calendars! Several upcoming August events are planned:
- Aug. 7: BPUMC picnic at Keuka college athletic grounds after church.
- Aug. 8-10: BPUMC Kids camp. Helpers needed.
- Aug. 13: Kids and family worship.
- Aug. 14: UMC combined Yates County worship service. (No church in our building on that day)
- Aug. 26: Ice cream social at church (remember how much fun the last one was?)
- Aug. 31: Back to school event for the kids- Yes, you will have to return to school in September.
- Other summer events may be planned and will be listed as they are announced.
We have plenty of prayer needs in our church at this time. Remember to keep those close that need special prayers, and if you can, also send a card out to those folks. Kindness is so appreciated.
Penn Yan First Baptist
The pulpit supply schedule for the month of July is as follows: July 3 - Rev. Dr. John Tharp; July 10 - Rev. Don Lawrence; July 17 - Brian Bleiler; July 24 - B. Dale Wakley; July 31 - B. Dale Wakley.
At our Penn Yan Community Summer Happenings we had a total of 39 children attending. Enjoying snacks, songs, skits, Bible stories and so much more. We are so very thankful for all of our volunteer leaders and helpers about 25 total!
The One Great Hour of Sharing offering was received in mid June and support is still coming in. So far we have exceeded our goal by $75. Thank you!
St. Mark's Episcopal
Bach, Handel, Purcell - One of the things most missed during the pandemic has been the singing of hymns that so enliven and enrich our church services. We have been more grateful than ever, therefore, for the fact that in centuries past instrumental church music, composed for, and played primarily on, organ and harpsichord, was the popular music of that day. Three of the long-ago composers whose musical legacies still beautify our worship are Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frederick Handel, and Henry Purcell.
Henry Purcell is notable among the three as being the only native of England. In fact, it was not until the 20th Century that any other English composers gained Purcell's level of fame. He came from a family of musicians well-known at the time and is said to have begun composing at age 9 though the first piece definitely attributed to him was an ode for the king's birthday in 1670. Through family connections he was apprenticed to the Westminster organ-builder John Hingston, who held the interesting post of Keeper of Wind Instruments to the King. It was around this time that Henry began composing music specifically for the Abbey worship services. In 1679 he was appointed Organist of Westminster Abbey and stopped composing secular music. Before that he was becoming well-known for his operatic and theatrical compositions. Many pieces that he composed in honor of royalty, such as an anthem and two elegies for Queen Mary II's funeral, were not considered secular music.
Purcell died at around age 35 at the height of his career, possibly from a combination of tuberculosis and pneumonia. His epitaph reads: “Here lyes Henry Purcell, Esq., who left this life and is gone to that Blessed Place where only His harmony can be exceeded.” In Victoria Street, Westminster, England, there is a bronze monument to Purcell sculpted by Glynn Williams and unveiled in 1995 to mark the 300th anniversary of his death.
Arguably the best known of the the trio is Johann Sebastian Bach. Born in 1685 in Eisenach, Germany, Bach is generally regarded as one of the greatest composers in the history of Western music. Another member of a musical family, he was the last child of a “city musician” and was orphaned at age ten. By that time he was already studying music and composing popular pieces for local churches and courts. He immediately stood out in a field of strong musical competition with his mastery of counterpoint, harmonics and adaptation of rhythms, forms and textures including those from Italy and France. It cannot be over-emphasized that Johann Sebastian's fame in a place and a time when excellence in music was commonplace is a legacy for which we must be profoundly grateful.
It is particularly interesting in our context that the Episcopal and Lutheran churches are today in close communion as Bach often adopted Lutheran hymns in four-part chorales and sacred songs. It may be difficult for those listening with the ears of the 21st century to imagine that Bach's compositions were the popular music of that time, but that is the case. We listen to them now, in the preludes and postludes of our worship services, as if they were something rare and magical, but then they were heard and loved by everyone. Imagine this, for instance: It was extremely difficult at that time for musicians such as Bach to publish their work because of the simple fact that the paper on which to reproduce the work was very expensive. In fact, part of the reason that Bach's compositions were so popular was because of his personal skill at performing on the harpsichord and other popular instruments. This gave a higher worth to the reproduction of his compositions on paper. Johann Sebastian Bach died in Leipzig on the 28th of July, 1750, at the age of 65.
Georg Friedrich Handel was born on the 23rd of February, 1685 in Germany. In his early years he had a successful career in Hamburg and Italy, where he had his training as a composer of operas, oratorios, concertos and anthems. In 1712 he moved to London and became a British subject. He is consistently recognized as one of the greatest composers of his age and, indeed, of all time. He was a highly sought-after performer and prolific composer who actually started three commercial opera companies to supply the English nobility with the “high baroque” style of Italian opera that they so desired.
In 1737 this level of work contributed to a breakdown in his health and a career switch to English choral works. He never composed an Italian opera again. However, his popularity only grew with this change and it was at this time that he composed his perhaps best known religious music: The Messiah. One of Handel's four coronation anthems, Zadok the Priest, has been performed at every British coronation since 1727 and since the 1960s, Handel's music has only grown in popularity both in Europe and the Americas.
Handel came from a middle-class working-environment family and it is said, perhaps with exaggeration, that his father was opposed to him having a musical education. In any case, sometime between the ages of seven and nine Handel accompanied his father to Weissenfels, where he came under the notice of his lifelong benefactor Duke Johann Adolf. Such talent and drive were hard to hide in that environment of hunger for what we now call “classical” music. It is not clear exactly how it came about but somehow Handel made his way to the court organ in the palace chapel of the Holy Trinity where he surprised everyone with his playing and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.
One of the things best known about Handel in modern times is actually of doubtful origin. At the London premiere of the Messiah King George II stood up during what we know as the Hallelujah Chorus. To this day people argue over the reasons given for that move and of course there is no one left to tell us for sure. Was the king so moved by the music that he stood up to show his reverence or was he merely restless? Since it was considered good etiquette to stand when the king stood, of course the audience followed suit and continues to do so, royalty being present or not.
Handel originally intended the Messiah, his most famous and widely shared music, to be performed during Lent, a solemn and penitential season of the church. But the majesty and joy of the work could not be contained in that quiet, reflective time so over the centuries public performances of the masterwork have become a beloved rite of Christmas and almost certainly will remain so.
In 1751 Handel underwent an eye operation to remove a cataract. Although any kind of surgery was in its infancy at that time, it is also written often that the surgeon was more famous as a medical charlatan and self-promoter. The operation, in any case, was a failure and eventually resulted in blindness and possibly to death from infection in 1797 at the age of 74.
Along with Johann Sebastian Bach and Henry Purcell, Handel is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church on July 28. Perhaps St. Mark’s congregation will be treated to some of their music on the Sunday before – or after - their feast day! Please join us at St. Mark’s at 9 a.m. any Sunday. There is always music, prayer, and inspiration.