Archives for February 2014

Lessons and Hymns for Sunday, March 2, 2014

by the Rev. William P. McLemore

SCRIPTURE REFLECTIONS:   The Old Testament reading is from Exodus 24:12-18.  Here, God asks Moses to ascend the mountain to receive the “tablets of stone” (the Ten Commandments).  Psalms 2 and 99 appointed for this Sunday both extol God as “king.”  The Epistle is from II Peter 1:16-21 which gives an account of Jesus’ hearing God’s voice “This is my Son,” at the Transfiguration.  Matthew 17:1-9 records the events of the Transfiguration.  The actual church date for celebrating the Feast of the Transfiguration is August 6th, but this Sunday lends itself to a sort of pre-celebration of this day.


PROCESSIONAL HYMN:   No. 135.  “Songs of Thankfulness.”   Christopher Wordsworth, Bishop of London and nephew of the poet, William Wordsworth, wrote this hymn for the sixth Sunday I after the Epiphany.  The fourth verse was written and added by Francis Bland Tucker an Episcopal priest who authored and translated many hymns and helped develop the 1940 hymnal.   The tune, “Salzburg,” was composed by Jakob  Hintze and later harmonized by Johann Sebastian Bach.

THE SEQUENCE HYMN:    No. 137.  “O Wondrous Type.”   This is one of many hymns written anonymously for use at Salisbury Cathedral at their celebration of the Feast of the Transfiguration.    The 1940 hymnal had this set aside for Transfiguration, but the editors of this hymnal have placed it in Epiphany for its emphasis upon the bright light associated with this biblical event.   The tune “Wareham” was composed by William Knapp and named for his birthplace, Wareham in Dorsetshire, England.

PRESENTATION HYMN:   No. 64 in Lift Every Voice and Sing II “I Love to Tell the Story.”  This hymn was written by Arabella Katherine Hankey (1834-1911), an English evangelist and missionary who authored a poem about story telling with 100 verses.  This hymn is taken from that poem.  The tune was composed by William G. Fischer (1835-1912).

COMMUNION HYMN:  No.  335. “I Am the Bread of Life.”  The words and music for this very popular new hymn are by Suzanne Toolan and based upon John 6.   Toolan, a Mercy Sister, is an internationally known composer of liturgical music.  This particular hymn has been translated into 20 languages.  She is a prominent American spokeswoman for the music and prayer of the Taize ecumenical community from France and leads many retreats.  The Taize Community is a monastic order founded by Roger Schutz in 1940, a Protestant pastor, but includes brothers from both Protestant and Catholic backgrounds.  The monastic center is located in Taize, Burgundy, France.

RECESSIONAL HYMN:  No.  414, “God My King, Thy Might Confessing.”   This hymn was written by by the prolific hymn-writing British Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Richard Mant.  It is a paraphrase of verses 1-12 of Psalm 145.  Episcopalians today can be happy that the editors of the hymnal have gradually pared the original 14 verses down to 6 (after all—we DO sing all verses of every hymn, eh?)   The tune, “Stuttgart,” originated with Christian Friedrick Witt and was harmonized in its present form by William Henry Havergal.  It is a very tradition English 87.87 meter hymn.

Thoughts from Lori+, February 26, 2014

Lent is almost upon us, and I would be remiss if I didn’t say something to encourage you (and me) to begin thinking about how to keep this sacred season.  Most of us associate Lent with fasting in one form or another, often by giving up something; meat, chocolate, alcohol, or some such.  And fasting can be a very provocative exercise.  The goal of fasting, of course, is to intensify our awareness of our dependence on God and of the needs of others, especially the poor.

To actually fast – that is, to go without food or drink for some period of time – is to become acutely aware of our mortality.  That’s not easy to do, not only because it’s really hard to go without food and experience hunger, but because we live in the midst of such incredible abundance.  We’re surrounded by food: fast food, grocery stores, restaurants, and refrigerators full of everything conceivable from produce out-of-season to snacks galore.

If you decide to fast, I suggest these guidelines:

  • First, keep it to yourself.  (The obvious exception to this is if you have a small group who are supporting and encouraging each other.)  An elderly Episcopal nun once said to me, “A fast told is a fast lost!”  So if you’re at a restaurant with friends and, when you place your order, say something like, “Oh, I’ve given up desserts for Lent,” then you just blew it.
  • Second, try to choose something that doesn’t include an ulterior motive, like giving up something so you’ll lose weight.  That’s not fasting; that’s a diet.
  • Third, if it’s something you can put a cost to, set aside that money and give it as a special offering to something worthy, such as Episcopal Relief and Development, the church, the local food pantry, or your favorite charity.

But there is more to Lent than fasting.  The invitation to a holy Lent in the Prayer Book includes not only fasting and self-denial, but also “self-examination and repentance, prayer… and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.”  Consider then adding a positive discipline to your life as part of your Lenten journey.  The possibilities are endless, from reading the Bible or other inspirational material to volunteering at the local humane society or food pantry.

As part of our parish observance of Lent, we will be talking about some of the major biblical stories during Coffee & Conversation on Sunday five mornings, from March 9th through April 13th.  (The following Sundays are Palm Sunday and Easter.) The focus will be on the Old Testament, including the Creation Stories, the Abrahamic Saga (for two Sundays), the Exodus, and Job.  As always, Coffee & Conversation is informal, and these discussions will be offered in that same spirit.

Remember that March 4th is Shrove Tuesday, representing the end of Mardi Gras.  We will celebrate with a very special taco bar, served between 6 and 7pm.  There is no charge, but an offering basket will be available for your contribution to the costs.  Then the 5th is Ash Wednesday.  The Imposition of Ashes and Holy Communion will be offered at noon and 7pm.  Sunday, March 9th is the First Sunday in Lent, and is also the beginning of our new Sunday morning schedule: one combined service at 10am.  (Note that it is also Time Change Sunday when we “spring ahead” and lose an hour.)  During Lent, our worship will be in the form of Rite One.

Next week: some thoughts about Confession, or what we in the Episcopal Church call Reconciliation of a Penitent (BCP, pages 447-452).



Sermon, February 23, 2014, The Rev. Lori M. Lowe

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.

Amen. [Read more…]

Sermon: February 16, 2014, The Rev. Lori M. Lowe

Epiphany VI (A)                                                            St. Paul’s

February 16, 2014                                                         McHenry


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.


A few years ago, WWJD became popular, especially among young people, in the Christian lexicon.  What Would Jesus Do?  It was emblazoned on everything from rubber bracelets to sterling silver charms and wooden plaques. 


It’s an interesting question, I suppose.  What would Jesus do?  But I confess: I was never terribly enthusiastic about this fad.  I mean, we don’t really know what Jesus would do.  Really, we don’t.


While we Episcopalians treasure scripture, most of us don’t read it as the literal, inerrant words of the transcendent, omnipotent God.  To be sure, we believe that scripture “contains all things necessary for salvation,” but not that everything in it is literal.


In other words, we read the Bible for hope and inspiration, but not so much as a book that could tell us what Jesus would do.


If we are in need of a slogan or a motto, we might turn back the clock to another set of initials: AMDG.  It stands for Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam – obviously Latin – meaning, To the Glory of God.


Johann Sebastian Bach felt so strongly that his musical compositions were meant to glorify God that he scrawled those initials at the top of every manuscript.  AMDG.  To the Glory of God.


Maybe it’s a good thing to have a slogan; something to remind us what we’re about, who we are.  Something to call us to a higher standard.  After all, Jesus spent a lot of his time and energy calling us to something better, something higher, holier.


You know the Law, he said, how it says “You shall not murder.”  Well, get this: I say it’s not enough to refrain from actually killing.  I say: Anger and judgment and liable do just as much to kill the human spirit.  DON’T DO IT!


You’ve got courts of law to settle your disputes… in which to sue each other and wreak havoc in each other’s lives just to prove that you’re right.  But I say: Work things out, forgive each other, be reconciled!


You know the Law, he said again, how it says “You shall not commit adultery.”  But I’m telling you: there are many, many ways of being unfaithful.


His litany goes on and on, shining the harsh light of reality on our legalism and hardness of heart… calling us to something better, something higher, holier.




In the past decade or so, St. Paul’s – like almost all churches – has experienced a decline in numbers.  Young people and children have all but disappeared, and we are a “graying” congregation.  It’s discouraging and disheartening for those of us who love the church.


Here’s what I want to say to you – and if you remember nothing else from this sermon, remember this: IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.  You are the faithful.  You have been and are preserving the prayers, the breaking of the bread, and the teaching of the apostles.


You are the faithful. 


This is happening in all mainline churches, and even the so-called mega-churches are now feeling the pinch.  The Roman Catholics seem to be holding their own, but that has a lot to do with the influx of Hispanic immigrants.


The reasons for the loss of numbers are many and complex.  There are shelves of books on the subject.  If you want to make a study of this, just Google “decline in Christian churches,” and be prepared to spend a lot of time reading.


In response, there has been something of a movement usually referred to as “the emergent (or emerging) church.”  I’ve found some of this material helpful and encouraging. 


Simply put, the main proponents of this movement tell us that every 500 years or so, almost like clockwork, the church – meaning Christianity in general – has undergone radical change, and that we are now in the middle of just such an historical metamorphosis. 


Whether one agrees with the whole of the material isn’t particularly important, it seems to me.  But what is clear is this: we are in a time of change; not just the church, but every aspect of life is undergoing radical change.


Yesterday, the THRIVE team from St. Paul’s spent the day with some of the other churches in this year’s Thrive program.  We’re learning lots of inspiring and interesting things.  But we don’t have any easy answers for you, and in fact, I rather doubt that our end result will have anything to do with easy answers.


But we are asking the hard questions: who are we – this little community we call St. Paul’s?  What is God calling us to do in this present time and place?  How are we even going to go about discerning that?


Where we are now, right now, is in the “meanwhile,” in the meantime.  As we live into this process of discerning how to be church in a new time, how to change while holding onto those things we hold most dear… WHAT DO WE DO IN THE MEANTIME?


Well, this is what I think: that in the meantime, we live into something better, something higher, something holier. 


·        You have heard it said, be polite to each other.  But what would Jesus say?  How about: Love each other!  Treat each other with genuine – even sacred – respect, as if it was me you’re talking to… or talking about.

·        You’ve heard it said, give your time, talent, and treasure to the church.  How about: everything you have and everything you are and ever will be is mine.  Give like it doesn’t belong to you.

·        You’ve read that the poor will always be with you.  But what about this: Don’t just pity the poor – identify with them!  Relate to them, sit with them, eat with them, share with them.  Remember that most of you could be one of them under different circumstances.

·        You remember that scripture says not to gossip.  But here’s the thing: everything you say about another person will come back to either haunt or bless you.  It’s up to you which one.  Pick wisely.


Well, I could go on with this for a while.  But I have confidence in you… in your imaginations, your capacity and willingness to ponder these things.  Together, we might even embrace and practice them.


Whatever and whoever God is calling us to be as the Body of Christ, may everything we do, everything we say, every breath we take…


                     Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.



Thoughts from Lori +, February 19, 2014

Your THRIVE team attended our second event last Saturday; a one day workshop with half of the parish teams meeting in Rockford from 8:30am to 1pm. It was a very early morning drive! Nevertheless, we came away with much to think about. The primary question of the day was: WHY? Why do we, the church, exist? And what are the many implications of even asking that question? All this is quite challenging, to say the least.

             [Read more…]

First Sunday of Lent



Sunday, March 9th

First Sunday in Lent



Lessons and Hymns for Sunday, February 23, 2014

by the Rev. William P. McLemore

SCRIPTURE REFLECTIONS:   In our Old Testament lessons (Leviticus 19:1-2,9-18) Moses lays out some moral implications from the Law of God.  Psalm 119:22-40 also emphasizes the Ten Commandments as the Godly path for life.  Paul’s letter to Corinth (I Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23) reminds the people that the foundation for the church is always Jesus Christ with God’s spirit dwelling in it.   In our Gospel reading, Matthew 5:38-48, Jesus teaches people to “go the extra mile” in their relationships with others.


PROCESSIONAL HYMN:   No. 381.  “Thy Strong Word.”   This hymn was written by Martin H. Franzman (1907-1976), a graduate of Northwestern College and later studied at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.   He served on the faculty of Northwestern College; Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri; and finally traveled to England where he served as a tutor at Westfield House, the theological college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England until his death in 1976.  The tune, “Ton-y-Botel,”  was composed by Thomas John Williams (1869-1944), organist and choirmaster of two parishes in Llanelly, a village in southeast Wales.  The melody is moving and stately and perhaps one of the most sung at the heavenly banquet—every Christian should be able to sing this with spirit and joy.

THE SEQUENCE HYMN:   No.  656.  “Blest are the Pure in Heart.”  John Keble wrote this hymn based on the Beatitudes in 1819.   William John Hall abbreviated it from 17 to 4 verses in 1834.  The tune ‘Franconia’ is taken from a setting by Johann B. Konig and lends itself to the words that call forth the mercy and blessing of God.

PRESENTATION HYMN:    No. 518.  “Christ Is Made The Sure Foundation.”   This hymn is ancient in Christian hymnody probably dating back to the 6th or 7th century A.D.  The image of a heavenly Jerusalem is a favorite medieval theme for hymns and this particular version has many lost and left out verses of the Latin original.   The current translation is by John Mason Neale (1818-1866).  The tune “Westminster Abbey,” was composed by Henry Purcell (1659-1695).

COMMUNION HYMN:  No.  602.  “Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us With Your Love.”  This is a folk song from Ghana which has been adapted for this Hymnal by Thomas Stevenson Colvin, a minister of the Church of Scotland  Colvin was a missionary in Africa for 26 years, including the nation of Ghana.  Throughout his ministry, he had  a deep interest in helping the African Church to fully utilize their own musical heritage in worship and to write hymns appropriate to and arising from the African context.  Dr. Colvin died at 75 in 2000.    One phrase in the chorus is very important as we receive Holy Communion, “Fill us with your love.”

RECESSIONAL HYMN:  No. 535.  “Ye Servants of God.”  Charles Wesley, the son of Samuel Wesley, was born at Epworth, Dec. 18, 1708. He was educated at Westminster School and afterwards at Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated M.A. In 1735, he took Orders and immediately proceeded with his brother John to Georgia, both being employed as missionaries of the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel of the Church of England. He returned to England in 1736. For many years he engaged with his brother in preaching the Gospel. He died March 29, 1788.  This great hymn calls forth our outreach, sharing Christ with others—a prominent aspect of the Epiphany season.  The spirited tune is from  a 1765 melody in a German Catholic hymnal.

Lessons and Hymns for Sunday, February 16, 2014

by the Rev. William P. McLemore

SCRIPTURE REFLECTIONS:   Both Deuteronomy 30:15-20 and Sirach 15:15-20 encourage obedience to the Ten Commandments.  I Corinthians 3:1-9 recounts Paul chastising the church at Corinth for “jealousy and quarreling” among themselves.  The Gospel reading (Matthew 5:21-37) has Jesus reminding people about the importance of reconciliation and shunning adultery.


PROCESSIONAL HYMN:   No.  594.  “God of Grace and God of Glory.”   Harry Emerson Fosdick wrote this hymn in 1930 for the dedication of the Riverside Church in New York City.  It was first sung at the opening service, October 5, 1930, and at the dedication on February 8, 1931.  The tune, ‘Cum Rhondda’ was composed by John Hughes.  The hymn is a great one to begin our worship by asking God to “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, serving thee whom we adore.”

THE SEQUENCE HYMN:    No. 404. “We Will Extol You, Ever Blessed Lord.”  This hymn is attributed to a J. Nichol Grieve and is based on Psalm 145.  I couldn’t find any information on this person and the hymnal lists no dates.  The tune is the “Old 124th” and was harmonized by Charles Winfred Douglas (1867-1944).

PRESENTATION HYMN:    No. 440. “Blessed Jesus at Thy Word.”   This hymn was written in German by Tobias Clausnitzer (1619-1684) and translated by Catherine Winkworth who was a very notable English song writer and translator.  She is also known for her passionate and ardent support of women in higher education.  The tune, Leibster Jesu” is a melody by Johann Rudolph Ahle (1625-1673) and later harmonized by George Herbert Palmer in the early 20th century.

COMMUNION HYMN:  No.  304. “I Come With Joy.”   This hymn is  a product of the Rev. Dr. Brian A. Wren, born in Britain on June 3, 1936 and a minister and scholar of the United Reformed Church.  Most recently he was the Conant Professor of Worship, Columbia Theological Seminary, in Decatur, Georgia.  He wrote this hymn in 1971 with Hope Publishing Company holding the copyright.  The tune is an American folk melody.

RECESSIONAL HYMN:  No. 347.  “Go Forth for God.”  This hymn, written by John Raphael Peacey, is new to this 1982 Hymnal.  The hymn is assigned to the Holy Eucharist section of the hymnal as it encourages us to go forth from the holy sacrament in peace, love, strength and joy.  The final verse comes from those who have tasted the love of the transfigured Savior: “Go forth for God; go to the world in joy; to serve God’s people every day and hour, and serving Christ, our every gift employ, rejoicing in the Holy Spirit’s power.”

2014 Annual Meeting Information

St. Paul’s Annual Meeting was held on January 26, 2014.

2014 Annual Report