Thoughts on outreach through music and art

July 28, 2014
Canon Andrew Gerns

I have just come home from a week as a member of the adult choir at the Royal School of Church Music King's College Course. I know that Canon Mark Laubach has spoken eloquently on this list of the quality and depth of the program and the music that comes out of it. I've done enough CPE to have learned the skill of theological reflection growing out of the action of ministry, so on this first evening after my time at RSCM, this is my initial theological reflection.

This year I followed the example of the Rev. Amy Spanga of Trinity, Bethlehem, who took part last year, and used this as a time of continuing education and personal/professional development. So instead of being the organizer or the chaplain or anything like that, I was one of the adult choristers. A student. One member among many.

It has been a very long time since I've been a part of a choir, and certainly never one this large. Taking part in this week was a stretch because I was taking on music at a level I have never tackled before. (Very much like my previous forays into "A Brush with God" iconography workshops which took me to artistic places that were also a stretch....) So I knew that this was going to be taken to spiritual, intellectual and physical experiences that were new to me.

Of course, the music was glorious and many people worked very hard to have it come together. But after I came home, I began to reflect on my experience and was wondering how many people in our diocese really understand what a precious and unique resource the RSCMA King's College Course and the music that grows out of it really is?

For that matter, I wonder if any of us really thinks about the impact our musical and artistic traditions have on us, our parishes, and our communities?

RSCMA at King's College reaches across the church, and not just the Episcopal Church, but from several traditions. We were hosted by King's College, a Roman Catholic institution. As I looked around, it occurred to me that the Course is a practical, living example of ecumenism in action. While the worship is thoroughly Anglican, it concretely presents the genius and the gift of Anglicanism: our comprehensiveness, Another Anglican quality, a deep spirituality of beauty, is also communicated through the music and the liturgy as seen in the two choirs for Compline.

Easily half of the people in attendance this year were young people from 9 and 10 years old up through college. If we count adults under 30, the proportion is probably higher. This should give us hope for the Church because these young people choose to sing very challenging music at a very high level and willingly take on the discipline to do it well. Of course, there were all the things that kids like to do...funny, fun and goofy some ways it reminded me of the many church camps I have taken part in over my ministry...but the seriousness with which these young people approach this music and their faith is truly amazing.

For the past several years we at Trinity, Easton, have sent several young people from my parish to RSCM. We have, at the same time, worked hard to integrate young people into our music and worship life. Without question, this has had life-changing effects on these folks and I have witnessed incredible acts of grace--even conversion--through our music ministry. RSCM is a big part of that picture because when they go and come back they see that we are not alone in what we are doing, and they understand the connection between music, worship, and faithful living we are trying to convey but in a new, richer way.  

When a parish can offer music and arts education in a context and quality simply not found anywhere else, certainly not in most public schools, and when we make this available to people who might not otherwise have access to such an experience, then we doing a form of artistic and musical outreach that is every bit as important and life changing as any other form of outreach we do.

There is something also wonderful about the fact that in a diocese of small churches, programs like RSCM (and for that matter the music ministry at St. Stephen's) is in our midst and only short drive (or turn of the radio dial) away. I must say that I am always a little stunned when I hear suggestions that perhaps this kind of ministry is not worth the time, effort or money.

Similarly, I am dismayed when people (especially those who inhabit a liturgical tradition such as ours) write off music or art as an "extra." In my experience as a parish priest...almost all of it in small parishes in small towns or in small to medium sized cities...I have always found that intentional music (whatever the style) goes hand in hand with intentional worship, formation, and social ministry. It is a basic ingredient to a vital church no matter what the size.

Fellow church people who would not think of using a cost-benefit approach to evaluate a soup kitchen, food pantry or church school will still apply that approach to a music ministry. Which is too bad, because I have learned that parishes of any size can offer a quality music and arts ministry, especially when they respect their size, context and culture. Most parishes probably cannot offer a "cathedral level" of music--and many probably shouldn't--but when they do what they can do well, it will make their common life and worship of the parish richer and their spirituality more connected to lives of the people in their communities.

It is probably true that such programs, be they in a parish or through a national program like RSCMA, won't bring people into church in mega-church quantities. But by every measure that really counts-- lives changed, communities made better, the Gospel proclaimed and generations educated in the faith--our music and arts ministries are not adjunct to our mission but at the heart of our great commission call to go into the world to baptize and teach. Through our art and music, we begin to praise God with our whole heart, mind and spirit. At the same time, our art and music reminds the world in a concrete way that through Christ's incarnation, death and resurrection, God restores our humanity.

I am thankful to the folks at St. Stephen's Pro-Cathedral, King's College, and RSCMA in making this valuable resource available and am proud that it happens in the our diocese. What a week!



The Rev. Canon Andrew T. Gerns
Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, Easton, PA
President, Standing Committee, Diocese of Bethlehem
church: 610-252-7645
cell/text: 610-392-4112

"There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is." - Albert Einstein

Arts on the Mountain, Feb. 19

Trinity Episcopal Church
139 Trinity Hill Rd.
Mt. Pocono, PA 18344
Contact: Peter Salmon 570-629-0644
Church office: 570-839-9376

On Sunday, February 19, 2012, Arts On the Mountain at Trinity Episcopal Church, Mt. Pocono, PA, will present a music and art event beginning with a reception for the artists at  3 PM. The Flute Choir of the Poconos  will perform a concert of varied works, beginning at 4 PM, and author Robert McMahon will offer selected readings from his new book “Wandering Thoughts”. Copies of the book, now in its second printing, will also be available for purchase, signed by the author. The Art Gallery in the Parish Hall will feature Photography by Frank Fiore. A suggested donation of $10. ($5. students) helps support programming by Arts On the Mountain.

Continue reading "Arts on the Mountain, Feb. 19" »

Movie – "The Tree of Life"

Canon Bill Lewellis

I recommend this 138-minute film from director Terrence Malick (Jessica Chastain, Brad Pitt, Sean Penn), now available on DVD. It could be the centerpiece of a fruitful two-day retreat. Having viewed it twice (easy for a retired guy to say), I'd recommend a first viewing prior to consulting any reviews. Don't seek meaning, just let the film flow into you. If you have already read reviews, do what you can to prescind from them. Let the film – the imagery, the music and the narrative – simply flow into you. Then (1) bask in what you've seen, and (2) read a few reviews. There are many. Here are five: Spirituality and Practice, NYTimes, Roger Ebert, The Guardian, Wikipedia. On the second day, or some later day, view the film again. Enjoy again while seeking your own meaning, not what the director's meaning may be but what you seem to be taking from it. Make liberal use of the pause button for contemplation. Says Roger Ebert at the conclusion of his review, "It all happens in this blink of a lifetime, surrounded by the realms of unimaginable time and space." Warning: It requires concentrated viewing. If you are in any way distracted while watching The Tree of Life, if you watch it with anything else on your mind, you will neither enjoy the film nor solve your distractions.

Worship in the House of Peeps

Peep-thedral 2010-01

Bethlehem is not only the House of Bread, we are the Home of Peeps, so I thought this was worth a look.

Since April, 2007, the Washington Post has run a Peeps Diorama Contest which has, to use their words, "stunned the hearts and minds of our newsroom -- and our nation." They are now receiving entries for their fourth outing, and one of the entries is a rendering of life in the ""National Peep-thedral, or as we might say around here "worship in the House of Peeps." (Click on the pictures to get a better view.)

The diorama includes a procession, choir, details such as certain famous gargoyle, and even a peep-docent leading a peep-tour.

From the Facebook page "Washington National Peep-thedral":

"Easter at the National Peep-Thedral: A House of Prayer for All Peeps" was designed by Andrew Martin, architect and master mason; Christine McCann, master couturiere; and Julie Avetta, music director.

"The Cathedral was built using foam board, dowels, dollhouse/modeling supplies and photographs of the actual Washington National Cathedral. The pipes on the pipe organ are made of drinking straws. The Darth Vader gargoyle is made from the head of a Pez dispenser. The other gargoyles are made from pencil erasers. The Creation Rose Window and the Space Window, which can be seen in the actual National Cathedral, are suncatchers purchased from the cathedral's gift shop.

Peep-thedral 2010-03"All of the Peeps' costumes are handmade. The Choir of Men and Peeps from St. Alpeep's School wear robes made of raw silk and purple felt. The vestments of the peep-clergy are made of raw silk, red Thai silk, felt and upholstery remnants. The tourists wear what tourists always wear: Obama T-shirts, FBI visors, sunglasses, hats and fanny packs.

"The processional features Bishop John Peepson Chane, head verger Claude "Duke" DuPeep, the blind dean Colin Peepoway (from "The Lost Symbol"), a crucifer peep and two lay peeps."

 Peep-thedral 2010-02   Peep-thedral 2010-04

The rules for the contest may be found here. Here is the slide show of Peeps Show III (2009). Here is the link to the Facebook page.

--posted by Andrew Gerns


Lent @ ECVA: Recognition and Return

A visual Lenten exhibition and meditation by the Episcopal Church and the Visual Arts is available on line at the ECVA website and on the Art Blog on the Episcopal Cafe. A new visual work accompanied by a meditation written by the Rev. Ann Fontaine of the Diocese of Wyoming will be available every day.

You may download a PDF booklet of the exhibition or follow it daily on the Art Blog.

ECVA Exhibition
Recognition & Return

Christ bids us follow. Those who try to save their
lives will lose it, but those who lose their life…
who follow after me, will find it.

Having traced the shape of our mortality, fallibilities, and fumblings—of both our failed attempts at self-sufficiency and ego-mind habits which alienate and drain, we recognize the truth of Christ’s summons. And so we dare enter the journey, humbly putting on his story as our own as we did at our baptisms.

The words above, from our Curator, The Rev. Catherine Quehl-Engel (Chaplain of Cornell College & Assoc. Priest, Trinity Episcopal—Iowa City, Iowa), open ECVA's newest Exhibition: "Recognition & Return."

This exhibition launches on Ash Wednesday with spiritually and artistically mature offerings from ECVA artists. To enter the exhibition, click on the lead image seen above (The Humble Servant, by Roger M. Beattie). There is also a link to the exhibition on our homepage at Or you may simply click HERE.

A small PDF booklet of Lenten meditations (Lent @ ECVA) anchored by the exhibition art accompanies this exhibition. Click on the following graphic to access the booklet. (The booklet is in two parts; Part One is available now and Part Two will be available later during Lent.)


--posted by Andrew Gerns

To promote Allentown and benefit Grace Montessori School

A project –– traditional and fine art photos taken within Allentown by aspiring local artists –– sponsored by Dan’s Camera, Allentown Brew Works, The Morning Call, and Nikon Cameras will benefit Allentown and Grace Montessori School. GMS, an outreach ministry of Grace Church Allentown which provides scholarships to 30% of its student body, including inner-city children, was selected by a group of local businesses and Mike Woodland, co-owner of Dan’s Camera City in Allentown, to receive a substantial donation from a project designed to promote Allentown and a specific non-profit organization.

Throughout the summer and fall, Dan’s Camera City, described in the NYTimes as "one of he most innovative camera stores in the country," had offered three six-week photo journaling classes for which the primary subject was the City of Allentown. Approximately 45 students took photographs and met with their instructor to create photographic stories of Allentown while improving their camera skills.

Products featuring the photos of Allentown donated by the students have been created by Dan’s Camera City and will be offered for sale in the community. The products include a hard cover book, a 2010 calendar, note cards and framed photos. Depending on the specific product, GMS will receive 30 to 50 percent of the sales price. Dan's Camera City has produced and is providing these at cost.

The Morning Call and the Brew Works and Grace Church are providing publicity and hospitality for various aspects of the project. Nikon is donating five SLR cameras to GMS.

A password-protected website will be made available for GMS parents. The site will contain many candid shots of the students and the school of particular interest to parents. Those shots are not featured among the other products.

Biggest, Boldest, Best Block Party Around

posted by Kat Lehman

Check out the Block Party "A Celebration of Gifts" this Saturday, September 19th from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. on Market Street between New and Center Streets in Bethlehem. Trinity, Bethlehem has been actively planning this event in conjunction with other churches, social agencies, community groups and the city government for about 8 months.

There are over 30 groups performing including the Bethlehem Bagpipe Band, Trinity's own Singing Priests, musicians and singers from Holy Infancy, Moravian Academy band and choirs, the O'Grady-Quinlan Academy of Irish Dance, storytelling by Mayor Callahan and MANY, MANY MORE! There are also games and crafts for kids plus food and lots of fun. What an awesome way to spend Saturday!

Come celebrate!!

Church of the Mediator hosts "Art in the Park"

Church of the Mediator in Allentown is hosting "Art in the Park" on June 20th beginning at 9:00 A.M. Check out their Facebook page here for details.

Jo says, "This is a fantastic way to spend part of a Saturday and the art show and music are free! This park is so beautiful.  Plan to eat lunch at Mediator and check out our rummage sale. Allentown Band - 1:30pm, Repertory Dance Theatre at 3:30pm. ".

Event:  Art in the Park
       "West Park - Celebrating our 35th Art Show"
What: Exhibit
Host: Episcopal Church of the Mediator
Start Time: Saturday, June 20 at 9:00am
End Time: Saturday, June 20 at 5:00pm
Where: West Park: 15th & 16th Street between Linden and Turner

Fund will preserve windows at Prince of Peace Dallas

By Rebecca [email protected]
Staff Writer
The Dallas Post, March 22

The Chancel windows at Prince of Peace Episcopal Church in Dallas are in jeopardy of breaking and church members and the community are asked to help.

The three stained glass windows located behind the altar are in need of repair from expansion and contraction due to sunlight, heat and cold. Church members Dan Monk, Jennifer Martin, Dan Plashinski, Dave Dillon, Carl Goeringer and the Rev. John Major formed a committee and founded the “Restore the Glory” capital campaign, which is seeking approximately $10,000 to restore the windows.

The campaign began on March 1 and is scheduled to be completed by April 30 to avoid further damage to the windows.

Continue reading "Fund will preserve windows at Prince of Peace Dallas" »

Silly, furry, funky, soft caps for cancer patients

When Mother Laura Howell, rector of Trinity Bethlehem, took a call today (Wednesday, March 18) from a Denver hospital, she said she began hyperventilating. Her mother, who lives near Denver, has been dealing with cancer. "I couldn't imagine that getting a call from Cancer Services from her hospital could be anything but traumatic." she said. "On the contrary!"

Over the years, the people involved in the Crafting Your Prayers projects at Trinity Church, with others from around the Diocese of Bethlehem, "have made dozens and dozens of elegant or silly, furry, funky, soft caps for cancer patients who have lost their hair through chemo or radiation." The caps come with a little tag that says, "Made with prayers for your comfort and health."


Continue reading "Silly, furry, funky, soft caps for cancer patients" »

Art & Prayer Lenten Workshop/Retreat, March 7


Saturday, March 7, 9:00 to 3:00, in the newly renovated, open nave of Grace Allentown. Lynn Penney will lead participants in the weaving of crosses from copper and cloth and in meditations on the Cross. No art experience is needed. The cost for the day is $30 which includes art materials and a soup and salad lunch.

"In Art & Prayer workshops, our focus is not on making “good art” – rather it is on creating something that speaks to what is sacred in our lives. Participants often find that making art can be a profound process of healing, prayer, and wholeness." [Lynn Penney]

Anyone with questions or for whom cost is a problem may speak with Cathy Constantin Reid at 484-547-1589.

Download a brochure and registration form below.
Download Art&PrayerTrifold


St. Stephen’s Wilkes-Barre restores reredos

0812.RestoredReredos [From Father Daniel Gunn] Tucked away in a back room for years, St. Stephen’s Pro-Cathedral, Wilkes-Barre, recently decided to put this gem of a reredos on display. Father Daniel Gunn, rector, employed the services of a local studio known internationally for restoration of church art. The Italian Red Oak piece revealed cracks on the reverse, some up to a quarter of an inch wide.

There was also somewhat of a mystery surrounding the reredos: Who were the two figures on either side of Christ?  When the studio returned the piece the mystery was solved and the result of the restoration was stunning. The two figures were Stephen on Jesus’ right hand with a stone at his feet, and Paul on Jesus’ left hand. The craftsman believes that the three figures are over one hundred years old and probably originally part of a different piece.

The reredos was mounted on the wall behind the chapel altar. The next time you’re at St. Stephen’s take moment to meditate on the Christ present with Stephen at his stoning depicted in this beautifully restored piece.