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  • May 20, 2024 11:35 AM | Barbara MacDonald (Administrator)

    Dear Redeemer Faithful,

    About four years or so ago, I attended a diocesan support group for rectors who had hired recently ordained clergy. The group was led by a plucky, wise, and strong priest by the name of The Reverend Nancy Gossling. It was an almost immediate camaraderie, as we shared ministry philosophies, theological insights, and minority reports on many of the monolithic positions of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and the Episcopal Church. Nancy was instantly someone I both admired and enjoyed.

    When the opportunity arose to invite a part-time clergy person to serve at the Redeemer three years ago, Rev. Nancy was the first person on my list. She had a sterling reputation for preaching and pastoral care, and her capacity as our Vestry retreat leader told me that she would work well with our strong minded but soft-hearted leadership. She was no shrinking violet, but she demonstrated a warmth and likeability that would serve her well. To my great joy, Rev. Nancy agreed to serve at the Redeemer, but she made it very clear that it would only be for one year. At the end of the year there was a good chance she would move on to other ministry opportunities. And so it went for three years!

    Today, I write with the sad news that Rev. Nancy Gossling will be leaving our parish in August. Rev. Nancy’s last Sunday with us will be Sunday, August 4th as Sunday Associate. Between here and there, she will continue to serve as celebrant, preacher, Women’s Bible Study facilitator, and wonderful pastoral presence. However, she will be missed more than she will ever know. Nancy and her husband Paul have been a delight to this parish for these last three years, and I know they will be missed. We have been blessed by their presence, warmth and witness to Christ’s abiding love. Though Rev. Nancy is not moving into a new ministry directly, she has already begun discerning her next call into the wider Church. She assures me that she will not be a stranger, and that I should keep her on speed dial for supply clergy and guest preaching opportunities.

    It is truly bittersweet to say farewell to my beloved sister in Christ. She has been (and will continue to be) a wise and faithful witness to Christ’s work in the Church and the world. I have asked Rev. Nancy to return for a farewell service during the month of September when we return from the travels and tales of our restful summers. As is custom upon the departure of a clergyperson from a parish, I invite you to join me in gathering a purse for Rev. Nancy. A purse is a collection of monies from individuals within the parish which will be gathered and given to Rev. Nancy upon her departure on Sunday, August 4th. The gift is not a gift to the Church, but one the Church will gather on her behalf and thus it is not tax deductible. I invite you to generously thank The Reverend Nancy Gossling for all she has done to strengthen our parish in our life in Christ.



  • May 15, 2024 2:57 PM | Barbara MacDonald (Administrator)

    The tradition of hymns – songs of praise - has been an integral part of the liturgy of the church since at least the 4th century. Songs accompanied by stringed instruments, Psalms, were and continue to be part of the faith and practice of Judaism. As the early Christian worshipped they continued many of the familiar rituals. St Ambrose of Milan (340-397) was influential in furthering the use of Psalms and hymns in the worship service and wrote many hymns. Six of these are in our 1982 hymnal. St. Gregory (540-604), known as Gregory the Great and Pope from 590-604, further fostered the development of liturgical music. He wrote several hymns, three of which we have sung during this Lenten season. Both Ambrose and Gregory wrote the words, not the tunes.

    When our first service was held in 1885 we had music for worship. There was a committee to arrange for this – probably a harmonium and a song leader. By 1890 when our first church was built there were small hymnals, words only, six by four inches. The Archives has one copy. There was no organ until 1899. By 1892 we had hymnals with both words and music. The 1892 hymnal was revised in 1916 and again in1940 and 1982. The current hymnal has 590 hymns, eleven rounds and canons, and national hymns, 288 canticles and service music. One hundred twenty of the hymns have two or more tunes.

    There are a lot of hymns. In England hymns first appeared in the vernacular in the 9th century and were translated from the Latin. Towards the end of the Middle Ages carols were written and the influence of the Reformation added many more hymns. Hymn singing became more prominent in the 18th century so worshipers participated more actively in the church service.

  • April 12, 2024 9:54 AM | Barbara MacDonald (Administrator)

    As we immerse ourselves in the season of Eastertide, I find myself compelled to reflect on the profound mystery of resurrection. For over a decade, I've traversed the corridors of academia, delving into countless tomes in pursuit of understanding this divine truth. Yet, amidst the scholarly pursuit, it was in the quiet contemplation of my undergraduate years that I first encountered the enigmatic reality of resurrection encapsulated by N.T. Wright as "Life after life after death" – the awe-inspiring essence of Easter's dawn.

    In the hallowed halls of graduate study, I dedicated myself to unraveling the depths of this sacred doctrine, tracing its lineage from Judaic roots to the fertile soil of early Christian communities. Now, amidst the pursuit of my PhD, I ponder anew the transformative impact of resurrection on our perception of the human form – once seen as mere vessels, now sanctified conduits of divine grace, beckoning us towards true liberation.

    I share these musings not merely as an academic exercise, but as a testament to the profound resonance this mystery holds within my soul. It is not the historical event of Christ's resurrection alone that captivates me, but rather the boundless implications it unfurls with the dawn of Easter morning.

    No matter how many volumes I pursue or how deeply I contemplate, the true essence of resurrection remains ever elusive. It is a mystery that defies tidy explanations; it is a ceaseless fountain of revelation that defies our finite understanding. Like an eternal stream, it flows inexorably, forever evading the grasp of human comprehension.

    The resurrection of Jesus inaugurated a cosmic shift, birthing unforeseen possibilities in the womb of human consciousness. It heralded the convergence of matter and divinity, the genesis of a new world amidst the wreckage of human frailty. A promise of redemption, of bodies attuned to the sanctity of the soul, and the eventual dissolution of death's dominion – these are but glimpses of the cosmic symphony set into motion by the risen Christ, fully human and fully divine.

    Yet, amidst the theological profundity, it is the promise of redemption that resonates most deeply within my being. The resurrection infuses me with a boundless hope, a conviction that no narrative is beyond redemption, no transgression beyond the reach of divine grace. It is this conviction that sustains me through the darkest of nights, igniting within me the belief in the transformative power of resurrection.

    Thus, as we gaze upon the cross, we do not avert our eyes, for we are fortified by the knowledge that even the most harrowing of narratives hold within them the seeds of resurrection. It is this truth, not a distant theological abstraction, but a living, breathing embodiment of hope, that animates my waking hours and infuses each dawn with purpose.

    We have been bequeathed with a "new and strange hope," as the early apostles proclaimed on that Easter morning. And now, as inheritors of this sacred legacy, we are called to embody its implications in this season of Eastertide.

    May the beauty of resurrection permeate our lives, infusing each moment with the promise of renewal and redemption.

  • March 27, 2024 9:03 AM | Barbara MacDonald (Administrator)

    Dear Redeemer Faithful,

    As I write this Holy Week invitation, I am preparing myself for a rite particular to the ordained, known in ecclesiastical shorthand as "The Chrism Mass". In the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, the Tuesday of Holy Week is set aside as a special moment for priests and deacons to gather under the care of their bishops for the reaffirmation of ordination vows and the reception of holy oils (blessed by the bishops) for parish use throughout the year. These oils are for the anointing of the sick, the anointing of the baptized, and a variety of sacred, solemn, and intimate pastoral rites that arise over the course of a given year.

    This Holy Tuesday is very different from others. Our Diocesan Bishop, the Right Reverend Alan M. Gates, will celebrate his final Chrism Mass as our chief pastor. It is a bittersweet moment as those of us who love and care for him will no longer have the same relationship with him as we once had. Sure, we will see him from time to time at diocesan events, but his time among us in this particular role is drawing to a close. I will miss him, but we are not left without hope. As we prepare to welcome a new shepherd, we are reminded that the work of the Church transcends any one leader, grounded in the eternal presence and loving-guidance of God. Together, in that grace we will travel this time of transition with faith and hope.

    In the rite for the Ordination of a Priest in the Book of Common Prayer, a series of questions are put before the candidate. They include a commitment to respect the bishop, study the scriptures, offer the sacraments, pattern life in a holy fashion, pastor the faithful, and persevere in prayer. And at the end of these commitments, the bishop offers this prayer:

    "May the Lord who has given you the will to do these things give you the grace and power to perform them."

    It reminds me (every time I read them) that ministry, for both lay and ordained, comes from God. The grace that flows through ministry, and the power required to undertake and complete it, are sourced not through human hands but through Divine Love. God is at work directing and empowering the work of the Church, no matter who the bishop might be. The work of the Church is first the work of God, and without God, the work of the Church is both a misguided and misbegotten thing.

    This week in the life of the Church serves as the lodestone for everything we say and do in the life of the Church. I offer no hyperbole when I say that this week is the defining reality for anyone who considers themselves a Christian and, by extension, the Church that Christians create by their common life. In this Holy Week, we are given the reminder of the extent of God's love; born of a human mother by the Holy Spirit, lived, preached, healed, loved, crucified, and raised from the dead on the third day. Christianity is born this week in the commemoration of the Last Supper, the Garden tribulation, the arrest and suffering, the crucifixion, the silence, and the eternal joy of the Feast of the Resurrection.

    I invite you to take part in this great week of weeks. Join Jesus and his disciples as they travel to the Upper Room, to Pilate's chambers, and to the pain of Golgotha. This is an invitation to partake in the work of God, to immerse ourselves in the story that defines our faith and to witness firsthand the love that God has for each of us. And no matter how distant or ill-equipped we may feel to participate in this ministry we must remember that it is not we who guide and govern it. God is at work. God is moving in and through it. Divine Love empowers it, blesses it, and kneads it into the deepest recesses of our souls. And through our God-empowered prayer and devotion, grace will pour abundantly into our hungry souls. We need only say 'yes'.

    "May the Lord who has given you the will to do these things give you the grace and power to perform them."

    Faithfully and Fondly,


  • March 12, 2024 9:24 AM | Barbara MacDonald (Administrator)

    In the fall of 2021, Redeemer expanded its pre-Covid monthly Sunday Evensong to a weekly offering. Having just offered some insight about the origins and significance of Evensong in a recent Redeemer Forum, I thought I would share this presentation with the wider parish and hope that this may encourage you to experience the beauty of this liturgy. 

    The Origins of Evensong in the Anglican Church

    Evensong, also known as Evening Prayer, is a traditional Anglican Church service that has its origins in the monastic offices of Vespers and Compline. The Book of Common Prayer, first compiled by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in the 16th century during the English Reformation, played a significant role in shaping the structure of Evensong as it is known today.

    The monastic offices of Vespers and Compline were part of the daily cycle of prayer observed by medieval monastic communities. Vespers, the evening prayer service, typically included psalms, hymns, and prayers. Compline was a shorter service said just before bedtime and often included a hymn, a reading, and prayers for protection during the night.

    When Cranmer was compiling the Book of Common Prayer in the mid-16th century, he drew on these traditional monastic forms of worship and adapted them for use in the reformed English Church. The resulting service of Evensong became one of the distinctive features of Anglican worship. It combines elements of Vespers and Compline and is structured around the singing or chanting of psalms, the reading of scripture, and prayers.

    Evensong has since become a beloved and distinctive part of worldwide Anglican liturgy. It is often celebrated in cathedrals and large parish churches, featuring choral music, hymns, and a sense of reverence. The language used in Evensong often reflects the beautiful and poetic prose of the Book of Common Prayer, contributing to its distinctive and timeless quality.

    The structure of Evensong

    Evensong typically follows a structured format, and while there may be some variations, the basic elements remain consistent and include the following components:

    1.      Opening Sentences:

    The service usually begins with sentences or verses from the Bible that set the tone for worship and invite the congregation to focus their thoughts on God.

    2.       Preces and Responses:

    Short prayers and responses are recited by the officiant and the choir in a call-and-response format, with the officiant leading. 

    3.       Psalmody:

    Traditionally, the complete Psalter of 150 Psalms is said or sung at Matins (Morning Prayer) and Evensong every month. To achieve this, the Psalter is divided into 30 days for the month, and divided again with Psalms for Morning Prayer (MP) and Evening Prayer (EP). For example: Psalm 1-5 is sung on the first day of the month at MP, Psalm 6-8 at EP. On the second day of the month, one would say or sing Psalm 9-11 at MP and 12-14 at EP. If you are lucky enough to come to Evensong on day 15, you would traditionally hear the choir sing all 73 verses of Psalm 78. I’ve been tempted to propose this format to Mike, but it would probably make me unpopular with the choir and congregation. 

    4.       Old Testament Reading:

    After the Psalm, a passage from the Old Testament is read. The selection may vary, and it is often chosen thematically to complement the season or occasion.

    5.       Magnificat:

    Also known as the Song of Mary, the Magnificat is a canticle that comes from the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:46-55). At Evensong, it is often sung or chanted by the choir and reflects the Virgin Mary's response to the Annunciation.

    6.       New Testament Reading:

    A passage from the New Testament is read. Like the Old Testament reading, it is chosen thematically.

    7.       Nunc Dimittis:

    Also known as the Song of Simeon, the Nunc Dimittis is a canticle found in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2:29-32). It expresses Simeon's response to seeing the infant Jesus.

    8.       Creed:

    The Nicene Creed or the Apostles' Creed is recited, affirming the central beliefs of the Christian faith.

    9.       Responses and Collects:

    Additional prayers and responses follow, including the Lord's Prayer and various collects (short prayers) for the day, the Church, and other specific intentions.

    10.      The Anthem:

    A choral anthem is sung by the choir that often complements the theme of the service.

    11.       Intercessions and Prayers:

    Prayers are offered for the needs of the Church, the world, and individuals. 

    12.       The Blessing:

    The officiant imparts a blessing, and the congregation is dismissed.

    One may have noted that a Sermon, Homily or Reflection has not been mentioned as it is not strictly part of the Office. In English Cathedrals, where Evensong is sung daily, sermons are only offered during the weekends, as we do at Redeemer.

    The significance of Evensong today

    There are several reasons why the tradition of Evensong hold significance today:

    1. Liturgical Tradition:

    Evensong is deeply rooted in the liturgical tradition of the Anglican Church. Its structured format (as discussed), blending scripture, psalms, and prayers, reflects the historical and theological foundations of Anglicanism. Many people appreciate the continuity with centuries of Christian worship.

    2. Spiritual Reflection and Worship:

    Evensong provides an opportunity for spiritual reflection and worship, allowing participants to pause and engage in prayer, scriptural readings and music, as well as hymnody. It serves as a dedicated time for individuals to connect with the divine and nourish their spiritual lives.

    3. Scripture-Centered Worship:

    Evensong is known for its beautiful language. The inclusion of scripture readings from both the Old and New Testaments underscores the importance of engaging with the Bible. The scriptural focus contributes to a deeper understanding of Christian teachings and principles.

    4. Choral and Musical Excellence:

    One distinctive feature of Evensong is the emphasis on musical excellence. The use of choral anthems, hymns, traditional psalm chants and organ music adds a layer of richness and beauty to the worship experience, enhancing the sense of reverence and transcendence.

    5. Evening Reflection and Prayer:

    Being an evening service, Evensong offers a space for reflection on the events of the day and a time to bring concerns, gratitude, and hopes before God in prayer. It provides a structured way to conclude the day in a sacred and intentional manner.

    6. Accessible Worship:

    The relatively formal structure of Evensong, often guided by the Book of Common Prayer, makes it accessible to a wide range of worshippers. The familiarity of the liturgy and the use of traditional language create a sense of continuity and comfort for those attending.

    7. Community Gathering:

    Evensong often serves as a communal gathering, bringing together members of the faith community for a shared worship experience. It fosters a sense of unity and belonging among congregants.

    8. Cultural and Artistic Heritage:

    Evensong is often celebrated in cathedrals and churches with historical and architectural significance. The cultural and artistic heritage associated with these spaces adds to the overall experience, making it not only a spiritual event but also a cultural and aesthetic one.

    9. Interdenominational Appeal:

    While deeply rooted in Anglican tradition, Evensong's structured and contemplative nature can also appeal to individuals from other Christian denominations and even to non-Christians. It provides a space for shared worship that transcends denominational boundaries.

    So, Evensong remains significant today as a cherished aspect of Anglican worship, offering a blend of tradition, spiritual depth, and artistic expression. Its enduring appeal lies in its ability to provide a contemplative and communal space for people to encounter the divine and participate in a rich tapestry of worship.

    Four composers of significant contributions

    The composers Thomas Tallis, Henry Purcell, Charles Villiers Stanford, and Herbert Howells have made significant musical contributions to Evensong in the Anglican tradition. Each of them has a unique style and approach to sacred music, and their compositions are often featured in Evensong services. Here are brief details about their musical contributions with links to three contrasting Nunc dimittis’:

    Thomas Tallis (c. 1505-1585):
    Tallis is often regarded as one of the greatest English composers of sacred music from the Renaissance period. Although he was born a catholic and lived during the English Reformation, his compositions, including choral settings of the Psalms, liturgical works, and hymn tunes, have been featured in Evensong services for centuries. Tallis is particularly known for his Evening Service orShort Service, which consists of settings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis.

    Henry Purcell (1659-1695):
    Purcell was an influential Baroque composer who made significant contributions to sacred music and his compositions are often included in Evensong services such as his
    Evening Service in G Minor and various anthems.

    Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924):
    Stanford was an Irish composer and conductor who played a crucial role in the development of English choral music. His compositions are often characterized by rich harmonies and craftsmanship, making them suitable for Evensong. Stanford wrote several settings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis of which his service in B-flat is the most popular. His anthems, such as Beati quorum via and Justorum animae are also celebrated Anglican choral repertoire pieces. He is the Nunc Dimittis in G major

    Herbert Howells (1892-1983):

    Howells was a 20th-century English composer known for his own unique lush harmonies and expressive style. His compositions, including 20 settings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, (the most by any composer) have become integral to Evensong services. The Redeemer choir has sung 6 of the 20 in the last 15 months, and it is my intention to sing all 20 over the upcoming few years.

    His St. Paul's Service and the Gloucester Service are well-known Evening Service settings and many of his anthems are sung in the Anglican Church.

    These composers, spanning different historical periods, have left a lasting legacy in the Anglican choral tradition. Their works continue to be performed in Evensong services, contributing to the beauty, spirituality, and timelessness of this cherished liturgical tradition.

    I hope this brief overview has been informative and interesting, and that it may encourage you to experience Evensong at the Redeemer if you have not already done so.

    If you would like to learn more about Choral Evensong, I would encourage you to read Lighten our darkness - Discovering and celebrating Choral Evensong by Simon Reynolds, which was published in 2021 and is available on Amazon.

  • February 09, 2024 9:10 AM | Barbara MacDonald (Administrator)

    Dear Redeemer Family,

    As we approach the upcoming season of Lent, characterized by the symbolic color purple akin to Advent, it is a time for reflection and preparation. Our focus during this season is on preparing ourselves for the celebration of the resurrected life on Easter, a journey that involves following Jesus into the wilderness for 40 days and nights.

    Traditionally, the Church has observed Lent by fasting, taking on spiritual practices, or in other words creating space in our lives for emptiness. All these spiritual practices serve as a profound acknowledgment of our humanity, a resounding "amen" to our inherent emptiness, paving the way for God to fill it with His true life on Easter morning.

    Lent is an opportunity to embrace this nothingness rather than attempting to fill it with addictions, distractions, cheap comforts, or simplistic religious platitudes. We extend an invitation to you to enter into the emptiness that serves as the starting point for fullness and creativity, prompting reflection on the creation stories from Genesis.

    Within both Christian and Jewish traditions, creation itself arises from emptiness: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters" (Genesis 1:1-2).

    This Lent, we invite you to delve into the depths within yourself, bringing awareness to the nothingness that precedes the emergence of real life. Embrace the gift of your emptiness as we embark on a journey following Jesus into the wilderness before the dawn of resurrection morning.

    All spiritual practices during Lent serve as a transformative undoing and unbecoming, a process of emptying ourselves, letting go, and surrendering to the nothingness where God can be found. Silence, fasting, prayer, and giving become vehicles for surrendering to this nothingness that ultimately creates fullness, as opposed to grasping at our own self-sufficiency and covering up our innate poverty.

    Throughout Lent, let us commit to a journey of becoming more like God with God, rather than striving to become like Him apart from Him. This commitment begins on Ash Wednesday when we recognize our innate poverty, symbolized by ashes on our foreheads, acknowledging that we are but dust without God. We dedicate ourselves to refrain from filling our emptiness apart from God's true and lasting gift, bestowed on Resurrection morning.

    How will you and your family intentionally make space for empty space this Lent?


    Barrie Bliss

    Prayer of Dependence and Abandonment to God During Lent:

    "Lord, we know not what we ought to ask of Thee; Thou only know what we need; you love us better than we know how to love ourselves. O Father! give to Thy children that which we ourselves know not how to ask. We dare not ask for crosses or consolations or for the sweet bread or bitter tears; we simply present ourselves before Thee; we open our hearts to Thee. Behold our needs which we know not ourselves; see, and do according to Thy tender Mercy. We desire to adore all Thy purposes without knowing them; we are silent… we yield ourselves to Thee! We would have no other desire than to accomplish of Thy will! Teach us to pray; pray yourself in us.” - François Fénelon

  • November 13, 2023 9:41 AM | Barbara MacDonald (Administrator)

    The toolbox, a mere namesake in our household, represented something quintessentially Dad – an embodiment of good intentions without the handiness to match. His approach to fixing things leaned heavily on the expertise of neighbors, handymen, or virtually anyone else. Painting? Perhaps that was within his realm, to an extent. But actual repairs, constructions, or the artful employment of tools as our Homo sapiens ancestors intended? That was a different story altogether. Yet, there it was – a toolbox in the fullest sense of the word.

    From what lingers in my memory, the toolbox was a sturdy steel Craftsman construction, its heavy lid secured by two simple clasps. Inside, a liftable tray revealed a deeper compartment, a sort of childhood cavern where myriad objects found their home. It functioned, for all practical purposes, as a portable junk drawer. Filled with spare screws, odd pipe fittings – eleven little copper elbows, with the twelfth now a permanent fixture under the kitchen sink – along with an assortment of twist ties and fasteners. However, the toolbox's real surprise lay in its sparse inventory: just two tools and both hammers. A hefty carpenter’s framing hammer and a rubber mallet. The rubber mallet's purpose remained a mystery, but the framing hammer, oh, it had its moments – a quick fix here, whack there, or a forceful adjustment to the immovable this or that.

    This very toolbox, sparse as it was, likely sparked my own tool-fixation, a drive to be at least modestly handy. Sifting through Dad’s toolbox, recognizing its ineffectiveness, was a moment of awakening. Over the past thirty years, I’ve amassed an eclectic collection in my own toolbox – planes, rabbet and block, a spokeshave, cabinet scrapers, and not one, but three distinct hammers. My toolbox is a testament to preparedness, equipped for frequent troubles and even those unlikely to ever materialize.

    Reflecting on Dad’s humble toolbox has led me to introspect about my Christian faith. I possess a broader toolset than many a believer – Greek and Hebrew, an expansive knowledge of historical periods and geographies, an understanding of theological nuances and church protocols. My spiritual toolbox is brimming. Yet, in the light of Dad’s simple, almost barren toolbox, I can’t help but question: is more really better?

    In confronting life’s vast and varied challenges, from domestic upheavals to global crises, I often reach for my metaphorical toolbox. I ponder over the countless parish tempests in the proverbial teapots. Perhaps Dad’s philosophy, albeit with a different set of tools, holds a profound truth. What if, in the grand scheme of things, love is the only tool that truly matters? When one approach fails, perhaps all we need to do is reach back into that toolbox for another iteration of the same powerful, yet simple tool. Amidst all the complexities and strategies, the Christian toolbox might just need two tools, both fundamentally the same. When one seems inadequate, we simply try the other – a continuous cycle of reaching in, grasping, and beginning anew and always with love in hand.


  • September 11, 2023 11:12 AM | Barbara MacDonald (Administrator)

    As you pass the vintage photograph on your way to the choir room, you are walking in the footsteps of a legacy that spans generations. Beginning with a men and boys choir at the turn of the 20th century, the baton has been passed through an illustrious array of faithful contributors. There was Craig, a teacher from the Chestnut Hill School who infused pedagogical grace; Cindy Johnson, whose keyboard artistry lifted spirits; the choral enthusiasm of Mary Reynders; Michael Murray's reinvigoration of the choristers program in 2016; and most recently, the effervescent John Meyer Spressert, who has brought a blaze of youthful energy with his guitar. At Redeemer, music and youth have long been interwoven in a vibrant tapestry, each thread adding a unique hue to our community's spiritual fabric.

    In the Anglican tradition, music isn't merely an aesthetic pleasure; it's a form of spiritual language. I would argue that the Book of Common Prayer 1979 and the Hymnal 1982 are not simply books but the reverberating heartbeats of the Episcopal Church. These texts bestow words of solace, acknowledgment of our human frailty, and our hope-filled joy, while also framing our Christian journey with hymns and anthems that resonate through time.

    In my last letter, I announced the arrival of a Children’s Homily as part of our Sunday service—an endeavor that excites and, to be candid, terrifies me. But innovation doesn't stop there. We’re charting a refreshed course for music in Sunday School, thanks to Sarah Taylor (spouse of Nigel Potts). Every Sunday, towards the end of the Godly Play and Apostles classes, Sarah will shepherd our youngest from their Sunday School classes into the Children’s Chapel for a 15-minute musical journey. It will be fun, but it’s also intended to be a joyful exploration of our deeply rooted musical canon.

    Many of our senior members speak eloquently about the spiritual depth hymns add to their lives, having absorbed them in school chapels long ago. As many schools have unmoored themselves from their respective religious traditions to steer more secular courses, local parishes are the last places remaining for children to recite the prayers and sing the songs of our faith. If we don't acquaint our children with this sacred repertoire, are we not creating a chasm between the spiritual wisdom of our tradition and the souls of the next generation?

    My ambition is to sow seeds of our hymnal heritage into the fertile ground of our children’s spirituality. And, as I am wont to believe and say more often these last years, "Faithful experiments are indeed good for the soul!"

    In Christ,


  • August 29, 2023 1:30 PM | Barbara MacDonald (Administrator)

    For those like me, raised in an atmosphere of fervent Christianity, the word "Jesus" is not so much a name as it is an ever-present companion, shaping the contours of life in both obvious and nuanced ways. My boyhood home was a fortress of religious piety, the kind that would send tremors of alarm through the editorial halls of The New York Times or The Boston Globe. Mention it to Twitter's legions of secular warriors, and watch how quickly you are pigeonholed into dated archetypes of religious dogmatism.

    We were the epitome of Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting attendees: resolute in our creationist convictions, disdainful of premarital affairs, and fervently expressive about our personal conversions. The Jesus of my youth was a vigilant moral sentinel, inscribed into every facet of daily life, ensuring that we continually evaluated our ethical decisions lest we stray too far.

    However, it was not until my college years and my sojourn into Episcopalianism that I discovered a different theological landscape, one that swapped the restricting moral gauntlet for an expansive meadow of divine affection. I encountered, within the pages of the Hymnal 1982 and the Book of Common Prayer, a deity whose affinity for humanity was not predicated on moral rigor, but flourished in the expansiveness of unconditional love. The God I met was less a surveillance state and more a boundlessly benevolent parent, reveling in the joys and follies of His earthly children.

    This revelation comes at a fortuitous time as we approach the commencement of the Episcopal program year—a season of renewed devotion and community that, though time-consuming, offers something uniquely invaluable. My assertion is simple, yet profound: The Church is the lone institution in your life that seeks to reveal God's boundless love to you in a deeply personal way. Yes, the cacophony of life's responsibilities is loud, and the demands on our time are ever increasing. Yet here, in this sacred community, you will find the grounding for all other aspects of your life.

    More than that, the Church could be the sanctuary that encourages you to discard what is toxic to your soul. And there, you'll find a different Jesus, not one of moralistic scrutiny or antiquated scientific beliefs, but one with arms outstretched and eyes beaming with love. He invites you in only to propel you back into the world—a world that stands in desperate need of individuals who are renewed, reconciled, and steeped in the boundless grace of God.

    In this transformative journey from zeal to grace, I am reminded that the resonance of a name can evolve, reflecting the mutable landscape of our beliefs and experiences. Yet the name "Jesus" remains, not as an overseer of a moral fiefdom, but as a symbol of eternal, undiscriminating love.

  • May 16, 2023 8:55 AM | Barbara MacDonald (Administrator)

    Being able to read music and to learn to sing is a gift of a universal language and an art form that a person will have and enjoy for the rest of their life. Our parish church offers this gift to children today! The music program at the Redeemer may have been one of the important aspects of this parish to attract you or your family to becoming members. But why might music be considered strong here? One reason with certainty is because so many members of our adult choir (including myself) sang in a church choir as a child. Today, music and the arts are too often marginalized in the education system, in society, and we learn of more churches who are disbanding their choir - and Covid has not helped! It is therefore all the more reason to give children the opportunity to learn and love music. But learning music is more than just another language and art form. It also has many intellectual, personal and emotional benefits too. Last year I enjoyed reading some quotes by Vaughan Fleischfresser, an internationally respected music educator, consultant and speaker. He is Associate Consultant (Scottish Curriculum) for Music Education Solutions.

    Here is one quote that may resonate with you:

    Want young people to work together? Put them in a music ensemble.
    Want them to listen to each other? Put them in a music ensemble.
    Want them to learn the importance of personal responsibility? Put them in a music ensemble.
    Want them to connect? Put them in a music ensemble.

    Vaughan Fleischfresser goes on to say, (which can also apply equally to singing): Many people regret not learning an instrument. Many people regret giving up learning an instrument. Very few people regret learning an instrument. Learning an instrument changes you for the better, and it changes you for life. I have been fortunate to have given organ recitals in over 30 US states and in three other continents, and one common comment I receive when greeting audience members after is: I wish I had learnt an instrument when I was young or I wish I didn’t quit!

    I have often spoken to our choristers that singing in a choir is like a team sport. Just as every player in a sports team matters for the overall success of the team, so the same applies to choir - each voice matters for the mutual support and complete full sound of the team. However, since the return of our choristers from Covid, we are running on very low numbers and it is rather like playing a sport with only half a team. If you or somebody you know (they need not be member/s of the Redeemer) has a child/ren that may have some interest in singing, please have them contact me or let me know. The Redeemer choristers are a group of children ages approximately 8 through high school, who rehearse every Tuesday afternoon (4:30pm-5:30pm) and sing in church with the adult choir most months during the school year. The choir is affiliated with The Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) which hosts various annual summer schools around the country. I enjoyed being a music housemaster for the week-long RSCM course at Duke University Chapel in 2019 – a course which 8-year-old chorister, Nigel Potts my former choristers from Grace Church Cathedral in Charleston, SC loved returning to annually.

    It is my hope that in years to come, our choristers too may thrive in attending these wonderful courses. While music is not for every child, no experience is necessary for those that show an inclination for music. The Redeemer choristers receive (free) professional vocal tutelage and music theory from former Redeemer staff singer, Janet Ross and myself. They learn to read, sing and love music in a relaxed, safe and encouraging environment. We do not teach by rote. While the ‘work’ may be more demanding, their understanding, ability and appreciation of music will give them a greater reward.

    What we ask for in return is commitment, focus and the choristers’ best effort. As you know, we are blessed at the Redeemer with its beautiful setting in which to worship God through music. Please feel free to email me music@redeemerchestnuthill or set up a time to talk/meet, if you would like to know more about our chorister program.

    The one who sings, prays twice - attributed to St. Augustine

    Nigel Potts

    Organist & Director of Music

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379 Hammond Street
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
PHONE:  617-566-7679
FAX:  617-566-6678
OFFICE: 8:30-4:30 pm M-F | SUMMER:  9:00-3:00 pm M-Th

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