Thursday, April 21, 2011

Were You There

Last night's venue at St. Gabriel's in Titusville certainly brought to the foreground the theme I spoke of in my blog posted yesterday Lent to Easter is a Reflection Backward and a Reflection Forward on one’s walk with Christ.
It continues amaze one how the small choir (~15 members) of our small church can move one into a realm of experiencing, identifying, immersing one's self in what it mean's to believe and have faith in ways that no other choir has - or at least has me and I have had the opportunity to attend a multitude of Choir concerts over the years.

The theme of the service was "Were You There?" and it delivered a message that I would like to share with readers of this blog. For those interested below this blog is an article I posted on former website years ago.

The Christ's passion in Scripture and song Cantata Were You There was compiled and published by Bonnie Vaughn in 1983.
Before the service 11 candles were lit in front of which stood and empty rugged handmade cross. All other lights were off or very dim except for what the choir and the readers needed. After each of the 11 readings and before the hymn a candle was extinguished till only the center candle remained then it was extinguished and then at the end relit. The readings were rendered as dialogues between three lectors.

The songs and readings identified the agony and despair Christ experienced as he awaited his betrayal and death. Not only speaking to very human emotions of Jesus as a man, it spoke to how the fear of leaders that they would loose control and their position of influence and how easily the mob was swayed by their manipulation and how even his followers and friends were weak in the flesh. Matthew 26:41 "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."

It began a reading from Mark 14:32-36 and then was followed by a rendition of Go to dark Gethsemane. According to website the hymn first published in 1820 by James Montomery and Thomas Cotterill and later adapted by Richard Redhead in 1853 and William Monk in 1861. It speaks to the theme "Go to dark Gethsemane, Ye that feel the tempter’s power" and how Jesus prayed in the garden alone that night while the apostles slept. 

Next came a reading Mark 14:37-40 and then choir sang Tis Midnight and on Olive's Row which has its beginnings in a poem written by William B. Tappin in 1822 and adapted to music by William B. Brabury in 1853 also to spoke to Christ praying alone "Tis midnight, and on Olive's brow. The star is dimmed that lately shone; 'Tis midnight in the garden now, The suff'ring Savior prays alone. 'Tis midnight".

The lector dialog continued with verses Mark 14:41-43; 48, 49, 53, 55, 56 and 61-64 and hymn A holy Jesus, How Hast Though Offended.  According to the website Johann Heerman's composition was inspired by poetry published in a fifteenth-century devotional book entitled Meditationes sanctorum patrum.
Next came readings Mark 15: ,2,6-9, 11-14 and the hymn Shall I Crucify Him? from a poem by Carrie E. Breck (1855-1934) set to music by Grant Colfax Tullar (1869-1950).  The hymn reminds one that it was for us Christ was crucified. More about this piece may be found at

Following this very poignant piece came the stirring plea there “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble”. and a reading from Mathew 27:24-26. This African-American gospel spiritual is thought to have first been sung in the southern Appalachians in the mid-19th century.

To be continued either in this blog or a future one. 
This was then expanded upon by verses Luke 23:32-34, and 34-43 and  While Standing at the Cross What did I see- What did I do? and The Green Hill Far Away
echoing Jesus’ willingness to die for us.  The second piece was a poem Cecil F. Alexander wrote in 1847 as she one night as she watched her ill daughter  and later in 1878 George C. Stebbins added the music.

I think all who have loss a close friend or family member can grasp the lyrics that followed John 19:25-37 I Think I Heard Him Say – Take my mother home that also had its starts as an African-American gospel spiritual. This song like the previous Were You There has clear straight forth to the point lyrics that once you here them you can not get them out of your head.  They just keep challenging you to feel the emotion of the people who witnessed the crucifixion and were closest friends and families.

Next following Mark 15:33-34 the choir sang Throned Upon the Awful Tree composed by John Ellerton, 1875. Once again we see the cross being depicted as a tree and grief of sin one encounters as we struggle against sin in this welsh melody
O Sacred Heart after the reading John 19:28,29 is a taken from a lengthy Medieval poem by Arnulf of Louvain.  There is also a shorter spiritual rendition of the hymn.
John 19:30, Luke 23:46 was followed by darkness in the church and sounds of the earthquake that occurred long ago as Jesus hung on the cross.  If one let their mind slip back by the music before you giving your imagination wings to fly one could feel the church stir with the rumblings.

The service concluded with Mark 15:39 and Jesus, Our Lord, Is Crucified

The Beginnings of St. Gabriel's Church

According to Goggle Maps it would take one ~1 hr and 45 minutes to walk the approx 5.3 miles from Mims to Titusville. How many people would be willing to walk that distance to attend church? Yet that is was what one young Mother and her son did in the late 1800s so that her son could be baptized at St. Gabriel's.

The first church in Brevard was established north of Sand Point, now Titusville, in La Grange in 1869 and attended by many of the Titusville populous. Then in Dec of 1871 Episcopal Bishop Young and Rev Holman docked at Salt Lake and traveled to the Titus House where they conducted mass for about fifty the following morning. During the service Titus's three sons and his daughter were baptized. Services continued to be held into the 1880s by traveling ministers at both the Titus House and the Wagner Hall.

In 1886 the Widow Mary Titus donated land for an Episcopal Church, school and cemetery. Money for the building fund came from many sources included Captain R P Paddington master of the Rockledge Steamer who solicited donations from his passengers.

L R Decker was employed to construct the new church. And in December 1887 St John Episcopal Church was incorporated during services at Wagner Hall. In 1888 St. John's Episcopal Church was finished featuring a gabled roof, pointed arched windows with beautiful Victorian stained glass, and tall slender steeple at southeast corner of Palm Avenue. The first service in the building was presided over by Bishop Weed in September of that year. The church's first rector Rev. B F Brown was assigned in 1890.

The first rectory was founded in April 1895 in a nearby home obtained from William Brown and James Pritchard. And the Parish House and first Sunday School were added in 1900.

By then church which had become widely attended and respected had changed its name to St. Gabriel's Church. And steamers often brought near capacity crowds to its special services and social functions held by its Guild from towns up and down the river.

(from the History of Brevard County by Jerrell Shofner published in 1995, Borders of Paradise edited by Dana Ste. Claire published in 1995, Florida's Past by Gene Burnett published in 1991, Hopes Dreams & Promises by Michael Schene published in 1976, The Episcopal Church In Titusville by Rev Jack B. Horton, published in 1987, and Brevard County, Florida by John Eriksen published in 1995 and the website History - City of Titusville, Florida) 

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