Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Worship and World Communion Sunday - Origins of World Communion Sunday

Worship and World Communion Sunday
By John A. Dalles


It gleams like a polished jewel in the center of a compass, in the ivory-marble floor of the church’s Chancel.  It is a part of the history of Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, a brass tablet which quietly reminds all who pause to read it:

World Wide Communion Sunday
Was originated in
Shadyside Presbyterian Church
By Dr. Hugh Thomson Kerr
In 1933

               Each year on the first Sunday in October, faithful Christians in every land gather to unite at Christ’s table.  How fitting it is to note that we celebrate what began 64 years ago in “The Great Lantern” (the name the congregation has given t heir imposing Richardsonian Romanesque Sanctuary).  In the Depression days of 1933, with the storm clouds of Nazism and fascism hovering over Europe, it was a startling notion that sisters and brothers in Christ might transcend geographic, political, and theological barriers at the Lord’s Table.  Even today, the concept may seem like a distant, idealistic dream.  Yet the quest to eliminate walls separating Christ’s flock was not new to the people of what was and remains a benchmark Presbyterian congregation.  Their Senior Pastor, Dr. Kerr, was a pioneer in expanding tht Gospel in every sense of the word.

               Dr. Kerr’s illustrious Shadyside pastorate began in 1913 and lasted until 1945.  He was frequently the orator at academic and public functions.  When Lindbergh came to Pittsburgh, it was Dr. Kerr whose address welcomed him at a great banquet held by the city.  Any congregation with a radio or television ministry owes a debt of gratitude to Dr. Kerr, who rightly understood that the world’s first radio station, KDKA Pittsburgh, could be the vehicle to utilize the achievements of technology for the glory of God.  The church’s worship services were the first anywhere to be broadcast by radio.  The first radio message broadcast to the Arctic was from Shadyside on Christmas Sunday evening 1922, as was the first church service broadcast to Little America, on Easter Sunday morning, 1929.  Dr. Kerr wrote 20 books, including A God Centered Faith, The Christian Sacraments, and Preaching int eh Early Church, as well as material for A Year with the Bible, a daily Bible guide which circulated for 50 years.  Dr. Kerr was also the author of the noble hymn text “God of Our Life, Through All the Circling Years”, written for the Fiftieth Anniversary of Shadyside in 1916.

               What happened that first World Wide Communion Sunday?  What hymns were sung?  What scripture was heard?  The Rev. Dr. F. Moran Roberts, immediate past Senior Pastor of Shadyside, recalls that on three occasions he searched the vast church archives for an original bulletin that might answer these questions.  All three times, it managed to elude him.  “Yet.” Says, “Davitt S. Bell (the late Clerk of Session and church historian who in1930 accompanies Dr. Kerr in his travels as Moderator of the General Assembly) was a credible witness who said that Dr. Kerr conceived this notion during his moderatorial year.”  Dr. Kerr’s younger son, the Rev. Dr. Donald Craig Kerr, pastor emeritus of the Roland Park Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, MD, who was 16 in 1933, recalls that World Wide Communion Sunday grew out of the Division of Stewardship of the church, in an attempt to bring churches together in a service of unity where everyone would receive both inspiration and information and, above all, know how important the church was, and how each church was tied to the other.  When asked how the idea spread from that first service to the world acceptance of today, he said, “The concept spread very slowly at the start.  People did not give it a whole lot of thought.  It was perhaps during the Second World War that the spirit caught hold, because we were trying to hold the world together.  World Wide Communion symbolized the effort to hold things together in a spiritual sense.  It emphasized that we are one in the Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

               The compass design in the Chancel in which the commemorative plaque rests (crated during extensive renovations in 1937), is an unusual ecclesiastical symbol which speaks of the growing significance of World Communion in that ear.  The Hymnal of 1933 was new that first World Wide Communion Sunday, and offered worship planners a fine selection of hymns as: “In Christ There is No East or West,” “Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life,” “Jesus Shall Reign Where’re the Sun”, “Christ for the World We Sing,” “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains”, “From Ocean Unto Ocean”, as well as these words of Christian unity in John W. Chadwick’s hymn, penned in 1864, but as stirring today:
“Eternal Ruler of the ceaseless round
Of circling planets singing on their way,
Guide of the nations form the night profound
Into the glory of the perfect day:
Rule in our hearts, that we may ever be
Guided and strengthened and upheld by Thee.

We are of Thee the children of Thy love
Our brother is Thy well-beloved Son;
Descend, O Holy Spirit, like a dove
Into our hearts, that we may be as one;
As one with Thee, to whom we ever tend;
As one with Him, our Savior and our Friend.

We would be one in hatred of all wrong,
One in our love of all things sweet and fair,
One with the joy that breaketh into song,
One with the grief that trembles into prayer,
One in power that makes thy children free,
To follow truth and thus to follow Thee” (alt. JAD)

(The article, reprinted by permission, continues with mention of innovations regarding World Communion Sunday at the time of its writing, 1997)

Afterword: Today at Shadyside Presbyterian Church, on World Communion Sunday, the pastors wear pectoral discs that repeat the words of the brass tablet in the Chancel floor.   In 2018, Shadyside Presbyterian Church’s associate pastor John Magnuson again searched the church archives in hope of finding early records of the observation of World Wide Communion there.  He was rewarded with a bulletin from World Wide Communion Sunday on October 1 1939.  The sermon was titled "The Amazing Significance of a World Wide Communion Service."  Rev. Kerr's hymn “God of Our Life” was the opening hymn.

Please note, there had been a link that is now broken, to this article.  I am citing the link here, in the hope that people will find this post when they search for the article:

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

World Communion Sunday Origins - Written in 1997

The practice of celebrating World Communion Sunday on the first Sunday in October began as part of a stewardship emphasis in a local Presbyterian Congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during the Great Depression.

This article presents information I researched in 1997 about the origins of World Communion at Shadyside Presbyterian Church in 1933, as printed in the wonderful but no longer in publication journal called "Church Worship".

Simply click on each photo, and you will be able to read each page easily.

Please note, there had been a link that is now broken, to this article.  I am citing the link here, in the hope that people will find this post when they search for the article:

World Communion Sunday Sermon 2018
By the Rev. Dr. John A. Dalles
Pastor of Wekiva Presbyterian Church in Longwood, Florida

For this year’s World Communion Sunday “Peace and Global Witness” offering, Dr. John A. Dalles, pastor of Wekiva Presbyterian Church in Longwood, Florida, was asked by the PC(USA) Presbyterian Mission Agency to write a s sermon to go with the 2018 theme: “Peace at all Times”

This is also the sermon that Dr. Dalles will be preaching at his congregation on World Communion Sunday, October 7, 2018.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Remembering Aunt Bae - Grace Dalles Clarke

Today we received word of the death of my paternal aunt Grace Dalles Clarke, (September 5, 1924 - July 18, 2018), in New York City.  

Those of you who have been faithful readers of my blog down the years will remember that I wrote a profile of her, and her work, back in March of 2012.  She lived a long and full life, and made fantastic contributions to the world of publishing - both as an illustrator of children's books and as an executive at several notable publishing houses.  Along the way she was able to work with many creative and insightful people, including Sarah, Duchess of York (the Budgie books), and President Jimmy Carter (Habitat for Humanity's "The President Builds a House").

She grew up in Pittsburgh, graduated from Carnegie Tech, was a personal friend of another Pittsburgh native and Tech grad, Andy Warhol, long before he was famous, and she "made it" in Manhattan in her chosen field.  To her family she was always "Bae" or "Aunt Bae", a nickname from childhood days.  We loved her and relished hearing her recount stories about her work, and some of the amazing things that happened to her.  Usually we would end up rolling on the floor with uncontrollable laughter; she was such a great raconteur.

Her timeless children's book illustrations have that same ability to bring warmth and joy.  And here is a not so secret secret: many of her family members are depicted for all time in her illustrations.   If you have a moment, please...

Follow this link to read more: Grace Dalles Clarke
 Above: Photo of Grace Dalles Clarke as a young girl.  Below: Illustrations by Grace Dalles Clarke

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

New Hymnal Features My Hymn: "May God's Love Be Fixed above You"

Above: Me, in my office, holding the new "One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism" hymnal.  Below, my hymn "May God's Love Be Fixed above You" on page 218 of the hymnal.

This brand new hymnal, entitled "One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism" has just been published by the famous sacred music publisher, GIA.  GIA is the copyright holder of about 50 of my hymn texts, including the one that is featured in this new hymnal.  The hymn is called "May God's Love Be Fixed above You."  It is selection 218 in this new hymnal.  I received my author's copy in the mail yesterday and was glad to receive it.  The hymnal is quite handsome in design and it is an honor for my work to be part of it.  Here's hoping that the singing of my hymn will prove inspirational to congregations for many years to come.

You can buy this hymnal directly from GIA at this link: One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism

My hymn text "May God's Love Be Fixed above You" was written to be sung to the familiar hymn tune LAUDA ANIMA, with the meter 878787, in March of 1992.  It was written to be part of the first published anthology of my hymn texts,  “Come O Spirit” (published by EMI).  The words are based on the benediction that was used at our wedding, inspired by Psalm 91:1 and Psalm 121:5.  The hymn was first sung by a group at the Parish Resource Center in Mishawaka, IN, (no longer extant) gathered there to mark the introduction of my book in October of 1992. 

The hymn also has been published in the February 1993 issue of “Church Worship” magazine; in the Moravian Hymnal as selection #443 also set to LAUDA ANIMA; in The Covenant Hymnal as selection #669 to TANTUM ERGO.  In "Church Worship" again in 1998.  The hymn is published in the Presbyterian Church of Canada PCC hymnal, as selection #582. 

It was sung on 5/14/08 at the commencement ceremony of the Toronto School of Theology, on the campus of the University of Toronto, thanks to Professor John H. Derksen (Knox College); on 8/23/09 at the Knollbrook Covenant Church in Fargo, ND; on 5/13/07 at Augsburg Lutheran Church, in Winston Salem,  NC; on 6/22/08 at the Covenant Church in Springfield, VA; on 2/15/09 at St Giles Presbyterian Church, Ottawa CA; on 6/21/09 at Calvin Presbyterian Church, in Abbotsford, B.C.; on 6/24/09 at St Andrews Presbyterian Church in Guelph, Ontario; on 9/9/09 at St Luke the Evangelist Catholic Church, Stratford, NJ.

The hymn text was included in the Moravian Church’s annual devotional book, Daily Praise in 2010.  And in the anthology of my hymns called “Swift Currents and Still Waters” published by GIA, as selection #29. 

About One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism:

(From the GIA website): In creating the African American ecumenical hymnal, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism it was imperative to the core committee that the hymnal serve as a needed resource for the many denominations in the African American Church. It was the committee’s strong desire that this hymnal would represent and preserve the rich theological, cultural, and musical heritages of these traditions and offer a full breadth of music representing historical as well as vibrant contemporary worship, while looking toward the future. It was also of utmost importance that this hymnal draw the body of Christ together so that it may be enlarged, enriched, and inspired to live and worship based on what unites us: “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Weekend in Pittsburgh - Wedding at Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church

We had a great long weekend in Pittsburgh, where I officiated at the wedding of the daughter of dear friends, whom I have known all her life. The photo above is of Downtown Pittsburgh from the 16th Street Bridge.  The photo below is of the bride and groom at the conclusion of the wedding.  They met in high school and have been dating for 10 1/2 years; both are 26 years old.

The wedding was held at Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church, where I served as associate pastor for the ten years before I was called to Wekiva Presbyterian Church.  In the photo above you can see me, in the chancel, with the string quartet behind me.  Also on each side are the members of the women's choir who sang at the wedding.  Below is a photo of the Peace Candle “A Prayer for Peace” which was created in the 1980's by noted twentieth century sculptor Eleanor Shaw Milleville (1921-1991).

The Sanctuary is simply gorgeous (as you can see, above).  The proportions are said to be the same as King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem.  The Chancel Window is the church's "signature" architectural feature, with its mostly clear glass, with stained glass insets.  Several of Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church's bridal consultants have said that this is the longest asile in Pittsburgh.  They may be right.
Above is the portico to the 1953 Chapel - the first worship space of the congregation, now a multi use room.  Below is the entrance to the Atrium which leads into the Sanctuary, and you can see the steeple at the background.

It was a joy to be with dear friends, for the wedding and the festivities surrounding the wedding.  The bride and groom are high school sweethearts, and met by their lockers at Fox Chapel High School.  By the way the father of the bride was the head of the music department at the high school and the groom's mother is secretary to the principal.  The groom is also an identical twin (his brother served as the best man).  They could have switched places and fooled me.

The weather the whole weekend was marvelous.  Sunny.  Hot but not as hot as Florida.  On Saturday morning while Judy attended the bridesmaids' breakfast, I went for a walk and got some "calendar worthy" photos of Downtown Pittsburgh, which is my hometown.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Bear in the Wekiva Presbyterian Church Memorial Garden!

Yesterday, a Florida Black Bear came to visit our church. Bears are often spotted in our neighborhoods around the church but this is the first on-property sighting we have had in many years. The last time we saw a bear here, it was near the dumpster, which makes sense since Yogi and his friends like to find people food, wherever they can.

But yesterday’s visitor was in the Memorial and Mediation Garden. Not only IN the garden but all of the way into the garden, walking under the covered walkway, right outside the nursery and toddler rooms, heading toward the side sanctuary doors.

This appears to be a juvenile bear, not a cub and not full grown. People have wondered aloud why the bear might have visited us, and so closely, around 3:30 in the afternoon. Maybe it came to have a drink or even a dip in the fountain – it was so hot yesterday it felt like 101 degrees. Of course, to the question, "What is that bear doing at church?" the correct answer is, "Anything it wants to do."

It may or may not be a coincidence that our Old Testament lesson for my sermon this past Sunday included this verse: David said, “The LORD, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” (I Samuel 17:37)