For many years, the Bishop’s visit to Grace St. Paul’s occurred in the Fall. Back in 2013 however, we changed that tradition. We did so because to get ready for the Bishop’s visit and the annual Reception of new members into our congregation, we were forced to do our preparation work in the Summer. Those preparations included our Inquirer’s class called Episcopal 101 for adults and confirmation class for our youth. Summer is obviously not the best time of the year to have either of those classes or to be preparing for anything. That is why we petitioned to move our annual visitations to the Spring. Though this is the most popular time of year to host the Bishop, we have been very fortunate over the last four years to schedule our visit on Easter 3 or 4, an ideal time for many reasons.
Well, this year our serendipity ran out. The Bishop’s schedule did not allow for him to be here on either of those Sundays. Instead, he will be visiting us on April 23, Easter Two, commonly referred to in the church as Low Sunday. The term Low Sunday comes from the fact that the week after Easter is a “low” liturgical service, meaning that all the smells and bells of Easter Sunday are long gone, replaced with a service with far fewer “outward and visible signs.” However, what Low Sunday has popularly come to mean in the church is the Sunday of low attendance, the day when many people choose to skip going to worship after the intensity of Holy Week and Easter. That is also historically accurate. Easter Two has the lowest attendance of any Sunday in the entire church year.
Feel free to now imagine an image of the Rector freaking out when he saw the Bishop’s schedule. Now that you have had your laugh for the day, let me share with you the plan. Unlike every other Easter Two, your choir will not be on their patios sipping mint juleps at 10 a.m. They will be singing their hearts out with some specially prepared music we are saving for the Sunday after Easter. Unlike other Easter Twos, when the Rector was lying in a prone position praying for his own resurrection after the intensity of Holy Week and Easter, I will be here with great exuberance and joy, celebrating Easter with the same “vigor” as the week before.
There are multiple reasons why I am prayerfully asking each and every one of you to do the same and be with us on April 23. First and foremost, we have another large group of new parishioners who will be officially Received and Confirmed into our parish that day. We need to be with them, surrounding them with our love and support on this very emotional day for them and for all of us. In addition, this is our youth Confirmation year, meaning that some of our coming of age youth will also have hands laid upon them by our Bishop. We need to be with them in this rite of passage in their lives. I have never made it through a Reception/ Confirmation sacramental Sunday at GSP without crying with joy for those of you who are making this critical step in your journey.
Second, the service will be anything but “low.” It will be a grand and glorious celebration, befitting the annual visitation of our Bishop. It will be one of the great celebratory events of the year.
Third, Bishop Smith always has a moving or theologically important presentation to share with us after the service.
Fourth, this is the only opportunity we will have to show the Bishop what it is like to be a part of this vibrant, beloved community of ours.
My intense hope, my prayer, my desperate plea therefore, to all of you is the phrase that my great Uncle Herb and Aunt Rita always said to us when we left their home in West, by God, Virginia on a day of celebration. “Y’all come back. Come back every day you can!” Specifically, come back the Sunday after Easter!
— By The Rev. Steve Keplinger