TRINITY QUARTERLY Christmas 2018
Father Peter’s Christmas Message Christmas is a time for looking back, to our own Christmas memories and to the birth of Jesus. In a piece from last Christmas, Fidelma Cook, a journalist friend who writes a weekly column for the Scottish Herald, encapsulated the wonder and joy that we can feel at Christmas. Her mother was a young widow and money was short when Fidelma was a child. She describes how they went to Midnight Mass, wrapped in scarves and hats against the icy blasts in the packed church: ‘Even the faces of the stumbling drunks, who’d found their way to the back, shone with grace on that night.’ ‘Much later,’ she writes, ‘at far ends of the table, a tablescape lovingly created of a winter’s scene between us; we toasted each other before the bird was brought.’ She also recalls (like a scene from black and white films) how she was allowed, ‘after she was 10 years old, a small sherry and … unthinkable now … a cigarette’ to ape her mother’s sophistication. Memories may mix joy and some sadness. I remember my first Christmas as a curate. I had to a visit a family on Christmas Eve after a sudden death. Children played around the Christmas tree, while their mother mourned her own mother’s death. The contrast between the parents’ grief and the children’s desire to play remains vivid. We bring this mixture of joy and sorrow to the yearly remembrance of the birth of Jesus – God come into the world. The stories in the New Testament are also mixed. John, in the great Prologue to his Gospel, describes the cosmic significance of Christ. God the Son, the Word, was with God at the very beginning of everything. But when he was born into the world – when he became flesh – he was ignored and rejected by many. Matthew also indicates the universal significance of the birth of Jesus. Jesus isn’t just a local hero: wise men, learned people, come from afar to honour his birth. For Matthew, from the beginning Christ’s birth has a significance beyond the small world of his native Palestine. 1
Luke emphasises the simplicity of Jesus’ birth. The Son of God is born among farm animals. However, Luke is not simply recording events. He employs story to convey theological insights in a memorable form. Thus, we are meant to connect the scene of the shepherds and their flocks with the young David, from the same city of Bethlehem, tending his father’s flocks in the days before he became the Jews’ greatest king. Jesus’ world was one of short lives, violent oppression by the Romans, and ubiquitous disease and privation. Into this erupts a messenger from heaven, bringing a message not merely for the shepherds but ‘good news of great joy for all the people’. They would see a new born baby who was to be a ‘Saviour’, who would also be the Messiah, anointed king, whom they had been long expecting. But, like our memories of Christmas, there is a blend of joy and sadness. The Lord and Saviour hailed with joy by angels is born in squalid circumstances, in the part of the house reserved for animals. This sets the tone for the story of Jesus, who achieves his purpose on earth through humility and submission to God’s will, not through worldly pomp or power. The tension between the glory of Christ, the Son of God, and the lowliness of his life’s circumstances continues in the account of his life after his birth. Jesus grew up in a total backwater. ‘Can anything good come from Nazareth?’ asked one disciple, when he heard where the Messiah was from. Nazareth was a small place in a province on the fringes of the Roman Empire. Roman roads avoided it until the 2nd century. Not only was the setting of Jesus’ early life obscure, but he, his mother and father, the figures at the heart of the Christmas story, would have been of no account to their contemporaries. The Gospels tell us little about Jesus’ mother, Mary, other than to say that she was a parthenos, a young woman, a virgin, most likely illiterate. Not that the life of Jesus’ family was unusual. Life in Nazareth was difficult for everyone, not just women. Life expectancy
was about 30. Jesus died at the age at which many men would have died. We view the life of the Holy Family – the whole of the life described in the New Testament - through a highly sanitized lens. Worship and the desire to honour God and Jesus make us decorate our churches beautifully and have pretty trees and Nativities. At the left, we see Boucher’s painting of the Nativity created for none other than Madame de Pompadour. Jesus’ family were ordinary. Joseph is described in the Gospels as a tekton. Tektons didn’t own land. Theirs was a hard life of building doors and tables, but also digging ditches and building walls. Jesus and Joseph should be visualised not as carpenters but as handymen and labourers. Eighteen years of Jesus’ life would have been spent at this arduous labour — six times longer than his public ministry as a preacher and healer.
Our Western Christmas ideas and our Christmas cards are miles away from the reality of the Holy Family’s existence. The three of them would have looked more like the poor Syrian refugees on the news than the well-fed (and usually white) actors who play them in films or the well-coiffed models in so many paintings, including the Boucher. Jesus was born into a life of simplicity, obscurity and poverty. God could have entered the world in any place or family that God chose. God could have become human in a great ruling family in Judea. God could have entered humanity in a wealthy Galilean family, perhaps as the child of a well-travelled and well-read merchant or scholar. God could have even chosen to be born into the Roman imperial family. Instead, God chose to enter a family headed by a man with a menial job, married to a woman who, from outward appearances, was no different than the other poor women in their backwater town. So, it isn’t surprising that Jesus showed such compassion for the poor and marginalised and asked his disciples to care for the poor, the sick, the forgotten, and the stranger. Christians tend to see Jesus’ commands to care for the poor as divine, since Jesus was the Son of God but they were also derived from his human experience. Not only did Jesus command us to care for the poor, Jesus himself came from among the poor. Once we recognise this, we cannot say that we follow Christ, unless we also care for the poor. When God chose to join us, he joined us in Nazareth, to make sure that we wouldn’t forget the poor.
Reclaiming the Spirit of Christmas Joseph Voelker writes about how you can reclaim the spirit of Christmas by giving to charity. What special things do you do to celebrate Christmas? Perhaps you use an Advent Calendar of daily treats to countdown to Christmas Day? Do you celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas with extra sweets until Epiphany? There is a way to use an Advent Calendar or the Twelve Days of Christmas to help other people. The premise is simple: take a cardboard box (you might decorate for the season!); and, for each day of Advent or each day of Christmas, add an item of tinned food or non-perishable food. At the end of the season, you have a gift ready for charity. Canadian Julie Van Rosendaal first conceived of a reverse Advent Calendar in 2015 when she appealed for donations for her local foodbank. The idea quickly took off across Canada, Britain and the United States. In addition to helping charitable organizations, many find that creating a calendar at home is a great way to teach children and grandchildren about the importance of kindness, while also gently introducing them to social issues like poverty and homelessness. For Christians, collecting presents for those in need provides a way to connect with the true message of Christmas – the love of God for all of humanity. If you’d like to make a reverse calendar, you might consider doing a Twelve Days of Christmas calendar this year. Start on Christmas Day and add a gift each day until Epiphany (January 6). Holy Trinity already supports Le Fourneau économique with monthly food collections, so we have a charity ready to receive the items. 5
Le Fourneau économique, located near Place Garibaldi, feeds 150 warm meals each day to homeless and other people in economic distress. If you’d like to take part, there are some things to consider. First: don’t wrap the individual items as volunteers will then have to unwrap them prior to giving them out to people in crisis. Second: only put new items in the box, (nobody wants to receive a packet of half-eaten biscuits). Do not include alcohol or any foods that will spoil without refrigeration. Check tins to make sure they haven’t gone past their expiration date. What We Sing in Church We take great care in choosing hymns for worship, trying, where possible, to make a connection with the readings set for the day. However, it is very easy to sing them without necessarily seeing the connection or realising that their authors were often making extensive reference to biblical texts and the main concepts of Christian theology. Here, Cathy Dallman, the senior Reader in Fr Peter’s former parish in London, writes about the Advent hymn ‘Lo! he comes with clouds descending’. This Advent hymn has an interesting history. It is one of the few hymns which treats of the other Advent theme, that of the second coming of Christ, rather than the first coming. It was also written by two different authors. The original hymn was written in 1752 by John Cennick, an Anglican born of Quaker parents, who became the first Methodist lay preacher. It was later substantially altered by Charles Wesley (1707-88) to the form familiar to us. More of Charles Wesley’s hymns are sung today in English churches than those of any other hymn-writer. He was born at Epworth in Lincolnshire where his father, Samuel was rector. He was the eighteenth child in the family: his brother John, regarded as the 6
founder of Methodism was four years his senior. Charles was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church Oxford. He spent some time working with his brother in the British colony of Georgia but soon returned to England and spent the rest of his life as an itinerant preacher. The first line of the hymn Lo he comes with clouds descending relates to the prophecy in the book of Daniel, ‘I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him.’ (Daniel 7:13). It also refers to Jesus quoting from Daniel about his own Second Coming: ‘Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven” with power and great glory.’ (Matthew 24:30) ‘Once for favoured sinners slain’ refers to the theology of the Atonement which understands Christ’s death as a sacrifice which saves sinful humans. Verse 2 – ‘Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail’(Rev.1:7) - refers to Jesus’ betrayal and crucifixion and predicts that those who did betray and kill him will finally, with deep sorrow, see their mistake. In verse 3 the ‘dear tokens of his passion’ are the scars of crucifixion which we know his glorified body bears. We know this from Jesus’ appearance to Thomas after the resurrection when he invited Thomas to touch his wounds. He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe’ Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27). Verse 4 is a shout of praise and longing for our Lord to return to us. The ‘power and glory’ links back to the prophecy in Daniel and to the concluding part of the Lord’s Prayer which was not part of the prayer Jesus taught his disciples but added later by the church. The final prayer ‘Come Lord Jesus come’ is from the end of the Book of Revelation. The one who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!’ (Rev 22:20). 7
Like Martin Luther, Charles Wesley had a profound grasp of Scripture and used hymns as a memorable way to impart his knowledge and develop people’s religious life. A tribute to Melani Jill Pirdas writes about how, despite treatment, children with HIV sometimes slip through the net. Jill’s brother runs Arogya Agam, a charitable project in Tamil Nadu for children affected by HIV-AIDS. Jill visits Arogya Agam regularly. She is most grateful for all the support that Holy Trinity Church has given to her brother's project over the years. Decades have passed since the discovery of HIV and AIDS and yet there is still confusion as to what is HIV and what is AIDS. And it is confusing, especially the definition of AIDS. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is simple to understand. It's a virus that is passed on from an infected mother to her child. This virus leads to problems with a person’s immune system which is the body's system for fighting disease. To be tested HIV positive does not mean that you have AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). Many people live with HIV without ever developing AIDS. Untreated HIV, however, can lead to serious opportunistic infections - a specific group of diseases or numbers of specific types of cells found in the immune system will be diagnosed as AIDS. When HIV is detected through testing it is treated with antiretrovirals (ART) to keep the virus under control and enable people to live normal lives - so why did Melani die? Melani was a feisty ten-year-old when I first met her. Her mother was what we call an ‘AIDS Activist’. These activists are women who are HIV positive and who have been counselled and trained by Arogya Agam on how to live with the condition and how to help others to avoid contracting or passing on the infection. Melani followed in her mother's foot-steps. She would get up on stage at AIDS awareness days, take the microphone and speak out about her HIV status. 8
‘I don't want special treatment in school,’ she proclaimed. ‘If I'm naughty I want my teacher to scold me like any other child, I am not different because of HIV!’ Sadly, her secondary school concocted an excuse to expel her when they found that she was HIV positive. Arogya Agam found her a new school whilst continuing to treat her with antiretrovirals, counsel her family and give monthly allowances to help buy more nutritional food. But nothing ever got Melani down for long - she was bright and interested in dancing, cooking, painting and learning English. ‘There are so many things to love doing,’ she told me on my last visit. ‘The project was paying for me to have a course in typing, but I have had to stop.’ She started to cry. We all cried. I was shocked at her appearance. I had not seen her for a year. Sharada, the staff member who coordinates meetings to help children living with HIV, roused her from where she was lying on a mattress stuffed into a corner of the room. ‘Come, let's make you beautiful!’ she exclaimed. Together we dressed her, combed her hair, powdered her face, put on some jewellery and draped a shawl over her painfully thin shoulders. Sharada took Melani's mother quietly to one side. ‘You must not let things go, the neighbours will start asking questions, and anyway it is better for Malani to be dressed in the day-time for her own self esteem.’ When Melani had fallen very ill in spite of her treatment she was put onto 2nd line ART, but even this was not effective. When I left, Melani had started to draw a Kolam, the beautiful powdered chalk designs that are sprinkled at the entrance to 9
dwellings first thing in the morning. She looked up and smiled. It was the last time I saw her. She was seventeen. Azerbaijan, Land of Eternal Fires: a Visitorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Tale Will Alkass writes about the visit that he and his wife, Hannah, took to Azerbaijan last year. Azerbaijan, the birthplace of the ancient Zoroastrian religion, is today predominantly a Muslim country, though highly secular. When we visited the Transcaucuses in September 2017, we had several options to travel from Tbilisi to Baku. We could have flown or taken a train or bus but we chose to go by taxi, imagining it would give us a glimpse of the countryside. However, the seven-hour journey revealed a landscape that was mostly flat and barren with very few towns along the way. Azerbaijan was the most enigmatic of the three countries we visited. The journey to its capital, Baku, took us through miles of oil and gas fields, with pump jacks and natural gas fires blowing in the air. Azerbaijanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s history, including its religious history, was shaped by its strategic location along the silk route between Asia and Europe, with borders on the Caspian Sea to the east, Iran to the south and Russia to the north. During the sixth century, both Christianity and Zoroastrianism flourished alongside each other and many churches and Zorastrian fire temples were built but in the seventh century invading Arab armies brought Islam. In succeeding centuries, Azerbaijan came under the influence of various dynasties. In the eleventh century, the Seljuqs invaded, including Azerbaijan within an empire that included Iran and Iraq. Later, Azerbaijan was included in the empire of Tamerlane. Originally, the Sunni Muslims were in the majority but later Shia Islam became the dominant version of Islam in the country. Today, almost all Azerbaijanis are Muslim. In the nineteenth century, Azerbaijan became part of the Russian Empire; in the twentieth century, it was part of the Soviet Union. In 10
common with Armenia and Georgia and other Soviet bloc countries, Azerbaijan gained its independence in 1991. Azerbaijan has benefited greatly from its oil and gas wealth. An obvious sign of this are sites where gas flames up from the earth and burns continuously. These ancient fires gave Azerbaijan its name â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;The Land of Firesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; and the national symbol of Azerbaijan is a flame. Zorastrians built fire temples at these sites. One we visited consisted of a huge inner yard surrounded by walls and cells for monks. The Zoroastrians were driven out of Azerbaijan after the Islamic invasion of Persia after which they fled to India and more recently to Europe and America. However, attempts have been made lately to restore and protect their history and culture. When we finally reached the capital, Baku, we discovered a delightful city. Lying on the shore of the Caspian Sea, it has one of the most beautiful, clean and romantic corniches we have ever seen, with wide gardens, flower beds, lofty trees and a wide promenade. Another notable feature of Baku is the Old City, which is a maze of ancient buildings, some of which have been converted into smart hotels or other institutions. There were many little shops selling traditional local handcrafts, carpets, rugs, table covers, head gear, scarfs, copper ware, etc. The Old City, unsurprisingly, is surrounded by high and thick defensive walls. If you follow the walls you will eventually come to the Maiden Tower, a rather impressive but enigmatic structure whose history is still subject to speculation, although the most plausible is that it was built in the middle ages for defensive and observation purposes. 11
Outside of the city walls, Baku has expanded in all directions with an eclectic mix of buildings ranging from mediaeval Islamic architecture to Russian imperial, modern and post-modern styles. Although most of the population are Shi’ite Muslims, we saw little evidence of outward religious expression in behaviour or attire, with the general atmosphere being that of a modern European city with all the amenities and services that tourists expect. Venturing beyond Baku, we went to the Gobustan Reserve, about 65 km from Baku. It’s an open-air museum, exhibiting numerous Neolithic rock drawings going back 12,000 years and depicting sketches of ancient populations travelling on reed boats, men hunting antelopes and wild bulls, people dancing and pregnant women. There is a museum nearby housing and explaining many of these rare finds. We also went to see a vast flat area within sight of the Caspian Sea studded with mud volcanoes. Even though they are called ‘volcanoes’, they are little craters spewing thick a cold slurry of mud, which trickles down the side to form a little but growing hump ranging from a few centimetres to about two meters in height. Apparently, Azerbaijan has 300 of the planet’s estimated 700 mud volcanos. In 2001 one such volcano hit the headlines when it erupted into flames fifteen meters high. Although scientifically speaking, the mud is basically water that has forced its way upwards through a crack, mixed with gases (methane, CO2 and nitrogen) and some mineral deposits, many believe that it has some medicinal properties and is used as a ‘mud bath’. However, we did not see any evidence of this in Gobustan. 12
Meet the Church The Church is made up of people. In a new series, we look at the people who make up Holy Trinity. This month we start by meeting the Diocese in Europeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s diocesan bishop, the Rt Revd Robert Innes. Many of you will have met Bishop Robert when he and his wife, Helen, visited Holy Trinity. The Rt Revd Dr Robert Innes was consecrated as the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe in July 2014. He and his wife Helen live in Brussels. They have four children â&#x20AC;&#x201C; two are married and based in England, and two are students in Scotland. As well as looking after the easily the most extensive diocese by geographic area in the Church of England, Robert represents the Archbishop of Canterbury with the Institutions of the European Union. Before being made Bishop, Robert was Chancellor of the ProCathedral of Holy Trinity, Brussels. He previously worked in parish ministry and theological education in Durham, England, and was educated in Cambridge and Durham. He has published works on theological and psychological ideas of the self, St. Augustine, work and vocation and most recently on responding to the Professional Guidelines for the Conduct of the Clergy. His pre-ordination career was in engineering and business consultancy, working mostly for the firm that is now Accenture. When he is not working or travelling, Robert enjoys walking in the Brussels forests, playing tennis and family celebrations. Reverend George Digby Newbolt Richard Challoner writes about the Reverend George Digby Newbolt, a priest who served at Christ Church, Carabacel and occasionally at Holy Trinity Nice. His background typifies that of many of the clergy who served the Anglican churches in Nice. Apart from Holy Trinity and Christ Church Carabacel, there was St 13
Michael’s in the rue St Michel (now known as rue Sacha Guitry, behind Galeries Lafayette). There was also the Episcopal Church, Holy Spirit, two minutes away from Holy Trinity in Boulevard Victor Hugo.The number of English-speaking churches in Nice in the second half of the nineteenth century reflects the size of the English-speaking population and also their desire to have congenial worship. In the time that I have been working in Holy Trinity's archive I have come across some fascinating stories and intriguing individuals related to our church. I first encountered the Reverend George Digby Newbolt when I came across his name in the burial registers for the Caucade Cemetery. I subsequently discovered that he had been the Chaplain of Christ Church, Carabacel, located at the eastern end of Avenue Notre Dame. Built at about the same time as Holy Trinity, Christ Church was in an area that attracted both invalids and holidaying residents. Although it was less than two kilometres from Holy Trinity, the English-speaking Protestant population of Carabacel regarded it as too far to walk for worship. It was built as a ‘chapel of ease’, to save them the long walk. Today, a supermarket and apartment block occupy the site. My interest in George Digby Newbold was increased by a chance discovery of two, small leather-bound books which had belonged to him lying in the dust on the choir balcony at the back of the church. One is a Book of Common Prayer and the other a Book of Hymns. They both bear his name engraved on their back covers, along with that of All Saints, Souldrop, Bedfordshire, where he had served as Rector from 1856 to 1895. When I researched his life, I discovered George Digby Newbolt was born in 1829, the eldest son of the Rev. William Newbolt, Vicar of Somerton and Anne Frances Magens. His was a clerical family. His youngest brother, the Rev. W. C. E. Newbolt, was also ordained and had a distinguished career, becoming Canon and Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral and a leading member of the Oxford Movement. George Digby Newbolt went to Brasenose College, Oxford, and graduated in 1852. The following year he was ordained deacon and a 14
year later priest, by George Murray, Bishop of Rochester. The Duke of Bedford granted him the living of All Saints, Souldrop, with Knotting in 1856. The church’s origins go back to the late 13th century, its spire (the tallest in Bedfordshire) dating from c.1275. For almost two and a half centuries Souldrop was part of the Preceptory of Melchbourne, a house of the Knights Hospitaller which had been founded in the reign of Henry II (1154-1189) by Alice de Claremont. The Preceptory remained in Hospitaller hands until their dissolution in 1540. By the end of the eighteenth century the church had fallen into disrepair. Its roof had collapsed and the patron of the living, Francis Russell, 7th Duke of Bedford, who owned much of the land in the area, rebuilt it and it re-opened for worship on Trinity Sunday 1800. Scarcely fifty years later, Newbolt arrived to find both his Rectory and the church in a parlous state and needing to be rebuilt. He was compelled to borrow £500 for the purpose from the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty (a charity to augment the income of poorer livings; it was merged with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to form the Church Commissioners in 1947). Once again, the Duke of Bedford was called upon to help with the repair of the church. In a diary entry for the year 1860, Newbolt notes that the Duke 'kindly consented to rebuild the same, on the condition of the Rector being answerable for £500 to build a Chancel.' T The process of rebuilding began on 6th February 1860. We get a hint of Newbolt’s churchmanship from the fact that one of the many benefactors to All Saints was the Rev. John Keble, churchman, poet and one of the founders of what became known as the Oxford Movement or Tractarianism (from having begun with Keble’s Assize Sermon in Oxford in 1834 and for its members propensity to spread their ideas through the publication of tracts). The principal emphasis of the movement was sacramental and led – loosely speaking - to the revival of the catholic dimension of Anglicanism. We may surmise that this is where Newbolt’s theological sympathies lay. All Saints reopened on Tuesday 17th December 1861 and Newbolt continued his ministry there until he took a leave of absence at the 15
end of 1873. In a diary entry for that year he writes: 'Sunday before Advent, November 23rd did duty for the last time before leaving for the South of France.The Parish left in charge of the Rev. William St. Aubyn.' This gives the first, tantalising glimpse of his connection with this region. No reason is given for this, but the most likely explanation is ill health. Newbolt returned to Souldrop nineteen months later on the 12th August 1875. But this was not be his last trip to the Mediterranean. In 1893 he spent four months in San Remo and in 1895 he again went abroad for four months, this time with his wife, to an unspecified location. At the end of 1895, Newbolt resigned as Rector of Knotting-cumSouldrop, aged 66. The last entry in his diary reads: 'Sunday Nov. 24 (Sunday before Advent). Last services as Rector of nearly 40 years. Nov. 30. Sent in my resignation to the Bishop. May 9 1856 to Nov. 30 1895.' Shortly afterwards he came to Nice and eventually became Chaplain of Christ Church Carabacel, in which post he served for eight years. He also covered for the chaplain of Holy Trinity, the Revd James Frere Langford. Newbolt died of pneumonia at his home, No.11 Rue Macarani, on the 3rd January 1907 (just round the corner from the present Holy Trinity presbytery). The notice in the Pall Mall Gazette of 9th January 1907 paid tribute to Newbolt declaring that he ‘was very popular with both visitors and residents, and his death will be deeply regretted on all sides.' Falling in Love Devin Jacobsen was here for a placement from Harvard Divinity School in the summer of 2017. His wife, Hailey joined him for almost all the two months that Devin was here at Holy Trinity and St Hugh’s. Since then, Hailey has begun ordination training at Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS). Devin writes: Like falling in love, the first thing that struck me about Holy Trinity was the visual beauty of the sanctuary. An alluring snare for the eye (even amid all Nice’s enticing spectacles!), the modest neo-Gothic of 16
the building woos the pedestrian to come in from the hot sun with its promise of tracery, arches, turrets, and shade. Indeed, I remember one of the first assignments that Father Peter, as supervisor of my two-month long field education at Holy Trinity, gave me was to sit in a pew for a few long days and welcome visitors to the building, a task that also had the helpful purpose of acquainting me with the silence and sensations of my new home. I remember watching the colors of the stained glass pulse on the flagstones as clouds moved over the sun, and I remember hearing the sounds of footsteps shuffling at the far ends of the aisles, the echoes of a cough or sniffle. Unlike Boston, where Hailey and I had just come from, the inviting beauty of Holy Trinity during a sultry midafternoon, the nave’s continuous play of color and shadow, of silence and sound, made it quickly become for me the embodiment of sanctuary – a place of particular holiness, a structure specially designed and designated for communicating with the divine. This was love in the first flush! Yet if the first thing that struck me about Holy Trinity was its architectural wonders, what has stuck with me most strongly is its people. On that first Sunday service I remember marveling at the congregation’s good-natured curiosity. This, I remember thinking, surely had to be the result of life lived on the Mediterranean, or perhaps it was the genial glow of the post-Eucharist glass of rosé in the garden (a practice I still have never seen in any American church), and it was only after returning for several Sundays that I realized that everyone at Holy Trinity was that way – impossibly kind, curious, warm, incredibly generous. This was no geographic side effect, but the byproduct of so many wonderful people coming together to worship in an especially sacred place! Where I was first taken in by and admired the structure’s stained glass, modest Gothic, and silence now coincided with my admiration for Holy Trinity’s congregation. Everyone had an interesting story to tell – for example, a Scottish couple was renewing their vows after decades of marriage; another parishioner was helping refugees make their way into France and getting them food; another couple was facing the challenges of building a new house in the mountains – and 17
the grace with which they shared themselves has continued to inspire me, has continued to be for me the embodiment of so much of Jesus’ message of fellowship and keeping an open table. Now, a year and a half later, I can say that the most important lesson I learned during my field education at Holy Trinity is this process of sacred attraction – the process of falling in love with people and with the divine (are the two so mutually exclusive?): whether it is with a particular church or a particular person, falling in love, Holy Trinity showed me, is a holy mystery, with the deep work of beauty, vulnerability, and patience bringing us ever closer into relationship. Since leaving Holy Trinity in August 2017 to return to the United States and after graduating in May, I am now working in development at Virginia Theological Seminary, where Hailey is a first-year student pursuing ordination in the Episcopal church through the Diocese of Massachusetts and where we live with our newly adopted retired racing greyhound, Tallis. Hailey and I are eagerly looking forward to the possibility of returning home to Holy Trinity during the summer of 2019 and seeing faces that have continued to live in our memories and give us strength during this last year and a half apart. In the meantime, please let us know if you find yourself passing through northern Virginia or Washington, DC, as we would love to host you at the seminary – and toast the work of Holy Trinity with a biscuit and glass of rosé.