A Trinity Lenten Tradition by Connie Britt
How long does it take for a custom or a practice to become a tradition? Certainly sixty years should qualify; and for sixty years, with only a few exceptions, Trinity has marked Lent by bringing in speakers for noonday Lenten services. It began in 1956 as Senior Warden W. A. Hart noted in his report to the annual meeting, "The Lenten Noonday Services in co-operation with the other Episcopal Churches in the City (sic) was a new venture this past Lent. Each week we had visiting clergymen, and the services were well received by the people of the City." The pool of "visiting clergymen" who have spoken at Trinity as part of the Lenten speaker program has expanded through the years from other clergy in the area to nationally known speakers and writers representing a wide range of styles and viewpoints. As former rector and Trinity's first dean James Stirling said in addressing a controversial issue in 1969, "We may not like all that is said on one side or the other, but at least the lines of communication are open." Thus speakers as different theologically as Bishop Fitz Allison and Bishop John Shelby Spong are among the list of Trinity's Lenten Speakers. While these two are most immediately thought of for their differences, two things about them point to two patterns in the lists of speakers through the years - the large number of Bishops included in the list and the large number of speakers with a prior connection to Trinity, some having served here and others who grew up here and/or had strong family ties to Trinity. One of the Lenten speakers in 1962 was both a bishop and had a strong prior connection to Trinity, former Rector Gray Temple under whose leadership the Lenten Speaker program had begun and who, the year before, had left Trinity to become Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. A wonderful exception to the custom of "welcoming home" speakers with a prior connection to Trinity has been the case of Bob Riegel who came to Trinity as a Lenten Speaker then returned to serve as a member of Trinity's clergy and become a beloved part of the Trinity family.
1976 was a big year in the life of Trinity as preparations were made for Trinity to officially become the Cathedral parish for the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. (Formal permission for Trinity to become the Cathedral was granted in the Diocesan Convention meeting in Nov. 1976, and Trinity was declared a cathedral on Jan. 19, 1977.) One of the Lenten Speakers that year was the former Presiding Bishop, the Very Rev’d John E. Hines who preached during Holy Week. Since then it has become the custom for our bishop to speak during Holy Week. Attendance at the Lenten Speakers program has not always been steady. In the "Rector's Column" of the Tidings for February 15, 1964, Rev’d Stirling noted "Last year I stated in a column in the Tidings that the value of the noonday preaching series during Lent should be reviewed. Following this, several parishioners requested most earnestly that we continue the practice." Apparently the Daughters of the Holy Cross (DHC) responded by instituting the Lenten Lunches program. In the Annual Report for 1965, Rev’d Stirling noted, "the Lenten noon-day services were better attended because of the lunches served daily by the DHC." The continuing success of the Lenten Lunches program was confirmed in the 1979 Annual Report by the President of the DHC who noted, "It was agreed that the profits accrued from the Lenten Lunches would be divided between the kitchen rehabilitation and the scholarship fund." So, as preparations for Lent 2017 begin, Trinity looks forward to a continuation of the food and fellowship offered by the Lenten Lunches and the inspiring, thought-provoking words of our Lenten Speakers, a tradition that begins it's seventh decade. This year our speakers include Michael Sullivan, Fleming Rutledge, Lauren Winter and Bishop Waldo. More information on pages 12-13. 7
The magazine of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Columbia, SC.