Shofar, So Good! But Where Do We Go From Here?

Service Material for 13 September 2020
13 September 2020 A Proper 19 - Service Script - Word Document
13 September 2020 A Proper 19 - Service Script - .pdf
Below, the Janknegt picture referenced in the sermon.

Janknegt, The Unforgiving Servant



Happy New Year!

I have always appreciated the Jewish Calendar and the wisdom of celebrating the New Year in the fall (in our hemisphere, at least!). On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish News Day — which this year begins at sunset on Friday, 18 September — it is the sound of the shofar, the ram’s horn, that symbolically calls the community together to begin anew. For me, the dramatic change in the seasonal colors from green to the browns, golds, and reds of Fall signals that our lives are moving on.

I do not know how it happened, but the fact is that most of the Western world considers September to be start-up time for schools, program activities, concert series, and America’s favorite sport. So for all the years I have ministered in a congregation, this would be the moment to announce our theme for Christian Education, to recruit new volunteers to help with all aspects of worship and service to our community, and to create the calendar for fellowship events from Sunday Breakfasts to our Anglo-Irish supper.

This year is different. I’ve got precious little to announce, and lots and lots of questions about how we proceed from here — not all of which have answers yet.

It is a good idea to take stock of where we are before we try to figure out where we are going.


Please keep in mind that the ultimate authority for how worship is conducted at Emmanuel Church is the Bishop of Maryland — not the Rector, not the Vestry, and certainly not the Governor of Maryland or any National or Local Civil Office holder. The policies and procedures that were outlined last Spring have turned out to be sound. You can  look back through the previous posts on this website to be reminded of what those policies are and how we have implemented them. Chances are, we will be slower than many institutions to return to “life as normal,”  — if indeed that will ever be possible.

We will continue to broadcast our Sunday services on our YouTube channel (see above) even as we make every effort to be as welcoming as possible to people worshiping with us in the sanctuary. We will continue to try to improve both the quality and the reliability of the webcasts, and we are looking for ways to fund better and less obtrusive equipment. We will continue to depend on volunteers, especially Altar Guild members and Ushers in order to make Sundays work, but we also need to develop a cadre of folks to manage the cameras, and eventually a video mixer.

We will continue to offer Compline on a daily basis, including the regular inclusion of guest hosts. We would like to expand the number of people who are willing and able to lead Compline, and explore the possibility of prerecording some of the services to be broadcast at the usual daily 8:45 PM time.

“We Are Wonderfully Made”

Christian Education

I can’t express enough my appreciation for the hours of hard work that went into preparing for our Virtual Vacation Bible School this summer. Thank you to Heather and Heather!

Churches all over are struggling to figure out how to offer a Sunday school curriculum given the restrictions around mask wearing and social distancing for children. Our Christiana Education Coordinator, Heather Costantino, continues to work on ways to combine our tradition of “hand made” Sunday school lessons with the online resources that are available. She and Senior Warden Sandy Cormack have looked long and hard at the various “platforms” that are dedicated to educational purposes, and have shared their findings with the Communications and Technology staff at the Diocesan Center. The result is that Worship Times, our new web designers, have decided to develop a Sunday School template that will meet our needs and those of the many other congregations they serve nationwide. (This is not the first time that Emmanuel has made a significant contribution to the larger Church during this pandemic!)

We will be quick to let you know what is available when, and how to access it. Meanwhile, please continue to be patient — God is not finished with us yet!

Our Adult Bible Study using Zoom has reached a small but faithful following Tuesdays at 4:00 PM. We are a couple of weeks away from finishing our study of the “Watchers” from the story of Noah and the First Book of Enoch. Our tentative plan calls for reading some selections from Paul’s letters, specifically about his relationships with other Christian leaders, and to look at an interesting short piece about Paul and his female friend Thecla. Tuesdays at 4:00 is not written in stone, and we would consider moving the time if more of you would like to participate but can’t on that schedule. I am also open to offering another opportunity, perhaps on the Gospel of Mark, if that would attract some interest. Please send us an email with your hopes and wishes to the office address.


I have commented elsewhere on the fact that, over the course of a long career, I have been blessed with Wardens and church leaders with just the right skills to address the tasks at hand. This is as true now as it ever was, and I want to acknowledge publicly that I would not have been able to handle the changes that we have faced without a lot of help. I have mentioned Sandy and Heather above, but I need also to express my appreciation for how much our Organist/Choirmaster Brent Pertusio has contributed, especially to the transition of our chancel from sanctuary to broadcast studio. A hundred little tweaks to lights, cables, connectors, and other hardware have made much of what we now offer smoother to produce. We will need to bring into our leadership people with a whole new set of skills than just a decade ago.  I want to tickle your hearts to see if there might be a place for you in our developing programs and offerings, and encourage you to let us know what would make Church a more significant part of your life.

Every time I hear the phrase “We’re all in this together,” I cringe a little bit and wonder what they are trying to sell me. It has become, at least as we hear it in commercials, a catch phrase for some sort of transaction. That is sad, because it really is true for us at Emmanuel Church in a way that it isn’t for a car company or a restaurant chain. We are all in this together, not because we want anything from each other, but because the world needs us to be praying, serving, learning, giving, and witnessing together.

So please, hang in there with us while we figure all this out. Share you feedback with us. And do everything in your power to stay safe, even if it means bearing with a little inconvenience for a while. And count on the fact that we are not doing this without a little divine help.

We are Emmanuel, and we know that God is with us!

The Rev’d Canon Dr. Mark Gatza,          Rector — back in the days when it was safe to get a haircut!


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