“This is the day which the Lord has made.” These were the first words spoken by Bishop John Stephens from the centre of the nave as the broadcast of the livestream from Christ Church Cathedral went out to the world on Sunday, April 4, 2021, 10:30am PDT. Bishop Stephens had been installed as the 10th Bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster just five weeks earlier on February 28. April 4 would be the first of what is hoped will be many Easter Sundays celebrated by the bishop at Christ Church Cathedral during his episcopacy. The first words of the liturgy that began this paragraph were then responded to by the other four members of the sanctuary party and the members of the cathedral’s music ministry leading the worship, “Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” And that is what happened. Although the liturgy took place with only the principals present there was much joy that went out digitally to the world from the corners of Burrard and West Georgia Streets in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Following the responses that opened the Gathering of the Community section of the liturgy, cathedral organist and Director of Music, Rupert Lang with an SATB quartet and a trumpeter physically distanced in the loft began the Opening Hymn, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.”
The principals present for the The Sunday of the Resurrection Day Eucharist included Bishop John Stephens, the preacher; Cathedral Vicar, the Reverend Helen Dunn, the presider; Deacon, the Reverend Jeffrey Preiss, Deacon of the Word and Table; Dean and Rector of the Cathedral, the Very Reverend Christopher A. Pappas offering the Opening Announcements and Welcome to the online congregation, (however, in order to comply with the Provincial Health Officer’s orders on indoor gathering for livestreaming he and Deacon Preiss left the sanctuary area when they were not required); Liturgical Assistant, Vincent Carey was MC/Crucifer; Andrea Gailus was lay reader and intercessor, and long time ASL interpreter, Lisz Keallen was seated in front of an audio monitor and a cell phone camera in the east side transept interpreting the service for those unable to hear.
The chancel platform with the altar, ambo, credence table were beautifully decorated for Easter Day. The flowers in the cathedral were made possible by donations from two dozen cathedral parishioners who had made their donations in loving memory of family and other loved ones as well as in thanksgiving for God’s many blessings.
The preacher for the Eucharist was the Right Reverend John Stephens. He began the sermon focusing on the grief and sadness that we experience from the loss of loved ones when they die. He made reference to the “Good Friday” feelings that we experience and then he juxtaposed that with what Mary Magdalene experienced as told through the Gospel for the day, John 20: 1-18:
“…Mary Magdalene, that incredible woman of faith went to the tomb. She went, as far as I can tell, not with a sense of hope but a sense of dread. A sense of wanting to be near the final resting place. A sense of being near the last time she had touched the body of Christ, the last time she had seen his face, the last time she had held him, the last time.
And so she came to the tomb not expecting anything, I imagine. Nothing but death and finality. Emptiness and conclusion. But she discovered something else. She discovered life and light. She discovered hope and grace. She discovered the presence of God in her midst. She discovered an entirely new way to consider life and life beyond the grave. For Jesus was alive. This tomb was a link between heaven and earth between death and new life between God unseen to God fully known in our midst. This tomb was a sign that God is with us, amongst us, known to us in Jesus but also within ourselves. This tomb was a sign that God was not angry with us and waiting to destroy us but loves us, blesses us, holds us, encourages us, wishes us to be more and filled with Holy Spirit and grace. The tomb was not empty but filled with God’s hope for humanity through the resurrection of Jesus.
I have celebrated Easter so many times in my life but it never ceases to amaze me the wonder and beauty and transformative power this gospel passage has on my life and my living. All else in life, it seems revolves around this empty tomb. It continues to affect how I look at other people and myself, how I pray and receive the bread and wine of the Eucharist, how I view the world and pray for forgiveness, how I see that we all need to be transformed to be resurrection people, Easter people awakened to a new relationship that God has with us and all people.”
There was more than The Sunday of the Resurrection liturgy taking place at Christ Church Cathedral on Easter Day. The cathedral clergy and lay staff had come up with a plan to take it to the streets with their Easter Day Eucharist to Go. Just before, 12 noon, Christ Church Cathedral clergy (including Bishop John Stephens) were set up at the lower level north end Burrard Street entrance to the church and in the alley adjacent to the elevator tower.
The majority of cathedral clergy were present including all of those participating in the liturgy that day with the addition of Cathedral Curate, the Reverend Jonathan Pinkney. Associate Priest and Gathering Priest for the St. Brigid’s community, the Reverend Marnie Peterson and Deacon, the Reverend Alisdair Smith.
Each wafer was wrapped inside an individual cellophane packet and most of those participating had previously made an appointment to participate through online registration.
Before receiving the Body of Christ, the communicant prayed with the clergy administrator and after receiving the Host they were given a daffodil or two. Folks in cars entered the alley from Hornby Street where Rev. Helen Dunn was posted, vested and with a large bouquet of daffodils to direct the drivers to the alley where the Reverends Pinkney and Smith awaited.
Those not participating in the Eucharist were welcome to take a daffodil or two or three.
It is safe to assume that for Bishop John this wasn’t the ideal situation for the first Easter Day of his episcopacy, however the beauty of the liturgy and the excitement of Eucharist to Go will certainly be a memory that he and those who participated will long remember.
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