Message from the Choirmaster: 2017 Summer Newsletter

A Brief History of the Pipe Organ and Church, by Jesse Ratcliff

The most attention-grabbing object in the church, aside from stained glass windows is the pipe organ. With its commanding appearance and rapturous tone, it’s difficult to ignore. In worship, its primary job is to lead hymns and accompany the choir. The prelude, on the other hand, though not integral to the service, is sometimes the most overlooked role of the organ.

The history of the prelude is extensive, but has always held an important role in regards to worship. In the Baroque era, (1600-1750) Bach utilized the prelude as a means of conveying a chorale/hymn melody to the congregation. He utilized numerous compositional tools to enhance the chorale text.

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Holy Week 2017 Recap: Photos, Video & Scripture Readings

Thank you to everyone who made this year’s Holy Week so special! So many hands go into every service and every church activity – you can learn more about our clergy, music programs, children’s ministry, ushers, acolytes, altar guild, flower guild and so many other parts of the Saint James’ community throughout our website.

Below you will find photos and video of each service in Holy Week, and Scripture readings for each day of the week. We know that Holy Week can be an overwhelming time, with so many services and so many stories packed into such a short time. We hope that you will reflect on each day, and the power of each moment, at your own pace.

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Holy Week Service Schedule & Notes

The church invites all Christians to worship soon and often during Holy Week and through Easter Day. This is when we remember and embrace in a dramatic way the journey, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Palm Sunday: Jesus enters Jerusalem and confronts the domination powers of the Roman Empire and the temple authorities.

Maundy Thursday: Jesus shares the his last meal with the Twelve and washes their feet.

Good Friday: Jesus is crucified and dies.

Easter Eve: A new fire is kindled in the darkness, the Paschal Candle is lit, people are baptized, and we celebrate the first Eucharist of Easter. Christ is risen!

Easter Day: Christ is risen indeed! We joyfully celebrate the Resurrection of our Savior.

God is calling us all to gather for worship this Holy Week through Easter Day.

I invite your comments and questions.

Fr Randolph


We encourage you to commit to attending as many of our Holy Week worship services as you are able. They dramatically walk us through Jesus’ last days and allow us to more fully enter the story and receive the love poured out for us. The experience of Holy Week also adds to the richness, joy, and bounding hope of Easter.

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Message from the Choirmaster: March 2017

Jesse Ratcliffe is Saint James’ director of music. He can be reached here

The Great Vigil of Easter (April 15)

Easter Vigil is one of the most beautiful services of the church year as we segue from the reflective and somber atmosphere of Lent into the joy of Easter. The choral anthem for this service, Alleluia, composed by Randall Thompson conveys all the emotions of this holy day.

Thompson, born in 1899 and died in 1984, was an American composer who taught at many prestigious schools, including the University of Virginia (1941-1945), whose compositional style is regarded as “distinctly American”. Alleluia was composed in five days with the text being two words: “Alleluia, Amen”-with the latter being sung once at the final chord which spreads the choir into seven parts. This composition was a reaction to the war, especially the fall of France.

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CONNECTED Capital Campaign: Music

We are CONNECTED by music.

February 19, 2017

Corporate worship lies at the heart of Saint James’ spiritual life, and music plays an important role in almost all of the worship services that we offer. It is the mission of Saint James’ music ministry to aid the congregation in offering up praises to God.

Members of the Saint James’ Youth Chorale rehearse in the music room before a performance in February 2016.

As Episcopalians, we have a musical heritage that is one of the world’s richest and most deeply spiritual. For over 500 years, Anglican church music has sought to tell the Christian faith with authenticity and truth. Our music is an extremely diverse and multi-layered art form that celebrates and encompasses many different traditions. You might be interested, when singing hymns, to read the small print below each one and note the many and varied sources of the poetry and the music.

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Christmas Eve & Christmas Day Worship Services

On Christmas Eve we will celebrate the birth of the Christ child with three festive services.

Dec. 24 at 3pm – Christmas Eve Pageant

Bring the family and enjoy the reenactment of the Birth of Jesus. All children are encouraged to participate. Please arrive 15 minutes early for your child to be fitted for a costume. No prior rehearsal needed. The pageant includes the singing of familiar Christmas carols and is woven into the celebration of Holy Eucharist. This service is especially geared toward preschool and elementary age children but a joy to all!

Dec. 24 at 5:30pm – Family Service

At 5:30 we will have a festive yet more informal and abridged (than our late service) Christmas celebration as we incorporate our youth into the worship service.   This service is intended for individuals and families whose children have aged out of the pageant (upper elementary and up) but find the hour of the late service…. well…just a bit too late. The service will also include Holy Eucharist and the singing of familiar carols.

Dec. 24 at 10:15 – Carols & Vigil

This service is one of, if not the, most beautiful and holy services of the church year as our choir leads us in carols as we sing out that Christ is born! Carols begin at 10:15, followed by the service at 10:30.

Dec. 25 at 9:30am – Christmas Day Eucharist

Let’s rejoice together on Christmas Day with an informal service as we remember the reason we celebrate Christmas. This service is a great way to celebrate Christmas Day with your parish family.

Christmas Week Worship Services

Dec. 21 at 7pm – Blue Christmas Service

A Blue Christmas Service or a Longest Night service acknowledges that Christmas is not always met with joy and celebration. Sometimes it can be difficult to participate in the glad carols and merriment of our Christmas services. This service provides an opportunity to light candles acknowledging the people we miss, the pain or emptiness we may feel. In lighting the candles we proclaim Christ’s presence and that foundational truth from that first chapter of John that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it”. We sing carols more reflective of Christmas hope than joy, we offer prayers for healing, we break bread together and (of course) we support one another.

Following the service there will be opportunity for continued prayer in the chapel and coffee and dessert in the parish hall.

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Advent & Christmas Worship Services

December 11 at 4pm – Christmas Concert

This year’s program will feature the Saint James’ Adult Choir, Handbells, Youth Chorale, as well as a guest string quartet. The music ranges from plainsong, a chorus from the Messiah, to newly composed music, and it is  supported by scripture readings that chronicle the story of Christ. A reception with seasonal treats will follow the concert.

Dec. 16 at 11am – K-5 Christmas Pageant

Join us for the annual Saint James’ Episcopal School Elementary Christmas Pageant.  Students will re-enact the nativity of Jesus Christ with costume, song, and prayer. It’s a beautiful program and you shouldn’t miss it! It will be streamed too.

Dec. 21 at 7pm – Blue Christmas Service

A Blue Christmas Service or a Longest Night service acknowledges that Christmas is not always met with joy and celebration. Sometimes it can be difficult to participate in the glad carols and merriment of our Christmas services. This service provides an opportunity to light candles acknowledging the people we miss, the pain or emptiness we may feel. In lighting the candles we proclaim Christ’s presence and that foundational truth from that first chapter of John that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it”. We sing carols more reflective of Christmas hope than joy, we offer prayers for healing, we break bread together and (of course) we support one another.

Following the service there will be opportunity for continued prayer in the chapel and coffee and dessert in the parish hall.

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Choral Evensong is Saturday, November 5th!

CHORAL EVENSONG | SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 5TH | 7:00 PM

Choral Evensong, the service of sung evening prayer, is held close to the hearts of Anglicans across the world. The service consists sung prayers and collects, chanting of the psalm, two scripture readings, the singing of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, hymns, and concludes with a choral anthem.

The service held on Nov 5 combines the vocal forces of Saint James’ adult choir and the adult choir of Grace, The Plains at which Dr. Jason Farris is the Choir Master and organist. The choral anthem and introit reflect the theme of All Saints.

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A Stewardship Message from Fr Ben

Do you choose easy or do you choose adventure?

I asked this question on my first Sunday at Saint James’ four years ago this winter. I talked about asking my daughter that question half way through a rather rigorous hike, I encouraged you to consider all the ways that Jesus asked his followers that same question, and whether God might be asking the people of Saint James’ Episcopal Church the same question.

Years later I am ever more convinced both of God’s call to us and our resounding answer, “ADVENTURE!!!”. Here is the rub. Adventure is not easy. Jesus certainly never said it would be.

One of my favorite prayers, attributed to 16th century explorer, Sir Francis Drake, asks the same question of us. Have we arrived safely because we sailed too close to shore… (have we) fallen in love with life and ceased to dream of eternity?

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Message from Jesse Ratcliffe, Director of Music

Festival Eucharist in May 2015

“How often, making music, we have found a new dimension in the world of sound, as worship moved us to a more profound Alleluia!” When in Our Music God is Glorified … Fred Pratt Green (1903-2000)

During the last three years it has been a privilege and a joy to watch and hear the music at Saint James’ develop into a robust extension of our liturgy. The adult choir has grown into a vibrant and supportive group of folks who love each other and love to sing. The Saint James’ Youth Chorale began two years ago with only five members and now has tripled in size, and the choristers have brought home a trophy from an adjudicated event! The fun-loving handbell ringers have adjusted to my direction and are eager to learn more music and ring at more events inside and outside the church. Lastly, as I’ve said before, it is the strong and full-voiced congregational singing that makes our services so special.

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Hymn Singing on August 21

Hymn singing is vital to Christian worship—if you take the time to glance over many of the Psalms, you’ll notice that we are repeatedly directed to “come unto his presence with a song”. Through song we connect to each other during worship and it carries us forward as we depart on our separate journeys.

This Sunday, during the offertory anthem, we’ll learn a new hymn (maybe familiar to a few!) We The Lord’s People found on page 51. The hymn’s melody was composed by Richard Dirksen, the long-standing music director of the Washington National Cathedral. Dirksen’s nearly four decade tenure at the Cathedral not only fostered centuries of Anglican music, but expanded the national church’s acceptance of challenging newly-composed music.

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Bluegrass Mass | May 22 @ 10:15 AM

Please mark your calendars to join us for an outdoor Eucharist featuring Gospel and Bluegrass Hymns accompanied by Drymill Road as well as the Saint James Adult Choir.

Favorites such as Down to the River to Pray, I’ll Fly Away, and Blessed Assurance will round-out the service.

A parish picnic will follow —  please the sign-up sheet outside the parish hall for needed  food and drink items.  The service will be moved indoors in the event of foul weather.

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Holy Week | Worship Services

stations of the cross-1


Read the Gospel for Good FridayGood Friday | Stations of the Cross, 12pm | Good Friday Liturgy, 7pm

At noon we gather in the nave and tell the story of Christ’s crucifixion as an acolyte moves from station to station as we read and respond to each event. The readings for each station are distributed to members of the congregation prior to the beginning of the service.

Our poignant 7pm service begins in silence and includes a reading of the Passion according to John, solemn prayer, and then the veneration of the cross. Continue reading “Holy Week | Worship Services”