A Musical Journey: Holy Week and Easter

by Jesse Ratcliffe, Choirmaster

for a schedule of worship services in Holy Week, click here

The days between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday are laden with emotion—the catch-breath of joy as we celebrate the triumphant entry to Jerusalem; the sorrow and heaviness of the crucifixion; and ending with the bliss of Easter Day. As a church musician, conveying these emotions through music can often prove to be challenging. The task is governed by the balance of musical language and text with listener approachability. At Saint James’, each service will be filled with some of the most poignant pieces of choral literature.

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Holy Week 2018: Schedule of Services

Saint James’ you to attend as many of our Holy Week 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.

(scroll to the bottom of the page for photos and video from Holy Week services that have already occurred)


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March 31 | The Great Vigil of Easter

8:00 PM

Possibly the most beautiful service of the church year, the Easter Vigil begins outside in our courtyard with the kindling of a fire from which the paschal candle is lit.

After processing into the church, each person lights their candle from that paschal candle as the service begins in darkness. While still in the tomb we read of God’s saving work throughout history.

Then, after we have proclaimed our new life in Christ through the renewing of our baptismal covenant, we reign in Easter with the lighting the altar candles, the illuminating the worship area, and singing and ringing of bells.

Then we joyfully celebrate that first Easter Eucharist.

The service actually takes us from death to new life and we really experience that Easter moment. If you have not been to the Vigil, please consider making it your Easter celebration.

Also, following the service, Lent is officially over, we will celebrate with a champagne and chocolate reception in the parish hall.


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April 1 | Easter Sunday

8:00am and 10:15am

Come celebrate Easter Day with us!

Having completed our journey and walked through the sorrow of Holy Week, we now come ready to experience Easter Joy.

Our 10:15 service begins with the children flowering the cross and following behind it in procession. The joyful music fills the space as we tell the story of the empty tomb and the reverberations of that moment throughout history and in our lives. Following the service our children will continue the celebration as they search for Easter eggs.


previous services

Palm Sunday

“Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, and especially the hearts of the people of this land, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” – Collect for Justice


Maundy Thursday

“Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” – Collect for Maundy Thursday


Good Friday

“Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” – Collect for Good Friday

Christmas Eve Services at Saint James’

On Christmas Eve, we will celebrate the birth of the Christ child with three festive services. We will also have one morning service, at 9:30am, to celebrate the fourth Sunday of Advent.

Sunday, December 24 |  Christmas Eve Pageant with Eucharist

— 3:00 PM

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! >>> Photos from last year

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Advent Message from the Choirmaster

by Jesse Ratcliffe, Director of Music

Hymn Writing: the marriage of text and melody

This Advent season, two hymns of sturdy composition and poetic beauty will bookend the season: Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending and Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.

Of the thousands of hymn-writers known in Christendom, the works of brothers John and Charles Wesley (1703-91 & 1707-1788) have proved to be timeless. Both were ordained as Anglican clergymen and served as missionaries, which exposed them to various types of music across Europe.

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Photos: Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols 2017

Thank you to our talented and dedicated choirs for presenting this magnificent service in our Advent journey!

If you couldn’t make it in person or just want to experience the music and readings again, you can watch the service on YouTube at bit.ly/lessonscarols2017

Our choirs will present a Choral Eucharist at 10:00 PM on Christmas Eve, and we have lots of programs and services for the whole family coming up this week – check out our full calendar for the remainder of Advent and Christams at bit.ly/sjecchristmas2017

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Advent & Christmas Calendar 2017

Sunday, December 10  |  Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols


Tuesday, December 19  |  Saint James’ Elementary School Pageant

— 11:00 AM

Students from Saint James’ Episcopal School will re-enact the nativity of Jesus Christ with costume, song, and prayer. It’s a beautiful program and you shouldn’t miss it! If you can’t make it in person, this event will be streamed live on our YouTube channel

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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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