This Sunday St. Timothy’s will observe one of its two Parochial Feasts: the dedication of its church (the other is its “feast of title,” the commemoration of St. Timothy in January). This annual event recalls the dedication liturgies in this parish’s history: of the first church building (now our parish hall), of the second (and current) nave, and of the educational, office, and chapel addition in 1997.
This liturgy has several special characteristics. First of all, it is a feast with its own collect, lessons, prayers of the people, and hymns. It opens with a Festal Procession, with a collect at a station where the icon of our patron St. Timothy is displayed. The Gloria in excelsis, the great hymn of praise from the early Christian era reserved for major feasts, is sung as the altar is censed. Deceased benefactors and members of St. Timothy’s are recalled in our prayers. Finally, before the liturgy concludes, a solemn Te Deum is sung, giving God especial thanks for this house of prayer as a guaranteed place of meeting and as a center of mission. So much for the liturgical details.
What must be of greater concern for us is the meaning behind this feast and its special elements, for the liturgy is a direct participation in the mystery of God the Holy Trinity, and a showing forth of the Kingdom of God, dawning even now in its fullness by the action of the Holy Spirit. What, then, does this liturgy signify to us?
The collect for the feast puts two things front-and-center: communion and its fruits. The Feast of Dedication is a thanksgiving for communion in its many forms: fellowship with God, fellowship with other disciples, fellowship with those who have already entered eternal life. It is also a plea to God that this parish—holy ground, dedicated to God’s way, God’s presence, a kind of divine beachhead in our agonized and strife-torn world—may always be a place where people may find God and be filled with divine joy and peace.
Ours has become a “desacralized” world; that is a fancy word for the condition of having little or no holiness. In its place, we have tried to substitute the material, the commercial, the purely physical, or the ideological. All around us we see the grotesque results of this experiment: addictions, obsessions, environmental degradation, the commodification of human life, industrialized killing, and the reduction of mystery and awe to such slogans as “follow your bliss”, “it’s all good”, or the demand for conformity to a particular political party or opinion. The hunger for something more is being bought off—temporarily—by a less and less effective array of consumerist and ideological stop-gaps.
But the Church has the one thing that will satisfy that hunger: communion with God, with the creation, and with each other. Here, in this place, the cheap and sleazy answers the world hands out are not offered. Here, the utter connectedness of all things to their God is revealed. Here joy and peace are not just words: they are the currency of our shared life. Each Eucharist is a joyful renewal of that fact, reaching out beyond the buildings of St. Timothy’s into the lives of its members throughout this city and its surroundings.
The Feast of Dedication is no self-congratulatory party wherein this parish looks admiringly at itself in a mirror. It is a thanksgiving for the grace of God leading to the foresight, sweat, and sacrifice of those who came before us to bring about this parish’s physical presence. But it is more than that: it is a rousing call to take seriously the preciousness of Holy Ground in a city where hope, justice, peace, relationships, and even human life have become just words.
Here, at this place, the Kingdom of God is made known at each Eucharist, in each class or parish event. Here, those who seek God are able to find him: imperfectly, yes—but find God we may. For the Lord has blessed it, set it apart, making it a portal through which all may enter and be restored, refashioned into what we were created to be from the foundation of the world: the Royal Priesthood of Creation.
Let us give thanks for the dedication of this parish and live out its promise. Like all churches who retain zeal for the Kingdom of God, it is a beacon of hope in a world awash in turmoil, anxiety, and fear.