St. Mark's, Seattle
St. Mark's is the cathedral church of the diocese of Olympia. It offers five Sunday liturgies and draws parishioners from around Seattle. The cathedral building itself is massive, intended to be part of a much larger, Gothic-revival structure that was begun in 1928 but never finished as designed. The early-morning Sunday eucharist and an evening, "contemplative eucharist" take place in a small chapel that was finished according to the original plan, but the other liturgies take place in the main worship space, the plans for which were changed by financial constraints in the Great Depression. A renovation in 1997 produced the bright, airy worship space currently in use for most of the cathedral's liturgies.
size: 750 ASA [resource size]
- 8 a.m. eucharist with hymns (ASA about 30)
- 9:00 a.m. "family" eucharist with full music (ASA about 160)
- 11:00 a.m. choral eucharist (ASA about 250)
- 4:30 p.m. (monthly) choral evensong (ASA about 125)
- 7:00 p.m. "contemplative" eucharist (ASA about 25)
- 9:30 p.m. sung Compline (ASA about 250)
- Wednesdays, noon, eucharist
- Thursdays, 7:00 a.m. eucharist
- Monday through Friday, 6:30 p.m., Evening Prayer
parish website: http://www.saintmarks.org
Seattle is a large, diverse city. The population within three miles of St. Mark's is 70% white, 12% Asian-American, 7% African-American, 6% Latino, and 6% other. The average age is somewhat lower than the statewide average (36.98 as opposed to 39.10). Per capita income is $54,150, well above the national average. Not everyone has shared in that prosperity: median income among African-Americans is significantly below that of Latinos and Asian-Americans, and median income of whites is about $20,000 above that of the nearest group (Asian-Americans). Compared to the state average, many more people in Seattle are unmarried. Educational attainment is significantly higher than the state average, as well: many more individuals in the three-mile radius of the cathedral have earned a bachelor's degree or a graduate/professional degree.
The Pacific Northwest as a whole has been widely reported on as a land of "nones"-- persons who report no religious affiliation in polls and surveys. (See, for example, the work of the Pew Research Center, http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/chapter-4-the-shifting-religious-identity-of-demographic-groups/)
St. Mark's is situated in a local context that is more educated, more prosperous, more single, and less religiously inclined than many other Episcopal parishes.
The cathedral has a large, ambitious schedule of Sunday liturgies. Each is described below, but this slideshow gives a compressed view of all five weekly liturgies.
8:00 a.m. eucharist
This liturgy takes place in the cathedral's chapel, a space that is small in comparison to the nave but the same size as many Episcopal parishes. A service booklet provides all of the liturgical text, but not the hymns, which are drawn from the Hymnal 1982. The congregation includes young adults, but most of the crowd is middle-aged and older. Two vested lay persons serve as acolytes and chalice bearers.
After an organ prelude, the procession enters on a hymn. A closing hymn will be sung as well, but the Gloria and Sanctus are recited, and no other hymns are sung. The liturgy is according to the rite 2 Holy Eucharist in the 1979 prayer book. Lectors come up from the congregation to read the lessons. The dean, who also presides, reads the gospel from the head of the aisle. He then preaches from a music stand brought to the same position, rather than from the lectern, which is positioned against the side wall. This has the effect of making him appear a bit more accessible and a bit more vulnerable. The sermon, which is on the gospel story of Lazarus and the rich man, artfully ties in stewardship (it is the launch of the annual stewardship campaign) and our duty to follow Jesus. The dean's warmth and authenticity, as well as appropriate use of the first-person, help in discussing a text that convicts many of us. One sees several heads in the congregation nod in recognition during the sermon.
The prayers of the people follow form 4 from the 1979 BCP. The confession of sin similarly follows the prayer book. The exchange of the peace is warm and friendly, without being overly prolonged. Announcements follow, including an update from one of the (lay) leaders of the stewardship campaign.
The organist plays a brief instrumental piece to cover the setting of the table. The presider leads the eucharistic prayer facing the people. The contemporary Lord's Prayer is used. The distribution of communion is efficient but not rushed, and the organist plays instrumental music to cover the action. The altar is cleared without fuss, and the postcommunion prayer and blessing follow from the altar. The procession departs on a hymn, and the dismissal follows at the rear of the chapel.
The dean has only a few minutes to converse with congregants before heading to the next service, in the nave.
9:00 a.m. eucharist
This liturgy takes place in the cathedral's nave, a large space bathed in sunlight from clear windows. The altar is a large, wooden table, draped with a tapestry and a fair linen. It stands on a raised platform near the congregation; the former chancel space behind the platform now has an aumbry for the reservation of consecrated bread and wine and a space for meditation. A service booklet provides all of the liturgical text, but not the hymns, which are drawn from the Hymnal 1982. Service music, such as the Sanctus, is printed. The congregation includes a broad range of ages, including many children. Some of the smaller children and their parents sit on a rug on "house-right/stage-left" of the worship space, along an exterior wall, and near the front. While pews will block the sight lines of a small child seated on the rug to a certain degree, the entering procession goes directly past, and it will captivate the attention of many of the children. When the gospel is read from an aisle, the aisle chosen is not in the center, but on the side closest to the children's area. Activity bags are available, sorted by target age group, and many parents can be seen helping their children follow along in the prayer book and hymnal. This is clearly a parish that cares about its children and their formation.
After an organ prelude, the procession enters on a hymn, led by a large, Ethiopian cross. The procession includes a children's choir and a number of lay assistants, including one vested in a tunicle. The curate presides at this liturgy, with the dean preaching. The liturgy is according to the rite 2 Holy Eucharist in the 1979 prayer book. Lay persons come up from the congregation to read the lessons, standing at a portable lectern placed in front of the elevated ambo. The psalm is chanted by the congregation, led by a cantor. A gospel procession down a side aisle allows the deacon to read the gospel from the midst of the congregation, with many children leaving their pews to stand in a cluster around him. On this day, the deacon is on vacation, so the preacher reads the gospel instead. The dean preaches from the lectern. The sermon is the same text as at the 8:00 eucharist, and again, the dean's warmth and authenticity, as well as his use of appropriate self-disclosure, help the assembly engage with a difficult text and a challenging topic. The Nicene Creed is recited, omitting the filioque, according to the text approved by General Convention in 1997 (as the bulletin notes). The prayers of the people are led by a lay person, using an adaptation of form 4 from the prayer book. After the confession (and absolution) and exchange of the peace, the announcements follow, including an update on the stewardship campaign. The presider prays over those marking birthdays and anniversaries.
An offertory anthem is sung by the children's choir. The table is set (normally by the deacon). Leavened ("real") bread is used at this liturgy, and the monetary offering is placed directly on the altar. As the prayer book indicates, only one chalice is used, as well as a flagon of wine from which to fill additional chalices. The curate presides at the altar, flanked by the dean and the lay assistant in the tunicle. Other clergy and lay persons who will assist at communion stand on the altar platform nearby during the eucharistic prayer.
The contemporary Lord's Prayer is sung. The distribution of communion is efficient but not rushed, done with parishioners standing at stations on the floor at the front of the nave. The children's choir sings an anthem, and the congregation joins in a hymn during communion. The altar is cleared without fuss, and eucharistic visitors are sent to the homebound with a brief bit of text. The postcommunion prayer and blessing follow from the altar. The procession departs on a hymn, and the dismissal follows at the rear of the nave.
11:00 a.m. eucharist
This liturgy also takes place in the cathedral's nave. A service booklet provides all of the liturgical text, but not the hymns, which are drawn from the Hymnal 1982. Service music, such as the Sanctus, is printed. The congregation includes a broad range of ages, though somewhat fewer children than the 9:00 service.
After an organ prelude and a sung introit, the procession enters on a hymn, led by a large, Ethiopian cross. The procession includes a number of lay assistants, including one vested in a tunicle, and several assisting clergy in alb and stole. At this liturgy, a verger (processing behind the cross and torchbearers) helps keep all of the vested participants in order. One of the canons presides at this liturgy, with the dean preaching. The liturgy is according to the rite 2 Holy Eucharist in the 1979 prayer book, and the service music is drawn from Hanz Leo Hassler's Missa secunda. Music is led by an auditioned, volunteer choir, singing from a loft at the back of the nave. Lay persons come up from the congregation to read the lessons at the large ambo. The psalm is chanted by the choir, with the congregation singing an antiphon by Peter Hallock. A gospel procession down a side aisle allows the deacon to read the gospel from the midst of the congregation, though on this occasion the deacon is on vacation, and so the preacher reads it. The dean preaches from the elevated ambo. The sermon is the same text as at the 8:00 eucharist, and it is just as effective as earlier. The Nicene Creed is recited, using the prayer book text, which includes the filioque. The prayers of the people are led by a lay person, using an adaptation of form 4 from the prayer book. After the confession (and absolution) and exchange of the peace, the announcements follow, including an update on the stewardship campaign.
At the offertory, the choir sings a motet. The table is set. Leavened ("real") bread is used at this liturgy, and the monetary offering is placed directly on the altar. As the prayer book indicates, only one chalice is used, as well as a flagon of wine from which to fill additional chalices. The curate presides at the altar, flanked by the dean and the lay assistant in the tunicle. Other clergy and lay persons who will assist at communion stand on the altar platform nearby during the eucharistic prayer.
The contemporary Lord's Prayer is said. At the fraction, an anthem from the hymnal is sung, rather than the Agnus dei from the mass setting. This makes sense: the Agnus is a lengthy piece, longer than is necessary to cover the action of the fraction, but about right for the action of the distribution of communion, when it will be sung instead. The distribution of communion is efficient but not rushed, done at stations. After the choir sings the Agnus dei as an anthem, the congregation joins in a hymn during communion. The altar is cleared without fuss, and eucharistic visitors are sent to the homebound with a brief bit of text. The postcommunion prayer and blessing follow from the altar. The procession departs on a hymn, and the dismissal follows at the rear of the nave.
7:00 p.m. eucharist
This liturgy takes place in the cathedral's chapel. A one-sheet service bulletin contains all of the texts that the congregation needs to make its responses, but most of the presider's texts are in a locally-produced notebook. The congregation includes young adults, but most of the crowd is middle-aged and older. The electric lighting is dim, and candles are placed on and before the altar, as well as around a font and in a large bowl of sand near the entrance. The service follows the Order for Eucharist from the prayer book (at p. 400), which allows considerable freedom for local creativity within a recognizably traditional structure. St. Mark's has drawn on resources from the Shalem Institute, authored by Gerald May and Tilden Edwards, and on a paraphrase of the Lord's Prayer written by Parker Palmer. All of the elements from the Order are present: Gather in the Lord's Name, Proclaim and Respond to the Word of God, Pray for the World and the Church, Exchange the Peace, Prepare the Table, Make Eucharist, Break the Bread, Share the Gifts of God.
The dean, who will preside and preach at this service, is seated well before the service starts, modeling quiet contemplation. A cellist plays instrumental music as people arrive, establishing the liturgy's tone from before its start. A singing bowl is struck at points in the liturgy to mark periods of silence.
At the appointed time, the presider strikes the singing bowl. After its bell-like tone diminishes, he stands and prays a popular prayer from "Night Prayer" in A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa (page 184), followed by a prayer in unison from the American prayer book ("Lord Jesus, stay with us..."). A passage from the gospel is read, with prompts printed in the bulletin to spur the listeners' reflections in the lengthy silence that follows. The passage is not the one indicated in the lectionary (which was read at the earlier liturgies), but rather the tail end of the story of Emmaus (Luke 24:30-35), in which Jesus is revealed in the breaking of bread. (Since this visit, the decision has been made to use the text appointed in the lectionaryat this service.) After the period of silence, lasting three minutes, the singing bowl is rung, and the prayers of the people follow. The prayers are introduced by the presider, and then brief biddings (locally composed) are offered by a lay person, with lengthy silences (about a minute long) after each. The presider offers a concluding prayer, "For Quiet Confidence," from the prayer book. The Peace is exchanged.
A cellist plays an instrumental piece as the table is set. Leavened bread is used at this liturgy, and the monetary offering is placed directly on the altar. The eucharistic prayer is a local composition that does not follow either form 1 or 2 from the prayer book or form A or B from Enriching Our Worship, but is a local composition, adapted from materials from the Shalem Institute, and approved by the bishop. It contains a sanctus and the words of institution (though omitting from the latter the reference to eating and drinking "in remembrance" of Jesus). There is no oral epiclesis (invocation of the Holy Spirit) over the bread and wine but only over the people; instead, at the invocation of the Spirit over the people ("Awaken your wondrous Spirit among us through these holy gifts"), the presider extends hands over the bread and wine, in a non-verbal epiclesis. Similarly, there is not a verbal oblation (offering to God) of bread and wine, but after the epicletic text, the presider silently raises the bread and wine in a gesture of offering. The congregation joins in a paraphrase of the Lord's Prayer. The invitation welcomes all to communion, during which the cellist plays instrumental music. At the end of the distribution of communion and the 'cello music, the presider invites the people to enter a period of silence, which is demarcated by the ringing of the singing bowl. At the close of the silence, the presider blesses the people, and he dismisses them. Following the dismissal, the presider remains at the communion rail to offer anointing and prayers for healing.
9:30 pm. sung compline
The congregation filters into the nave of the cathedral, with some sitting in the pews, some lounging on the altar steps. Ages range from teens and young adults to senior citizens. The lights are dim. The choir processes down a side aisle to music stands at the rear of the nave.
This evening, compline will anticipate the feast of St. Michael and All Angels, selecting hymns and texts appropriate to the occasion. The service is prefaced with Psalm 43:3, "Send forth your light and your truth..." A plainchant hymn in English follows, "Christ the fair glory of the holy angels." The order of service is drawn from the Church of England's proposed 1928 prayer book, rather than the 1979 American prayer book, and it begins with versicles and responses, one choir member taking the officiant's part and the remainder making the responses. The choir chants Psalm 91, and the officiant reads a brief sentence. The choir then chants versicles and responses: "Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit." The choir sings an English hymn, "God that makest earth and heaven," in harmony. Another versicle and response, "Keep me as the apple of an eye;/ Hide me under the shadow of thy wings" follows, and then the choir chants the Nunc Dimittis, using the antiphon, "Preserve us, O Lord, waking, and guard us sleeping, that we may watch with Christ, and rest in peace."
The choir chants the Apostles' Creed, with the entire congregation rising to its feet. This is the extent of the congregation's active participation: the focus of this liturgy is much more on contemplation. The congregation sits at the end of the creed, as the officiant and choir chant kyrie eleison and the Lord's prayer. The choir chants versicles and responses drawn from the canticle Benedictus es. The choir recites a confession of sin, and the officiant pronounces a declaration of forgiveness. After another set of versicles and responses, the officiant chants three collects (the first being the collect for the feast of St. Michael and All Angels, and the last being "Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord..."). The choir sings a plainchant anthem with polyphonic verses in honor of St. Michael and All Angels. The service concludes with another set of versicles and responses chanted by the choir, and a spoken blessing by the officiant.
Worship Planning and Choices
The dean holds overall responsibility for the liturgy, but he has delegated day-to-day responsibility for details and execution to a canon precentor (a lay person), a canon musician, and an associate musician. The clergy, musicians, and lay precentor meet seasonally to plan special services, assess how the past season has gone, and map the season coming up. They think in terms of a "continuous improvement model" to make space for reflection on the worship life of the parish and to fold that into their planning and execution of liturgy going forward.
The dean describes the planning process as, "Plan, Do, Check, Act." Planning is framed around the principal liturgical cycles: Advent/Christmas/Season after Epiphany; Lent/Holy Week/Easter; the Season after Pentecost. The first meeting for the Advent/Christmas/Epiphany cycle, for example, takes place five weeks in advance in October, with the clergy, the canon precentor, the musicians, and those in charge of the formation of children, youth, and young adults. Bulletins and notes from the previous year's cycle are reviewed, and the new cycle is planned. After the cycle, the staff meets again to assess how it went and make notes for the next year.
The dean and clergy try to ensure a broad spectrum of worship experiences at the cathedral, something evident from the wide-ranging schedule. The cathedral's active membership, music department, and clergy staff are all large enough to pull this off, but smaller congregations would be hard pressed to offer as much.
Each of these worship services has a distinct identity and focus. The early morning eucharist attracts those who want an efficient eucharist, with music but without much else in the ways of bells and whistles. The chapel—which is a little jewel box of a liturgical space—may be an attractive element for some, too. During my visit, in the period before the service, one parishioner gave me a detailed introduction to the chapel's architecture, something that clearly was special to him.
The "family" service at 9 has its own niche, with "children's chapel" available during the liturgy of the word, rotating choirs of young people and adult volunteers, and a somewhat less formal vibe, with children and their parents hanging out on a large rug during the liturgy. This service is making something of a musical transition, away from a locally produced "folk mass" music booklet and toward more traditional hymnody, as Boomers are replaced by millenials at that service. The 9:00 eucharist had originated twenty years before as a folk mass, using music from the 1960s and '70s, and by the time of the current dean's arrival in 2012 its energy was low and its attendance had dropped below 100. The dean tightened its liturgical elements, put kids in leading roles, and gave it a coherent musical expression, drawing on more traditional music. As a result, attendance has risen significantly, to around 160.
The 11:00 eucharist is the big, choral eucharist, with an auditioned choir of adults and a rotating children's choir. This is the most formal of the liturgies, and the quality of its music is one important aspect that draws worshipers. Compline is a Seattle institution: having just celebrated its sixtieth anniversary, it now draws three generations of worshippers. It offers a contemplative experience for those who attend, in which they bask in the sung prayers of a select choir. It is low-demand, and it draws a range of people who have no other association with the cathedral, as well as longtime parishioners.
The 7:00 p.m. eucharist has seen its identity evolve over time. Formerly a eucharist for members of Integrity, the group for LGBT Episcopalians and their allies, it was recast as a contemplative eucharist; it also offers prayer and anointing for healing. In some respects, the contemplative eucharist must distinguish itself from compline, which is also designed as a contemplative service. The contemplative eucharist uses many of the same elements found in compline: candlelight, periods of silence, meditative music. At the same time, the evening eucharist requires more participation than compline, and so those who are "spiritual but not religious" are more likely to choose the latter, and those committed Christians who look to add a contemplative element to their worship life are likely to make up the congregation at 7:00.