Archive for June, 2017


Today marks our parish’s patronal day.  We are privileged to have under our altar a stone from the road at Verulamum, and, it is reputed, a relic of the first class in the mensa (altar stone).  The paver from the road trod by the saint on his way to martyrdom was a gift from St. Alban’s Abbey which our family visited just a year ago last week and from which the text below is “borrowed”.  The photographs are ours.

St Alban’s story and this place built in his honour takes us back to the beginning of the Christian faith in Britain.

Alban is believed to have been a Romano-British citizen of the third century in the Roman city of Verulamium, in the valley below the present Cathedral. The earliest versions of his history say that he gave shelter to a stranger fleeing from persecution. This was a Christian priest, originally un-named but later called Amphibalus in the re-telling of the story. Alban was so moved by the priest’s faith and courage that he asked to be taught more about Christianity, then still a forbidden religion.

Before long the authorities came to arrest the fugitive priest. But Alban, inspired by his new-found faith, exchanged clothes with Amphibalus, allowing him to escape. Instead Alban was arrested and brought before the city magistrate. Alban refused to sacrifice to the emperor and the Roman gods. When asked to identify himself he declared: ‘I am called Alban and I worship and adore the true and living God, who created all things’.

The magistrate ordered that Alban should receive the punishment due to the priest. He was brought out of the town and up the hillside to the site of execution where he was beheaded. Despite escaping, Amphibalus too was later arrested and martyred at Redbourn, a few miles away.

Alban was probably buried in the Roman cemetery now located by modern archaeological digs to the south of the present Cathedral. Alban is honoured as the first British martyr, and his grave on this hillside quickly became a place of pilgrimage.

The first churches here were probably simple structures over Alban’s grave, making this the oldest continuous site of Christian worship in Great Britain. Recent finds suggest an early basilica over the spot and in 429 St Germanus recorded his visit to this church. In the early eighth century the historian Bede told the story of St Alban and described ‘a beautiful church, worthy of his martyrdom’.

Matthew Paris, the celebrated medieval historian and most famous of the Abbey’s monks, produced a beautifully illustrated Life of St Alban in the 13th century. This is now at Trinity College in Dublin.


The shrine of St Alban can be seen here today. Its Purbeck marble base of 1308 supports a modern red and gold canopy under which rests a shoulder-blade said to come from the original relics of the saint’s body. The canopy is embroidered with English wildflowers, commemorating Bede’s description of Alban as ascending a hill “adorned with wild flowers of every kind.” The red rose, in particular has come to be a special symbol of the saint reflecting the words of an ancient prayer: ‘Among the roses of the martyrs, brightly shines Saint Alban.’

DSCN2248Watching Gallery Above the Shrine

Alban is a saint of the undivided church, a saint for all Christians. His welcome to a persecuted stranger was a powerful example of courage, compassion and hospitality. St Alban is still with us in the Communion of Saints, and in this sacred place we worship God with him and ask his prayers.


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It is June, and with the arrival of summer vacations comes the inevitable slew of “beach reading” recommendations. These range from the sublime to, well, the not-so-sublime. The selection runs the gamut from the political to the potboiler. But, I have another suggestion for your vacation edification that also begins with “p”-prayer, specifically, the Jesus Prayer.

The Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me [a sinner]” is one of the great treasures of Eastern Orthodoxy. This simple verse derived from Scripture has long been used by Christians in the East as a form of contemplative prayer. In recent decades, understanding and use of the Jesus Prayer has spread from the Eastern Orthodox tradition and into the lives and spirituality of many Western Christians.

Jesus PRayer
My good friends at St. Simeon’s Skete in Kentucky, true prayer warriors themselves, suggested two books on the prayer while they were visiting last fall, and then left behind their copy of the first of these, The Jesus Prayer-A Way to Contemplation by Bp. Simon Barrington-Ward, the retired bishop of Coventry. Bp. Simon received instruction in this form of prayer from Archimandrite Sophrony, one of the greatest of recent Orthodox teachers living in the West and his work on and with the prayer shines forth. Truly, this is one of those books you begin to read and discover that you have a true gem.

As an introduction, this engaging book is not bound up in the language of theology but is quite accessible to those who are new to the Jesus Prayer. I also found that it contains much of value for those of us who have practiced it for many years and are fairly familiar with the literature on it. Bishop Simon makes a compelling case that the Jesus Prayer, as a way to practice the presence of Christ, has a special role to play in the revival, reformation, and mission of the church.

Bp. Simon writes in style best described as simple elegance. It is clear that he knows the Bishop Barrington-Ward has written an excellent introduction and overview to the subject. His writing style is simple yet elegant. He knows the territory well and gives a useful overview of the history and literature of the Jesus Prayer, its various developments over the centuries, uses to which people have put it. His coming at the spirituality of the Eastern Church from a Western perspective is quite helpful, particularly to those who are unfamiliar with the spirituality of Orthodoxy and the Eastern Church.

In the second book, Praying the Jesus Together, Bp. Simon teams up with “Brother Ramon”, an Anglican Franciscan hermit. Friends for many years, they were stirred by a sense that the Holy Spirit was guiding them, and drew together for a shared week of prayer at Glasshampton Monastery in England. Praying the Jesus Prayer Together shares what they learned in an experience they describe as a week of glory-a week marked by Brother Ramon’s physical suffering from cancer. While Brother Ramon’s cancer would ultimately disrupt their collaboration, they discovered how profoundly the disease and attendant suffering enriched and enhanced their communion as they prayed the Jesus Prayer together.

Until reading this book, I had always regarded the Jesus Prayer as a somewhat solitary work. I had found it deeply personal, and something distinctive from the Rosary or breviary prayers in community. Yet, the book provides practical guidelines for how to practice the prayer, not only individually, but also corporately. The authors, bishop and monk, teach with great clarity and power. They ground that teaching in the Scriptures and adding insights and stories from the Western church and from around the world. In the end, they relate the Jesus Prayer to some of the most profound themes in the Christian faith, as well as some of the most essential patterns of Christian discipleship, particularly in community.

So, my advice is to let the latest breathless thriller or conspiracy theory wait until the fall. Instead of reading a book, take one or both of these books with you to the beach, the mountains or wherever you may be rusticating. Then, go ahead. Get out your prayer rope or beads, and pray a book this summer. You will be quite glad for doing so.

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Fifteen Years


On an ordinary day, the parish priest has to be pretty darned adept at multitasking. This is particularly true from about Thursday through Sunday evening for reasons that run from the sublime to…well…the ridiculous. Indeed, in one case, I was called out to perform “an emergency house blessing”. Needless to say, the furniture and household appliances were not floating in midair.  In fact, the queer noises that were causing so much concern came from a family of squirrels that had chewed their way into the attic and were given to gamboling and such at odd hours of the day and night. The “roof rabbits” were blessed along with the rest of the house. (Note to brother clergy: do keep a flashlight in your Mass kit for those hard-to-reach parts of the house to be blessed.)

Over time, there have been many “call-outs” at all hours for reasons awful, grave, not-so-grave, ordinary and even downright humorous.  One learns, though, that something that may be seem trivial can have great weight.   That’s the reason that putting on the dog collar involves going when called, often in several directions at once.  It means blessing each individual holy card for an hundred school children while trying to pray in a shrine church.  I watched a friend do this at a Franciscan Monastery while suffering a bout of malaria.  He never complained and had a smile for each little World Youth Day pilgrim, every one of whom seemed to have dozens of holy cards, rosaries and statues of obscure saints in their back packs.  It had a profound effect one me, and is a picture I try to keep in mind whenever I deem myself to be “overworked” or put upon

Today, however, has surpassed many others for weekend excitement. We had an early meeting of the Virginia Army Cadet staff to prepare for summer camp. We got an enormous amount of administrative work done in a short time, and the advanced team went out to the site where we will hold our August mini-camp: three days of ropes course, land navigation, hiking, swimming and marksmanship training. The “confirmed” arrangements were, in fact, not. The camp had never heard from us.

Following a flurry of e-mails, phone calls and some perhaps un-priestly discourse, We got that buttoned down, and I was able to move on to producing tomorrow’s service bulletin, our parish secretary having left several weeks ago in a huff over “substandard printer cartridges”. This hurdle was overcome amidst a parade of visitors-all very, very welcome, mind you, but the clock tiketh. In the meantime, several ladies of the church were cooking chili to be sold tomorrow and at synod. The aroma is extraordinary, especially since lunchtime had slipped by unnoticed.

Readjusting, I somehow have come up with noted for an homily on I St. John 4:16. No warranties express or implied, particularly now that I have read it. I am now “in production” on the class handouts for tomorrow’s class on Revelation, and praying that the thunderstorm that has just moved in doesn’t knock out the power before I can get them copied. Otherwise, it is a 6:00 a.m. special tomorrow.

So it is that I remembered that I was ordained priest fifteen years ago on St. Columba’s Day, June 9, 2002, by the late Archbishop Robert Sherwood Morse.  On June 23rd, the opening day of our diocesan synod, I will mark 16 years in Holy Orders, having been “deaconized” on that date in 2001 by the very same Abp. Morse.

To be sure, it has been a busy stretch with parish work, a decade in military chaplaincy, graduate theological studies and weekends just as busy or busier than this.  Sometimes, on long nights at the hospital, those missed holiday dinners, birthdays and anniversaries, and in the midst of tragedy great and small, one wonders how to keep all of the balls in the air.  Prayer of course.  But, in addition to more grace than any man deserves,  I have had the unfailing love and support of family, especially my wife Elizabeth.

Even on the days when multitasking stretches me thin, it is a joy to be able to serve the people of God and to be an “advance man” for our Lord.   I do have two small requests, though.

First, pray daily for your parish priest.  We need it.

Secondly, on Sunday morning after Mass, please don’t ask, “What do you do the other days of the week.”

It’s just not nice to annoy the priest.


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Trinity Sunday


We are trying something new this week.  I am going to try to post the order worship for the Sunday services so that folks can practice the hymns and brush up on the Scripture for the day.


In our lesson from the Revelation to St. John, we have an echo of Isaiah’s vision in the Temple from Isaiah 6:3. Both the Prophet Isaiah and St. John saw the worship of God in heaven, which is characterized by the threefold acclamation, “Holy, holy, holy.” But although there are hints of the Trinity throughout the Old Testament, it in only in light of the Incarnation that we are granted that full revelation of God in three Persons. Thus, Isaiah’s prophecy looks forward to John’s vision, when we would understand that God is not just one (which he indeed is), but even more, three-in-one. And every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we echo the worship of God as seen by Isaiah and John, for we fall down before this altar proclaiming, “Holy, holy, holy,” to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Prayer Book

Opening Sentences                                   5
Invitation to Confession                          6
General Confession                                  6
Versicles and Responses                         7
Venite                                                          9
Psalms 29, 99 (responsively by verse) 373, 462
First Lesson-Revelation iv.1                   186
Te Deum Laudamus                                 10
Second Lesson-St. John iii.1                    187
Jubilate Deo                                                15
The Apostle’s Creed                                  15
Versicles and Responses                          17
The Lord’s Prayer                                       7
Prayers                                                     16 & 186
Sermon-The Rev. Canon Charles H. Nalls


HYMNAL (11:00 A.M.)                               PRAYER BOOK

266 Processional Hymn (Nicaea)
Introit (Bulletin insert)
Collect for Purity                                  67
Summary of the Law                           69
710  Kyrie eleison, (Willan)                        70
713  Gloria in excelsis (Willan)                  84
Collect of the Day                                 186
The Epistle-Revelation iv.1                186

Gradual & Alleluia Verse (bulletin insert)
Gospel-St. John iii. 1                             187
Nicene Creed                                         71
267   Sermon Hymn (Regent Square)
Sermon – The Rev. Canon Charles H. Nalls
Offertory proper (Bulletin insert)
171   Offertory Hymn (Bromley)
171   Doxology (Bromley) Intercessions of the Faithful 74
General Confession                             75
Absolution & Comfortable Words     76
Sursum Corda                                       76
711/797 Sanctus & Benedictus (Willan)   77

Canon of Consecration                        80
Lord’s Prayer                                         82
Peace of the Lord
712 Agnus Dei (Willan)
Prayer of Humble Access                   82
Communion Hymns-208 (Penetentia); 251 (Gentle Jesus)
Communion Prayer
Post-communion Thanksgiving         83
Communio (Bulletin insert)
V: Depart in peace:
R: Thanks be to God!                       84
463  Recessional Hymn (Hereford)






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