“Let all God’s Glory Through”

You may think that I’m going to tell you about why I think it is important to give to Perfecting our Praises in the context of the need to support our music program. And maybe, peripherally, I am. But I really want to talk about three virtues that I perceive in our common life at St. Paul’s Cathedral and their relationship to the campaign: outreach, evangelism, and glorifying God through legacy building.

So let me first get the obligatory self-disclosures out of the way. I am a music lover. I absolutely adore the Anglican choral tradition, and can’t conceive of life in San Diego without the fine musical offerings of this cathedral, a place whose outreach first ministered to me years ago.

It was 1967 when I first walked through the doors of St. Paul’s Church. It wasn’t to come to a worship service. I came to hear a concert. I think it was Haydn’s Mass in Time of War. Supporting the whole edifice of choir, soloists and orchestra was the organ – played at the time by Howard Don Small – and largely the same instrument we hear today. I was hooked.

So this little story of coming to a concert is my personal testimony to the experience of successful outreach as practiced at St. Paul’s. Successful outreach can be the meeting of kindred souls, a shared experience, or an event, such as a concert, that is directly and honestly offered on the one hand, and embraced on the other. Through extending the hand of outreach, we live into the summary of the law, loving our neighbors as ourselves. We practice many forms of outreach here; hospitality, education, social justice ministries, for some just our abiding openness and presence; and of course, our outreach through music. I want that outreach to continue, and I hope that you do, too.

The experts at the Episcopal Church Foundation say that the organ campaign may be a hard sell: while one third of us can’t imagine worship without a pipe organ, another third of us are generally indifferent to it, and the final third of us think the money should be used elsewhere. Perhaps some of the last group would prefer that we use our financial resources toward the gospel imperative of evangelism. I believe that evangelism and support for the organ campaign dovetail.

I can’t begin to count how many times when I’ve heard parishioners here tell their stories that they mention hearing God’s voice through music. The essence of evangelism is to quicken personal response to God’s graciousness. Now, evangelism in the Anglican tradition is more a process rather than a crisis as we are called toward progressive realization of our nature and destiny in Christ. The music of our Memorial Organ has moved many to experience this transcendence, this pull, this call, and is literally an “instrument of evangelism.” For me, a gift toward the restoration of our pipe organ may be one of the most important evangelism efforts I can make at St. Paul’s.

Finally, St. Paul’s has always looked toward the future; towards loving those neighbors that are proximate in time as well as in space. From the parish founders in downtown San Diego ordering a pipe organ to be shipped around South America, through the building of the Great Hall, and then the cathedral itself, and in current plans for future expansion, we have a long tradition of leaving a legacy that enriches the life of future generations. It is our turn now. I have pledged to Perfecting Our Praises with an eye to the future and to St. Paul’s continuing witness in the community in succeeding generations. Sacrificial giving, in proportion to our means, can be a powerful spiritual discipline. I invite you to join me in this work.

One of my favorite poets, Gerard Manley Hopkins, wrote of the “one work” that Mary had to do “to let all God’s glory through.” I believe that in our own small way, we emulate the devotion and transparency of Mary and create a legacy for future generations as we support the campaign for restoration of this magnificent pipe organ that for so many, yesterday, today, and hopefully tomorrow, “lets all God’s glory through.”

Mark Lester

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