Monday, January 20, 2014

The Good Shepherd


Jesus the Good Shepherd

 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.’

-John 10:11-16

 

There can be little doubt in my mind that when Jesus tells his disciples that he is the Good Shepherd, he is clearly and intentionally evoking the image of the shepherd in the Twenty-third Psalm.  In that treasured psalm, in which the Psalmist boldly proclaims, “the LORD is my shepherd,” we learn that this shepherd is indeed a good shepherd—one who even walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death.  Thus, it seems to me that when Jesus claims that he is the Good Shepherd, he is making a bold Christological claim with respect to his lordship, and his divine nature.

That claim, though, is not only christological, but also deeply pastoral.  All of the wonderful images evoked in the Twenty-third Psalm, images ascribed to God, the LORD, are also ascribed to Jesus in the Gospel of John.  When we read that he “leads us beside still waters” we recall the words of Jesus in St. John, “my peace I give you … a peace which the world cannot give.”  And when we hear of a “table spread before us,” and that in his presence we “shall not want,” we may think again of Jesus proclaiming “I am the bread of life” and “those who come to me will never be hungry.”  And when we gaze upon Jesus lifted high upon the cross, we recall that truly he is with us, even in the “valley of the shadow of death.”  Yes, his claim, his bold claim, “I am the good shepherd,” is at once Christological, and at the same time pastoral.  But, is not the Incarnation of God in Christ Jesus the greatest act of pastoral care that God can give us?

            When Jesus claims, as well, that he knows his own and his own know him, this is another radical claim about his identity as the Good Shepherd.  At first this seems at odds with the prologue of John’s gospel, in which it is stated “he came to his own and they knew him not.” Yet our Good Shepherd has the ability to seek out and work away on even the most hardened and troubled hearts, to gather in even the most skeptical, the most broken-hearted, the most disillusioned, and in his great care for them, call them his own; and they by a wondrous miracle, come to recognize him for who he is—the Good Shepherd.

            His reach is so expansive that “his own” refers not only to his own people – a clear referenced to the Jewish nation – but to another flock, as well.  Certainly this is a reference to the gentiles, who in Christ were to be grafted onto the true vine, who equally needed to receive God’s loving pastoral care which is brought forth in the Incarnation.  He has another flock—and lest we forget, that “other” flock is those of us who do not have Jewish ancestry.  Through God’s graciousness, we are grafted onto the true vine.

            Finally, his loving embrace is so expansive that we recognize our Good Shepherd as Lord not only of the living, but also of the dead.  His flock extends beyond time and space, and beyond the grave.  In heaven and on earth, there is but one Lord, and one flock. The Good Shepherd truly is what he says he is.  He is the Lord of all things, of all time, of all space.  Thus, we have no cause to fear the grave, for our Good Shepherd has gone before us and conquered the grave and has made it for all people a bed of hope.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

And is it True? A Message for Christmas 2013

“And is it true?”

And is it true? And is it true,
          This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
          a Baby in an ox’s stall?
The maker of the stars and sea
Become a child on earth for me?

And is it true? As we make our way into our churches or gather round our festive tables this Christmastime, do we believe that the Truth of the image illumined in stained glass is also the Truth that illumines our hearts?  In his poem Christmas, John Betjeman (1906-1984), the late poet laureate of England, utters these words “and is it true?”, as a cry that straddles faith and doubt as he observes the festivities unfolding.  Oh, to be sure, as we look around us during this advent season, the markings of Christmas are all there.  He writes, “The bells of waiting Advent ring,/ The Tortoise stove is lit again…”  and “The bunting in the red Town Hall/ Says ‘Merry Christmas to you all.’”  The signs are there, but is it true? Is it true?

And what is this really all about? Christmas unfolds amidst the bustling of the “London shops on Christmas Eve?” and Betjeman probes more deeply as he observes the outer signs thusly,

And girls in slacks remember Dad
         And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s hearts grow glad,
        And Christmas-morning bells say ‘Come!’
Even to ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

Are these not in some way lovely things? Parents are remembered by the children?  Is one’s heart not stirred by the little girl, grown up, now in slacks remembered dear old Dad with a gaudy tie?  Or that brute of a son, never really in touch with his feelings, with a tender offering presented to his loving mother?  Does a tear not form in one’s eye?  And what of the little children who wait upon the bearded man, as if bringing Mel Tormé’s prophecy to life?  And as if from a Courier and Ives greeting card, the light streams from the church and our imaginations hear the bell toll, welcoming one and all.  It all seems so lovely, perhaps too lovely, even saccharine.

And is it true? And it true?

What do these things, these lovely things, mean?  Yes, the bows and the wrappings, the tender family moments, even decorated parish church all mean Christmas—they all sing Christmas!  And yet, can they bear the load of Christmas?  Can they contain the weight of “a baby in an ox’s stall?”  Perhaps they touch the meaning. Perhaps they give it a nod. But can they, do they, testify to the Truth?  And so Betjeman continues:

And is it true? For if it is,
           No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
          The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells
         No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
        Can with single Truth compare—
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

“What is Truth?” Pilate asked Jesus at his trial.  Is truth those “tissued fripperies” as lovely as they are?  Is truth a half-resented sentiment offered in a five-dollar “secret Santa” gift?  Is Truth met around a Christmas dinner table at which one hurriedly arrives, and hurriedly leaves to meet the obligations that are expected by in-law and out-law alike? Is Truth found in the sentiment of Christmas, keenly felt (or deeply resented?).  With God all things are possible, so I dare not suggest that Truth cannot be met in such places.  And I do suspect that Betjemen knew that it may have left its mark even in such places.  But these things, these sentiments are not Truth, in and of themselves.  Years ago I remember being part of a choir and singing an anthem entitled “Christmas is a feeling.”  Yes, Christmas may evoke all sorts of feelings, but if Truth rests on how we feel, then surely the forces of darkness have won.  But thankfully, Truth is not a feeling.  Christmas is not a feeling. As Betjeman rightly notes, all these festive sacraments pale in comparison (can they even compare?) with the greatest Sacrament of all, the Word made flesh. This very Word made flesh can yet dwell in us, and so while we may enjoy the “sweet and silly Christmas things,” let us not forget to seek him where he may be found, and feed on him in our hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.

May the richness of Christ dwell in you fully this Christmastide and always,

Father Dan

The text of John Betjeman’s poem Christmas is found in Faith and Doubt of John Betjeman: an Anthology of Betjeman’s Religious Verse, edited by Kevin J. Gardner (London: Continuum, 2005), pp 82-83.

 

 

Monday, November 18, 2013

New Publication! "Richard Hooker: His Life, Work, & Legacy -- Essays in Honour of W. David Neelands on his Seventieth Birthday"

Richard Hooker: His Life, Work, & Legacy - Essays in Honour of W. David Neelands on his Seventieth Birthday
Daniel F. Graves & Scott Kindred-Barnes, editors
with contributions from the Richard Hooker Society
Toronto: St. Osmund Press, 2013
Hardcover, 242 pp.
ISBN 978-0-9921114-0-3
$29.95 CDN

I am very pleased to announce that Richard Hooker: His Life, Work, & Legacy -- Essays in Honour of W. David Neelands on his Seventieth Birthday was launched on Friday, Nov. 15th, 2013 at a special celebratory evening, at Trinity College, in Canon Neelands' honour during the annual meeting of the Richard Hooker Society.  This festschrift, edited by the Rev. Daniel F. Graves & the Rev. Dr. Scott Kindred-Barnes, features articles by the following Richard Hooker scholars: Matthew Cadwell, Lee Gibbs, Rudy Almasy, Daniel Eppley, Egil Grislis, Daniel Graves, Torrance Kirby, Gary Jenkins, John Stafford, Scott Kindred-Barnes, and Paul Stanwood. The volume features a lovely portrait frontispiece of Canon Neelands painted by Indra Skuja-Grislis, which was also presented on Nov. 15th.  The portrait will remain a part of the permanent art collection of Trinity College.

From the Foreward by Archbishop Colin Johnson:

“David Neelands has carved a gentler, more humane – dare we say, more Anglican! – middle space in this Church, welcoming dialogue, attending to nuance and inspiring inquiry … building the capacity of the Church to explore and test new understandings for a contemporary living faith in robust but not rigid alignment with the ancient received doctrines of Christian faith.”

Those wishing to order a copy can purchase it from Augsburg-Fortress Canada

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Restoring a Reed Organ, Part 13: Recovering the Bellows and Exhausters













 After we stripped the cloth off the reservoir and exhausters, we sanded them down so that they were nice and clean with no glue or material residue remaining
 
The bellows had been recovered in 1905 and the restorer had left a penciled note on the inside of the reservoir.  The exhausters, however, were original. They were "harmonium style", that is, with large ribs with leather hinges and leather gussets. The conventional wisdom as that novices like us should not attempt to recreate these on the first go-around.  We decided we would just recover the exhausters using bellows cloth (more on that, below).
 







We cleaned off the old ribs and sanded them down so that we could use them again in the exhausters. We then set them aside while we moved to work on the main reservoir.


We rehinged the bellows board to the movable reservoir board (for some reason I didn't take any photos of that) and then while waiting for the hinge to dry we cut the bellows cloth.  When the hinge was dry, we used a dowel to prop open reservoir to its original 8" opening and then glued on the cloth using hot hide glue.  This was our first time using hide glue.  It think I applied a bit to much at first. It takes a while to get used to using it.

 
 
After it dried we collapsed it.  All seems to hold together nicely. We temporarily sealed the valve holes and tested for leaks.  It seemed pretty tight. Not bad for a first try.
 
 
Next, we carefully replaced the exhauster boards in their exact location and rehanged them.  While waiting for the glue hinges to dry I decided to attempt the leather gasket where the bellows board joins to the foundation board. It was previously glued, nailed and screwed, with no gasket. We are not going to reglue it, but instead apply a gasket and then rescrew it.
 
I found a deerskin leather that I thought would make a good gasket.  I temporarily taped it in place and affixed it with hot hide glue.
 
 
When it dried I used a scalpel exacto knife to cut out the airholes and screw-holes.
 
 
Next we moved on to the exhausters. When exhausters are recovered, usually the cloth that attaches to the bellows board is turned outward.  These large exhausters were done the old-fashioned way. They also take up most of the surface of the bellows board and there is almost no room to turn the cloth out to glue it (either along the edges or between the exhausters) and certainly no room to apply a batten to hold it.  I figured that perhaps it would be better to turn the cloth inward.  I made a small paper pattern of what the exhausters would look like, with original ribs glued to the interior of the bellows cloth and cut it apart, and folded it, to see if our plan would work.  It seemed to, so we proceed to do it with the real exhausters.  We pencilled in where the cloth would turn under...
 

We carefully measured out the bellows cloth and pasted the ribs to the inside using hot hide glue...

 
We weighted them down and let them dry overnight.  A few of the corners didn't quite take (I think this was an issue of learning how to use the glue and keep it at the right temperature), so we re-glued, applied more pressure, and "presto!"
 
 
And while we were waiting for the glue to dry we cut our valve leather to size.

 
... and attached them to the bellows board (exhauster interior)
 

When we were ready, we glued the cloth to the base of the exhauster...
 
 

 
I think it didn't turn out too badly for our first attempt, and for having to improvise on the exhausters. 
 
 
We realized that we had a bit of leaking around the exhauster hinges.  We figured this was the result of the cloth turned inward and not having enough of a tight seal around the bottom corners.  We applied some extra bellows cloth around the bottom corners of the exhausters.  I was not that happy about how it looked, but it certainly eliminated the leaking.
 
When we reattached the bellows system to the foundation board and reattached the side braces and springs we tested the vacuum.  At first I was quite disappointed as we were only able to hold a vacuum for about 45 seconds.  We wondered if it was the deer skin gasket. Remember, this is the piece of wood that we splintered and had to repair.  I wasn't sure whether it was the deer skin leather, or whether our repair was uneven.  I taped along each side of the join with masking tape to discern if that is where air was getting through. Sure enough, that sealed it up and we got just over two minutes of vacuum before the reservoir fully opened. I think that is fairly respectable.  Rather than trying another gasket, or messing with the splintered end of the bellows board any further, I think we will just apply some bellows cloth along the seal where I used masking tape to test it.  That way, if the bellows ever need to be removed, the cloth can simply be cut along the seal and when unscrewed, the whole system will come apart with no trouble at all. 
 
We learned a lot doing this.  There are several things I would likely do differently next time, but it was a very good learning experience.
 
 


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Restoring a Reed Organ, Part 12: Cleaning the Keys

A while back, I had the opportunity to work on cleaning the keyboard.  There are a few front ivories that are missing and the keys are very dirty and yellow.  You can also see some of the red felt stains on the treble end of the keyboard that was caused by water being spilled on the keyboard at sometime in its past. 
I removed the mount upon which the stop levers are located and this allows for the removal of each key for cleaning. 
 
On the underside of the stop mount, the number 307 was written in pencil.  Is this the part number for this stop action?  I found 303 written in several other places on the organ. I know that M and H used "300" numbers as style numbers for some of their organs.  There is still no overt sign of a serial number or style number.




A few more pencil markings were found on the keys: "#49"
The letter "H"














I gently sanded the sides of the keys to remove any finger gunk.  I then used warm water and a small amount of light detergent on the ivories.  Finally I used "0000" steel wool to buff them up.

I think they ended up looking pretty good.

There is still a fair amount of discolouring, but I am told that with some sunlight exposure, they will whiten up a bit more.

Here is a before/after picture after the top octave was cleaned. Quite a difference, but you can still see the extent of the yellowing, especially on the high "C".

I will have to track down some ivories fronts for the half dozen that are missing. 

The black keys are generally in pretty decent shape.










Monday, August 5, 2013

Restoring a Reed Organ Part 11: the Octave Coupler

The Octave Coupler:
The octave coupler is an interesting mechanical device that allows you to play two notes, an octave apart, while playing only the lower of the two keys.  The device is engaged when the "octave coupler" stop knob is pulled, engaging a linkage that is attached to a rod underneath the coupler system which slightly elevates the coupler bed so that an angle rod (the coupler rod) can activate the corresponding key an octave higher.  

It is a great place for collecting dust and bits of debris, including this missing stop face!  Clearly, too much dirt and debris will affect the way the coupler mechanism works.  After retrieving that Melodia stop face and vacuuming the coupler, we dismantled the entire mechanism to get an idea how it works and what needed to be done to return it to its original functionality.





The mechanism has a couple of strips of wood to hold it in place, as well as felt in several places that keep the couplers from hitting each other and making noise.









We removed the wood braces and the couplers revealing the felt bed.  Clearly this one has been redone.  You can see the original red felt in between the pegs that that keep the couplers in their proper working positions.  The previous restorer has taken the easy route and placed green felt below the pegs, rather than work around the pegs and punch holes in the felt.







The underside of one of the braces shows the remains of more original moth-eaten red felt.

You can see that I taped down all the coupler rods in order from bass to treble as I wasn't sure if they were all exactly the same or not.  I did not want to get all 45 of them out of order and have the mechanism improperly calibrated.  I thought this was the best solution until I got around to cleaning the coupler rods.
This is the underside of the coupler bed.  It has a two little brackets (one is seen on the right hand side) by which it is affixed to the top of the reed cells.  The two vertical cross beams are what the activating rod pushes upward to move the coupler bed into position when activated.  You can see all the old felts removed and resting on the coupler rods.

One by one I cleaned the coupler rods with 0000 steel wool.  They were quite dirty and had some corrosion where they came into contact with the old felt over the years.  After cleaning, I placed a little piece tape on the end of each, with a number of the rod (1 through 45) and placed them in a coffee tin until I was ready to re-assemble the whole mechanism. It was a long and tedious job, but book how nice and shiny they are now!



The next order of business was to cut new felt for the coupler bed and braces. When I tried to punch holes in the felt, I just couldn't get a nice clean hole punched.  It was then that I realized why the previous restorer had taken the easy way.  I'm told the organ had functioned quite nicely for several years until it had essentially been abandoned, so I decided to follow the previous restorer and simply place the felt strips alongside the pegs, rather than try to punch holes in them.  I think it worked out just fine, and when I reassembled the whole mechanism, it appeared to work very smoothly.




Here are the coupler rods going back on...
 

 And here is the fully restored mechanism with braces in place.  All in all, I think it worked out very nicely. 

 
The sub-bass is activated by a similar coupler system, except with only 13 notes.  It is slightly more complicated as each coupler is held in place by a small individual wood brace with a felt bushing.  I have not gotten to that yet, but am thinking of bringing that one home with me (as it is a nice, small mechanism) so that I can work on it in my spare moments.
 

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Dominion Reed Organ Diversion




St. Thomas' Anglican Church, Ullswater/Bent River Ontario
About fifteen minutes east of Rosseau, Ontario, on Dee Bank Road, just off of Hwy 141, sits a little Anglican Church that has long been a favourite of mine, St. Thomas'  Anglican Church Ullswater/Bent River.  It is part of the parish of St. Stephen, which includes St. Thomas' Church, Orrville (my parents' home church), Church of the Redeemer, Rosseau, St. Thomas' Church, Ullswater/Bent River, and Christ Church, Windermere.  I first encountered St. Thomas' Ullswater/Bent River during my time as a Divinity student.  I spent two wonderful summers with the rector, my good friend, the Rev. C. Peter Simmons, and each Sunday we did the circuit of three of the four churches.  During that time I had the opportunity to preach at this wonderful church and since ordination have presided at the altar on numerous occasions.

This church is a delightful, small country church with a Sunday summer attendance of about 20-25, and it feels very full when there are that many people there!  It meets year round and is supported by a faithful group of parishioners who love and care for it. 


The Church sign. My friend the Rev. Peter Simmons is the Rector
 
The bright, simple interior of the church.
I am told that the Church is actually a log structure that was shingled over sometime during the twentieth century.  The interior has been panelled as well. Although I am not a fan of covering up the historical character of a place of worship, it has a lively, bright feel to it, which makes it a very pleasant place to worship. The ceiling is "domed" which allows for quite robust acoutics in such small building. But wait... look!  What do we see up front on the epistle side of the church?  Is that a reed organ?! 

Why yes, it is!  In addition to the modern electric organ (located on the Gospel side of the church) is an old Dominion Reed Organ.  I noticed this treasure when I first preached at St. Thomas' some years ago, and although I was intrigued, I had little knowledge of reed organs in those days.  Last summer, I decided to take a closer look...

The Dominion Organ Company of Bowmanville, Ontario, was an important Canadian manufacturer of Reed Organs.  Rodney Jantzi has recently restored a Dominion organ and information about the Dominion Company can be found here. To view Rodney's Dominion Orchestral reed organ restoration project, click here.


A view of the Dominion logo on the bass side of the stop board.
 
When I asked one of the organists (can you believe this little church has three organists?!  Oh, how they are blessed!) about the organ, I was told that it was completely refurbished a few years ago, and electrified.  Ouch.  I think their idea of "refurbished" might be a fair distance from what we call "restored."  I wondered if the bellows system had been completely removed.  I sat down and pumped and it made some music, if you can call it that, for the Churchman is not the most accomplished organist that ever lived!  But it became clear that the bellows were still there, if a bit leaky, as it required some vigourous pumping to keep the sound going.  I pulled out the various stops and found that there was pretty much only one registration working.  I'm not sure if the stop knobs were detached, or if the linkages were broken, or if this was all part of the "refurbishment!"  Several of the stop-faces were missing.   For some reason, I didn't take a picture of all the stop knobs.  Nor did I list what they were.  I guess I didn't have a pen and paper handy or something.  Duh. From the photos, I believe there are ten stops, as follows: 1) missing, 2) missing, 3) Bass Coupler, 4) Vox Humana, 5) Forte, 6) Treble Coupler, 7) missing, 8) Vox Angelica 8', 9) Echo 8', 10) missing.


Stop knobs... bass side
Stop knobs,  moving up the keyboard.


A look at the organ from another angle shows it to be a fairly simple but handsome case, not anywhere near as ornate as my Mason and Hamlin.  I expect it did good service in this little church for many generations.  One of the other organists told me that she played it once when the power went out, but that she wore herself out pumping it.

If this organ is supposed to be "electrified", what happened to the "on" switch?
If it had been electrifed, I thought maybe I could find an "on" switch somewhere that would allow me to see what happens under power.  Incidentally, Dad told me that in the church in Orrville, they used to have a reed organ and he remembers when he was a boy that his dad electrified it with a vacuum cleaner motor when the old spinster organist who was in her nineties could no longer play it.   That organ is long gone, but in looking for the "on" switch on this one, it became clear that it had gone missing!







The back of the organ ... a taped up pipe!
... And looking at the back of the organ, there is a pipe, presumably the suction source for the electrifcation refurbishment.  It is taped up with masking tape.
 
I didn't have a screwdriver with me or I would have tried to get a look inside.  The back was fastened pretty tightly.  I thought I'd take a look underneath the keyboard, but first I snapped a shot of the pedals and the two knee levers.



...and then a look underneath the keyboard to find No. 3326. Is this the action number or the serial number?
 
 
And another number stamped on the back, 58564.
 


Well, not being able to get inside, that's about all I could make of it last summer.  Perhaps this summer, I'll bring a screwdriver with me and take a look and see just what is (or is not) going on in there.  Could this be another restoration project after we get the M and H done?  Only time will tell.  I can say one thing for sure, I would love to see this little organ restored and the people of St. Thomas' Ullswater/Bent River singing their hymns of praise to its tones once again!
 
However, before I close off, there are a couple of other little interesting gems in this church worth pointing out...

The first is this beautifully carved lectern.  There is no pulpit in this church, so the lessons are read and sermons preached from this same lectern.  I have preached from it on numerous occasions, but being on the opposite side, I had never taken notice of the carved crest on the front...


Is that the coat of arms of my alma mater, Trinity College, Toronto?!  I believe it is! What on earth would it being doing on the front of this lectern out in the country in the Diocese of Algoma?

 
Perhaps the memorial plaque will tell the story...

 
Derwyn Trevor Owen (1876-1947) was successively, the Bishop of Niagara (1925-1932), the Bishop of Toronto (1932-1947), and the sixth Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada (1934-1947). David Derwyn Owen, B.A. Captain of the Queen's Own Rifles, who "died of wounds in Normandy, August 17th, 1944" was likely a relative of the late bishop, perhaps his son?  I knew two of Archbishop Owen's grandsons fairly well.  It should be easy enough to identify him with a bit of research.
 
Was this lectern once resident in Trinity College? 
 
Also in this little church we find this very interesting bishop's chair.
 
 
The left half of the crest looks like the cresf of the Diocese of Toronto.

 
Which makes sense, as upon closer inspection we see that the chair is a memorial to Archbishop Owen who "worshipped here for many summers."
 

 
It just goes to show that we ought to take the time to slow down and inspect our surroundings.  When I think of all the times I have been in this church and not noticed these little details, it astounds me that I missed them.  Then again, in multi-point rural ministry, one rushes in just on time as the service begins and then rushes out to head off to the next church, not event taking time to remove one's vestments!  It took a special trip to investigate the Dominion Reed Organ to notice these other important features of this fine little church. I'm glad I took the time to drive out there and explore the familiar!