Pesky Sesqui Minutiae

072ses·qui·cen·ten·ni·al – That Latin-based word fortunately has the same number of syllables (6) as the English One-hun-dred-and-fif-ty. But that doesn’t make it any easier to remember, let alone pronounce, especially for those poor mortals, who never had Latin drummed into them by shillelagh-wielding Irish Christian brothers when their cowering snotty-nosed kids were students in the 4th, 5th or 6th form of a New Delhi-based Catholic-run school back in India.

So here am I, many, many years later in Englewood, New Jersey, near the year-end of the sesquicentennial – there’s that polysyllabic word again! – of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and trying to figure out the best way of bringing home to my readers the great import of this auspicious date and time in its history. Not much point, to my mind, in reciting well-known historical facts that have been adequately covered in many local library publications – good and mediocre – since 1865.

St. Paul's PlaqueBut, if I’m able to provide a personal – and perhaps parochial – perspective, without going into ‘pesky sesqui’ minutiae, yet throwing some light on hitherto little-known facts, I would have accomplished my self-appointed task.

The Chapel (nee Parish Hall)
My favorite by far in St. Paul’s building complex is the Chapel, which was erected in 1899 as a parish hall. It is where I got my middle daughter (a tenured professor in Harvard) married instead of in her closer neighborhood Cambridge church. Later, one of her daughters was baptized at the Chapel. I also took great pride in arranging for a maze to be constructed outside the Chapel entrance.
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150th Annual Meeting
I was to be sure disappointed, as others were, that the meeting held on the morning of December the 13th in the Parish Hall was sparsely attended in sharp contrast to the handsome and colorfully populated 31-page 2015 Annual Report. Nonetheless, there was enough of a quorum to permit the business side of the proceedings to go forward without a hitch. One prominent member there did point out to those present that he was amazed “how much gets done at the parish with so few volunteers.” His hope, as a newly appointed Vestrymember, was to “help the Rector evangelize the congregation” and make a renewed and concerted effort to get others involved in the life and ministries of the parish.

Volunteers
Speaking of volunteers, I’d like to devote some time here to those whom I largely depended on during the privileged five and a half years I spent as the Parish Administrator (2009-14) and without whom my task would have been immeasurably more burdensome. In no particular order, there was Ruth Herrick, who despite her 99 years – which great age she attained on October 25 this year – was there in person at The 150th.

Until mid-2014, Mrs. Herrick regularly attended my monthly meeting toward the end of each month in the Vestry Room along with another volunteer, Merle Fenderson, to put together artfully and accurately The Messenger for mailing to our 150 parishioner households that were not online, so that the newsletters arrived at the recipients’ addresses at the beginning of each month without fail.

Ruth and Merle

Ruth and Merle

[October 25, 2010 was a special day for Ruth, who celebrated her 95th birthday , yet a day later, she was busy in the Vestry Room doing – what else? – folding, labeling and stamping over 150 pieces of the November publication with Merle at her side.
Cakes for Ruth
Merle, who is a professional baker of irresistible delicacies, was
moved to create a colorful plateful of cakes for the occasion
as the image alongside displays in greater detail – yummy!]

Another of my constant and consistent volunteers was the inimitable long-serving Treasurer of the Vestry/Choir member and professional editor William “Bill” Payne: he along with authoress Margaret “Peg” Slaven, had eagle eyes trained on all the ins and outs of the ‘literary ‘ aspects of the monthly newsletters and official reports submitted via me and others for the Vestry and beyond.

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Make no mistake, Bill and Peg taught me the ins and outs of avoiding misplaced colons, semicolons, commas, apostrophes, brackets and suchlike in a sentence before publication in print or online. I’m grateful to them, as I find their collective grammatical wisdom helping me even now as I turn in my eighties to blogging on the Internet on a regular basis about this and that on a myriad of topics and subjects.

Bill Payne
Then, there were those who were active in the kitchen and the Parish Hall on Sundays – including special days. The popularity of the repasts laid out after Sunday service is a testament to the excellence of the army of volunteers.

Jeff Johnson and Kai Alston
Jeff Johnson and Kai Alston

Among them, who – I ask – cannot name a particular mother-and-daughter team that jumps out over the years in sheer dedication and devotion to the cause? Coralius (“Corless”) Noble and her daughter Kaileen (“Kai”) Alston! Kai is seen alongside viewing parishioner Jeff Johnson preparing a BBQ on one Sunday just outside the Parish Hall for a hungry crowd.

Other active souls for many years have been entrepreneur Ina Martinez (former Junior Warden) who helped The Messenger to flourish early on in the 1990’s, and Janice Walker, who has regularly spearheaded St. Paul’s contingent for the Annual Crop Walk held in May: croplogoit’s well-known logo can be seen in and around town to help increase citizen’s involvement each year here in Englewood.

Helpers in the Administrative Office were legion, and while it is difficult to single out one of them, it would be safe for me to say that I appreciated the ready assistance I received from Hugh Hall as locum tenens on many occasions .

I could go on and on, but before I head to the non-volunteer section of this article, I would be remiss in not mentioning Pat O’Neil, now Senior Warden, who for years was always available when I needed a sympathetic ear in the office or away from work. On a lighter note, I know that, because of his Irish background, Pat appreciated my tales of yore pertaining to my grade school experiences with a martinet of a schoolmaster from Ireland.

Clergy
Among the clergy I worked with as a committee member and then Vestrymember, the Rector Fr. Jack McKelvey was a class act and did the parish proud before being whisked away to Newark by the Diocese as the Suffragan Bishop. Later Jack was installed, as Bishop,  in my old stomping ground of Rochester, NY.

112Not far behind in my appreciation was the next Rector, Fr. Kenneth Near, whose musical ear allowed me to share with him some common – and oftentimes droll! – experiences on and off the stage.

I had already put in my papers to the interim Priest-in-Charge Fr. Robert “Bob” Shearer end-2013 for retiring from St. Paul’s in the New Year, when the Search Committee under the dynamic leadership of Michele Simon was able to hire William ‘Bill’ Allport as the permanent Rector.

Staff – Grounds
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And then, there’s the durable Bob Burr, who at one time was synonymous with St. Paul’s building itself. He lived on the premises for years and virtually ‘ran’ the edifice!

His successor as sexton, the Dominican-born Daniel Elivo, is a born salsa dancer. I got to know him and his foibles well while he was still with St. Paul’s, and he was a willing worker whenever or wherever a helping hand was needed on and off the premises.

Staff – Music
Historically speaking, music has been the life-blood of St. Paul’s, and during my 35 years in Englewood I have known three excellent Directors of Music starting with John Bullough, then Paris Simms and latterly, Mark Trautman.

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Mark has been good at getting a music school for kids within the Church’s portals off the ground and introducing regular concerts in a Music@St. Paul’s series on Sundays at 5 p.m. that has attracted new audiences. At one of them, I appreciated that he was able to arrange for a well-known local chamber ensemble to perform my quintet, Adagietto for Strings, 2014 (mp3 version below) in the sanctuary at one of the Sunday events last year.

Be it noted – hint, hint! – that there are other “sesqui” celebrants around the country and they have taken full advantage of the Internet to get their voices heard. I was particularly taken with Cornell University’s that has made a lot of its lovely environment in both still pictures and video. It shouldn’t be difficult for the Church to do likewise soon, if it were to draw on its own talent, such as photographer Gary Mason, to fashion the content of, say, a colorful webpage devoted to the Sesquicentennial.

Building and Grounds Miscellany
My particular slant today is drawn from those amateur photos that I myself have collected over the years. So here goes, with St. Paul’s and its building and favored grounds  at different times of the year:

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