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|1793: St Michael
and All Angels, Dallas, Texas, USA
and All Angels, Dallas, Texas, USA.
The Episcopal Church, Diocese
St Michael and All Angels sits in a close that includes a school
and the original church which, when it was built, was deemed
to be adequate for the entire congregation, but is no more.
The present building dates from the early 1960s and is reminiscent
to the Kid of its namesake in Coventry, although this church
could easily fit in the nave of that cathedral with room to
spare. The building is in the style of a hall, with no transepts.
The noted and highly prolific sculptor Charles Umlauf (1911-1994)
executed a starkly contemporary bas relief marble reredos of
St Michael and the Angels that dominates the altar area, with
the attention of the angels directed toward a gold Latin cross
mounted on the marble. The marble was personally selected by
Mr Umlauf and shipped from Carrara, Italy, a source of fine
marble since the days of ancient Rome. John Szymk, a Dallas
silversmith and artist, designed many of the sanctuary and baptistery
appointments. Details of these and other noteworthy artworks
are well described on the church's website.
St Michael's is a "second generation" parish in the diocese
of Dallas, having been organized shortly after World War II.
No one could have predicted that in the 21st century St Michael's
would become the the largest Episcopal parish in the United
States, with over 7,100 communicants and an average Sunday attendance
of over 1,400 worshippers. On its summer schedule there are six
(count 'em, six) services each Sunday, plus a eucharist and
evening prayer each weekday.
St Michael's is bordered on the south by University Park and
Highland Park, independent towns established prior to World
War II which eventually were completely surrounded by the ever-growing
Dallas. The Park cities, as they are called collectively, are
probably the most expensive residential property per square
foot of any in the state of Texas, and perhaps in the American
Southwest. The Park cities maintain their own independent school
district that accepts no state or federal money, graduating
some of the most talented high schoolers anywhere. To the north
lies Preston Center, the uptown commercial center.
The Revd Amy D. Meaux, associate for children, youth and family
ministries, was the celebrant, and the Revd Christiana Olsen,
associate for discipleship and engagement, preached. Assisting
were the Revd Robert Leacock, associate for liturgy and worship;
and the Revd Neal Hern, assistant for pastoral care. The altar
party, including verger, adult acolytes, eucharistic ministers
and clergy ,numbered two dozen.
The date & time:
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, August 23, 2009, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
Holy Eucharist Rite I, but I would call it Texas Traditional.
How full was the building?
Considering that it was the last Sunday of summer vacation,
the service was well attended, with approximately three-quarters
of the church filled. In point of fact, the church probably
seats in the range of 500-600 people.
Did anyone welcome you
They have a virtual army of ushers, and they were all ebullient
in their greeting.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pews were quite comfortable with nice padding; however, they seemed a mite low for my taste. That made standing up and kneeling and the other "athletics" of the service a bit difficult for me, but it seemed to bother no one else.
How would you describe the pre-service
The pre-service was quiet and prayerful, with people kneeling
and praying. A few friends greeted each other with pleasantries.
What were the exact opening words of the
"The service begins on page 323 of the Book of Common
What books did the congregation use during the
The standard hymnal and Prayer Book.
What musical instruments
Pipe organ, magnificently played by the church's organist and
director of music, James Diaz. Opus 30 of the Schudi Organ Company
of Mesquite, Texas, the organ would probably be most easily
described as French in its style.
Did anything distract
As a semi-cradle Episcopalian, I am always annoyed by directions
from the clergy to turn to a particularly page in the Prayer
Book. That happened here at the beginning of the service, again
at the intercessions and confession, and yet again at the beginning
of the eucharistic prayer. This service was replete with people
who apparently show up every Sunday, ranging from young people
in their 20s to octogenarians, and I daresay they know which
page they need to turn to.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
It was a stiff as it gets in most of Texas. The music was the
Willan service, but the Agnus Dei was omitted. The service was
Rite I, but the prayers of the people were Form VI, usually
associated with Rite II. The choir apparently were on leave.
At the offertory, an unnamed baritone soloist gave a beautiful
rendition of "Quia fecit mihi magna" from Bach's Magnificat.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 Mrs Olsen (lady preachers are something the Kid
is still trying to get used to) had a great delivery and an
engaging, personal style. The sermon was conversational, with
some references to personal and family experiences, and held
the attention of this listener.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
Mrs Olsen based her sermon on the gospel for the day (John 6:60-69
– Jesus asks if any wish not to follow him in light of
his teaching, and Peter reaffirms that he will follow the Lord).
She said that a distant relative of hers once went on a sientific
expedition to the Congo, where she had to subsist on a diet
that consisted solely of unseasoned rice. Although the relative
regarded this as a starvation diet, she took it on faith that
she would survive. From this Mrs Olsen turned to the significance
and sanctity of the act of communion. Unleavened bread alone
is insufficient to support life, but at such time as the Spirit
of the Lord comes upon it, it becomes full nourishment for the
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
Although the church is not mammoth, its design inspires a worshipful
attitude that doesn't often occur in contemporary spaces. The
organ music was truly outstanding, and the choir – which I
have heard in the past – was sorely missed.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Those page numbers. Will they never credit us with experience?
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I didn't really look lost, I suppose. I was greeted warmly by
Mrs Olsen and Mr Leacock.
How would you describe the after-service
Coffee was provided, but most folks did not stay for it.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 If The Kid were to move back to Dallas, St Michael
and All Angels would be a top candidate for membership.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
That reredos gets me every time!
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