St. Stephen's Installs New Rector

St. Stephen's Installs New Rector

article by Alison Mertz of St. Stephen's, Sebastopol
photo courtesy of the Rev. Christy Laborda

On Friday June 17, 2011, in an evening service led by Bishop Barry Beisner, St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Sebastopol happily celebrated the occasion of the Reverend Christy Laborda's installation as the rector of our parish. As a relatively new Episcopalian, I was not familiar with the term installation, so I looked it up. My trusty Merriam Webster dictionary gave the following definitions: "Installation: 1 - the act of installing; 2- a military camp, fort, or base; 3 - a work of art that consists of multiple components of mixed media, exhibited in a large space in an arrangement specified by the artist."

My 10th grade English teacher always told me that you cannot use a form of a word in its own definition, so number one was clearly out. Number two - a military camp - well that just didn't seem right either. Nothing about the ceremony entrusting this smart, fun, energetic and friendly young woman with our spiritual and communal well-being suggested a particularly militaristic air. So that leaves us with number three - a work of art that consists of multiple components. Now that certainly fits.

Bubbling over with excitement to "officially" welcome the Rev. Christy (pictured above with Bishop Beisner) as the leader of our church family, St. Stephen's celebrated in myriad ways. The weekend prior to the event, Junior Warden Mary Lou Sefton lead a team of parishioners in dusting, mowing, weeding, and generally shining up the church, inside and out. Senior Warden Margaret Lynch decorated the sanctuary with sunflowers - Christy's favorite flower - and planned a post-rehearsal/pre-installation meal for clergy attendees. Director of the Altar Guild Meg Nalley and her team of guilders brought out the candelabra, decorated the altar with an appropriately festive festival red, and dressed our young torch-bearers Mia and Gabrielle and Bishop’s chaplain Ethan to match.

The evening of the service, the opening procession consisting of our torch-bearers, crucifer and Bishop’s chaplain, a twelve-person choir, and a cohort of clergy folks (including St. Stephen's retired rector, the Rev. Rod McAauley, the Rev. Harry Allagree, and the Rev. Ray Maloney, among others) led a congregation of over 90 people in our opening hymn, "Come Thou Fount." The Rev. Linda Campbell McConnell, Christy's future mother-in-law, gave a homily highlighting the power of living in Christ's love and the ways in which Christy's gifts can lead us more deeply into that love as a community. Current and prior vestry members presented gifts of biblical reference books and a hand-embroidered stole made by St. Stephen's Tiers' members MaryLou Hart and Linda Geiger. During the offering dedicated to raising funds to purchase RiteSong software, the choir sang a moving, fun and energetic contemporary gospel song entitled, "I Hear Your Call," written by St. Stephen's own Minister of Music, Benjamin Mertz. And as the service drew to a close, all voices joined together in an uplifting rendition of "There's a Sweet Sweet Spirit in this Place."

Throughout the service, even as I chased my nearly-one-year old son around the sanctuary, I noticed a change, a new quality in the energy of the group. All of these pieces and components, the sharing of so many people's gifts in such a variety of ways, in mixed media, exhibited in the large space of the sanctuary of St. Stephen's brought a new grounded-ness, a rooted, "installed" feeling to our church home. Together with this service of installation, we are entering a new way, a new arrangement of being, specified by the artist of all things - our Heavenly Father. And oh, the art we will create together - it will be so good.

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