by Virginia Means
Part of the world-wide Anglican Communion, Episcopalians have celebrated the season in Napa City since 1858 using the Book of Common Prayer. Over time, new has been added to the old.
First, Christ Church, now called St. Mary’s, has begins the holiday season with Advent. The four Sundays before Christmas marks a time for prayerful preparation for Episcopalians. An Advent Wreath with seasonal greens and five candles is prepared and placed near the altar; an additional candle is lit each Sunday until the final white candle is lit on Christmas Eve announcing the birth of Jesus. A creche is placed in an appropriate place. Children make Advent wreaths for their homes.
On the first Sunday evening of Advent for the last 27 years, the Parish Choir has performed the Service of Lessons and Carols, a beautiful Church of England tradition, for the community. Tuesday Advent Evening Prayer and Wednesday noon Holy Communion services are held.
Parishioners participate in the community, among other things, by supporting the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program providing gifts to low income children, bell ringing for their Red Kettle Program; donating small personal items for Napa State Hospital and Veterans Home residents.
Under the guidance of the Altar Guild, on the Sunday before Christmas, the Parish family gathers for the “greening of the church,” using greens the men of the Parish have gathered from Napa County’s nearby woods. Swags and wreaths are made and Christmas trees and flowers arranged inside the church.
That evening, a Taizé Service is offered for the community. Taizé is an ecumenical sung and silent participatory prayer service designed to achieve a contemplative state through music, song and silence.”
Through the years, Christmas Eve has been celebrated with an early evening Holy Communion service for children and the young at heart and a Midnight Mass with traditional music. A 10am. Holy Communion service is celebrated on Christmas Day.