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Trumpet the gospel, Presiding Bishop tells New Orleans cathedral congregation

Hand-made Elysian Trumpet blessed in Irvin Mayfield Sr.'s memory

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told the congregation gathered September 23 at Christ Church Cathedral in New Orleans to become "trumpeters of good news, banishers of disease and division, and proclaimers of the presence of God in our midst."

Jefferts Schori presided and preached at the Eucharist, which was held during the House of Bishops' fall meeting. Many of the bishops attended the service while others visited Episcopal churches throughout Mississippi and New Orleans for Sunday worship.

The service also included the blessing of the Elysian Trumpet, hand-built by David Monette, a modern master of trumpet design, and dedicated to the memory of Irvin Mayfield Sr. and all of the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The trumpet, played during the service by Mayfield's son, will, in Jefferts Schori's words, "proclaim life, to sing of grief and to claim the ultimate victory of life over death." She called it "a tool for proclaiming the gospel in the multiple variations of jazz."

The elder Mayfield rode out Hurricane Katrina at his home in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans, then disappeared during the subsequent evacuation. A few days after the storm, his son Irvin Jr. searched the flooded house. He discovered a flashlight and a stash of peanut butter and cigarettes in the attic, but no indication of his father's fate.

"He could be anywhere," Mayfield told the Times-Picayune newspaper on November 11.

"Everybody's been asking me, 'How do you deal with this thing with your dad?' More so than ever, we've got to do what it is that we do. What I do is play the trumpet and write music. So that's how I'm dealing with this."

When on November 17, 2005, the younger Mayfield premiered "All the Saints," commissioned by Christ Church Cathedral as part of its bicentennial celebrations with donations from all over the world, he still had not found his jazz musician father. The elder Mayfield's body was found a few days later in the neighborhood.

The Elysian Trumpet is named for the mysterious Elysian Fields of Greek mythology as well as the street where Mayfield Sr.'s body was found. The instrument has a 24-carat gold finish, finger buttons set with Mardi Gras-colored semi-precious stones and a turquoise inlaid Mississippi River, and etchings of icons and symbols of the hurricane and the city's dead and its jazz legends.

Noting the trumpet's intended traveling nature and Jesus' instructions in the morning's gospel reading to travel light while proclaiming the gospel, Jefferts Schori said that all disciples are to "move around and ... bring hope and healing wherever they go."

"He charges them to drive out division and to heal," she said. "Proclaiming the kingdom of God is about reconciling the world; driving out demons is about removing all the forces that seek to divide -- and they both are essential kinds of healing."

The Eucharist also celebrated the feast of Philander Chase, who founded Christ Church Cathedral in 1805.

During the service, cathedral Dean David duPlantier presented the Presiding Bishop with a Philander Chase pectoral cross, designed and given by the cathedral to people whom the congregation wants to honor in Chase's memory.

Chase, whose first name means lover, was "an itinerant lover of God and fellow human beings," Jefferts Schori said. She noted his ministry in New Hampshire, New York, Louisiana, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan. As he founded congregations, colleges and seminaries, Jefferts Schori said, Chase "was also often caught up in the storms of the religious system we call the Episcopal Church and its mother in the Church of England."

Chase died in September 20, 1852. The Episcopal Church's 75th General Convention, meeting in Columbus, Ohio, in June 2006, added Philander Chase to its liturgical calendar of commemorations known as "Lesser Feasts and Fasts." His feast day is September 22 and its commemoration at Christ Church Cathedral was transferred this year to the 23rd.

Jefferts Schori said Chase died as he lived -- on the road, having been pulled from his carriage by his horse. She urged the congregation to be on the move and to recognize the need that all people belong to a place.

"If we ourselves are to be trumpeters of good news, banishers of disease and division, and proclaimers of the presence of God in our midst, we have to know something of home and community," she said. "We have to know that we belong to somebody else, that someone and some people care enough for us to work for our well-being, to help us sing lament, express our grief, and get in line. This parade is going to dance to the beat of good news, but it needs all of us in the line, not just those in this space this morning, but every other human being on this planet; black, white, brown, poor, destitute, and those with more than enough to share; grieving, ill, and those who know the blessing of restored health.

"This procession is going down to the grave, and it's going to dance away on the other side, but only when we join the traveling throng," she added. "None of us is going home until all of us have a place to lay our heads, and music for our grieving hearts, and a feast for the belly and for the soul. When the saints go marching in, it's going to be with every last one of us."

The complete text of Jefferts Schori's sermon is available here.

-- The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is national correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.

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