Music drew them the instant they entered the Convention Center. Rousing sounds of a Sousa march, a massive gospel choir, a jazz band filled the halls and spilled out the doors. By 9:50 a.m. when the procession started nearly 5,000 had found their seats in the mammoth auditorium. Most came early to sway along with the Revelation Choir and tap their feet to Jazz on the Prairie, a smaller portion of the 50-member Eden Prairie Community Band who accompanied almost all the morning’s singing.
Spirited praise came at the Communion as the congregation sang “I am the Bread of Life,” with scores of hands lifted for the refrain: “I will raise them up on the last day.” Contemplation deepened with the singing of “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy.”
Overhead, on a 34-foot screen behind the altar platform, images emerged, faded and emerged again in a muted, sometimes mystical, sequence of color and shape. Photos of sculptured stone and wood alternated with bright collages of Africa, icons, artists’ personal visions of heaven and of earth.
The 200-plus choristers from 20 different Minnesota Episcopal congregations lived up to director Howard John Small’s challenge during their early morning rehearsal: “Give it your love as you sing.” They did. So did the Creekside Ringers from St. Stephen’s Church in Edina as they interpreted a haunting Japanese folk tune before the service and, during the procession of 200 bishops and 400-plus clergy, created an cascading cacophony of bells that sounded like a peel ringing out from on high.
On more than a dozen fabric-draped tables waited the glass chalices and hand-made birch bark baskets ready to be carried forward at the Offertory by members of the Youth Presence. One table in the back of the hall, draped in green, held gluten-free bread for those who might otherwise not be able to receive Communion. An equally thoughtful offering of the worship planners stood at the corner of the altar platform. As soon as the music began the signers for the deaf started interpreting lyrics, alternating, first one, then the other, the graceful, expressive ballet of hands.
As the procession ended and all bishops and clergy took their places, Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold declared to his gathered flock: “Bendito sea Dios: Padre, Hijo y Espiritu Santo.” The response, “And blessed be his kingdom, now and forever” came in a number of languages in addition to the Spanish provided in the service booklet.
The service ended the way it began, with spirited music, the uplifting sound of joined voices: “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” brought the service to a close and John Philip Sousa’s “Minnesota March” accompanied the crowd back into the world… back to their historic time of decision.