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Here are our plans for a very merry Christmas

Fr HawtinIf Thanksgiving was anything to go by, this year we will not be celebrating the Nativity Of our Lord Jesus Christ in the traditional manner but in a style more calculated to appeal to Ebenezer Scrooge, the miserly protagonist in Charles Dickens’ novel A Christmas Carol.

To be sure, the watch words are unlikely to be: “Are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons?” But it seems that in some states of the union there will be people asking: “Are there no lock downs? Is there no social distancing? Are there no limits to the number of guests permitted to attend the Christmas feast?”

One hopes that—thanks, in part, to the production of the new Covid19 vaccines—here in Maryland restrictions will continue to be less draconian than they have been in many other places.

In any event, here at Saint Stephen’s we are planning to celebrate Jesus’ birth in as traditional a manner as possible. There will, for example, be no changes in the service schedule.

As in the past, we shall be holding our Candlelight Children’s Service at 4:00 PM on Christmas Eve, complete with our annual Christmas story.

It will be followed at 7:00 PM by the Family Eucharist for folks who expect to be awoken at an early hour next day. The traditional Christmas Eve Midnight Eucharist will begin at 10:30 PM. On Christmas Day the Eucharist will be celebrated at 10:00 AM.

Musically, it promises to be a memorable Christmas. Certainly the Covid19 restrictions rule out our traditional choir, but our intrepid new organist Kate El-Diwany has created a program that will enable all of us to enjoy the glorious music that makes Christmas the best loved of all the Christian feasts.

In compliance with the social distancing guidelines, Kate has recruited a small group of singers to provide the traditional choral music for both Christmas Eve services. This will be a first for the 7.00 PM Family Eucharist.

Kate and her family started attending Saint Stephen’s this fall. Her husband, Dr. Ramy El-Diwany, is a surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Their two children, Wesley and CeCe are both students in the Sunday School.

By November, after eight months of restrictions that had effectively shut down the music program, the congregation was becoming increasingly restive. Saint Stephen’s has always been a musical parish and the proposal by Kate to play the organ for us during services was greeted with enormous enthusiasm.

It will mean that although we are still forbidden to sing, we can at least enjoy glorious organ music without which for many of us worship is not complete.

Kate, aged 37, graduated as an organ scholar from the University of Notre Dame. She went on to graduate studies in the organ at the Moores School of Music at the University of Houston.

Here in Baltimore, she has served as assistant organist at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, and organist at Saint Marks on the Hill and Old Saint Paul’s. GPH✠

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