Liturgy in the English Cathedral tradition is one of the hallmarks of the life of the Cathedral of St. John.
The three Sunday morning services each have their unique characteristics: the traditional language of the 8:00 service (spoken with no music), the family orientation of the 9:00 Rite II Eucharist, supported by the musical leadership of the Cathedral Choristers, and the more formal ceremony and contemporary language of the 11:00 sung Eucharist, with three sacred ministers and the wide ranging repertoire of the Cathedral Choir, which includes a choral setting of the ordinary of the mass once a month from September to June, as well as on major feast days. Relatively “high” liturgically (incense appears on greater feasts), the Cathedral liturgy nevertheless reflects the high value placed on preaching in the generally evangelical Diocese of the Rio Grande. Thus, there is a full sermon at each of the Sunday Eucharists, and often at the monthly Choral Evensong, as well. The “traditional” ethos of Cathedral worship does not mean stuffy or cold. From the first Sunday in June to the last Sunday in August, the Cathedral has 2 services instead of 3. The 8AM Eucharist remains Rite I without music. The 9AM and 11AM congregations combine to worship at 10AM with organ, hymns and often guests musicians.
At its heart, the Eucharist is the Sacrament of hospitality, the meeting of God and his people for reconciliation and renewal. One and all find a warm welcome at the Cathedral of St. John and an invitation to enter more deeply into the life of the parish. In token of the godly welcome extended to all, the Peace is exchanged at all services with enthusiasm and a hospitality hour follows each of the Sunday services in Kaseman Hall.
In addition, a variety of special observances through the year underscore the Incarnational spirit that is very much a part of traditional Christian worship. One of the services on Christmas Eve incorporates the annual children’s Christmas pageant. Other celebrations in the course of the year include a visit from St. Nicholas on his feast day, the blessing of eggs at Easter, and the blessing of pets on St. Francis’ Day.
As the Cathedral of the Diocese of the Rio Grande, St. John’s is the official seat of the Bishop. Thus, the Bishop celebrates the greater feasts of the Church at the Cathedral, celebrating and/or preaching at the principal services, such as the Midnight Mass of Christmas, the Great Vigil of Easter, and other major services. The Cathedral is also the site of one of the Bishop’s Chrism Masses during Holy Week, the Ordination of Deacons, and other services which bring together not just the local congregation but the clergy and people of the Diocese.
On Tuesday, and special Feast Days, the Eucharist is celebrated at Noon in the Chapel of the Beloved Disciple. This quiet service provides a spiritual oasis and a meditative break in the middle of the day for those who are able to attend. The Tuesday Noon Eucharist includes prayers for healing and the laying-on-of hands and anointing for those who desire sacramental healing.
Liturgy is not the private domain of the clergy and some services and devotions are initiated and led by laypeople. The traditional liturgical style at the Cathedral is enhanced by an active corps of vergers, acolytes, lay chalice bearers, and subdeacons. The Dean’s Verger is active in the Vergers’ Guild of the Episcopal Church and the Cathedral hosted the national conference of the Guild in the fall of 2007. The Cathedral Acolyte Guild, which includes both adults and young people, meets monthly for acolyte practice and fellowship. Lay chalice bearers and subdeacons are also trained for their particular tasks so that liturgy at the Cathedral is never haphazard and is conducted in a way that honors God and aids the worshiper in the pew.
As in most churches, the Altar Guild is a very important organization in the Cathedral. Teams of workers rotate the weekly responsibilities of preparing the Altar for worship on weekdays, as well as on Sundays, including caring for the vessels of worship, planning and arranging flowers, washing and ironing linens, and maintaining the supplies of bread, wine, and candles. In addition to setting up for the Sunday services, Altar Guild members are present on weekdays to set up and participate in the daily Noon Eucharist, and also provide support for weddings, funerals, and other special services.