Column: St. Peter's will honor St. Patrick with a Celticbration

THE REV. TOM McAlpine is at the grave marker for the first pastor of St. Peter’s Episcopal, just outside the church. Ian Stepleton photo

WHEN YOU LOOK AHEAD to St. Patrick’s Day, do you think about: Leprechauns? Luck ’o the Irish? Green beer?

The Rev. Tom McAlpine of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Ripon would like to add another level to those musings. He’s hoping to encourage those in his parish, and maybe even beyond, to tie St. Patrick’s Day a little more to the man for whom the day was named: St. Patrick himself, a fifth-century missionary and bishop in Ireland.

“At a time in which Christians are under pressure, most dramatically in places like Iraq and Syria, Patrick’s story is important,” McAlpine said. “He originated from Great Britain, was kidnapped by Irish slavers and brought to Ireland. He was a slave there for six years, until he managed to escape, and somewhat later in life heard God call him to return to Ireland to preach about God’s love.

“We need stories like that, to help us to remember how to respond to difficult times.”

Church-goers will have the opportunity to feel the spirit of that story Sunday, March 15, when St. Peter’s holds a special service at its church, located at 217 Houston St.

According to McAlpine, “In anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day, St Peter’s worship on March 15 at 9:30 a.m. follows the use of the Church of Ireland, [which] has its origins in the early Celtic Church of St. Patrick.”

MCALPINE, WHO HAS traveled to the British Isles, is excited to bring this unique service to his Ripon parish.

“So it has a different feel to it: the overall structure is comparable [to the Episcopal service], but for example when they do the 10 Commandments, each of the commandments are paired with the text from the New Testament,” McAlpine said, noting this is “a way of emphasizing the continuity between the testaments. [It shows] the same divine will ... for flourishing human life. ...

“Most of the music is drawn from Celtic sources, so we’re opening up with the hymn of ‘St. Patrick’s Breastplate,’” McAlpine said of a hymn believed to be penned by St. Patrick himself in the fifth century. ...

CONCEPT FOR THE service was born out of an online discussion between various Episcopal church representatives who are preparing for an Episcopal general convention planned for this summer. “Someone on the listserv asked if anyone had resources for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, and that got me thinking,” McAlpine said.

“... when my wife and I were on that pilgrimage, we had a chance to worship at Scottish and English churches which still have some of the effects of that movement.”

It was a spiritually moving trip for the couple. ...

BY THE WAY, THIS ISN’T the only Ripon church ready to honor St. Patrick with a special event. The following week, Ripon Baptist Church, 950 Metomen St., will hold a “Celtic Reflections” program Saturday, March 21 at 2 p.m.

The free concert will include “ballads, aires, dances and lullabies of the British Isles” by harpist Serena Kamps.

To read the entire column, see the March 12, 2015 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.

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