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Mass of the Revd Paul Wheatley, Church of the Incarnation, Dallas,
Worshipper: Orthodox Mutt.
First Mass of the Revd Paul Wheatley, Church
of the Incarnation, Dallas, Texas, USA.
Episcopal Church, Diocese
The "main" Church of the Incarnation is a traditional neo-Gothic
space in a cruciform layout. The chancel is home to the high
altar (which remains fixed against the east wall); the organ
is on the south side, the organ gallery directly across from
it on the north side. There are three rows of choir stalls on
each side, elevated in the back. The north transept faces the
crossing, while the south transept is home to a chapel dedicated
to the Good Shepherd and featuring a window of that subject
from the former building. This window is artificially lit from
This parish has changed substantially over the years, having
gone from a small parish on the fringe of the city of Dallas
to a vibrant, growing parish in the heart of the Uptown neighborhood.
The parish is in the middle of a $25-million capital campaign
effectively to double the size of their campus. Literature on
the campaign was available at every entrance and in every hallway
throughout the campus. This is easily one of the most diverse
Episcopal parishes I have ever seen. The traditional services
are incredibly popular with the young 20-something crowd as
well as the older generation. The sheer number of worshippers
necessitates seven (yes, seven!) worship services each Sunday,
all of which include the eucharist.
The Uptown area is one of the most trendy areas of Dallas. This
means that the church draws a wide range of people from the
area. There are shops and restaurants galore all within a couple
of blocks. I would imagine this makes Sunday brunch very easy
for those who attend in the morning.
The celebrant was the newly ordained (two days earlier) Revd
Paul Wheatley. Father Wheatley had previously served at Incarnation
as a deacon, and I understand he will be staying on as curate.
He was assisted by the Revd Deacon Judy Frizzell. The Revd Harry
Hill, assistant rector for pastoral care, served as subdeacon.
The preacher was the Revd Matthew S.C. Olver, assistant rector
for worship and adult formation, who also served as master of
ceremonies. The Rt Revd Anthony J. Burton, rector, and the Revd
Joe Hermerding, assistant rector for small and growth groups,
attended in choir. There were also a crucifer, two torch bearers,
six chalice bearers, and two vergers.
The date & time:
Sunday, May 12, 2013, 11.15am.
What was the name of the service?
Holy Communion with the Propers for Ascension Day.
How full was the building?
I would estimate that there were around 400-450 people present,
many of whom were clearly visitors for Father Wheatley's first
mass. The church was relatively full, but not uncomfortably
Did anyone welcome you personally?
An usher greeted me at the door, and another usher just inside
handed me a leaflet.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pews are as comfortable as one can expect for solid wood pews without cushions. They are built on a fairly large scale. The Orthodox Mutt is on the tall side, so it was greatly appreciated. I did notice that the pews in both of the transepts had red cushions, unlike those in the nave.
How would you describe the pre-service
Mimosas were being served on the front lawn in conjunction with
the capital campaign; this probably explains why quite a few
people wandered in late to the service. But those who did arrive
on time were reverently quiet as the organ prelude (Herbert
Howells' Psalm Prelude, Set 1, No. 1) wafted over the
sanctuary. A few chatted with their neighbors and greeted newcomers,
but all chatter immediately ceased as the introit began.
What were the exact opening words of the
The first words of the service were the proper introit (Viri
Galilaei), sung by the choir from behind the last pew in
the nave: "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven,
What books did the congregation use during the
The Prayer Book 1979 and the Hymnal 1982 were
provided in the pews. Only the hymnal was necessary, however,
as the entire service was printed in the leaflet. The service
followed Rite I.
What musical instruments were played?
The great organ. There were no other instruments used. In fact,
there is no place for other instruments in this sanctuary. While
I am certainly not complaining, there is not even a piano to
be found in the space.
Did anything distract you?
There seemed to be some confusion on the part of the visitors,
many of whom were clearly unfamiliar with the seldom-used Rite
I. This was particularly evident at the proclamation of the
gospel, when many mistakenly used the response "Glory to you,
Lord Christ." rather than the prescribed "Glory be to thee,
O Lord." A few people were also very late and made something
of a fuss while entering. Must have been the mimosas.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
This was very much a high-church affair. The only thing missing
was incense, but considering all the components of the service,
I think adding that in would have just been a headache. It was,
however, a very comfortable service. It was in no way stuffy
as one might expect. The attention to detail was astounding.
After the procession back to the altar with the gospel book,
the deacon returned to the middle of the chancel to extinguish
the Paschal candle in recognition that Christ has ascended.
But just behind it, the sanctuary lamp still glowed, indicating
that Christ was still present in the Blessed Sacrament. The
juxtaposition was very moving. For his first mass, Father Wheatley
put in an excellent showing. His chanting was good; he has a
nice voice, and he only slipped up once, during the chanting
of the preface, but quickly recovered. As deacon at the Easter
vigil just a few weeks back, he had chanted the Exsultet note-perfect.
Father Olver as master of ceremonies appeared to render very
little assistance; he mainly was just there, almost like a bishop's
chaplain, in case he was needed.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 Father Olver's sermon sounded very much like a collegiate
lecture. It was very insightful, and he justified most everything
using appropriate source texts. It comes as no surprise that
he will be leaving the parish to pursue doctoral studies.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
Christ's Ascension was more than just a fancy exit. When Jesus
died, death ceased to exist. Death's hold on us is as trivial
as it was to Jesus. Likewise, with the ascension, the barrier
between God and man is removed. Furthermore, the removal of
Jesus' human presence from his people allows his divine presence
to be more clearly present and effectual throughout the world.
Which part of the service was like being in
This mass was a full choral mass, which I gather is done about
once a month. The choir sang the Francis Jackson Communion
Service in G to great effect (though some of the low-church
visitors did not seem as thrilled that the service would be
prolonged for such extravagance). And the choir did not stop
there. This is the only church in Dallas where I have found
Anglican chant used regularly. They also sang Gerald Finzi's
most famous anthem, God Is Gone Up, albeit a hair under
tempo. It was, nonetheless, to great effect. And few things
can top a big anthem followed by a powerful improvisation into
the doxology (complete with an "Amen" at the end). During the
announcements, which preceded the offertory, the rector offered
his congratulations to the new priest.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
One person seated directly behind me insisted on reciting the creed using the Rite II translation, and very loudly at that. I can understand a couple of honest mistakes from those who aren't familiar with Rite I, but he was clearly having no part of it.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The postlude was a lovely distraction from the people mulling
about the sanctuary after the service. Many people moved forward
and sat in the choir stalls or gathered around the chancel steps
for a view of the organ console as organist Scott Dettra played
the Ite, Missa Est movement from Kenneth Leighton's
Dublin Festival Mass. A few people greeted me politely
as they passed. A clergy member was available under the pulpit
to greet guests and tell them more about the parish.
How would you describe the after-service
The pre-service refreshments (see above) were far more interesting!
After the service, coffee, iced tea, and cookies were available
in the hallway. The coffee was hot and the cookies were soft.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 I think this service, combined with the service
of choral evensong I attended a few weeks ago, may be enough
to push me to join! To that end, I suspect this will be my last
review of the parish. Woe to any other parish that tries to
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
I was thrilled to death!
What one thing will you
remember about all this in seven days' time?
The details of the service, so steeped in ritual and tradition.
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