"It used to be a very old congregation," says church administrator Susie Clifford. "But within, I'd say, the past ten years, young families have really started coming here. The Jazz Mass is part of that. It's really taken off and become one of our stronger services." You could hear the jazz from half a block away as you approached Christ Church's stately stone exterior. Trumpet, flute, saxophone, keyboard, bass, drums.
Situated in the very back of the sanctuary, under the stained-glass window depicting Christ knocking at the door, the band kept a steady groove as the server lit the candles on the altar up front. The sanctuary's rounded wood-slat ceiling caught the sound beautifully and poured it out into the church's well-appointed interior. Hmm...Tiffany-style windows in the dormers. Oh, wait, it says here that they're not Tiffany-style. They're Tiffany windows, just like the big ones fore and aft...
A few people knelt and prayed while the music played. "The Jazz Mass is intended to be both solemn and joyful," read the note in the service book. "It brings to divine worship the deep feelings and emotions so well expressed through the art and complexity of jazz music.... You are invited to enter fully with enthusiasm into the reverence and joy of this Service."
The children were dispatched to their appointed gatherings, and the band started up a rollicking, almost Dixieland version of "Amazing Grace," as Father Lindeman processed to the front behind his candle- and cross-bearers. (The cross was wrapped in a net of purple mesh to mark the Lenten season, as were the crosses in the sanctuary and another on the wall.) After ascending, Father stepped back and waited for the solos to finish before entering into the liturgy.
The Collect named Christ as "the true bread of life, which gives life to the world." The Lesson, taken from Ephesians, stated that, "by grace you have been saved through faith...created in Christ Jesus for good works." And the Gospel told the story of Jesus' multiplying the loaves and fishes for the five thousand.
Lindeman descended into the well again for his homily. He began by noting that few Americans today know the hunger that comes from "grinding poverty," even as he acknowledged that "we as a parish work every Sunday to make sure no one knows those kinds of issues in this life," by participating in all sorts of charitable giving. But, he said, "We're dealing with the double hunger that humans can face.... Jesus takes the bread, he blesses, he breaks, and he gives. That's what we do every Sunday to the bread. We follow Jesus in this. He took His life, He gave it over to God, and it was blessed and then broken for us, and given for the life of the world. He set the pattern for you and me to follow."
As indicated by the passage from Ephesians, He also provided the means: "The bread from heaven, which Jesus said is also the Word of God. Every word He speaks feeds us inwardly and gives us power to go and share and to be Christ in the world. To do his works of love, living the commandments out...such bread for the world, given to share.
"We can hoard it." But, "we do that to our peril. Think about what they did in the Old Testament days, when they tried to store up manna that was given freely to preserve the people of God. They couldn't keep it -- it rotted. It corrupted them, made them sick. They had to depend on God, and that meant they had to be faithful and share. And then it kept coming.... Our Lord feeds us. We become one with Him through the sacrament, and also by doing what He says.... The world needs what He offers."
During the Offertory, the band eased into a mellow take on "Just a Closer Walk With Thee." The altar server drew a bar across the open section of the communion rail, sealing off the sanctuary for the Ministry of the Lord's Table -- tradition enduring under the more contemporary soundscape. She and Lindeman filled the pottery chalice with water and wine as the piano launched into a solo.
We recited the Sanctus without music. And when Lindeman entered into the Eucharistic Prayer, the server knelt by his side, one hand resting atop a large brass bell-stand, the other holding a soft mallet. The only sound at the elevation of the bread and the wine was a gentle peal.
"May the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ keep us in everlasting life," said Lindeman. As the people came forward and knelt at the rail, a soft samba filled the church -- brushes on the drums, sax and trumpet trading off on the melody. Then a flute solo, then the dismissal, and then a swinging recessional, sending the congregation back toward the Pre-Raphaelite angels depicted in the rear window and out into the courtyard.
What happens when we die?
"The abundant life that begins in Christ now continues on beyond this life," says Lindeman. "That's the Christian hope."
1114 Ninth Street, Coronado
Founded locally: 1888
Senior pastor: Rev. Mitch Lindeman
Congregation size: 500 families
Staff size: about 12
Sunday school enrollment: about 60
Annual budget: n/a
Weekly giving: n/a
Singles program: yes
Dress: semiformal to formal -- plenty of
jackets and ties
Diversity: mostly Caucasian
Sunday worship: Morning prayer, 7:15 a.m.; Holy Eucharist (Rite I), 7:30 a.m.; Jazz Mass, 9 a.m.; Holy Eucharist (Rite II), 10:15 a.m.;
Contemporary Eucharist, 5 p.m.
Length of reviewed service: 45 minutes