Parish Profile

The Saints’ Response to the Gospel

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Our Worship
 

First and foremost, we Saints view ourselves as a worshipping community. The quality of our worship services is highly important to us, and well over 90% of us agree that our services are “exceptional in both quality and spiritual content.” Although we are solidly progressive in our theological perspective, we love our traditional liturgy. Details about our Sunday and weekday services are available here.

Worship at All Saints’ attempts to balance liturgy, preaching, and music. We want thoughtful, timely sermons that engage scripture, address current issues and challenge us as we follow the cross into the world. We are used to “dangerous preaching” that challenges our thinking, and we react negatively to pabulum and “dumbing things down.”

We are a singing community, and like Augustine, we know that “he who sings, prays twice!” Our priests have tended in recent years to sing the Eucharist from the Sursum Corda through the Sanctus and Benedictus – a practice that, depending on the priest, has inspired either our appreciation or our generosity. During the summer, our music staff invites our emails requesting hymns to sing, an option that has allowed many of us to reconnect with music from the denominations of our upbringing.


“O Be Joyful in the Lord”, All Saints’ Adult Choir

Our worship community involves many hands. A typical 9:00 a.m. or 11:15 a.m. service includes our greeters, flower and altar guilds, our adult choir, one of six usher teams of a dozen individuals each, two lectors and an intercessor, five or six acolytes, two vergers and a combination of between eight and eleven lay Eucharistic ministers and priests staffing five communion stations. Each week we also commission a Eucharistic visitor for our home-bound parishioners.

Our worship acknowledges both our history and our diversity. We treasure our historic Anglican liturgy but also use the rich variety of additional resources provided through the broader church, including Enriching Our Worship and Lift Every Voice and Sing II. Our worship style tends to be traditional and dignified, but our liturgy increasingly uses gender-neutral language, and no amount of decorum can completely repress the Saints’ enthusiasm for joyful praise. In order to make our worship more welcoming, our service bulletins reprint most of the liturgy and any alternative music we use, thereby eliminating the book-juggling that can confuse newcomers to the Episcopal Church. Sermons are usually followed by an extended period of silence, a rarity in our culture.

We believe that our traditional liturgy can speak to the rhythm and challenges of our modern world. At various times we bless pets, back-to-school backpacks, Rite 13 participants, youth and adults leaving on pilgrimages, and those visiting Atlanta for its annual Pride festival. When we have baptisms, our procession includes individual banners for our newest Saints to take home. And recognizing that holidays are not always joyous times for those struggling with loss or brokenness, we offer a Blue Christmas service and an adapted liturgy for Mother’s Day. Following the Orlando shooting tragedy, we held with St. Luke’s Episcopal Church a service of commemoration for the victims that provided parishioners and those working in midtown Atlanta an opportunity to share their grief and hope.

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Adult Choir
 

We Saints love our adult music program as much as any other facet of our life together.

The All Saints’ adult choir consists of over forty choristers, both volunteer and paid, and all auditioned. It has sung at national music conventions, the Washington National Cathedral, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and the Piccolo Spoleto Music Festival. The adult choir has commissioned, recorded and premiered over twenty-five choral works. It sings the highest caliber of Anglican music, and performs a requiem on All Saints’ Sunday and a Bach cantata every Advent. The choir has also performed three music revues and six musicals in the parish hall. Not just the Saints love our adult choir:

  • “Mr. Chenault and his 45-voice mixed choir furnished uniformly excellent performances, beautiful in tone, secure in technique, sensitively balanced and vividly communicative.” The Atlanta Journal & Constitution
  • “The choir is in superb form, with lovely tone, secure pitch, and interpretive sensitivity. Soloists too numerous to list here are all worthy of praise.” The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians
  • “This disc is truly excellent. The whole program is wisely selected and professionally performed.” The Journal of Association of Anglican Musicians
  • “Sensitive, delicately textured . . . moments of eloquence.” American Record Guide

In 2003 All Saints’ installed the James G. Kenan Memorial Pipe Organ, one of the largest and best instruments of its kind in the United States. The Kenan Pipe Organ features four manuals and pedal board, sixty-three stops, and eighty-seven ranks and over 5,143 individual pipes. (We suspect that our organ will also go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in under four seconds, but no one has ever tried.) Built by John-Paul Buzard of Champaign, Illinois, the organ possesses tonal beauty, expressiveness, and colorful voicing that have attracted the best organists in the world, including a recent recording by John Scott of St. Thomas Church, Manhattan; competitors at the Taylor Organ Competition; and participants at two conventions of the American Guild of Organists.

Our music program is not, however, merely a spectator sport for the rest of the Saints. We learn new forms of sung liturgy in short practices before our Sunday services. Our hymns often include a capella verses that rely on the congregation to carry music forward, and we help pick the hymns for our summer services. A few Saints, do, however, view our adult choir’s great talent and desire to sing challenging music as sometimes completing with their own preference for the congregational participation that familiar hymnody allows.

Our music program includes an annual concert series that attracts internationally known singers, choirs, and chamber groups. Highlights of the 2016-17 series, which features Westminster College Choir and one of the organists of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, are available here.

Since 1975, the Saints have been blessed with the leadership of their music program by its full-time directors, Ray and Beth Chenault. Internationally renowned performers in their own right, Ray and Beth have assembled a paid and volunteer staff of four, including an assistant choirmaster and reserve organist, a choral scholar, and a music librarian.

Listen to our Adult Choir and James G. Kenan Memorial Pipe Organ:


Chanticleer – Richard Dirksen

The Lord is My Shepherd from “Requiem” – Rutter

Variations on an Easter Theme – Rutter; Raymond and Elizabeth Chenault, organ duo

Mass of the Children Kyrie – Rutter; All Saints’ Choir and All Saints’ Youth and Children’s Choirs

Ain-a That Good News – William Dawson

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Youth and Children’s Choirs
 

A vibrant part of All Saints’ overall ministry, the youth and children’s choirs engage both choristers and their parents, and contribute to the vitality of the congregation. Choirs rehearse mid-August to early May. Over the last nine years an average of 134 participants, aged four to eighteen, in four singing and two handbell choirs, have participated, representing an average of 92 families and equaling 25% participation by All Saints’ children and youth eligible for choir. In addition, Karol Kimmel, our Director of Youth and Children’s Music, leads a Christmas Eve adult handbell choir with 18-20 ringers representing 15 more families.

Recruitment and maintaining commitment are a big part of Karol’s ministry. Youth and children’s choirs rehearse weekly. Children in Pre-K through sixth grade attend on Wednesdays and many, with their families, stay for Wednesday Night Supper. Youth in grades seven through twelve rehearse bells and choir on Sunday afternoons and many stay for the evening youth group that follows. Because the singers come from all over Metro Atlanta, building friendships and identity is important to the program’s success. Choir activities also enrich the lives of parents, who strengthen their own friendships while serving as chaperones and Sunday volunteers, for example.

The youth choir takes a weekend out-of-town trip each spring to sing in a host church, and the sixth-graders travel to Cumberland Island for a weekend to strengthen friendships, have fun, and worship in a unique location.

At All Saints’, these choirs sing throughout the year for Sunday services, and several perform with the adult choir each year. In addition, youth and children’s choirs have roles in festival worship and parish life events from Celebration of Ministries Sunday in September to the Fall Festival, the Kanuga retreat, the St. Nicholas Celebration, the Christmas Pageant, two of the Christmas Eve services, Epiphany, Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, a musical, and Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday in the spring. Planning for the youth and children’s choirs requires coordination with children’s, youth, and adult formation, worship, parish life, and the adult choir, actually uniting many people and ministries at All Saints’.

 

Listen to our Children’s Choirs:


Sing Out with Joy
– The Junior Choir of All Saints’

The Whole World
– The Primary Choir of All Saints’

As a Child I Give Thanks
– The Junior Choir of All Saints’

Color Game 1
– The Junior Choir of All Saints’

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Children’s Formation
 

All Saints’ children’s ministries include Sunday formation classes and Children’s Church, as well as Wednesday evening activities and a summer week of Vacation Bible School. Our Director of Children’s Ministries, Kathy Roberts, has been in place since 2015, and is steadily developing new programs and strengthening those in place.

Those in kindergarten through third grade have Children’s Church every Sunday (except for Pet Blessing Sunday, Christmas, Palm Sunday, and Easter). Routinely, Children’s Church concludes with a short homily by Kathy on the Sunday lesson, then children and teachers join everyone in big church during the announcements. Every six weeks or so, however, Children’s Church consists of a full service with an instructed Eucharist, in which one of the priests takes time to explain various parts of the service, and the children stay in the Children’s Center rather than joining their parents.


“As a Child I Give Thanks”,
All Saints’ Junior Choir

The children learn by doing. During their formation class time after Children’s Church, the kindergarten-through-third-grade classes follow the Spark Rotation, moving through forty-eight Bible stories during the four years. They hear the Word; they discuss the Word in terms of their daily experience, then they do the Word. For example, as they studied Moses and the Burning Bush, they discussed holy places and noticed that Moses took off his sandals, so they decided to take off their shoes in the class. After scripture reading, discussion, and activities, they take the lesson home with them during the week, with assignments that may include anything from creating art to being of service. The teachers follow up on the next Sunday to see how the assignments went, what the children learned, and how to incorporate the lesson into their growth as children of God.

Formation for grades four and five is based on the Connect program for tweens. This program is designed to help older children grasp the narrative order of the Bible as they move “from Creation to New Creation.” During their classes, students enjoy an often humorous video, as well as games and other activities to teach history and theology in age-appropriate ways. The classes encourage children to question and to reflect as they learn to discuss the Bible and their growing understanding of what it teaches them.

All Saints’ children’s formation classes have widely varying attendance. As few as a dozen or as many as fifty children may participate. Distractions and disruptions of all sorts affect participation. School-holiday weeks tend to be low-attendance weeks, for instance. And many other activities, such as organized sports, now occur on Sundays and affect attendance. Parents’ preferences for attendance also affect what their children do. Some children regularly attend Children’s Church but not formation classes, or vice versa. To get parents more focused and involved, Kathy is starting a series of classes called “Parenting with God.” Intended for parents of nursery through fifth-graders, this class will invite parents to explore what it means to live out their own baptismal covenant and that of their children.

Kathy has recently begun a Wednesday night program that is popular with children who come for choir practice but may not attend Sunday formation. Along with having choir practice and supper, the children can participate in crafts, which Kathy ties in with the Sunday lesson. They can also play board games with friends and family. Parents as well as children have enjoyed these Wednesday evening activities, and the program has promise for encouraging both parents and children to participate in Sunday formation as well.

All Saints’ has offered Vacation Bible School for the past decade or so, with good response from both adults and children. This year’s VBS involved fifty-four children (age four through nine), fourteen youth volunteers, and twelve adult volunteers.

In one sense, children’s ministries depend upon initiative and leadership from parents, which we are seeking to strengthen. But in a more basic sense, children’s ministries at All Saints’ are no different than those for youth, young adult, or adult ministries; we are forever being formed and forming our spiritual selves. The vehicles we use may change along the journey, but we are constantly informing, deciphering, listening, questioning–living into our participation in God, with God, and through God.

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Youth Formation
 

“Mindful and Active Faith” has been All Saints’ focus for this season of youth ministry. We believe that intergenerational connection and being involved with the entire church is what keeps young people engaged with their relationship to God and the church. We want our youth to look back on this community when they head off to whatever is next and feel supported, loved, and heard, and know that they were able to find and be the body of Christ at All Saints’.

We have adults who discover large and small ways to develop healthy, holy relationships with our youth as mentors and teachers. During Sunday formation, classes focus on a theologically sound approach to scripture and life. The confirmation program helps our youth discern what their ministry in the church will be as adult Christians. We have thriving youth choir and acolyte programs. Indeed, our acolyte program is one of the largest in the country, with between sixty and eighty acolytes serving in any given year, and our youth choir regularly sings in worship services.


“Sing Out the Joy!”, All Saints’ Youth Choir

But we want to take Christian formation beyond Sunday classes and activities on our block. We work hard to engage with schools and community organizations in order to be present to our young people and their families. We are partnering with a small youth ministry at All Saints’ in Warner Robins, Georgia, to begin to build bridges between racially and culturally diverse communities, and host some groups who are serving others in Atlanta. Our ATLServe mission week has connected All Saints’ youth to the needs of the Atlanta community. The annual pilgrimage for rising eleventh-graders, led by Tim Black with several other adult participants, takes pilgrims to sites where the pilgrims can deepen their own spiritual lives and strengthen friendships during a week of travel. In 2015 the pilgrims walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain. In 2016 the group made a pilgrimage to Alaska. As we continue to extend our young people’s experience of the church beyond our own buildings, we hope to sustain their trust that All Saints’ supports and loves them.

Through all the things we do, we encourage our ministry leaders to engage in constant prayer and reflection and always be searching for God’s presence in the other and in what we are doing together. The good news is that by moving into the future having fully embraced who we are as Episcopalians and Christians, we will continue to find more opportunities to help our young people grow up as healthy, whole, authentic people of faith.

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Adult Formation
 

We self-identify as an intellectual parish. Study, research and deeper understanding are part and parcel to how we understand the Gospel. Furthermore, some of our desire for intellectual currency is actually a thinly-veiled need to better understand each other, our church, our city, and our God. When the members of the parish are gathering data, teaching, and learning from one another, they are also learning and practicing forms of pastoral listening. They are telling stories of otherness and acceptance. They are strengthening connections with one another. They are naming their own experiences of the divine, in their own words. It is this spirit, individually and collectively, that fuels our adult education offerings.

All Saints’ has a history of bumping headlong into social and political issues of the day (world wars, civil rights, HIV/AIDS, women in ministry, same-sex marriage, LGBTQ persons in leadership) and then choosing, over and over again, to “stay on the block,” even when the decision is not widely popular. In particular, the actions of the rectors in the fifties and sixties, in reaction to the civil rights movement in Atlanta, pushed the congregation towards a clear self-definition. All Saints’ did not have a mission statement that included standing against segregation, but it began to understand itself as called and nudged by God into being more the Body than it had previously been. This experience in one situation shaped community reaction in future situations when response to the socio-political climate–the human rights climate primarily–was called for. All Saints’ congregation can be drawn into most any kind of kingdom-forwarding work if its intellect is tapped first.

From the 1980s, the parish developed a popular multi-course program of Sunday morning adult formation that ran for more than three decades. With every unit we sought to offer courses in one of perhaps five categories, including Bible, the arts, missions, family, and current affairs. Those who attended any of the five- or six-week courses were treated to skilled teachers from around the parish community and the surrounding city in subjects like “Christ and the Economy” and “Heretics.” They might have attended Bob Edge’s “Mozart: Unimaginable Genius,” Barbara Blender’s thoughtful sessions on films, or our Earth Stewards’ series on locally sourced and organic food, to name a few and to note the many imaginative ways that we ground our lives and passions in sound theology. Although most of these courses ended after a few weeks, allowing participants to choose another offering, one course has lasted for a decade or more: “Jesus on the Front Page” adapts to different leaders with different styles but remains lively as it seeks to engage with the concerns of the day.

Education at All Saints’ must continue to be adaptable, responding to people’s changing needs. Indeed the last five years have seen declining attendance, so we may not have been alert enough to these concerns. A task force recently identified ways to develop a calendar more nimble to accommodate current events, collaboration with children’s and youth ministries, and service days. We will continue to seek ways to offer education using various formats and engaging different learning styles. Some parishioners, for example, have asked for more classes organized by age or gender and staying together longer, so that friendships might deepen. Some want more small classes, again to promote acquaintance.

The adult formation program today has many moving parts. We have Sunday formation during the August-May program year, but classes are not the only way in which we educate ourselves. As focus-group participants note, working individually with people, for example at MAC or Threads, or in the refugee ministry, strengthens our will to reach out—always important in learning—and educates us by deepening our capacity to listen and to learn from other people. Many parishioners find the Celebration of Ministries day to be a means of education, as it informs them about opportunities to learn and serve. We also boast a full array of study groups that include a healthy and lively EFM program, book discussions, and yoga. We have twice-annual lectures that bring in local and national speakers on topics of common interest to the community. And a recent addition to our formation programs is an annual pilgrimage for adults, which, over the last few years has gone to Rio de Janeiro, Canterbury, and on the Camino de Santiago, Spain. In every educational activity, the goal remains the same: to learn and put into action the stories of our faith.

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The Saints in and Around Atlanta
 

The Saints believe that their response to the Gospel compels the church’s steadfast support of the needs of our city and neighbors. In 2014, our vestry looked critically at All Saints’ community ministries and decided to focus on, and increase the Saints’ support to, four core ministries: Covenant Community, Refugee Ministries, Threads, and Midtown Assistance Center.

 

Covenant Community, Inc. (CCI) is a residential, life-stabilization program, established in 1990, serving homeless adult men who suffer from substance abuse. The program supports fourteen residents who have completed a short-term stay in a detoxification facility and have made a covenant with the Community to follow a strict, therapeutic regimen for at least six months at the residential facility on the All Saints’ campus. CCI follows the therapeutic community model, which emphasizes personal responsibility and community accountability. After completing CCI’s life stabilization program, our Covenant guys may transition to the Martha Sterne House (named for our former associate and current interim rector), a transitional program that supports up to seven men in a supportive residential community. The Saints participate in Covenant Community by preparing and eating ‪Monday night‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ Insight dinners with the residents and helping with the annual Thanksgiving dinner for Atlanta’s homeless population, sponsored by the residents and their alumni association, the Men of Hope.


“He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”,
All Saints’ Adult Choir

For over twenty years now, the Saints’ Refugee Ministries program has assisted refugee families resettled in Clarkston, a federally designated refugee resettlement area located about ten miles east of us. Under the leadership of a full-time staff person, about a hundred Saints have welcomed twenty families of all faiths from Congo, Rwanda, Bhutan, Nepal, Burma, Malaysia, Afghanistan, and Iran by assisting them in navigating the social service, medical, transportation, and educational systems in their new country. The Saints have also shared meals, tutored children, hosted swimming parties, and provided part-time employment to our new neighbors. We are starting a youth group for refugee girls from both our refugee families and others. Some of our Christian refugee families have joined us as Saints!


“As a Child I Give Thanks”, All Saints’ Children’s Choir

A long-term plan developed in 2003 prompted All Saints’ to establish Threads, a program to clothe children in need with clean, well-fitting, new or very gently used clothes and footwear that they and their parents select in a boutique-like atmosphere. Located in Tate Hall on the All Saints’ campus, Threads serves families referred by local social-service agencies. Through Threads, the Saints have clothed over 15,000 children in the last eleven years. A part-time director and a volunteer staff of Saints operate Threads.

Sensing that other Midtown churches were duplicating our efforts to assist our economically challenged neighbors, in 1986 All Saints’ and four other Midtown congregations formed the Midtown Assistance Center. All Saints’ originally housed MAC, which has since moved to larger offices, added full-time staff, and expanded its supporters to eleven congregations and a cross-section of businesses and individuals. MAC provides rent and utility assistance, clothing, food, transportation, and counseling services to the working poor in midtown Atlanta. All Saints’ averages 650 volunteer hours annually for MAC and $19,000 in financial support.

Other active All Saints’ ministries include Public Policy Network, Canterbury Court, Earth Stewards, and United Thank Offering. More information about these ministries is available here.

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The Saints in the World
 


“Witness”, All Saints’ Adult Choir

At All Saints’ we take our call to love our neighbor very seriously, and we recognize that our neighbors do not live only in our neighborhoods or even in our city. For the last fifteen years, All Saints’ has been participating in relationships with neighbors on the other side of the globe. Of primary importance to our global missions program is that our connections are about relationship. Gifts of money and travel often follow these relationships, but more often we communicate with each other, learning about Anglicans across the world, sharing our celebrations and our sorrows, lifting each other in prayer. In this way, we break down barriers of culture and language, and we shrink the distance that divides us.

Diocese of Western Tanganyika, Tanzania (DWT)
Our relationship with DWT is through three individuals that help us learn about and be involved in the ministries of the larger diocese. The Right Reverend Sadock Makaya, bishop of the diocese, sends us the good news of the dozens of new Christians baptized and confirmed in his diocese each year and invites us to pray for the clergy that work so hard in treacherous conditions. John Mhanuzi is a ministry innovator and planter. John has started an HIV/AIDS education and care center with funds given by All Saints’ and recently began a prenatal and maternal care clinic that caters to women in remote, rural parts of the diocese, offering training for midwives to help with births and neonatal care in these areas. The Reverend Emmanuel Bwatta is the Sewanee-educated member of the diocesan staff and the principal of the Lake Tanganyika Theological College. Emmanuel has been resident at All Saints’ on several occasions, has preached and taught among us. Currently, Emmanuel is studying at Columbia Theological Seminary and working part-time at All Saints’ on the clergy staff. Our relationship with DWT has not been without its difficulties. Differences in Gospel understandings of the role of women and homosexuals in church and society frustrate both sides of the relationship. It is a testament to both the goodness of God and to the will of our communities to learn and grow that we remain in faithful contact with one another.

Sao Paulo de Apostolo Parish, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When our youth pilgrims returned from a visit to Rio de Janeiro in 2006, they insisted that we continue to develop our relationship with Sao Paulo de Apostolo. From there, we have partnered with Sao Paulo in an initiative to bring community gardens to the nearby favelas (slums), been in mutual prayer with their women’s quilting and support group, and are most recently helping to further a program in art therapy for women who are struggling from economic oppression. This program is based on the PhD thesis of a Sao Paolo member. Sao Paulo is currently expanding the program to other favelas, enlarging both the art therapy program and women’s leadership in this ministry. The clergy from Sao Paulo have visited All Saints’, and teams of parishioners from All Saints’ have made return visits to share resources and foster good will and good wishes in both directions. An All Saints’ parishioner who visited Rio recalls, “Last October, I was invited to a dinner where she [the originator of the art-therapy ministry] described the program and then, the next day, we visited the favela in which the first program was offered. I was able to visit with three women who related stories of how the project improved their lives.”

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  • Looking Forward

    Worship

    • Help us to balance our commitment to our beautiful Anglican liturgy with our desire to reach out to those Saints not yet known to us.
    • Consider how we might use unconventional times and locations to offer worship opportunities to the current Saints, our Midtown neighbors, and others.
    • Think creatively about how we might use technology to strengthen the Saints’ individual spiritual practices.

    Adult Music

    • Continue the excellence demonstrated by our Adult Choir.
    • Consider additional opportunities for parishioners to worship through music.
    • Think creatively about the opportunities our adult music program could provide for greater connection between the Saints.
    • Explore innovative uses of music to appeal to Saints not yet known to us.

    “I hope we can find a rector (who) can lead us to find a way to share our worship with some of the many, many people who would love it but don’t know about it.”

    “I definitely do not want to ... start changing everything at All Saints’. However, we do need to grow and evolve to remain relevant in today’s world. We need more young adults involved. We should also leverage our central location and campus facilities to become a destination for the non- or under-churched. There are lots of ways to experience the love, grace, and forgiveness of God besides Sunday morning services!”

    “We are a wonderfully healthy and generous congregation but can at times become a bit self-satisfied. I would like to see a greater emphasis on community outreach and responses to the needs of others outside of our congregation.”

    “Worship and attendance could be enhanced by more variety in the services and music, even while staying within the liturgical tradition.”

    “I believe that we should focus on hymns and service music that are accessible to the whole congregation.”

    “Absolutely thrilled that Louisa Merchant has been brought on full time for Refugee Ministries - her additional time is already having a major, direct impact on several families with which my family is involved. Our church’s commitment to that ministry is having major, life-changing impact on the ground.”

    “I’ve wondered if maybe there could be a Sunday school class either for newish members, or Sunday school classes associated with life-stages (e.g., parents of young children, singles, etc.).”

    “It is important that we maintain the music program, and even enhance it with a stronger emphasis on the concert series. All Saints’ wouldn’t be the same without the professional and beautiful choir, and I very strongly hope our new rector is just as passionate as the rest of us.”


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