Spokane, WA
                                                         December 12, 2016
Notes from the Dean


In the wake of the recent presidential election, a new term has been coined. I do not know where it arose or for what purpose, but today we are said to have entered a "post-factual" era. I don't know for sure what the term means in the minds of those who invented it, but roughly it seems to suggest that there is no longer much concern for whether what is being reported is true; what matters is whether or not a large number of people are apt to believe it to be true. Whether this remarkably cynical shift has truly occurred is subject to debate. I continue to believe that we have not yet reached this point. Nevertheless I want to contrast this concept with what I am going to call a "pre-factual" era, which began when human beings first started telling stories and has lasted until perhaps a few hundred years ago or so when historiography began to develop into a rigorous discipline.
     In the "pre-factual" era as I am calling it, historical study as we now understand it, did not exist; culture, mores, values, ethos, were transmitted within cultures through stories passed down from generation to generation. These stories were not "history" in the modern sense; even though they were presented as great and heroic events from the past, there was no attempt to document them, and no thought to investigating these events to check for their historical accuracy, for they were not historically accurate. There was in this no attempt to deceive, for the task was not to present history as we understand it today, that was not even a possibility; the task was to convey values, to establish cultural identity, and to describe the people to themselves in their relationship to the world and to God. The "pre-factual" era was, in other words, deeply concerned with the truth. Stories, legends, myths, sagas, were all designed to convey the truth about God and the culture out of which they came.
     The Bible in its entirety is the product of this "pre-factual" era. The stories we have from scripture are not history and they are not science. Both those disciplines were more than a millennium away from even beginning to be developed as the canon of scripture was being compiled. But the stories in scripture are deeply steeped in the human struggle to convey the truth about the human situation and the relationship of God to the world.
     What I am calling the "pre-factual" era has a great deal in common with the era of science and history that arose after it. Both were concerned with telling the truth about the human situation, and both strove to describe life correctly. Their methods differed because they came from very different cultural milieus, but their concerns were the same.
     If we have entered a "post-factual" era in which what is true about us no longer matters, and the only concern is with what people can be persuaded to believe, then we have made a radical departure not just with the recent past, but with the whole human enterprise of using story, study, inquiry, imagination, to describe our world, and ourselves, honestly and truthfully. If we are entering a "post-factual" era, then it becomes our duty to resist this trend. Though the stories of the Bible are not history in the modern sense, they are the product of the deepest commitment to truth. We who find the inspiration for our faith in those stories need to maintain that same commitment.
     This Advent, let us take to the manger the gift of a renewed commitment to the truth about us, about the world, about God who became incarnate in our lord Jesus Christ.   I do not know if--indeed still do not believe that--we have entered an era in which the truth no longer matters. What I do know is that the best way to prevent that possibility from becoming a reality is to commit ourselves ever more surely to the truth. 

Notes from the Curate

We're less than two weeks out from the Big D ay, so I present to you a quick and dirty last-minute Christmas Shopping List, as approved by your Curate*

Why: If you've ever wondered what the very first family Christmas photo looked like, wonder no longer. Fresh off a Whole Foods shopping spree, Joseph is rocking his man bun and finest denim shirt, while Mary shows off her high cheek bones with her best duck face.
Who: Your coolest friend/family member (Grandparents! This makes a great gift for your high school/college age grandchildren!)

Why: From an Amazon 5 Star Review Titled Jesus Is AWESOME  "...he sure knows his scripture!!! This figure is slightly larger than a Barbie and worth every penny! Bonus- he has underwear on!"
Who: Children ages 5-15; Anyone who wants more scripture when playing with their action figures.

Why: Modeled after Monopoly, it's the only game where you are challenged to build a Church through good stewardship and cooperation. It's "A fun way to learn how time, talent, and treasure impact mission!"
Who: Board Game Fanatics, Stewardship Fiends, and collectors of rare Church Kitsch.

Why: Get what the Clergy use! This book combines The Book of Common Prayer 1979 and The Hymnal 1982 in one elegant volume bound in genuine leather. It is printed on special lightweight paper and is chancel size (5-7/8 x 8-1/4). It includes gold page edges, six ribbon markers, and comes in its own gift box.
Who: This volume and its companion in red cover are a very popular book, both for one's own personal use and as a gift. For those who sing in the Episcopal Church regularly, combining the prayer book with the Episcopal Hymnal makes a handy gift, for yourself or someone you care about.

What: Testamints!
Why: An excellent stocking stuffer, Testamints greet you with a passage from scripture on every wrapper. Testamints: Because secular mints just don't cut it!
Who: Anyone (particularly those with a propensity for eating garlic).

And there you have it! I hope these ideas help you complete your 2016 shopping list so that you can enjoy the rest of Advent stress-free!

*All Gift Ideas are the Curate's own suggestions and do not necessarily reflect the gift ideas of St. John's Cathedral.

Fr Nic


He is the Way.
Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;
You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.

He is the Truth.
Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.

He is the Life.
Love Him in the World of the Flesh;
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.

from WH Auden's  
For the Time Being, a Christmas Oratorio

LESSONS & CAROLS: December 16

Our traditional Anglican Service of Nine Lessons and Carols on Friday, December 16 at 7:00pm. 
Together with the Cathedral organ, an instrumental quartet of flute, oboe, English horn and cello surround the advent music presented by the Cathedral Choir. Music includes Boris Ord's "Adam Lay Ybounden," famous for its frequent appearance in Lessons & Carols from King's College, England, a setting of the southern hymn, "My Song in the Night," and Knut Nystedt's "Cry Out and Shout." The Cathedral Junior Choir, conducted by Tamara Schupman will sing two anthems, and the Cathedral Bell Choir, conducted by Stan McDaniel, plays an arrangement of "Veni Creator" by Dobrinski.


On Saturday, December 24, we celebrate Christmas with all the beauty of a world made new. Guest carilloneur, Jonathan Lehrer will begin a recital of Christmas music at 3:00pm, followed by harp music in the Cathedral nave at 3:30. The Family Christmas Eucharist--for all ages and incense-free--begins at 4:00pm.
     The Festival Choral Eucharist is also introduced with carillon music from the Cathedral tower, with a presentation of Vivaldi's "Gloria"at 9:45, followed by string music: Percy Grainger's "The Sussex Mummers Christmas Carol"; Vaughan William's "Fantasia on Greensleeves." The procession for the Midnight Mass is 10:30pm. Choral music includes "I saw Three Ships" and Harold Darke's setting of "In the Bleak Midwinter," and a warm string rendering of "Night of Silence/Silent Night."
     NOTE: Barring a winter storm, the Cathedral will be full. The generous quantity of music prior to both the 4:00pm and 10:30pm services allows people to come early for ease of seating and parking. There is free parking in the lots behind Lindaman's Restaurant, 13 th and Grand Blvd.

  • December 16.  Nine Lessons & Carols. 7:00 pm.
  • December 17-18.  Gift assembly for West Central Christmas. Saturday, 9-1, Sunday 1-3. West Central Mission.
  • December 24.  Family Christmas Eucharist.  4:00pm.  Festival Choral Eucharist.  Music begins at 9:45pm.  Midnight Mass Processional, 10:30pm.
  • December 25    Christmas Eucharist, 10:00am.
The January issue will be published on January 9, the second Monday of the month.  Articles or announcements are invited.  Please send copy by the previous Thursday