It will be a blue December for members of Corpus Christi Episcopal Church, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Inspired by a retired priest’s visit to a church in Michigan, Corpus Christi in Okahumpka will be changing its Advent liturgical colors from purple to blue in honor of the church’s 10th anniversary. The anniversary event will be held Sunday, Dec. 10, with a party following the church’s 4 p.m. service. Participants can enjoy fun and games, and honor the original parishioners for their vision and enthusiasm.
“It was 10 years ago on Christmas Eve that they had their first service in their new church building, a former Baptist church,” said Corpus Christi vicar Amanda Bordenkircher. “We have decided to celebrate the 10-year anniversary on December 10th as we want to make sure anyone who comes on Christmas Eve feels welcome and comfortable. It’s not much fun coming to a new church in the middle of an “in-house” celebration!”
Attendees will not only notice the blue Advent liturgical color at this year’s anniversary event, but can reflect on and appreciate the workmanship in the church. After First Baptist of Okahumpka moved a half-mile up the road to a bigger facility, numerous Corpus Christi parishioners began pouring their heart and soul into the building.
Having previously worshipped in a disused restaurant that was part of a local motel, Corpus Christi parishioners set about converting the Baptist church into an Episcopal church. “This has been done with creativity, ingenuity, their own hard work and craftsmanship,” Bordenkircher said. “One man, who died this year, Bob Blaun, was an incredible wood craftsman. He made, with others’ help, the altar, the two wooden crosses that hang at the head of the altar and at the back. He also made the baptismal font, the lecterns and the altar rail.
“Originally, the front of the church had a large baptistry and several tiered steps,” Bordenkircher said. “It is still a source of amazement to me how they have changed the structure to accommodate our Episcopal liturgical form and worship.”
Parishioners will be able to celebrate the church’s improvements in a grand way in December. An interest in changing the color for Advent, along with a priest’s visit to Michigan, set in motion a special way to honor Corpus Christi’s 10th anniversary.
Bordenkircher said the church in the beginning essentially inherited the color purple for Advent through vestment gifts and the like. Then, Bordenkircher got an idea.
“Over the last couple of years, I wanted to delineate between Lent and Advent,” she said. “Even though the two seasons share some common themes, they also differ. One of the beauties of our tradition is the use of multi-sensorial ways that we have to draw near to God. I discovered that blue was used in some churches to underline this difference.”
The plan then expanded when retired priest Gordon Garthe visited Michigan and returned with some beautiful photos of a church he had visited where they had vestments and hangings that were quilted, Bordenkircher said. “Inspired by the beauty of the photos and knowing what talented quilters we have in the congregation, I approached people with the idea. They were enthused,” she said.
Jenney Peterson, Judy McGuinnes, Marge Ferns, Priscilla Lee, June Gray, Nancy Ackley and Dottie Levesque then went to work, and Bob Swarts offered to pay for the materials and introduced the parishioners to a friend of his, Joy Sharpe, a local Methodist who also did beautiful quilting. Barbara Blaun, the widow of Bob Blaun, and the church’s Altar Guild directress, provided direction and offered to make blue cinctures to complete the set: frontal, burse and veil, lectern hangings, priest and deacon stoles, Bordenkircher said.
It is the latest outpouring of support for Corpus Christi, which “started through the vision of a group of retirees who wanted to provide a liturgical worshipping community near to the retirement communities where they lived that would reach out, particularly to other retirees in the area. They lovingly joke our youth group is 55-65!” Bordenkircher said.
“I am continually touched and encouraged in my own faith by the dedication, creativity and ingenuity of the people God has called together in this mission,” Bordenkircher said. “I look forward to seeing how this work continues to grow and develop as we seek to create a community of Christ’s life and love.”