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  P R E S S  R E L E A S E


July 18, 2006


Contact: Elizabeth Mullen
(202) 537-6248



WASHINGTON – Worshipers at a special service celebrating the state of New Hampshire on July 16 heard a message of inclusion during the sermon at Washington National Cathedral.

God has assimilated his people in a manner of children being adopted, "the supreme gift of being chosen," said the Rev. Canon Eugene T. Sutton, canon pastor of the Cathedral. "What you are called matters very, very much, and God has called us his children, his family."

"To be chosen is one of the most powerful forces for good in our world," Sutton said while speaking from the Canterbury Pulpit, from where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his final Sunday sermon.

The Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, served as chief celebrant at the service. More than 900 worshipers celebrated New Hampshire Day, part of a program where the Cathedral focuses on a state each month and holds it up in prayer.

Robinson has been the focus of debate since the majority of Episcopal bishops approved his 2003 election as bishop of New Hampshire. He is the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion.

A column of worshipers greeted Robinson at the conclusion of the service. He said the congregation's welcome "has been so warm and hospitable. The line went on forever of people who want to wish me well."

Robinson said the sermon was resonant. "I loved the reminder that in some sense our families of choice are even stronger than our families of origin because of the intentionality of it," he said. "We are loved not because we deserve it but because God has chosen it. Just as an adopted child will always know that they were wanted we know that God always wants a relationship with us.

"The other point is that you may not get along with your brothers and sisters but they will never not be your brothers and sisters," Robinson said. "While we may be fighting about one thing or another we cannot write each other off because we are family."

As to the reference to church controversy, "I think it's the thing that is before us right now in the larger church, but it will always be something," Robinson said.

"Most of the New Testament was written because the church was in conflict," Robinson said. "People think the church should be a place that there isn't conflict but Peter and Paul were fighting like cats and dogs.

"This happens to be our issue for this time," Robinson said. "When we settle this one, there will be another one. The question is how do we treat each other in the midst of this."

"I get it from both sides," Robinson said. "I have one side making me out to be the devil and the other side is making me out to be an angel. I am neither of those sorts. I am just me. I am trying to stay grounded and to stay connected to God.

"I am just one pilgrim on a journey and yet there is the reality that God seems to have selected me to do this special thing and it is honor and privilege to be in that place," Robinson said.

The St. Thomas Episcopal Church Choir, of Hanover, N.H., was spotlighted when it called the congregation to worship in a 30-minute choral prelude. Nineteen choir members on the trip sang four Russian choral pieces, and American hymns and spirituals, selecting numbers that highlighted the strengths of the music group.

Soprano Anne Harms performed a solo on "To Thee, O God," while "Sometimes I Feel," featured a solo by mezzo-soprano Karen McLellan.

The choir began forming its program around Easter, and performed it two weeks ago in its home church in Hanover, director Gerald Weale said.

"That gave us a chance to get it out before a live audience, which makes a big difference with any performance; you need to do it at least once before the big time," said Weale, a retired music professor at Boston University.

"The other reason is we wanted to make sure the folks at home were being remembered in this pilgrimage, that we are carrying them with us," Weale said.

The St. Thomas choir performed once before at Washington National Cathedral. Weale said any opportunity to sing in the Cathedral "is always a big deal."

"It is the national stage, it is the largest audience we ever get to sing to," Weale said. "And frankly there is a lot of pride in our diocese about Bishop Robinson's election and consecration, about who he is and what he stands for. Knowing he was going to be here, we wanted to be here."

New Hampshire citizens played key roles throughout the service. Alice Crapser of Litchfield, regional volunteer co-chair of the National Cathedral Association, read Scripture.

During the grand opening procession, the state flag was carried by Michael McBride, president of the New Hampshire State Society, the organization of Granite State natives living in the Washington area. The flag was placed on the chancel steps where it would remain for a week in further recognition of the state.

Frances Rodier of Nashua, Carol and John Twomey of Northfield, and Tiffany McBride, wife of Michael McBride, delivered gifts to the altar during the Offertory, along with Aidan Nagle 11, Conor Nagle, 10 and Isabelle Nagle, 9, all of Hanover.

The Nagle youngsters, representing St. Thomas Episcopal Church, marched in the opening procession.

Afterwards visitors were given a customized tour of the Cathedral, focusing on New Hampshire elements such as the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the west end that was created by Daniel Chester French of Exeter, and the 65-foot long windows behind the great altar that were formed by stained glass artist Earl Edward Sanborn of Lyme.


ATTN PRINT MEDIA: If you desire e-mail transmission of this account and/or photos sent as JPEG attachments please contact Elizabeth Mullen at the number above. Available on the web site are print-quality photos of Washington National Cathedral ("Photos for Print" under "News" at www.cathedral.org/cathedral).


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