The fair linen that covered the altar at the 74th General Convention in Minneapolis was donated this summer by the Executive Office of the General Convention and the National Altar Guild Association to St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the Diocese of the Rio Grande.
The Rev. Dr. Gregory Straub, executive officer of General Convention, joined the Rev. Richard Murphy, rector of St. Bede's, in dedicating the fair linen for use at the parish during their All Saints' celebration on Sunday, November 6.
"This fair linen comes to St. Bede's Church having been hallowed by the prayers of thousands of worshipers at the 74th General Convention," said Straub. "The cloth is a physical reminder of the connection that exists between this congregation and the larger Christian community of which it is a part. Each time St. Bede's gathers around their altar, they will be accompanied in their prayers by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church."
In his official letter of presentation, Straub wrote, "It is my hope that the use of this fair linen will allow your congregation to feel a tangible connection to our Lord and all of your Episcopalian brothers and sisters around the world as you celebrate the Eucharist in Santa Fe."
The people of St. Bede's Church gratefully received the donation. "You cannot imagine my delight when our senior warden informed me of the possibility of receiving a round fair linen from our Church Center," wrote Christine Johnson, Altar Guild coordinator for St. Bede's, in a letter to Straub. After working with the linen itself, Johnson said: "This lovely, soft, fair linen with its exquisitely embroidered Jerusalem Cross took my breath away – God is so good!"
According to the rector, the gift was particularly appropriate because St. Bede's lives out the Gospel and Baptismal Covenant in a broad range of inclusive ministries, all of which arise from its liturgical life. This work extends to a homeless shelter, local schools, gay and lesbian communities, hunger and poverty programs and other ministries domestically and abroad.
The National Altar Guild Association was the first to announce the donation to St. Bede's. "We published an account of the gift in our newsletter, EPISTLE, so all of the members of the National Altar Guild would be prayerfully joined in this gift," said May Sherrod, president of the Association. "It is hoped that the use of this linen at St. Bede's will draw us all into a closer unity as the Body of Christ," she added.
Sherrod said that the Altar Guild was as pleased to give the linen as St. Bede's was to receive it. "I was thrilled to learn that there was a possible placement of the linen where it could be used and loved. It has special meaning for so many people and to see it have another 'life' in a parish is a blessing."
The linen was designed to fit the General Convention altar, which was round, eight feet in diameter. In 2003, C. M. Almy and Son, Inc. manufactured the unique cloth and donated it to the National Altar Guild Association for use in Minneapolis.
Clergy participating in the dedication celebration at St. Bede's wore vestments commissioned for use at the General Convention in Minneapolis which were on loan to the parish from the Episcopal Church Center.
St. Bede's Church is a growing parish of approximately 350 members.