What it Feels Like to be a Christian in High School

Welcome to a new series where we will hear from Nina Palattella about her experience as a Christian in her senior year of High School.  Nina will write a blog post about once a month over the course of the school year.

Nina reading during a service at summer camp this year.

Nina reading during a service at summer camp this year.

Hello there, and welcome to my first blog post! My name is Nina, and I am a freshly minted senior at Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy in Erie. I have an older brother, two dogs, and my hobbies include writing fiction; singing, both in a vocal jazz ensemble at my school and solo, and playing the electric guitar. In addition, I am a Christian; my family and I have belonged to the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Paul, also in Erie, since I was about four years old. I cannot vouch for this personally because I was so young, my parents have said that everyone in the congregation was so welcoming and pleased that they were there, and that made a lasting impression on them and influenced their decision to begin regularly attending the church.

Since the beginning, there have been so many ways to get involved within the church and the Episcopal community at large, and I have been fortunate enough to participate in a few of them. I was formally involved in the Cathedral of St. Paul’s Children’s Choir for more than a decade, and I still sing with the regular choir occasionally on Sunday mornings. I participate in services as an usher, reader, and I am a licensed Eucharistic minister; my father has served on the church’s board, both as senior and junior warden, for many years, and there have been many Sundays where I spent the entire morning and even some of the afternoon hanging out at church. I have volunteered at community dinners, helped the dedicated food pantry pack bags for people in need in our community, and decorated lamb cakes for the Easter Vigil service. I’ve gone to summer camps, taken part in mission trips to assist other congregations and shared side-splitting moments of hilarity and fellowship with other Christian kids and adult volunteers as part of the Episcopal community for youth known as The Vine. This past January, my mother, father, brother and I, along with eight other members of our congregation, took a trip to India to visit a church that we had helped build, which was a life-changing experience that I hope to discuss in future blog posts.

When I was originally approached with the idea of writing this blog, the proposed topic was what it feels like to be a Christian in high school. As I’m sure you’ve gathered thus far, being part of the Episcopal Church has had a *huge* impact on my life, and I think I can say that with comfortably little exaggeration. As I’ve gotten older, it hasn’t always been easy to stay involved in the church, particularly because of my school, which is well known for its demanding and challenging curriculum. There are Sundays when I skip going to church because I have too much homework, or because I’m too tired from everything that I’ve had to do that week; when I do want to or have to go to church, I often have to plan my day around how I’m going to make up for those lost hours of work later in the day. I know many people, including some of my friends, who are skeptical of the faith they once had, some who seem to think that they currently don’t have the time to fit it into their lives, and some who have abandoned it altogether. Because I attend a public high school, religion isn’t a part of the daily lessons, and more often than not I can easily go days without hearing religion mentioned or talking about it in a meaningful context. I don’t hide my faith; I wear a cross necklace that was given to me by my parents the night of my confirmation a few years ago, and if anyone were to ask me about religion I would have no problem telling them that I am a Christian, and I like to think that I would make the other person feel secure in their own beliefs (or lack thereof) while still letting them know that they would be welcome to visit my church anytime. However, I don’t think I have a knack for promoting it or talking about it with relative strangers unless I am prompted by something else. One of my friends from middle school (who has since moved to a different town in Pennsylvania) possessed that skill, and I would marvel how easily she could make friends with someone and talk to them in a completely natural manner about how influential Christianity is in her life. The best strategy that I’ve been able to come up with so far is to not hide my identity and let the people who are interested know how Christianity has benefitted me if and when the subject comes up.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog post, and if you have any questions or comments feel free to post them in the comment section below. Thanks and have a great day!

The Cathedral Choir School 2015

Do you know a child who loves to sing?

He who sings, prays twice.

Keep Calm and Join a Choir!

Children who play a musical instrument do better in school.

You’ve heard them all. I’ve used many of them myself to recruit new singers. I first saw the title “Do you know a child who likes to sing?” on a recruitment brochure from St. Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue in New York. I thought it was a great way to catch the attention of people who might send me lots of children who loved to sing. I used it a few y


ears and then began to notice it was also on most of my colleagues’ recruitment brochures. One summer we were at Salisbury Cathedral in England and, believe it or not, that question was at the top of their choir recruitment poster!

Who could go wrong with quoting St. Augustine: “He who sings, prays twice.”   Parents would be standing in line to sign up their children for the Cathedral Choir! Prayers ascending twice; who could resist?

Why not join the “Keep Calm” fad and add “Join a Choir” to the WWII morale-booster poster? Everyone’s doing it…

And what many of us thought would bring choir enrollment to record highs were all of the studies that prove that children who play a musical instrument or sing in a choir and know how to read music do much better in academics than students who do not. Who wouldn’t want to be smarter and get better grades in school? Children would be begging their parents to be in choir.

11054501_932353570130639_6717629821113683575_nAre all of these one-liners true? Yes, absolutely. Do they help in recruiting? Maybe, but not as much as I would have hoped. Most choirs do not have a long line of parents waiting to sign up young singers for the next choir season. Nor are parents registering their newborns years in advance in order to guarantee a spot in the Cathedral Children’s Choir. Perhaps this is because written materials can only tell you what we do but in order to know what it will mean a person has to experience it.

So here’s my invitation to anyone in the Diocese: come and spend a day, a few hours or even a few minutes at this year’s Choir School at the Cathedral to see how young people are impacted by being in a choir.

A few things you will observe during the week:

  • Children and youth of all ages singing and praying together10565068_818336794865651_4901032998424659801_n
  • Adults teaching and encouraging young singers
  • Older singers mentoring younger singers
  • Daily worship
  • Learning about the Eucharist, the Book of Common Prayer and The Hymnal 1982
  • Group rehearsals where singers learn new music and improve individual technique
  • Clergy interacting with singers through worship and Christian Formation sessions
  • Field trips
  • Guest professionals presenting Master Classes
  • Singing the National Anthem at a baseball game
  • Cooking and serving a Pancake Breakfast to 100 of the Cathedral’s Food Pantry guests

Choristers also develop leadership skills, learn to work as part of a team, foster a sense of personal commitment, learn the importance of giving of time, talent and service for the good of the community.

Choir School will be offered at the Cathedral of St. Paul the week of August 17-21 for any young person who would like to explore what it’s like to be in the Cathedral Children’s Choir. Singers come from the Cathedral congregation, from other Episcopal congregations (St. Stephen’s and St. Mark’s) as well as other churches in the community. Singers are only expected to sing at the Cathedral two Sunday mornings each choir season so any singer may remain active in their own congregation. There is no cost to attend Choir School.

10406723_886578358041494_7498215282382553384_nThe Cathedral Children’s Choir meets on Wednesdays from 4:00 pm -5:30 pm September through May. A complete schedule of services, concerts and other singing engagements in the community is published at the end of August.   Children as young as 7 may join. Boys may sing until voice change and girls through high school.

Do you know a child who loves to sing? Of course you do! Please contact the Cathedral of St Paul for more information. Or better yet, bring him or her to Choir School for a stimulating, challenging and fun experience!

Sharon A. Downey, Canon Musician, the Cathedral of St. Paul, Erie, PA

When I Wake Up


Joseph Glarner, a third-generation member of Trinity Memorial in Warren, is no stranger to the music industry. His work has taken him all over the country, working with artists such as the Goo Goo Dolls and companies like Disney and Nickelodeon. However, his musical and spiritual journey began at Trinity Memorial. Following some twists and turns away from Trinity and his relationship with Jesus, Joseph now finds himself back home and considers himself a “witness to Jesus Christ.”

After growing up at Trinity Memorial and being influenced by their music program, Joseph’s own music career took off. He studied in California and New York, was in a band, and by age 22 had started his own recording studio. Joseph enjoyed his music, but also felt that something was missing. He calls his experience, “my prodigal son journey:” “I was interested in worldly things.”

His journey back to Christ, and eventually to Trinity Memorial, started ten years ago when he was on tour with his band. It had become a job for him, no longer a passion, and he was tired of the nights of drinking. One day, he felt compelled to pick up and start reading the Bible. As he expected, he got some teasing from his band members. However, unexpectedly, the drummer joined him in his reading and they began discussing the Bible and Jesus. This prodigal journey led him to work at a studio where the owner was a Christian: “He sparked a fire in me to use music for the Glory of God.” Joseph also attributes his return to Jesus to the support he received from his mother: “A lot of my personal growth is due to her.”

About three years ago, Joseph was looking to do something other than produce music when the part time organist position at Trinity Memorial became available. Since then he has become the music director and has helped revitalize Trinity’s music program. He, Fr. Matthew Scott, and Andrew Pollard (another member of the music team) have worked together to create music that bridges the sacred hymns of the past with more modern music. Their music is featured every Wednesday night at the 5:30 p.m. contemplative service.

Joseph’s experiences at Trinity helped him get back to a place where he could make music for the glory of God, following years of being burned out from making his own music. “I decided to write a song every week that expressed the readings,” Joseph says, explaining how the process began. “I prayed hard to receive God’s message in a way God wanted and in a way that glorified God.”

This is how he ended up with his new CD, “When I Wake Up.” It is not typical contemporary Christian music, but rather simple, thoughtful compositions with piano and flute written to glorify God. Joseph says that he is “more than honored to share that with people.”

Trinity Memorial will be hosting a CD release concert for “When I Wake Up” on July 11th. Follow Joseph at www.JosephGlarnerMusicMinistry.org and all are welcome to the concert on July 11th at 6:30 p.m. at Trinity Memorial (444 Pennsylvania Ave. West, Warren, PA).

Trinity Memorial will be hosting a CD release concert for “When I Wake Up” on July 11th. Follow Joseph at www.JosephGlarnerMusicMinistry.org and all are welcome to the concert on July 11th at 6:30 p.m. at Trinity Memorial (444 Pennsylvania Ave. West, Warren, PA).

*7/31/15: Article has been corrected and edited from its original version.

Julien Goulet, Assistant for Communications and Administration, Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania

Beautiful Young Voices Rang From the Rafters

Treblefest, an annual event where choristers from Ohio and NW Pennsylvania attend at Trinity Cathedral, Cleveland, in the Diocese of Ohio recently took place on Saturday March 7, 2015. Each year, a conductor of international or national prominence is invited to instruct and lead the choristers. This year’s conductor was James O’Donnell, the Organist and Master of the Choristers at Westminster Abbey in London England. Mr. O’Donnell is an internationally recognized conductor and organ recitalist, having given concerts all over the world. In addition to his full schedule of daily choral services, his responsibilities have also included directing music for a service in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI and the Wedding of the The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in April 2011.

Four of The Cathedral of St Paul’s’ own choristers travelled to Cleveland to participate in this year’s Treblefest. Lydia Andraso, Emma Schuette, Elise Roessner and Julia Roessner joined around 70 other choristers from St Michael’s in the Hills church, Toledo, St Paul’s church, Akron , St Paul’s church, Cleveland Heights and Trinity Cathedral, Cleveland. Their day began at 9 am to rehearse the music and responses for the 3 pm Choral Evensong. The Right Reverend Mark Hollingsworth, Jr, Bishop of the Diocese of Ohio served as Officiant and Preacher for the service and provided a wonderful sermon on the origins of the Tuning pitch “A” and 440 hz. He went on to challenge the choristers to be an “A” in everything they do in life.

This wonderful experience allowed our choristers to interact with fellow choristers from the other parishes for the day of fellowship and instruction from one of the preeminent conductors in the world.

Eric Schuette, Member St. Stephen’s, Fairview