FROM THE RECTOR: MEET TITUS
This morning, Friday, February 20, I read the first lesson at Morning Prayer, Father Smith the second. My reading was from Deuteronomy, his from the Letter to Titus. His reading began with words for “older men”; so I pulled out the Bible I keep at my stall and followed along. You see, today I turned 61. Whether I like it or not, I think I have to accept the reality that I am an “older man.” Ouch.
Titus was instructed, “Bid the older men be temperate, serious, sensible, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Bid the older women likewise to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink” (Titus 2:2–3). I’ve got a long day ahead of me today, but I hope I can keep myself not too far off the mark for “older men”—and “older women.”
I can always recall that we have a very short lesson from Titus at the Christmas Eve Masses—this matters because the thurifer has very little time to get ready for the gospel procession. I didn’t remember that Titus, like 2 Timothy, prescribes that a presbyter or a bishop should be the husband of one wife (1:5–9)—it seems from this letter (written perhaps around AD 120, or even later) that celibacy was not envisioned for the leaders of the New Testament church communities.
I also didn’t remember that Titus is one of the New Testament letters that unequivocally supports the institution of slavery: “Bid slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to be refractory, nor to pilfer, but to show entire and true fidelity, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (2:9–10).
It took a long time for people to imagine a world without slavery—in part because it was an institution so deeply entrenched in the economies of both the Old and the New Worlds. Still, resistance to slavery finally emerged. Members of the Church of England and other Christians led the movement to abolish slavery in the British Parliament in the late eighteenth century. The slave trade was finally abolished in Britain and its territories in 1807; slavery itself lasted till 1833—except in the territories of the British East India Company. That final abolition happened in 1843.
It’s taken a long time too for Christians to imagine a world in which women are called to ordained ministry. The theological discussion of that issue in the world’s largest Christian community, the Roman Catholic Church, is still officially proscribed. Of course, we Episcopalians moved on gender equality in 1976, though the discussion continues unabated in some quarters. Last month, the Church of England started to catch up after years of debate.
Change remains slow and is sometimes grudging. On January 26, 2015, at York Minster, the archbishop of York ordained the Reverend Libby Lane a bishop of the church. Only a week later, on February 2, the Reverend Philip North was ordained bishop, also at York Minster. The archbishop of York was present for both services. He was the principal consecrator for Bishop Lane; he did not lay hands on Bishop North, however. That traditional liturgical action was reserved for three bishops who had not been ordained by bishops willing to ordain women.
This situation is not new in the Church of England. If I recall correctly, Archbishop Rowan Williams was once invited to preach at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, but he was forbidden to celebrate or concelebrate the Mass at which he preached by bishops he himself had ordained! The theological contortions required to arrive at this kind of ideology just make me sad.
I’ve never forgotten words said to me by the Reverend Dale Hathaway—we were both rectors in Michigan City, Indiana, at the time. I think I can quote him pretty accurately too, because his words had a real impact on me. He said, “We wouldn’t ordain someone who believed Blacks shouldn’t be ordained; why would we ordain someone who thought women should not be ordained?” Unfortunately, discrimination can always find an audience—and usually a large one.
Two weeks ago in my sermon at Evensong, I mentioned, somewhat provocatively, that the “Confederate” diocese of South Carolina had just won the right to secede from the national church in a South Carolina state court. Unlike South Carolinians in 1861, the disenchanted Episcopalians of South Carolina didn’t get the whole state this time—the diocese of Upper South Carolina remains loyal, as do 28 congregations in the breakaway diocese.
In 1861, the issue was slavery; in 2012, when this second movement toward secession began, the issue was marriage equality. I wonder: how do the present-day “Confederates” in South Carolina and elsewhere read Titus or Genesis or any book or passage of the Bible whose historical and social setting differs radically from our own? Titus’s bishops may have been husbands of one wife, but that certainly doesn’t describe marriage when God was setting apart his chosen people in Genesis. We cannot avoid the sometimes hard work of interpreting the Bible. We learn something about ourselves and others when we ask the question, “What do you or I insist on interpreting literally, and only literally?”
We always get in trouble when we omit the work of the Holy Spirit among us to lead us into all truth. It’s good to read the Bible, the whole thing. I invite you to worship on Sunday at the Lord’s Table; I invite you to read and rejoice in the Good News. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR David, John, Emil, Sean, Emily, Ben, Charlie, Vera, Dorothy, Abalda, Gerald, Penny, Linda, Eric, Barbara, McNeil, Takeem, Arpene, Paulette, priest, and Harry, priest; for all the members of our Armed Forces on active duty; and for the repose of the soul of Shirley Gerhardt . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 22: 1879 Francis Lawrence Lundy; 1886 William Henry Jones, Edward Bieral; 1912 Mortimer Marble; 1913 Ole Olsen; 1917 James Hand.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . We learned recently that Shirley E. Gerhardt died on May 5, 2014, in Totowa, New Jersey, at the age of eighty-three. Miss Gerhardt was a member of Christ Church, Totowa, but was a faithful friend of Saint Mary’s for many years. We give thanks for her generosity and the generosity of all our friends and benefactors. Please keep her and her family in your prayers.
THE ORDINARY WEEKDAYS OF LENT are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial. The Fridays of Lent are also observed traditionally by abstinence from flesh meats. Abstinence is not observed on Sundays in Lent (or on the Feast of Saint Joseph, March 19, or the Annunciation, March 25).
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Friday, February 20, Evening Prayer 6:00 PM & Stations of the Cross 6:30 PM . . . Saturday, February 21, Parish Potluck Dinner 6:00–8:00 PM, Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . Sunday, February 22, 10:00 AM, Adult Forum: Father Peter Powell resumes his class on the Gospel of John . . . Tuesday, February 24, The Feast of Saint Matthias the Apostle, Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM (please note the feast day is on Tuesday, February 24, not on Wednesday, February 25) . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet on February 25 at 6:30 PM . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, February 21, by Father Stephen Gerth, and on Saturday, February 28, by Father Jim Pace.
MINISTRY OF HOSPITALITY . . . On March 25, Bishop Allen Shin will be with us for the Solemn Mass on the Feast of the Annunciation. It is always a pleasure to be able to welcome him and his wife, Clara Mun, back to Saint Mary’s. We hope that we will be able to hold a festive reception after the Solemn Mass that evening, but we need help to defray the costs of the reception and to bolster our hospitality budget. If you would like to make a donation to help with the costs of the reception, or to assist with hospitality during the coming year, please contact the parish office. Please be aware that it is not necessary to pay the entire cost of any single reception or Coffee Hour. The cost of a feast-day reception is about $600.00. (There are usually 8 such receptions per year.) The costs of hospitality on Sunday mornings and afternoons are between $75.00 and $100.00. If a number of friends and members of the parish were willing to commit themselves to a regular donation to support this ministry, that would be enormously helpful. No donation is too small!
STEWARDSHIP 2015 . . . We have met our goal! But we still need your support! As of Thursday, February 19, we have received pledges from 176 households. 102% of our $425,000.00 goal has been pledged to date. Thank you so much to all those who made a pledge for 2015 and to all those who continue to support Saint Mary’s so generously. It is our hope, of course, that everyone who has made a pledge this year will do their best to fulfill it. This helps us to keep within our budget and it allows us to continue our ministry. If you need to discuss your pledge or make alterations to it, please contact the finance office. If you have not yet made a pledge, but would like to do so, please contact the finance office or speak to a member of the Stewardship Committee: MaryJane Boland, Steven Heffner, or Marie Rosseels. It’s never too late to make a pledge.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Thank you to all those who volunteered their time and talent on Ash Wednesday in order to welcome the many hundreds of people who come through our doors on that day. Thank you for showing our guests how welcoming, and how prayerful (even on a busy day in Midtown!), Saint Mary’s can be. Thank you also to our musicians, servers, sextons, and the other members of the staff who worked so hard that day. Their efforts are much appreciated . . . Parishioner Gerald McKelvey continues to recuperate following surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital. Parishioner Penny Allen continues rehabilitation therapy in Wall, New Jersey. She hopes to return home soon. Please keep Gerald and Penny in your prayers . . . Some very early movie footage of early twentieth-century New York was recently posted on YouTube. Early in the clip (0:32), dated 1905, is a shot of Saint Mary’s. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it! . . . In the “Photos of the Day” section of the Yahoo News Feed for February 13, there is a good picture of the interior of Saint Mary’s. (Thank you to all those who help us to keep our doors open! And thank you to Steve Ginther and Father Ryan Lesh for bringing these links to our attention.) . . . Flowers are needed for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 15, and for the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . The Flower Guild is beginning to make plans for Holy Week and Easter. If you would like to volunteer to help decorate the church for Easter, please speak to Marie Rosseels or Chris LaCass . . . The Rector will be away from Wednesday, February 25, until Saturday, February 28, to attend the annual conference of the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 218; Ash Wednesday Masses 249.
PARISH POTLUCK DINNER . . . On Saturday, February 21, there will be a Saint Mary’s Community Potluck Dinner in Saint Joseph’s Hall, following the Evening Mass, between 6:00 and 8:00 PM. Our friends who spend part of the day resting in the church, some of whom are homeless, will be invited to join us for dinner once again. As of February 20, around 32 Saint Marians have volunteered to attend the supper and bring a dish to share. If you would like to participate, if you have questions, or if you would like to make a donation, please contact Father Jay Smith or Chris LaCass. We hope to see you on the 21st!
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Sunday, February 22, First Sunday in Lent: William Byrd (c. 1540–1623), often thought to be the most prolific of English composers, was one of the most celebrated musicians of the English Renaissance. His entire life was marked by contradictions, and as a true Renaissance man, he cannot be easily categorized. He lived well into the seventeenth century without writing music in the new Baroque fashion, but his superbly constructed keyboard works marked the beginning of the Baroque music organ and harpsichord periods. He was organist of the Chapel Royal at Windsor for a number of years, eventually receiving a warrant for the exclusive rights for music publication from Elizabeth I. His elegant Mass settings for three, four, and five voices are staples of the sacred repertoire, and it is the Mass for Four Voices that we will hear at the Solemn Mass this coming Sunday, the First Sunday in Lent. It should be remembered that much of this music came to be in the troubled political and religious atmosphere that was Elizabethan England, and while accommodating the demands of a Protestant court, Byrd staunchly maintained his Catholic faith, writing much of his sacred work to be performed in secret at the clandestine celebrations that were held in basement chapels and closet chambers of English recusant noblemen and their families. At the ministration of Holy Communion we will hear the classic motet, Remember not, Lord, our offences, by another great English composer, Henry Purcell (1659–1695) . . . On Sunday afternoon at 5:00 PM, Solemn Evensong, Litany & Eucharistic Benediction. No sermon is preached at Evensong during Lent and there are no organ recitals preceding the service. —Mark Peterson
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet on February 25 and will begin reading at Isaiah 22. The class will not meet on March 4, when Father Smith will be out of town . . . On the Sundays in Lent (February 22 and March 1, 8, 15, 22 & 29) Father Pete Powell will continue his series on The Gospel of John . . . During Eastertide (April 19, 26, and May 3), Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins will be leading the class, once again, in a discussion of the links between theology and the arts: “And the angel said, ‘Be not afraid’ ”: God’s Ministering Messengers, From Scripture through the Arts and Literature. All the Sunday-morning adult-education classes begin at 10:00 AM and are held in the Arch Room on the second floor of the Mission House. —Jay Smith
LOOKING FOR SUPPORT IN YOUR JOB SEARCH? . . . CareerSearchers is a resource and support group for people who are looking for a new job, starting as a contractor/freelancer or changing careers. Coordinators and volunteer speakers provide answers to questions concerning the job search. CareerSearchers meets every Tuesday at 7:00 PM in the Parish House of Saint Michael’s Church, 225 West 99th Street. Visit the parish website for more information.
PILGRIMAGE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE . . . Third Annual Jonathan Daniels Civil Rights Youth Pilgrimage for high school students, led by Bishop Allen Shin, August 13–15, 2015. Commemorating the Fiftieth Anniversary of Jonathan Daniels’s death. Traveling to Atlanta, Birmingham, Montgomery, Selma, and Hayneville, Alabama. Blessed Jonathan Daniels, a young seminarian and a saint of the Episcopal Church, was martyred in Hayneville while working for the civil rights of the people of Alabama. Each August, people gather in Hayneville to march and remember him and the many others who died striving for equality and freedom during that tumultuous time in our country’s history. During the trip, the group visits sites important to the Civil Rights Movement and examines the pivotal role that young people played in its success. Cost to Youth Participants: $450.00 Sponsored by the Anti-Racism Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. (A limited number of scholarships is available.) For more information contact: Carla Burns or Michael Hull.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At the Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA), 1865 Broadway at 61st Street, Renaissance Masterpieces from Florence Cathedral, February 20–June 14, 2015, Sculpture in the Age of Donatello. “Twenty-three masterpieces of early Florentine Renaissance sculpture—most never seen outside Italy—will be exhibited at MOBIA as the centerpiece of the Museum’s tenth anniversary season. MOBIA will be the sole world-wide venue for this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition. These works—by Donatello, Brunelleschi, Nanni di Banco, Luca della Robbia and others—were made in the first decades of the fifteenth century for Florence Cathedral (Il Duomo), which was then in the last phase of its construction, and are figural complements to Brunelleschi’s soaring dome, conveying an analogous sense of courage and human potential. Like the dome, these statues of prophets and saints express the spiritual tension of a faith-driven humanism destined to transform Western culture.” The American Bible Society has sold the building where MOBIA is located, and the museum will be closing at the end of June, at least temporarily. The Museum has not yet announced when or where it might reopen. A review of the show recently appeared in the New York Times.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Sunday, March 8, Daylight Saving Time begins . . . Thursday, March 19, Saint Joseph, Mass 12:10 & 6:20 PM . . . Wednesday, March 25, The Annunciation, Sung Mass 12:10 PM; Solemn Pontifical Mass 6:00 PM, The Right Reverend Allen K. Shin, bishop suffragan of New York.