FROM THE RECTOR: OPENING THE DOOR
“Upon a clear, cold and windy afternoon of November 1867,” two men, Henry Kingsland Leonard and the Reverend Thomas McKee Brown, after conversations with each other and the bishop of New York, found vacant lots on West Forty-fifth Street, owned by John Jacob Astor, Jr. Upon learning they were to be used for a new parish for Longacre Square, Astor gave the land to the new parish with the following stipulation, “that the Church should be free [that is, would charge no pew rents], and positively orthodox in management and working” (Newbury Frost Read, The Story of St. Mary’s  16–17).
Ground was broken for the new church on April 6, 1868. On December 5, 1868 the church was incorporated under “An Act for the Incorporation of Societies to establish Free Churches” on December 5, 1868. The name of the corporation was to be, “The Society of the Free Church of St. Mary the Virgin.” The New York Herald published a report about the first service, which was held on December 8, 1870. The article began, “The opening service of the Protestant Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin, in Forty-fifth Street, near Broadway, took place at one o’clock yesterday.” The headline was, “A New Ritualistic Chapel” (Read, 19–27).
More significant were the words of the first rector about the parish’s founding, “The Revd. Flavel Scott Mines is to be the Associated Priest in Charge, with the Revd. Mr. Brown, who enter upon the work, not only with the intention of preaching the comfortable Gospel of Christ, and of ministering the Holy Sacraments to His people, but above all, of restoring to its proper place and importance the Worship of God—the rendering Adoration to Him as a Congregational and ceremonial act—, (made beautiful, majestic and impressive by all the outward adornments, which are called the Beauty of Holiness, springing from the heart-love, within); but, in which later times have been forgotten” (Read, 17).
There were plans to build a 150 foot tower for the church, but these were never carried out. Instead, the bequest of Sara Louie Cooke (1842–1892) enabled the parish to move to the east side of the residential neighborhood still called Longacre Square. Ground was broken for the second and present church on December 8, 1894; the church opened its doors for its first services on December 8, 1895.
I suspect members who were present for the repainting of the church in 1997 may have felt something of the same wonder those who visited the new church felt. I’m sure the new building, with little of the decoration we know today, was still a place of beautiful holiness. It remains a parish whose doors are open to all every day of the year for the regular services of the church. Saint Mary’s has been and remains, in the best sense, a place of congregational worship.
Father Brown died on December 19, 1898, in the rectory—a moving account of which can be read here. Sadly, we know almost nothing about Henry Kingsland Leonard. But one can imagine the two walking on through what was then a northern edge of the city, with many vacant lots, dreaming of a new home for God’s people.
I invite you to join us for the Feast of the Conception of Mary, Monday, December 8, for the services of the day. There will be liturgy and music to assist the congregation in its worship. We will feed on the “live-giving Jesus” and give our gifts for the work of Christ. No moments will be any more powerful than when the congregation’s voice sings the great hymns at the Masses, except the voice of the congregation, singing a cappella, the words the Savior taught us—the song this congregation sings best, “Our Father, who art in heaven.”
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Penny, David, Barbara, Andra, Francesca, Pat, Peggy, Mazdak, Babak, Pauline, McNeil, Takeem, Rick, Linda, Arpene, Paulette, PRIEST, Harry, PRIEST, and Edgar, PRIEST; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Matthew . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 7: 1876 Elizabeth Jane Weston; 1902 Caroline R. Symonds; 1905 George Geiss; 1906 Frederick W. Berry; 1962 Carol Elizabeth M. Irwin Hollister; 1966 Eloise Cole Janke; 1993 Lily S. M. Lasham.
SAINT MARY’S LEGACY SOCIETY . . . On Sunday night, December 7, following Evensong, there will be a reception for those who have indicated to the board of trustees that they have made a bequest to “The Society of the Free Church of St. Mary the Virgin” as part of their estate. If you have already remembered Saint Mary’s in your will or another financial instrument, I invite you to let us know so that we can thank you. Your example will encourage others to commit to the future of this parish in this place. It was inaugurated here at Solemn Evensong on December 7, 2006, by the Right Reverend Mark S. Sisk, bishop of New York. I will be happy to speak to you about the Legacy Society. —S.G.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR . . . are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Father Edgar Wells is at home after a brief hospitalization. Please keep him in your prayers . . . Parishioner Penny Allen was admitted to a hospital near Ocean Grove, NJ, just before Thanksgiving Day. She has had several surgical procedures since that time. She hopes to be able to return home before Christmas, where she will do physical therapy and continue her recuperation. Please keep her in your prayers . . . Congratulations to Thomas Jayne who has received a Stanford White Award for residential interior design and decoration from the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art . . . Flowers are needed for Sundays in January. We also hope to receive donations to defray the costs of the receptions following the Solemn Mass on December 8 and on January 6. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 221.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Friday, December 5, 7:00-9:00 PM, Visual Arts Project: Opening and Artist’s Talk, Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . December 6, 8:00 PM, New York Repertory Orchestra, David Leibowitz, music director. Music by Verdi, Vernon Duke, and Carl Nielsen. Admission is free. A $10.00 donation is requested . . . Sunday, December 7, 5:00 PM, Evensong and Legacy Society Reception . . . Monday, December 8, Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM, Reception in Saint Joseph’s Hall 7:30 PM . . . December 10, 6:30 PM, Wednesday Night Bible Study Class . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, December 6, by Father Jay Smith, and on Saturday, December 13, by Father Stephen Gerth.
VISIT THE GIFT SHOP . . . Be sure to visit the Saint Mary’s gift shop over the holidays. We will be providing a gift-wrapping service on Sundays after the 11:00 AM service for a donation of $5 for each gift wrapped. A selection of paper and ribbon will be provided—while supplies last! Gift items are for sale include t-shirts, coffee mugs, CDs, rosaries, art work, and books. We also have post cards, Christmas cards, and cards for many occasions. We look forward to seeing you. —Dexter Baksh
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Johannes Brahms (1833–1897), the great German composer and pianist, was one of the world’s undisputed masters of the symphony and sonata style. Learning the piano at an early age, Brahms also played the organ and served a number of churches in his younger years. He wrote a set of eleven chorale preludes for organ, two of which we hear on Sunday at the Solemn Mass. Known throughout music history for his glorious but rather unconventional Deutsches Requiem, Brahms also wrote a series of challenging motets and other choral compositions. Many sources refer to a Mass that Brahms was known to have worked on between 1856 and 1857, but that work was long thought to be lost. A manuscript copy of the Mass was known to exist in Vienna in 1908, but it was not until 1978 that a copy came to the United States, the result of the settlement of an estate. The work was officially acquired at auction in 1981 and finally published in 1984. It is the 1984 edition that has been held in the choir library here at Saint Mary’s for some time, but the work is seldom performed. One reason for that may be the rather low writing in a couple of the voice parts, making it a challenging work to sing. We will hear this Mass setting, the Missa canonica, at the Solemn Mass on Sunday. At the ministration of Holy Communion we will hear a motet by Brahms based on a German chorale entitled O Heiland reiβ die Himmel auf, published as Op. 74, No. 2. The Mass and the motet bear witness to the astounding compositional facility of this composer. Both works engage the listener with their pure harmony and courageously hopeful spirit. A friend and colleague of Brahms, Joseph Joachim, who is known to have reviewed and commented on an early draft of the Mass, said of the Missa canonica, “I think God loves us when we are able to pray in this way” . . . At 4:40 PM on Sunday afternoon, Kyler Brown will play the organ recital. His program includes the music of Dietrich Buxtehude (c.1637–1707), Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), and Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847). Mr. Brown is the director of music ministries and organist at the Church of Saint Jean Baptiste, East Seventy-sixth Street, New York. The service of Evensong will be sung by a quartet from the parish choir. They will sing The Short Service by Orlando Gibbons (1583–1625). The motet is “Almighty and Everlasting God,” also by Gibbons. —Mark Peterson
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . Sunday, December 7 & 14, 10:00 AM, Adult Education Class: The Veneration of the Saints: Parishioners discuss the veneration of the saints in their own lives, with a particular focus on saints who were women, as a way of beginning our study of the role of women in early and medieval Christianity. On December 7, parishioner Mary Robison will give a presentation on Saint Catherine of Siena (1347–1380). The adult-education class will not meet on December 21, 28, or January 4 . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will continue on December 10 at 6:30 PM. The class, which is led by Father Jay Smith, is normally held in Saint Joseph’s Hall, 145 West Forty-sixth Street. On December 10 we will begin our reading at chapter 9. Because of a rehearsal in the church, the class on December 10 will meet in the Arch Room on the second floor of the Mission House. The class will not meet on December 17, 24, 31, or January 7. —Jay Smith
CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, December 13, 8:00 PM, The Tallis Scholars: Sacred Muses, music by William Byrd, Edmund Turges, and Josquin des Prez. This concert is part of the Miller Theater at Columbia University’s Early Music Series. Tickets may be purchased online.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Monday, December 22, Saint Thomas the Apostle (transferred): Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Wednesday, December 24, Christmas Eve: Music 4:30 PM; Sung Mass 5:00 PM and Music 10:30 PM; Procession & Solemn Mass 11:00 PM . . . Thursday, December 25, Christmas Day: Solemn Mass & Procession to the Crèche 11:00 AM . . . Sunday, December 28, First Sunday after Christmas Day, Lessons & Carols at 5:00 PM.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At the Museum of Biblical Art, 1865 Broadway at Sixty-first Street, October 17, 2014–January 11, 2015: Dürer, Rembrandt, Tiepolo: The Jansma Master Prints Collection from the Grand Rapids Art Museum: “Spanning five centuries of printmaking, this exhibition will feature the complete Jansma Collection, including works by Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt van Rijn, Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, Édouard Manet, and Max Pechstein, as well as a series of twenty-one engravings by William Blake, to underscore the Bible’s enduring influence on Western artists.”