FROM THE RECTOR: MORE THAN GOOD INTENTIONS
This morning I tried to get a visitor who was sitting in one of the front pews of the nave to join us in the chancel for Morning Prayer. She smiled and seemed to welcome the invitation, but she stayed put. I’m sure visitors sometimes stay in the pews because they don’t know what they might be in for if they come forward. And sometimes newcomers really just like the view from the nave pews, and I certainly respect that.
I also know from many, many conversations over the years here, that many who are not Episcopalian often feel unworthy to sit so close to the altar or to sit with the clergy and sisters. Occasionally a smile from one of us can break through that barrier. I’ve learned to appreciate that it’s not easy for some visitors to accept our invitation or help. That said, it doesn’t need to be hard for any of us to offer a place to a newcomer, gently and with a smile. Genuine welcome, like genuine worship, is more than a good thought, more than a good intention.
I’m not sure why I took to Prayer Book worship so easily when I started attending the Episcopal Church during my college years. Certainly I was familiar through my father’s family with worship in the Roman Catholic Church. Even when Episcopalians were grousing about the new liturgies in the 1970s, their worship came from one of the draft books or the ’28 Prayer Book. I liked it that priests didn’t seem to be making it up as the services proceeded.
Perhaps I wasn’t paying attention or didn’t know as much in the ‘70s, but while in seminary from 1980 until 1983, I was very aware when I stumbled into worship that did not follow the Prayer Book. I remember attending Truro Church, Fairfax, Virginia, when John Howe, who went on from there to become bishop of Central Florida, was the rector. He presided at the main Sunday Eucharist much in the same way that I knew from being brought up Southern Baptist. There was no Eucharistic Prayer, just a few words more than what we call the Words of Institution. I remember wondering what he thought was wrong with the book, why he thought he didn’t need to use the book.
Through our then rector, Donald Garfield, Saint Mary’s was very much involved in the work on the present Prayer Book. One of my predecessor Father Edgar Wells’s first acts when he became rector was to put the then-new official book in the pews. I really like this book. It’s not perfect. Liturgical scholarship of the last thirty-five years would lead the church to make some different decisions. On the whole, the 1979 book is really good, and from it, you and I can still pray and still learn.
I’m now reading a collection of essays in honor of the Reverend Dr. Maxwell Johnson, professor of liturgical studies, University of Notre Dame, A Living Tradition: On the Intersection of Liturgical History and Practical Practice (2012). The first essay is by his now retired colleague at Notre Dame, the Reverend Dr. Paul Bradshaw. It’s called, “The Relationship between Historical Research and Modern Liturgical Practice.” Bradshaw begins the last paragraph of his essay with these words, “As in so much else in life, good intentions on their own are not enough when it comes to liturgical revision or innovation” (p. 18). Good intentions alone are not enough when it comes to welcome and to worship.
How then do we welcome people into the prayer of the body, the common prayer of a congregation? Many who come from other Protestant backgrounds will expect, apart from the singing of hymns, to be the audience for worship. Many who come from Roman Catholic backgrounds have little sense of reading along with others, much less singing with others in worship. And let it be said, there are plenty of Episcopal parishes where no one seems to care if a newcomer can use the Prayer Book or the Hymnal.
I know when I am away on a Sunday, good hymns and good hymn singing can make me feel at home. A straightforward service from the Prayer Book can make feel at home. A church that looks loved, clean, is a big welcome for me. A reader who cares about how he or she reads and a celebrant who cares about how he or she presides make me feel very happy to be an Episcopalian. I know I like to see smiles. I like people who convey their love for their church and for each other. —Stephen Gerth
A PERSONAL NOTE . . . I’ll be away from Friday evening, June 12, until Sunday evening, June 14. I’m going to visit my father’s grave. Though he died last Christmas, he wasn’t buried until late April when I was out of the country. (Southern Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery is closed to burials in the winter.) I’m sure I’ll write more about this visit at some point. But as Father Smith will be away for six weeks beginning Sunday, June 21, this seemed like a good weekend to visit my family and my father’s grave. —S.G.
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR John, Edward, Steve, Thomas, Judi, Sam, Victoria, Catherine, Lisa, Iris, Joe, Kurt, Mazdak, Trevor, Andra, David, Abalda, Takeem, Arpene, Deborah Francis, religious, Pamela, religious, Paulette, priest, and Harry, priest; for the repose of the soul of Donald Raverty; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . June 14: 1878 Robert Hiddle Wishart; 1878 Hugh McKeon; 1897 Monika Steckler; 1902 Charles L. Bourguignon; 1913 Harry Lowery; 1944 Arthur Francis Campbell; 1964 Viola Lee Parks.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Monday, June 15, 6:30 PM, Meeting of the Board of Trustees . . . On Saturday, June 13, confessions will be heard by Father Jay Smith and on Saturday, June 20, confessions will be heard by Father Jim Pace.
OUR SUMMER WORSHIP SCHEDULE from Corpus Christi through the last Sunday in September makes two changes: on Sundays 8:30 AM Morning Prayer is said, not sung, and at 5:00 PM Evening Prayer is said. Beginning Sunday, October 4, 8:30 AM Morning Prayer will be sung and 5:00 PM Solemn Evensong, Sermon & Benediction resumes.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B., had surgery on Tuesday, June 9, at Morristown Medical Center in Morristown, New Jersey. We expect that she will return to the convent in Mendham by week’s end, where she will continue her recuperation. Please keep her in your prayers . . . Father Harry Kraft is a good friend of Saint Mary’s and for many years has worshipped here when he has been able. He suffered a stroke some months ago and has not been able to come to the parish for some time. He tells us that Saint Mary’s is often in his thoughts and he asks the members of the parish for their prayers . . . Hospitality Ministry: We hope to receive donations for the reception on the Eve of the Assumption, Friday, August 14. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . Father Jay Smith will be on vacation and away from the parish beginning on Sunday, June 21. He returns on Sunday, August 2. He will be on retreat during part of that time and will also be spending a week with his brothers and their families in Savannah, Georgia, and Hilton Head, South Carolina. He may be taking some shorter trips closer to home as well. He is away a bit longer than usual this year since he was on study leave last summer . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 235.
CLERGY NOTES . . . The bishop of New York has accepted Letters Dimissory from the bishop of Atlanta for the Reverend Dr. James C. Pace. “Letters Dimissory” transfer Father Pace from the jurisdiction of the diocese of Atlanta to the jurisdiction of the diocese of New York. Father Pace, welcome to the diocese! . . . Father Matthew Hoxsie Mead, who served as curate here from 2004 until 2009, was recently called to be the fifteenth rector of the Church of Christ the Redeemer in Pelham, New York. Father Mead’s Institution and Induction as rector will take place on the Feast of Saint Michael & All Angels, Tuesday, September 29, 2015, at 6:30 PM.
SAINT MARY’S IN CENTRAL PARK . . . The Annual Saint Mary’s Field Trip to hear the New York Philharmonic in Central Park will take place in two parts this year. There are two concerts, one on June 17 and another on June 18, and Grace Bruni has kindly volunteered to attend both and to help organize a field trip on both evenings. On Wednesday, June 17, Alan Gilbert is conducting and Joshua Bell, violin, is the soloist. On Thursday, June 18, Charles Dutoit is the conductor and the soloist is Renaud Capuçon, violin. On both evenings the program is eclectic and exciting. The concerts are held on the Great Lawn and begin at 8:00 PM. Grace plans to be “by the front-most speaker on the west side, just behind the VIP fence” from 5:00 PM until the concert begins. It’s a potluck picnic. All are welcome. Please email Grace for more information or to let her know you are coming (the latter is helpful but not necessary).
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), whose music we enjoy at the Solemn Mass on Sunday, is perhaps the best known classical musician worldwide. Besides being the Baroque era’s greatest organist and composer, and one of the most productive geniuses in the history of Western music, Bach was also a theologian of considerable standing. When he was forty-eight, Johann Sebastian Bach acquired a copy of Luther’s three-volume translation of the Bible. He pored over it with great deliberation, underlining passages, correcting errors in the text and commentary, inserting missing words, and making notes in the margins. As one scholar has written, Bach was indeed “a Christian who lived with the Bible.” In Germany (and in wider Lutheran circles), Bach is often referred to as the Fifth Evangelist. Before the Solemn Mass on Sunday we hear one of his most beautiful and representational chorale preludes, Blessed Jesus, at thy Word, and his Prelude and Fugue in E-minor (“Cathedral”) is the prelude at the end of Mass. During Communion, tenor Gregg Carder, a member of the choir, will sing the familiar aria, Sheep May Safely Graze, from Cantata No. 208. Bach himself wrote, “At any reverent performance of music, God is always at hand with his gracious presence.” —Mark Peterson
VISUAL ARTS PROJECT . . . There is a new exhibition in the gallery in Saint Joseph’s Hall: Photographs by Catherine Rehkamp. The photographs in the exhibit are portraits of New York City women who salvage cans and bottles for a living or to supplement their family’s income. Catia shows us these women, each one an individual, with great dignity.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Need help finding food or know someone who does? Call 1-800-5-HUNGRY (Why Hunger Hotline, Monday–Friday 9:00 AM–6:00 PM EST) or 1-866-3-HUNGRY (USDA National Hunger Hotline, 8:00 AM–8:00 PM EST) . . . We continue to collect nonperishable food items for our outreach partner, the Food Pantry at Saint Clement’s Church, 423 West Forty-sixth Street . . . If you would like to find out more about the work of Saint Vincent’s School for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, please speak to Father Gerth . . . Episcopal Relief & Development (ERD) is responding to immediate needs for food, shelter, and clean water in earthquake-impacted Nepal through the ecumenical ACT Alliance and is exploring further opportunities for action through other partners in the region. You can make a donation to ERD online.
PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Wednesday, June 24, Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, Sung Mass 12:10 PM and 6:00 PM . . . Monday, June 29, Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Mass 12:10 PM and Sung Mass 6:00 PM.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At the New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Boulevard., Bronx, New York, May 16–November 1, 2015, Frida Kahlo: Art. Garden. Life: “This exhibition is the first to examine Frida Kahlo’s keen appreciation for the beauty and variety of the natural world, as evidenced by her home and garden as well as the complex use of plant imagery in her artwork. Featuring a rare display of more than a dozen original Kahlo paintings and works on paper, this limited six-month engagement also reimagines the iconic artist’s famed garden and studio at the Casa Azul, her lifelong home in Mexico City.” Visit the Garden’s website for more information, for directions to the Garden, and to purchase tickets.