FROM THE RECTOR: AMAZING GRACE
Growing up as a Southern Baptist whose father’s family was Roman Catholic made me aware in early childhood of differences among Christian denominations. What shaped family religious observance I could observe further on the streets of the places we lived. There were lots of different churches for different denominations. In the South, there were churches for blacks and whites. In later years I found out that because I’d grown up in the South, I’d never experienced things like rivalries among Italian, Irish, and Polish Roman Catholic parishes in adjoining neighborhoods. Living with differences seemed fundamental to my childhood experience of being a Christian.
This sense of differences continued for me in a new way when I started to attend the Episcopal Church while in college. I’m not sure when I started to have a real sense that what is common among Christians is always more important than what is different. But I can remember moments when things began to come into focus in a new way. But I do not want to get ahead of myself.
There was tremendous religious comfort and strength for me when I began to learn about what Anglicans called “the Real Presence” of Christ in the Eucharist and the way in which Anglicans spoke about it. I was a philosophy major in college and had had enough classes by my third year to know the kind of scholastic thinking that had shaped Reformation-era debates about transubstantiation was in many ways a thing of the past. Still, the idea that Christians were truly fed by Christ’s particular and real presence in the gifts of bread and wine has seemed right to me ever since I heard and read Episcopalians speaking this way. I still find it’s the most useful way to speak about the Eucharistic gift. And it continues to challenge me to think broadly about God’s presence and signs of his presence in this world.
I did go through a phase where I thought Christ was “truly absent” from the Eucharists of Protestants. I confess that at the time I’d come to believe that, since Anglicans, the Roman Church and the Orthodox Churches had clergy ordained in “apostolic succession”, only their Eucharists were “real”, when in fact the ordination question is vastly more complex and messy than most of us want to know, remember, or admit. As I write, I can recall three moments in seminary that laid a foundation for a broader sense of God’s presence.
One moment happened as I drove back to the seminary from a soup kitchen at Saint James’s Church, Milwaukee, and realized that I had seen Christ present in everyone handing out the food but in no one eating it. It was a jarring revelation, one that I felt deeply. It has continued to challenge me to look on others as sisters and brothers, as human vessels in whom God the Holy Spirit dwells. A second moment I recall from an internship parish my middle year in seminary where I would later work at graduation. In 1982, the Sacrament was reserved near the high altar of the Church of the Incarnation, Dallas, but there was no veil or lamp to indicate its presence. I quickly realized it was far more important that the Sacrament was carried by one of the priests daily to the sick – and in a large parish there are always people in the hospital.
A third moment happened at Vienna Baptist Church, Vienna, Virginia, where my uncle was senior pastor for many years. I happened to be there on Communion Sunday. I received. I remember thinking that I simply no longer believed in the “real absence” of Christ in the worship of any Christian community, even if the shape of some Christian worship was different from what I had chosen for myself.
Looking this morning at a June 1892 issue of The Arrow, Saint Mary’s first newsletter, I learned that the celebration of Corpus Christi was made a part of the Church calendar in Western Europe in 1264; Trinity Sunday only made it into the calendar in 1334. It has been a part of our common life at Saint Mary’s since the beginning. Daily Mass began at Saint Mary’s the day the doors of the first church opened, December 8, 1870.
As is our custom, we will have a Eucharistic Procession through Times Square at the end of Solemn Mass on Sunday, June 6. When the procession returns to the Church, Eucharistic Benediction will be given. While the procession goes through Times Square – using the same route we take on Palm Sunday – congregation and choir, accompanied by brass, will sing that great Anglican hymn, “Amazing grace!” Perhaps more than on Palm Sunday, everyone in the square will realize there’s a Christian witness present.
The focus of our Mass and our procession will be more than the Bread and the Wine. Ultimately, the Eucharist is about Christ and Christ’s people. The Eucharist is for the nurture of the People of God. My guess is that most people in the square won’t get the Eucharist, but I hope our presence and our song will help the Spirit speak to all about God’s sustaining and true presence among them and for all. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED especially for Carol, Rem, Troy, James, Robert, Larry, Mary, George, Dennis, Wayne, Sharon, MaryJane, Chris, Angie, Rolf, Daisy, Ross, Roger, Henry, Nicholas, Robert, Elsa, William, Gert, Mary, Rick, Pegram, PRIEST, and Edgar, PRIEST; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially John, James, Kayla, Marc, Benjamin and Andrew . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . June 6: 1884 Anna Scannell; 1897 Emma Lucie Pauline Klein Wilson; 1900 Elizabeth Funck; 1907 Margaret Collins; 1919 Everett Plack; 1931 Reynold Webb Wilcox; 1937 Teresa Maria Baker; 1959 Grace Frisby Conklin; 1966 Dudley Harrison Briggs; 1968 Mary E. Longley
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Sunday, June 6, is the Feast of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ: Corpus Christi. The 11:00 AM Solemn Mass will include a Procession through Times Square and conclude with Eucharistic Benediction . . . The Wednesday Evening Bible Study Class will meet for its final session before the summer break on June 9. We are grateful to Sister Deborah Francis and Sister Laura Katharine for leading the class so capably this year . . . Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, June 5, and on Saturday, June 12.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Saint Mary’s Guild, the parish altar guild, will meet on Saturday, June 5, following the noon Mass. The Guild welcomes newcomers and those who are interested in finding out more about the Guild’s work. If you have questions, please speak to one of the sisters or to Marie Rosseels . . . We have received a Letter of Transfer for Julia Elizabeth Heard. Julia is well known to members of the parish. She is the daughter of Father Thomas Heard and Cheryl Winters Heard. Julia has been a member of the Saint Mary’s community for some time now, but we are happy to welcome her, officially, as our newest member. We are glad that she has decided to join us . . . Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins will be away from the parish June 12-19, attending a training program for teachers using the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd . . . Seminarian Rem Slone will be away from Saint Mary’s for ten days, beginning June 6. He will be traveling to Israel and the West Bank along with other participants in The Christian-Jewish Seminarian Program on Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, which is a joint project of the American Jewish Committee (New York Chapter) and Auburn Theological Seminary. When Rem returns to New York he will be helping out in the parish office, working on several projects . . . Thursday, June 24, The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Tuesday, June 29, Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Father Smith was ordained deacon on June 10, 1989; Father Gerth was ordained deacon on June 11, 1983 . . . The Rector will be away from the parish from Tuesday, June 15, until Tuesday, June 22. He returns to the office on Wednesday, June 23. Father Jay Smith will be away from the parish from Monday, June 28, until Sunday, July 25. He returns to the office on Monday, July 26 . . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 320.
FROM THE MUSIC DEPARTMENT . . . This is the final service that the full choir will sing until the season resumes in October (save for Solemn Mass on the Feast of the Assumption, Sunday, August 15). The prelude is Miroir by Ad Wammes (b. 1953). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Messe solennelle, Opus 16, by Louis Vierne (1870-1937), a magnificent piece composed in 1900 for choir and two organs. Traditionally, many large French churches have two organs: a large grand orgue in the gallery and a smaller orgue de choeur in the chancel. I have arranged the setting for brass and organ, which will, to some extent, replicate the alternation between the two organs. At the ministration of Communion, the choir sings the motet Ave verum by Peter Philips (1561-1628). At the preparation of the Sacrament, the choir sings O sacrum convivium by Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992). During Benediction, the hymn O salutaris hostia is sung to a setting by Thomas Tallis (c. 1505-1585), and the hymn Tantum Ergo to a setting by Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986). James Kennerley
SAINT RAPHAEL’S GUILD OF USHERS . . . We are looking for a few good women and men who are willing to serve as ushers at Mass on Sunday mornings, on holy days, and at Evensong and Benediction on Sunday afternoons during the academic year. Ushers usually serve one Sunday per month. If you know how to smile, like to meet new people, are eager to welcome our visitors, and are willing to help newcomers learn more about the parish, perhaps this ministry is for you. If you are interested, please speak to George Handy, Randy Morgan, or Father Jay Smith.
THE SUMMER SCHEDULE BEGINS JUNE 6 . . . During the summer, the Daily Office on Sundays is said, not sung. Morning Prayer is offered at 8:30 AM. Evening Prayer is offered at 5:00 PM.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
THE COMMUNITY OF SAINT JOHN BAPTIST . . . The Community will be holding their annual celebration of Commemoration Day on Saturday, June 26, in Mendham, New Jersey. Father Gerth will be the celebrant at Mass and our new Superior, the Reverend Sister Eleanor Francis, will be the preacher. After Mass, a luncheon will be served on the Cloister. Sister Laura Katharine and I welcome our friends at St. Mary’s to join us. Those interested in attending should speak to the Sisters as we will need to RSVP for the Luncheon by Sunday June 20. Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B.
THE VISUAL ARTS PROGRAM . . . On Sunday, June 6, The Visual Arts Program will present a new exhibition, in Saint Joseph’s Hall, of photos taken from the parish archives. The exhibition will feature photos of the first church building on 45th Street, as well as of the façade of the present building. The exhibition’s curator is parishioner Terry Carlson.
LOOKING AHEAD . . . On Sunday, August 15, 2010, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus, will be celebrant for the Solemn Mass at 11:00 AM in observance of the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood on August 9, 1960. Our guest preacher will be the Reverend Dr. David Wood, parish priest, Grace Church Joondalup, and Anglican chaplain, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia. More details to follow. Please mark your calendars.
ALTAR FLOWERS are needed on the following dates: June 13, July 18, July 25, August 6 (the Feast of the Transfiguration), August 22, August 29, September 5, September 19 and September 26. If you would like to make a donation, please contact Aaron Koch in the finance office.
THE MINISTRY OF HOSPITALITY . . . Once again this year, we are seeking patrons and donors willing to defray the costs of the receptions in Saint Joseph’s Hall following Solemn Mass on holy days. If you would like more information, or if you would like to volunteer to help on a particular holy day, please contact Father Jay Smith.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We are still collecting non-perishable food items and new or “gently used” clothing on Sundays for the Food Pantry at Saint Clement’s. Look for the basket at the back of the church or in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . The 2010 LGBT Pride March will take place on Sunday, June 27. The Committee on LGBT Concerns of the Diocese of New York is organizing this year’s effort and is making plans to introduce an Episcopal Church float at this year’s march. For more information or if you would like to make a donation to defray the costs of the float, please contact Father Mark Hummell, Chair of the Diocesan Social Concerns Commission, at email@example.com, or Paul Lane at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector
The Reverend James Ross Smith, curate
The Reverend Rebecca Weiner Tompkins, deacon
The Reverend John Merz, assisting priest
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus
The Parish Musicians
Mr. James Kennerley, organist and music director
Mr. Lawrence Trupiano, organ curator