The Angelus

Volume 13, Number 47

From the rector:

From the Rector: Prevent Us, O Lord

There have been four American Prayer Books, 1789, 1892, 1928 and 1979.  The 1928 Prayer Book famously removed a woman’s promise to obey from the marriage service.  But language that was obscure and even archaic largely survived in the 1928 Prayer Book.  Vouchsafe is the only word dictionary editors would call “obscure” that comes to mind which still finds a place in our current book.

I will always be appreciative of the gift of serving in a parish that was in the middle of a very difficult war over the new Prayer Book.  There, I learned so much about so many things as a newly ordained member of the clergy.  It also gave me the opportunity, as someone who had not grown up in the Episcopal Church, to know the 1928 Prayer Book.

Last week, the Sunday collect was famously archaic by the time I went to seminary.  In the 1928 book it read, “Lord, we pray thee that thy grace may always prevent and follow us, and make us continually to be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”  (The Book of Common Prayer [1928], 213).

“Prevent” is from the Latin “praevenire” – “to go before.”  It hasn’t meant that in American English for a long time.  We now pray that the Lord’s grace may “precede and follow us” in both our traditional and contemporary language rites.  It works really well.  Translation, of course, is a learned art.  Good translations embody not only the creative gifts of the translator, but his or her working knowledge of the language and culture of both the original and the target, or new, language.  I can’t think of a greater challenge than that of Bible translation.  In the translation of religious texts, in addition to linguistic and cultural issues, there are always theological agendas.

This week I happened to learn that the Episcopal Church has helped sponsor a new translation of the Bible called, Common English Bible.  It is advertising itself as “The First Translation Built for a Community by a Community.”  One question comes immediately to mind, “What does that mean?”

It turns out that five denominations are sponsoring this translation through their publishing companies.  One of them is the Episcopal Church.  The other denominations are the Disciples of Christ, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church.

By far, the most widely used translation today in the Episcopal Church – but not at Saint Mary’s – is the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).  It was published in 1989.  The NRSV is largely successful in updating language and scholarship of the Revised Standard Version (RSV) – which we do use at Saint Mary’s.

There are several important issues the NRSV largely resolves.  First, between the middle and latter part of the twentieth century there was a major shift in English usage with regard to inclusive language.  The RSV continued the translation tradition of the Authorized Version of using what we now hear as exclusive masculine language, even when the Hebrew and Greek text was more generic or inclusive.  The RSV largely followed the conventions of the English language of the 1940s.  English was different then.

Second, the RSV also continued the use of archaic English forms for language addressed to God (thee, thou) – a usage unknown to the Hebrew and Greek texts.  Since the RSV was published, many text issues are resolved differently because new manuscripts have been found.

Hearing this Sunday’s gospel lesson proclaimed many years ago at a Sunday Mass from the NRSV deepened my aesthetic prejudice against it.  In the NRSV, Jesus no longer tells the crowd to “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's” (Matthew 22:21).  He tells them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s.”  But the NRSV doesn’t solve a very important methodological problem: It’s not an honest translation for reading in public worship.

One example in the NRSV is 1 Timothy 3:2, which begins, “Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once . . . ”  “Bishop” is marked with a footnote because the Greek word is probably best translated as “overseer.”  Far more significant for our tradition is the footnote for “married only once.”  The footnote informs us that the Greek actually reads, “the husband of one wife.”  I am completely in favor of the ordination of women, but I object to pretending the Bible doesn’t say what it does about all of the issues of the day.  There’s no fixing Scripture.  And people who attempt to do so are just not being honest.  It is also worth noting that in the Episcopal Church, unlike other Christian denominations, almost all of the Bible is read aloud in our daily public worship.  We don’t read out footnotes.  The Bible is the book we read together in worship.

The ongoing liturgical revisions in the Church have been funded for some years by the Church Pension Group through its money-losing Church Publishing division.  I can’t find any information online at Church Publishing about the Common English Bible.  Maybe it’s not costing the Church anything.  I know the Church Pension Group is trying to address the financial issues at Church Publishing, which reported a loss of $5.0 million in 2009 and $7.8 million in 2010.  Church Publishing now sells its products through the United Methodist publishing company Cokesbury.  Especially considering the cost the Church has taken on to introduce the NRSV and the new Lectionary, one wonders why our own publisher is sponsoring another translation?  For the record, Caesar does make it back into the Common English Bible, but Adam is now in a footnote in Genesis 2:7.  He’s now the “human.”

I don’t often speak or write about the significant, continuing numerical decline of the Episcopal Church.  There are many reasons for this decline.  Many are beyond our control; many I am proud of.  But our Prayer Book and our authorized versions of the Bible are not the cause of the decline.  It is possible to have a growing Episcopal parish church using traditional or contemporary rites.  But our Church won’t grow again if we continue to act as if our problem is the words on the pages of our Bibles or our Prayer Book.  Prevent us – and I mean, stop us, O Lord – from wasting time and money.  Stephen Gerth



YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Mary, Lee, Valerie, Rita, Donald, Sharon, Bob, Julia, Dorothy, Gert, Rick, Emil, religious, Paul, PRIEST, and John, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark, Christine, and Rob . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . October 23:.


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 . . . A Requiem Mass will be celebrated for Robert McDermitt on Saturday, October 22, at 11:00 AM, at the Church of Christ and Saint Stephen, 120 West 69th Street, New York City, between Broadway and Columbus Avenue.  Robert served as associate organist here at Saint Mary’s for many years . . . Sunday, October 23, 10:00 AM, Episcopal Traditions & Customs: Using the Prayer Book – The Structure of the Eucharist – Led by Father Stephen Gerth; the class meets in the Arch Room on the second floor of the Mission House . . . Monday, October 24, Saint James of Jerusalem (transferred), Morning Prayer 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Mass 12:10 PM, Evening Prayer 6:00 PM, Mass 6:20 PM . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class continues on October 26, at 6:30 PM, in the Arch Room on the second floor of the Mission House . . . Friday, October 28, Saint Simon & Saint Jude, Morning Prayer 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Mass 12:10 PM, Evening Prayer 6:00 PM, Mass 6:20 PM . . . Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, October 22.  Father Jim Pace will hear confessions on Saturday, October 29.


AROUND THE PARISH . . . Parishioner Mary Gossy broke her ankle recently.  She is recovering at the home of family members here in New York.  Please keep her in your prayers . . . The annual All Souls’ Day letter was mailed on Wednesday.  Please return your prayer requests for the All Souls’ Requiem Masses as soon as possible . . . Thank you to all those who worked so hard to make last Saturday’s Oktoberfest and Hymn Sing such a great success.  Thank you so much to all those who brought food to share.  We were blessed with great abundance, delicious choices, and much variety!  More than fifty people attended the event and it continues to be a wonderful way to spend time together and to introduce others to the parish.  A special word of thanks is due to Saint Andrew’s Guild members Grace Bruni and Marie Rosseels, who did much of the organizational work involved.  Also, many thanks to James Kennerley, Rosemary Kulp, Julia Heard Miranda, Rick Miranda, Jason Mudd, Sharon Singh, and Richard Theilmann for all their help before, during, and after the event . . . We are still looking for donors to sponsor the receptions on All Saints’ Day (November 1) and Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (December 8).  Please contact Aaron Koch or Father Smith if you’d like to make a donation . . . The Stewardship Committee plans to mail stewardship packets during the week of October 24.  The members of the committee are MaryJane Boland, chair; Steven Heffner; and Marie Rosseels.  We invite you to give the appeal your prayerful consideration.  Please pray for the success of this year’s campaign . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 255.


FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . .  James Kennerley


VISUAL ARTS PROJECT (VAP) . . . The Vestments of Saint Mary’s exhibit continues on Sundays in Saint Joseph’s Hall through the last Sunday in OctoberThe parish has a rich history of commissioning and using beautiful vestments in its liturgies.  Time and much wear have taken their toll on many of the vestments.  However, one is still able to see the great skill, care and craftsmanship that went into creating these “works of art in fabric” by looking closely at the pieces that remain.  Many Saint Marians have never had a chance to see some of these vestments.  Each Sunday different pieces from our vestment archive will be shown.  The exhibition is being curated by Sister Laura Katharine, C.S.J.B., and parishioner Wayne Mahlke.  A special word of thanks is due to Sister and to Wayne for their work on this project.  They have spent many hours on the exhibition and they have proven to be able and interesting docents Sunday after Sunday.  The exhibition has proven to be both inspiring and enlightening.


PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Monday, October 31, Eve of All Saints’ Day, Solemn Evensong 6:00 PM . . . Tuesday, November 1, All Saints’ Day, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, and Solemn Mass 6:00 PM . . . Wednesday, November 2, All Souls’ Day, Sung Mass 12:10 PM and Solemn Mass 6:00 PM . . . Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday, November 6, 2011, 2:00 AM . . . Monday, November 14, 6:30-7:30 PM, New and Prospective Members Reception, in the Rectory, after Evening Prayer at 6:00 PM.  Please speak to Father Smith, if you would like to attend . . . Sunday, November 20, The Last Sunday after Pentecost: Commitment Sunday.  Pledge cards are offered.


THE ARTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, October 22, 8:00 PM, The New York Repertory Orchestra.  Admission is free. Dvorak: Othello Overture; Patterson: Saxophone Concerto (New York City Premiere); Sibelius: Symphony No. 4 . . . American Globe Theatre (AGT), October 28–November 19.  Hamlet.  Directed by John Basil, AGT’s Artistic Director.  Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 PM, Sunday at 3:00 PM.  For tickets and information, call 212-869-9809 between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM . . . Sunday, November 6, Choral Spectacular: The Tenebrae Choir, Nigel Short, director.  For more information, please send an e-mail to or telephone 917-524-6474 . . . Sunday, November 13, 2011, 8:00 PM, Organ Concert, Giampaolo di Rosa, soloist.  Works by Liszt, Bach in addition to improvisation on submitted themes.  Admission is free . . . December 1  and December 2 at 8:00 PM, and December 3 at 3:00 PM, Holiday Concert by The Choral Society, John Maclay, conductor.  Works by Gabrieli, Bernstein, Pärt, and favorite audience carols.