FROM THE RECTOR: SAINT MARY’S LECTIONARY PROJECT
I’m no longer sure when we began what came to be called “Saint Mary’s Lectionary Project,” but it is still with us. If memory serves, it began with the Sunday Mass lessons. There were materials available from what was then called the Church Hymnal Corporation – now Church Publishing. But, the new Prayer Book provides four different ways to announce a lesson and three different ways to conclude it. The Church Hymnal materials did not include a conclusion for the lessons, other than the gospel – so the conclusion was often forgotten. And, this is what a reader would find when he or she got to the lectern for this Sunday: A Reading (Lesson) from the Book of Wisdom [12:13,16-19]. Now what am I supposed to say?
So, we started publishing the materials for Sunday. Twenty-two-point Garamond would eventually become the typeface. We decided to use the titles given by the Revised Standard Version of the Bible (RSV), shortened in some cases – “A Reading from Genesis,” not “A Reading from the First Book of Moses Commonly Called Genesis.” All lessons from the Bible at Saint Mary’s conclude with the reader saying, “The Word of the Lord,” not “Here ends the Reading” or “Here ends the Epistle.”
The materials are easy to use. Before long, we were beginning to publish them for every lesson at every service, Morning Prayer, Mass, and Evening Prayer. It’s very easy to make mistakes when dealing with so much material. We download the basic texts from a website maintained by the University of Michigan Library. These need to be reformatted for use. Garamond is a more pleasing typeface than Times New Roman. Verse numbers need to be eliminated. Microsoft Word allows one to replicate the format for the name of God in the Old Testament text – Lord, not LORD.
Many colleagues, seminarians and interns have worked on the project since its inception. The most work by far was done by the Reverend Matthew Mead, now rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Granite Springs, New York. Father Mead understood not only the lectionary itself but had the vision of making the lessons services available on our website. Since he left, it largely has fallen to me to maintain and refine his work.
The new Sunday lectionary began for us with Advent 2010. If you look here, you will find the lessons for Sunday Mass and the lessons for weekday Mass are now in the new “.docx” format. I’m going to do my best to do a little work each week. One day there may be a period when there are neither mistakes to be cleaned up nor new lessons to be included, but I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon.
Last summer, our then seminarian Remington Slone – who we have just learned is to be ordained priest on Saturday, August 20, at Saint Peter’s Church, Savannah, Georgia, where he serves as curate – began the project of working with the new Sunday lectionary materials. As always, there are choices to be made – and in some cases, I’ve simply decided we weren’t going to decisions made by the work of the Standing Liturgical Commission on Liturgy and Music. (One significant example: we ended up with lessons for the Roman Communion’s feast of Mary the Mother of God on January 1 and not the lessons for the Holy Name of Our Lord.)
There are other issues too. I’ve written before about the decision to make sure we omit nothing of the New Testament in our readings across the two-year cycle of Daily Morning and Evening Prayer. One would not want to do that with the Old Testament. Not only is there far more of it, but the present structure of the Daily Office Lectionary often makes it impractical to add passages of Scripture. Though, this week I just added 1Samuel 18:7-27a, to a lesson for Morning Prayer. I knew that Saul had given one of his daughters to David to be his wife. I had forgotten, if I ever knew, that this daughter, Michal, was not Saul’s original choice for David. That was his older daughter Merab. (I can’t help but add that one never hears any fundamentalist clamoring for the return of arranged marriages – or for a world where women’s lives were arranged by the men in their families.)
Weekday Mass lessons get edited down sometimes – this is daily Mass, not Daily Morning and Evening Prayer. We take into account the printed layout of the psalms appointed for reading to make it as easy as possible for people to participate, and not to be hesitant, when joining in. We include the customary acclamation (“Alleluia” – “Praise to the Lord”) and a verse of Scripture before the gospel. We include in the footnote on each page of our lectionary a listing of the lessons. At the bottom of this Sunday’s Mass lessons you will find: Year A, Proper 11, Sunday: Mass, Wisdom 12:13,16-19; Psalm 86:11-17; Romans 8:12-25; Matthew 13:24-30,36-43. If there is an asterisk in one of these footnotes it means we have altered the appointed lesson in some way.
Having these materials helps to widen the circle of people who can participate as readers in the services – the materials are user friendly. Were we just to use a large lectern Bible – the most traditional practice, we would be forced to change to the New Revised Standard Version or another version. (I’ve been told by people in publishing that there is not enough of a market for the RSV. But how would anyone really know, as it hasn’t been readily available since the NRSV appeared on the horizon.) Our printed materials mean the lessons are easy for readers to announce and conclude, and we can also follow this Prayer Book injunction:
In the opening verses of Lessons, the Reader should omit initial conjunctions which refer only to what has preceded, substitute nouns for pronouns when the referent is not otherwise clear, or else prefix to the Reading some such introduction as, “N. said (to N.)” (The Book of Common Prayer, 888).
Since we began this local project, newer materials from Church Publishing are now available that are far more useful for a parish like ours, where “the regular services of the Church” are offered daily. But our lectionary project is so far along that it would make little sense to attempt to start over.
What we have from the Prayer Book is very good. The tinkering, if you will, that we do, in our lectionary project is to make it work better for regulars and newcomers. The lectionary helps us never forget the whole Word of God. In the Anglican tradition, we don’t leave out parts of the Bible we don’t like, just as we can’t ignore the entirety of our lives. We are human beings, made in the image of God – not character sketches in a short story or novel. The power of God’s Word lies in many things, especially in its richness, its diversity, and above all in the fullness of its truth. A great lesson or a great psalm has power in the most unexpected way to turn around a day, and sometimes a life. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Carol, Sharon, Erika, Christopher, Sharon, Jimmy, John, Krislea, Julia, Hema, Basil, Isaura, Maria, Lee, Donna, Robert, Dorothy, Rolf, Dianne, Gert, and Rick; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Christine, Rob, and Mark . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . July 17: 1967 Frances Brock Hirsch.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Friday, July 22, is the feast of Saint Mary Magdalene. Mass will be celebrated at 6:20 PM, in addition to the 12:10 daily Eucharist. Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, July 16. Father Pace will hear confessions on Saturday, July 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. Friday abstinence is also observed on the “Major Feast” of Saint Mary Magdalene, which occurs this year on Friday, July 22.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Congratulations to Kathleen Dubill and parishioner Bryan Bradford who were married on Saturday, July 9, at Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, Washington, D.C. The Rector assisted at the wedding. We wish them the very best in their new life together . . . Our new Women’s Group will have its first meeting on Saturday, July 30, from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM. Please call the parish office for details . . . Altar flowers are needed for August 21. If you would like to make a donation, please contact Aaron Koch in the parish finance office . . . If you would like to help sponsor the reception following the Solemn Mass on Monday, August 15, the Feast of the Assumption, please contact Aaron Koch . . . Father Jay Smith is away from the parish on vacation. He returns to the office on Friday, July 29 . . . Sister Deborah Francis is away from the parish. She returns on Friday, July 22 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 192.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . This Sunday, July 17, and next Sunday, July 24, I will be away. I’m really delighted Mark Peterson can play the services for me. Mark is not only an esteemed and accomplished organist, he’s also a member of Saint Mary’s. This Sunday at the Solemn Mass Guadalupe Peraza, mezzo soprano, is our cantor. The prelude is the chorale prelude on Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier (hymn 440 in The Hymnal 1982), BWV 731, by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). The motet is the aria Es ist vollbracht! from the Johannes-Passion (St John Passion), BWV 245 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). The work was composed for the Good Friday Vespers service in 1724 when Bach was cantor at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. This particularly poignant motet, which occurs following Jesus’ reported death on the cross, has a particularly expressive viola da gamba solo, whose unique sound frames the piece on either side. The warlike central section is a wonderfully animated setting of the triumph of the resurrection. James Kennerley
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We are still collecting non-perishable food items for our outreach partner, the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Please look for the basket at the ushers’ table near the 46th Street entrance to the church on Sunday mornings. If you have questions about the Food Pantry, please speak to Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Pilgrimage and Faith: Buddhism, Christianity and Islam continues at the Rubin Museum of Art through October 24, 2011 . . . The Museum of Biblical Art is presenting On Eagles’ Wings: The King James Version Turns Four Hundred to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Authorized Version of the Bible. The exhibition runs through September 18, 2011.