FROM THE RECTOR: KNOWING OUR HISTORY
There’s a very good book about the Church in New York, This Planted Vine: A Narrative History of the Episcopal Diocese of New York by James Elliot Lindsey. I jokingly wonder whether the subtitle should have been “Trying to Live Off the Trinity Church Endowment,” because the patrimony of that congregation established so many of our churches. My copy was given to me by Father Edgar Wells, and I trust someday I will pass it along to the next rector of Saint Mary’s. But as a number of issues face our Episcopal Church and our life here in the diocese of New York, I’ve been thinking about another historical record, not really a book.
When my friend Jeffrey Lee was elected bishop of Chicago, I gave him my original copy of Personal Reminiscences of the Diocese of Illinois 1856 – 1892. It was the journal of James DeWitt Clinton Locke (1829-1904), rector of Grace Church, Chicago, 1859-1895, and the founder of Saint Luke’s Hospital, Chicago, 1864. Bishop Lee had not seen this journal, which was published by Grace Church-in-the-Loop, Chicago, in 1976, and edited by the then historiographer of the diocese of Chicago, the Reverend Roderic B. Dibbert. I think Locke’s journal reveals a great deal not only about the Church in nineteenth century Illinois, but our wider Episcopal Church today.
Locke wrote freely over many decades. In addition to church history, what comes through in his diary is his character. He seemed to write pretty honestly about himself and others. His nature was a charitable one. It’s a really interesting read.
Locke had gone to Joliet, Illinois, as a deacon in 1852 from Saint Barnabas Church, Irvington-on-Hudson, New York. He was a participant and observer of many of the great events of his time. He knew James De Koven, who was elected bishop of Wisconsin and then bishop of Illinois, but who was not approved by the American Church because he was an Anglo-Catholic.
The diocese of Illinois, and its successor dioceses of Chicago, Springfield and Quincy, had a “high church” tradition. The advent of more “advanced” Anglo-Catholicism challenged its civility and its common life. It was not the Anglo-Catholics, but the other end of the theological spectrum, the Evangelicals, that produced the schism and denomination known as the Reformed Episcopal Church. The subject was baptism. In some ways, the subject always is.
In 1869, Charles Edward Cheney (1836-1916), was rector of Christ Church, Chicago. At that time, priests generally didn’t mess with the Prayer Book service – and if they did, they did so quietly. That was not Charles E. Cheney. He did not believe in what is called “baptismal regeneration,” that is, Baptism is a saving sacrament of new birth. He left out the words that implied it and made a public issue of it. An ecclesiastical court deposed him, but a civil court left him and his congregation with their parish property. (Episcopal Church bylaws and property deeds have been shaped by that court case ever sense. Since then, it’s been almost impossible to “take it with you” if a congregation leaves.)
Along with others, notably, George David Cummins (1822-1876), assistant bishop of the diocese of Kentucky, Cheney organized the new denomination and became a bishop in it. Christ Church, Chicago, as Cheney knew it, is no longer there. For the record, the Reformed Episcopal Church now requires the use of the traditional Prayer Book language of baptismal regeneration Cheney rejected.
About Cheney’s departure, Locke wrote this, “As far as the schism counts it was one of the greatest blessings that ever befell our Church, and cleared our atmosphere to an extent I can scarcely even now credit. It removed from us a lot of cranks and fanatics and soreheads whom we could well spare and who hung on our chariot wheels so that they drew heavily. In regard to the particular man, Cheney, whom in passing let me say I always liked, and with whom I am still on terms of friendship, he was ever a fractious and discontented priest. He was always ‘agin the government’” (page 30).
Locke also wrote this, “Knowing Cheney as I did then, earnest, impulsive, hot headed and fiercely Protestant, I think he would have gone out with Cummins if there had been no “Cheney Case” at all, and knowing Cheney as I do now, just as earnest, but older and wiser, I think he would give more than his little finger if he had not done it” (Ibid.).
Since the American Revolution, the Episcopal Church has been organized by, and its common life governed by, its Constitution and Canons. (“Canon” is a church word for its formal and governing bylaws.) The canons are now divided into five “Titles.” “Title IV” is “Ecclesiastical Discipline.” A new Title IV came into use on July 1, 2011. The bishop of New York wrote about this in the summer issue of The Episcopal New Yorker. The canon makes it easier for the Church to discipline its bishops and clergy. It’s interesting that the revision takes effect at a time when the Church is engaged in significant debate about Communion, Marriage, and Ordination. How we order our common life is always substantial matter of theology, but the real issue in our present debates, unsurprisingly, is Holy Baptism.
The ministration of Communion without Baptism is widely practiced across a considerable part of the Episcopal Church now. It is a clear violation of the Prayer Book. This has been going on for years, but as far as I know, no one has been dragged into a Church court over it. The last century has seen an enormous shift in the Episcopal Church’s understanding of Holy Matrimony and of Holy Orders. People, clergy and bishops, even some dioceses, have left the Episcopal Church, though equality for homosexual persons seems to have replaced the ordination of women as the urgent reason for schism today. For the record, I have heard through friends that the diocese of Virginia is a much happier place now that eleven parishes left in the wake of the consecration of the Right Reverend Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.
Saint Paul wrote, “Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:23-29).
We can’t always work things out. People leave. But whenever the Church, or any of us as individuals, must take a stand, it is part of our heritage as Episcopalians to do so in charity. Our ancestors managed to pull together a church after the Revolution where most of the clergy, and a great number of the laity, had remained loyal to Britain – a celebration for Independence Day did not make it into the Prayer Book until 1928. As a Church we continue to work to move beyond the racism and other prejudices that have shaped our history. My instinct keeps me coming back to Paul’s words from Galatians and the words of Jesus found in Mark (and Matthew 12:48-50 and Luke 8:20-21), “‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother’” (Mark 3:3-5). The waters of Baptism still call to us, and always will. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Carol, Joe, Geraldine, Mary, Sharon, Erika, Julia, Lee, Donna, Rolf, Dianne, Gert, and Rick; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark, Christine, and Rob; and for the repose of the souls of Dorothy, Veronica, Rynn, and Jean-Simon, priest . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . July 24: 1890 Georgia Freeman Capron; 1897 Albert Lyman; 1921 Irving Platt Titus.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Monday, July 25, is the feast of Saint James the Apostle. Mass will be celebrated at 6:20 PM, in addition to the 12:10 daily Eucharist . . . Father Pace will hear confessions on Saturday, July 23. Father Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, July 30.
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 . . . The renovation of the atrium is underway. The two rooms that used to be the rector’s and the secretary’s offices, are losing the wall that separated them. The new (traditional) light fixtures are already up. The floors will be refinished and the room will be painted. The fall session of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd starts on Sunday, October 2 . . . The meeting for our new Women’s Group is being rescheduled. Details to come . . . 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 returns to the parish office on Friday, July 29 . . . Music Director James Kennerley returns to the parish office on Wednesday, July 27 . . . Business Manager Aaron Koch is on vacation from Monday, July 25. He returns to the parish office on Monday, August 8 . . . Sister Deborah Francis is back at the parish. Sister Laura Katharine is now on vacation until August 5 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 175.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . This Sunday, July 24, Mark Peterson will play for the Solemn Mass. Chris Howatt, tenor, is our cantor. The prelude before Mass today is Choral Dorien by Jehan Alain (1911-1940). The motet is A Simple Song from MASS by Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990). Formerly titled MASS: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers, the work is composed in a musical theater style and was first performed in 1971 as part of the opening celebrations of the John F. Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Interspersed with the traditional Latin texts of the Mass are settings of poetry by Stephen Schwartz and Paul Simon. 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.