FROM THE RECTOR: JAMES WILLIAM DENNIS, JR., 1937–2015
Jim Dennis died on Monday morning, March 23, 2015, at home at the side of his husband, John Delves. He was 78 years old. He had been a member of Saint Mary’s for 18 years. His funeral will be on Monday in Holy Week, March 30, at 10:00 AM here at his parish church. His ashes will be interred in the vault in the Lady Chapel at the end of the Mass. May he rest in peace.
Jim had not been well this winter, but he had a surprisingly strong constitution and continued to keep commitments to his church and his many friends. He was admitted to the hospital for tests on Thursday, March 12. He was unusually weak. Father Jim Pace was the first of the parish clergy to visit. Some may not remember that Father Pace is also Professor Jim Pace, Ph.D., nurse practitioner and associate dean for undergraduate programs at the College of Nursing at New York University. I know his pastoral presence for Jim and John was very important. Because of his medical knowledge and skills, he brought something that Jay, Rebecca, and I could not bring—and for his ministry here I am very thankful.
Jim went home from the hospital on Monday, March 16. On the way home the cab made a stop outside the Marriage Bureau of the City Clerk’s office. John had arranged for someone to facilitate their application for a marriage license—and the angels and saints were on their side. Jim and John were married by Father Pace on Wednesday, March 18. They had been together since 1981.
Over the next few days it was clear that Jim’s earthly life was nearing its natural end. I visited with them on Sunday afternoon. While I was with them, the hospice intake nurse from the Visiting Nurse Service of New York came—she was first rate. Their great friend and fellow parishioner Jon Bryant arrived to spend the night to help Jim and John. John called the next morning with the news the Jim had died in his sleep shortly before 7:00 AM. The sunlight was streaming into their apartment when I arrived. We were all glad that Jim’s body was at peace.
I met Jim and John here at Saint Mary’s on Friday, November 20, 1998. Jim was a member of the board of trustees—John had come along to hear me audition my chanting voice. I was in New York to be interviewed by the board of trustees for the job of rector of Saint Mary’s. Jim made a point of wanting me to know how glad he was that I wanted to come to Saint Mary’s. Jim was a friend from the start. Not so long after I became rector, Rose’s Lime Juice could be found in my refrigerator—Jim drank vodka gimlets. There’s a half-full bottle there now.
Jim was naturally close to many. He had an almost boundless personality and a deep interest in other people. He could be outrageous—and outrageously generous. He was a great and active supporter of the parish’s music program and its ministry of hospitality; and he was a deeply committed member of the guild of ushers. He led one of the guild’s teams and helped train many ushers over the years. He was not intimidated by members of the clergy, and he liked to remind some of us to smile and to avoid the traditional, Anglo-Catholic grim demeanor. Jim was also a keen and honest businessman. As a trustee and an officer of the board, he faced financial issues squarely. That was a great gift to the wider parish community. He will be missed by a large circle of friends and acquaintances—but by none as much as by his husband, John. I bear witness that they loved and cared deeply for each other. I bear witness as a Christian that they both still do. —Stephen Gerth
FROM THE RECTOR: OUR NEXT ORGANIST & MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . Simon Whalley, director of music and fellow by special election, Keble College, Oxford University, will be Saint Mary’s next organist & music director. Right now, we expect him to take up his administrative duties on August 1. Mark Peterson’s last service will be on Friday, August 14, the Solemn Mass for Assumption Eve—and we will celebrate Mark’s exemplary service to the parish that night with a special reception.
Simon is an established musician, an organist, a teacher, and a composer. He’s British, the son of a priest of the Church of England. He knows New York. He’s looking forward to his work here that will revolve around the cycles of the church year, which will be different from the calendar in the university setting where he has worked in recent years. He composed a setting of Psalm 99 for Bishop Allen Shin’s ordination—Simon worked with Allen when he was chaplain at Keble College before returning to New York to serve as rector of Saint John’s Church, Huntington, Long Island. I look forward so much to introducing him to the parish community and to being his colleague. More to come. —S.G.
PALM SUNDAY 2015 AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Our celebration begins on Saturday at 5:00 PM with the Liturgy of the Palms & Sung Mass at 5:00 PM. On Sunday, Morning Prayer will be sung at 8:30 AM. At 9:00 AM the Liturgy of the Palms & Sung Mass will be offered at 9:00 AM—there will be no celebration of the Eucharist at 10:00 AM. At 11:00 AM the Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold, XXV Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, will be celebrant and preacher for the Liturgy of the Palms, Procession through Times Square & Solemn Mass. Solemn Evensong & Benediction will be at 5:00 PM. The Litany will not be chanted at Evensong on Palm Sunday.
HOLY WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . April 2, Maundy Thursday: Sung Matins 8:30 AM; The Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper 6:00 PM, The Rt. Rev. Allen K. Shin, celebrant, The Very Rev. Andrew McGowan, preacher; The Watch before the Blessed Sacrament . . . Friday, April 3, Good Friday: Sung Matins 8:30 AM; The Celebration of the Passion of the Lord 12:30 PM & 6:00 PM. Confessions will be heard by the parish clergy after both liturgies . . . Saturday, April 4, Easter Eve: Sung Matins 8:30 AM; The Great Vigil of Easter 7:00 PM; Sunday, April 5: The Sunday of the Resurrection: Easter Day, Sung Matins 8:30 AM; Said Mass with Hymns 9:00 AM & 10:00 AM; Solemn Mass 11:00 AM; Organ Recital 4:30 PM; Solemn Paschal Evensong 5:00 PM.
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR McNeil, Mazdak, Trevor, Brayden, Andrew, Barbara, Darrell, Penny, David, Dennis, Dee, Emily, Ben, Abalda, Linda, Eric, Takeem, Arpene, Mary, religious, Laura Katharine, religious, Paulette, priest, and Harry, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty; and for the repose of the soul of James Dennis . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . March 29: 1959 Lucille Dunscombe; 1966 Anna Jane Hemphill; 1997 Bruce Linville.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Parishioner James William Dennis, Jr., died at his home in New York on Monday, March 23. His funeral will be here at Saint Mary’s on Monday, March 30, at 10:00 AM. Please keep Jim, his husband John, their family and friends, and all who mourn in your prayers.
ABSTINENCE AND FASTING is not a simple subject during Holy Week. Over the centuries a number of traditions come together in different ways and for different reasons to shape the various practices that become normative at any one time. In the Episcopal Church we currently observe two days of fasting during the year, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The ordinary weekdays of Lent and Holy Week “are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial.” I think it is really good that our tradition expects us to take responsibility for our participation as we are guided by the shape of our prayer and our work.
It is traditional to be hungry on Good Friday as a physical reminder that we hunger for the Lord, not to make ourselves sick. My own practice at this point in my life is to eat something after I finish hearing confessions following the 12:30 PM celebration—that means about 3:00 PM or so. If I’m so hungry in the morning that I can’t concentrate on my work, I’ll have a bowl of cereal or a cup of yogurt. I’ll eat a normal supper, but no meat, nothing sweet. On Holy Saturday, I keep it simple during the day but have a regular plate of food before the Vigil—it’s a very much a work night, whether I’m a celebrant or concelebrant.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Friday, March 27, 6:30 PM, Stations of the Cross following Evening Prayer at 6:00 PM . . . Monday, March 30, 10:00 AM, The Burial of the Dead: James W. Dennis, Jr. . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study class will not meet on April 1 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, March 28, by Father Stephen Gerth. Confessions will also be heard by the parish clergy following the Good Friday liturgies on April 3. Confessions during Easter Week are heard by appointment only.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . We are grateful to Bishop Allen K. Shin for joining us as celebrant and preacher on the feast of the Annunciation. He will be with us again on Maundy Thursday. We are also grateful to all those who worked so hard to make the evening such a great success . . . Sister Laura Katharine, C.S.J.B., is now at home at the convent in Mendham, where she continues to recuperate from a recent illness. Please keep her in your prayers . . . The Flower Guild is beginning to make plans for Holy Week and Easter. If you would like to volunteer to help decorate the church for Easter, please speak to a member of the Flower Guild . . . Visual Arts Project: There will be an opening in the gallery in Saint Joseph’s Hall, on Friday, April 17, at 6:30 PM . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 164, Annunciation 202.
PARISH HISTORY . . . Saint Mary’s has had a long and fascinating history. We continue to discover new things about the parish and its members. We received a call recently from a descendant of Granville Campbell (1892–1968), a renowned lyric tenor of the last century, who was born in Jamaica and who pursued his musical career in Great Britain, Europe, and the United States, in addition to his native Jamaica. Apparently, Mr. Campbell sang in the Saint Mary’s choir in the 1950s and 1960s. We hope to find more information about Mr. Campbell in the parish archives. You can read a bit Mr. Campbell’s career online.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Palm Sunday: For over fifty years, organist-composer McNeil Robinson (b. 1943) has been one of New York City’s most visible church musicians and concert organists. His two-decade tenure here at Saint Mary the Virgin saw the creation of a notable liturgical early-music movement. For more than twenty years he was organist and music director at Park Avenue Christian Church, and then, for an even longer period, was organist at Park Avenue Synagogue. He has been head of the organ department at both the Mannes College of Music and the Manhattan School of Music. His choral compositions are performed across the country. An internationally renowned recitalist, he receives consistent critical and popular acclaim for his improvisational skills. His Mass setting entitled Missa in die tribulationis was written in 1980 and has been a staple of the Palm Sunday liturgy at Saint Mary’s nearly every year since. In acknowledgment that Holy Week has truly begun, there will be no motet at the ministration of Communion, nor an organ postlude on Palm Sunday . . . Maundy Thursday: The setting of the Mass is the Missa syllabica (1977/1996) by Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt (b. 1935). Pärt, a major proponent of the minimalist movement of composition, has enjoyed enormous popularity for his powerful, but often stark, works. The anthems at the footwashing are plainsong settings as adapted by David Hurd (b.1950) and Bruce Ford (b.1947) . . . Easter Eve: The setting of the Mass at the Easter Vigil is the Missa paschalis of Orlande de Lassus (1532–1594). Born in what is present day Belgium, de Lassus traveled widely, gaining much experience before going to Naples, where he began to compose in earnest. In 1551 he was appointed organist and maestro di cappella at the Church of Saint John Lateran in Rome. Though he remained at this post for only three years, it is there that he is thought to have composed the Mass that we hear at the Vigil. Well over 2000 compositions have been attributed to de Lassus.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on Wednesday, April 1 or on Wednesday, April 8. The class will resume on April 15 and will begin reading at Isaiah 28 . . . On Palm Sunday (March 29) Father Pete Powell will conclude his series on The Gospel of John. We are very grateful to Father Powell’s continued commitment to the adult-education program. His very popular classes have played an important role in helping us to read the Bible more frequently and to interpret it with enthusiasm and greater confidence . . . During Eastertide (April 19, 26, and May 3), Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins will be leading the class, once again, in a discussion of the links between theology and the arts: “And the angel said, ‘Be not afraid’ ”: God’s Ministering Messengers, From Scripture through the Arts and Literature. All the Sunday-morning adult-education classes begin at 10:00 AM and are held in the Arch Room on the second floor of the Mission House. —Jay Smith
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . An exhibition at the Christophe Keller, Jr., Library of the General Theological Seminary, 440 West Twenty-first Street, Thomas Cromwell and the English Bible, opened on Wednesday, March 25, and will continue through June 2015. The exhibit includes materials drawn from the library’s special collections. The highlight of the show is the Keller Library’s copy of The Great Bible of 1539, an English translation that Henry VIII ordered to be displayed in every church in his kingdom. The title page shows him handing the book to Cromwell, his chief minister, and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, while a vast crowd chants “Long Live the King!” Other items on view include earlier Biblical translations that played a role in bringing about the Protestant Reformation as well as images from the Tudor court, including Anne Boleyn and Cardinal Wolsey, both of whom figure largely in Hilary Mantel’s recent and much acclaimed historical novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. This exhibit coincides with the Broadway run of the play Wolf Hall based on Mantel’s novels about power politics in Tudor England. The staged version, at the Winter Garden Theater, is a production of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Also, on Easter Sunday, April 5, PBS stations will broadcast the first episode of the six-part BBC dramatization of Wolf Hall. The General Theological Seminary’s Christoph Keller, Jr. Library is open free to the public Monday–Friday, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM (closed Good Friday, April 3 and Easter Monday, April 6). Visitors may use the campus entrance at 440 West 21st Street, in Chelsea, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues.