FROM THE RECTOR: REFORMED WORSHIP
I’ve subscribed for many years to Worship, which describes itself as an “international ecumenical journal for the study of liturgy and liturgical renewal.” The May 2015 issue led with an article by Nicholas Wolterstorff, professor emeritus of philosophical theology at Yale: “Reformed Worship: What Has It Been and Should It Continue So?” It’s an article I think I will come back to again.
Wolterstorff is not writing about Protestant traditions with authorized liturgies for worship, like our Anglican tradition or the Lutheran tradition, but about the worship in Christian churches that are the theological heirs of the Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli (1484–5131), the French reformer John Calvin (1509–1564), and the German reformer Martin Bucer (1491–1551)—among others. He writes, “Reformed churches have liturgical autonomy . . . There is no such thing as the Reformed liturgy” (Worship 89 , 195). That said, Reformed worship has definite shape even if it lacks prescribed prayers and prescribed order.
One of the most important debates in this tradition was framed by Calvin and Zwingli. Calvin and others believed God himself spoke to a congregation through the words of a faithful preacher—a strand of Christian thought that goes back to a third- or fourth-century text known as The Apostolic Tradition (Ibid., 206). Zwingli thought God used the words of a preacher or the sharing of the Lord’s Supper as “instruments” by which people encountered the Holy Spirit. For Zwingli, it was always the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer that mattered (Ibid., 207–8).
As far as God himself speaking directly through preachers, count me with Zwingli on that one. As far as the Eucharist, I want to say they are both right—which may be one reason I am glad to be an Episcopalian. We can’t control God’s action in our lives or our worship.Our Prayer Book Catechism understands Sacraments as, “outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace” (BCP , 857, emphasis added).
One of the sections of Wolterstorff’s article is, “In the Reformed Tradition, the People Share in the Enactment of the Liturgy.” Chief among the ways this happens is through singing. Vernacular hymn singing in the sixteenth century electrified, if you will, the worship of Protestant congregations. The power of texts and tunes from that generation still move most of us deeply—think of “A mighty fortress is our God.” Singing began to recover for Protestants—Anglicans and Lutherans included—congregational participation in worship. Singing was crucial in the worship and teaching of both of the great reform movements within Anglicanism, the Methodist movement of the Wesleys and the Oxford Movement.
Medicine and theology, I think, are the oldest academic disciplines. In either profession there is real trouble when the learning stops. I think worship should be fresh enough to help us awaken to God’s presence in our lives. I think worship should also be familiar enough so that we can pay attention without thinking about what’s going to happen next. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Yves, Heidi, Nancy, Rasheed, Dorothy, Toussaint, Linda, Renee, John, Steve, Thomas, Judi, Sam, Victoria, Catherine, Mazdak, Trevor, David, Abalda, Takeem, Arpene, Deborah Francis, religious, Pamela, religious, Rebecca, deacon, Paulette, priest, and Harry, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty; and for the repose of the soul of Nancy Carol Weller Strode . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . July 5: 1884 Edith Center Burleigh; 1902 Martha Frances Brown; 1939 Eyland Jarvis Hall; 1948 Hector Recousie.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Sister Laura Katharine’s sister, Nancy Carol Weller Strode, died on Wednesday, June 30, 2015, in Sacramento, California, after a long illness. She was 89 years old. Please pray for Nancy, Sister Laura Katharine, and all who mourn. —S.G.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
INDEPENDENCE DAY WEEKEND SCHEDUE . . . Independence Day is Saturday, July 4. On Friday, July 3, the church will only be open from 10:00 AM until 2:00 PM, and only the noonday services will be offered. The Mass of the day will be for July 3, an ordinary weekday. Because our Saturdays include the Sunday Vigil Mass in the evening, we will keep our regular Saturday schedule. The Independence Day Mass will be celebrated at 12:10 PM, the Sunday Vigil Mass at 5:20 PM. Confessions, Noonday Prayer, and Evening Prayer will be on the regular schedule.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . The church and the parish offices are open on the regular schedule . . . On Saturday, July 4, confessions will be heard by Father Stephen Gerth. On Saturday, July 11, confessions will be heard by Father James Pace.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B., continues her recovery at the convent. Please keep her in your prayers . . . Father Smith is on vacation. He returns to the parish on Sunday, August 2 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 196; Peter and Paul 51.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . The hymn, I Vow to Thee My Country, is based on a poem by Cecil Spring Rice (1859–1918), which he wrote in 1908 while posted to the British Embassy in Stockholm. Then called Urbs Dei, the poem described how a Christian owes his loyalties to both his homeland and the heavenly kingdom. The lyrics, as originally composed, had an overtly patriotic stance which typified the First World War era. In 1912, Spring Rice was appointed as Ambassador to the United States of America, under the administration of Woodrow Wilson. In 1918, he re-wrote and renamed Urbs Dei, significantly altering the first verse to concentrate on the huge losses of soldiers during the intervening years. The last verse, beginning with the words, “And there’s another country,” is a reference to heaven. The final line is based on Proverbs 3:17, which in the King James Bible reads, “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” We will hear this fine hymn at the ministration of Holy Communion today, sung by soprano Danielle Buonaiuto, as set by the great English composer, Gustav Holst (1874–1934). As the prelude before the Solemn Mass I will play Voluntary in G, Opus 14, by Edward Elgar (1857–1934). The postlude will be Finale, Opus 14, also by Elgar. —Mark Peterson
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Need help finding food or know someone who does? Call 1-800-5-HUNGRY (Why Hunger Hotline, Monday–Friday 9:00 AM–6:00 PM EST) or 1-866-3-HUNGRY (USDA National Hunger Hotline, 8:00 AM–8:00 PM EST) . . . We continue to collect nonperishable food items for our outreach partner, the Food Pantry at Saint Clement’s Church, 423 West Forty-sixth Street . . . If you would like to find out more about the work of Saint Vincent’s School for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, please speak to Father Gerth.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Manhattanhenge: Sunday, July 12, 8:20 PM and Monday, July 13 at 8:21 PM, “[These are days] when the setting sun [will align] precisely with the Manhattan street grid, creating a radiant glow of light across Manhattan's brick and steel canyons, simultaneously illuminating both the north and south sides of every cross street of the borough's grid. A rare and beautiful sight.” July 12: Full sun on the Grid; July 13: Half sun on the Grid. Visit the Hayden Planetarium website for more information.