The Angelus

Volume 17, Number 38


Part of my daily reading since last April has been a paragraph or so from a book about Bowen Family Systems Theory. The first book was Your Mindful Compass (2013) by Andrea Maloney Schara. Right now, I’m just about finished reading Perspectives on Congregational Leadership: Applying Systems Thinking for Effective Leadership (2009) by the Reverend Israel Galindo. An American Baptist minister, Galindo is now an associate dean at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, a seminary of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). His title is “associate dean for lifelong learning”—another name for “continuing education.” In addition to his academic background and service as a parish minister, he has been a student of Bowen Family Systems Theory (BFST) since the early 1990s.


Murray Bowen (1913–1990) was a psychiatrist whose research led him to think about human beings as shaped by their family systems. Bowen theorized that just as there is a biological inheritance from generation to generation, so there is a transmission of emotional process. His work is continued by what is now called the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family in Washington, D.C., and other centers around the nation.


Galindo’s book is written for congregational clergy. What I’ve found especially helpful is his clarity that BFST challenges us as individuals to take responsibility for who we are and what we do. The theory is about how we function in the face of whatever emotions or anxiety we are experiencing. One can’t control or change another person; one can work to manage oneself. BFST is, to use Galindo’s job title, all about “lifelong” learning. BFST is most helpful to me because it reminds me that I want to take responsibility for myself in relationship to others.


I think I was disposed to respond to the Episcopal Church for many reasons when I encountered it in college. Looking back, I think I responded to how much the Anglican tradition encourages individuals to be responsible for their own spiritual lives. Common prayer provided an environment where I could grow spiritually. Since spirituality is fundamental to humanity, it’s a pretty good starting point for a young adult. Some years later while in seminary, I began to understand how and why the Anglican tradition has tended to move away from a focus on rules in order to stress personal responsibility.


In Luke 12:56, an exasperated Jesus said to the crowds that were following him, “You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky; but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” My father used to put it this way to me and my sister and brother, “Be aware of the world around you.” As we grew up, my dad expected us to be responsible for ourselves—and not to always look to him, or our teachers, or, dare I say, the church or the government.


Over the next few weeks and months you will be hearing and learning a lot about our parish’s Capital Campaign, a Campaign during which we will ask every member of our community, both near and far, to take responsibility and do what they can to ensure Saint Mary’s future. The report of our feasibility study is ready to be shared with the wider parish community. As I write on Friday morning, August 14 (with a sermon waiting to be finished for tonight’s Solemn Mass), publishing this report will wait one more week—worship comes first.


Today I close with words from the Prayer Book that was used when I began to attend the Episcopal Church in my college years. These words were not in previous Prayer Books, nor are they in the present Prayer Book, but I haven’t forgotten them. They are from the Second Office of Instruction: “Question. What is your bounden duty as a member of the Church? Answer. My bounden duty is to follow Christ, to worship God every Sunday in his Church; and to work and pray and give for the spread of his kingdom” (BCP [1928], 291).

Stephen Gerth


YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Dick, Jerry, Joe, Nick, Jacob, Kenneth, Yves, Heidi, Nancy, Rasheed, Toussaint, Linda, John, Thomas, Judi, Sam, Victoria, Catherine, Babak, Mazdak, Trevor, David, Abalda, Takeem, Arpene, Pamela, religious, Rebecca, deacon, Paulette, priest, Erika, priest, and Harry, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty; and for the repose of the soul of John Gavin Scott . . . GRANT THEM PEACE

 . . . August 16: 1922 George William Ely; 1924 George Harold McDonald; 1935 Leila West Sargent.


IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . John Gavin Scott, organist and director of music, Saint Thomas Church, New York City, died on Wednesday, August 12. He suffered a cardiac arrest. He was fifty-nine years old. He came to Saint Thomas in 2004 after serving as organist and director of music at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London, from 1990. John was a friend to Saint Mary’s many times over the years. He was deeply loved by the people and clergy of the parish where he served and especially by the wider community of church musicians. Please pray for him, for his wife and children, and for 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. Friday abstinence is not observed following the celebration here on the Eve of the Assumption.


THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . On Saturday, August 15, confessions will be heard by Father Jim Pace. On Saturday, August 22, confessions will be heard by Father Stephen Gerth.


AROUND THE PARISH . . . Parishioner Dick Leitsch is now at Amsterdam House, 1060 Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street, New York City, for rehabilitation following surgery. He’s doing well. Please keep him in your prayers. (When visiting Amsterdam House, a photo ID is required.) . . . On Friday, August 14, at the reception following the Solemn Mass, which begins at 6:00 PM, we will honor and thank our interim organist and music director, Mark Peterson, for his ministry here at the parish. Please join us as we thank Mark for all that he has done for the parish during this time of transition . . . On Thursday, August 20, Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B, will be moving to her community’s convent in Mendham, NJ. We are grateful for her ministry here at Saint Mary’s. Please keep her in your prayers as she begins her life and ministry in Mendham . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 213.


FROM THE ORGANIST & MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . It’s a real delight for me to be joining the community at Saint Mary’s, and I am very much looking forward to meeting you and getting to know better the many friends who have already been so kind, generous, and welcoming as I start my new life in New York. You already know that Saint Mary’s has one of the finest organs in New York City, the state of New York, and, indeed, in the country. Over the next several weeks I shall use the period of reflection before Solemn Mass to introduce and explore some of the many colors and beautiful solo sounds of the instrument by extemporizing simply on one of the propers for the day. French organ composer Olivier Messiaen said, “There is only one form of liturgical music: plainchant.” At Saint Mary’s that perspective is famously celebrated, and over the months and years ahead I look forward to continuing that tradition in both the organ improvisations and choral repertoire that we shall offer. The roots of hymnody are firmly planted in the soils of plainchant. Father Gerth has chosen hymns for this Sunday by two of the finest English composers. The Howells tune Michael, by one of the leading figures of twentieth-century choral music, is remarkable in its steadfast affirmation of hope, yet written within a year of the death of the composer’s son Michael. The Third Tune of Thomas Tallis is one of many tunes that Vaughan Williams included in his influential English Hymnal of 1906, and we sing it on Sunday morning to another text of hope: “I heard the voice of Jesus say, ‘Come unto me and rest.’ ” At the end of our service we join in the greatest Lutheran hymn of thanksgiving, “Now thank we all, our God,” and the organ voluntary at the close is the famous Karg-Elert chorale improvisation based on this tune. At the ministration of Communion our cantor Chris Howatt will sing Richard Hundley’s moving setting of the Song of Songs text, “Arise my love.”

 —Simon Whalley


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.


MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Monday, August 24, Saint Bartholomew, Apostle: Mass 12:10 and 6:20 PM . . . Monday, September 7, Labor Day, Federal Holiday Schedule . . . September 8, The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mass 12:10 PM and Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Monday, September 14, Holy Cross Day, Mass 12:10 PM and Sung Mass 6:00 PM

 . . . Monday, September 21, Saint Matthew, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Tuesday, September 29, Saint Michael and All Angels, Mass 12:10 PM and Sung Mass 6:00 PM.