FROM THE RECTOR: GROUNDED UPON SCRIPTURE
The Bible means more to me at this point in my life than I ever imagined it would, and a very great part of this has come from the many years now I have prayed Daily Morning and Evening Prayer. It took years for me to fall in love with the Acts of the Apostles, but fall I have—and I’m pretty close to a new and better relationship with the Book of Job. The journey with the Daily Office began, at the direction of my rector, when Bishop James Montgomery, IX Bishop of Chicago, accepted me as a postulant.
I credit Nashotah House with giving the seminarians of my generation a very strong liturgical formation, of a kind that is not available now at any seminary. All of the faculty and students attended Morning Prayer, Eucharist, and Evensong daily from Sunday evening through Friday evening. During our first year, we had a one-hour course with Father Louis Weil, professor of liturgics and church music, to introduce us to praying as members of the ongoing seminary community. We would learn much more from him in our second and third years, as we had a regular three-hour class with him in each semester of those years.
I learned to care about pronunciation when the Old Testament professor, the late Father Joseph Hunt, caught me out for not looking up a word at the end of a very long lesson I was assigned to read aloud. There was great value placed on reading and singing together as one voice—solo performances and drawing attention to oneself during worship were discouraged. We even had a weekly 30-minute choir rehearsal on Thursdays, the day on which most weeks the community’s Solemn Mass was celebrated in the evening so that others could attend. (Students and faculty still vested and sat in their assigned seats in choir. The Solemn Mass shifted if there were a Major Holy Day during the week.)
I’m not sure why Daily Morning and Evening Prayer is no longer a mark of Episcopalians. I suspect I am one of a handful of American priests whose primary experience of the offices has been public prayer, not individual prayer. I don’t like to miss an office. I am no longer surprised when I hear or read something that has never caught my attention before. It happened again last night. Here is a more literal translation: For God has enclosed all [people] into disobedience, that he may have compassion, mercy, pity, upon all (Romans 11:32). Praying the office has left me, I hope, more grounded in Scripture and more open to the breadth and truth of God’s work in the world God made.
The genius of the Prayer Book’s Daily Office is its serendipity. As individuals we don’t have that many choices to make about Scriptures we hear, about the prayers we read. And here at Saint Mary’s, we use all of the Psalter; we use all of the New Testament; and we use as much of the Old Testament as is practical. It’s permitted to lengthen, but not shorten, the lessons. (Two very short, strange, but omitted stories about Elisha are going into our lectionary this fall [2 Kings 2:19–25].)
In February 2015, I attended the annual meeting of the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes. I was one of maybe twenty people who got up each morning to attend Morning Prayer on the two full days of the meeting. About 600 people attended the conference. Evening Prayer was not on offer either day. Both mornings the officiant used the collect and readings for optional Eucharists (“Lesser Feasts”) appointed for those days at the service. Those collects and readings were never intended for use at the Daily Office. My sense is that those of us who got up early for Morning Prayer got up to pray the regular prayer of the church—not theme prayers. I didn’t attend the 2016 meeting, but Morning Prayer was no longer on the schedule. Centering Prayer, something unfamiliar to me, had taken its place.
Episcopalians, high and low, were once united by the use of their Prayer Book. Theological issues in the church were discussed by people who had a shared knowledge of Scripture through their common prayer. I think the concerns of church leaders, lay and ordained, would be very different, and better informed, if we still shared a grounding in praying the Scriptures as set forth in the Prayer Book. But by any measure, those days are behind us.
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Christopher, Dominque, Chandra, Charlie, Julie, Carolyn, Jean, Barbara, Juliana, Margaret, David, Dolly, Sharon, Penny, Heidi, Catherine, Sally, Donald, Sam, Burton, Toussaint, Dennis, Arpene, Takeem, Sidney, deacon, Horace, Paulette, Gaylord, Harry, Louis, priests, and Russell, bishop; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark and Nicholas; and for the repose of the soul of Mansell Toms . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . July 17: 1885 Suzette LeMarie Zabriskie.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . On Wednesdays, the daily 12:10 PM Eucharist is a Sung Mass; on Thursdays the daily 12:10 Eucharist is a Mass with Healing Service . . . Friday, July 22, is the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene. Masses will be offered at 12:10 PM and at 6:20 PM.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Altar Flowers are needed for the following Sundays: July 24 and 31; August 21 and 28; and September 4 and 18. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the Parish Office . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 166.
MUSIC NOTES . . . Dr. David Hurd will be playing for two more Sundays at Saint Barnabas Church, Greenwich, Connecticut, fulfilling a commitment he made before he became our organist and music director. It was great to have Stephen Rumpf with us the past two Sundays. I’m delighted Dr. Timothy Pyper will be with us while David is away on July 17 and July 24. You will recall that Tim was here for Holy Week and Easter Day this year, and he did an outstanding job. It will be great to hear him—and fun to have him here too . . . This Sunday our soloist at the Solemn Mass is Heather Meyer, soprano. She will sing Tu Virginum from Mozart’s Exsultate jubilate. Dr. Hurd writes for the bulletin that this solo “is categorized as a religious solo motet and sometime considered a sacred solo cantata. It was composed in Milan for operatic castrato Venanzio Rauzzini (1746–1810) and premiered by him on 17 January 1773 at the Theatine Church of Saint Cajetan in Munich. Not surprisingly, the music bears an unmistakable resemblance to Mozart’s operatic concert arias and has become standard repertoire for female sopranos in our time. Tu Virginum is the elegantly lyric section which precedes the well-known and buoyant final Alleluia.” —S.G.
PARISH STAFF NOTES . . . Office Manager Chris Howatt was hospitalized for treatment. He’s home now and doing well. We expect he will return to the parish office on Monday, July 18 . . . Many thanks to parishioner Clint Best and Sr. Monica Clare for covering the office is Chris’s absence . . . Father Jay Smith will be on vacation from Monday, June 27, until Sunday, July 31 . . . Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins is on sabbatical. She will be away through the summer and early fall. We expect her to return on All Saints’ Day . . . Sister Laura Katherine returns to the parish on Friday, July 15 . . . Sr. Monica Clare begins her vacation on Friday, July 15 . . . John McHale, our bookkeeper, is also on vacation. He will return to the parish on Monday, July 18 . . . Sexton Mario Martinez is on vacation. He returns on Friday, July 29. Sexton Stefano Esposito is covering for him while he is away . . . The Rector will be away from Friday, July 15, through Monday, July 18. Father Pace will be in residence while Father Gerth is away.
A GENTLE REMINDER . . . As you have read in countless church bulletins, “Our costs do not decrease during the summer months. There are still bills that must be paid.” We urge all those who have made financial pledges to the parish to do their best to stay current with their pledge payments in order to prevent cash-flow problems. We are grateful to all those who continue to support Saint Mary’s so generously.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS . . . Friday, July 22, Saint Mary Magdalene, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Monday, July 25, Saint James the Apostle, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Friday, August 5, Eve of the Transfiguration, Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Saturday, August 6, Transfiguration, Mass 12:10 PM . . . Monday, August 15, The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . In anticipation of the inevitable arrival of colder weather, we are collecting warm clothing (coats, jackets, scarves, hats, and gloves). We are also collecting packets of socks and underwear, jeans and T-shirts (useful all-year round), and dress shirts (useful for job interviews). All of these will be distributed here at the parish to those in need. Please bring donations to the parish kitchen on Sunday or contact Father Jay Smith or Sister Monica Clare, C.S.J.B. Sister Monica and parishioners Clint Best and Grace Fernandez have been organizing the clothing in recent weeks in order to expedite distribution . . . We continue to collect nonperishable food items for our outreach partner, the Food Pantry at Saint Clement’s Church, 423 West Forty-sixth Street. —Jay Smith