FROM THE RECTOR: FALL 2015 ARRIVES
The fall equinox this year will occur on Wednesday, September 23, at 5:06 AM Eastern Daylight Time. It will arrive for me in Lost River, West Virginia, where I will be attending a workshop, Leadership in Ministry. I have participated in this workshop twice a year since before I became rector of Saint Mary’s. Most of the participants, but not all, are members of the clergy.
The workshop is organized around the principles of Bowen Family Systems Theory (BFST). The theory is not at all about what one might call leadership styles. BFST is a theory about how human beings function in relationship to others. The theory has a lot to say about how individuals can work on managing themselves (and the anxiety that comes with being alive) in relationship to others; it’s pointedly not about fixing other individuals or the systems to which one belongs, like one’s family or one’s church.
Murray Bowen (1913–1990) was a psychiatrist who developed a theory to explain the behavior he observed in his research families. His work lives on. There’s a lot of information available online about him. He trained many therapists and psychiatrists. Edwin Friedman (1932–1996) was a rabbi who trained with Bowen. He applied BFST to congregational life, especially with regard to the role of leaders in religious communities. Friedman’s Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue (1985) continues to be a standard work in pastoral theology. I still read it from time to time as I have discovered the power of reconnecting regularly through books and colleagues who share an interest in working with this theory.
I like to remember how my work with BFST began. After Thanksgiving dinner in 1988 at my mother’s house, my uncle, Lawrence Matthews, and I took a walk. Father Charles Jenkins, then rector of Saint Luke’s Church, Baton Rouge, and I, then one of his curates, had attended a meeting of the National Association of Episcopal Schools in New Orleans and had heard Friedman speak. Friedman lived in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C. My uncle was then senior pastor of Vienna Baptist Church, Vienna, Virginia, also just outside the capital. I asked him if he knew about Friedman. It turns out he had gone to Ed for coaching some years before and was working as part of Ed’s faculty for his workshops. Larry (as he’s known outside his sister and brother’s families) was the only member of the clergy among the ten members of Ed’s faculty; the rest were practicing BFST therapists.
I also like to remember what it was like when I attended my first workshop that Ed ran in Bethesda. He worked out of a small house—with enough room for 25 participants, as I recall. We brought outlines of our family systems (genograms) and short case studies to present in small groups. During the last break of the first session I attended, I was outside with everyone else, drinking coffee or a soda. I looked around and I saw smiles everywhere. We’d all been talking about the hard stuff of life with, in my case since I was new, strangers. There was something about working with the theory that helped us be on the side of the emotional health we already had. Smiles can be an important sign of a healthy and appropriate distance from, again, the hard stuff of life.
By the time of Ed’s death, my uncle had founded the Leadership in Ministry workshops. I switched from going to Bethesda to attending these workshops at Lost River Retreat Center, Lost River, West Virginia. I’m glad I did. Working with the theory continues to challenge me to grow in many ways, to be responsible for myself and my work. It has helped me keep my smile.
I look forward to these workshops also because they give me the opportunity to see and catch up with my uncle and my aunt, Jean Matthews. I’ll go down to Virginia after the Solemn Mass on Sunday and spend the night with them before heading to Lost River on Monday morning. There is always good food at their table, and there are always many laughs. I’ll be back in New York on Wednesday afternoon.
Bowen never resolved his issues with religion. But, staying connected to others in the right way is a very Christian concept, one used by Jesus (“I am the true vine . . . you are the branches.” [John 15:1–11]) and by Paul—think of his words about the body (1 Corinthians “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. [1 Corinthians 12:12]). In our bodies, healthy cells are in right relationship to the other cells around them. Healthy cells are not invaded by other healthy cells. Each has a role to play. So, one can say, every formal parishioner, informal friend, and visitor of this parish is part of this branch of Christ’s vine, all members of Christ’s body. And all of us are called to work, pray, give, and live for the increase of the kingdom of God. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Lisa, Peggy, Dianne, Vicki, Maxine, Veronica, Jean, Priscilla, JoAnn, Quinn, Mala, Mark, Gerry, Kenneth, Yves, Heidi, Nancy, Rasheed, Toussaint, Linda, Sam, Catherine, Babak, Mazdak, Trevor, David, Abalda, Takeem, Arpene, Pamela, religious, Sidney, deacon, Paulette, priest, and Harry, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Matthew, and for the repose of the soul of Margaretta Kraft, religious . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . September 20: 1878 Elizabeth Curtis; 1880 Frank Hernandez; 1950 Robert Gilman Dort.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . We received word this week that Sister Margaretta Kraft, S.H.N., died on Thursday, February 10, in Ripon, Wisconsin, after a long illness. She would have been ninety years old on November 1. Sister Margaretta was a member of the Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity, a religious order of women in the Episcopal Church founded in 1882 by the Reverend Charles Chapman Grafton, afterwards the second bishop of Fond du Lac. For many years, members of the sisterhood, including Sister Margaretta, lived and exercised their ministry here at Saint Mary’s. We believe that Sister Margaretta was stationed here for six years, perhaps while Father Garfield was rector. She is survived by her brother, Father Harry Kraft, who is a great friend and supporter of our parish. Please keep Sister Margaretta, Father Kraft, and all who mourn in your prayers; please remember in your prayers all the men and women religious who have served Saint Mary’s so faithfully throughout the years, those in the nearer presence of God and those who are with us still.
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 . . . Monday, September 21, Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist: Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . On Saturday, September 19, confessions will be heard by Father Stephen Gerth, and on Saturday, September 26, confessions will be heard by Father Jay Smith.
OKTOBERFEST RETURNS . . . On Saturday, October 24, 6:00–9:00 PM, we will welcome the arrival of autumn with a potluck supper in Saint Joseph’s Hall. Supper will be followed by a hymn sing in the organ loft. Please bring a dish to share; and please contact Grace Bruni or Father Jay Smith if you are planning to attend and if you are able to bring a dish with you. Beverages will be provided.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Parishioner Dick Leitsch has finished his physical therapy at Amsterdam House and has returned home. He was in church last Sunday and has been serving as usher and acolyte at Mass this week. It is very good to have him back with us at the parish. Please keep him in your prayers . . . Music director and organist Simon Whalley will be away from the parish this weekend. He will be in Bruges, Belgium, conducting an Oxford chamber choir at two separate and long-planned appearances, a concert at the Sint Gilliskerk and Sunday Mass at Sint Anna Kerk. In his absence, Parker Ramsay will be playing at our own Solemn Mass on Sunday, September 20. Simon returns to the parish early next week . . . Father Gerth will be away from the parish at a Leadership in Ministry conference from the afternoon of Sunday, September 20. He will return to the parish on Wednesday, September 23. He will be away also for vacation from Friday morning, September 26. He will return to the rectory on Sunday evening, September 27 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 174; Holy Cross Day 57.
A SIGN OF THE TIMES . . . I have asked our sextons to remove the shrine candle stands from the Lady Chapel and from before the Vault. These boxes for donations have both been broken open by thieves. I will be working with our metalsmith to see if they can be made secure. I hope we do not have to install video surveillance. —S.G.
FROM THE ORGANIST & MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . For the organ music at the Solemn Mass on Sunday we travel to the Low Countries and hear contrasting works before and after Mass from two leading composers of keyboard music. Pieter Cornet (1575–1633) was for a time organist at the Church of Saint Nicholas in Brussels (in modern-day Belgium) and became a principal figure in the music of the court of Archduke Albrecht. His “Salve Regina” is a profound and stirring work, with the opening theme imitated and embellished respectfully as other voices enter. Perhaps more well-known is Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562–1621), who, like Cornet, came from a distinguished family of musicians and whose keyboard music is especially noteworthy. Sweelinck also excelled at vocal writing; we shall hear choral works of Sweelinck’s at Christmastide. His ricecar style—a fantasia featuring free passage-work interweaving with more solid homophony—shows the influence of contemporaries across Europe. Our postcommunion hymn at the Solemn Mass is an interesting example of how hymnody can reflect changing times and tastes and the pervading theologies of the day. In the original version of this hymn the opening line was “O Master let me walk with thee/Before the taunting Pharisee;/Help me to bear the sting of spite/The hate of men who hide thy light.” To echo the theme of Father Gerth’s September 6 Angelus article, it is good to note that an enlightened “clarity and consensus” guided the editors of the Hymnal 1940 away from so cynical and negative a perspective. Today’s verse is much to be preferred. At Communion cantor Chris Howatt will sing Ned Rorem’s simple and moving setting of “Love”—sometimes known by the title “Love Omnipresent”—by Thomas Lodge (1557–1625). The themes of the text perhaps remind us of George Herbert’s famous poem, combining themes of spiritual and erotic love, “Love bade me welcome.” I am grateful to Parker Ramsay, who will be playing at the Solemn Mass while I am away. Parker is a student at The Juilliard School. He was formerly an organ scholar at Kings College, Cambridge, UK. —Simon Whalley
ADULT EDUCATION . . . October 4, 10:00 AM, Adult Forum: “The Michelangelos”—Dr. Dennis Raverty discusses the idealistic vision in the religious art of Michaelangelo Buonarroti, the great Renaissance painter and sculptor, in the first of a two-part series . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class resumes on October 14 (not October 7), at 6:30 PM, in Saint Joseph’s Hall. The class will continue its reading of the Book of Isaiah, beginning at chapter 40.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We continue to collect nonperishable food items for our outreach partner, the Food Pantry at Saint Clement’s Church, 423 West Forty-sixth Street . . . The Saint Mary’s Book Sale continues on Sunday mornings. All proceeds are used to serve those in need, at Saint Mary’s, in our neighborhood, and beyond . . . 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).
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Tuesday, September 29, Saint Michael and All Angels, Mass 12:10 PM and Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Sunday, October 4, Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Summer worship schedule ends: Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 AM & 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass with full choir, 11:00 AM, Solemn Evensong and Benediction 5:00 PM . . . Monday, October 19, Saint Luke the Evangelist (transferred), Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM . . . Friday, October 23, Saint James of Jerusalem, Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM, Wednesday, October 28, Saint Simon & Saint Jude, Apostles, Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM.