FROM THE RECTOR: GESTURES
At Canon Carl Gerdau's funeral at Saint Luke's Lutheran Church, I was celebrant at a free-standing altar, facing not a tabernacle as at Saint Mary's, but instead the congregation for the Great Thanksgiving. I think I probably read from the altar book more than I usually need to do-to keep my mind from being distracted. One thing I hadn't thought through was where to place the flagon of wine so that the bread, the cup, and the flagon could all be seen-I fiddled a little with it.
One thing I did not do is join my hands as I said, "Let us give thanks to the Lord our God." I see Episcopal priests and bishops do that too often when facing the congregation from behind an altar. Christians anciently prayed standing with arms and hands raised heavenward. The position is called "orans"-from the Latin orate for speech, prayer. That's how we give thanks. Now at our altars I do bow as the congregation responds, "It is right to give him thanks and praise," because I am turning away from the people to face the bread and wine. I don't rush the gesture. It's a reminder to me whose servant I was ordained to be-thirty-four years ago on June 11. It was a Saturday in 1983 and the Feast of Saint Barnabas the Apostle, which is transferred this year to Monday, June 12.
Why is there so often a disconnect between gesture and tradition and also between gesture and text in Episcopal Church worship in our generation? One big reason is that our church requires very little in terms of academic study in liturgics and sacramental theology in our seminaries. And equally important, no seminary now offers the full chapel life that we had in the early 1980s at Nashotah House. So questions that might arise just don't because one needs a certain level of academic study as part of a worshiping community to recognize what might be asked, what further study might be needed.
A few days ago, Liturgical Orientation: the Position of the President at the Eucharist (2017) by Neil Xavier O'Donoghue arrived in the mail from Britain. It's part of the Joint Liturgical Studies series, long essays really, published by the Alcuin Club and the Group for Renewal of Worship in the Church of England. O'Donoghue is a Roman Catholic priest, and he is writing about the history of the placement of church altars and of where a celebrant stands-facing the congregation or the wall. (The Church of England has used "president" in place of "celebrant" at least since the publication of The Alternative Service Book ; The Roman Missal speaks of "presidential prayers" of the celebrant (The Roman Missal, English, 3rd ed. , 27). I read through it quickly; I'll read it again.
What stood out on my first reading is how much his discussion is shaped by the Roman Catholic theological understanding of the celebrant as presiding "in the person of Christ" (Ibid., page 20). I don't see myself as standing in for Christ when I celebrate the Eucharist. And while I believe that the eucharistic prayer is of central importance, I don't think it is "the high point of the whole celebration" (Ibid.). I think most Anglicans would say that the congregation of baptized persons is the Body of Christ. For "the high point," I suggest we look to the Communion of Christ's Body and Blood, to feeding on the life-giving Jesus Christ. I know we Anglicans get lots of things wrong too, but I am far more comfortable with what we get right than what I think we get wrong.
It was very powerful watching Bishop Frank Griswold walk around the coffin of his friend, Carl Gerdau, first with baptismal water from Saint Luke's font and then with incense from Saint Mary's, which was burning in Saint Luke's thurible. Bishop Griswold did not have to think about what he was doing; his body knew from fifty-four years of service as deacon, priest, and bishop what to do. Gestures matter, and there is always more to learn. -Stephen Gerth
OUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Sandy, Adam, Caryn, Cookie, Irene, Brian, Jim, Karen, Ivy, Ralph, Pat, Peggy, Vera, Rocco, Krystal, Cathy, Grady, Mike, John, Rick, May, Marahl, Heidi, Takeem, Barbara, Jean, Robert, Dennis, and George; for Scott, religious, and Sidney, deacon; for Horace, Mitties, Ross, Gaylord, Harry, Louis, and Edgar, priests; for all victims of war, persecution, poverty, famine, violence, and disaster; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark. . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . June 11: 1923 Richard John O'Brien; 1952 Mary Lou Zerler Raymond; 1954 Edwin Burch.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Sunday, June 11, Trinity Sunday, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 AM and 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass and Te Deum 11:00 AM, Evensong and Benediction 5:00 PM (this is the final service of Sunday Evensong for the season). . . Monday, June 12, Saint Barnabas the Apostle, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Friday, June 9 and 16, 6:30 PM-8:00 PM, Centering Prayer Group, Atrium, Parish House, Second Floor . . . Sunday, June 18, Corpus Christi, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 and 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass, Procession to Times Square and Eucharistic Benediction 11:00 AM, Evening Prayer 5:00 PM.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Saint Mary's at the New York Philharmonic: The annual field trip to hear the Philharmonic play in Central Park will take place on Wednesday, June 14. The concert begins at 8:00 PM. The program includes music by Dvořák, Bernstein, and Gershwin. The field trip is being coordinated by Grace Mudd. She will arrive in the Park by 5:00 PM to save space. She will sit in front of the west-side speaker, just behind the VIP fence. Please contact Grace if you would like to attend . . . Altar Guild: We would like to recruit a couple more volunteers to help with the laundering and ironing of the small altar linens. For this job, access to a washer and dryer, and a certain ability to be meticulous are prerequisites. If you think you might have what it takes to serve in this way, please speak to Father Gerth or Sister Laura Katherine. For information about technical aspects of this work, please speak to MaryJane Boland or Marie Rosseels . . . David Hurd will be away from the parish June 12-15 and June 17-July 1. Dr. Timothy Pyper will play the Solemn Mass on Corpus Christi, June 18. Gregory Eaton will play the Solemn Mass on the Third Sunday after Pentecost, June 25 . . . All but one of our priests were first ordained deacon in June: Father Powell on June 12, 1976, Father Gerth on June 11, 1983, Father Bodie on June 29, 1986, Father Pace on June 25, 1988, and Father Smith on June 10, 1989. Father Burrows was ordained deacon on July 1, 1979 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 188.
SAINT MARY'S CENTERING PRAYER GROUP . . . A new Centering Prayer Group will begin to meet at Saint Mary's on Friday, June 9, from 6:30-8:00 PM, following Evening Prayer, in the Atrium on the second floor of the Parish House. (Entrance is via Saint Joseph's Hall or 145 West Forty-sixth Street.) Centering Prayer, "prayer without words," is a contemplative-prayer method that is intended to develop one's relationship with God. No experience is required to begin; if interested, individual instruction can be provided-simply contact one of the Group's coordinators. An introductory workshop will be held in the fall. If you do have questions or would like more information, contact co-coordinators Ingrid Sletten or Blair Burroughs. The Group plans to meet again on June 9.
ABOUT THE MUSIC . . . The Mass setting at the Solemn Mass on Sunday morning is the Mass in G minor by the noted English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). This Mass was composed in 1921 and is dedicated to another noted English composer, Gustav Holst (1874-1934), and the Whitsuntide Singers at Thaxted in north Essex. Its first performance was in concert by the City of Birmingham Choir on December 6, 1922. While first performed in concert, The Mass in G minor was intended to be sung liturgically and was subsequently premiered as such at Westminster Cathedral under the direction of Sir Richard Terry. Vaughan Williams's Mass is clearly in his own distinctive twentieth-century musical vocabulary, but it derives its sonic and affective character from the great heritage of English choral composition of earlier centuries. His Mass is often considered the most significant English work of its kind since the sixteenth century, and it has been an inspiration to many composers who have followed Vaughan Williams. The original conception is a work for double chorus and four soloists. This morning four of its movements will be performed by a choir of nine singers in which the differentiation between choruses and soloists will merge more into a unified choral texture.
The Communion motet on Sunday morning is a four-voice setting by Benjamin Rogers (1614-1698) of a five-stanza Trinitarian Latin hymn attributed to Nathaniel Ingelo (c. 1621-1683). It is traditionally sung from the Magdalen Tower by the choir of boy choristers and lay clerks of Magdalen College, Oxford, on the morning of May 1, and from the gallery of the college's Great Hall during important college occasions.
Bach's Cantata 29, Wir danken dir Gott, wir danken dir ("We thank you, God, we thank you") was first performed at the installation of the town council in Leipzig in 1731 and is known to have been performed subsequently on like occasions in 1739 and 1749. It opens with the brilliant instrumental Sinfonia which, itself, is Bach's reworking of the Prelude from his own third Partita for Solo Violin, BWV 1006. As Bach recast it for Cantata 29, the organ is assigned the original violin solo part, now transcribed from E to D Major. The orchestra functions to reflect and punctuate the solo line. Today's Prelude will be a transcription of this Sinfonia for organ solo, and the Postlude is an organ solo transcription of the chorus that follows the Sinfonia. -David Hurd
SAINT COLUMBA . . . On the newel post of the pulpit's left-hand banister, there is a lovely carving of Saint Columba in his small boat, often described as a coracle. The boat's figurehead is a sea horse. The carving memorializes Saint Columba's voyage across the Irish Sea. In 563, Columba and a dozen companions set off for Scotland, where they hoped to do missionary work among the Picts. According to legend, Columba, who was born in Ireland in 521, first came ashore on the island of Iona, where he founded what would become a famous monastery. Iona is a small island in the Inner Hebrides off the western coast of Scotland. It became the center for missionary work undertaken among the Picts. Columba is remembered as a fine preacher, a successful missionary, a good scholar, and a loving abbot to the monks on Iona. Iona remains a place of pilgrimage to this day. Saint Columba died in 597. His feast day is June 9.
HOMELESS MINISTRY: DONATIONS NEEDED . . . Our new clothes closet for the homeless and others in need has been quite successful, so successful in fact that we hope to receive donations of new or lightly used clothing items for distribution. Warm-weather items are particularly needed at the moment, but we are happy to receive winter clothing as well. We also welcome donations of the following items: toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, hand wipes, wash cloths, blankets, socks, and unopened packets of underwear for both men and women. Thank you so much to all those, both near and far, who have been supporting this ministry. -Sister Monica Clare
THE PECADILLO THEATER . . . Dan Wackerman and Kevin Kennedy often worship with us on Sundays. They are the directors of the Peccadillo Theater, which is housed at the Theater at Saint Clement's, 423 West Forty-Sixth Street, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. The Peccadillo Theater has produced a piece called Zero Hour about the late Zero Mostel. The theater's website reads, "Zero Hour, Jim Brochu's acclaimed play about the life of theatre legend Zero Mostel, has returned to its original home for a limited engagement beginning June 2nd and continuing through July 9th only! The performance runs ninety minutes with no intermission. Three-time Academy Award nominee Piper Laurie directs Zero Hour, which is set at Zero Mostel's West 28th Street painting studio where a naive reporter attempts to interview the famously volatile actor, prompting an explosion of memory, humor, outrage, and juicy backstage lore. It is July 1977 and the actor is giving his final interview before leaving for the pre-Broadway tryout of The Merchant in Philadelphia. Mostel only played one performance as Shylock before his sudden death at the age of 62. Zero Hour traces Mostel's early days growing up on the Lower East Side as the son of Orthodox Jewish immigrant parents, through his rise as a stand-up comedian, from the Borscht Belt to Manhattan's most exclusive supper clubs, and from the devastation of the blacklist to his greatest Broadway triumphs, most notably as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof and working through his love-hate relationship with Jerome Robbins." For tickets and more information, visit the theater's website.
AIDS WALK 2017 . . . On Sunday, May 21, 2017, the Saint Mary's AIDS Walk Team, supported by their friends and fellow parishioners, joined the 32nd Annual AIDS Walk in Central Park-a little bit late. The Team got to the Park at around 1:30 PM, after Solemn Mass and a quick lunch. Once again the Team has done a remarkable job of fundraising. As of Thursday afternoon, June 8, the Team has raised $50,362.50. Though final numbers have not yet been released, we believe that the Saint Mary's Team will be in the top ten among all the teams that walked on May 21. If you would like to donate by writing a check, please make the check paid to the order of AIDS Walk New York. Then, please give the check to the curate or to one of the team leaders, or mail the check to the parish office. Donations may be received here at the parish until Monday, June 12.If you have any questions, please contact Father Jay Smith or Team co-leaders MaryJane Boland and Clark Mitchell.
DONATIONS FOR ALTAR FLOWERS . . . We hope to receive donations for altar flowers for the following Sundays and holy days: July 9 and 23, August 6 (Transfiguration), August 20 and 27, and all the Sundays in September. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office at 212-869-5830 or by e-mail. We are grateful to all those who support the ministry of the Flower Guild so faithfully.
ADULT EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet on June 14, at 6:30 PM, in the Nursery for its annual end-of-year dinner. The class worked hard and managed to finish reading Saint Paul's Letter to the Romans this year. Class will resume in the fall. Stay tuned for more information.
LOOKING AHEAD . . . Friday, June 23, Eve of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Thursday, June 29, Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Tuesday, July 4, Independence Day, Federal Holiday Schedule.