FROM THE RECTOR: LOSING MATTHEW'S VOICE
For the last three Sundays the appointed gospel lessons have been from the thirteenth chapter of Matthew. Roman Catholics on these Sundays, if their pastor so chose, had the opportunity to hear almost all of this chapter and in the order in which Matthew wrote it. We Episcopalians did not-the gospel lessons for the 2006 Lectionary are the same as the lessons for these Sundays in the 1979 Lectionary. The late Raymond Brown (1928-1998) in his introduction to his book, An Introduction to the New Testament (1997) catalogued eleven different approaches scholars use to understand the Bible, from textual criticism to advocacy criticism (pages 20-29). I simply don't have enough background to sort through what led the Episcopal Church to chop up and rearrange chapter 13 in Matthew-and to get the rest of the denominations involved with what becomes the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) to go along with us. I think it's fair to say that we did not hear what scholars call the Parables Discourse (Matthew 13:1-52) as the Evangelist wanted us to hear it.
The Archives of the Episcopal Church has many records available online now, including Acts of Convention, 1976-2015 and Reports to General Convention, 1976-2015. In 1976, with regard to the Lectionary proposed for what will be the 1979 Prayer Book, the Standing Liturgical Commission (SLC) wrote, "It is now important to review critically what has been accomplished, to prepare a rationale for the selections made, and to set forth the principles used" (Reports to the 65th General Convention, AA-276). This was never done. Instead, the Standing Liturgical Commission began in 1978 to work with other Protestant denominations on a lectionary that would achieve a greater consensus about what would be read at Sunday worship.
Work on this new lectionary continued through the 1980s. The major sticking point turned out to be the desire of other denominations to have semi-continuous lessons from the Old Testament instead of a lesson chosen for its relationship to the appointed gospel. In 1982 and in 1985 the General Convention authorized a draft for trial use for a limited number of congregations. In 1988 the SLC reported that only one congregation of the "75 or 80" parishes who had started using the trial lectionary was still participating. The problem was the semi-continuous reading of Old Testament lessons in the Season after Pentecost. (Reports to the 69th General Convention, 178). But the revisers didn't give up.
In 2006 the General Convention approved a new lectionary with two tracks of Old Testament lessons for the Season after Pentecost. With our bishop's permission, I waited until the last possible moment, the First Sunday of Advent 2010, to use the new lectionary. The 2012 General Convention authorized congregations to use the 1979 lectionary. Bishop Mark Sisk gave his permission to this diocese before the General Convention ended-and we changed back the very next Sunday. What we still have not had is what the SLC in 1976 proposed: a critical review of the lectionary (see above). So we still don't know why we are doing what we are doing.
It turned out that opposition to the new Prayer Book was much less than it seemed to be. But along with losing Matthew's voice, not to mention other missteps (and there are many), our Episcopal Church has been in decline as our country has continued to grow. I've just ordered a copy of a book I couldn't imagine reading in the fall of 1980 when I entered seminary: Growth and Decline in the Anglican Communion: 1980 to the Present (2016), edited by David Goodhue. In 1980 the Episcopal Church had 2,556,926 members, in 2010 1,951,907. I've avoided this subject for too long.
I note that there has not been a single three-year period since 1979 when some kind of "trial use" has not been authorized. It's not the only reason we are in decline, but I think it is certainly part of the story. Matthew's parables discourse ends with a verse unique to Matthew-one that was not appointed for us to hear: "But he said to them, 'Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old' " (Matthew 13:52). I think that the larger part of the leadership of our church, lay and ordained, has never known enough through study and regular use to give the present Prayer Book a chance. -Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Brian, Michael, Gloria, Dick, Cheryl, Joann, David, Sandy, Dorothea, Jerry, Olutoyin, Lenore, Mary, Eugenia, Mary, Cookie, Irene, Brian, Karen, Ivy, Pat, Peggy, Vera, Cathy, Grady, Mike, May, Marahl, Heidi, Takeem, Barbara, Jean, Dennis, and George; for Horace, Mitties, Anne, David, Ross, Gaylord, Harry, Louis, and Edgar, priests; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . August 6: 1916 Robert Belle Simonson; 1921 Madeleine Elizabeth Staib; 1952 Katherine Leighton Paul; 1963 Charles Augustus Edgar.
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 . . . The church is open and the regular services of the Episcopal Church are offered daily . . . The Reverend Canon Edgar Fisher Wells, rector emeritus, was ordained priest on August 9, 1960, for which special thanks will be offered at the Sung Mass at 12:10 PM on Wednesday, August 17, 2017 . . . Friday, August 4 & 11, 6:30 PM, Centering Prayer Group, Atrium, Parish Hall, Second Floor. Please enter at 145 West Forty-sixth Street, just west of the main doors to the church, and press buzzer 1 in the vestibule. Then climb up one flight of stairs, make a U-turn, and climb up another small flight of stairs. The Atrium will be on your left . . . Sunday, August 6, The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Mass 9:00 AM and 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Bill Wood, father of the Reverend David Wood, died last week in Melbourne, Australia, at the age of ninety-one. Please keep Bill, Father Wood, their family and friends and all who mourn in your prayers . . . Parishioner Dick Leitsch is now at Amsterdam House doing physical therapy after a recent fall. He expects to have eye surgery toward the end of August . . . Mother Mitties DeChamplain is at Mary Manning Walsh Home. Her condition has improved markedly in the past month. She hopes to be able to go home before too long . . . Parishioner Brian Foster is ill and is now resting comfortably at home. If you would like to send him a card, please speak to Father Smith . . . Parishioner Gloria Fitzgerald had surgery this past week and is now at home. Please keep Dick, Brian, Gloria, Mother Mitties, and all who care for them, in your prayers . . . Sister Monica Clare will be away from the parish from Saturday, July 29, until Sunday, August 13. She returns to the office on Monday, August 14 . . . Office Manager Chris Howatt will be out of the office and on vacation on Monday, August 7 . . . Attendance last Sunday: 160.
ADULT EDUCATION . . . Inquirers' Class: Deacon Matthew Jacobson will be teaching a series of classes this fall for those preparing for Baptism, Confirmation or Reception and for all those who are interested in learning, or reviewing, some of the basics of the Christian faith and the history, theology, and spirituality of the Episcopal Church. All are welcome. If you are interested, please contact Father Jay Smith.
ABOUT THE MUSIC . . . The cantor on Sunday morning is baritone Clarke Baxtresser, who has frequently sung in the choir at Saint Mary's. During the ministration of Communion he will sing Ave Maria in the setting by Charles Gounod after J. S. Bach (1685-1750). The French composer Charles-François Gounod (1818-1893) composed two symphonies, twelve operas, and numerous other works of varying magnitude. Of his most memorable compositions is his Missa Solennelle, first performed in its entirety at Saint Eustache, Paris, on the feast of Saint Cecilia in 1855. His 1872 Funeral March of a Marionette was imprinted on the ears of millions of 1950s television viewers as the theme music of the famous Alfred Hitchcock Presents series. However, without doubt, the most often performed work by Gounod, for which he is best remembered, is his 1859 arrangement in which he superimposed an original melody upon J. S. Bach's Prelude, BWV 846, from the Well-Tempered Clavier,Book I. Gounod's version only slightly alters Bach but does include a measure inserted allegedly by Christian Schwencke (1767-1822) in order to "correct" what was believed to be Bach's faulty harmonic progression. Gounod's Ave Maria might well have been arranged as an homage to J. S. Bach, or an homage to his teacher Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-1847)-sister of Felix Mendelssohn-who had cultivated in Gounod the love of Bach. -David Hurd
HOMELESS MINISTRY . . . The next Homeless Ministry Drop-in Day will take place on Friday, August 18. For more information, or if you would like to volunteer, please contact Father Jay Smith. We are looking for donations of basic lightly used or new clothing items of all sizes for both men and women-packs of new underwear and socks; T-shirts and blouses; jeans, chinos, and khakis; washcloths; toothbrushes; and individually packaged hand wipes or towelettes. Donations can be left in the parish kitchen (if you are able, tell Father Smith, Sister Monica Clare, or Clint Best that you have left items there for the Clothes Closet. We are grateful to all those who continue to support this ministry.
DONATIONS FOR ALTAR FLOWERS. . . We are very thankful that flowers have been given for all of the Sundays in July and August. Thank you to those who are able to support this ministry! They are seen by hundreds of people every week. Donations for flowers are needed for all of 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.
LESSER FEASTS AND FASTS . . . During the week of August 6, we commemorate a number of holy men and women, including Saint Dominic, Saint Laurence, and Saint Clare. As we begin the week, we remember John Mason Neale (1818-1866), a priest of the Church of England, a supporter of the Oxford Movement, and the founder of the Sisterhood of Saint Margaret. Neale, who died relatively young at the age of forty-eight, is remembered today primarily as an extraordinarily fine poet and hymnodist. Turn to the index on page 939 of The Hymnal 1982, take a look at Neale's listing, and begin to explore. You will get a sense of his legacy to the Church. On Saturday, we will remember Florence Nightingale (1820-1910). On that day, we invite you to say a prayer for Father Jim Pace and for all who work and serve as nurses.
LOOKING AHEAD . . . Tuesday, August 15, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Morning Prayer 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM, Reception 7:30 PM . . . Monday, September 4, Labor Day, Federal Holiday Schedule . . . Friday, September 8, The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mass 12:10 PM and Sung Mass 6:00 PM.