I don't want to beat a dead horse, as they say (do I have your attention?), but this Eastertide has seemed to me to be all about identity. It is popping up everywhere: in Frs. Gerth's and Shin's two last Angelus articles, and in my sermon last Sunday. It is a question that is permeating our consciousness on many levels. What, as we celebrate 50 years of a treaty organization now engaged in war, is the identity of NATO? What is the identity we are relaying to our children as we grapple with school violence in the wake of Matthew Shepherd and the slaughter at Littleton? What is our identity as a free economic nation as we see the ripple affects of economic turmoil in Asia? What is our identity as Anglicans in the aftermath of the troubling displays at the Lambeth Conference? It feels as though everything and anything are up for grabs.
This question of identity hits even closer to home here at St. Mary's: What is our identity as a parish with a new rector, witnessing to a new Times Square, as we face a new millennium? How are we as people of faith to move from questions and concerns into the abundant life of hope in Christ, as we are called to do?
These are tough questions, and I have no simple solutions. But it seems that we need to get back to basics, as it were. I am not talking about the moral codes of Leviticus, as some of our evangelical brothers and sisters would insist. Theirs is a static approach; and Puritanism, I still believe, is not the Anglican way. Yet there is some truth in the idea of returning to our foundations, be they scripture, tradition, or history. After all, we are a branch of reformed catholicism, birthed by leaders who turned to the basics of scripture and the patristic period of the Church to redirect our focus on what God's continued revelation is toward creation.
What does it mean to be Christian in our current cultural and world environments? Some would suggest we be reactionary to what is going on, that we entrench ourselves in bunkers of fearfulness and judgement, hoping for God to show "them" that "we" are right. This is a human reaction and quite understandable, but it is not the action of faith. Remember: faith in the original Greek is a verb; it requires action, and it moves, by definition, into the future, into the fullness of God. We simply cannot sit and wait for some miracle to save us, whether it be in Kosovo or at St. Mary's. In reality, the saving has already been accomplished in Christ, we must live into that reality.
Easier said than done, I know. Christians have been struggling with it for two millennia now. It is easy to give up, to lose hope, to lose faith, to not care anymore, just to be plain tired. Easy, yes, but that road, as we have all experienced at sometime in our lives, leads to death. That way is the thinking behind the events leading to Littleton. That way is a denial of our identity: as children of God, as loved by God, as being fully valuable and worthy just as we are because we are. That way is not the way that leads to abundant life. It is not THE Way, which is Christ.
Today is gray and overcast here in New York City. I am still fatigued from Sunday, and maybe my mood is a bit melancholy. But these are all important issues for us to face, especially as the People of God: the new ethnic-race of faith, to paraphrase the author of 1 Peter from last Sunday's Epistle. It is a time for prayer and discernment. We can no longer assume a Christian culture, if we ever really did have one. We cannot assume that people will understand and identify with our faith if we do not understand and identify with it ourselves. Knowing that we are the People of God is one thing; knowing what that means is something else entirely. May God who has called us to this task give us the grace and power to perform it. B. Parker
PARISH PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty in Kosovo and for, Shirley, Mark, Maria, Ellen, Louise, Dorothy, Warren, Thomas, Robin, Shawn, George, Richard, Anthony, Karen, Margaret, Ken, John, Nel, Daisy, Michael, Maxine, Gloria, Nina, Mary Ellen, Walter, Rodney, priest, and Maurice, priest.
GRANT THEM PEACE . . .May 10: 1994 Malcolm Benton Wallace; May 15: 1981 James Thomas Gordon. The altar flowers for May 9 are given to the Glory of God and in loving memory of Malcolm Wallace and Vincent Breen by Carmen Wallace.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Acts 17:22-31, Psalm 148:7-14, 1 Peter 3:8-18, John 15:1-8 . . . 9:00 Celebrant Father Parker, Preacher Mr. Burnette, 10:00 Celebrant & Preacher Father Shin, 11:00 AM Celebrant & Preacher Father Gerth, 5:00 PM Celebrant & Preacher: Father Shin . . . On Saturday, May 8, Father Garrison will hear Confessions. On Saturday, May 15, Father Gerth will hear Confessions . . . The Proper for Ascension Day: Acts 1:1-11, Psalm 47, Ephesians 1:15-23, Luke 24:49-53.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . The Rector will return to the parish office on Saturday, May 8, be here Sunday, May 9, then be away at a conference, returning on Thursday the 13 for the Ascension Mass, . . . The Board of Trustees will meet this Monday, May 10 at 7:00 in St. Benedict's Study . . . Holy Days this week: Thursday, Ascension Day . . . Next Sunday, May 16, Fr. Choate will preside at the 11:00 Solemn Mass, and our seminarian, Marc Burnette will preach. This will be their last Sunday with us, so please try to be here to bid them Godspeed in their future ministries . . . Nursery Donations to date total: $2,203. More is needed. Please make your checks payable to the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin and mark them for the nursery . . . Attendance last Sunday: 234.
THANK YOU to the Men and Boys Choir of Christ Church, Greenwich, for their offerings at last Sunday's Solemn Mass. For those in attendance, it was truly a treat to hear the choir of some 50 men and boys filling this sacred space. And thanks also to Amanda Crommett, who boldly ascended a ladder to place a crown of flowers on the Shrine of Mary during our Marian Procession!
THE PRINCETON SINGERS will perform Sunday, May 9 (Mother’s Day) at 3:00 PM. This group, comprised of volunteer musicians, is nothing short of extraordinary!. A recent review described them as “fresh voiced and convincing.” The American Boy Choir will join them for part of the program. The concert is free and their fine recordings will be available for sale. Next Sunday, May 16th, Chris Babcock will give an organ recital at St. Thomas Church, 5th Avenue, at 5:15 PM.
THE NINTH AVENUE STREET FAIR will be the weekend of May 15th and 16th. St. Mary's will help people a booth for the Episcopal Church, and we need volunteers. Please contact our Inter-Parish Council members, Kathy Chase and Manuel Garza, to help assist with this valuable outreach in our own backyard.
ST MARY'S IN THE PRESS. Check out the latest issue (May 9) of New York magazine! In an article about organs in New York City, St. Mary's is mentioned, and our own Chris Babcock quoted.
WOMEN IN NEED, who once operated out of our Mission House, is making a Mother's Day appeal for their shelters for women and children. Please call 1-800 HELPWIN to make a donation.
Procession and Solemn Mass
Thursday, May 13 at 6:00 PM
Organ Recital at 5:30 PM by Donald Dumler
Missa brevis Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
O Rex gloriae Luca Marenzio
Fr. Gerth, Celebrant and Preacher