Last week I watched a segment on Dateline NBC about scams being run these days in New York City by "psychics." What fascinated me was not the con but how the schemes being run these days are almost identical to ones described by the late Joseph Mitchell that were going on fifty years ago.
Mitchell wrote for The New Yorker for most of his career. One of my favorite books is Mitchell's collection of his work, Up in the Old Hotel and Other Stories. Some of the stories in this book are identified as fiction. The 1955 article called, "The Gypsy Women" is non-fiction. I didn't see every minute of the Dateline NBC segment but it seemed that those involved were unaware of the history of this kind of con, totally unaware.
The scheme involves criminals playing on the fears and anxieties of others. It is hard to believe that any rational person could be talked into parting with thousands of dollars to get rid of a "curse" in their lives, but it happens all the time. Again, what was particularly interesting to me was the presentation that this scheme was a new development, a new con. Very little in the sin department is ever new.
I am not the kind of person who likes to know the end of a movie before I see it. I like good surprises and I appreciate it when surprises come my way. I think it is good to approach life with a sense of being able to appreciate its freshness, but it is also important not to be naïve. There are lots of lessons about life and about sin each of us needs to learn individually. That's just the way we are made. But I think it is important in the back of our minds to be mindful that chances are our lives are not so very new or so very different from others.
Yesterday as I was checking the weekday Mass lectionary, about fifteen minutes before the service, a group of women approached me. They turned out to be from an Episcopal parish in another state. One of them began by asking if I were a member of the altar guild, and then asserted that I must be because I was setting up the book. This was the last day of the great heat wave. I was dressed in Bermuda shorts and a polo shirt (before donning full dress for Mass: cassock, alb, amice, girdle, chasuble and stole, of course!). "Actually, I'm the new rector." She seemed relieved and asked what kind of Episcopal Church this was. Without thinking I said, smiling, "Protestant Episcopal."
Another member of the group asked about the Stations of the Cross. I replied that I preferred them to "stations of dead rectors and wardens" - alluding to the practice of erecting memorial plaques along the walls of parish churches. The tone of the conversation was light. We were all hot. I was trying to suggest to them through humor that there was something here to be enjoyed and appreciated.
I think it is possible for you and me to grow in Christ. Sin will not leave us, but it won't be a particular surprise. And I think as we grow in Christ our reaction to things that are new won't be defensive but interested. I'd like to think our sisters from another Episcopal parish were sufficiently relieved to see yours truly dressed sensibly and joking with them that they were able to enjoy the holiness of this house of worship on its own terms, without having to make judgments about whether it was catholic or protestant or right or wrong.
What makes this possible, again, is Christ, our relationship with him. I think it is correct to say that the organizing principle of the Christian Church is faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the real history that can repeat itself in the lives of those who believe, the history that we should want to be repeated at the altar and, again, in our own lives. Stephen Gerth
PARISH PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty in Kosovo, for Walter and Dennis who are hospitalized and for Eileen, Barbara, Edward, Mary Ann, Margaret, Scot, Shirley, Mark, Dorothy, Warren, Karen, Victoria, Frank, Florinda, Myrian, Charmaine, Rodney, priest, and Simon, priest.
GRANT THEM PEACE . . . July 11: 1981 Pelham St. George Bissell; July 15: 1985 Peter
A.J. McGrane, 1987 Allen C. Satterfield, 1989 Robert Fox Davis.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Isaiah 55:1-5,10-13, Psalm 65:9-14, Romans 8:9-17, Matthew 13:1-9,18-23 . . . 9:00 Celebrant & Preacher Father Shin, 10:00 Celebrant & Preacher The Rector, 11:00 AM Celebrant & Preacher The Rector, 5:00 PM Celebrant & Preacher, Father Shin . . . On Saturday, July 10, Canon Garrison will hear confessions. On Saturday, July 17, the Rector will hear confessions.
FROM THE PARISH REGISTER . . . Richard Miranda and Susan Walmsley were united in Holy Matrimony on Friday, June 25, 1999 . . . Letters of transfer have been sent for Vera Guarino to the Church of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Manhattan, for Joseph Brennan, to the Parish of Trinity Church, Manhattan, and for Gary Gilbert to the Church of the Ascension, Manhattan. A letters of transfer has been received for Robert Eikel from All Saints' Church, San Diego.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Eileen Sorensen is home from the hospital. We are thankful! . . . As we go to press Walter Morton is preparing to leave the Veterans Administration Medical Center after coronary bypass surgery . . . We were sorry to hear that Warren Olson was hospitalized recently. Please keep him in your prayers . . . Many, many thanks to Kevin Farley for helping in the parish office while Eileen is away . . . Yes, Saint Benedict's Study is air-conditioned. There is a window unit, and, we discovered, the room is on the rectory air-conditioning system! . . . Please join Father Shin for Bible Study on Wednesday nights immediately following Evening Prayer. The group meets in Saint Benedict's and is looking at Saint Matthew's Gospel . . . Father Wolsoncroft is not able to do the Thursday evening Mass this month. Canon Garrison has stepped forward to help for which we are most thankful! . . . Andrew Thompson was the new altar server at 11:00 AM last Sunday. Robert Eikel has begun serving the 10:00 AM Sunday Mass. If you would like to serve please speak with Father Shin . . . Speaking of Father Shin, our official welcome for our new assistant will be Holy Cross Day, Tuesday evening, September 14, at 6:00 PM. Father will celebrate and preach the Solemn Mass that evening and there will be a reception to honor him and his wife, Clara Mun, following the service . . . It's always something: There's a leak in the roof of the parish house. The roofers have been contacted . . . The July-August issue of AVE is at the printers as we go to press. We apologize for the delay! . . . The new rector has just learned about the tradition of parish brunches and can hardly wait for the next one which will be on the first Sunday in October . . . The Board of Trustees meet on Monday, July 12, at 7:00 PM in Saint Benedict's Study. Members of the parish are always welcome at the meetings of the board . . . Janet Tidwell recently shared with the new rector some pictures of the statue of Saint Joseph by Kirchmayer which was stolen from Saint Joseph's Chapel during the renovation. It is sad to think we will probably never see it again . . . Sunday School for adults and children is planned to begin on Sunday, September 19 . . . .Attendance last Sunday: 103.
AROUND THE NEIGHBORHOOD . . . The New York Times reported last Sunday that the newest landmark building in the city is the Israel Miller Building at the corner of Forty-sixth Street and Seventh Avenue, on the same block as Saint Mary's. The building was built to be a "luxurious" shoe store. Mr. Miller's business began with making shoes for the theatre trade. Look up and see the four statues on the Forty-sixth Street side of the building. They were commissioned for exterior of this building and were picked by a public competition. They were executed by the father of the great mobile artist Alexander Calder. His name was Alexander Stirling Calder. The statues are of four performing artists:
. . . for opera, Rosa Ponselle in the title role of "Norma"; for the movies, Mary Pickford in the title role of "Little Lord Fauntleroy" (1921); for musical comedy, Marilyn Miller in the title role "sunny" (1925) and for drama, Ethel Barrymore as Ophelia, a non-title role."
The building was constructed in 1929 and is scheduled to become a T.G.I. Friday restaurant in the fall.
Worship at Saint Mary’s
The Holy Eucharist
On Sundays Mass is said at 9:00 AM, 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM. A Solemn Mass is offered at 11:00 AM. Monday through Friday Mass is said at 12:15 PM and 6:15 PM. On Saturdays Mass is said at 12:15 PM.
The Daily Office
On ordinary Sundays Morning Prayer is said at 8:40 AM and Evening Prayer at 4:45 PM. Monday through Friday Morning Prayer is offered at 8:30 AM, the Noonday Office at 12:00 PM and Evening Prayer at 6:00 PM. On Saturdays the Noonday Office is offered at 12:00 PM and Evening Prayer at 5:00 PM.
The Reconciliation of Penitents
Confessions are heard on Saturdays between 11:30 and 12:00 and between 4:00 and 5:00. Appointments can also be made with members of the parish clergy for the Reconciliation of Penitents at other times.
The ordinary Fridays of the year are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
The Calendar of the Eighth Week after Pentecost
Saturday Of Our Lady
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector, The Reverend Allen Shin, curate,
The Reverend Arthur Wolsoncroft, The Reverend Canon Maurice Garrison, assisting priests,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.