Saint Mary's is different from many, many Christian communities. Some might identify what is unique about our community with our physical space; others might remark on the emphasis we give to the place of worship in our common life. What seems most important to me about Saint Mary's are not the particulars of our physical space or of our worship but our desire for the liturgical act, that is, the desire for there to be an epiphany of the Body of Christ when we gather.
There are many wonderful things about the work you have called me to do here. Among the things I enjoy most is the opportunity to talk with our seminarian. In my work with him I want us not only to help him learn the craft of ordained ministry, as it were, but why it matters and for him to feel it in his gut.
There are any number of manuals that give ceremonial directions. Nothing is official. In the Episcopal Church most members of the clergy pick and choose what they like or don't like, what seems comfortable or not. Why a gesture is made or not made just doesn't matter to the vast majority in our Church or, frankly, any other part of the wider Christian community. But it does seem to matter here because of our desire for the liturgy to be an epiphany of the Body of Christ.
This is not to say that there isn't a whole range of gesture and ceremonial in Christian tradition that is perfectly appropriate and makes sense. I do find that my patience is declining for the liturgically clueless, for people who do not care or who do not think that it matters. It's not just about how one holds one's hands; it's about an epiphany of the Body of Christ.
What would it be like if at Sunday Masses we experienced in the proclamation of the gospel Jesus the Word? If the words, "Glory to you, Lord Christ" were experienced as an acclamation of Jesus' presence in the words of the gospel, the Word made flesh? If the proclamation of the gospel was for us an epiphany of the Body of Christ?
Some of you may recall all of the confusion over the recovery of the exchange of peace during the Mass that was experienced by so many Christian communities. It is one of the few liturgical acts mentioned in the New Testament (and mentioned thirteen times, if I recall correctly). I don't know whether the story is true but it was widely told in Chicago, the diocese from which I went to seminary, that a woman in a tony north shore parish once told Bishop Montgomery, "I didn't become an Episcopalian to shake hands with just anybody." Some people did refuse to touch Jesus when he walked on this earth. Some people turned their backs on him and walked away from him even when the gospel writers remarked on Jesus' love and compassion for them. I wonder if the recovery of this gesture in the wider church would have been different if people had a deep sense that our worship wasn't a series of words to be read and things to be done but an epiphany of the Body of Christ.
Saint Mary's is different and will continue to be different in this world and in our Church. I suspect I speak for many when I say that the reason we worship with care, with reverence and with our best understanding is that we are drawn through worship into a living relationship with Jesus Christ. As the community of Christ's Body we are invited to experience the forgiveness of our sins and to be reborn to eternal life. The mystery of our own humanity and the mystery of God's divinity meet in the Body of Christ. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for William who is hospitalized and for Hilda, Elwyn, Shirlah, Margaret, Shirley, Mark, Dorothy, Warren, Karen, Victoria, Florinda, Myrian, Christopher, Helen, Thomas, Katherine Rose, Margo and Rodney, priest.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Ecclesiasticus 27:30-28:7, Psalm 103:8-13, Romans 14:5-12, Matthew 18:21-35 . . . 9:00 AM Celebrant and Preacher: The Rector, 10:00 AM Celebrant and Preacher: Father Breidenthal, 11:00 AM Celebrant and Preacher: The Rector, 5:00 PM Celebrant and Preacher: Father Shin . . . On Saturday, September 11, Canon Garrison will hear confessions . . . On Saturday, September 18, Father Gerth will hear confessions.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . As we go to press, William Poston is still at Beth Israel Medical Center. We hope he will be able to go home very soon! Please continue to keep Bill in your prayers . . . There are no ordinary weekdays this week. Every day there is a commemoration of one kind or another! . . . Father Figueroa is back! We missed you, Father, and we are glad you will be helping us again . . . Another lay reader is still needed for Monday nights. If you are interested please speak with the Rector . . . Father Horace Choate, our recent deacon and assisting priest is being instituted as vicar of Saint Mary's Church, Lexington, Mississippi, and of Saint Matthew's Church, Kosciusko, Mississippi, on Sunday, September 12. Please remember him, his new ministries and his family in your prayers . . . Christopher Babcock is back this Sunday! . . . The full choir will be singing for Holy Cross Day and there will be a special reception after the Mass to welcome formally Father Shin and Clara Mun for Father's new ministry among us. Since it's been some years since there has been a solemn Mass on Holy Cross Day we had to do some thinking about the liturgy. There will be a procession that will include stations at the shrine of the Sacred Heart and at the Rood. And, yes, we are delighted that Ken Cowan can play a recital before Mass . . . Many thanks to Father Shin for coordinating the 20 Something Party on September 8. There were twenty-eight people in attendance and we were delighted that people felt free to bring their friends . . . Attendance last Sunday: 171.
ON A TOUR . . . Saint Mary's is part of "A Walking tour of Distinguished Midtown Churches" that will be led by architectural historian Andrew Dolkart of the Columbia University School of Architecture on Saturday, September 25. The day begins at 9:30 AM at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church and concludes at Saint Luke Lutheran Church with tea at 4:30 PM. Saint Mary's will be part of the tour from 3:00 PM to 3:30 PM. Chris Babcock will play a short piece to demonstrate the organ. The walking tour is being sponsored by the New York City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. The cost of the entire day is $20.00. Please contact Marianne Decker at 718-852-3657.
CHRISTIAN FORMATION . . . Father Shin and a number of members of the parish have been working very hard to put together a rich program for the fall. A brochure describing the program is included in this issue of our weekly newsletter. My own offering this fall will be a "Rector's Forum." Father Shin or Father Breidenthal will be taking the 10:00 AM Mass so that I can teach in Saint Benedict's. I'm going to begin talking about the liturgy of the Eucharist. If you want to ask me about liturgy or anything else, this is an opportunity to do so. S.G.
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 Sixteenth Week after Pentecost
Monday Saint Cyprian's Day & Eve of Holy Cross
Tuesday Holy Cross Day
Wednesday Ember Day
Thursday Saint Ninian's Day
Friday Ember Day
Saturday Ember Day
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend Allen Shin, curate, The Reverend Thomas Breidenthal, assistant,
The Reverend Arthur Wolsoncroft, The Reverend Canon Maurice Garrison,
The Reverend Amilcar Figueroa assisting priests,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.