Our Parish Vocation
As far as I know, no biography of our founder, the Reverend Thomas McKee Brown, has ever been written. Considering the greatness of his vision for Christian life and mission, it is interesting that no one has ever studied his work. I suspect that by now his papers have long disappeared. We do have a record of his funeral and tributes that were written at the time by those who knew him well.
As a young man he caught the vision of sacramental renewal that was sweeping the Anglican Communion. At the same time a great renewal of university life and scholarship was beginning to have its effects on almost every area of human life and thought. Of the tributes paid to him after his death, none seems more significant to me than the recognition by his contemporaries of how progressive he really was. Father Brown did not grow more conservative as he aged but was always willing to do something new, especially in worship. This is borne out by the records we have of church services.
For all but a few decades of this parish’s history, this parish’s common life has never been static. The exceptional decades were the rectorates of the Reverend Granville Mercer Williams, SSJE, (1930-1939) and the Reverend Grieg Taber (1939-1964). Father Williams was a monk of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, the first religious community of men established in the Anglican Communion since the Reformation. Among its vocations has been a nurturing of the liturgical life of the Church. What this meant in the 1930s for Saint Mary’s was to freeze the worship life of the parish along the lines laid down by the then current edition of Ritual Notes, a guide to the celebration of Anglican worship according to the formularies of the Roman Church. This continued under Father Taber, when the internal energies of the parish began to be devoted to survival in a changing neighborhood.
I think it is correct to say that the first rectors of Saint Mary’s felt free to follow Roman practice where it made sense – why choose a different color scheme for vestments, for example, when most Christians used a certain sequence. But it didn’t make sense to do the Easter Vigil on Saturday morning at 10:00 AM. So when the Vigil was instituted at Saint Mary’s in 1918, it was celebrated on Easter Eve at night. Father Williams moved it to Saturday morning. Even when the Roman Church under Pius XII moved it to Saturday night, Saint Mary’s continued to sing, “This is the night” at 10:00 AM on Holy Saturday. Crazy.
Famously, the Reverend Donald Garfield, seventh rector of Saint Mary’s, told the Trustees that if they called him as rector he would begin distributing Holy Communion to the congregation at Solemn Mass. This will shock many. Until 1964, only the celebrant sang the Lord’s Prayer and received Holy Communion at 11:00 AM on Sunday mornings at Saint Mary’s. Early Masses were for Communion; the 11:00 AM was for “worship.”
I believe Saint Mary’s vocation is to reflect the very best thinking about Christian mission, life and worship. I believe this was the organizing principle of her common life. Saint Mary’s didn’t choose to be liturgical because it was one possible way to be, but the best way to be. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the support of people from near and far, and with a generous heart I believe this parish can continue to do the Lord’s work in this place.
People who are uncomfortable with change have never really been happy at Saint Mary’s for very long because this has never been a parish about the past. We have used and continue to use the confessionals here to leave the past behind and to live in Christ today. Saint Mary’s is about how the Spirit is leading us today to serve the one died and rose. The parish is not here primarily for those of us who have already died and risen in Christ, but for those whom Christ is calling to faith. It is the faith of those being called to faith (those who will come after us) that sustains the life of the faithful every bit as much as the faith of those who have gone before.
I dream about a parish life for us where the richness of our prayer is fed by tradition and by the witness of adults coming to faith in Christ Jesus today. I want us to be a parish worthy of the Lord’s sending the unbaptized to us. I want us to be a parish that knows how to help the unbaptized seek the Lord in this place. I think Father Brown will be very happy when this happens here in a new way. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Thomas, George, Sarah, Julia, Grover, Annie, Paul, Robert, Eileen, Gloria, Jerri, Myra, Margaret, Marion, Olga, Rick and Charles, priest. Pray for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Patrick, Edward, Keith, Christopher, Andrew, Robert, Joseph, Mark, Ned, David and John . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . November 19: 1990 Beryl Ermine Whittle; November 20: 1986 Richard Johnson; November 23: 1976 Calvin R. Gray; 1985: Gary R. Grubb.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18, Psalm 90:1-8, 12, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10, Matthew 25:14-5, 19-29 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, November 16, and on Saturday, November 23 by Father Gerth.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This week at the Sung Mass, played by assistant organist Robert McDermitt, the prelude will be Andante in A Major by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) and the postlude will be Trumpet Voluntary by John Stanley (1712-1786). At the Solemn Mass, the prelude will be Passacaglia in d-moll, BuxWV 161 by Dietrich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707) and the postlude will be Präludium und Fuge in A-dur, BWV 536 by J. S. Bach (1685-1750). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Communion Service in G by Francis Jackson (b. 1917). Jackson was Master of the Music at York Minster Cathedral for many years, and has made several notable contributions to church music. The anthem at Communion is Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life, a setting by Richard DeLong (1951-1997) of the well-known George Herbert text. We continue our organ recital series before Solemn Evensong & Benediction. This week, we welcome Mr. David Enlow, organist of the Church of the Resurrection, who will play works of César Franck.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Reservations for the 20s & 30s Group’s Brunch and Tour on Saturday, November 16 should be made with Father Weiler: firstname.lastname@example.org . . . Reminder: Our principal Thanksgiving service is Wednesday evening, November 27, at 6:00 PM (because of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – which closes Broadway) . . . The Board of Trustees meets on Monday, November 18, at 7:00 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study . . . Attendance last Sunday 276.
2003 ORDO CALENDARS . . . We have received the Saint Mary’s 2003 Ordo Calendar, complete with a small photograph of the 2002 Corpus Christi Procession through Times Square. The cost is $5.00 from the Saint Mary’s Bookstore. Friends living outside New York City may order an Ordo for the cost of $6.00, and it will be mailed.
LOOKING AHEAD . . . The parish’s patronal feast is December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This year, because this date falls on a Sunday, the feast is transferred to Monday, December 9. There will be a Sung Mass at Noon (like our 10:00 AM Mass on Sunday mornings). The principal celebration will be Monday night at 6:00 PM, Procession & Solemn Pontifical Mass. The celebrant will be the Right Reverend James W. Montgomery, IX Bishop of Chicago. The preacher will be the Reverend Larry P. Smith, rector of the Church of the Incarnation, Dallas, Texas. Those new to Saint Mary’s especially will want to be here. (It is a big night for our parish community!) . . . On Christmas Eve, Tuesday, December 24, Christmas Music & Carols is offered at 10:30 PM. Procession & Solemn Mass of the Nativity at 11:00 PM. The Right Reverend Richard F. Grein, XIV Bishop of New York, will preside and preach. The Rector will be celebrant. On Christmas Day, Solemn Mass & Procession to the Crèche is at 11:00 AM.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Monday Hilda, abbess
Tuesday Elizabeth, princess
Wednesday Edmund, king & martyr
Friday Cecilia, martyr Abstinence
Saturday Clement, bishop & martyr
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend Matthew Weiler, curate, The Reverend James Ross Smith, assistant,
The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priest, The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.