On Saturday, September 20, John Beddingfield is to be ordained priest at the Cathedral. I met John shortly after I arrived in New York. He invited me to dinner on Sunday night, February 28, 1999. He told me something about himself, he spoke of his hope that he might be called to priesthood in this Church, and he asked me if I thought he might be a postulant for Holy Orders from Saint Mary’s.
Frankly, what I remember most about the dinner is that I made the mistake, and it was a mistake he has never let me forget, of presuming that we were the same age. John is actually 10 years younger than I am. There are many things this episode reveals besides the fact that I’m not especially good at guessing someone else’s age.
John brings great experience and character to the priesthood of the Church. In 1999, John was the pastor of a Presbyterian Church. A graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Princeton Theological Seminary, he had served congregations in New York, Maryland and New Jersey. He spoke maturely as a colleague in ministry about ministry. He was just about to finish a master’s degree at the General Theological Seminary. He was a fellow “minister of the Gospel” – the phrase the United States Internal Revenue Service uses to describe our profession. I have always felt free to consult John as a colleague. I never imagined in 1999 that I would have the privilege of serving with him in the same parish community.
Just the other day I had a conversation with an aspirant for Holy Orders in another diocese about ordination. She had recently come across the language of the priest as representing Jesus Christ and she wanted to know about it. The idea that the priest stands in the place of Christ to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice is just not our Anglican view of the priesthood. All of the baptized are members of Christ’s Body, the Church. The assembly of the baptized is the Body of Christ. A presbyter is a member of the Church set aside by prayer and the laying on of hands for a particular ministry, a ministry described as “pastor, priest and teacher.” John has been all three as a member of the clergy of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. On Saturday he will take this role in a new way as a member of the clergy of the Episcopal Church.
On Sunday, September 21, at 11:00 AM, John will preside and preach at the Solemn Mass of the day as a presbyter in this Church. The parish choir will sing the Mass ordinary. There will be a special reception afterwards. The ordination and Mass will represent the culmination of a journey of faith upon which John started many, many years ago. He will stand at the altar and in this pulpit because he is one of our pastors, yours and mine.
I want to say something else about John before I close, and that is to witness to his love for this particular parish. He will always give more than anyone will ever know. It’s the kind of love one can only give a beloved. Almost all people who walk through the doors of this church are in awe of this place. Many are drawn to be here. Some like the location. Some like the style. But Saint Mary’s is about something else, the loving transaction of the life of God where it meets the lives of women and men, the living of eternal life. I believe John’s heart knows this and his life bespeaks what his heart knows, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:17). I can hardly wait for the weekend and feel so blessed when I think about our future as a parish community. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Francis and Hazard who are hospitalized, and for Bernard, Harold, Louise, Gates, Harold, Billie, Susan, Joan, Michael, Virginia, Bart, Brett, Nicole, Jack, Thomas, Annie, Patricia, Paul, Robert, Gloria, Jerri, Margaret, Marion, Rick, and Charles, priest, Gregory, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty; especially Ned, Timothy, Patrick, Kevin, Christopher, Andrew, Joseph, Marc, Timothy, David, John and Colin . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . September 21: 1976 Harold E. Pim; September 23: 1969 Rose Matilda Flemister Erwin.
FROM FATHER SMITH . . . I would like to thank all of you for the many gifts you have given me as I prepared for my last Sunday on the Saint Mary’s staff. So many of you have spoken to me in recent weeks and have shared your thoughts, your laughter, your memories, your promises of prayer, and the gift of your friendship, all of which has helped me enormously as I have prepared to go to New Haven. Thanks to all who showed me such a joyous time at Coffee Hour on Sunday. Thank you so much for everything that all of you have done for me during the past two years. It has been a great blessing to be at Saint Mary’s during such a difficult time in the life of our city and our nation. It was good to have such a home, to be living and working in a Christian community such as Saint Mary’s, during this time. I owe a special debt of gratitude to Father Gerth, who has been a wonderful colleague these past two years, and who has most generously extended an invitation to me and José to treat Saint Mary’s as our parish home during the next few months. I am very grateful for that invitation and so I trust that I will see you all soon. You remain in my prayers. Jay Smith
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Wisdom 1:16—2:1(6-11) 12-22, Psalm 54, James 3:16—4:6, Mark 9:30-37 . . . No Confessions will be heard on Saturday, September 20, Confessions will be heard on Saturday, September 27, by Father Beddingfield.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Saraband (In modo elegiaco) by Herbert Howells (1892-1983), and the postlude is Alleluyas by Simon Preston (b. 1938) which is based upon biblical images of the seraphim and cherubim as found in the Orthodox Liturgy of Saint James. The setting of the Mass ordinary, sung by the full choir, is Missa brevis by Jackson Hill (b. 1941). The motet at Communion is O sacrum convivium by Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992). This music is chosen by Father Beddingfield in honor of his first Mass. He has a particular love of 20th century music, and these pieces are among his favorites.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . The parish office computer network was shutdown by a virus from Wednesday morning, September 17, through Thursday evening, September 18. We believe the system is now running correctly again . . . The fall parish retreat will be held at Mount Saviour Monastery, near Elmira, New York, www.msaviour.org, Saturday, November 8, through Tuesday, November 11, Veteran's Day. The retreat topic is “Sheep May Safely Graze.” The maximum number of participants is fifteen. E-mail reservations or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org . . . One may wonder why there are course catalogues in the back of the church for the Center for Christian Studies. The reason is on page 20: Father Beddingfield will be teaching a course and Saint Mary’s will be hosting that course in Saint Joseph’s Hall in March 2004. Find more information at www.christianstudies.org . . . Altar flowers are needed for October 12, 19 and the 26th. Attendance last Sunday 219, September 11 363.
BISHOP GREIN’S CLASS CONTINUES . . . Bishop Richard F. Grein’s class, “The Gospel According to Mark,” continues this Wednesday evening, October 1, at 7:00 PM. The class meets in Saint Benedict’s Study. You are welcome to join us for the class and, if your schedule permits, the regular evening services beforehand.
NEW GREEN VESTMENTS . . . Our new green vestments will be used for the first time on Sunday, September 21, at the Solemn Mass. So far, the set consists of three chasubles, one dalmatic, four stoles, a tabernacle veil, a burse and a chalice veil. Also needed are three copes, a second dalmatic and another stole. The Rector has decided not to have an altar frontal made especially for this set. Gifts of money are still needed for the additional vestments.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Monday Saint Matthew
Thursday Sergius, abbot
Friday Lancelot Andrewes, bishop Abstinence
Saturday Vincent de Paul, priest
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend John Beddingfield, curate, The Reverend James Ross Smith, assistant,
The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priest, The Reverend John Kilgore, assisting deacon,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.