Saint Mary’s Matters
When I think about the future of our parish and its mission I cannot help but be aware of what a unique place of worship Saint Mary’s is. I am aware, and many who read this newsletter may not be aware, that liturgical formation has virtually disappeared from the seminaries of the Episcopal Church. I don’t expect this to change anytime soon.
I was moved to tears at many points during the Easter Triduum this past spring. One source was my awareness that I’m sure there will not be another presiding bishop of this Church in my lifetime who has the formation, commitment and liturgical competence that our present primate does. There are many more reasons, of course, to be thankful for the grace-filled and gentle leadership of the Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold.
I think good worship matters – and you would be very wrong to think my view of good worship is only the pattern we know at Saint Mary’s. I appreciate that no parish community really is or can be ideal. We’re not in heaven. We are very human. But the general level of liturgical formation of the clergy is far from what it should be.
I think most members of the Church would be shocked to know that faculty and students in seminary generally are not in their seminary chapels at least twice a day, for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. Holy Communion is optional in far too many places, in my opinion. Too many seminaries do not even have a member of the faculty with a doctorate in liturgics. Worship in more than one seminary is organized by student “worship committees.” I doubt there is a seminary that would even claim its worship life represented one expression of some of the best thinking about Christian worship. It is entirely possible to be ordained and not know how to serve as an acolyte at a weekday celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Frankly, I fear this is close to the norm.
Yet, it is also true that since I’ve been at Saint Mary’s I rarely meet seminary students who aren’t hungry for liturgical formation. If seminary deans don’t go to chapel, seminary faculty don’t go. If seminary faculty members don’t go, students don’t go. If seminaries don’t have knowledgeable liturgical leadership, students can’t be formed. Worship becomes eclectic, unreflective, silly.
What is the Church missing? Well, for one thing, it’s missing leadership that prays the Bible, and in particular, a clergy whose lives are shaped daily by the reading and praying of Scripture. (Reading the Bible is, not surprisingly, a real safeguard against so-called biblical fundamentalists.) If the clergy aren’t doing it, then the chances are the doors of our churches are closed and almost no one is doing it.
In our tradition, the Daily Office was not designed normatively to be read privately by a priest while sipping morning coffee or preparing for bed. It’s for Christian communities to pray together in churches with the doors open.
Liturgical Christianity just isn’t lived widely at the present time. Its vocabulary is not just the text of a Prayer Book; it’s a grammar of inward and spiritual realities. It’s bread that’s Bread. It’s wine that’s Wine. It’s death that’s Life.
I think Saint Mary’s is going to matter to others in new ways in the coming decade. I invite you to reflect with me on how our Christian commitment and the heritage of our tradition can be useful for the mission of the Gospel. I think it matters immensely that we are a place where it is easy to be in the presence of the living God. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Bernard, Francis, Hazard, Edward, Jason, Harold, Louise, Gates, Harold, Billie, Susan, John, Michael, Virginia, Bart, Brett, Nicole, Jack, Thomas, Annie, Patricia, Paul, Robert, Gloria, Jerri, Margaret, Marion, Hugh, 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; and for the repose of the soul of Steven . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . October 19: 1993 Jerome Branch Terrell; October 21: 1988 Philip W. Callanan; October 23: 1987 Adolphe Barreaux.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Isaiah: 53:4-12, Psalm 91:9-16, Hebrews: 4:12-16, Mark 10:35-45 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, October 18 by Father Beddingfield and on Saturday, October 25 by Father Gerth.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This week at the Sung Mass, played by assistant organist Robert McDermitt, the prelude is Passacaglia d-moll, BuxWV 161 by Dietrich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707) and the postlude is Fugue in C Major from Sonata No. 2, Op. 65 . . . At the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Adagio from Symphonie I, Op. 13, No. 1 by Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) and the postlude is Pièce pour grand orgue, W. 28 by Joseph Jongen (1873-1953). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa ‘Il me suffit’ by Orlande de Lassus (1532-1594). We are not able to sing the previously published Mass setting for Sunday, Missa ‘Le bien que j’ai’ by Claude Goudimel (c. 1514-1572), because of a delay in obtaining the scores. We promise to sing it at some point in the future! The motet at Communion is Pater noster by Jacob Handl (1550-1591). This piece for 8-voice choir is based upon the plainsong Our Father which we sing at every Solemn Mass (though the melody may be hard to detect amid Handl’s use of polyphony) . . . We continue our weekly series of organ recitals at 4:40 PM. This week, Mr. Anthony Pinel will play works of Vierne, Duruflé and Cochereau. Mr. Pinel is the organist and choirmaster at Saint Peter’s Church in Morristown, New Jersey, and his choir of men and women will sing at Solemn Evensong and Benediction. The music includes Evening Service in E by Herbert Murrill (1883-1964), Strengthen ye the weak hands by William Harris (1883-1973) and O salutaris Hostia by Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868). Plan to come hear this excellent visiting choir!
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Saint Mary’s welcomes Adrian Xavier Rochester to the world. Adrian was born October 4, 2003, at 6:17 PM and weighed in at 6 lbs and is 19 ½ inches long. Congratulations to his mother Stephanie and to the entire Nagy-Rochester family . . . The Women and Spirituality group next meet on Tuesday, November 11, from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study. This group for women studies the upcoming lectionary passages through lectio divina and meets the second Tuesday of each month . . . We are delighted to learn that the Bishop of New York will make his Episcopal Visitation of the parish in 2004 on December 8, the parish’s patronal feast . . . The Rector will be away form Saturday, October 18, through Wednesday, October 22 . . . Altar flowers are needed for October 26 . . . Attendance last Sunday 255.
NEW TO SAINT MARY’S? . . . Beginning with dinner in the rectory on October 28, we will offer a special series for those wanting to learn more about Saint Mary’s and the Christian faith. This class will also meet on November 4 and on November 11, and will be particularly helpful for those wishing to be baptized or confirmed, as well as others who desire to join the parish. Curious about Saint Mary’s? Please consider coming to one or all of these evenings. Dinner is at 7:00 PM and the discussion, led by Father Gerth and Father Beddingfield, will go from 7:30 PM to 8:30 PM. RSVP for dinner at 212-869-5830 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
TERESA OF AVILA: WEDNESDAY EVENINGS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . On October 22 the Christian Formation series continues its discussion on the life and writings of Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582). Come and learn about this amazing woman’s life and explore some of what she taught concerning the life of prayer. The class meets after Mass from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study . . . October 29 begins our journey through the Wisdom Literature, led by Joseph Pearson, a parishioner and professor of medieval theology at Fordham University.
HELP IS NEEDED AT THANKSGIVING . . . Common Ground Community is an organization that seeks to help the homeless. On December 1, Saint Mary’s will host a benefit concert for Common Ground. Before then, volunteers are needed to help with two Thanksgiving dinners at The Prince George, located at 14 East 28th Street, between 5th and Madison Avenues. The Prince George contains 416 permanent apartments, 50% of which are for low-income working people and 50% of which are for the formerly homeless with special needs such as mental illness, HIV/AIDS and substance abuse issues. The two dinners will be held on Monday, November 24 and Tuesday, November 25. There are two volunteer shifts for each dinner: shift one, 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM and shift two, 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM. Fifteen volunteers are needed for each shift, on each day. If you are interested in helping, please call Father Beddingfield at 212-869-5830, extension 17 or email: email@example.com.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Eve of Saint James’ Day 6:00 PM
Thursday Saint James of Jerusalem
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend John Beddingfield, curate,
The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priest, The Reverend John Kilgore, assisting deacon,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.