There’s a lot of research out about church life. It is an industry. Congregations have ‘life cycles.’ There are congregations who are organized to survive, to grow and, yes, even, to die. Saint Mary’s was organized to be a place of liturgical worship. It was organized as part of a movement that was sweeping through Christian communities in the nineteenth century. In the wake of the academic and artist revolutions of the time, the Church was rediscovering liturgy and itself.
Some Christian communities embraced the new learning quickly. Some did not. Saint Mary’s certainly did so at its inception. Then something changed.
Almost overnight the parish became a place where things didn’t change, something that had not been true in the first sixty years of its history. Its common life basically froze and in many ways retreated during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. It would be under Father Donald Garfield, rector from 1964 through 1978, that Saint Mary’s would begin to go back to its visionary beginnings. In the spring of 1967 Holy Communion would be offered to the congregation at High Mass on Sundays for the first time in the history of the parish. Saint Mary’s has been changing ever since.
Very soon after coming to Saint Mary’s I realized that there were people here every Sunday who were looking for a church home. This surely was true before I arrived. I know this continues to be true. And I suspect it is true at almost every church in Manhattan. There are lots of people in our city. Despite the decline in church attendance in the northern part of our country generally, it remains the case that people come to us all of the time.
The clergy work hard to welcome newcomers and to help them become members of the parish. We design our Sunday bulletins with them in mind. But it’s just as important for lay people of the congregation to speak to newcomers and to make them feel welcome. Look around and you can see many lay persons embracing this ministry. More than anything else I take this as a sign that this congregation is ready to continue to grow.
We also need to work to make sure newcomers become part of the ministries of welcome, hospitality and service. An important measure of how well older members do their jobs is how many new members are helping them. Each member is a valued and essential part of the community.
When a marriage is celebrated a healthy family changes. When a child is born a healthy family changes. New members are changing Saint Mary’s. The family isn’t getting weaker; it’s getting stronger and richer in the ways that matter most. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Sean, Jean, Lynn, Nancy, Margaret, Mabel, Robert, Gloria, Jason, Harold, Billie, Matthew, Virginia, Bart, Margaret, Marion, Hugh, Rick, Mary Angela, religious, and Charles, priest, and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Jeffrey, Ned, Timothy, Patrick, Kevin, Christopher, Andrew, Joseph, Marc, Timothy, David, and Colin and for the repose of the souls of Jay, Alfred and Lloyd.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . We have received word that Alfred, nephew of George Handy, has died. Please pray for him and for all who mourn . . . Kenneth Isler’s father, Lloyd Isler, died on January 29, 2004. Please pray for him and for all mourn.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Judges 6:11-24, Psalm 85:7-13, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11 . . .Confessions will be heard on Saturday, February 7, and on Saturday, February 14, by Father Gerth.
AROUND THE PARISH . . .Many thanks to all who made the Candlemas celebrations so wonderful, including Sean Cassidy who was the inspiration for us getting both sets of “burning bushes” ready for use. The flowers, the reception, the music and the evening itself were very special . . .Speaking of Sean Cassidy, he went home on Thursday, February 5, from Morristown Memorial Hospital. We hope to see him back at church very soon . . . It’s great to have both of our seminarians, John Hamilton and Clare Nesmith, back after their winter break! . . . Altar flowers are needed for February 15 and February 22 . . . Attendance Candlemas 194. . . Attendance last Sunday 244.
CONSIDER A MISSION TRIP TO HONDURAS . . . Canon Sylvia Vasquez will be with us on Tuesday, March 2 at 7:00 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study to share a presentation and talk about her seven-year relationship with Villanueva, a village located just outside Tegucigalpa. Canon Vasquez, Father Beddingfield, [and maybe YOU?] will be teaming up with Trinity Church, Wilmington, Delaware for a mission trip to Honduras November 11 – 18, 2004. Whatever your interest, please join us on March 2 to welcome Canon Vasquez to Saint Mary’s.
CHRISTIAN FORMATION ON WEDNESDAY EVENINGS . . . Theology and Mystery: Life in the Presence of God will be a two part class taught by our senior seminarian, Mr. John Hamilton. Meeting on February 11 and February 18, the class will interact with Mysteries of Faith by Mark McIntosh, which is book eight in the New Church’s Teaching Series. (Several copies of the book will be on sale in the Saint Mary’s Bookstore.) These discussions will be great fun as we explore our own beliefs about God and how they find expression in the liturgy of the church and in our lives. The class meets after the 6:20 PM Mass in Saint Benedict’s Study. Latecomers should use the doorbell located in the 46th Street entrance of the Parish House.
MEMBERSHIP NOTES . . . Welcome our newest church members, Mr. Dorian Miceli, Dr. Andrew Smith, and Mr. John Fry. Over the past few weeks the parish office has received letters of transfer or baptismal certificates for each of them. Dorian has been serving at the altar for some time on Sundays and his schedule as a nurse at Saint Vincent’s Hospital, Midtown, allows him to serve at the midday Mass very often, as well . . . Mr. John Fry was raised in the Anglican Church in Quebec and after years in a very busy career, has “retired” to be president of the National Skiing History Association. John and his wife live in Katonah, New York and come to Saint Mary’s most Sundays . . . Dr. Andrew Smith is also a Canadian by birth, but from Montreal. Before moving to the east coast Andrew directed a genetic research project based in Los Angeles. Now he is based at Saint Peter’s Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey, but is in the city much of time . . . Look for these new Saint Marians at coffee hour to say hello and pray for them as they make this new step in their spiritual journeys.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This week at the Sung Mass, played by associate organist Robert McDermitt, the prelude is Prelude in G by William H. Harris (1883-1973) and the postlude is Prelude on ‘Hyfrydol’ by Healey Willan (1880-1968) . . . This week at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele, Op. 122, No. 5 by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), and the postlude is Finale from Sonate Nr. 1, Op. 27 by Josef Gabriel Rheinberger (1839-1901). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa brevis in F, Op. 117 by Rheinberger. A composer in the early Romantic style (his works have a considerable connection to classical tradition and often are polyphonic in conception), Rheinberger also was important as a teacher. Only his organ and choral works are commonly performed today. The motet at Communion is Verleih uns Frieden by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) . . . We continue our series of organ recitals at 4:40. This week Mr. Brian Harlow, assistant organist of Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, plays works of Messiaen and Sowerby.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
Tuesday Scholastica, religious
Friday Absalom Jones, priest Abstinence
Saturday Cyril, monk, and Methodius, bishop, missionaries
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend John Beddingfield, curate, The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priest,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.