From Father Beddingfield: Thinking about Membership
When anyone is newly come ... let him not be granted an easy entrance; but, as the Apostle says, “Test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” If the newcomer, therefore, perseveres in his knocking, and if it is seen after four or five days that he bears patiently the harsh treatment offered him and the difficulty of admission, and that he persists in his petition, then let entrance be granted him....
From the Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 58
It should not be so difficult to enter a church community. It should not take dogged persistence to find one’s way in a Christian parish. Saint Benedict was writing in a very different time and culture for those who wished to create and sustain monastic communities, but I wonder if sometimes the spirit of his words isn’t too much alive and well in our churches.
At Saint Mary’s we are doing everything we can to “grant an easy entrance.” We don’t want people to have to struggle to worship God. Part of the glory of truly catholic liturgy is its ability to reach all people—with ritual and symbol and sacrament. Though we are in many ways, the “best kept secret in Times Square,” I pray that we are beginning to blow that secret wide open, to open the doors of our church and the doors of our hearts wider than we have ever imagined.
We are working to help newcomers feel welcome in a number of ways. When we receive names and addresses, whether through information cards that visitors have completed or from written checks given at the offering, we are trying to respond to these visitors with thanks an invitation to find out more. We are still not as quick as we would like to be in responding to newcomers, but we are working at it. A part of our helping people to enter our community more easily has to do with the way we think about membership. Below are some ways of being a part of Saint Mary’s that I hope will help us provide better spiritual formation and programming, and will help us grow specific communities:
Saint Mary’s Parishioner. Members in good standing, meaning that the parish office has their record of baptism, confirmation or reception on file. Parishioners attend regularly, volunteer in aspects of parish life and contribute financially to the parish.
Saint Mary’s Neighbor. Friends whose official affiliation is with another church or religious institution but who attend worship and contribute their time, energy and money to Saint Mary’s.
Saint Mary’s Weekday Friend. Friends who work in the area and attend weekday Masses. This is already a strong but unconnected community of people. Much can be gained by strengthening their connection to the parish.
Saint Mary’s Music Friend. Those whose primary interest in the music at Saint Mary’s. Music friends only receive mailings and news pertaining to the music program. On occasion, special musical offerings would be available to music friends and members of the Saint Cecilia Guild.
Saint Mary’s National Friend. Friends from around the country who visit us when they are in New York, often keep in touch by email and written correspondence, receive publications and news from Saint Mary’s. [In the future, I hope to put the rector and the organist “on the road” to visit Saint Mary’s National Friends in various locations. Such occasions will increase the witness of Saint Mary’s and encourage new support.
Saint Mary’s Pilgrim. Those who plan a trip to Saint Mary’s specifically around a feast day or Holy Week, participate in the liturgy and the a new program to be developed for individual and group pilgrimages. [Look for more information in fall 2004.]
At one level, these new categories of membership offer mainly an administrative framework. But also, they help us greet and welcome people in new and exciting ways. Who do you know who might like to be more involved in life at Saint Mary’s? May the Spirit guide us as we continue open our doors to new life at Saint Mary’s and to new life in Christ Jesus. --John Beddingfield
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Eloise and William who are hospitalized, and for Sean, Dorian, Jean, Lynn, Nancy, Margaret, Kristina, Mabel, Robert, Gloria, Jason, Harold, Billie, Matthew, Virginia, Bart, Margaret, Marion, Hugh, Rick, 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 . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 15: 1967 Nina Gay Dolan, 1973 Dorothy McCormack, 1978 Raymond Carrington; February 16: Mary Bretman; February 17: 1983 Helen Petersen Harrison; February 19: Harry Osmond; February 20: 1985 Theresa Anne Furlong.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Jeremiah 17:5-10, Psalm 1, 1 Corinthians 15:12-20; Luke 6:17-26 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, February 14 by Father Gerth, and on Saturday, February 21, by Father Beddingfield.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . The Christian Formation class continues on Wednesday nights in Saint Benedict’s Study from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM. Led by our seminarian, Mr. John Hamilton, the discussion is based on the book, Mysteries of Faith by Mark McIntosh, but participants need not have read the book to benefit from the class. . Sean Cassidy was at church on last Sunday, and is recovering his recent surgery. We are very thankful . . . Eloise Hoffman is in the hospital in Dallas with pneumonia and Bill Poston has been hospitalized for tests. Please keep them in your prayers . . . Attendance last Sunday 223.
LEARN MORE ABOUT 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. Come and find out more about the mission trip that will be going 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 IN MARCH . . . This Lent, you’re invited to take advantage of a class offered at Saint Mary’s through the Center for Christian Studies, a program of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. Father Beddingfield will be teaching a course entitled, “Sand in our Shoes: The Theology and Practice of Christian Spirituality.” For more information on the five-week course, call the parish office, see the booklet on the table in the back of the church or visit the center online at http://www.christianstudies.org/.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This week at the Sung Mass, played by associate organist Robert McDermitt, the prelude is Trio in F by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) and the postlude is Bell Symphony by Henry Purcell (1659-1695) . . . This week at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Fidelis from Four Extemporizations (c. 1933) by Percy Whitlock (1903-1946). The postlude, from the same collection by Whitlock, is Fanfare. The setting of the Mass ordinary is Communion Service in F by Herbert W. Sumsion (1899-1995). For 39 years Sumsion was organist of Gloucester Cathedral, and he taught for two years prior to that appointment at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. The motet at Communion is The Beatitudes (1990, revised 1991) by Arvo Pärt (b. 1935). A native of Estonia, Pärt invented his unique composition style, known as tintinnabuli (“little bells”), in 1976 after a self-imposed period of silence. Tintinnabulation is the practice of considering two simultaneous voices as one line: one moves in a stepwise motion, the other outlines notes of the triad in leaps. The Beatitudes is one of this popular composer’s best known and most loved works . . . We continue our series of organ recitals at 4:40. This week Mr. Christopher Barrett Jennings, assistant organist and choirmaster of Trinity Church on the Green in New Haven, Connecticut, plays L’ascension (1933, 1934) by Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992).
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany
President’s Day Holiday: One Mass only 12:15 PM
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 Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.