From time to time I hear people remark that Saint Mary’s is not for everyone. I’m always interested in that remark because from my perspective the breadth of the parish community is tremendous. Everyone is not only welcome, in some real sense everyone is already here.
We do worship in English and that does limit the participation in some ways of people who speak other languages, but I assure you that there are non-English speakers in church for services here every day. Our building, even in 2004, is not yet accessible for physically handicapped persons, but many still come. We don’t have a conventional childcare or Sunday School at present – and I pray that we will sooner rather than later – yet parents find themselves and their children entirely welcome at what is most important: Mass.
Sometimes people tell me our services are long. Yet they seem so short to so many who have found here a place where Christ seems to speak even when we aren’t listening very well. Some people even tell me that we aren’t a very welcoming community – but that tells me more about the speakers than us. Yes, we have our problems and our boundaries. We are a Christian community. We believe in Christ. We expect each other to be respectful of one another. We expect ourselves and other people to be open to Christ leading them and us into new places in their lives.
I also meet a wide cross section of Episcopalians and other people (mostly but not always Christian) from across the country who value Saint Mary’s and its witness. There was a visitor from France last summer on Assumption, August 15 – the day after the blackout, who remarked that nowhere in France was Solemn Mass offered with the music and richness of the one here. (As kind as the sentiment behind the remark was, I hope very much that it was a polite exaggeration. It absolutely should not be true.) There is the occasional visitor for Evensong from New Mexico who cannot believe Solemn Evensong is still here. Then, there are visitors from everywhere who do not understand why our church is not full on Sundays. I don’t understand it either. It seems to me that something great is here. And I believe you and I are being called to find new ways to share Good News about Christ and about this small part of his Church.
Let me be clear that what I think is great most of all about Saint Mary’s is the parish community. The buildings, the music, the worship and the traditions may have a certain richness in their own right, but they are not the point. Christ is the point. And the greatest sacramental presence of Christ to which we have access is the assembly of the baptized. This is one of the unusual communities where lots of people get that. Saint Mary’s is a place where we try so hard to make everyone know that he or she is an essential member of the congregation.
Usually we sing Isaac Watts’ (1674-1748) famous paraphrase of Psalm 23, “My Shepherd will supply my need,” once during the year, and usually we sing it on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday. I quote the third verse to conclude this article.
The sure provisions of my God attend me all my days;
oh, may thy house be mine abode and all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest, while others go and come;
no more a stranger or a guest, but like a child at home.
Saint Mary’s really is for everyone. It is a place where all are invited to be at home. I am not sure about the shape of how we will grow, but I believe we will. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Philip, Tom, Doreen, Steve, Gilbert, Robert, Jason, Harold, Matthew, Bart, Margaret, Marion, Hugh, Rick and Charles, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Brenden, Jonathan, Jeffrey, Ned, Timothy, Patrick, Kevin, Christopher, Andrew, Joseph, Marc, Timothy, David and Colin . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . May 23: 1959 Edith May Place Bennett.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Acts 16:16-34, Psalm 47, Revelation 22:12-14,16-17,20, John 17:20-26 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, May 22 by Father James Ross Smith . . . On Sunday, May 23, Father Beddingfield will be celebrant and preacher for the 9:00 AM and 10:00 AM. At 11:00 AM, Father Montgomery will celebrate and preach. The Rector will be the preacher for Solemn Evensong.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . The Board of Trustees will meet on Saturday, May 22, to begin long-range planning for the parish with the Reverend Canon Hannah Anderson, canon for congregational development of the Diocese of New York . . . The Rector will be away Wednesday evening, May 27 through Saturday morning, May 29 . . . Attendance last Sunday 290.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Sung Mass, played by associate organist Robert McDermitt, the prelude is Lied from 24 pièces en style libre, Op. 31, No. 17 by Louis Vierne (1870-1937) and the postlude is Prélude du ‘Te Deum’, H146 by Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1645-1704) . . . At the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist, BuxWV 209 by Dietrich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707) and the postlude is an improvisation on ‘King’s Weston’. The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa ‘Ascendens Christus in altum’ by Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611), a parody Mass for 5 voices that the composer based upon his motet of the same name, which will be sung at Communion . . . The organ recital is played by Ms. Karen Beaumont of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and features works of Bach, Brahms and Langlais . . . This Sunday evening Ms. Ruth Cunningham, a member of our choir and former member of the acclaimed ensemble Anonymous 4, will again offer a vocal improvisation before Benediction, using the text Non vos relinquam. If you’ve not heard her do this before, it is worth the trip to church for this alone! Robert McCormick
ONCE IN THE PEWS . . . In the Eastertide 2004 issue of Anglican Episcopal World the Reverend Dr. Charles Miller, rector of the Church of the Transfiguration, Manhattan, writes of former Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey’s personal resolution of his struggle about a vocation to the priesthood during a visit to New York City in November 1925 when Ramsey was a student at Cambridge University. He attended High Mass Sunday morning at Transfiguration and later that same Sunday, Solemn Evensong & Benediction here at Saint Mary’s. In his article Father Miller quotes from a letter to him from his predecessor at the Transfiguration, the Reverend Norman J. Catir, about the young Michael Ramsey’s visit:
Would he go into politics or would he study for ordination in the church? He prayed about this issue while at Mass. Later in the day Michael Ramsey attended Evensong and Benediction at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin. Sometime afterward . . . Ramsey believed that he had received a call to ordination. He related his sense of call directly to his visit to New York and to the two services he attended that day . . . he considered the entire Sunday of his visit was the seedbed of his ordination call.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Seventh Sunday of Easter
Monday Jackson Kemper, First Missionary Bishop in the United States, 1870
Tuesday Bede, the Venerable, Priest and Monk of Jarrow, 735
Wednesday Augustine, First Archbishop of Canterbury, 605
Thursday Easter Weekday
Friday Easter Weekday No abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend John Beddingfield, curate,
The Reverend Ian Bruce Montgomery, The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priests,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.