The Solemn Mass last Sunday was pretty extraordinary at several points, perhaps most remarkably during the singing of the Te Deum following the ministration of Holy Communion, as is our custom on Trinity Sunday, in place of the usual postcommunion hymn. The choir sang Benjamin Britten’s (1913-1976) Festival Te Deum, Op. 32, the assembly standing, the clergy at the foot of the altar. Two thurifers stood inside the altar rail swinging in rhythm. The Lord’s house was filled with smoke. The music, the setting, the Mass, the worship – all were glorious.
Where does this come from? Our worship draws its power from the Sunday by Sunday, day by day, liturgical life of this community. What we experienced and offered on Trinity Sunday arises in the deep and sustained silences of our liturgy in Lent, in the Washing of Feet and in all of the other rites of the Church year. It’s never about just one day, just one Mass or just one ritual at Saint Mary’s. Sunday by Sunday, day by day, congregational worship is our mission. It is our response to God’s love for us in Jesus Christ.
The power of our worship also arises from how we understand who we are when we gather. At Saint Mary’s Mass is primarily about the Body of Christ assembling to hear Christ’s Word and share Christ’s Sacraments. How we do this, of course, is important. And since the beginning of our parish there has been a commitment by people in this place to do this to the best of our abilities and gifts. But it is the assembly, not the music, the rites and certainly not the clergy, that comes first.
As rector of the parish I receive letters and notes from people from all over the country and with some frequency from overseas who have worshiped with us. They almost always contain words of deep thankfulness for the ministry and witness of this parish – something that simply is unavailable almost everywhere.
As rector of the parish I am also keenly aware that the parish has never really paid its way. Alan Moses, vicar of All Saints Margaret Street, is fond of quoting his predecessor, David Hope, now archbishop of York, that All Saints parishioners liked to drink champagne on a beer budget. That’s very much the case too of our own parish.
I think Saint Mary’s has always had something that is worth asking politely and insistently people to support: the best liturgical worship possible. Yet almost always budgets have been balanced since the beginning of the congregation by underpaying staff and deferring maintenance. How could this go on for so long in this wonderful and holy place? We all have our bad weeks, bad months and, to be honest, bad years, if we live long enough. But bad decades? In a place like this?
The Board of Trustees has just begun a long-range planning process, one, I believe it is fair to say, will eventually involve not only themselves but also the local and national congregations of this parish. Friends, it’s time to reformat our support for Saint Mary’s. Staff, buildings and a dwindling endowment are not going to carry us into the future. You can expect in the fall the first really serious stewardship campaign since the fundraising to repaint the church.
I think there are people throughout the Church who want a great national parish here in Times Square, a parish whose doors are open, a parish where the liturgical year is lived out with a particular richness and integrity. I not only believe in the liturgy of Saint Mary’s I believe that it is possible for us to support it and to find supporters for it. Sure, it sometimes seems impossible to ask for money. But it isn’t. And most people want to do good with what they have been given. Keeping the doors of this holy church open, keeping the liturgy the very best it can be and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with newcomers is one very good way to use the gifts we have been given. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Charles, Philip, Tom, Doreen, Steve, Gilbert, Robert, Jason, Robert, Gloria, 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, Colin, Christina, David, Nestor, Freddie, Matthew and Bennett and for the repose of the soul of Denis . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . June 12: 1986 James P. Gregory; June 17: 1972 Charles Henry Genet..
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . Psalm 116:10-17, Deuteronomy 8:2-3, Revelation 19:1-2,4-9, John 6:47-58 . . . Because of the Board of Trustees long-range planning meeting, there will be no Mass on Saturday, June 12, and Evening Prayer will be offered at 5:30 PM. Confessions will be heard only by appointment . . . On Sunday, June 13, the Rector will be the celebrant and preacher for the 10:00 AM Mass, the 11:00 AM Solemn Mass and the 5:20 PM Mass . . . Father Beddingfield will be the celebrant and preacher at the 9:00 AM Mass.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Remember the Taste of Times Square on Monday, June 14, 5:00 PM to 7:30 PM . . . Friday, June 18, is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. There will be a Sung Mass at 6:00 PM . . . We expect repairs to the main wooden doors of the church to begin next week. The mechanism installed in 1894 needs to be replaced. Unfortunately, there is no access to this mechanism and the walls of the narthex above the doors will need to be opened to do the replacement work. One door will be done at a time . . . Flowers are needed for the last two Sundays in July. If you are interested in giving them, please contact Sandra Schubert at email@example.com . . . Attendance last Sunday 303.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . At the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Le banquet céleste (1928) by Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992). One of Messiaen’s earliest works, this piece is based upon John 6:56, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” The postlude is Final from Symphonie VI, Op. 42 by Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Chichester Mass (1974 and 1979) by William Albright (1944-1998). Albright, who was professor of organ at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, wrote this setting for the choir of Chichester Cathedral on the occasion of the Cathedral’s 900th anniversary. It is a brilliant (and difficult!) piece for unaccompanied choir filled with great contrasts, from the intensely exciting Hosanna to the deeply calm and peaceful Agnus Dei. The motet at Communion is Communion (Első áldozás, 1942) by Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967). Originally composed in the composer’s native Hungarian, it is a haunting hymn of praise to the Blessed Sacrament . . . This is the final Sunday of the “choir season.” We thank our professional signers for the great contribution they make to our liturgical life. The full choir will sing music of Tallis and Josquin on the Assumption of Our Lady, August 15, and returns to the regular schedule on the Feast of the Dedication, Sunday, October 3. Robert McCormick
CONSERVATION OF VESTMENTS . . . I regret very much to announce that our black frontal and our cloth of gold solemn vestment set cannot be used again until they have been professionally conserved. I have taken this decision on the basis of the recommendation of our own members who work with vestments and two professionals in the field of textile conservation and repair. Last December a special fund was established for the conservation of our vestments and a conservator that is funded by those gifts is doing a survey at the present time. I will be reporting to you and to the Board of Trustees when the survey is complete. S.G.
SUMMER SCHEDULES . . . The final Evensong of the academic year was offered on Trinity Sunday. Beginning this Sunday, Corpus Christi, Evening Prayer is read on Sundays at 5:00 PM. Mass will be said at 5:20 PM. On Sunday morning, the services remaining are 8:30 Morning Prayer, 9:00 AM Said Mass, 10:00 AM Sung Mass and 11:00 AM Solemn Mass. This schedule is kept until the first Sunday in October, when the normal schedule resumes.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Body and Blood of Christ: Corpus Christi
Monday Basil the Great, Bishop of Caesarea, 379
Wednesday Joseph Butler, Bishop of Durham, 1752
Eve of the Sacred Heart of Jesus 6:00 PM
Friday Sacred Heart of Jesus 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.