It didn’t rain in midtown Manhattan between 11:00 AM and 12:00 PM on Sunday, August 15, 2004. It threatened. Sometime during the 11:00 AM Mass the rain came, but our procession through Times Square was spared. The sky may have been gray. There was one huckster yelling at us. But the square was filled with joyful Christians who seemed to genuinely welcome the witness of this community. One doesn’t expect people who are driving cars to slow down and so obviously sing along, but many did. It was just great.
We start at 11:00 AM with yours truly entering into the church to welcome very briefly the assembly and to remind them about how the procession goes (exit through all the doors on the 46th Street side of the church) and what to do if it rains while we are in Times Square (head directly to the church). I leave. The bells ring. The choir begins the introit and the ministers of the assembly enter from behind the altar as the choir continues the introit in Latin. The text, from Revelation 12:1, in English is, “A great sign appeared in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet; and on her head, a crown of seven stars.” Incense is made. The deacon intoned the procession. The organ, brass and congregation begin “Immaculate Mary, your praises we sing.” The music and the singing seem to open the roof itself. And we are off.
The statue of Our Lady of Walsingham had been put on her sedan chair. She was adorned with flowers. Larry Green, Andrew Kraebel, Steve Potanovic and Abe Rochester carried her through the whole procession. After leaving the church the procession lines up for a moment along 46th Street. For this procession the brass players are at the end, followed only by the celebrant and his assistants. (Some liturgical authorities prefer a slightly different order for this kind of procession, but we know what works in Times Square.) By the time I was outside, the beginning of the procession had crossed Seventh Avenue. I could see incense rising around George M. Cohan’s statue in the middle of the square. When we had circled the ticket booths at the north end of the square, crossed back to Seventh Avenue and returned to the front of the church, there was a “station” (church lingo for “stopping for prayer”), “The holy Mother of God is exalted, above choirs of angels to the heavenly Kingdom.” As we entered the church the congregation then sang, “O glorious Lady throned in rest” to the tune Agincourt Hymn. We continued with Solemn Mass.
The music was glorious and unusual. Tallis’s Missa salve intemerata was the Mass ordinary. National friends and members of the parish may not really appreciate how very, very fine our music is at the present time. The choir was superb. Robert McCormick wrote descants for Sing of Mary, pure and holy and In splendor arrayed, in vesture of gold. And the congregation sang every hymn vigorously. For me, an especially powerful moment on great Marian days is when we sing the verse, “For the sick and for the aged, for our dear ones far away, for the hearts that mourn in secret, all who need our prayers today, for the faithful gone before us may the holy Virgin pray.” On Sunday it was so easy to feel the presence of so many brothers and sisters in the faith who have known and loved God in this sacred place.
There’s a picture on the parish’s web page of the procession under a billboard for the musical “Mamma Mia.” Other pictures are making their way to the parish office and we hope very soon to have many more up on the web page.
I try to be careful when I speak about Saint Mary’s to say what is true (that there is a particular richness and integrity to our worship and life here) and what is not true (that this is the only way to do it). But it remains true that our common life is an expression of Christian living and witness that is rare. It demands a high commitment from its members, a commitment of time, talent and treasure. It is compelling only if one is struggling seriously with a journey in Christ. At Saint Mary’s, liturgy is the living gospel every day of the week.
The brass gleamed. The flowers were beautiful. Hospitality was again superb under the leadership of Jim Dennis. Ushers and regular communicants helped newcomers and visitors in so many ways. Father John Conners brought a large group of parishioners from Saint Michael’s Church in Trenton, New Jersey. Friends of the parish were here from all over. It was just a great day and many thanks to everyone who made the day so special.
I believe the Episcopal Church needs more parish communities like ours. I believe the Church needs parishes where the doors are open and services are held every day of the week. I believe we need a Church where in most places the whole Bible is again read publicly at daily worship. And I believe part of our vocation at Saint Mary’s is to be a community living the gospel in such a way that those who visit us will find their conviction in Christ strengthened and renewed. I think we did a very good job at that last Sunday. Thank you. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Bob who is hospitalized, for George, Samuel, Paul, Peter, Charles, Mamie, Judy, Mary, Mark, Steve, Gilbert, Matthew, Robert, Gloria, Margaret, Jason, Harold, Bart, Hugh, Margaret, Marion, Rick and Charles, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Bruce, Paul, 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 souls of Marianne and Paul.
GRANT THEM PEACE . . .August 22: 1947 Mattie Myrtle Jones, 1997 Charles Bertram Harmon; August 24: 1959 Mabel Lenora Heyny; August 25: 1983 Albert Atkinson III, 1990 Eliphal B. Streeter; August 27: 1961 Leslie Evans Roberts.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Paul Calvin Plummer, Jr., who was an active member of the parish in the mid 1990’s, died at his home in Manhattan on Sunday, August 15, 2004. Please pray for Paul and for all who mourn.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Psalm 46, Isaiah 28:14-22, Hebrews 12:18-19,22-29, Luke 13:22-30 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, August 21 by Father Beddingfield . . . On Sunday, August 22, Father Beddingfield will be the celebrant and preacher for the 10:00 AM Mass and the Solemn Mass 11:00 AM. Father Beddingfield will be the celebrant and Father Mead will preach at the 9:00 AM Mass and the 5:20 PM Mass.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude before Mass is Arabesque from Vingt-quatre pièces en style libre, Opus 31/15 by Louis Vierne (1870-1937). The postlude is Sortie (Grand choeur) from Dix pièces by Théodore Dubois (1837-1924). Dubois, for a time maître de chapelle (choirmaster) at Sainte-Clotilde in Paris, is perhaps best known for his Les sept paroles du Christ (The seven last words of Christ). The soloist at the Solemn Mass is Ms. Ruth Cunningham, soprano. The setting of the Mass ordinary is an improvisation for voice, with organ accompaniment, by Ms. Cunningham. Those who have heard Ms. Cunningham’s vocal improvisations know that this is not to be missed! I have never heard of an improvised Mass setting being attempted before (though it may well have been), but I am certain that it will be stunningly beautiful and thoroughly devotional. The anthem at Communion will be Ms. Cunningham’s setting of the Office Hymn of Our Lady, Ave maris stella. Robert McCormick
AROUND THE PARISH . . . A new exhibit is hanging in Saint Joseph’s Hall, “Pillars of Faith” . . . It was great having the youth group from Grace Church, Traverse City, Michigan for Evening Prayer and Mass last week. The young people were here in the city as part of a mission trip . . . Join friends from Saint Mary’s for the second annual knitters’ retreat, January 14-17, 2005. For more information, check www.stmvirgin.org/UpcomingEventsatSaintMarys on our website or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org . . . Attendance last Sunday 404.
HELPING THE HURRICANE VICTIMS IN FLORIDA . . . Episcopal Relief and Development is offering emergency assistance to victims of Hurricane Charley in Florida after rain, storm surge, and extremely high winds devastated the southwest part of the state. To make a contribution to help people affected by the hurricane, donate to U.S. Hurricane Relief online at www.er-d.org or call (800) 334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to Episcopal Relief and Development, c/o U.S. Hurricane Relief, PO Box 12043, Newark, NJ 07101-5043.
MEMBERSHIP NOTES . . . Please welcome our newest church members. We have recently received several letters of transfer. Susan McCammon is originally from Alabama, has been in New York for a few years and works as a cancer surgeon at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital. She has been visiting us for a while and particularly loves the music at Saint Mary’s. . . . . MaryJane Boland comes to us from a sister parish in New York and has become a regular at some of the weekday offices and Masses. You can also see her at Saint Mary’s on most Sundays. MaryJane is director of degree programs and executive programs at the Stern School of Business at NYU . . . Please welcome these new friends when you meet them.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
Eve of Saint Bartholomew the Apostle
Tuesday Saint Bartholomew the Apostle
Wednesday Louis, King of France, 1270
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Saturday Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, 430
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend John Beddingfield, The Reverend Matthew Mead, curates,
The Reverend Ian Bruce Montgomery, The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priests,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.