From Father Beddingfield: The Power of Conversion
I’ve only met a few people who have experienced a real religious conversion. I grew up mostly around other Christians. I, and others, might have experienced changes in our spiritual lives. We might even have had renewals or awakenings of some kind. But very few have had what might be called a real, life changing, “the old is dead, the new has come,” conversion.
That’s part of the reason I’m so glad we observe the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle on January 25. Paul had a real conversion. It was dramatic. He fell down, he lost his sight, and his encounter with the living God changed his life forever. Paul’s conversion reminds us that even if we have not experienced it in such dramatic terms, even if it scares us, even if we distrust those who claim its truth: conversion happens. God continues to move people from a life of sin and self-destruction to a life of freedom. God sometimes rips people out of destructive and decaying relationships and puts them in a place where they can experience healing and loving community. The conversion of Saint Paul reminds us that we should never give up on people. We should never underestimate God.
During the mission trip to Honduras earlier this month we met a man who was converted. The old life for him had been one of knives and fights, drinking and staying away from home for long periods of time. His family sometimes wished that he might not come home after a night out, since he was usually more violent when he returned. His wife and his thirteen children were afraid of him. Many in the church of San Juan Evangelista remember the man before his conversion and they remember the gun he always carried with him. They avoided him in the streets.
One day someone from the church, perhaps sensing that the man’s defenses were down or that he was simply tired, convinced him to go on a retreat. On the retreat he heard the Gospel in a way he had never heard before. He found friends he didn’t need to fight. He began to see his family as a gift and a blessing. He was suddenly and drastically changed. He was converted.
We met this man, now a prominent lay leader at the church. He coordinated the painting project, handed out worship leaflets, and kept a wary eye on the children and young people. (They still remember his old ways and know better than to disobey him.) We had heard the facts of his conversion but we had not yet fully understood how his changed life affected others.
One morning a few of us were busy carving wooden pegs used in the building of church pews. Canon Vasquez asked one of the boys helping us, “Tell us the story of your life.” He smiled and was shy at first, but then he began to talk. He talked about playing soccer down the hill. He talked about his school and how a stomach illness had caused him to miss an entire year. He talked about his twelve siblings and the two elder brothers living in the United States who send money back to the family. And then the ten-year-old began to get emotional. He was quiet for a moment or two and then said, “I’m a very lucky boy.” There was silence. Canon Vasquez asked him, “Por qué?” “Because my daddy changed,” he said, “and everything is just so much better.”
It is the business of God to covert people, but we have a role to play. We share the love of Jesus Christ with and without words. We can model his love and mercy. We can welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison, as he has asked us to do. We can invite others to worship with us and bring them to church programs and ministries and celebrations. And we can pray for them, trusting in the power of Christ’s love to reach all people, knowing that conversion happens. John Beddingfield
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for John, Ruth, Deborah, Nicholas, Tanya, Tony, Cecil, Ibo, Mary, Rick, Pamela, Charles, Gloria, Penn, Gilbert, Robert, Jason, Bart, Hugh, Marion, Mamie, Judith, Thomas and Charles, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Bruce, Paul, Brenden, Jonathan, Jeffrey, 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 Philip, JC, Nelson and Linda . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 2: 1985 Walter Phelps Warren, John Doy Woods; February 3: 1983 Van Buren Chaney.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Micah 6:1-8, Psalm 97:1-6, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Matthew 5:1-12 . . . Father Mead will be the celebrant and preacher for the 9:00 AM Mass . . . The Rector will be the celebrant and preacher for the 10:00 AM and 11:00 AM Masses . . . Father Montgomery will be the celebrant and Father Beddingfield will preach at Solemn Evensong & Benediction at 5:00 PM . . . On Saturday, January 29, Father Smith will hear confessions and on Saturday, February 5, the Rector will hear confessions.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Father Mead’s Tuesday night Bible Study meets from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study. Join the class this week for a continuing study through the Gospel of John . . . On Sunday, February 6 at 3:00 PM, join Father Beddingfield and Rebecca Weiner as they offer stories, pictures and reflections form the mission trip to Honduras . . . The Visual Arts Program present a new exhibition on February 9, “Praxis and Apatheia: Drawings by Noel Hennelly.” An opening reception follows Solemn Evensong & Benediction on February 13. On Thursday night, February 17, Father Smith presents “A History of Anglican Liturgical Vestments” in Saint Joseph’s Hall from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM. A $10 suggested donation helps to insure the quality of future presentations by the Visual Arts Program at Saint Mary’s. For more information on future exhibitions and lectures, see the Visual Arts section in the church web site . . . Attendance Last Sunday 127 (sixteen inches of snow, notwithstanding).
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Sung Mass, played by Robert McDermitt, the prelude is Schmücke dich, O liebe Seele by Gerald Near (b. 1942) and the postlude is Herr Gott, nun sei gepreiset, BWV 601 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) . . . At the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Ciacona e-moll, BuxWV 160 by Dietrich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707). The postlude, also by Buxtehude, is Fuge C-dur, BuxWV 174. The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa brevis by Andrea Gabrieli (c. 1510-1586). The motet at Communion is Iubilate Deo (for eight-part choir) by Giovanni Gabrieli (1553/6-1612). Andrea Gabrieli was Giovanni’s uncle (both lived and worked in Venice). Both men held the post of organist and chief composer at Saint Mark’s in Venice, Giovanni doing so after his uncle’s death. Giovanni Gabrieli is considered the finer composer, and his music shows particular influence from his uncle and Orlande de Lassus . . . The organ recital at 4:40 PM on Sunday is played by the organist and music director . . . The recital at 5:30 PM on Wednesday, February 2, is also played by the music director and includes works of Buxtehude, Bach, Reger and Gerald Near . . . At the Solemn Mass that evening, the setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa ‘De la batalla escoutez’ by Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599), one of the greatest Spanish composers of the Renaissance. This exuberant Mass for five voice parts (eight in the second Agnus Dei) is a “parody” of Clément Janequin’s chanson La bataille de Marignana. Guerrero’s fiery music echoes the character of the original chanson, about a French victory in the battle of Marignana (hence the title of the Mass and chanson). The motet at Communion is Ecce sic benedicetur homo by one of Guerrero’s teachers, Cristóbal de Morales (c. 1500-1553). The postlude is the second and final movement of Felix Mendelssohn’s (1809-1847) Sonate A-dur, Opus 65/3. Robert McCormick
QUINK IN CONCERT . . . Plan to attend the concert by the Quink Vocal Ensemble at Saint Mary’s on Sunday, February 6 at 7:30 PM. This internationally renowned group, with many recital and recording credits, will sing a diverse program entitled Pour vos plaisirs, including Alexander Agricola’s rondeau Pour vos plaisirs, as well as chansons and madrigals by Clément Janequin, Adrian Willaert, Nicholas Gombert, Pierre de Manchicourt, Orlande de Lassus and others. Also featured is Samuel Barber’s To be sung on the water, Three Short Elegies by Gerald Finzi and Randall Thompson’s Fare well. Purchase tickets now for what promises to be an amazing program – print and fill out the form found at www.stmvirgin.org/MusicatSaintMarys or phone 212.869.5830, extension 25.
McNEIL ROBINSON IN RECITAL . . . Our former organist and music director will play a recital at Saint Mary’s on Sunday, February 20 at 7:30 PM, as a part of the New York City chapter of the American Guild of Organists Presidents’ Day Conference. The program will include improvised organ meditations on the Stations of the Cross. The event is open to the public and tickets may be purchased at the door. For further information, please see www.nycago.org.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Eve of The Presentation 6:00 PM
Wednesday The Presentation Of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Blessing of Candles & Sung Mass 12:00 PM
Blessing of Candles, Procession & Solemn Mass 6:00 PM
Thursday Blase, Bishop and Martyr, c. 316
The Blessing of Throats is offered at both Masses today.
Friday Cornelius the Centurion Abstinence
Saturday The Martyrs of Japan, 1597
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend John Beddingfield, The Reverend Matthew Mead, curates,
The Reverend Ian Bruce Montgomery, The Reverend James Ross Smith, assisting priests,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.