From the Rector: Belief and Ministry
A seminarian from Saint Stephen’s House, Oxford, arrived at Saint Mary’s this week for a five-week stay. His name is Simon Morris. He’s from the diocese of Rochester, England. He will begin his final year at Saint Stephen’s in the fall and is to be ordained in spring 2008. Saint Stephen’s House places their students in a parish during every summer so they can get some insight into what the future may hold for them as parish priests. The American Church is not the same as the English Church, of course. But we have much in common. Simon is a delightful young man with a ready smile and a wonderful sense of humor and commitment. I’m delighted he is with us and very honored that the vice-principal at Saint Stephen’s House asked if we would accept a student this summer.
I’ve spent more than a few hours with Simon this week talking about Saint Mary’s and the work of parish priests. He provided me with a chance to reflect on lots of things and especially what I’ve come to believe is the fundamental sign of Christ’s presence among us, the People of God, the congregation, the assembly of the Baptized.
I’ve given Simon a couple of books to read. Some readers of this newsletter will probably be able to guess which books I’ve handed him. Yes, both are by Aidan Kavanagh. One is for fun – “Elements of Rite.” The other is serious, “The Shape of Baptism.” It is a book I continue to turn to for study, focus and renewal. And as much as any book (other than the Bible) it has shaped how I think about the faith and about my work as a priest. I was ordained to be a pastor in the community, not a substitute for it. I stand in the church as the servant of Christ’s assembly, as the assembly’s minister.
The People of God are Christ’s Body. A priest is no more or less a sign of Christ’s presence than any of the baptized. We are all members of his Body; we are all his brothers and sisters. Since the time of the New Testament, as our Prayer Book says (see page 510), under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the Church has set apart an ordained ministry for the service of the gospel and God’s people. For a variety of reasons, across the centuries it has been all too easy to see the clergy as somehow having more “Jesus” in them than anyone else. Too often the words “church” and “clergy” are confused. They are not the same thing.
Kavanagh’s writing on Baptism, as much as anything, helps me always to remember that Jesus’ presence is as he described it in the Great Judgment, in those who are “the least of these” (Matthew 25:31-46). Kavanagh helps me to remember that Jesus himself is the Shepherd of the sheep and that Jesus makes it clear that the sheep belong only to him (John 21:15-19). His voice is the one voice they hear and follow (John 10:1-30). He is the one who calls people to faith (John 10:3, 1 Thessalonians 5:24).
In Western Christianity the Eucharist has had the better run, as it were, than Baptism. “It’s the Mass that matters” sums up a great deal of Christianity as experienced by Western Christians since the collapse of the classical world. The Mass does matter. But along the way, it got more than a little lost; Holy Baptism in some ways got really lost. Even today, Christians will stay away from Mass when Baptism is celebrated – something that would have been incomprehensible to people of faith in the first centuries of the Christian era.
Yes, the Mass did get lost in a lot of ways. One example: The Church tried to impose a rule in the Middle Ages that Christians receive the Sacrament three times a year. That didn’t work. The rule was changed to once a year at Easter. The rule that the celebrant must receive Communion at a Mass was made to insure that someone ate at Mass. The Church in its heart never forgot that the Eucharist is a meal. The Church in its deepest heart never forgot what Baptism is about either.
Holy Baptism is not a ritual to make God love a person more or to keep anyone out of hell (or limbo). It’s about believing in Christ. The renewed rites of Christian initiation invite us with a new directness to recognize Jesus Christ rising and dying in the persons the Lord is calling to faith. To be a Christian is to believe in the One who died and rose.
At the beginning and the end of the last book of the New Testament, the Revelation to John, the Lord identifies himself as “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13). I hope you and I continue to grow in a deep sense of his presence among us and that Christ may call us to new ways of helping others know of God’s plan for his world in Christ. I hope our faith in him will continue to grow and that all members of his Body will continue to be about serving others in his name. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked especially for Henry, Caoline, Joan, Hilyard, Charles, Virginia, Daisy, Joseph, Marcia, Ana, Kevin, Gert, Gloria, Ray, Tony, William, Eve, Virginia, Mary, Gilbert, Rick, Suzanne, Henry, priest, and Charles, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Steve, Fahad, Sean, David, Barron, Joseph, Patrick, Bruce, Brenden, Christopher and Timothy; . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . July 22: 1960 Mary Waters.
I PUBLISH THE BANNS OF MARRIAGE for Michael Joseph Saraceni of New York City and Madeleine Louise Kennedy of New York City. If any of you know just cause why they may not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, you are bidden to declare it. This is the first time of asking. S.G.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS of the year are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Child Care will be available during the 10:00 AM Sung Mass and 11:00 AM Solemn Mass on Sundays throughout the summer. The nursery is located next to the sacristy (down the hallway from Saint Joseph’s Hall) . . . The Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene is observed on Monday, July 23, this year. The Feast of Saint James the Apostle is Wednesday, July 25. Because Saint James’ Day falls on a Wednesday, Evening Prayer and the evening Mass of July 24 are also observed on its eve . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, July 21, by Father Beddingfield and on Saturday, July 28, by Father Gerth . . . Sandra will be on vacation the week of July 23rd . . . Flowers are needed for many Sundays! E-mail Sandra at email@example.com or fill out our flower donation form online at http://www.stmvirgin.org/article32741.htm . . . The Saint Mary’s Guild will next meet on Saturday, August 4 at the 12:10 PM Mass . . . Attendance Last Sunday 274.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude and postlude are (respectively) Processional in D and Trumpet Tune in D by David N. Johnson (1922-1987). As with many of Johnson’s organ works, both pieces are inspired by eighteenth century English models. The cantor is Ms. Ruth Cunningham, soprano. The music during Communion is Ms. Cunningham’s setting of the Marian hymn Ave maris stella. Robert McCormick
JULIAN OF NORWICH: A SUMMER SAMPLING . . . Join Father Beddingfield on Sundays July 22 and 29, following the Solemn Mass for a discussion of the life and theology of the 14th century anchoress known as Julian of Norwich. Julian is often portrayed sentimentally as one who loves cats, offers homey spiritual advice and assures us that “all shall be well.” Too easily overlooked is her nuance of Anselm’s view of the atonement, her experience of the Holy Trinity, her understanding of sin and salvation, and her own spirituality which takes seriously the reality of evil. On two Sunday afternoons we’ll look at Julian’s historical and religious context, her theology and her writings. If you'd like to read ahead, read any version of Julian’s Showings, sometimes entitled Revelations of Divine Love.
HUNTINGTON AND THE QUADRILATERAL . . . One of the most important documents in our Anglican Communion is something called “The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral.” It’s printed in our Prayer Book beginning on page 876. It has formed a basis for unity among Anglicans and provided a starting point for ecumenism with other Christian communities. The document began as the work of a priest of our diocese, William Reed Huntington. From 1883 until his death on July 26, 1909 he was rector of Grace Church, New York City. He was among the leaders of the Church of his time and had a broad vision of Christian unity. A great deal of information about his life and work is available in libraries and on the internet. His life and witness is recognized by the Church with a commemoration during services on July 27, because July 26 already had become a Feast of the Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This year July 27 happens to be a Friday which is especially appropriate. The present Prayer Book uses the collect for Monday in Holy Week, composed by Huntington for the 1892 Prayer Book, every Friday at Morning Prayer.
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Monday Saint Mary Magdalene (transferred)
Tuesday Thomas a Kempis, Priest, 1471
Eve of Saint James the Apostle
Wednesday Saint James the Apostle
Thursday The Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Friday William Reed Huntington, Priest, 1909 Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
Sunday: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 9:00 AM Mass, 10:00 AM Sung Mass, 11:00 AM Solemn Mass, 5:00 PM Evening Prayer, 5:20 PM Mass. Childcare from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM.
Monday – Friday: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass, 6:00 PM Evening Prayer, 6:20 PM Mass.
Saturday: 11:30 AM Confessions, 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass, 4:00 PM Confessions, 5:00 PM Evening Prayer, 5:20 PM Sunday Vigil Mass.