From the Rector: Our Story Continues
In 1867, two men, one layman, Henry Kingland, and one priest, Thomas McKee Brown, went to see the bishop of New York. The city was growing. What we call the Oxford Movement, a renewal of the catholic heritage of the protestant Church of England, was beginning to take root throughout what would come to be known as the Anglican Communion. Mr. Kingland and the Rev. Mr. Brown, as our founder was known at that time, asked the bishop where a new parish “on a thoroughly Catholic basis” might be needed (The Story of St. Mary’s, New York, 1931, Newbury Frost Read, page 16). With the bishop’s encouragement and blessing, Kingland and Brown began to look in the neighborhood of Longacre Square, now called Times Square. There were three adjacent vacant lots owned by John Jacob Astor, Jr. on West 45th Street (now the site of the Booth Theater). Father Brown records that Astor gave them to the new parish on the condition that the “Church should be free, and positively orthodox in management and working” (page 16).
The parish was founded as the neighborhood Episcopal congregation. The Rev. Mr. Brown also wrote that in addition to preaching the gospel and ministering the Holy Sacraments “to His people,” the parish was established with the intention of “restoring to its proper place and importance the Worship of God – the rendering [of] Adoration to Him as a Congregational and ceremonial act …”(page 17). There had not been anything like Saint Mary’s before in New York City. Episcopal churches did not look like Catholic churches. They didn’t have altars; they had Holy Tables. The Tables did not have candles, flowers or “carpets” on them. There were no statues – and no images in stained glass windows either. And the Holy Communion was rarely ministered to the “His people.” All this changed with the coming of Saint Mary’s.
I think there is a lot for us to learn about who we are today as a parish from the accounts of the founding of this parish. Please note that our first parish priest spoke about preaching and Sacraments for Christ’s people as the first objective of the parish. Note also the intention of the parish to renew worship, not just “ceremonial” but as a “congregational” act. “Congregational” and “ceremonial” worship had been forgotten. The words were there, but their meaning was not experienced or lived out. On three vacant lots, in a newly developing area of Manhattan, a parish community came together to do something that no member of the parish had ever experienced.
Many words can be used to describe the men and women who founded Saint Mary’s and gave the parish the fundamental shape it has today. They were people of great faith in Jesus Christ. They were people of vision and courage. They worked hard for their parish. They gave sacrificially to build the first and then the second and present parish home. Christ’s people and their sacramental and pastoral needs have always come first at Saint Mary’s. It’s never been merely about ceremonial here, as far as I can tell, never.
The Rev. Mr. Brown would come to be called “Father Brown.” I believe it is correct that since the opening of the doors of the first church, still unfinished, on December 7, 1870, the Holy Communion has been celebrated daily in the parish. The word “Mass” would come along in due course, but before there was “Mass” there were “Solemn High Celebrations.”
Saint Mary’s was a new thing and it was never afraid to take out of its treasure, as it were, what was old and what was new. We live now with new language, new insights and new circumstances as a parish. But we gather to be the Body of Christ in this place, to offer God praise and adoration, to hear the Word of God proclaimed and preached, to receive his Body and his Blood, and to do so in the great tradition of the Christian Church.
We read the Bible at Mass and at Daily Morning and Evening Prayer to know the story of God’s plan for his kingdom. We don’t read them to repeat the past but to try to listen to God’s Spirit to lead us today. I think we can usefully study this history of our parish family, again, not to repeat the past, but to learn how God’s Spirit may be calling us to grow today. The story of our parish begins and continues with our belief that we are Christ’s People, that we are members of his Body in this place and time, that we are called to witness to Christ’s gospel to those who do not know him, that we are called to serve Christ in the persons who are poor in this world.
Even on an ordinary day, you and I can often sense the faith and courage of those who looked at three vacant lots and believed God’s work could take place there. We have so much more today because of the gifts of those who have gone before us in this place. Yes, religious ceremony and duty are important, but the greatest commandments are to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. If it were possible for the first members of the parish to be with us today, I hope they would be right at home, not just because of the ceremonial beauty of holiness, but because it was obvious to all that Christ’s People still come first in Christ’s home and at Christ’s table. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked especially for Steven, Henry, Pamela, Joan, Hilyard, Charles, Virginia, Daisy, Joseph, Marcia, Ana, Kevin, Gert, Gloria, Ray, Tony, William, Eve, Virginia, Mary, Gilbert, Rick, Suzanne, Thomas, priest, Henry, priest, and Charles, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Steve, Patrick, Brenden, and Christopher . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . August 8: 1963 Charles Augustus Edgar.
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 third time of asking. S.G.
CALENDAR NOTES . . . Monday, August 6, is the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ. As is our custom, our celebration for a feast of our Lord begins on Sunday evening with Evening Prayer at 5:00 PM. The Sunday evening Mass on August 5 will be of the Transfiguration. On Monday, August 6, in addition to the usual services of Morning Prayer, Noonday Office and the 12:10 Mass, there will be a Sung Mass at 6:00 PM. Father Beddingfield will be celebrant and preacher . . . Our celebration of the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary begins on Tuesday evening, August 14, at 6:00 PM with Solemn Evensong. On Wednesday, August 15, Morning Prayer will be sung at 8:30 AM. The Noonday Office is offered at 12:00 PM. The 12:10 Mass is sung. At 5:30 PM our organist and music director Robert McCormick will play a recital. The Solemn Mass follows at 6:00 PM. A reception will be held following the evening Mass in Saint Joseph’s Hall.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . On Sundays throughout the summer child care during the 10:00 AM Sung Mass and 11:00 AM Solemn Mass will be available. The nursery is located next to the sacristy (down the hallway from Saint Joseph’s Hall) . . . Saint Mary’s Guild will next meet on Saturday, August 4 after the 12:10 PM Mass . . . Many thanks to George Handy, Esther Kamm and Dennis Smith for work on the annual Assumption Appeal mailing . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, August 4, by Father Beddingfield, and on Saturday, August 11, by Father Gerth . . . Sister Deborah Francis CSJB and Father Mead continues on vacation through Saturday, August 11 . . . Plans are underway for a farewell reception and gift for Father Beddingfield on Sunday, August 18. Look for a letter in this week’s mail . . . Flowers are needed for most of the Sundays in August. The cost is generally two hundred dollars per Sunday. E-mail Sandra at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out our flower donation form online at http://www.stmvirgin.org/article32741.htm . . . Attendance last Sunday 307.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Adagio from Symphonie VI, Opus 42/2 by Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937). The postlude is Präludium C-dur, BWV 547 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). The cantor is Ms. Abigail Fischer, mezzo-soprano. The setting of the Mass ordinary, sung by the cantor, is Missa in simplicitate (1953) by Jean Langlais (1907-1991), the French composer and organist who was blind from a young age. This past February saw the one hundredth anniversary of his birth. Langlais’ music, while unmistakably a product of the twentieth century, often has a certain “ancient” sound, in part due to modally-inflected harmonies. This work is heard as the composer intended, sung by a solo mezzo-soprano. The anthem at Communion is Litany to the Holy Spirit by Peter Hurford (b. 1930). Robert McCormick
HANDMAIDEN AND MOTHER OF GOD . . . On Sundays August 5 and 12, following the Solemn Mass, join Father Beddingfield in air-conditioned Saint Benedict’s Study for a discussion of major themes relating to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Especially as we look forward to the Feast of the Assumption on August 15, we will explore attitudes toward the Blessed Virgin Mary arising from scripture, tradition, creeds, popular devotion and theological reflection. We will look at the development of this thought through the history of the church and in contemporary ecumenical conversations, focusing on Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ, an agreed statement by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing, 2005.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Eve of the Transfiguration
Monday The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Tuesday John Mason Neale, Priest, 1866
Wednesday Dominic, Priest and Friar, 1221
Friday Laurence, Deacon, and Martyr at Rome, 258 Abstinence
Saturday Clare, Abbess at Assisi, 1254
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.