The Angelus

Volume 10, Number 43

From the Rector: Some Clergy History

The first two rectors of Saint Mary’s, the Reverend Thomas McKee Brown and the Reverend George Michael Christian, were both married men.  They and their families lived in the rectory where I now live in the northwest corner of the church complex.  I don’t know anything about the marital status of the first assistants to Father Brown when the parish was on West 45th Street.  But once the parish moved to its present home, they were always single.

What we call the “Parish House” was first called the “Clergy House.”  Here the curates, all single, lived.  Since the Reformation most Anglican clergymen were married, but celibate clergy were always part of the Anglican tradition.  At Oxford and Cambridge in England, all but a few professors were single members of the clergy until the last half of the nineteenth century.  With the advent of the Oxford Movement, there was a renewed emphasis on celibacy for the clergy among many Anglo-catholics.

The third rector of Saint Mary’s, the Reverend Joseph Gail Hurd Barry, was single as all rectors since have been.  He moved the curates from the “Clergy House” into the rectory.  After the sudden resignation in 1930 of the Reverend Selden Peabody Delany (so he might become a member of the Roman Church), long-time assistant to Father Barry who was elected rector on Father Barry’s retirement in December 1929, the Board of Trustees, with the encouragement of Father Barry, placed the parish under the direction of the Society of St. John the Evangelist and elected one of their monks as the fifth rector.  The Reverend Granville Mercer Williams lived in the rectory with his assistants, all priests too.

When Father Williams resigned the rectorate in 1939 to become superior of his order, the trustees and his order did not continue this relationship.  The Reverend Grieg Tabor, rector of All Saints’ Church, Ashmont, Dorchester, Boston, Massachusetts, became our sixth rector.  He was followed by the Reverend Donald Lathrop Garfield and my immediate predecessor, the Reverend Canon Edgar Fisher Wells, our rector emeritus.  All were single and all lived in the rectory with the curates.

Although one would not know this by looking at the structure, the rectory is a large space.  It was built for Father Brown and his family and their household staff.  But it wasn’t built to be a clergy house.  There’s only one kitchen.  Under Father Wells, provisions were made for small service areas on the third floor where he lived and on the fourth floor where the curate lived.  In some sense the rector and curate lived as a clergy community and in other ways they did not.  I think in the days when Times Square was not safe, rectors and curates were very happy to have each others’ company.

When I was interviewed for this position by the Board of Trustees I told them that if I were rector I would not want to live in the same house as the curate.  This was not a problem for the board.  At the time the Reverend William Parker (Father Wells’ last curate and our interim priest) and his partner were living on the fourth floor of the rectory.  Also at that time, Saint Mary’s had a part-time assistant priest, the Reverend Allen Shin, whose compensation in part was the use of an apartment in the Parish House.  When Father Parker left, I called Father Shin to be curate.  It turns out that we haven’t had a single curate since I’ve been rector.  Father Shin is married, the Reverend Matthew Weiler is married, the Reverend John Beddingfield has a partner and the Reverend Matthew Mead is married too. 

Father Beddingfield, Father Mead and I received a lot of affirmation (appropriately I hope!) for being a good clergy team.  The parish clearly began to grow once it had three full-time priests.  Part of the energy for the ministry of the parish comes from its clergy team.  Although John, Matt and I are all different people with different gifts we were all committed to Saint Mary’s, and we are all fairly energetic personalities.

I’ve put a brief advertisement for the position Father Beddingfield held in our national Episcopal monthly, Episcopal Life.  The complete job description is posted on our parish webpage.  I’m beginning to let colleagues and friends across the country know Saint Mary’s is looking for another curate.  We want and need another good priest at Saint Mary’s.

Our resources to support a priest are not unlimited and the number of priests who are free to accept this position are not unlimited either.  A new priest will need to have the education, skills, gifts, maturity and energy to serve here. There are constraints on salary and housing.  The apartment available is a good two-bedroom space on the fourth floor of the parish house.

In the Episcopal Church, staff persons, clergy or lay, work for the rector of the parish.  A rector by himself or herself needs the approval of a vestry (or board of trustees) to create and fund any position.  In healthy congregations lines of authority are always clear.  And they are clear at Saint Mary’s.  I’m responsible to the board for the staff (and if I don’t do my job well the board may hold me accountable, and they know that).  I’ve been a rector now for over eighteen years, here and in Indiana, and I think I’ve learned a few things.

I think it’s better to be understaffed than to be badly staffed.  Whenever appropriate and possible I want to hire experience and talent, but if I have to choose between experience and talent, I choose talent.  Any priest serving here needs to be committed deep in his or her heart and mind to Anglo-catholic spiritual and liturgical traditions.

I’m delighted that we have the Reverend James Ross Smith with us as an interim curate.  Jay is a wonderful person and priest, and we are very blessed by his presence.  I know we need to look seriously and with some energy for the right person – and I am.  But Jay’s presence in this position means that we are not, as it were, under the gun.

A number of resumes have come in and I am reviewing them.  I continue to be in touch with friends of the parish to seek names of persons who might be appropriate for the position.  I’m looking forward to the interview process.  I remain as excited about Saint Mary’s as I was the first time I visited.  I’m sure the right candidate will show something of the same excitement in his or her own way, just as other curates have.  Stephen Gerth


PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Susanna, Doreen, Fred, Gert, Virginia, Ana, Kevin, Gloria, Susie, William, Gilbert, Rick, Suzanne, Susie Thomas, priest; Bruce, priest; and Charles, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Steve, Patrick, Brenden, Christopher and Marc . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . September 21: 1976 Harold E. Pim; September 23: 1969 Rosie Matilda Flemister Erwin.


AROUND THE PARISH . . . Friday, September 28, the Eve of Saint Michael and All Angels, there will be a Sung Mass at 6:00 PM . . . Join a very jovial group of Saint Marians for a Marian Hymn Sing and Oktoberfest in Saint Joseph’s Hall on Saturday, October 13, at 6:00 PM.  German-style beverages and organ accompaniment will be provided.  The rest is pot-luck with a German theme . . . Please visit the parish website ( for detailed information this week’s and upcoming Christian Education events . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, September 22, by Father Mead and Saturday, September 29, by Father Smith . . . Attendance Holy Cross 278, Last Sunday 300.


NOTES ON MUSIC . . . The Masses this Sunday are played by Mr. Robert McDermitt, associate organist.  The prelude and postlude will be movements from Music for the Royal Fireworks, HWV 351 by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), transcribed by E. Power Biggs (1906-1977).  The cantor is Dr. Mark Risinger, bass, and the motet at Communion is Salve Regina by Lodovico Viadana (c. 1560-1627).  Viadana, an Italian composer and monk, was an active church musician, serving as maestro di cappella at numerous cathedrals.  Most of his output consists of sacred choral and vocal music . . . Thoughts on Sunday’s hymnody: two of the hymns at the Solemn Mass come from the German tradition of Lutheran chorales, a particularly strong hymn-singing tradition.  These two are Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (tune: ‘Lobe den Herren’), one of the most familiar hymns to church-goers, and Give praise and glory unto God (tune: ‘Du Lebensbrot Herr Jesu Christ’).  Each hymn we sing has a “tune name,” and the names for these two tunes are their original titles in German.  The Postcommunion hymn, Be thou my vision (tune: ‘Slane’), is an Irish folk-tune.  Our rich and diverse Anglican musical heritage allows us to enjoy hymnody from many and varied times and traditions.  Robert McCormick


HONDURAS MISSION TRIP 2008 . . . A group from Saint Mary’s (and other churches in the Diocese) have gone on a week-long mission trip to the Church of San Juan Evangelista, Tegucigalpa, Honduras for the last few years.   This year’s trip is scheduled for January 14-20, 2008.   On Sunday October 14 at 2 pm in St. Benedict’s study there will be a photo and information presentation for all interested in either making the upcoming trip, lending support from home, or just finding out what this journey is all about.  Contact Rebecca Weiner Tompkins ( for more information. 


The Calendar of the Week

Sunday         The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Monday           Weekday

Tuesday           Sergius of Moscow, Abbot, 1392

Wednesday     Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop, 1626

Thursday        Weekday

Friday             Weekday                                                                                  Abstinence

Eve of Saint Michael and All Angels

Saturday       Saint Michael and All Angels


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.