From the Rector: One Component
Letters for the 2008 Stewardship Campaign were mailed last week. I’ve been a parish priest long enough now to expect the range of comments that I started receiving on Sunday. (“They asked for too little.” “Just give more!” or “They asked for too much.” “Give what God is speaking to you.”) Quite frankly, I look forward to responding to questions and addressing concerns. Today I want to share with you some of my understanding of the financial situation of the parish and my thinking of the future, the thinking that helps me sleep at night.
In September 1998, when I was visited in my previous parish by three members of the rector search committee, I asked about the operating budget deficit. My question was, “What is the board planning to do about it? The answer was, “We’ve never discussed it.” In 1997, 19% of our budget was funded by invading the endowment’s capital account. That invasion amounted to $127,121.00. This was in addition to the recommended drawdown of five percent. (Our diocese recommends a drawdown of no more than 5%. Harvard University, for the record, draws down on its endowment 3.75% each year. I dream of a 4% drawdown for Saint Mary’s.) I came to Saint Mary’s with an understanding that the critical challenge the parish would face in the next few years was how to stay in business.
Academic studies of congregational development suggest that one of the keys for fundamental change in a congregation is the tenure of the pastor. It takes at least five years for a new pastor to know a congregation well enough to begin to give voice and to articulate a vision for the future. He or she can begin to do this only after being there long enough to know something in depth about the past and the present of the people who make up the community. I confess that at over eight years, I am just beginning to have a clearer sense of what the people of this parish community, near and far, long for their parish to be. I do know that one component of our vision is that Saint Mary’s should be a place where money isn’t a problem. We love Saint Mary’s too much to not find a new place in our common life. The challenge is “How do we get there?”
The parish started to grow slowly after I became rector. Saint Mary’s is in the Times Square district of the city. The continuing renewal of the neighborhood has helped us immensely. Our board also made two personnel decisions that would turn out to be far more important than we imagined. In 2001 we made the position of music director full-time. It had never been that in the history of the parish. Music, despite a venerable tradition here, had been a locus for congregational anxiety, but has not been a problem since. In the summer of 2003, the board made the then half-time clergy position we called “assistant” into a full-time position. Saint Mary’s would henceforth have two curates. The parish leadership was convinced the right person for the job was still in seminary. Father Mead came to us in July 2004. The parish has been growing ever since. We were finally staffed, at least minimally, for growth and we have been growing ever since.
There was another important transition going on at the same time. At the December 2004 meeting of the Board of Trustees, attended by the bishop of New York, the trustees ended life tenure for themselves. The system of a board had served Saint Mary’s well. There was a general feeling that the board needed to expand its membership through the parish community and to make it easy for new members to come into leadership when their gifts were needed. The leadership we have all seen for the 2008 Stewardship Campaign is a direct result of this renewal of the board.
Saint Mary’s has always been clear about its mission: the worship of Almighty God. That’s what unites us. We are an almost unique American parish because of the breadth and depth of our particular commitment to worship. Our building, our location and our tradition enable us to draw hundreds of people daily into a place where it is very easy to sense the real presence of God in this world. It is a commitment that is valued by Episcopalians and others across our country. I think our diversity is especially important for the wider Church at the present time, and that our parish’s life and work, in the midst of its diversity, is astounding.
There are, of course, many components to being a church community, but money is crucial. Money means worship, teaching, service to others and pastoral care. The parish has resources for the future. Someday our remaining real estate development rights will be of value to a builder. There is a growing number of people who have indicated that they have made a bequest of some sort to Saint Mary’s, a gift that the parish will receive when they die – a sign that these people believe today in the future of the parish. But the parish needs an increase in giving of $100,000.00 per year for each of the next five years in order to achieve financial stability. In reality, this is going to come from members and friends, and mostly old friends.
I have faith in our mission and our community. I have faith that we can meet the challenge of our generation. I have faith in you. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Terry, Mary, Wayne, Frederick, Jack, Doreen, Fred, Gert, Ana, Kevin, Gloria, William, Gilbert, Rick, Carl, priest, Thomas, priest, and Charles, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Steven, Andrew, Patrick, Brenden, Christopher, Marc and Steve; and for the repose of the souls of Vera, Barbara, Virginia and Elvin . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . November 15: 1959 Irene Helen Williams, 1972 Wallace Charles Taylor, 1973 Estelle Moore, 1983 Ralph Burus Smith, 1997 Noel J. Blackman.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Virginia Pomponio, a close friend of parishioners Donna and Terry O’Dwyer, died at the end of October after a long struggle with cancer. Please pray for Virginia, for her husband Hank and for all who mourn. J.R.S
AROUND THE PARISH . . . On All Saints’ Day Aria Magdalene Hokedsi, daughter of Titcha Kedsri Ho and Tyson Ho, and Mateo Stephen Akiro Innis-Kopelson, son of Michael Innis-Jiménez and Heather Kopelson, were baptized. Titcha Kedsri Ho and Autumn Martin were confirmed and Raymond J. DeVries, Jr., Raymond Neider and Marie J. G. Rosseels were received. Please welcome all of our new members and keep them in your prayers . . . Many thanks to Jim Dennis who was host for the gracious reception that followed the Solemn Mass on All Saints’ Day . . . The Visual Arts Program (VAP) invites you to take a look at its latest exhibition in Saint Joseph’s Hall: a number of dramatic paintings by Noni . . . We continue to collect gifts for people of all ages who are living with HIV and AIDS. A box has been set up in Saint Joseph’s Hall where donated gifts may be placed. Gift ideas are: new clothing for men, women and children of all ages, games, basic cosmetics, disposable cameras, phone cards, dolls and toys of all kinds, scarves, gloves and hats. Please note: no used items or food items may be donated. . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, November 10, by Father Smith and on Saturday, November 17, by Father Mead . . . Attendance: All Saints’ Day 369, All Souls’ Day 243, Last Sunday 257.
CHRISTIAN FORMATION . . . Church History 201 continues this coming Sunday, November 11, at 12:45 PM, in Saint Benedict’s Study. Parishioner and archivist Dick Leitsch will lead the third part of this series with a class on Thomas McKee Brown (1841-1898), founding rector of the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin . . . The Wednesday night Bible Study continues on November 14 at 7:00 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study . . . Liturgical Music: Sunday, November 18, 2007, at 12:45 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study, led by Mr. Robert McCormick. This class offers an introduction to the music used in church worship: hymns, psalms, minor propers, chants, anthems, the ordinary of the Mass, and of course the organ.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Improvisation (Élévation) from Suite médiévale (1947) by Jean Langlais (1907-1991). This piece quotes the hymn Adoro te devote, Sunday’s Postcommunion hymn. The postlude is Air for organ (1963) by Gerre Hancock (b. 1934). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa ‘Cantate Domino’ by Duarte Lôbo (c. 1545-1646), a Portuguese composer. Lôbo and his contemporaries Manuel Cardoso and John IV represent what is sometimes called the “golden age” of Portuguese polyphony. Despite working in a time of transition between the late Renaissance and Baroque periods, Lôbo’s music is stylistically similar to the earlier music of Palestrina and Victoria (who, it might be said, composed at the highest points of polyphony in their countries of Italy and Spain, respectively). This “polychoral” work in eight parts features rapid, syncopated rhythms. The anthem at Communion is I know that my Redeemer liveth by Thomas Tomkins (1572-1656) . . . The Postcommunion hymn, Humbly I adore thee, Verity unseen (tune: Adoro te devote), is among the most familiar hymns addressed to the Blessed Sacrament. The text, of questionable origin, has been attributed to Saint Thomas Aquinas. The tune first appeared in a 1697 “Parisian Processional,” and, while similar in character to Gregorian chant, it is almost certainly of later origin than the ancient body of chant . . . The recital at 4:40 PM is by Paul Olson . . . Reminder: An introductory meeting and first rehearsal of Saint Mary’s new volunteer choir will be held on Advent Sunday, December 2, beginning at 3:00 PM in the choir room. Please let me know if you plan to come (firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-869-5830, ext. 24). For those not able to attend this meeting, I’d still be delighted to hear of your interest in the choir. Robert McCormick
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Monday Charles Simeon, Priest, 1836
Wednesday The Consecration of Samuel Seabury, First American Bishop, 1784
Friday Margaret, Queen of Scotland, 1093 Abstinence
Saturday Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln, 1200
Sunday: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 9:00 AM Mass, 10:00 AM Sung Mass, 11:00 AM Solemn Mass, 5:00 PM Solemn Evensong and Benediction. 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.