From the Rector: Henry VIII Was Wrong
A few years ago, there was a New York Times profile of the Reverend George William Rutler, pastor of the Roman Catholic Church of Our Savior, New York City. He had been an Episcopal priest. He was one of the first priests who became a Roman priest after the Church began to ordain women. In the article Father Rutler said he had become a Roman Catholic because he realized “Henry VIII was wrong.”
It was a great line and one that I have not forgotten. I wish I had as clever a remark about why I became an Episcopalian. I agree with his sentiment that Henry VIII was wrong, but for a very different reason. Henry VIII was right in my opinion about the papacy. He was wrong that a woman could not be queen of England – the reason he always gave for pursuing divorces and remarrying. I suspect the British people recognize that no greater monarch ever reigned than Henry’s daughter Elizabeth.
I have been to a lot of ordinations since I came to New York. And there’s another one this coming Saturday. On September 23, the Reverend Ryan Edwin Lesh is to be ordained priest at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. Father Lesh was ordained deacon on March 19, 2005. He was nominated by our parish for ordination. He has been a deacon for an unusually long period of time for our generation, but not from the perspective of Christian history. A year-long diaconate is still the canonical standard, though in practice most dioceses take advantage of a provision which enables this to be shortened to six months. Ryan has been a deacon for an extended period of time at his request and with the Bishop of New York’s full support. What is most interesting about Ryan’s vocation is that the call to be priest came after his call to be a physician.
When Ryan first approached me about priesthood I wasn’t entirely sure what I thought about physicians being priests. At the time I didn’t know any. Ryan spoke of the work of a physician with the language of a pastor. Working with Ryan before he moved to California to study at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and keeping in touch with him since, has given me an appreciation of the many gifts he brings to the service of the Church and of some of the possibilities of the ministry of priests who are also physicians. Along the way, another physician called to the priesthood, the Reverend Canon John W. Kilgore, came to Saint Mary’s to serve while he studied at the General Theological Seminary. I think both Ryan and John helped me to see priesthood in a new way. They used the language of being a pastor with reference to their work as physicians and of their call to be priests.
I have been writing newsletter articles like this for close to twenty years now. Sometimes I look back and I can see how my understanding of many things changed. Among the theological understandings that have broadened my understanding of the ministry of the priests of the Church.
I was ordained in 1983 using the rite of the current Prayer Book. The older rites for ordination are worth looking at. The older rite had this admonition for a newly consecrated bishop, “Be unto the flock of Christ a shepherd, not a wolf; feed them, devour them not.” During the “Ordering of Priests” those to be ordained are told they are to be “Messengers, Watchmen, and Stewards of the Lord; to teach, and to premonish, [warn beforehand] to feed and provide for the Lord’s family; to seek for Christ’s sheep that are dispersed abroad, and for his children who are in the midst of this naughty world, that they may be saved through Christ for ever.”
I am uncomfortable with language in our ordination rite that suggests a priest offers “spiritual sacrifices” apart from the People of God or that a bishop possesses a “high priesthood” apart from Christ or apart from the People of God. Conversations I have had with Ryan, John and others have led me to embrace a new breadth about the possibilities of what a pastor can be. I continue to work to learn that priesthood is primarily about serving those who belong to Christ – not saying Mass, not being a member of a priestly caste descended from the males who were in the Upper Room, not offering sacrifice in the place of Christ apart from the People of God. I work to avoid saying “my” parish or “my” people. I don’t own a parish; I don’t own any people. The sheep, and I trust in his mercy God counts me among them, all belong only to Jesus.
I hope many of our community may be able to be at the Cathedral on Saturday, September 23, at 10:30 AM. Father Lesh will be celebrant and preacher for the Sung Mass here at Saint Mary’s on the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels, Friday, September 29, at 6:00 PM. I invite you to be present for both occasions. Together I hope you and I will continue to respond to the work to which Christ calls us, to love and serve in his name. Henry VIII was wrong about women monarchs. I hope I am not wrong about wanting to understand Christian priests as servants of God’s people. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked especially for George who is hospitalized, for those to be ordained, especially, and for Harold, Robert, Gloria, John, Mansell, Terry, Sandra, Grace, Tony, Isa, Joy, Christine, Danny, Ann, William, Gabriela, Eve, Roy, Deborah, Virginia, Mary, William, Ana, Gilbert, Jeanne, Joseph, Rick, Hilary, Thomas, priest, Louis, priest, and Charles, priest, and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Fahad, Joseph, Patrick, Bruce, Brenden, Jonathan, Christopher, Timothy, Nestor, Freddie, Dennis and Derrick . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . September 21: 1976 Harold E. Pim; September 23: 1969 Rosie Matilda Flemister Erwin.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . As we go to press, George Blackshire is at Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan . . . . Robert McCormick will play a recital this Sunday, September 17; at 4:00 PM at the Cathedral Church of St. John in Albuquerque, New Mexico . . . Help is needed by Father Mead on Saturday, September 23, to organize the basement. The workday begins at 9:00 AM . . . Flowers are needed for Sundays in October and November. Please contact the parish office if you would like to provide flowers . . . Please save Sunday, October 15, after Evensong for a parish baby shower for Matthew and Nicole Mead . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, September 16, by Father Gerth and on Saturday, September 23, by Father Mead . . . Join the Spirituality and Reading group after Solemn Mass on Sunday, September 24 for a movie on the life and writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The movie will begin immediately after Coffee Hour concludes . . . Sunday School for children resumes on October 1 at 10:00 AM. Full details about Christian education this fall are available on the parish web site. If you are not online and would like a printed copy of it, please send a note to Father Mead . . . Attendance Nativity of Mary 75, Last Sunday 248, September 11 188.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . The morning Masses are played this Sunday by Mr. Robert McDermitt, associate organist . . . At the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier, BWV 731 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). The postlude is Tuba Tune in D, Opus 15 by Craig Sellar Lang (1891-1971). The cantor is Ms. Elizabeth Baber, soprano. The music at Communion is Excelsus super omnes gentes Dominus from Laudate pueri, HWV 236 by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759). Robert McCormick
MISSION THROUGH MUSIC IN SOUTH INDIA . . . On Sunday, September 17, come and meet Dr. Randall Giles, director, Madras Diocese Department of Liturgy and Music, Church of South India. Dr. Giles is an appointed missionary of the Episcopal Church. Since 2000, he has been working with the Church of South India’s Madras Diocese. Admission is free but we would be grateful for a $10.00 donation per person to help Dr. Giles’s mission in South India. The program begins at 1:00 PM in Saint Joseph’s Hall.
FALL RETREAT AT HOLY CROSS MONASTERY . . . There are still a couple of spaces open for the retreat beginning Friday night, October 13, through Sunday, October 15. The cost is $140.00 per person, and includes room and meals. Since space is limited, reserve your spot with Father Beddingfield as soon as possible. Optional discussions on the retreat will center on the book Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality by Esther De Waal (Morehouse, 1998).
MOVIE NIGHT AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Join us in Saint Joseph’s Hall on Friday, September 22 at 7:00 PM, following Evening Prayer and Mass. We will watch Franco Zeffirelli’s Brother Sun, Sister Moon, which focuses on the early years of the life of Saint Francis of Assisi. Food and beverages are provided for every movie night; we ask a few extra dollars to cover the cost.
SAINT MARY’S ON THE ROAD . . . Benjamin Franklin said, “Beer is proof that God loves us.” Exploring this intriguing idea, a group of Saint Marians, led by Richard Theilmann, are taking a trip to the Brooklyn Brewery on Saturday, October 7. Brooklyn Brewery has graciously offered to take us on a tour of their brewery where we can learn about one of the world’s oldest beverages! If you would like to join us, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE FRICK BELLINI OF ST. FRANCIS AND HIS CANTICLE TO THE SUN . . . On Monday, October 2, at 7:00 PM the Visual Arts Program presents Dr. Pamela Tudor-Craig, Lady Wedgwood. For more information, see the Visual Arts section of the website.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Monday Edward Bouverie Pusey, Priest, 1882
Tuesday Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury, 690
Wednesday John Coleridge Patteson, Bishop of Melanesia, and his Companions, Martyrs, 1871
Eve of Saint Matthew, Apostle & Evangelist
Thursday Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
Friday Weekday Friday Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
Sunday: 8:30 AM Sung Matins, 9:00 AM Mass, 10:00 AM Sung Mass, 11:00 AM Solemn Mass,
5:00 PM Evening Prayer, 5:20 PM Said 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. The 12:10 Mass on Wednesday is sung.
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