From the Rector: No Time for Prelates
Earlier this month I visited Father Ryan Lesh, vicar, Christ Church, Red Hook, for a few days. Many know Ryan is an anesthesiologist and was on the faculty of two distinguished medical schools before going to seminary from this parish. While I was with him I remembered that he had written a paper in seminary on the medical and theological response to the introduction of anesthesia. When anesthesia was discovered, many people were not in favor of its use for surgery or dentistry. Pain was a biblically-sanctioned, spiritual tool for helping people remember their dependence on God.
The idea of the obstetric use of anesthesia caused even greater concern among physicians and clergy (all men in that era), because in Genesis God decreed women are to bear children in pain. Queen Victoria had a different idea. Anesthesia was used for the delivery of her eighth child in 1853. That was that. Reason trumped the ordinary literal and traditional reading of Scripture, not for the first time or the last.
From time to time these past few years I have written about the controversies in the wider Anglican Communion. My guide about when to do so has been when the controversy has managed to appear on the front page of The New York Times. Well, we’re in the news again. The primates of the different provinces of the Anglican Communion met in Tanzania last week. Most of the primates are beating up on the Episcopal Church because we have pressed forward in welcoming all into the Body of Christ. Perhaps most scandalous, some refuse to participate in the Eucharist or to receive Communion when our Presiding Bishop is present in church.
Please don’t let anyone tell you it’s about the Bible. It’s not. Most Christian denominations officially do not permit women to be ordained or invite homosexuals to be in their pews. Despite all of the protestations, this is the inward and spiritual reality of the Anglican primates trying to impose their “beliefs” on us.
After the wives of the archbishop of Canterbury and his fellow primates give up obstetric anesthesia, I’ll try to pay a little more attention to them, but not much. Week after week we read from the Bible on slavery, on God decreeing the slaughter of men, women and children in the lands of Canaan, Jesus on divorce and about Christians having personal money and property. Our daily readings at Morning Prayer, Mass and Evening Prayer regularly make me realize why I value what has been the intellectual and rational tradition of Anglicanism. I really do not have time for a Christianity that is discriminatory, intellectually dishonest and autocratic.
One of my correspondents recently wrote me that his rector had preached a sermon in which he reminded their congregation that it is Christ himself who brings people into community, not them. I would add that this includes our primates: it is still Christ who acts. Christ welcomed sinners to his table and sought out the tables of sinners. I believe that he seeks out and welcomes me and all others.
Many of you know that on Valentine’s Day my stepfather William Knoeller died and my mother Barbara Knoeller was gravely injured in an automobile accident. My mother’s condition remains critical and life-threatening. So far, she has responded well to treatment. I can’t begin to witness to you and others about the sacrificial and loving character of those who responded at the scene of the accident, at hospitals, everywhere.
On Monday we buried my stepfather in the churchyard of their parish, Trinity Church, St. Mary’s City, Maryland. The church is on a bluff over the St. Mary’s River, which flows into the Potomac River near the Chesapeake Bay. It was very cold but very sunny. Men of our family and a next door neighbor carried the coffin from the church to the grave. The coffin was lowered into the ground at the committal. At the end of the service, my stepfather’s identical twin grandsons, who had turned five at the end of January, were the first to cast dirt on the coffin. The Spirit of the Lord was present in the community, the liturgy, the rector’s pastoral care and the gracious hospitality of the parish for all who mourned.
I had gone the day before to Sunday Mass at Trinity. The epistle was 1 Corinthians 12:27—13:13, Paul’s description of love. It spoke to me in so many ways, mostly about my mother. Despite all the ups and downs of life, with all of its twists and turns, I have always known that my mother loves me. She still does and always will, in this life and in the life to come. I heard Paul’s words on faith, hope and love in a new context. I won’t forget that reading at that Mass ever. I experienced that love lived out by the clergy and people of my parents’ parish.
Now, remind me what the Anglican primates were busy with this weekend? I believe we at Saint Mary’s are very much like the people of Trinity Church, St. Mary’s City, who welcomed stranger after stranger last week. (My stepfather’s funeral was the third there in four days.) All were welcome there. All are welcome here. It hasn’t always been that way in the Episcopal Church. There are too many congregations across the Church today which were founded because African-Americans were not welcome in white congregations. The Lord has not abandoned us to those who would take away the liberty with which Christ has set us free. He continues to call us and our leaders to truth and to bring others into a new family.
Remember that the man born blind was rejected by his family, his community and his religious leaders before and after he was healed. His blindness wasn’t really the issue. After he had been healed and rejected, Jesus again sought him out because the old community was not to be the man’s home. I believe we are being called now with a new intention to do Jesus’ work. To the best of our ability, our Episcopal Church really has decided to follow Jesus in a new way and I am proud of it. As the song goes, “No turning back, no turning back.” Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked especially for Barbara who is gravely ill, for Mary Ann, Chandra, Harmony, Liz, Suzanne, Charles, Brian, Ana, José, Gert, Harold, Robert, Gloria, Ray, Tony, William, Gabriela, Eve, Virginia, Mary, William, Gilbert, Rick, Thomas, priest, and Charles, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Fahad, Sean, David, Barron, Joseph, Patrick, Bruce, Brenden, Jonathan, Christopher, and Timothy, and for the repose of the souls of Charles, Joy, and Rosetta. . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 26: 1994 Milledge Polo Mosley; March 4: 1989 Timothy Francis Meyers.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Timothy Higdon’s father, Charles Higdon, died on Sunday, February 18, in Jacksonville, Florida. Please pray for the repose of the soul of Charles, for Timothy and for all who mourn.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Many thanks to all who helped with the celebration of Liam DeCoursy Mead’s baptism on Sunday, February 18 . . . Many thanks to all who helped on Ash Wednesday in so many ways . . . Credit for the design of this year’s Lenten card goes to Father Beddingfield . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, February 24, by Father Gerth and on Saturday, March 3, by Father Mead . . . Attendance last Sunday 346, Ash Wednesday Masses 532 .
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . During Lent the organ is played only as necessary to sustain the singing (with the exception of the feast of the Annunciation and, to a lesser extent, the Fourth Sunday in Lent). This is chiefly noticeable in the lack of organ voluntaries (preludes and postludes), the absence of organ improvisation to cover liturgical action (entrance music, interludes and so forth) and a greatly restrained manner of hymn accompaniment. This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa quatuor vocem by Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757), the sixth child of composer Alessandro Scarlatti. He may be best known for his sonatas for solo keyboard (though he composed numerous operas, cantatas and other church and vocal music). Though steadfastly a Baroque composer, this Mass is written a stile antico style, meaning that is modeled after Palestrina-style Renaissance polyphony. The motet at Communion is Iustitiae Domini rectae by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594). Robert McCormick
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . On Sunday, February 25, join the Reverend Dr. Louis Weil, Hodges-Haynes Professor of Liturgy, The Church Divinity School of the Pacific, for The Rites of Holy Week. He will speak about the character and meaning of the rites of Holy Week . . . The Wednesday evening Bible Study resumes on February 28 with a study on the Last Supper . . . On Sunday, March 4, the Planned Giving Committee presents Wills & Bequests, a presentation by the Reverend Richard Sloan, Stewardship Officer of the Diocese of New York.
LEARN ABOUT EPISCOPAL RELIEF & DEVELOPMENT . . . On March 11, following Solemn Mass, Mr. Erwin de Leon will discuss the ministry and programs of Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD). Learn how ERD’s international programs work towards fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals embraced by the Church. Find out how you can participate and support this work. Erwin is a parishioner at Saint Mary’s and works as interim church relations officer at ERD . . . Copies of Essentials: Lenten Meditations on Necessity and Abundance are available free of charge in the Saint Mary’s Gift Shop.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The First Sunday in Lent
Monday Weekday of Lent
Tuesday Weekday of Lent
Wednesday Weekday of Lent
Thursday Weekday of Lent
Friday Weekday of Lent Lenten Friday Abstinence
Saturday Weekday of Lent
Sunday: 8:30 AM Sung Matins, 9:00 AM Mass, 10:00 AM Sung Mass, 11:00 AM Solemn Mass, 5:00 PM Solemn Evensong & 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. On all Fridays of Lent, Stations of the Cross 7:00 PM.
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