From Father Smith: Some Thoughts on Evangelism
I recently asked a parishioner if he could remember why he had decided to join Saint Mary’s. I was curious about what had drawn him here in the first place and if there had been something particular, some “tipping point,” that had convinced him to stay. He smiled and said, “Well, this will seem silly to you, but I had been coming here for a while, mostly to daily Mass. I’d sit out in the nave. I never talked to anyone and I never went to Communion. Finally, one of the priests asked me why I didn’t receive and if I would like to. I told him that I had stopped going to church for a very long time and now, coming back, there were some things that seemed strange to me, things that I couldn’t get used to. ‘Like what,’ he asked. I said, ‘Like this business of receiving Communion in the hand instead of on the tongue.’ Well, when I said that he just sighed, rolled his eyes and said, ‘Oh, please, do you think that at the Last Supper, the twelve apostles knelt on cushions at an altar rail and stuck their tongues out at Jesus?’ And that was it. For whatever reason that was the ‘tipping point’ for me.”
That story is instructive. “New-member ministry,” evangelism, catechesis – there is more art involved in these things than there is science. Each story, each history, each person is unique and so are that person’s questions, worries, hopes, and fears. In this case, humor and a touch of irreverence had done the trick. But there’s more going on here, as our parishioner acknowledged. Communion in the hand or placed carefully on the tongue – around here that is a choice; it’s an option. It’s also, to use a bit of theological jargon, an adiaphoron, something peripheral, secondary, something that, at the end of the day, doesn’t really “make much of a difference” (though individuals may have preferences in this area that need to be respected). What does make a difference is Jesus. He is the center. In this story, the priest involved had rather cleverly brought the conversation back to Jesus, the place where it really belonged.
I am, just now, slowly working my way through a long, difficult, but very interesting book by the Canadian philosopher, Charles Taylor. In this book, A Secular Age, Taylor makes an important distinction. First, he points out that in the modern, “secular” world, especially in the West, there exists an option to believe or not to believe. Second, he says that believers and nonbelievers both aspire to achieve something that he describes as “fullness,” an experience, a “place or condition” that is richer, more worthwhile, more what life should really be than everyday life usually is. Third, Taylor suggests that, for believers, this “fullness comes to them, that it is something they receive … in something like a personal relation, from another being capable of love and giving”; that this relationship involves “practices of devotion, prayer … charity and giving”; and that in everyday life the believer knows that he or she is not able to love, give, pray or be devoted in a complete way and so must be “opened, transformed, brought out of self…” By way of contrast, Taylor suggests, the modern unbeliever seeks to achieve “fullness” by looking within, by fulfilling his or her “potential,” by rejoicing in one’s self-sufficiency, one’s powers of reason, and one’s courage in the face of a world that, to the unbeliever, seems to be without “transcendent” meaning.
At Saint Mary’s our job, it seems to me, is to admit that we live in the sort of modern world that Taylor describes; we must respect nonbelievers and even learn from them, but we must also be clear that their way is not our way. For us, the personal relationship that Taylor describes is with God in Jesus made present by the Holy Spirit; and our job, our ministry, is to welcome those who are experiencing that relationship in their lives and, especially, to welcome those who think they are experiencing that relationship, but aren’t really sure. This is a place for welcoming the searchers and for showing them that they are not alone. It is a place for careful and creative listening and for guiding our fellow searchers, our fellow disciples, Christ’s disciples, away from the periphery and towards the center, towards that which really matters, towards that which gives life. James Ross Smith
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Michelle, Janelle, Thomas, Joanne, Carol, Kevin, Bill, Olga, Jennie, Gloria, William, Gert, Mary, Terry, Daisy, Katherine, Rozalind, Marietta, Connie, Rick, and Charles, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Christopher, Marc, Keith, Dennis, Terrance, Steven, Patrick, Andrew and Brendan; and for the repose of the soul of Edith. GRANT THEM PEACE . . . September 3: 1965 Carol Jean Kearins; September 5: 1964 Joseph Henry Schuman; September 6: 1989 Martha McKelveen Jones.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The Brazilian Day Festival is Sunday, August 31, here on 46th Street. Please remember that our neighborhood will be crowded this Sunday and adjust your travel plans accordingly . . . Monday, September 1, is Labor Day: the church is open from 10:00 AM until 2:00 PM; the parish office will be closed; only the noonday services are offered . . . Father Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, August 30, and on Saturday, September 6.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . The Rector continues on vacation until Tuesday, September 2. He will be back in the office on Wednesday, September 3 (his return date was incorrect in last week’s newsletter) . . . Interim organist, James Kennerley, will be away from the parish at an organ competition from Thursday, September 4, until Monday, September 8. Robert McDermitt will play the services on Sunday, September 7 . . . Flowers are needed for the altar for all of the Sundays in September . . . Father Mead has recruited two new altar servers and is looking for at least five more. If you are interested, please speak with him . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 267.
COMING EVENTS . . . Monday, September 8, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sung Mass at 6:00 PM . . . Sunday, September 14, Holy Cross Day . . . Sunday, September 28, and Monday, September 29, “Primary Things: A Liturgical Conference of the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin” . . . Sunday, September 28, the Eve of Saint Michael and All Angels, Solemn Evensong & Benediction, 5:00 PM, Sermon by the Reverend Dr. Clayton L. Morris, Program Officer for Liturgical and Spiritual Resources, The Episcopal Church Center . . . Monday, September 29, Saint Michael and All Angels, Solemn Pontifical Mass at 6:00 PM, the Right Reverend Frank T. Griswold, celebrant and preacher. Solemn Mass is preceded by an organ recital at 5:30 PM played by James Kennerley . . . Saturday, October 4, Marian Hymn Sing & Oktoberfest . . . Sunday, October 5, Mr. Jedediah Fox will be ordained to the Diaconate at the Convention of the Diocese of Montana in Billings, Montana, by the Right Reverend C. Franklin Brookhart, Jr. Jed has been serving as Seminarian Intern at Saint Mary’s since 2007, and he will serve as Deacon at Saint Mary’s this year . . . Sunday, October 5, the Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost, Summer Schedule ends: Sung Matins at 8:30 AM, Sung Mass at 9:00 AM, Said Mass at 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass at 11:00 AM, Organ Recital at 4:40 PM, Solemn Evensong & Benediction at 5:00 PM.
ABOUT THE MUSIC . . . The organ prelude at Solemn Mass this Sunday service is Chorale No. 2 in B minor by César Franck (1822-1890). The cantor is Ms. Karen Wapner, contralto, who will sing as a choral prelude Bringt her dem Herren by Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672). The work is taken from the first of the two volumes of his Kleine geistliche Konzerte (“Little Sacred Concertos”), published during the 1630s. The communion motet is from Johann Sebastian Bach’s (1685-1750) cantata Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (“A mighty fortress is our God”), BWV 80, which was composed for a festival celebrating the Reformation when Bach was Thomaskantor in Leipzig from 1723-1750. The postlude, Moto Ostinato, is taken from Czech composer Petr Eben’s (1929-2007) Musica Dominicalis (“Sunday Music”) . . . The Saint Mary’s Volunteer Choir will have its first rehearsal on Sunday, September 28, from 3:00-4:30 PM. We would love to have you join us – if you are interested, please contact the Music Office. James Kennerley
CHILDCARE . . . Children are always welcome at Mass at Saint Mary’s. The Rector encourages families with children to sit at the front of the church – so the children can see easily and clearly. However, there are some Sundays when young children might need somewhere else to go. The Saint Benedict’s Nursery & Playroom is staffed by Ms. Laura Minor, a professional childcare provider. The Nursery & Playroom is open and available every Sunday from 8:45 AM until 12:45 PM.
SUNDAY SCHOOL BEGINS OCTOBER 5, 2008, AT 10:00 AM . . . The Saint Mary’s Sunday School for Children meets in the Morning Room (follow the blue signs in Saint Joseph’s Hall to reach the Morning Room). Our Sunday School will be led by our seminarian, Mr. Jedediah Fox. We are looking for volunteers to assist Jed one Sunday each month. If you have any questions about Sunday School, please speak to Father Mead.
ADULT CHRISTIAN EDUCATION BEGINS OCTOBER 5, 2008, AT 10:00 AM . . . Father Mead and Father Smith will teach the first class in this year’s Christian Essentials Series. The class is entitled “Opening the Good Book”: Reading & Interpreting the Bible. This four-session class (October 5, 12, 19, 26) aims at helping participants feel more confident and comfortable when they are reading, interpreting and discussing the Bible. We will propose some solutions to a number of commonly asked questions about reading and interpreting the Bible. Participants are encouraged to ask questions and add to the discussion by offering their own experience of reading, hearing, interpreting, discussing and even being “hit over the head with” the Holy Scriptures. Coffee and doughnuts will be provided. Adult Education classes meet on the second floor of the Mission House.
MARIAN HYMN SING & OKTOBERFEST . . . You may have heard of Oktoberfest, the annual Bavarian celebration of German food, beer, people, and singing. This October at Saint Mary’s we’re doing something similar. Join a very jovial group of Saint Marians for the second annual Marian Hymn Sing and Oktoberfest in Saint Joseph’s Hall (and the organ loft!) on Saturday, October 4, at 6:00 PM. German-style beverages and organ accompaniment will be provided. The rest is pot-luck with a German theme. We hope you can join us! J.K. and M.M.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Monday Weekday Labor Day – Federal Holiday Schedule
Tuesday The Martyrs of New Guinea, 1942
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
Eve of the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 9:00 AM Sung Mass, 10:00 AM Said Mass, 11:00 AM Solemn Mass,
5:00 PM Evening Prayer, 5:20 PM Said Mass. Childcare is available from 8:45 AM until 12:45 PM every Sunday.
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 Wednesday 12:10 PM Mass is sung. Thursday Masses include healing services.
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.