From the Rector: Voices and Dirt
In September my siblings and I began the process of cleaning out my mother’s house in southern Maryland. She has Alzheimer’s disease and will never return home. While there we visited the graveyard at Trinity Church, St. Mary’s City, where my stepfather, Bill, was buried. None of us had been there since his funeral on February 19, 2007. His gravestone had just gone up and we wanted to see it. Yet I think we were drawn there by something much greater than the stone, memory or love. I think about our human biology that does not allow us to forget our parents, those who have gone before. And I think there is something in our biology that does not allow us to forget God.
I was very aware that we had buried well. Every person, young and old, who cast earth on Bill’s coffin after it had been lowered into the ground helped physically to bury him. It is a ritual that by its nature helps us to move on, as in fact life always moves on, to the future, to the end of time. I was aware of something much greater as we saw the grave and walked around the graveyard.
A few months after the funeral I was attending a conference for Episcopal clergy and overheard some priests talking about a graveyard service where balloons were released. I had tried hard to be a good sport through all of the worship at the conference – mostly well-intentioned but not really very well done. The balloon conversation put me over the edge. I said aloud, “In my family we use dirt.” Walking around Bill’s grave last month, I thought about those balloons and remembered the sound dirt makes as it hits a coffin. I think the ability of my family to move on, as hard as it was and is, has a lot to do with the truth of dirt, the sound of dirt.
My most profound association of sound and death, however, is not from the sound of a small handful of earth dropping into a grave, but the memory of voices. I wish I could really remember the voice of my grandmother who died when I was seven, but I do remember clearly being held in her arms. I can remember my stepfather’s voice. I can remember the voices of so many people I have loved or known who are now in the nearer presence of God. I hear these sounds in my head when we celebrate, year after year, across our lives, All Saints ’ Day and All Souls ’ Day.
As we go to press on Thursday, October 30, we are preparing for the celebration of the Eve of All Saints’ Day. The Right Reverend Mark S. Sisk, bishop of New York, will be with us for Solemn Pontifical Mass at 6:00 PM. A reception follows, of course. On All Saints’ we offer a special thanksgiving for all who have died in Christ whose names are known to God. “Saint” is the New Testament word for every baptized person.
This year, All Souls’ Day is celebrated on Monday, November 3. On All Souls’ we pray for those who have died whose names are known to us. Actually, I should say in the case of this parish, we begin to pray for those who have died who are known to us. In addition to the Sung Mass at 12:10 PM and the Solemn Mass at 6:00 PM on Monday, you can see in the “Calendar of the Week” in this newsletter that there are four additional days for Masses at which we remember the dead. It’s a week where it is easy to be aware of how large our wider parish community truly is.
The music for the Solemn Mass on Monday night is the Duruflé Requiem. It’s one of the great settings for masses for the departed. As is our custom, black vestments will be worn. But our hymns on Monday are songs of Easter triumph, songs where the sounds of voices and dirt, and our memory of loss, are transformed by alleluias. I hope very much you may be able to be here on Monday evening. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Camille, Kevin, Samuel, James, Donna, Laura, Madeleine, Marc, Janelle, Joanne, Olga, Jennie, Gloria, William, Gert, Mary, Terry, Daisy, Rozalind, Rick, and Charles, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Christopher, Timothy, Benjamin, Marc, Keith, Dennis, Terrance, Steven, Patrick, Andrew and Brendan . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . November 2: 1894 John Craig; 1902 Sarah Ward Searles; 1919 Elliot Duncan; 1925 Laura Taylor Carey; 1960 Mabel Amelia Hoover; 1970 John Arthur Schwartz; 1973 Doris White, Howard M. Smith; 1976 Winona Claire Peterson; 1982 Robert W. Kennedy; 1983 Marie Anne Andokian; 1987 Clasine Adriana Van de Geer
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Friday, October 31, the Eve of All Saints’ Day, Solemn Pontifical Mass, at 6:00 PM, the Right Reverend Mark Sisk, Bishop of New York, celebrant and preacher . . .The St. Mary’s Guild meets on Saturday, November 1, 1:00-4:00 PM, on the second floor of the Mission House. . . Sunday school meets on November 2 at 10:00 AM; childcare is available every Sunday from 8:45 AM until 12:45 PM . . . The October Adult Forum: “Outward & Visible Sign, Inward & Spiritual Grace: The Sacraments (Part 1 of 3),” begins on Sunday, November 2 at 10:00 AM. Father Mead will discuss Christian Initiation . . . Monday, November 3, All Souls’ Day (transferred), Solemn Mass and Blessing of the Vault at 6:00 PM . . . The 7:00 PM Wednesday Night Dinner & Bible Study on the Prophets meets on the second floor of the Mission House on November 5. A $5.00 (minimum) donation is requested in order to defray the cost of dinner . . . Father Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, November 1, and on Saturday, November 8 . . . We are beginning the 2009 Stewardship Campaign this week. Pledge cards will be mailed, along with a letter from the Board of Trustees.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . There is no St. Mary’s Singers rehearsal on Sunday, November 2. The next rehearsal is November 9. We are still looking for singers, so please come along if you are interested! . . . The full choir is scheduled to sing for the feasts of All Saints’ and All Souls’, and so Ruth Cunningham will be the Cantor at Solemn Mass this Sunday. Ruth and I will improvise the Offertory and Communion propers, and the Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei. The Motet was composed especially for Ms. Cunningham by American composer Edward Thompson. The prelude before Mass is Méditation, Opus Post., by Maurice Duruflé, and the postlude is a thrilling toccata on “Placare Christe servulis” by Duruflé’s teacher, Marcel Dupré. The theme is used in the Roman Breviary as a hymn for Matins and Vespers at the Feast of All Saints’. Dupré was highly interested in the technological developments of the organ during the early and mid-twentieth centuries, particularly in America, and he famously made a recording at Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue. James Kennerley
AROUND THE PARISH. . . We will continue to collect gift items for AIDS Action International this coming Sunday, November 2, and will continue our effort through and including Sunday, November 16. Gift ideas are: new clothing for men, women and children, games, basic cosmetics, disposable cameras, phone cards, dolls and toys, scarves, gloves, and hats . . . We have received a letter of transfer for Carol Pepper. Carol has been a friend and supporter of Saint Mary’s for many years. We have received baptismal and confirmation certificates for James Daniel Thomson and have entered his name in the parish registers. We are very happy to welcome both Carol and James as members of the parish. Martin Ohlmeyer, Mark Preston Risinger, and Amber Nicole Shavers will be presented as candidates for confirmation at the Solemn Pontifical Mass on the Eve of All Saints’ Day . . . Congratulations to Amber Shavers who has passed the New York State Bar Exam, which she took in February, and was recently admitted to the Bar . . . Altar flowers are needed for November 9, 16, and 23 . . . Donors for the Advent Wreath are needed . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 356.
COMING EVENTS. . . . Friday, November 14, and Saturday, November 15, Diocesan Convention . . . Monday, November 17, 7:00 PM, Board of Trustees Meeting . . . Tuesday, November 18, Annual Saint Nicholas Gift Gathering Celebration at the Cathedral . . . Sunday, November 23, Feast of Christ the King and Commitment Sunday; Solemn Evensong & Benediction, 5:00 PM, the Reverend John F. Beddingfield, preacher . . . Wednesday, November 26, Eve of Thanksgiving Day, Sung Mass, 6:00 PM . . . Thursday, November 27, Thanksgiving Day, Noonday Prayer, Said Mass 12:10 PM. The parish office will be closed. The church will be open from 10:00 AM until 2:00 PM . . . Sunday, November 30, the First Sunday of Advent, Solemn Evensong & Benediction, 5:00 PM, the Reverend Professor Mitties DeChamplain, preacher . . . Save the Date: Advent Quiet Day led by Sister Laura Katharine, Saturday, December 6, 10:15 AM to 3:30 PM
STEWARDSHIP MATTERS . . . Why I Love Saint Mary’s: An Ongoing Series. Fred G. Peelen writes, “When I arrived in the U.S. in 1962 as an exchange student from The Netherlands, I searched for a church to join. Since I had been baptized in the Dutch Reformed Church in my hometown The Hague, the Presbyterian Church would probably have been the most logical choice. However, I chose the Episcopal Church and was confirmed by the Bishop of Puerto Rico, in Ponce, in 1965. When I returned to New York in 1980, I became a regular visitor at St. Bart’s, but when that parish became embroiled in its real-estate troubles, I decided it would be best if I moved to St. Thomas, Fifth Avenue. Then, one day at lunch time, I took a walk from my office, which was on Sixth Avenue, near 44th St., and I passed by Saint Mary’s. Someone was playing the organ and the choir was rehearsing. I sat down and soon realized that this was the church that I wanted to join. Shortly after my lunch-time visit, Father Gerth was called as Rector. I immediately took a liking to his enthusiasm and his friendly welcome. What a joy! Shortly thereafter, I joined the parish and the following year was asked to join the Board of Trustees, an invitation which I gladly accepted, since I had just taken early retirement and had a more flexible schedule. It was during that time that I really started to appreciate Saint Mary’s uniqueness and I came to believe that it was very important to preserve this parish for future generations. The music is so special at Saint Mary’s; the liturgy so fine; and the inclusiveness so rare! I change my travel schedules just to be at the parish for the “High Holidays,” since they are the highlights of my Christian life. Our parish is unique in so many ways, too many to state here. I hope and pray that Saint Mary’s will continue to remain unique within the Episcopal Church and serve its community for many more years to come.”
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Monday All Souls’ Day
Tuesday Parish Requiem
Wednesday Parish Requiem
Thursday Parish Requiem
Friday Willibrord, Archbishop of Utrecht, Missionary to Frisia, 739 Abstinence
Saturday Parish Requiem
Eve of the Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday: 8:30 AM Sung Matins, 9:00 AM Sung Mass, 10:00 AM Christian Formation & Sunday School, 10:00 AM Said Mass, 11:00 AM Solemn Mass, 4:40 PM Organ Recital, 5:00 PM Solemn Evensong & Benediction.
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 anointing of the sick.
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.