From Father Smith: The Gift of Gratitude
As some of you who are reading this know, I studied theater in college and in graduate school. The reason I moved to New York over thirty years ago was to “seek my fortune” as an actor. When I arrived in the city in 1977, I had just received a Master of Fine Arts degree from an upstate university with a small, intensive, conservatory program in acting. My fellow students and I – there were about fourteen of us, seven in each year – spent much of our time together. During the day we studied acting, voice, movement, and related disciplines; at night we attended rehearsals. We were a motley crew, each one of us unique in background, education, training, skills, type, age, temperament, size, race, ethnicity, and, let it be said, talent. Such diversity was a good thing for pedagogical reasons and it was a very good thing from an artistic point of view. In the theater, difference leads to conflict which leads to drama which, when you’re lucky, makes for good theater. In this artistic boot-camp there was competition, to be sure. The theater is not a democracy and some students tended to be cast in better and more interesting roles than others, but, still, none of us was rich and, at the end of the day, for those two years, we comprised a poor, struggling, mostly happy, repertory company. All that ended after graduation.
It was then that we went our separate ways. Two or three students moved to Los Angeles or to New York and immediately found work, some of it quite lucrative. One of my colleagues landed a role in a soap opera, where she worked for a year, and then, shortly thereafter, moved to Hollywood where she was cast in a leading role in a television drama that lasted for many seasons. I, however, moved to New York and found work as an unpaid stage manager, very far off-Broadway. In order to pay the rent, I worked at a succession of jobs that were neither challenging nor well-paying. One such was my job, just a few short blocks from Saint Mary’s, on Seventh Avenue in the 50s, at a theatrical answering service. This was during a time, scarcely imaginable now, when there were no answering machines, let alone cell phones, and most actors hired a service to take messages from directors, agents, and casting agencies. It was a depressing job for an aspiring actor. The hustle and bustle of Broadway was everywhere; other actors seemed to be getting lots of auditions; and the late, great American director, Elia Kazan, had an office on the same floor and traveled up and down the elevator with me and the other phone operators, always avoiding eye contact, which only exacerbated the sense that there was a vast unbridgeable gulf between us and success, between drudgery and art, anonymity and glory, poverty and riches.
For years, whenever I thought of that job I cringed inwardly. However, a while back, I suddenly realized that, although it was during that time that I decided not to pursue a career in the theater, it was also a time when a number of other positive changes occurred in my life most of them quite dramatic: I made good friends, who are still my friends today; I made this great and strange city my home; I met native New Yorkers, a unique and inspiring people, some of them at that answering service; I met a partner with whom I’ve shared the last twenty-eight years of my life; I became an Episcopalian; I went to seminary and studied things that had always interested me; I was ordained; I’ve worked in two wonderful parishes and have assisted in a score of others, each one unique and challenging; I’ve met and worked with hundreds of people, clergy and laity, colleagues and parishioners, fellow ministers, fellow members of the Body of Christ, who have changed my life and turned faith, hope and love from abstract virtues into living realities; and, most important I finally knew, in a real and living way, the truth that God loved me “just as I was,” that Jesus Christ was my Savior, too, and that my experience of him as a living presence was not a fantasy.
Back then, I spent a lot of time being envious of my more successful colleagues, all of which was pretty much a waste of time. What I realize now is that envy and regret, disappointment, recrimination, and self-absorption are terrible and self-destructive blinders. All those things, for too long, kept me from experiencing the grace which is gratitude, the gratitude which leads to praise and worship, the worship which leads to more grace, to connection, insight and love, which lead, gloriously and infinitely, to more gratitude.
As we begin our 2009 Stewardship Campaign, I pray that, despite our uncertainties, despite our worries and anxieties, God will help us to live in that joyful place of grace which is gratitude. For it is in that rich soil that everything else begins to make sense: our planning, our priorities, our strategies, our creativity, our generosity, and our evangelism. At each Eucharist, which means, of course, “to give thanks,” let us pray for the gift of gratitude, for the success of this year’s Stewardship Campaign, and for the virtues of joy and courage, wisdom and endurance. Jay Smith
PRAYER LIST . . . Samuel who is hospitalized, Scott, Troy, Frank, James, Donna, Laura, Madeleine, Marc, Janelle, Joanne, Olga, Jennie, Gloria, William, Gert, Mary, Terry, Daisy, Rozalind, Connie, Rick, Robert, priest, 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 9: 1900 Jesse Russell Zwick; 1933 José Bornn; 1935 Mary Stone Nugent; 1955 William Isaac Hay
STEWARDSHIP MATTERS . . . Frequently Asked Questions . . . What is a pledge? A pledge is a voluntary commitment to give, indeed, to return, a worthy part of one’s income to God, the source of all our gifts. Why are we asked to pledge? In order to fulfill the duty of all Christians, which is “to follow Christ; to come together week by week for corporate worship; and to work, pray, and give for the spread of the kingdom of God.” How does a pledge to one’s church differ from other sorts of giving? Careful stewardship of our resources – our time, talent, and treasure – involves thoughtful and prayerful allocation of our income to the various individuals and organizations to whom we are committed. Christians can, should, and often do support worthy organizations other than their parish. However, giving to one’s parish is unique because it is an act of sacrificial giving which is specifically and unabashedly an act of worship. It is an expression of our belief that we are all members of the Body of Christ and it helps make tangible our baptismal promises to love God, to serve Christ in all persons, and to respect the dignity of every human person. (Sources: The Book of Common Prayer; Bishop John H. MacNaughton, More Blessed to Give, Church Publishing Company, 1975, 1989, 2002) (Next week: What’s Commitment Sunday all about? How do I make a pledge? Is a pledge a legally binding contract? What do I do if I need to adjust my pledge because of changed circumstances? What’s “proportional giving”? What is tithing?). Jay Smith
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The Saint Mary’s Singers rehearse on Sunday, November 9, from 3:00 until 4:30 PM, and will then sing Evensong at 5:00 PM. We are still looking for singers, so please come along if you are interested! . . . The prelude before Mass is the first and second movements of Trio Sonata No. 1 by J.S. Bach (1685-1750). The Mass setting, the Missa Brevis, and Communion Motet, Ego sum panis vivus, were composed by one of the greatest and most famous musicians of the sixteenth century, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525–1594). The composer was born in Palestrina, a hill town near Rome, and then became a chorister in the choir of Santa Maria Maggiore, one of Rome’s four great basilicas. His first published compositions found such great favor with Pope Julius III that Palestrina was made musical director at the Julian Chapel at Saint Peter’s Basilica. He then worked at several other churches in Rome before eventually returning to the Julian Chapel in 1571. The Missa Brevis (“A Short Mass”) is one of 104 masses that he composed, and is an excellent example of what became known as the “Palestrina Style” – a codified set of compositional techniques that has since been used for teaching polyphony to students. James Kennerley
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Sunday school meets on November 9 at 10:00 AM; childcare is available every Sunday from 8:45 AM until 12:45 PM . . . The November Adult Forum: “Outward & Visible Sign, Inward & Spiritual Grace: The Sacraments (Part 2 of 3),” continues on Sunday, November 9 at 10:00 AM. Father Mead will discuss the Holy Eucharist . . . The 7:00 PM Wednesday Night Dinner & Bible Study on the Prophets meets on the second floor of the Mission House on November 12. A $5.00 (minimum) donation is requested in order to defray the cost of dinner . . . Vocal quartet New York Polyphony will be giving a short concert in the church at 1:15 PM (following Mass) on Wednesday, November 12. Admission is free and all are welcome . . . On Saturday, November 15, the noon services will not be offered so the clergy can attend Diocesan Convention. Confessions will not be heard at either 11:30 AM or at 4:00 PM. The evening services will be offered at 5:00 PM & 5:20 PM . . . Fr. Smith hears confessions on Saturday, November 8, the Rector on Saturday, November 22.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . A special word of thanks to MaryJane Boland, Steven Heffner, Sandra Schubert, Rick Austill, Marie Rosseels, José Vidal, and the members of the Stewardship Committee for their hard and ongoing work on the 2009 Campaign and on this week’s mailing (please note: only Father Smith and the chairs of the Committee had access to any sort of financial data during the mailing process; pledgers’ privacy was strictly protected) . . . Thanks also to our musicians, acolytes, flower designers, and to all who made the All Saints’ and All Souls’ liturgies so wonderful . . . The Rector is away and returns to the office on Wednesday, November 12 . . . Altar flowers are needed for November 16 and 23 . . . Attendance: All Saints’ Day 242; Last Sunday 281; All Souls’ Day 185.
COMING EVENTS. . . . Monday, November 17, 7:00 PM, Board of Trustees Meeting . . . Sunday, November 23, Feast of Christ the King and Commitment Sunday; Solemn Evensong & Benediction, 5:00 PM, the Reverend John F. Beddingfield, preacher . . . Save the Date: Advent Quiet Day led by Sister Laura Katharine, Saturday, December 6, 10:15 AM to 3:30 PM
OPPORTUNITY FOR OUTREACH . . . We will continue to collect gift items for AIDS Action International this coming Sunday, November 9, 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.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Monday Leo the Great, Bishop of Rome, 461
Tuesday Martin, Bishop of Tours, 397
Wednesday Charles Simeon, Priest, 1836
Friday The Consecration of Samuel Seabury, First American Bishop, 1784 Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
Eve of the Twenty-seventh 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.