From the Rector: Nine Years On
Sunday worshippers know that after years of preaching without a text, since December I have been writing out my sermons. For a long time I’ve made sure to have a text or an outline at Christmas and Easter – these days are far too full to keep what I want to say in my head. I was especially glad to have a text when I preached at Father John Beddingfield’s institution service earlier this month. As I began my sermon I was very aware of the many threads of my own life represented in the room. The text kept me from digression.
For starters, my uncle and aunt were there. They have known me since before I was born. Bishop James Montgomery was there. He sent me to seminary and it was he who recommended me and my predecessor, Father Edgar Wells, to this parish’s Board of Trustees to be rector. There were Saint Marians and former Saint Marians in the room, as well as lots of folks who know and are a part of our wider parish community. Mother Rosemari Sullivan and her husband, Ted Sullivan, were there too.
The sun was shining beautifully that day in Washington and I couldn’t help but think of the contrast nine years earlier to the day, January 12, 1999, when I arrived in New York. It was very gray, very cold and had snowed the day before. I arrived in a car. I was a little slow on the uptake about automobiles in midtown; it took me three days to realize I wanted to sell the car. My first day on the job officially would not be until February 1. My first Mass was to be the Solemn Mass on Candlemas. Washington’s sun reminded me of God’s providence in life, despite all of the challenges, all of the ups and downs.
I won’t be here on Friday evening February 1, 2008, when we will celebrate the Eve of the Presentation, to tell the congregation in person how privileged I feel to be rector of the parish. In my mind, there are few reasons for yours truly to miss a major festival. But this year there is one. On Saturday, February 2, the Reverend Jeffrey Dean Lee is to be consecrated bishop of Chicago. Jeffrey and I were in seminary together. He brought down the house here as preacher for our patronal feast in 2003 – remember his story about his curate who had resolved Christmas pageant issues by letting around twenty girls play Mary and four boys play Joseph?
Jeff was canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Northern Indiana in 1988 and recommended me to Trinity Church, Michigan City, where I served until I came here. He has been rector of Saint Thomas’ Church, Medina, Washington, since 2000. He and his wife have visited Saint Mary’s many times over the past few years while their daughter was at New York University. The Presiding Bishop will be the chief consecrator. Bishop Montgomery will be there. Bishop Griswold will be there. As soon as his calendar permits, I expect the new bishop of Chicago to be our guest for a major festival, this time as celebrant and preacher.
For the record, it was Father Lee who taught me to cense an altar. It was also Father Lee who suggested to me that the people might take the part of Jesus during the proclamation of the Passion on Palm Sunday and on Good Friday. The Diocese of Chicago has called one of the best priests of my generation to be its bishop.
Candlemas (the other name for the Presentation) is one of the great services of the year – and since it was my first time at the altar here it really is special for yours truly. But, I will not leave you comfortless. Father Jay Smith is going to be celebrant and preacher. Father Mead will marshal the service with his customary gifts for liturgical ministry. And our new assisting priest, Father John Merz, will be here for the first time as a concelebrant. I know many of you are looking forward to meeting him. I will miss you a lot on Friday evening. Again, I want you to know how thankful I am to be the rector of this wonderful parish. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked especially for Samuel, Joan, David, Alison, Doreen, Martina, Terry, Mary, Jane, José, Gert, Ana, Kevin, Gloria, William, Gilbert, Rick, Carl, priest, Thomas, priest, and Charles, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Terrance, Steven, Andrew, Patrick, Brenden, Christopher, Marc and Steve . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . January 28: 1987 Wan Tang Jou; February 2: 1985 Walter Phelps Warren, John Doy Woods.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, January 26, by Father Smith, and on Saturday, February 2, by Father Mead . . . Saint Mary’s 4th Annual Super Bowl party will be held following Evensong on Sunday, February 3, 2008. The party is a pot-luck. We will watch the game in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . Mark your calendars: The Lenten Quiet Day will be Saturday, February 23; the Saint Mary’s Parish Retreat at Mendham Convent will be Friday, May 16, through Sunday, May 18. For more information please speak to one of the Sisters . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 296.
CHRISTIAN FORMATION . . . On Sunday, January 27, at 10:00 AM, the Rector will lead a class on Ordination . . . On Sunday, February 3, at 10:00 AM, the Sisters will lead a class on Holy Unction & Healing . . . On Sunday, February 10, at 10:00 AM, Father Mead will lead a class on Confession . . . Father Mead’s Bible Study continues on Wednesday, January 30, at 7:00 PM. The class is studying Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans . . . Classes meet in the second-floor room of the Mission House.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is an improvisation on Galilee, the Postcommunion hymn. The postlude is Adagio in E from Three Pieces (1905) by Frank Bridge (1879-1941). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa Salve by Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611). The Spanish Victoria, one of the great musicians of the late Renaissance, lived and worked for many years in Rome, though he is recognized as Spain’s finest composer of that period. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1575 by the last surviving English Roman Catholic bishop. This setting for double choir is among Victoria’s parody masses on his own settings of the Marian antiphons (Sunday’s mass is on his eight-voice Salve Regina). The motet at Communion is Victoria’s Magi viderunt stellam . . . The recital at 4:40 PM is by William H. Atwood . . . The choir of Trinity Church, Princeton, New Jersey, directed by Tom Whittemore, sings works of Stanford, Charles Wood and Rossini at Evensong & Benediction . . . The Offertory hymn at both morning Masses is O worship the King, all glorious above! (tune: Hanover). A long-time favorite, it has been in Episcopal hymnals since 1871. The text is a metrical version of Psalm 104, and the anonymous tune has been attributed at various points to Handel and William Croft . . . On Candlemas, Friday, February 1, the recital at 5:30 PM is by Nancianne Parrella, including works of Bach, Vierne, Widor and Sergey Taneyev . . . At the Mass, the setting of the ordinary is a new work, Mass for Saint Mary’s, by Ted Hearne (b. 1982). Mr. Hearne has been a member of our professional choir since 2004. A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, he is a presently a master’s student in composition at the Yale University School of Music, one of this country’s most selective academic programs in that field. He is also artistic director of Yes is a World. This is the premiere performance of Mr. Hearne’s Mass. The composer writes, “Mass for Saint Mary’s combines propulsive rhythms and tight harmonies, evoking a dark and spiritual ritual. Each movement deals with the blurring of tonal centricity – with the approaching of a single note from all possible angles in the Gloria, repeated bell-like sonorities in the Sanctus, and falling glissandi in the Agnus Dei. It was composed for Robert McCormick and the choir of Saint Mary the Virgin.” The motet at Communion is A New Song (1997) by James MacMillan (b. 1959). Robert McCormick
CELEBRATE OUR ORGAN AND OLIVIER MESSIAEN . . . On Sunday, February 17, at 8:00 PM, Dr. Clyde Holloway, Herbert S. Autrey professor of organ, Rice University, Houston, Texas, will play a recital of Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) and César Franck (1822-1890) on Saint Mary’s Aeolian-Skinner organ. This recital is sponsored by the New York City chapter of the American Guild of Organists to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Messiaen’s birth. Dr. Holloway, one of the most distinguished artists in the organ profession today, studied extensively with Messiaen and is one of the foremost interpreters of his works. This event also celebrates the 75th anniversary of the dedication of our organ, which with its French tonal colors is ideally suited for the music of Franck and Messiaen. For further information, please see www.nycago.org. R.M.
VISUAL ARTS PROGRAM . . . Don’t miss the new Visual Arts Program exhibition in Saint Joseph’s Hall! The exhibition now features three artists exploring the themes of light and mystic revelation. There are several mixed media works by Zidaru, a visionary Romanian couple who are orthodox believers and aesthetic pioneers using beeswax, water lily petals, terra cotta and other materials to explore the angelic figure as the agent of divine will as described in the prophetic and apocalyptic literature of the Old and New Testament. Two shadowy pieces by Librado Romero recall the incantational power of ancient cave drawings, evoking memory and raw experience. Ivan Rikenmann, a Columbian artist, uses images of the modern age, light bulbs with and color grids to evoke the “light of a new Annunciation.” Special thanks to Coca and Monica Rotaru for arranging for these works to be shown. Susan Miranda, curator