From the Rector: Christmas Letter
This will be the last article I write to the parish community before I begin my sabbatical leave on January 1. I’m writing on Tuesday afternoon, December 23. Decorating in the church is well underway – a small army of volunteers is hard at work. Even with greatly reduced expenditure, our flower guild has made extraordinary use of their resources – assisted by a few special donations. The church already looks great and they aren’t finished yet. Brass has been polished today and Father Mead will “candle up” the altar tomorrow. The choir will be rehearsing tonight. The wonderful festival which is Christmas will be here very soon.
The celebrations of last Sunday are as much on my mind as anything – there’s no time to think much about the sabbatical yet. Thank you so much for the receptions and the very generous gifts. I know December is not the easiest time to add anything to anyone’s calendar. The wonderful receptions, the kind words and the warmth and affection you gave me I will not forget. In alphabetical order, I want to thank by name four people who provided the leadership for the celebration, MaryJane Boland, James Dennis, Thomas Jayne and Father Jay Smith. Family and friends were present as well as a wide cross-section of the parish community. It was really special.
It’s not been an easy fall for anyone. The mismanagement of our economy by our political and corporate leaders has hit almost everyone very hard. All areas of our common life at Saint Mary’s have been affected by it. In spite of the uncertainty of the new year, our doors remain open as they have been. The trustees and the church staff have all shown a great dedication in doing what needs to be done so that Saint Mary’s can still be Saint Mary’s. Your gifts really are what keeps the doors open. Saint Mary’s continues to need your sacrificial financial support for 2008 and 2009. Help keep the doors to Saint Mary’s open for all.
As I think about being away from the parish, I want you to know that I could not have more confidence in our trustees, our officers and my staff colleagues. On the temporal side, Jim Dennis is the vice-president of the trustees and will preside at its meetings in my absence. Steven Heffner is the treasurer of the board. Susan Wamsley is the secretary. The board’s bylaws provide that the board’s officers are its Executive Committee and that this committee can act as needed on its behalf. While a rector is away, the board of trustees is formally in charge of the parish.
On the spiritual side, I’ve asked Father Mead to take the lead on liturgy, maintenance and building management. I’ve asked Father Smith to take the lead in handling pastoral care and the parish office. James Kennerley will be working closely with the clergy. Sister Laura Katharine, Sister Deborah Francis and Dick Leitsch have been assisting in the parish office. Among the tasks before I leave is to begin telephone interviews for the new business manager for the parish. I have every confidence in the Executive Committee to complete the task.
This sabbatical is happening because of a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. The trustees have been insistent that I use the grant now – and that I not apologize for doing so. It’s the first real sabbatical I have had in the twenty-five years I have been ordained. The primary purpose is to help me and the parish continue to grow in ministry – and not burn out. I say this to explain that it is the expectation of the Lilly Endowment and our board that I actually be away – no e-mails, no phone calls, no administration, no Saint Mary’s for three months except for my prayers. I hope there will be many graces for me and for Saint Mary’s from this break. I can’t begin to imagine what I will feel on my first Sunday back, which will be Palm Sunday, April 5.
Now, back to Christmas. Every year is special. I do not know why Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services seem to go so quickly. There is little that is unfamiliar. Perhaps it is the great familiarity as much as the richness of the liturgies that allows God to speak and us to hear something we have not heard before. I hope you may be able to be with us at Saint Mary’s. If you are elsewhere, I hope you will remember us in your own thoughts and prayers. You will be in ours. Stephen Gerth
SUNDAY PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Vincent who is gravely ill, and for Jocelyn, Mimi, Ewan, Alan, Marcia, Murray, Richard, Deloris, Mary, Patricia, Gloria, Samuel, Russell, Frank, Stephen, Brooke, Donna, Laura, Madeleine, Marc, Janelle, Jennie, William, Gert, Mary, Terry, Daisy, Rozalind, Connie, Rick, and Charles, Priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Christopher, Omar, Curtis, Timothy, Benjamin, Marc, Keith, Dennis, Terrance, Steven, Patrick, Andrew, and Brendan . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 28: 1904 Mary Sturgenegger; 1923 Ethel Forline Lascelle; 1940 Anita Boos; 1953 Martha May Lewis; 1956 Julia H. Early.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The parish priests do not sit for confessions on the Saturdays in Christmastide. If you wish to make a confession during the Christmas Season, please call to make an appointment . . . Sunday, December 28, at 5:00 PM the church offers a service of Lessons & Carols . . . On Wednesday, December 31, the church building and parish offices closes at 2:00 PM for New Year’s Eve . . . On Thursday, January 1, the church celebrates The Holy Name of Jesus. A Solemn Mass will be offered at 11:00 AM; Father Smith is the celebrant and preacher.
A FESTIVAL OF LESSONS & CAROLS . . . We continue the Twelve Days of Christmas by singing carols, by hearing of God’s promises in scripture come true for all the earth and by celebrating Emmanuel, God with us, in the mystery of the Mass and in the unity of Christian community. On December 28 at 5:00 PM the church will offer a service of nine lessons and carols. The story of the fall of humanity, the promise of the Messiah, and the birth of Jesus is told in nine short Bible readings, interspersed with the singing of Christmas carols and hymns. The format was based on an Order drawn up by Edward White Benson, later archbishop of Canterbury, for Christmas Eve 1880 in Truro, Cornwall. It has since been adapted and used by other churches all over the world. Hymns are sung by the congregation and choir. Carols are sung by the Saint Mary’s Singers.
MISSION & OUTREACH . . . Saint Mary’s has begun a cooperative relationship with the Food Pantry of Saint Clement’s Church, 46th Street. The Pantry serves between 400 and 500 households per week, most of them neighbors of our two parishes. Friends, visitors and parishioners are invited to bring non-perishable food items and place them in the basket at the back of the church or in Saint Joseph’s Hall during Coffee Hour. Many of you have done so already. Thank you for your generous response. Beginning in January, we also hope to provide some volunteer help at the Pantry. Money donations are also gladly accepted. Please contact Father Jay Smith for more information.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . At Solemn Mass on Christmas Day, the choir sings Missa “Dixit Maria” by Hans Leo Hassler (bapt. 1564–1612) and Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck’s (1562–1621) rousing setting of the antiphon Hodie Christus natus est. On December 28 at Solemn Mass, the prelude is the Nöel ‘C’est le bon lever’ by Guy Morançon (b. 1946). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa brevis by Andrea Gabrieli (c. 1510-1586). Gabrieli, uncle of the better-known composer Giovanni Gabrieli was, like his nephew after him, organist and chief composer at Saint Mark’s in Venice. At the administration of Communion, the choir sings the motet Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child by Kenneth Leighton (1929-1988). The text recalls the Slaughter of the Innocents, in which Herod orders all male infants in Bethlehem to be killed. The lyrics of this haunting carol represent a mother’s lament for her doomed child, a mood which is supported by Leighton’s undulating compound-meter rhythm and the use of a solo soprano voice. The carol is the only one that has survived from a sixteenth-century mystery play called The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors, which depicts the Christmas story from the Gospel of Matthew, and was performed in Coventry (hence this carol’s nickname Coventry Carol). Both the prelude and the postlude are in the form of Nöels, a French tradition of setting popular Christmas dance tunes as organ pieces, often in the form of theme and variations. They make use of the many colors available on the organ, such as the trompette, cromorne and cornet stops.
The Saint Mary’s Singers rehearse on December 28 at 2:30 PM (please note the earlier time!) to prepare for the service of Christmas Lessons & Carols. We then meet on January 1 at 10:00 AM to sing for 11:00 AM Solemn Mass on New Year’s Day. James Kennerley
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Thank you to Jim Dennis, Jon Bryant, John Delves, and the sextons, for their hard work organizing and hosting the reception at Coffee Hour last Sunday . . . Many thanks to all who did so much to get us ready for Christmas, including those who helped decorate the church for Christmas, distributed publicity postcards to local hotels, donated food, fed the volunteers, worked on the lighting in the church, ran errands, helped out in the office, assisted the music director and worked on the organ, among many other tasks. It couldn’t happen without you! Flowers are needed for many Sundays and feast days following Christmas. If you would like to donate the flowers for any one of these days, please contact Father Mead . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 390.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The First Sunday after Christmas Day
Monday The Holy Innocents
Tuesday Christmas Weekday
Wednesday Christmas Weekday – The church closes at 2:00 PM today.
Thursday Holy Name of Jesus
Friday Christmas Weekday No Abstinence
Saturday Christmas Weekday
Eve of the Second Sunday after Christmas Day
Sunday: 8:30 AM Sung Matins, 9:00 AM Mass, 10:00 AM Mass, 11:00 AM Solemn Mass, 4:40 PM Organ Recital, 5:00 PM Lessons and Carols.
Childcare is available from 8:45 AM until 12:45 PM every Sunday.
This Week: Monday, Tuesday and Friday: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass, 6:00 PM Evening Prayer, 6:20 PM Mass. Please see the newsletter for service details for New Year’s Eve and Day.
This Saturday: 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass; 5:00 PM Evening Prayer, 5:20 PM Sunday Vigil Mass. Confessions are heard only by appointment during Christmastide.