From the Rector: Lift Every Voice Great Thanksgiving
In 1987, while serving at Saint Luke’s Church, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the Reverend Curtis Sisco, the new rector of Saint Luke’s Church, New Orleans, asked me to serve as master of ceremonies for his service of institution. It was a joyous occasion. The bishop of Louisiana was celebrant. I recall a lot of good food afterwards. There was one part of that service that I’ve never forgotten. After the ministration of Communion, the congregation and organ burst into a hymn I did not know, “Lift every voice and sing.” It will tell many readers something about my background that this was the first time I remember hearing what was by then generally acknowledged to be the national anthem of the African-American community.
That Sunday evening in 1987, Saint Luke’s still had The Hymnal 1940 in the pews; this hymn was not in that hymnal. It is in The Hymnal 1982. The words were not in the service leaflet. There were two of us in the chancel who did not know the words, the bishop and me. Saint Luke’s is one of the historic African-American congregations of the Church. The bishop and I were the only Caucasians among the ministers of the assembly that day. I knew that night I wanted to learn and sing this hymn.
Saint Mary’s is known for its music, and justly so. Our organ and our acoustics are famous. Many great musicians have served as organist and director of music in the history of our parish. Our principal parish choir is made up of a group of professional singers with extraordinary gifts. With the organization of our newest choir, Saint Mary’s Singers, the parish has again a dedicated group of gifted non-professionals singing regularly in the services of the church. My sense is that what is not so widely known about Saint Mary’s is what a singing congregation generally we are.
Sudden illness prevented a guest organist from being with us (he’s okay and getting better) for the Sung Mass on the feast of Saint Peter & Saint Paul. There were thirty-nine of us for that Monday evening Mass. Father Mead ended up serving as cantor. The church filled with song during what was not planned to be unaccompanied singing of congregational settings of Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus dei. The appointed psalm was beautifully sung to simplified Anglican chant. Two hymns were also sung. There were more than a few moments when there was a unity of voice that was transfiguring of the soul. One can argue the merits of various tunes and texts, but I don’t know of a hymn in the hymnal that Saint Mary’s congregation can’t sing.
Hymns are selected to go with the appointed Scriptures of the day, especially the gospel. Seasonal selections matter. A musically challenging hymn will be used on a Sunday with a couple of strong, familiar hymns. Very few hymns are sung twice across the year; most of what we sing we sing just once. We alternate the tune we use for “O little town of Bethlehem” on Christmas Eve from year to year. You can tell who the long-time members and friends of this parish are on big Marian days – they are the ones who know all the words to “Ye who own the faith of Jesus.”
On the Sunday closest to Independence Day, our final hymn is always a great national hymn. This year it will be “God of our fathers, whose almighty hand.” The hymn at the preparation will be, as it has been since I’ve been rector, “Lift every voice and sing.” It was written in 1900 for an all-black school in Florida and first sung there that year.
The text is by an African-American, James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938). The tune was composed by his brother John Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954). It’s about the struggle of their community for freedom and equality, written just four years after the 1896 United States Supreme Court decision that made segregation legal across the nation – remember the fiction “separate but equal.”
In the text of the hymn there is a call for all to work against prejudice and discrimination. There is still work for justice and equality in our time. The tune is simply great American song. And if you have never heard the hymn played and sung in Saint Mary’s, you are in for a special experience this Sunday at the 11:00 AM Solemn Mass. Stephen Gerth
SUNDAY PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Frances and Margaret who are hospitalized; for Andrea, Jonathan, Toni, Carol, Eva, Allan, Allan, Jenny, Wayne, Charisse, Jewell, Dorothy, Rick, Jean Marie, Kirk, Jack, Alice, Harold, Marcia, Richard, Stephen, Laura, Madeleine, Marc, William, Gert, Mary, Daisy, Colleen, Rick, Lillian, religious, and Roy, priestFrances who is hospitalized; for Jenny, Murphy, Allan, Jewell, Aaron, Charisse, Dorothy, Rick, Jean Marie, Kirk, Jack, Alice, Harold, Marcia, Richard, Mary, Stephen, Laura, Donna, Madeleine, Marc, William, Gert, Mary, Daisy, Colleen, and Rick; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Marc, Omar, Christopher, Benjamin, Steven, Andrew, and Patrick Len, Pablo, Ian, Nancy Brook. . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . July 5: 1884 Edith Centre Burleigh, 1902 Martha Frances, 1939 Eyland Jarvis Hall, 1986 Peter McGrance.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The regular Saturday schedule will be observed on Saturday, July 4 . . . The Irish choir Capella will give a short concert on June 26 at 1:15 PM. Music is by Rutter, Allegri, McGlynn and others, and entry is free . . . On Saturday, June 20, Father Mead will hear confessions; On July 4 Father Gerth will hear confessionsonJune 27. On July 11 Father Mead will hear confessions . . . Saint Mary’s Guild meets on Saturday, July 11, from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM in the Mission House.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Frances Geer, Hardison Geer’s wife, continues at Mount Sinai Medical Center for rehabilitation. Please keep her in your prayers . . . As we go to press, Margaret Malone continues at St. Luke’s Hospital. Please keep her in your prayers . . . The Arrow – a parish newsletter from the 1890s – is now available online at the parish website. Look for it (and much more) in the Archives section of the website . . . Altar flowers are needed for the following dates: July 12 and 26. Please contact the parish office if you would like to make a donation . . . James Kennerley is on vacation and returns to the parish on Sunday, July 12 . . . Father Smith is on vacation and returns to the parish on Monday, July 13 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 202, Saint Peter & Saint Paul 109.
459A GREAT DAY: THANKS SO MUCH! . . . Did you notice that the sun came out when we processed into Times Square with the Blessed Sacrament on Sunday? Corpus Christi was fantastic, the liturgy and music were wonderful, and it was a great treat to have a Guild Fair and festive lunch afterwards. Thanks to everyone for making it such a great day and for making lunch and the guild fair such a success: all of our guilds grew and the procession returned to the church with about twenty more people than when it left!
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . During the summer months, the full choir is on vacation, and a cantor or a small group of voices sing at Solemn Mass. This Sunday our guest organist is Enrico Contenti, a recent graduate from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music’s Master of Music in organ performance. The cantor is Amanda Sidebottom, soprano. The prelude at Solemn Mass is the chorale prelude on Herzlich tut mich erfreuen, no. 11 from Opus 122 by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897). At the ministration of Communion, the cantor sings the motet Haec est regina virginum, HVW 235, by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759). This motet was composed in Rome in 1707 during Handel’s Italian years, when he made the acquaintance of Arcangelo Corelli, Antonia Caldara, and both Alessandro and Domenico Scarlatti. Most of his works from this time (as well as his later Italian operas) show the distinct influence of the unabashedly theatrical Italian style of musical writing. This antiphon, however, is introspective and serene, in many ways showing the influence of J.S. Bach, as much a contemplation of the Virgin as an appeal to her. James Kennerley
CARING FOR VESTMENTS & ALTAR LINENS . . . Saint Mary’s Guild assists the sisters with the care of vestments and altar linens. You are invited to join the sisters for the 12:10 Mass on Saturday, July 11, and the meeting that follows in the Arch Room of the Mission House from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM. New members and those who are interested in learning about the work of the guild are always welcome.
MUSIC IN CENTRAL PARK . . . Grace Bruni is leading an expedition of parishioners to Central Park to picnic in style and to hear the New York Philharmonic on the Great Lawn on July 14 and July 17. These free concerts feature different programs of Mozart, Beethoven, Copland and Mahler, with a fireworks display following each concert. For more information contact Grace (email@example.com) with any questions.
WEBSITE UPDATE . . . The parish website (www.stmvirgin.org) has been getting a bit of a makeover the last few weeks. Please take a few minutes to browse the site. If you see any errors please contact me. Thank you so much. Matthew Mead
JOINING A NEW GUILD . . . It’s not too late to join a parish guild. Signing up is easy – just visit the parish website, click on the Join a Parish Guild section, and learn about and sign up for any of the parish guilds… Or speak to Father Mead!
A FRIENDLY REMINDER . . . If you plan to be away from the parish for all or part of the summer, we would appreciate it if you tried to stay current on your pledge payments. We often run into cash-flow problems during the summer months and that is, of course, a special concern this year. Thank you very much for your consideration – and thank you to all who give so generously to support the work and mission of this parish.
MISSION & OUTREACH . . . Food Pantry: You are invited to bring non-perishable food items on Sundays and place them in the basket at the back of the church or on the table in Saint Joseph’s Hall. The food is then delivered to Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Thank you to all those who have given so generously and so consistently to this very important outreach effort . . . Post-Katrina Mission Trip to the Gulf Coast (Mississippi and Louisiana): A group from Grace Church, Brooklyn Heights, is planning a mission trip to the Gulf Coast for November 8-14, 2009. This is not their first trip so the effort seems to be well-established. The coordinators have already booked lodging (described as “convenient and comfortable”) in New Orleans’s Garden District. For more information, please speak to Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins or send an e-mail to Barbara Pace at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Fifth Third Sunday After Pentecost
Monday WeekdayAlban, First Martyr of Britain, c. 304
Eve of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
Saturday Benedict of Nursia, Abbot of Monte Cassino, c. 540
Eve of the Sixth Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 9:00 AM Said Mass, 10:00 AM Said Mass, 11:00 AM Solemn Mass,
5:00 PM Evening Prayer. Childcare is available from 9:00 AM until 1:00 PM all Sundays of the year.
Monday–Friday: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass, 6:00 PM Evening Prayer. The Wednesday Mass is sung. The Thursday Mass includes anointing of the sick.
Saturday: 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass, 5:00 PM Evening Prayer, 5:20 PM Sunday Vigil Mass.
Confessions are heard on Saturdays 11:30-11:50 AM & 4:00-4:50 PM.