From Father Smith: “Rejoice, O Jerusalem …”
Longtime readers of this newsletter are probably acquainted with the section of our prayer list entitled “Grant them peace…” We developed and started to publish that section of the list a couple of years ago after our archivist, Dick Leitsch, and a small group of volunteers, had finished a long-term project working with the parish’s burial registers. Those registers, which go back to the parish’s founding in the last third of the nineteenth century are, it turns out, a gold mine of historical, sociological, genealogical, and ecclesiastical information.
The registers constitute a carefully handwritten record of the members of this parish who have passed out of this life. Each entry contains name, title, address, birth date, date of death, cause of death, place of burial, the name of the minister who presided at the burial, and an indication of whether the person had been baptized, confirmed, or admitted to communion; however, since the registers are in manuscript form they are not easily searchable. Our volunteers took the registers and carefully typed each entry, by day of the year, into a spreadsheet. This new digital form has a number of advantages. It is a clear, legible, secure record of a crucial aspect of the life and history of this parish. It is easy to search; and we are now able to do things that were not previously possible, such as praying for our departed brothers and sisters on the anniversary of their death, day after day, week after week, at every Mass.
I often work with this record in order to prepare the prayer lists for Mass and for the newsletter. I never cease to be touched, moved, and amazed by what I find there. Let me share some impressions. Infant mortality was a grim reality and a not uncommon occurrence in New York City well into the twentieth century. Infants and toddlers were often buried out of this parish, which makes one both sad for those children and their families and immensely grateful for the medical advances of our own time. Another impression: as is well known, the development of antibiotics in the middle of the last century had a dramatic and immediate effect on the lives of most Americans. Until the 1940s, Saint Marians often died (often at a young age) of diseases which are now largely preventable, or curable, diseases such as tuberculosis, septicemia, peritonitis, pneumonia, measles, whooping cough, measles, diphtheria, among others.
One learns other things from reading through this long and crowded database. Some things have not changed much. Some Saint Marians have always had to hop on a subway in order to come to Mass here on a Sunday morning. True, a large number of our ancestors in the faith have always lived in Midtown and Hell’s Kitchen. For them Saint Mary’s seems to have been their neighborhood parish; but many others have always traveled from the Bronx, from Brooklyn, from New Jersey, and from more distant parts of Manhattan in order to come to this parish. Then, as now, joining Saint Mary’s involved a decision, a choice, and a certain kind of commitment.
There is another aspect of this list that makes for sobering reading. It is something that has shocked everyone who has worked with the registers: until the end of the nineteenth century the race of African-American parishioners, and only African-American parishioners, was noted, in parentheses, following the deceased parishioner’s name. The information contained in the registers suggests that Saint Mary’s was integrated from very early days, but it also allows us to infer that racial discrimination co-existed with the parish’s loftier ideals for a significant period of time and it makes us think about the all-too-slow pace of change in our city, our society, and our church when it comes to race – and to gender, economic status, social class, and sexual orientation.
When I work with the burial registers it sometimes occurs to me that each person listed there, no matter who they were, no matter how long they lived, came through our front doors, at some point, for the very first time. One imagines that the Holy Spirit led each one of them here for a reason; and that is something else that hasn’t changed. The Holy Spirit has led each of us here for a reason; and if that is true a number of things follow. Each of us must consider how the Spirit is working in us in this place at this moment in time and how we can deepen our commitment to God and to the community to which God has called us. It means that we must always be attentive to our guests and our visitors, because God may be calling them to be here and a smile and word of welcome may make it easier for them to hear that call; and it means that on Sunday, when the choir sings the entrance song appointed for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, “Laetare Sunday,” we should remember that they are singing, in some way, about us: “Laetare Ierusalem…Rejoice, O Jerusalem; and gather round, all you who love her; rejoice in gladness, after having been in sorrow…” As we prepare for Easter, let us rejoice that the Holy Spirit is working in our lives, that the Holy Spirit has called us to this place, a place where we can try to live out our baptismal promise, “to strive for justice and peace among all people, and [to] respect the dignity of every human being.” Jay Smith
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED especially for Carol, Lillian, Bryan, Patrick, Daniel, Barbara, Donald, Angie, Rolf, Wayne, Jack, Daisy, Ross, Alice, Charlie, Jo Ann, Roger, Henry, Nicholas, Chris, Dorothy, Robert, Elsa, Juan, Chris, William, Gert, Mary, Rick, Pegram, priest, and Mitties, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially John, James, Christine, Kayla, Marc, Benjamin, Patrick, and Andrew; and for the repose of the soul of James . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . March 14: 1895 Leonora Fanning; 1916 Annie Roberts; 1918 Harold Magagnos; 1928 Loretta Webb Harvey; 1959 John H. Mover; 1959 Catherine Handy; 1989 Timothy Francis Meyers.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . James Cowden Bradford, Jr., the father of parishioner Bryan Bradford, died on Monday, March 8, in Nashville, TN, at the age of seventy-six. Please keep James, Bryan, Bryan’s mother, Lillian, and all who mourn in your prayers.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Friday, March 12, 6:30 PM, Stations of the Cross. A small film and sound crew from the Episcopal Church Center will join us for stations to film the service, which will then be posted on the national-church website on Good Friday . . . Father Merz will hear confessions on Saturday, March 13. Father Smith will hear confessions the following week on Saturday, March 20 . . . Our annual Easter Appeal was mailed on Wednesday, March 10. We invite you to give the rector’s letter your prayerful consideration. If you have not received a copy of the letter and the accompanying return envelope, but would still like to respond to the appeal, please contact the Parish Office . . . Friday, March 19, the Feast of Saint Joseph, Morning Prayer 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Mass 12:10 PM, Evening Prayer 6:00 PM, Stations of the Cross 6:30 PM . . . Sister Laura Katharine, C.S.J.B., is away from the parish for retreat and a few days of vacation. She returns to the parish on Sunday, March 14 . . . The Rector will be on vacation and away from the parish from Tuesday, March 9, until Wednesday, March 17. He returns to the office on Thursday, March 18.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Thank you to Terry Carlson, who has once again volunteered his time and talents to help us with the lighting in the church. We are very grateful . . . Thank you to Father Thomas Heard, who was with us for Stations of the Cross last Friday and as a concelebrant at the Solemn Mass on Sunday. Father Heard was a great help in the sacristy on Sunday morning; and, as he has done in the past, he helped us to solve a thorny problem or two with our sound system. It was good to have him and his wife Cheryl back with us once again. Father Heard served here as a seminarian, and as a deacon, during his time at the General Theological Seminary . . . We are grateful to our hard-working and energetic crew of volunteers who sent out the Easter Appeal mailing on Wednesday: George Handy, Tom Heffernan, Scott Holman, Dick Leitsch, Brenda Morgan, and Sister Deborah Francis . . . Thank you to Charles Brand who continues to work on a project cataloguing, organizing, and conserving the parish’s choral-music files under the direction of James Kennerley. His hard work is very much appreciated . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 281.
FROM THE MUSIC DEPARTMENT . . . Music this Sunday is sung by a quartet of singers drawn from the main choir. The setting of the Mass ordinary today is Mass for Four Voices by William Byrd (1543-1623). Byrd was a recalcitrant Roman Catholic in Protestant Elizabethan England. In spite of the political difficulties he faced due to his faith, his career flourished because of his protection by the Queen, a great admirer of Byrd’s music. The composer was a distinguished gentleman of her Chapel Royal, which at that time was the greatest honor a musician in England could receive. Much of his Latin music, however, was written for clandestine Catholic liturgies in private homes (including this work, among his most tender and beautiful), and therefore has a somewhat intimate character. The Communion motet, Ave verum corpus, also by Byrd, was published as part of his first book of Gradualia in 1605. The latter work comprises a considerable collection of music, containing as it does settings of the propers for every major feast of the liturgical year; this motet is to be sung as the Sequence at Corpus Christi. At Solemn Evensong and Benediction on Sunday, the service will be sung by the St. Cecilia Choir of Girls, Christ Church, Greenwich, Connecticut, Jamie Hitel, director. At Evensong, the music is Evening Service in E-Flat by Edward Bairstow (1874-1946); at Benediction our guest choir will sing a setting of Tantum ergo by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924). James Kennerley
PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . The Feast of the Annunciation: Solemn Evensong on the Eve of the Feast, Wednesday, March 24, 6:00 PM; Thursday, March 25, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM, Reception in Saint Joseph’s Hall, 7:30 PM.
SAINT VINCENT GUILD OF ACOLYTES . . . Rehearsals for the Maundy Thursday Liturgy: First Rehearsal, Sunday, March 28, Palm Sunday, 1:30 PM (a light lunch will be served after the rehearsal); Second Rehearsal, Maundy Thursday, April 1, 5:00 PM . . . Rehearsals for the Good Friday Liturgies: The rehearsal for the 12:30 PM Liturgy will take place on Good Friday, April 2, at 11:00 AM; the rehearsal for the 6:00 PM Liturgy will take place on Good Friday, April 2, at 5:00 PM . . . Rehearsal for the Great Vigil of Easter: Saturday, April 3, 4:00 PM; supper in the rectory follows at 5:00 PM. Thank you in advance to all of our faithful and hardworking acolytes for their service at this busy time of year.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . March 14 and 21: Father Peter Powell continues his Lenten series on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Father Powell writes, “Isaiah is unique among the books of the Old Testament because it is clearly the work, not of a single author, but of a school of prophets beginning in the eighth century before the Common Era (BCE), and extending at least into the sixth century and perhaps even into the fifth century. Isaiah of Jerusalem speaks to the time of the ascendancy of Judah. Second Isaiah gives hope to the chosen people in exile and Third Isaiah deals with the disappointment after the exile’s end. The New Testament appropriates much of Isaiah to make sense of Jesus, particularly his crucifixion, especially by using the Servant Songs of Second Isaiah. This course is designed to make Isaiah more accessible and to help the members of the class to understand the book’s message of hope, while opening up its beauty to all who attend.” . . . The Adult Forum will not meet on the following Sundays: March 28, April 4, 11, or 18 . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class meets at 6:30 PM on Wednesdays. The class meets in the Arch Room in the Mission House. The class, led by Sister Deborah Francis and Sister Laura Katharine, is reading Ecclesiastes and Job.
IN CONCERT AT SAINT MARYS . . . The New York Repertory Orchestra (NYRO), David Leibowitz, music director, will present its next concert at Saint Mary’s on Saturday, March 27, 2010, at 8:00 PM. The program will include Busoni’s Orchestral Suite No. 2 (“Geharnischte”), Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, and a world premiere of a work by Stephen Dembski, Raven-Year, which was commissioned by NYRO. For information, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, call 212.662.8383, or visit their website . . . On Saturday, April 10, 2010, at 2:30 PM, Ryan William Jackson will play an organ recital in the church. The program is Maurice Duruflé’s complete organ works. Admission is free. For more information you may visit www.ryanwilliamjackson.com.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . We recently received a letter from Bishop Sisk commending the Incarnation Summer Camp in Ivoryton, CT, to the people of the diocese. The bishop writes, “Summer Camp in a church-founded and ‘values’-oriented setting provides important formation for those youngsters already in our Sunday Schools and for those that would benefit from making friends and mixing with kids from our Diocese. Incarnation Camp provides such a setting. It is not through proselytizing, but through fellowship and fun in a breathtaking natural setting that Incarnation becomes a great resource for us. Through its Pequot Camp for Boys, Sherwood for Girls, and Pioneer Village for teens, we have an important resource for the Diocese, and one that is very affordable.” For more information, you may visit the camp webpage . . . As part of an ongoing effort to help the people of Haiti, the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection in Manhattan’s East Village will host a Benefit Concert on Saturday, March 20, at 7:30 PM. All proceeds from the concert will go to International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) and will be directed to the people of Haiti. A Vespers service at 5:30 PM with special petitions for the Haitian people and the relief agencies working in Haiti will precede the concert. This event features the world premier of a new Passion Cantata, incorporating hymns of the Crucifixion from Good Friday. The music is based on ancient Russian and Georgian chant, sung a cappella in English. The cantata was written by composer Robert Sirico specifically for this event. The cathedral is located at 59 East Second Street (between First & Second Avenues), New York, NY. For further information, please visit the cathedral’s website . . . Parishioner Judi Kerr is on the board of managers of the Mount Kemble Home in Morristown, NJ. The Home is a facility for women over sixty years of age. Each resident has a one-room apartment with cooking facilities and easy access to a bathroom and a shower room. Residents pay 25% of their income, whatever that may be. Judi informs us that there are a few openings at the home at present. Mount Kemble is not an assisted-living facility and all residents must be fully mobile and able to care for themselves. If you know of somebody who might be interested, please contact Father Smith for more information.
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector
The Reverend James Ross Smith, curate
The Reverend John Merz, assisting priest
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus
Saint Mary’s Mission House
Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B.
Sister Laura Katharine, C.S.J.B.
The Community of St. John Baptist
The Parish Musicians
Mr. James Kennerley, organist and music director
Mr. Lawrence Trupiano, organ curator
Mr. Aaron Koch, business manager
Mr. Steven Gonley, building superintendent,
Mr. Miguel Gonzalez, Mr. Mario Martinez, Mr. H. Antonio Santiago, sextons