FROM THE RECTOR: SUPPORTING THIS TRADITION
I don’t know when I bought Company of Voices: Daily Prayer and the People of God (New York: Pueblo Publishing Company, 1988) by George Guiver, but I remember when I read it. It was January 2001. December had ended with a blizzard – people were cross-country skiing in Times Square – and I had the flu, the real thing, for the first and, I hope, the last time. Guiver is a member of the Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield, and a priest of the Church of England.
Company of Voices is a history of daily prayer and an essay on prayer. Glancing through it the other day, it reminded me of the controversy traditional Anglican Morning and Evening Prayer still engenders. Many have concluded from its disuse here and in England that there is something wrong with its traditional structure, its psalmody and its continuous reading of the books of the Bible. I’m not convinced. I like the traditional psalmody and I like the lessons. And I think its disuse in America in large part has a lot to do with the history of our country and our Church.
In England before the Reformation, the daily prayer of cathedrals shaped the daily prayer of the rest of the Church. Since the Reformation, the backbone of cathedral daily prayer has been the Daily Office, Morning and Evening Prayer. At the Reformation, many of the endowments for daily Masses became endowments to provide for clergy to pray the Offices. Musical endowments were provided for sung Offices in many places. The Church of England has an especially rich and distinctive heritage of choral prayer.
In addition to cathedrals, the Church of England also had something going for it that the American Church never had. From the time of The Book of Common Prayer (1559), the English Book has required the clergy to pray Morning and Evening Prayer daily and to do so in church – unless “reasonably” prevented. The Prayer Book states that these services are to be announced by tolling the church bell in advance.
There were no bishops and no cathedrals in colonial America – and really, not that many parishes. The establishment of cathedrals here and the revival of daily worship would both come in the wake of the Anglo-catholic revival. It may well have been here in the city that the first daily parish services in the United States were established, in 1846, by the founding rector of the Church of the Holy Communion, William Augustus Muhlenberg.
It’s worth remembering: In 1975, the Church of the Holy Communion was merged with the Parish of Calvary - St. George’s. Sadly, the merged parishes, with the approval of the then bishop and standing committee of the diocese, closed the church and sold the building in 1976. They made no legal provision for how it might be used in the future. For a few years, the building was owned by a non-profit organization. It was then for decades a nightclub – “Limelight.” The building recently reopened as a marketplace. It still stands because it was landmarked in 1966.
Saint Mary’s was established at a time when the growth of America made daily parish worship widely possible. Combined with the influence of the Anglo-catholic movement through the entire Church, weekday services became widespread. There are many parishes in our city that still provide for daily worship. As regular readers of this newsletter will know, I believe daily public worship is one of the primary missions for any ordinary parish.
Sunday, of course, is the weekly focal point of traditional Christian worship – and there is no argument about that that I know of. Although I grew up in a tradition, Southern Baptist, without daily worship, I have loved it since falling into it as an Episcopalian. Praying Scripture with others in a church is one of the blessings of the wider Christian tradition I have come to know as an Episcopalian.
Were I not a member of the clergy, I would still want to belong to a parish where the Daily Offices and a daily Mass were offered – and when I retire from active ordained ministry that’s what I’ll look for. I want a parish that keeps its doors open, and open to all, every day of the week. I want my parish to be a place for nurture, refuge and for helping others. This kind of church community requires support. It doesn’t just happen.
The Church of the Holy Communion lost its neighborhood, in a sense, not unlike Saint Mary’s Times Square. If the parish had been able to hold on – or if the new parish and our diocese had been smarter about how it handled the property – one can easily imagine the possibilities today of a congregation in a wonderful building with an active ministry in the heart of Chelsea.
I don’t think anyone in 1976 imagined there would be a revival of this city as there has been on this scale. I don’t think you and I can begin to imagine the new ways our city may be wonderful when we get through this recession and there’s new life. I ask you to keep your prayers and your gifts generous for the work and renewal of Saint Mary’s. May this parish for generations to come welcome all in the name of Christ. May this parish keep its doors and its heart open. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED especially for Alan, Debbie, Bonnie, Carol, Kevin, Clark, Gerardo, Cesar, Pamela, MaryJane, Sharon, Chris, Rolf, Daisy, Ross, Nicholas, Elsa, William, Gert, Mary, George, Rick, and Pegram, PRIEST; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially John, James, Kayla, Marc, and Benjamin . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . July 18: 1881 Eleanor Mary Bennett; 1885 Eliza Van Zandt; 1895 Mary Robertson; 1903 Thomas Thompson; 1937 Alphone Deveaux.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . On Friday, July 16 at 1 PM, the women’s vocal group Angelus will give a free concert in the church. All are warmly invited to attend . . . Thursday, July 22, is the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene. Mass will be celebrated on this Major Holy Day at 12:10 PM and at 6:20 PM . . . Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, July 17. Father Merz will hear confessions on Saturday, July 24.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Saint Mary’s in Central Park is postponed until Friday, July 16, because of rain. It’s moving to Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Please contact Grace Bruni for details . . . Altar flowers are needed for Friday, August 6, the Transfiguration. These will be used also on Sunday, August 8. If you would like to make a donation, please contact Aaron Koch in the finance office . . . A special word of thanks to Terry Carlson for his help with several lighting and renovation projects during a very hot week in the city . . . Father Smith is on vacation and returns to the parish office on Monday, July 26 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 179.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . During the summer months the full choir is on vacation, and the music at Solemn Mass is sung by a cantor or a small group of voices. This week, I am the cantor. The prelude is the chorale prelude on Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott, BuxWV 200, by Dietrich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707), and the postlude is Toccata in F, BuxWV 157, also by Buxtehude. At the ministration of Communion, I will sing the aria Ach, mein Sinn from the Johannes-Passion (St John Passion), BWV 245 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). The work was composed for the Good Friday Vespers service in 1724 when Bach was cantor at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. Ach, mein Sinn is the first of two tenor arias in the work, and its text collects the thoughts and words of Peter having denied Jesus. Musically, this is conveyed, at least in part, through the use of a particularly wide vocal range, sustained low notes and the key of F# minor. James Kennerley
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We are still collecting non-perishable food items and new or “gently used” clothing on Sundays for the Food Pantry at Saint Clement’s. Look for the basket at the back of the church or in Saint Joseph’s Hall. If you would like to volunteer at the Food Pantry, please speak to Father Smith.
SAINT RAPHAEL’S GUILD OF USHERS . . . We are looking for a few good women and men who are willing to serve as ushers at Mass on Sunday mornings, on holy days, and at Evensong and Benediction on Sunday afternoons during the academic year. Ushers usually serve one Sunday per month. If you like to meet new people, are eager to welcome our visitors, and are willing to help newcomers learn more about the parish, perhaps this ministry is for you. If you are interested, please speak to George Handy, Randy Morgan, or Father Jay Smith.
THE MINISTRY OF HOSPITALITY . . . Once again this year, we are seeking patrons and donors willing to defray the costs of the receptions in Saint Joseph’s Hall following Solemn Mass on holy days. We now have a donor who has volunteered to sponsor the reception on All Saints’ Day, Monday, November 1. If you would like more information, or if you would like to volunteer to help on a particular holy day, please contact Father Jay Smith.
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector
The Reverend James Ross Smith, curate
The Reverend Rebecca Weiner Tompkins, deacon
The Reverend John Merz, assisting priest
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus
The Parish Musicians
Mr. James Kennerley, organist and music director
Mr. Lawrence Trupiano, organ curator