FROM THE RECTOR: THE CATECHESIS OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD
This fall Saint Mary’s will begin a new formation program for young children. In June, Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins began training to be a catechist in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. It is simply the very best thing I have ever known for Christian formation for children. My own work with the program in Indiana continues to shape my fundamental understanding of God’s work in this world. The Catechesis began in Rome over fifty years ago. It starts with the conviction that God is present and active in the life of every child. Our task as adult Christian leaders is to prepare an environment where the children can work on their relationship with God.
The work is called the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd because Sofia Cavalletti and Gianna Gobbi, the persons who began this work, observed that the gospel proclamation that brings the greatest peace and joy to young children is Jesus the Good Shepherd. It began, simply enough, by Sofia being asked to prepare a seven year-old child for first Holy Communion. She was a Hebrew scholar. She didn’t really know what to do. She started to read John’s gospel to the boy. She didn’t read from a so-called children’s Bible. She read John.
Mutual friends introduced her to a Montessori teacher, Gianna Gobbi. Together they began the work that became the Catechesis. It is now in thirty-five countries around the world. In the United States there are hundreds of atriums, in Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran and other Christian communities. Saint Mary’s is an ideal home for this catechesis because the children are already growing up in a parish where they are genuinely welcome and experience the integrity and richness of liturgical prayer and life.
The very first presentation given to young children in the atrium is called “Altar I.” The materials include a small, dollhouse-sized table (altar), a white cloth (fair linen), two candles, and a cross. When the cross is presented the children hear, “Jesus died and is risen.” Because the environment, the material and the approach of the catechist, the children are able to receive this central Christian proclamation and grasp it. In the atrium, these children will never hear that Jesus died without hearing in the same sentence that he is risen. Another observation Sofia and Gianna made was that the younger the child, the greater the mystery the child could receive.
We will be opening on the first Sunday in October what I hope will be the first of three atriums, the one for the three to six-year old child – we can make this a place for seven-year olds, if needed. The second atrium is for the six to nine-year old child. The third is for the nine to twelve-year old child. We don’t have any older children at Saint Mary’s right now, but we never will if we don’t start preparing a place for them by making a home for the younger children who are here now.
One of my urgent tasks is to decide on a space for an atrium. Right now, it looks like my office may be moving to the third floor of the Parish House. For those who may not know, my office has the windows that overlook Saint Joseph’s Hall. The room has a high ceiling and large windows that look out on to West Forty-sixth Street, too. I think we can remove the wall that now separates this space into two offices. With painting and refinishing the floors we will provide a space that our children will want to be in – and one that is close to the church.
There is so much more to be said about formation for children. For the moment, let me simply thank Rebecca for the way she has given herself to this work and to the families who are supporting this by their presence. The catechesis is not a Sunday School program one can buy. It’s about living with the gospel and children in Christian community. Like any genuine commitment, it begins with love. For the love of children we are now witnessing in so many ways at Saint Mary’s, I am very thankful. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED especially for Margaret who is hospitalized; for Alan, Debbie, Bonnie, Carol, Kevin, Gerardo, Cesar, Pamela, Sharon, Chris, Rolf, Daisy, Ross, Nicholas, Elsa, William, Gert, Mary, George, Rick, Charles, priest, 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 25: 1892 Emma Estelle; 1893 Jacob Hatter; 1898 Evan Gwynne Sherman; 1910 Frank Joseph Horworth; 1914 John Allen West; 1944 Emma Brandt Donovan; 1949 Oswald Tregaskis.
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 . . . The Feast of Saint James the Apostle is observed this year at Saint Mary’s on Monday, July 26. Mass will be celebrated on this Major Holy Day at 12:10 PM and at 6:20 PM . . . Father Merz will hear confessions on Saturday, July 24; Father Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, July 31.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . As we go to press, Margaret Malone is at Saint Luke’s Hospital, recovering from surgery. She is doing very well. Please keep her in your prayers . . . 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 . . . The Summer 2010 issue of The Episcopal New Yorker is on worship in our diocese. Parishioner Mark Risinger wrote one of the featured articles: Music and Liturgy: From Southern Baptist to St. Mary the Virgin . . . Father Smith returns to the parish on Monday, July 26 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 200.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The music at the Solemn Mass on Sunday is sung by Geoffrey Williams, countertenor, James Kennerley, tenor, and Scott Dispensa, bass. (Geoffrey and Scott are former members of the parish choir). The prelude is an improvisation on the hymn tune Rouen (sung at the Preparation of the Gifts). The postlude is Carillon du Longpont by Louis Vierne (1870-1937). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Mass for Three Voices by William Byrd (c. 1540-1623). At the ministration of Communion O salutaris Hostia by Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1645/50-1704) will be sung. Charpentier, one of the greatest composers of the French Baroque period, left an enormous output, including masses and a large amount of other liturgical music (perhaps, most famously, the Messe de minuit pour Noël), cantatas, operas, and instrumental music. James Kennerley
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.
ABOUT LESSER FEASTS . . . The Calendar of the Church Year in the Prayer Book provides for the “Days of Optional Observance.” There are several important optional commemorations this week that will be observed here at Saint Mary’s. But there’s one that we will miss this year, The Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Prayer Book’s rules of precedence and our own parish custom mean that the Feast of Saint James the Apostle will be transferred from Sunday, July 25, to July 26. Mary’s parents will be back in our calendar next year.
On Tuesday, July 27, the Church commemorates the life and work of William Reed Huntington, 1838-1909. Huntington served as rector of Grace Church, New York City, from 1883 until his death in 1909. He served in the House of Deputies of the General Convention from 1871 until 1907. He led the movement for the revival of deaconesses in the Church. His writings formed the basis of what was to become the “Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral”, document on Christian unity that shapes the Anglican Communion. He was a leader in the revision of the Prayer Book in 1892. His gifts and his temperament were an enormous gift to his parish, his diocese, the Episcopal Church and the wider Communion.
On Thursday, July 29, the Church commemorates Mary and Martha of Bethany, the sisters of Lazarus, who welcomed Jesus into their home. It was Martha who said to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give to you” (John 11:21-22).
On Friday, July 30, we remember the great English abolitionist, William Wilberforce, 1759-1833. In 1784, already a member of Parliament, he experienced a profound Evangelical conversion. Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2003 writes, “Above all, his fame rests upon his persistent, uncompromising, and single-minded crusade for the abolition of slavery and the slave-trade. That sordid traffic was abolished in 1807. He died just one month before Parliament put an end to slavery in the British dominions” (314).
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