The Angelus

Volume XII, Number 4

From The Rector: Christmas at Saint Mary’s

At Saint Mary’s we guard the days of Advent so we might enjoy the whole season fully.  We do the same thing during the Christmas Season.  If you come by the church before Christmas Eve, you may catch musicians practicing Christmas music.  You may see the Flower Guild at work or dozens of candlesticks being polished.  But it won’t be until Christmas Eve that our celebrations begin.

Christmas Eve services are now normative almost everywhere in the Church.  This was not true a generation ago.  They took root in the United States after World War II.  Although the Easter Vigil has been celebrated here since 1898, the first Midnight Mass was not celebrated until 1928.  Instead, since the Reformation, Episcopalians went to church on Christmas Day.  Even today, Canterbury Cathedral has no Mass on Christmas Eve.  They do other services on Christmas Eve that fill the cathedral, but their “Christ Mass” is the Eucharist of Christmas Day.  Quite wonderfully, Christmas Eve services have become common in our country also among other Protestants.

We now have two services on Christmas Eve.  The earlier service begins with Christmas carols and music at 4:30 PM followed by a Sung Mass at 5:00 PM.  The later service begins at 10:30 PM with Christmas carols and music.  Procession & Solemn Mass follows at 11:00 PM.  At our earlier service, a brass ensemble joins the parish choir.  The 11:00 PM Mass begins with the chanting of the Proclamation of the Birth of Christ and a procession of an image of the Christ child to the crèche.  On Christmas Day, Solemn Mass is celebrated at 11:00 AM and concludes with the congregation moving to the crèche in Saint Joseph’s Chapel for the final prayers.  It’s all very good.

Christmas belongs to the group of celebrations that emerge beginning in the third century as the Church calendar grows beyond Easter and Pentecost.  In the first centuries of the Christian era, the Church works out how it will understand and speak about God’s revelation of himself in Christ.  Christian worship is marked and shaped, world without end, by questions from this early time about the Trinity and about the person of Jesus Christ.  As Jesus was truly human and truly God, the celebration of his birth was itself a fundamental theological confession.

For the four Sundays of Advent, we have been hearing prophecies of the birth of Christ as our meditation from scripture on Sunday nights during Eucharistic Benediction.  For those who don’t know this service, at the conclusion of Evensong, a large Host is placed in a special stand called a “monstrance.”  After a hymn of praise to Christ, there is a period of silent prayer.  Then, there is a reading.  On the First Sunday of Advent it was the Old Testament lesson for Midnight Mass.  We read the whole passage, but we might just as well have read simply what the young children in our Sunday School are given as a prophecy, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah 9:2).

I hope you may be able to be with us for Mass on the last Sunday of Advent.  I hope you may be able to be with us on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  I hope that wherever we are it will be easy for all of our souls to see Christ’s light.  Stephen Gerth


YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED for Charles Arthur, who is hospitalized; for Carol, Philip, Wayne, Shan, Nicholas, Jack, Sandy, Burt, Dennis, Elsa, Regina, Josephine, Robert, Chris, Timothy, Alex, Dorothy, Sharon, Margaret, Harold, Marcia, Stephen, Madeleine, William, Gert, Mary, Allan, Rick, Emil, religious, and Pegram, priest; and for the repose of the souls of Eugene and Wesley, priest . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 20: 1884 Louis M. Schmidt; 1886 Maggie E. Troy; 1898 Margaret Gillan; 1901 Mary Amelia Lee; 1902 Hartman Vreeland; 1904 Louisa Camps; 1921 Elizabeth de Mandeville; 1936 Edwin G. Wagenseller.


CHRISTMAS EVE & CHRISTMAS DAY SERVICES . . . On Thursday, December 24, Morning Prayer will be read at 8:30 AM and the last weekday Mass of Advent will follow at 8:50 AM . . . Christmas Carols & Music begins at 4:30 PM; Sung Mass of the Nativity is at 5:00 PM.  Christmas Carols & Music begins at 10:30 PM; Procession & Solemn Mass is at 11:00 PM.  On Friday, December 25, the church will be open from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM.  Solemn Mass & Procession to the Crèche will be at 11:00 AM.


ALSO THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . On Saturday, December 19, there will be a sacristy work day in preparation for Christmas from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM.  All are invited . . . Sunday School for Children meets at 10:00 AM in the Morning Room . . . Volunteers are needed to help decorate the church: Sunday, December 20, after Solemn Mass; Tuesday, December 22, and Wednesday, December 23, work sessions beginning around 9:30 AM; Thursday, December 24, final work session at 10:00 AM, following the 8:50 AM Mass . . . Monday, December 21, is the Feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle.  As is our custom, Mass will be celebrated at 12:10 PM and at 6:20 PM on this “Major Holy Day” . . . Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, December 19.  Confessions will be heard on Saturday, December 26, only by appointment.


AROUND THE PARISH . . . As we go to press, Charles Arthur Schaefer is at Saint Vincent’s Medical Center for treatment.  Please keep him in your prayers . . . On Christmas Eve, following the 5:00 PM Sung Mass, there will be a supper in Saint Joseph’s Hall for our volunteers, acolytes, staff members, and choristers.  Please contact Father Jay Smith if you plan to attend.  Please speak to Grace Bruni, if you would like to help organize or bring something to eat or drink . . . Congratulations to Peter Dannenbaum who was elected by the Diocesan Convention to serve another term as a trustee of the Diocesan Investment Trust . . . We recently mailed statements to our members and friends who made pledges for 2009.  If you did not receive a statement or if you have questions about your pledge balance, please contact Aaron Koch in the Finance Office . . . On Tuesday, December 15, the Community of Saint John Baptist elected a new superior, Sister Eleanor Francis, C.S.J.B.  Sister Eleanor Francis is a priest of the Diocese of Newark . . . Altar Flowers are needed for the following Sundays: January 3, 17, and 31.  Please contact the Finance Office if you would like to make a donation . . . We are looking for donors to sponsor the feast-day receptions on Epiphany, January 6, and on Annunciation, March 25.  Please speak with Father Smith if you are able to help with our ministry of hospitality . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 256.


STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN 2010 . . . As of December 12, 2009, a total of $398,573 has been pledged by 146 households.  This represents almost 75% of this year's goal of $535,044.  As our members and friends begin to deal with end-of-year financial matters, we expect to receive a number of additional pledges before January 1.  However, we still have not heard back from some households that pledged for 2009.  We very much hope to receive pledges from those households and from a number of households that have never pledged before.  We are moving slowly but surely towards our goal!  We invite you to join others in supporting Saint Mary’s by making a pledge – in order to join your fellow members of the Body of Christ in supporting the mission and witness of this parish, to help us write a budget for the coming year, and to express your gratitude to Almighty God for all his blessings.  If you have questions or comments, or if you need a pledge card, please contact MaryJane Boland, Steven Heffner, or me; and thank you for your continued support of Saint Mary’s.  James Ross Smith


FROM THE MUSIC DEPARTMENT . . . The prelude at Solemn Mass this Sunday is an improvisation on the plainsong Veni Redemptor gentium, the postcommunion hymn.  It is one of many Advent hymns that lends itself to improvisation.  Music this Sunday is sung by the upper voices of the choir.  The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa Brevis by Michael Hurd (1928-2006).  Hurd was born in Gloucester and was educated at Oxford University.  While most famous for his choral music, he also composed several film scores, and is perhaps best known for his 1966 children’s cantata Jonah Man Jazz.  The Mass setting is inventive in its use of the voices, mostly divided into three parts, and their interaction with the organ part.  At the ministration of Communion, the choir sings the motet Ave verum corpus by Francis Poulenc (1899-1963).  Poulenc, whose mass and motets will be sung on Christmas Eve, composed Ave verum corpus in 1952 for a women’s chorus in Pittsburgh . . . Iris Lan, who was scheduled to play the organ recital this Sunday at 4:40 PM, has been injured.  I will play in her place . . . Christmas Eve Music at 4:30 PM will include works by Poulenc and Britten; at the 5:00 PM Mass, the choir sings Missa Festiva by Monnikendam, arranged for organ and brass, and motets by Rutter and Gardner.  At 10:30 PM the choir sings works by Britten, Gardner and Rutter.  At Solemn Mass the setting is Messe en sol majeur by Poulenc.  The motets are O magnum mysterium and Hodie Christus natus est, also by Poulenc.  James Kennerley


FROM THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES . . . On Monday, December 14, Peter Dannenbaum, Steven Heffner and Susan Wamsley completed four-year terms of service as trustees of the parish.  The board elected Dale Reynolds and Marie Rosseels to four-year terms.  The board elected James Dennis vice president, David Jette secretary, Charles Randolph Morgan treasurer, and Steven Heffner assistant treasurer.


CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will resume on January 20, 2010.  The class, led by Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B., will be reading Ecclesiastes and Job . . . The Adult-Education class will resume on Sunday, January 17, and will be led by Father Jay Smith, who will also lead the class on January 24 (topic to be announced shortly) . . . Our seminarian, Remington Slone, will lead the class in a three-part series on the Letter to the Romans on January 31, February 7 and 14.


Father Peter Powell will lead a five-part series on the Book of Isaiah on Sundays during Lent (February 21 and 28, March 7, 14, and 21).


OUTREACH MINISTRIES AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We continue to collect non-perishable food items and new or “gently used” clothing for the Food Pantry at Saint Clement’s Church.  The Pantry serves families living in our own neighborhood. The Pantry fills an increasingly important need during this time of economic difficulty.  Those needs are particularly pressing during the next six weeks.  You are invited to bring food or clothing and place it in the basket in Saint Joseph’s Hall after Mass (or at the ushers’ table before Mass).  You can also make a cash donation, if that is more convenient for you (Please speak to Father Smith about how to do that; in fact, cash donations are in some ways more efficient and cost-effective) . . . 21st Annual New York Cares Coat Drive: Once again this year – between December 1 and December 31 – we are participating in the Coat Drive and we have already received several coats.  You are invited to bring your new or gently used coats, for either children or adults, to church on Sundays. We will deliver them to one of the local donation sites at the end of December . . . We just made another delivery of hand-knitted woolen hats, gloves and scarves to the Seamen’s Church Institute, in Downtown Manhattan.  The Institute’s Christmas-at-Sea Program donates warm clothing to merchant mariners visiting the Port of New York and New Jersey, who are not always well-equipped to deal with our region’s winter weather.  Thank you to Patricia Mottley, who knitted these items and thank you to Brenda Morgan, who made a trip to the Institute to deliver them.  Please speak to Patricia for more information about this project, and about acquiring wool from the Institute . . . Parish of San Juan Evangelista, Villanueva, Honduras: Though we are not planning a mission trip this year, we hope to be able to continue to provide our friends at San Juan Evangelista with financial support.  Please speak to Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins for details.  J.R.S.



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.


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. 


Parish Staff

Aaron Koch, business manager.

Mr. Mario Martinez, Mr. H. Tony Santiago, Mr. Timothy Zimmerman, sextons.


Questions about the Angelus newsletter 



Sunday: 8:30 AM Sung Matins, 9:00 AM Said Mass, 10:00 AM Said Mass, 10:00 AM Sunday School, 11:00 AM Solemn Mass, 4:40 PM Organ Recital, 5:00 PM Solemn Evensong & Benediction. Childcare is available from 8:45 AM until 12:45 PM every Sunday of the year. The 10:00 AM Adult Education class is in recess until mid-January.


Monday–Friday: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass, 6:00 PM Evening Prayer. The Wednesday 12:10 PM Mass is sung. Thursday Masses include anointing of the sick. Holy days as announced.


Saturday: 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass, 5:00 PM Evening Prayer, 5:20 PM Sunday Vigil Mass. Confessions are normally heard on Saturdays at 11:30 AM and 4:00 PM or by appointment.