The Angelus



I remember attending my first service at Saint Mary’s as a visitor just under four years ago.  I settled towards the back of the building, seeking refuge in an unoccupied pew during the recitation of the Angelus, just before a thrilling organ improvisation introduced Solemn Evensong and Benediction.  The service was excellent in so many ways—musically, liturgically, spiritually—and so, I expect, was the sermon, although despite my best efforts I distinctly remember how difficult it was to hear the preacher!

During the past few weeks you may have noticed some differences (hopefully positive) in the sound system at Saint Mary’s.  In an ideal world, we would have sufficient resources to be able to spend up to $100,000 on a modern, time-coherent digital system with provision for a hearing-aid induction loop, but a number of factors clearly prevent us from undertaking a project on a scale such as that.  The recent improvements, however, are being made within the constraints of our existing sound equipment—some of which dates back forty years or so—and our limited budget, and will be completed before the end of this month.

I admit that it may seem somewhat unlikely for an organist and choral director to have much technical knowledge of sound amplification! However, I managed to gain some experience in the area of sound engineering while I was a student at Cambridge University and, since I graduated, I have gone on to develop an interest in technical things of this sort.  This has resulted in some knowledge of the subject, knowledge that I am more than happy to put to good use at Saint Mary’s.

Saint Mary’s architecture is famously second-to-none for its amplification and projection of choral and organ music, but those very characteristics also render speech intelligibility a real challenge.  Our geographical location makes for high levels of extraneous noise encroaching from the street, an additional problem with which our sound system must contend.  Furthermore, years of incense smoke and street dirt have degraded many of the fragile speaker and microphone components.

The first step in improving the system was to assess the current equipment.  Two types of microphones—fixed (attached to the lectern and pulpit) and mobile (transmitted via a radio signal—pick up the sound waves of the voice and turn them into an electrical signal.  This is then routed to several processors that enable various adjustments—including volume and balance between the various inputs—which is, in turn, fed into an amplifier.  The amplifier increases the signal level and distributes it to the various speakers.  These speakers convert the electrical signal back into sound waves, which are then projected into the church.

New connection plates have been provided for the fixed lectern and pulpit microphones, and the two radio microphones have been cleaned and recalibrated.  Recent work in the basement has resulted in damage to the wires connecting to the speakers in the church—I found several of them severed and dangling down from the basement ceiling—so my first step was to repair those.  The connections to all of the speakers in the church have been re-soldered and insulated.

Two new speakers, on a separate volume control, have been provided in the chancel.  Two speakers have also been mounted at the back of the church in order to cover the “dead spots” in the rear pews, and also to provide clearer sound for visitors near the ushers’ table and in the narthex.

More speakers are certainly useful, but, in combination with increased volume levels, they can result in “feedback” — that infamous, high-pitched crescendo that haunts many sound systems at one time or another.  We are particularly at risk for feedback at Saint Mary’s due to the frequent movement of the priests during services – processions and baptisms to name but two examples.  A “feedback destroyer” has been inserted into the sound processor chain, and this works to prevent this phenomenon.  The overall sound has also been equalized and calibrated according to the specific acoustical properties of the building.

In addition to improving the sound system, I have been archiving sound recordings of all of the services at Saint Mary’s since 2008, using various microphones hung from the ceiling.  They give an excellent impression of the services, and it is my hope that these and future recordings will be made available as webcasts from our website and in our Gift Shop to increase membership and connect with the parish’s many regional friends.

No sound system will be perfect, and the glories of our acoustic will always make the dissemination of speech a challenge.  A smaller voice will still sound quieter than a louder one, and there is no substitute for clearly-enunciated speech.  Still, it is my hope that these recent changes, though performed on a tight budget, will result in significant improvements.  I estimate that the total cost to the church to be around $1,250.  If you have questions or if you think that you would like to contribute to this important ministry, please speak to me or to the Rector.

In conclusion, some words taken from Psalm 19 are perhaps appropriate: “Their sound has gone out into all lands, and their message to the ends of the world.”  James Kennerley


YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED especially for Mary, who is gravely ill, and Carol, Steven, Joe, José, Sharon, George, Mary, Bryant, Daisy, Gerardo, Cesar, Chris, Rolf, Nicholas, Elsa, William, Gert, Rick, and Emil, religious; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially John, James, Kayla, Marc, and Benjamin . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . September 5: 1904 John Elliott Tyson; 1943 Edward Conway Shaler, Jessie L. Montgomery; 1945 Helen Willoughby Barrere; 1953 John C. Sheridan; 1964 Joseph Henry Schuman


IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Roberto Perez is a good friend of the parish, who worships with us most every Sunday.  His brother, José Ramón Perez, died last week in a boating accident in the Dominican Republic, where he lived.  His funeral was on Saturday, August 28.  Joan Wetlesen Heffner, the mother of parishioner Steven Heffner, died on August 29, after a brief illness.  Her funeral will take place at 4:00 PM, on Sunday, September 5, at Atonement Lutheran Church in Oneonta, New York.  Please keep José, Joan, Roberto, Steven, their families, and all who mourn in your prayers.


THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Monday, September 6, Labor Day. Federal Holiday Schedule–the church opens at 10:00 AM and closes at 2:00 PM, only the noon services are offered and the parish offices are closed . . . Wednesday, September 8, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Morning Prayer 8:30 AM, Noonday Office 12:00 PM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Saturday, September 11, Noonday Office 12:00 PM, Requiem Mass 12:10 PM . . . Father Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, September 4.  Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, September 11 . . . Father Gerth will be away from the parish from Monday, August 23, until Monday, September 6.  He returns to the office on Wednesday, September 8.


THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.


AROUND THE PARISH . . . On Friday, September 24, at 11:00 AM, a memorial service will be held for Matthew Drew Kerr at Saint Peter’s Church, 70 Maple Avenue, Morristown, New Jersey.  Matthew, the son of parishioners Tom and Judi Kerr, died at the age of thirty-six in Seattle, Washington, on Saturday, August 14, of injuries sustained on July 28, when he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle.  Members of the Saint Mary’s community are invited to attend the service . . . On Wednesday, September 8, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sister Laura Katharine, C.S.J.B., will celebrate the fortieth anniversary of her life profession.  On September 8, 1970, sister made her final vows as a member of the Community of Saint John Baptist.  We are grateful for all that she does here at Saint Mary’s and we give thanks for her long and devoted ministry.  Please feel free to congratulate her and please keep her in your prayers . . . Kate Bittinger Eikel gave birth to a baby girl, Frances Margaret Eikel, on Monday, August 30.  The baby’s father is Robert Eikel.  Robert was a parishioner and a faithful acolyte here at Saint Mary’s until his work took him to Washington, D.C.  Both he and Kate remain good friends of Saint Mary’s.  We are happy to hear that both mother and daughter –  and father – are doing well.  Congratulations, Kate and Robert . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 198.


FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The prelude at Solemn Mass on Sunday morning is the chorale prelude on Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier (Hymn No 440 in The Hymnal 1982), BWV 731, by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).  The cantor is Ms. Linda Jones, soprano.  At the ministration of Communion, Ms. Jones and I will sing the duet Schaffe in mir, Gott, ein reines Herz (“Create in me a clean heart, O God”), from Kleine geistliche Konzerte, SWV 291, composed by Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672).  The motet is taken from the first of the two volumes of Schütz’s Kleine geistliche Konzerte (“Little Sacred Concertos”), published in Germany during the 1630s.  James Kennerley


STEWARDSHIP AT SAINT MARY’S . . . As of August 31, 2010, we have received pledges from 183 households.  The total amount pledged thus far is $455,858.00, which is 85.2% of our goal.  Eighty-two households have been able to increase their pledge from 2009 (which is not an insignificant figure in these hard times).  Twenty-five households are pledging for the first time or are returning after some time away.  We continue to encourage all new members and all members of our parish guilds to make a pledge this year.  If you would like to make a pledge, if you need a pledge card, or if you have questions, please speak with Father Gerth, Father Smith, or MaryJane Boland.  As planning begins for our 2011 Stewardship Campaign, I would like to thank MaryJane for all the work she has done and continues to do as the Chair of our Stewardship Committee; and thank you to all who continue to support Saint Mary’s so generously.  J.R.S.


SAINT MARY’S GUILD . . . The Guild is the altar guild of the parish.  This fall the members of the Guild will meet on the following Saturdays: September 11, October 9 and November 13.  The members of the Guild normally attend the noonday services and then gather for a business meeting and work day.  If you would like to find out more about the Guild’s work or if you are interested in joining Saint Mary’s Guild, please speak to Marie Rosseels or to one of the sisters.


CLERGY NOTES . . . On Tuesdays in September, the Reverend Ajung Sojwal will be celebrant for the 12:10 PM Mass.  Mother Sojwal is a graduate of Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, Maharashtra, India; Fordham University; and the General Theological Seminary.  She was ordained in our diocese in 2006 and has served as priest-in-charge at the Church of Our Savior in Manhattan.  Her husband, the Reverend Milind Sojwal, is rector of All Angels Church, New York City.  The Sojwals have two children.  I am very thankful she can assist us in September.  S.G.


REPAIRS IN THE CHANCEL . . . A set of six tall wooden candlesticks, often added to the high altar on feast days, has been sent to a conservator for evaluation and restoration.  They were painted gold over a hundred years ago.  The conservator discovered that originally they were finished with silver leaf.  Our Fine Arts Committee is working with the conservator to propose the next steps . . . Two of the four “office lights” on the high altar have also been removed for conservation.  These candlesticks are brass.  Two have become unsteady.  We hope these will be able to be repaired quickly . . . One of the switches used to ring the tower bells is not working and needs to be repaired.  Luckily, there are three other switches around the complex that are still working, including another one built into the altar steps that can be used during Mass.  We hope to have the broken switch fixed soon.  S.G.


RENOVATIONS IN THE PARISH HOUSE . . . Readers of the Angelus will already be aware that an Atrium for the Church School is being prepared on the second floor of the Parish House, in what was formerly the Rector’s Office and the Parish Office.  Serious work on the renovation project began this week.  Office furniture, including desks, chairs, and file cabinets, was taken to the Finance Office and to the Rector’s new office on the third floor of the Parish House.  Preparation of the walls so that they can be painted and the cleaning of the carpets in the Atrium should begin shortly.  I am very grateful to the members of the staff, to Aaron Koch, Stephen Gonley, and our sextons, Mario Martinez and Tony Santiago, for all the hard work they have already put into this project.  A special word of thanks is due to parishioner Dick Leitsch, who has helped us to organize and execute the move. J.R.S.


CHRISTIAN EDUCATION: FALL 2010 . . . The first Adult Forum of the academic year will take place on Sunday, October 3, towards the end of Coffee Hour, around 1:00 PM, in Saint Joseph’s Hall.  Parish Archivist, Dick Leitsch, will give a talk on the history of the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, focusing on Father Thomas McKee Brown, Saint Mary’s first rector and the organization of the parish during its early years.  The presentation will take place in connection with the current exhibition of images from the archives in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will resume on October 6, at 6:30 PM.  Once again this year, the class will be led by Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B., and Sister Laura Katharine, C.S.J.B.  The class will be reading selections from the so-called “apocryphal” or “deutero-canonical” books of the Bible.  Building on their reading of the Wisdom literature last year, the members of the class will have the opportunity to study such important biblical themes as the end of prophecy and the rise of apocalypticism.  If you have questions, please speak to one of the sisters . . . The Church in England during the Middle Ages through the Lens of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: This four-part series will be led by parishioner Grace Bruni and will meet on Sunday mornings at 10:00 AM, on the second floor of the Mission House (October 10, 17, 24 and 31) . . . Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians: Father Peter Powell will lead a three-part series on First Corinthians this fall (November 7, 14, and 21).  The series is designed to be an introduction to this important part of the New Testament canon.  During Lent 2011, Father Powell returns and will do a close reading of 1 Corinthians 15, a chapter in which Saint Paul discusses the theme of resurrection.  The fall series will be good preparation for the Lent series, but is not a prerequisite . . . The Adult-Education Class will not meet on Sunday, November 28, the Sunday after Thanksgiving Day . . . Bishop Anthony Bloom’s Beginning to Pray: Sunday, December 5, 10:00 AM.  A brief introduction to a well-known work by a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church in Great Britain.  Led by Father Jay Smith.


OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B., has been volunteering at the Food Pantry at Saint Clement’s.  She has also assumed responsibility for delivering the food donated by Saint Marians to the Food Pantry.  Recently, she also delivered a large amount of food that had been donated by the students and teachers of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School, our neighbors here on 46th Street.  We continue to collect non-perishable food items on Sundays for the Food Pantry.  Please look for the basket at the back of the church or in Saint Joseph’s Hall.  If you have questions, or if you would like to volunteer, please speak to Sister Deborah Francis or to Father Jay Smith; and thank you to all who continue to support this very important ministry.


LOOKING AHEAD . . . Tuesday, September 14, Holy Cross Day, Mass at 12:10 PM and Sung Mass at 6:00 PM . . . Monday, September 20, Meeting of the Board of Trustees . . . Tuesday, September 21, Saint Matthew, Mass at 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Fourth Annual Oktoberfest and Hymn Sing, Saturday, October 2, 6:00-9:30 PM in Saint Joseph’s Hall and the Organ Loft.  All are invited.  Please consider inviting your friends.  James Kennerley will be giving his wonderful “tour of the organ,” something that children of all ages will surely find fascinating and entertaining . . . Monday, October 11, Columbus Day, Federal Holiday Schedule . . . Monday, October 18, Saint Luke, Mass at 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Thursday, October 28, Saint Simon & Saint Jude, Mass at 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Monday, November 1, All Saints’ Day, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM . . . Tuesday, November 2, All Souls’ Day, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM . . . Sunday, November 7, 2:00 AM: Daylight Savings Time ends (clocks are set back one hour) . . . In November the Visual Arts Program will present Nativity Scenes: Works on Paper by Carlos Molina in the gallery in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . Wednesday, December 8, Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM, the Rt. Rev. Mark Sisk, XV Bishop of New York, celebrant and preacher . . . Saturday, December 11, 10:00 AM-3:00 PM, Advent Quiet Day, led by Father John Beddingfield.  Father Beddingfield, who served at Saint Mary’s as curate, is the Rector of All Souls Memorial Church, Washington, D.C.


ALTAR FLOWERS are needed on the following dates: September 19, October 24, November 7, 14, and 21.  If you would like to make a donation, please contact Aaron Koch in the finance office and thank you to all those who support this ministry so generously.


ANNUAL HOBART LECTURE . . . This year’s lecture will be delivered by Ellen T. Charry, the Margaret W. Harmon Professor of Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, on Thursday, October 28, in Synod Hall, on the Cathedral Close, at 1047 Amsterdam Avenue.  The day begins with Mass in the Cathedral at 10:30 AM and the lecture will begin around 1:45 PM, following lunch.  More information about making reservations for the day will be posted soon on the diocesan website,  Prof. Charry earned both the M.A. and the Ph.D. in religion from Temple University.  She received her undergraduate degree from Barnard College and a master’s degree in social work from Yeshiva University.  Her scholarly interests are centered on the Christian life.  She currently serves as an editor-at-large for The Christian Century and serves on the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church.  She is a member of the Pursuit of Happiness Project established by the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University.  Her publications include God and the Art of Happiness (forthcoming from Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, autumn 2010); By the Renewing of Your Minds: The Pastoral Function of Christian Doctrine (Oxford University Press, 1997); and Franz Rosenzweig on the Freedom of God (Wyndham Hall Press, 1987).


FALL CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, October 16, 2010, 8:00 PM, The Early Music Series of the Columbia University’s Miller Theatre, In Paradisum, Stile Antico.  Memorials and swansongs by Byrd, Dufay, des Prez, Lassus, and others . . . Saturday, October 23, 2010, 8:00 PM (Free Admission), New York Repertory Orchestra, David Leibowitz, music director & Olivier Fluchaire, violin; Roussel: Concerto for Small Orchestra, Piazzolla: Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas, Nielsen: Symphony No. 4 (“The Inextinguishable”).  For more information:, 212.662.8383, or . . . Saturday, November 20, 2010, 8:00 PM, The Early Music Series of the Columbia University’s Miller Theatre, Giants of the Flemish Renaissance, New York Polyphony.  Favorites by Taverner, Ockeghem, Dunstable, Brumel, des Prez, and others . . . Saturday, December 11, 2010, 8:00 PM, and Monday, December 13, 2010, 8:00 PM, Voices of Ascension: Christmas Concert.  Information about programming and tickets is available at . . . Saturday, December 18, 2010, 8:00 PM, New York Repertory Orchestra, Annual NYRO Benefit Concert...and the 100th birthday of Samuel Barber; David Leibowitz, music director, Eric Jacobsen, cello.  Barber: Music for a Scene from Shelley, Schumann: Cello Concerto, Rimsky-Korsakoff: Scheherezade


AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Nathan Gunn, baritone, is a well-known singer, who performs at opera houses around the world.  He is also a distinguished concert performer and recitalist.  He and his wife, Julie Jordan Gunn, are good friends of Saint Mary’s.  Once again this season Nathan will be singing at the Metropolitan Opera House, appearing in Mozart’s Così fan tutte.  He will appear at the Met on November 9, 13, 17, 23, and December 2.  For more information visit . . . The Screwtape Letters “is a smart, provocative and wickedly funny theatrical adaptation of the C.S. Lewis novel about spiritual warfare from a demon’s point of view.”  It is now playing at the Westside Theatre (Upstairs), 407 W. 43rd St.  Tickets are on sale through, by calling 212.239.6200,  or at the Box Office . . . Friday, October 8, and Saturday, October 9, 2010, At the Rubin Museum of Art, 150 W. 17th Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues: a conference to mark the opening of the museum’s new exhibition Embodying the Holy: Icons in Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Tibetan Buddhism. From the museum’s website: “While the exhibition explores the iconographic, conceptual, and customary similarities between the sacral representations in Tibetan Buddhism and Orthodox Christian traditions, the two-day conference will range more widely in seeking to understand the universal power of religious symbolism.”  The exhibition can be seen at the museum from October 6, 2010, until March 7, 2011.



The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector
The Reverend James Ross Smith, curate
The Reverend Rebecca Weiner Tompkins, deacon
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


The Parish Staff
Mr. Aaron Koch, business manager
Mr. Steven Gonley, building superintendent
Mr. Miguel Gonzalez, Mr. Mario Martinez, Mr. H. Antonio Santiago, sextons