From The Rector: Learnings
In my office I have a collection of bulletins from the Sundays I was away last winter on sabbatical. Since then, I’ve been mulling over what I learned as I visited different parishes week by week. Only once did I attend the same parish twice, that was to check out the early and the late services at the same place. Much varied from parish to parish, but much was the same. Mostly I was in California, but there were three Sundays in Europe and two Sundays in New York.
The Sunday I attended Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, a beautiful sunny morning, as I climbed the steps of the cathedral, Canon Mary Haddad, who served as seminarian here and has just gone to be interim rector at All Saints’ Church, Beverly Hills, California, was there, welcoming people. She was smiling, warm, helpful. That kind of welcome, from clergy or laypersons, was not as common as one might have hoped. But I think that’s exactly the kind of welcome every person should get on Sunday mornings at every church. A warm welcome, with words and a smile, is good manners. Its absence turned out to be a good predictor of whether I would be happy with the service to come.
Another important memory: One Sunday I was forty-five minutes late for church. It turned out that the parish I was attending had changed the starting time of its main service but had not changed its sign on its gate. The time change was on the web site and I actually arrived on time. Once I saw the sign and didn’t see any activity, I just thought I had written down the wrong time for the main service. I went for coffee. When I returned, they were passing the peace. It renewed my sense that our efforts on signage and web schedules are crucial for hospitality and welcome.
There were many excellent church bulletins along the way. The best bulletins were some form of booklet which meant that every person used just the booklet and perhaps The Hymnal. I’m pretty knowledgeable about prayer books and hymnals as these things go. But when directed by several different papers to a variety of books and pew booklets, I became confused on more than one occasion. My experience as a visitor reinforced our decision to put so much effort into our booklets for sung services. It is time and money well spent.
Along the way, I was surprised by the widespread use of optional worship texts, materials that are authorized for trial use but have not yet been included in a Prayer Book. I confess I found this jarring. It meant I often had to have my head in a bulletin or booklet instead of using my “Prayer Book memory” – something all Episcopalians develop. Additionally, the reason for the inclusion of non-Prayer Book material was rarely apparent. Often the new materials raised theological questions without providing any answers. (Are we always healed and renewed simply by attending Sunday worship?) Most of the time the material felt agenda driven, as if someone were trying to improve me without explanation. New prayers that begin with the words “Loving God” should be avoided. Don’t get me wrong; the kingdom of God is certainly about more than “right” or “correct” worship. But what we do and how we do it matters. In the end, it’s about Jesus Christ and his calling us into his fold.
In many ways I was delighted by the breadth and diversity of Christian worship I encountered, here and in Europe. From time to time I found myself wondering what I would see if I came to Saint Mary’s with fresh eyes. I’d like to think that most of the time all who enter this building find a warm welcome and an easy, genuine invitation to participate in common prayer. I’d like to think that Episcopalians who worship here, whatever the traditions of their own parish community, will know and feel they are in an Episcopal Church, where all are welcome and where things are done decently and in order. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED for Leroy who is hospitalized, for Carol, Shan, André, Gilbert, Nicholas, Lucia, Peter, Jack, Sandy, Chris, Robert, Stephen, Elsa, Juan, Chris, William, Gert, Mary, Rick, and Pegram, PRIEST, for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Kayla, Marc, Benjamin, Patrick, and Andrew, and for the repose of the souls of Frederick and Raymond . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . January 3: 1927 Mary Catherine Pomeroy Starr; 1935 George William Grotz.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Holy Baptism will be celebrated at the Solemn Mass on Sunday, January 10 . . . Father Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, January 9. Father Merz will hear confessions on Saturday, January 16.
AT EPIPHANY . . . Leroy Sharer suffered a cardiac arrest during the Solemn Mass on Epiphany. As we go to press, he is well on the way to recovery and is at Saint Luke’s Hospital for treatment and evaluation. During the Mass, fellow altar servers immediately called 911. A visitor who knew cardiopulmonary resuscitation, Maria Axiotis, assisted by Ric Miranda and Father Smith gave CPR until Emergency Medical Service personnel arrived. Another server, Jananie Nair, accompanied Leroy to Roosevelt Hospital. Father Smith went immediately after Mass. The congregation remained prayerful and respectful while the team treated Leroy and took him to the hospital. It seemed right at that point to resume the Mass and we did. I am so thankful for all who assisted and all who remained calm and prayerful. The children were wonderful too. Please keep Leroy in your prayers. S.G.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Church School for children will meet on Sunday, January 10, at 10:00 AM. The class will not meet on January 17 or 24 . . . Congratulations to the Reverend Peter Powell who retires on January 15, 2010 from the position of president of the Interfaith Housing Association, Westport, Connecticut, where he has been president since 1988. Before that, he served parishes in New Jersey, Maryland and Connecticut. Pete and his wife Barbara Powell are regular members of our Sunday congregation. He has also taught at Princeton Theological Seminary and at the Virginia Theological Seminary. He returns to the classroom at Saint Mary’s on Sundays this Lent . . . Thank you Grace Bruni, Heather Peskin, and José Vidal for organizing, baking pastries, and providing hospitality at the reception after Solemn Mass on January 6 . . . Thank you to the parishioner who made a donation that made the reception possible . . . Thank you Daniel Craig for providing extra assistance in the sacristy in order to prepare for Epiphany . . . Thank you Clint Best, MaryJane Boland, Grace Bruni, Dick Leitsch, and Bob Picken for helping out around the office during this very busy time of the year . . . Altar flowers are needed for the following Sundays: January 17 and 31. Please contact the Finance Office if you would like to make a donation . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 250 Epiphany 244.
FROM THE MUSIC DEPARTMENT . . . The organist at both the Solemn Mass and at Solemn Evensong and Benediction on Sunday is parishioner Mark Peterson. The prelude before the Solemn Mass is Fantasy on the Wexford Carol by Norberto Rogelio Bodas Guinaldo (b. 1937). Guinaldo was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and studied at the Conservatory of Buenos Aires with Alberto Ginastera. He served as assistant organist of the Basilica del Santisimo Sacramento in Buenos Aires and, while there, presided over the largest pipe organ in Argentina. Guinaldo came to the United States in 1960, settling in California and serving a number of churches there. He was, until his retirement, organist in California, and has continued to compose works for organ and various choral forces to the present day. The cantor at the Solemn Mass is Ruth Cunningham, soprano. At the ministration of communion, Ruth sings her own tune to the words “Dost thou in a manger lie” (Hymn 97). The accompaniment is improvised by Mark Peterson. The organ recital before Solemn Evensong on Sunday at 4:40 PM is Adam Pajan, New Haven, Connecticut. James Kennerley
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . Adult Education on Sunday morning resumes on Sunday, January 17. The adult-education class meets on Sunday mornings at 10:00 AM in the Arch Room on the second floor of the Mission House. January 17 & 24: The Church Fathers and the Epiphany: Saint Gregory Nazianzus’s Oration 38 on the Theophany of Christ. Led by Father Jay Smith . . . January 31 and February 7 & 14: Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Led by Mr. T. Remington Slone, seminarian . . . February 21 & 28 and March 7, 14 & 21: The Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Led by Father Peter Powell. The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will resume on January 20, 2010. The class meets at 6:30 PM on Wednesdays (7:00 PM on Holy Days) in the Mission House. The class is led by Sisters Deborah Francis and Laura Katharine. The class will be reading Ecclesiastes and Job.
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 month or so. 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) . . . We recently 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. Please speak to Patricia Mottley 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. James Ross Smith
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The First Sunday after Epiphany:
The Baptism of Our Lord
Tuesday Aelred, Abbot of Rievaulx, 1167
Wednesday Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, 367
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
Eve of the Second Sunday after Epiphany
Saint Mary’s is open every day of the year for worship, prayer and rest. Most weekdays the church is open from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM. On Saturdays the church is open from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM. On Sundays it is open from 8:00 AM to 6:30 PM. On holidays the church is open from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. The regular services of the Church are offered. For the list of the daily services of worship, please see our web page at www.stmvirgin.org.