FROM THE RECTOR: CLUB RELIGION
Last Sunday there were fifteen of us at Sung Morning Prayer at 8:30 AM. It was the kind of simple, lovely service that seems so right at Saint Mary’s. Fourteen of the fifteen were sitting in the chancel; one person was in the nave, along with one of our ushers. At the end of the service people turned to speak to those around them. As I was leaving, I realized three people on my side were walking out, already heading down the side aisle by Father Brown’s cenotaph. So, I spoke up and said, “You don’t have to leave. There’s a 9:00 AM Mass.” The couple in the lead continued to walk away – it turns out they would be returning for the 11:00 AM Solemn Mass. The other person turned around.
I introduced myself. It turns out that he was a priest who is a bishop-elect of a diocese – and I have never heard anyone announce himself in such a gentle, humble way. It was an honor to have him with us. We spoke for a very few minutes; I apologized for the confusion and congratulated him on his election. I assured him there would be a 9:00 AM celebration. He stayed.
I think it has been years since one of us priests did not step up to the lectern microphone immediately after Morning Prayer to announce the next service. Sunday provided a very useful, if somewhat embarrassing, reminder of the need for a purposeful, continual ministry of welcome. It is a ministry that involves far more than a greeting from ushers and the clergy. It goes to the heart of how all of us are a Christian community.
“Club religion” is a phrase that has been in my mind since my sabbatical in the winter of 2009. What I mean by it is this: club religion is a church that sends a clear message, one way or another, that its primary purpose is to serve those who are already members. Clubs are a good thing; club religion is not.
While on sabbatical I didn’t dress in a clerical shirt and collar. With the single exception of the main Sunday Eucharist at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, every church I attended could be described as a place for “club religion.” Only at Grace did I sense a purposeful commitment of welcome for everyone, including those who were new, those who were visiting, and those who made the cathedral their home.
Last Sunday, it turns out, the bishop-elect had received a great welcome from our usher. He asked specifically about the 9:00 AM Eucharist, for which he had come a few minutes early. Our usher welcomed him, told him there was a Eucharist following Morning Prayer. She led him up to the chancel along the side aisle, as we were nearing the end of Matins (another name – perhaps now a “club” word? – for Morning Prayer). He joined in the last part of the service. Yet, even a member of the clergy of his experience was confused by what took place next, perhaps be the small size of the congregation in such a large space.
For many it takes several visits for Saint Mary’s church building to feel comfortable. Unless one knows what Saint Mary’s is like beforehand, I think most people are unprepared for the power of the architecture and the design. I have always found it formal, but unusually welcoming. But I really only know the place as its rector – I never visited the parish before I was interviewed for the position. To me, Saint Mary’s is an obvious place for prayer. There are almost always people inside, people just walking through. There are always candles burning at the shrines. It’s the kind of place that calls to mind the words of Jacob after he has dreamt about the ladder between heaven and earth, “‘Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it.’ And [Jacob] was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’” (Genesis 28:16b-17).
This year Wednesday, March 9, is the First Day of Lent. More people will come into the church on this day than on any other day of the year. I’m not willing to turn anyone away, even if one might wish for them to be active, practicing Episcopalians. They will not be. We try to meet them in Christ’s name just as they come. I want it to be clear that we believe in a risen Lord. I want our welcome to as genuine as it can be.
I continue to struggle with much of Saint Matthew’s gospel. But after last Sunday, these words from the Sermon on the Mount seem good for all of us here to remember, “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:46-48). I think Christ would be very happy for us to think less about giving up or taking on something during Lent and to think more about trying to make sure everyone who comes finds a place of welcome.
Nothing describes this work any better than a paraphrase of Psalm 23 by Isaac Watts (1674-1748), the non-conformist minister who invented the modern English hymn. His text concludes, “The sure provisions of my God attend me all my days; oh, may thy house be mine abode and all my work be praise. There would I find a settled rest, while others go and come; no more a stranger or a guest, but like a child at home” (The Hymnal, 664). Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Carol, Sharon, Emily, Pierre, Russell, Doreen, Margaret, Julia, Dennis, Dorothy, Alan, Chris, Rolf, Gert, Daisy, William, Rick, and Lawrence, deacon; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Nicholas and Christine; and for the repose of the souls of Chloe and Peter, pastor . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . March 6: 1900 William Frederick Mayer; 1912 Robert Francis Dougherty.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . The Reverend Peter Gomes, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at the School of Divinity and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard University, died on Monday, March 1, 2011, at the age of sixty-eight. Ordained in the American Baptist Churches, he had served at Memorial Church since 1970, first as an assistant minister and from 1974, as the minister. He was one of the most influential members of the clergy of his generation and will be mourned personally by many members of Saint Mary’s community. Please pray for him and for all who mourn. S.G.
THE OBSERVANCE OF LENT . . . The ordinary weekdays of Lent are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord. In addition, the Fridays of Lent are observed traditionally by abstinence from flesh meats.
THE WAY OF THE CROSS . . . On Fridays in Lent we offer the service of Stations of the Cross at 6:30 PM. The service lasts about 35 minutes and includes the singing of Stabat Mater (“At the cross her station keeping”). We use the exceptionally fine version of the service published by the Episcopal Church in its Book of Occasional Services.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saint Mary’s Guild will meet on Saturday, March 5, at 1:00 PM, following the 12:10 PM Mass . . . The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and the Adult Forum will meet on Sunday, March 6 . . . The Reverend Kelly-Ray Merritt preaches at Solemn Evensong and Benediction on Sunday, March 6, at 5:00 PM . . . Monday, March 7, 6:30 PM, Board of Trustees Meeting . . . March 9, Ash Wednesday, Masses at 7:00 AM, 8:00 AM, 12:10 PM, and 6:00 PM. Ashes will be distributed throughout the day . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on Ash Wednesday, March 9. The class will resume on Wednesday, March 16 . . . Friday, March 11, Stations of the Cross, 6:30 PM, following Evening Prayer . . . Father Jay Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, March 5. Father Stephen Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, March 12.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . A special word of thanks from the music director to all those who attended the Messiaen concert last Saturday. Particular thanks go to Gypsy da Silva, reader, Terry Carlson, lighting designer, Trevor Mills and Dick Leitsch, ushers, and Larry Trupiano, organ curator . . . Father Smith is organizing the ushers and greeters for Ash Wednesday. As we go to press, he’s still looking for helpers. Please be in contact with him . . . Looking Ahead: Sunday, March 13, Daylight Saving Time begins. We move clocks forward one hour . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 225.
A GIFT FOR A SAINT MARIAN BISHOP . . . The Reverend R. William Franklin, a former member and trustee of the parish, was elected bishop of Western New York on November 20, 2010. The presiding bishop has announced that the necessary consents have been received from the bishops and standing committees of the Church. Father Franklin will be consecrated bishop on Saturday, April 30, at the Center for the Arts on the SUNY Buffalo campus in Amherst, New York. Gifts are being received for episcopal appointments (a pastoral staff, miters, etc.) by the Reverend Earle King, Saint Martin’s Church, 2587 Baseline Road, Grand Island, New York, 14072-1656. (Make your check payable to “The Diocese of Western New York” and mark it, “Episcopal Gifts.”) Please keep Bill and his family in your prayers. S.G.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The setting of the Mass ordinary at the Solemn Mass on Sunday is the Morning Service in C and F by Charles Villiers Stanford (1852–1924). The Irish-born Stanford composed a large output of varied music, though he is remembered best, perhaps, for his many contributions to Anglican Church music. He was professor of music at Cambridge University and the Royal College of Music, London. Stanford produced several complete settings of the Mass ordinary, morning and evening canticles, all unified by a particular key center and the use of motivic development. At the ministration of Communion, the choir sings the motet O clap your hands together by Orlando Gibbons (1583–1625). Gibbons probably wrote this motet as his doctoral exercise for Oxford University in 1622 . . . The setting of the Mass ordinary at the Solemn Mass on Ash Wednesday is Mass for Five Voices by William Byrd (1543–1623). Byrd is known to have been a tenaciously loyal Catholic in a country which was more or less militantly Protestant. He studied with Thomas Tallis, and was probably a chorister at the Chapel Royal, the hotbed of English ecclesiastical performance and composition at that time. Byrd was a recusant Catholic throughout his life; indeed, from 1585 his house was constantly searched for incriminating literature, and he was required to pay a crippling fine each year as a result – in 1597, this was 200 Pounds. His three Masses (for three, four and five voices respectively) were published, at quite considerable risk, around 1593 to 1595. Although the volumes were without title pages, Byrd’s name is clearly asserted as their composer. The Mass for Five Voices was almost certainly the last to be composed; its compositional processes reveal a more balanced and integrated approach that the earlier Masses. During the imposition of the ashes, Psalm 51 is sung to the Latin setting, Miserere mei, Deus, by Gregorio Allegri (1582–1652). The famous embellishments that nowadays stand as the hallmarks of the work were almost certainly additions from the nineteenth century. At the ministration of Communion, the choir sings the first part of the motet Ne irascaris by Byrd, first published in the 1589 Cantiones Sacrae collection. James Kennerley
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class normally meets in the Arch Room, on the second floor of the Mission House from 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM. The class is led by the sisters. Newcomers are most welcome! The class will not meet on Ash Wednesday, March 9 . . . The Adult Forum continues through March 6 with Father Smith’s series on The History of the Bible in English . . . On Sundays during Lent, March 13 through April 10, Father Peter Powell will teach a class on First Corinthians 15 . . . On the four Sundays in May, Grace Bruni will lead a church-history series on the complex relationship between civil and ecclesiastical authority during the Middle Ages . . . On Sunday, June 5, Dr. Dennis Raverty, will give a lecture on The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood & the British Arts and Crafts Movement.
THE AMERICAN GLOBE THEATER’s production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing opens on Friday, February 25 and runs through Sunday, March 20 (Thursday-Saturday 7:30 PM; Sunday 3:00 PM). Call 212-869-9809 for ticket reservations. (“AGT” is the resident theater group at Saint Mary’s. Their auditorium is on the third floor of the parish house.)
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We continue to collect non-perishable food items for the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Please consider making a regular donation to the Food Pantry. Look for the basket in the back of the church or in Saint Joseph’s Hall. If you would like more information about how the Food Pantry works or if you would like to volunteer, please speak to Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B. . . . Father Smith resumes his Book Sale in Saint Joseph’s Hall on Sunday morning. All proceeds benefit the Food Pantry and other outreach efforts . . . Saturday, May 14 & Sunday, May 15, AIDS Walk. Please speak to MaryJane Boland about registering for the Walk and to begin fundraising efforts.
LOOKING AHEAD . . . Fridays in Lent, 6:30 PM, Stations of the Cross . . . Friday, March 25, The Annunciation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM, the Reverend Dr. Ryan Lesh, preacher . . . Sunday, May 1, 1:00 PM, Annual Meeting of the Parish.
The Parish Musicians
Mr. James Kennerley, organist and music director
Mr. Lawrence Trupiano, organ curator
The Parish Staff
Mr. Aaron Koch, business manager
Mr. Miguel Gonzalez, Mr. Mario Martinez, Mr. H. Antonio Santiago, sextons