FROM FATHER SMITH: LEARNING TO SWIM
One afternoon while I was on vacation, I spent a leisurely couple of hours at the pool where I swim two or three times a week. I had done my laps and was sitting at the side of the pool reading the newspaper (who needs Florida when you can have Midtown Manhattan?). Suddenly a large group of young children, both boys and girls, arrived for their swimming lesson. There must have been ten or twelve of them and none of them was more than four or five. It was like a flock of small, tropical birds had flown into the health club. There was much chattering and laughing and each child was wearing some kind of brilliantly colored bathing suit -- no drab fabrics for those kids. They caught sight of their teacher, a member of the aquatics staff whose name is Shawn. Shouts of “Hi, Shawn!” echoed throughout the large skylit room.
The class began. It was fascinating to watch the instructor’s technique. He was almost as energetic and loud as the kids; but he was also very focused. He shepherded those kids into the pool with no delay; he got those who needed some extra help fitted out in some version of water wings or life jackets. He had them kicking and paddling and then he started to throw them up in the air, urging them to swim back towards him. Or he’d throw them five or six feet away from the side of the pool and have them paddle their way towards the pool’s edge, where they could hold on and catch their breath. Or he’d stand in the middle of the pool and have them jump in and swim towards him; then he’d pick them up, throw them back into the water, and get them started swimming towards the side of the pool, at which point he’d start the whole process over again. Each of these little ones was unique, individual. Some had more experience than did others. Some were clearly bolder than others. Some liked to jump and some liked to swim. Some hated getting their faces wet and others splashed about without a care in the world. Some needed more reassurance than others did: it took a bit of work to get some of the kids to jump into the pool all on their own. It seemed clear that Shawn had been working with these kids for a while. They trusted him. Each child got the kind of attention he or she needed. He seemed to know which child could swim to the edge with no help; he also knew which children needed some extra encouragement. There was something joyful and energetic, but also very careful and attentive, about him. He was watchful. Those kids were safe, but he didn’t cater to anyone’s timidity. There was no way he was going to let fear keep those kids out of the pool. He wanted all of them to learn how to swim.
As I was walking home that afternoon, it occurred to me that the swimming class was a kind of image of God’s relationship with us, an icon of the Christian life. Life is filled with challenges as well as joys. It isn’t always easy, but that needn’t prevent us from experiencing simple pleasures along the way. We have each other; and each one of us has the God-given capacity to learn, to change, to grow, and to discover that, while fear and anxiety are real, they are not the whole story. Sometimes it’s possible to act in spite of our fears. No one’s perfect. We all mess up. No one learns how to swim in a day, but that shouldn’t keep us out of the pool.
And what about God? If Shawn stands for God in this metaphor, then what? Well, I guess it means, for instance, that when Jesus tells the Parable of the Good Shepherd he’s telling us about who God really is: determined, loving, joyful, watchful, that he knows each one of us intimately (read Psalm 139 for more on that subject). But it also means that God wants us to be who he created us to be. Maybe it’s also true, as some have said, that God is less impressed with our fears, our anxieties, our mistakes, our achievements, and our sins than we are. At the end of the day, God seems to believe that each of us deserves to have a place in the water.
There’s one image from that day that has stayed with me. At one point, Shawn picked up a little girl and threw her into the water and watched as she paddled away from him towards the edge of the pool. It was hard going. She made it, but it wasn’t easy. It looked kind of lonely. But in fact she wasn’t alone. She couldn’t see it, but Shawn was behind her the whole time, arms outstretched, ready to grab her if she went under. Maybe God’s like that. We don’t always believe it. We can’t always see it. But he’s still there behind us, all around us, his arms outstretched. Because he wants us to swim. He wants us to live, and there’s no way he’s going to let us drown. Jay Smith
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Carol, Sharon, Murray, Maureen, Jennie, Doreen, Margaret, Julia, Dorothy, Alan, Chris, Rolf, Gert, William, Daisy, Rick, Dennis, and Emil, religious; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Nicholas and Christine; and for the repose of the soul of Willie Winborn . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . April 10: 1878 Francis Ebenezer Wetherell; 1965 Emily Grace Long; 1993 Edna Isabelle Matthews Craig.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We will pray Stations of the Cross on Friday, April 8, and Friday, April 15, at 6:30 PM, following Evening Prayer . . . Father Jim Pace will preach at Evensong on Sunday, April 10, and also on Palm Sunday, April 17. We are grateful to Father Pace for all his help and for his ministry . . . The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and the Adult Forum will meet on Sunday, April 10 . . . Our annual Easter Appeal will be mailed on Monday, April 11. Since the parish’s needs are great, we invite you to give the appeal your prayerful consideration and to be generous . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study will meet on April 13 . . . There will be an Acolyte Rehearsal for Palm Sunday on Saturday, April 16, at 10:00 AM . . . Father Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, April 9. Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, April 16. Confessions will also be heard by the parish clergy after both of the Good Friday liturgies on April 22.
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.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . The next meeting of the Board of Trustees is on Monday, April 18, at 6:30 PM, in the Arch Room, Mission House, 2nd Floor . . . Thank you to Dick Leitsch, who oversaw a project to purchase and install new padding under the carpets in the chancel. The old padding had become quite worn and increasingly ineffective. We are grateful to Dick for his help with this important and very useful “home improvement” . . . Thank you also to Terry Carlson, who continues to fine tune lighting in the church and in Saint Joseph’s Hall, for concerts, for receptions, and, of course, for the liturgy . . . Thank you to all those who continue to respond to our special appeals for cash gifts to pay for altar flowers and for our hospitality efforts. Your generosity is very much appreciated . . . Thank you to Father John Merz, who is taking several services this week while the Rector is away. It is always good to have Father Merz back at Saint Mary’s . . . The sign-up sheet for the Watch before the Blessed Sacrament will be on the bulletin board in Saint Joseph’s Hall on Sunday . . . The Committee to Elect a Bishop has prepared and published a profile of the diocese. The profile, “Welcome to the Diocese of New York,” may be read here. The convention to elect a bishop coadjutor is scheduled for Saturday, October 29, 2011, at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine . . . Cash gifts are still needed to fund the reception planned for the Easter Vigil on April 23. Please contact Father Smith or Aaron Koch in the Finance Office if you would like to help . . . The Rector will be away Thursday, April 7, through Saturday, April 9. He will be giving meditations at a retreat for the priests of the Diocese of Western Kansas in Great Bend, Kansas. He will return to the parish on Sunday, April 10. He will then be away at a Leadership in Ministry Conference from the evening of Sunday, April 10, until Wednesday, April 13. He will return to the office on Thursday, April 14 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 261.
CALL FOR VOLUNTEERS . . . Sister Laura Katharine and Daniel Craig are organizing a work day during Holy Week to polish brass for Easter. Please contact Sister Laura Katharine or Daniel for further details . . . On Saturday, April 16, at around 11:00 AM, following the acolyte rehearsal, volunteers are needed to “strip palms” in Saint Joseph’s Hall in preparation for the Palm Sunday liturgies . . . Marie Rosseels is overseeing the decoration of the church for Easter this year. She will be at the church from the morning of Tuesday, April 19, until the afternoon of Saturday, April 23. If you would like to help and are able to commit to a specific time slot, please contact Marie to make arrangements.
USHERS FOR HOLY WEEK . . . Members of the Guild of Saint Raphael are invited to check their calendars and contact Randy Morgan or Father Smith if they are available to usher at the Holy Week liturgies. At present, the Easter Vigil (April 23) is well covered. We also have two ushers for Good Friday at 12:30 PM and one at 6:00 PM. We could certainly use more help at both liturgies. We are also in particular need of help for the Palm Sunday liturgies (Saturday, April 16, 5:00 PM and Sunday, April 17, 9:00 AM; and Team 3 could use some additional help for the Procession and Solemn Mass at 11:00 AM). We need at least four ushers for the Maundy Thursday liturgy (April 21, 6:00 PM). Team 4 could probably use one or two extra ushers on Easter Day at 11:00 AM and it would be wonderful if we could have two ushers that evening for the organ recital at 4:30 PM and Paschal Evensong at 5:00 PM. Thanks to all for your help with this ministry.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The setting of the Mass ordinary at Solemn Mass on Sunday is Missa brevis by William Walton (1902–1983). This mass, written for the Choir of Coventry Cathedral, is for unaccompanied choir, with the exception of Gloria in excelsis Deo (which is not sung during Lent). The music achieves an overall mysterious effect through Walton’s unique harmonic language and voicing, though it becomes exuberant at “Hosanna in excelsis.” Walton, a versatile composer who wrote in many genres, was an important part of England’s musical establishment during his life, chronologically between Vaughan Williams and Britten. At the ministration of Communion, the choir sings the motet A Litany, also by Walton, written when the composer was a chorister at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford – when he was only thirteen years of age. James Kennerley
CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . TENET and the Spiritus Collective will perform on Saturday, May 14, at 8:00 PM as part of Miller Theatre’s Early Music series. Box Office: 212-854-7799. Tickets can also be purchased online . . . The New York Repertory Orchestra will present a concert on Saturday, May 21, at 8:00 PM, performing music of Berlioz, Rosenhaus, and Beethoven. Admission to the NYRO concert is free.
DIOCESAN ALTAR GUILD QUIET DAY . . . Bishop Sisk has asked Bishop Andrew St John, rector of the Church of the Transfiguration, New York City, to be an advisor to the altar guilds in the diocese. He will give a Quiet Day, “Bringing Our Work to God”, on Saturday, May 7, at Transfiguration between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM. Participants are asked to bring a brown bag lunch and to make reservations at email@example.com.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class 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 and is currently reading the Book of Ecclesiasticus. Newcomers are most welcome! . . . On Sundays during Lent, Father Peter Powell will lead the Adult Forum in a discussion of First Corinthians 15 . . . The Adult Forum will 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.
AIDS WALK 2011 . . . The Saint Mary’s AIDS Walk team is making plans again, for the sixth year in a row, to participate in the 26th AIDS Walk on Sunday, May 15. The team will raise money, and most members will walk on Saturday, May 14, in order to be in church on Sunday. The team is small but successful: in 2010, there were 20 members; the team raised almost $15,000, and ranked 50th out of 3,000 teams registered for the Walk! The team needs your help to do even better this year. You may contribute to the Saint Mary’s AIDS Walk team by clicking here (if you prefer to write a check made out to AWNY, you can give it to Father Smith or to MaryJane Boland). Join the team by clicking here (click on Join a Team NOW, and select Saint Mary’s) and then raise money from your friends and colleagues. If you have questions, please e-mail the team leader, MaryJane Boland or speak to her on Sunday.
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.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Exhibitions at the Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA), 1865 Broadway at 61st Street: Passion in Venice, Crivelli to Tintoretto and Veronese (through June 12, 2011); Let Your Light Shine: Bible Printing in Venice During the High Renaissance (through June 12, 2011) . . . Also at the Museum of Biblical Art: Lecture — The Tradition of Stations of the Cross, by Dr. Patricia Pongracz, MOBIA’s Director of Curatorial Affairs, Thursday, April 14, 6:30–7:30 PM. Admission is free.
The Reverend Thomas Remington Slone, The Reverend Rebecca Weiner Tompkins, deacons
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus
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