The Angelus

Volume 13, Number 24


I can’t remember when I first attended the service that is called in the Prayer Book “The Celebration of a New Ministry.”  Sadly, these services are never really very good.  The problem is much more than a particular congregation’s unfamiliarity with the service.  I think the problem lies elsewhere.  As the Church moved forward with Prayer Book revision in the 1960s and 1970s, its energies were mainly focused on three rites: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.  For the record, those rites turned out really well, as did almost all of the others.  The work on the Psalter is also widely recognized for its excellence.

As I made preparations for Holy Week, it occurred to me that there might be another reason why all of the services in the section of the Prayer Book entitled “Episcopal Services” (pages 509-579) are not entirely successful, not only in practical liturgical ways, but, far more important, in theological ways as well.  So, what was going on while they were working on it?  Well, in the 1960s and through much of the 1970s, the Church was having a torturous fight over the full inclusion of women in its common life.  It was not until 1970 that women could be seated as delegates to the General Convention of the Church – yes, 1970.  In July 1976, the 72nd General Convention of the Episcopal Church, gathered in Philadelphia, passed a resolution declaring that “no one shall be denied access” to ordination as deacon, priest, or bishop on the basis of their sex.

In our present Prayer Book, we pray at the consecration of a new bishop, “In all things may he present before you the acceptable offering of a pure, and gentle, and holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son” (p. 521).  The theological problem here, of course, is that Jesus is himself the acceptable offering.  We now have a new bishop receiving God’s “princely Spirit” and being made a part of a “high priesthood.”  None of this language was in the old rite.  Where did it come from?  Why was it adopted in 1979?

On Tuesday in Holy Week I attended, what is called in our diocese, the “Liturgy of Collegiality” at the cathedral.  In many ways it is an impressive service in our very impressive cathedral.  During this Eucharist, attended principally by the priests and bishops of the diocese, there is a “Reaffirmation of Ordination Vows,” from The Book of Occasional Services of the Episcopal Church.  This reaffirmation is not an ancient rite.  It’s an adaptation of the Roman Communion’s new liturgy for what they call the “Chrism Mass” on the morning of “Holy Thursday” (but in New York the Roman archdiocese celebrates it on Tuesday as well) that was part of the revision of their services in 1969.  At our liturgy of collegiality, chrism is also consecrated.

The form for reaffirmation begins with the bishop saying, “Dear friends, the ministry which we share is none other than the sacrificial ministry of Christ . . . ”  Before this year, I’ve always just joined in making the responses without thinking much about it.  This year I simply stood with everyone else, but did not make any responses.  As I looked at the text in front of me, I realized that I wasn’t sure I shared in the “sacrificial ministry of Christ” any more or less than any other person who is baptized.  I wasn’t sure I could give any reason why I needed, or if it made sense, to reaffirm my vows annually.  At the end of the day, all of us, lay and ordained, are “unworthy servants” (Luke 17:10).

On Maundy Thursday, I have always used the suggested words from Occasional Services to invite the congregation to join me in the washing of feet as an “act of humble service.”  The text says Jesus “taught that strength and growth in the life of the Kingdom of God” comes “by such lowly service.”  But, is that what we read in John’s gospel?

Jesus’ washing his disciples’ feet, found only in John, has very little to do with service.  In John’s very long account of the supper before the Passover, the longest passage in that gospel, there’s no mention of bread and wine – or what the common meal would come to mean for Jesus’ disciples.  In this passage, Jesus, in what we might call an act of creation, since he is the one through whom all things were made, reorders the relationship to himself and to his Father of all those who believe.  In John, the supper is not about what Christians come to call the Eucharist or the priesthood.  Jesus is reordering the relationship of himself and his Father to those who believe.  They are now his friends, the ones who believe, the ones who love one another.

Bowen Family Systems Theory postulates, among other things, that a child’s emotional life is set largely by what is going on in her or his parents’ lives when the child is very young.  We can all develop new responses across the course of our lives, but those original emotional pathways are set during our development.  When accessed, those early behaviors can seem and be overwhelming for us.  The theory also postulates that what is true for individuals and families is also true for larger units of society, including nations and churches.

Fixing the problems with some of our services doesn’t mean at this point simply re-writing the liturgy – the trial use service called “The Renewal of Ministry with the Welcome of a New Rector” doesn’t address, in my opinion, primary theological and liturgical questions.  But before we get to those, there is a more basic issue.  We have a problem with, if you will, the “emotional field” in which we are operating.  I don’t think the Episcopal Church alone will be able to do very much to fix a Christian world where discrimination against women in ministry is normative for the vast majority of denominations.

The Church of England still has not managed to ordain a woman bishop, though since 1952 a woman has been the “supreme governor” of that church.  Interestingly, on Easter Day, the Roman Communion does not read John’s full account of the first resurrection appearance – they leave out his coming to Mary Magdalene at the tomb and his sending her to his “brothers and sisters” to tell them he has arisen.

In the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, the youngest children meditate on the tiny mustard seed.  They are only vaguely aware of how they themselves will grow.  Young children don’t have the capacity for abstract thought.  But they do have a great capacity for wonder and for joy.  Our capacity as adults is different.  Truth is often hard.  But it can set us free for new life.  When the Episcopal Church no longer tolerates any discrimination against any of God’s children, maybe we can begin to have a fresh and useful discussion about our theology of ministry and about how we pray.  Stephen Gerth


YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Ethelyn, Carol, Sharon, Krislea, Michael, Olutoyin, Anne, Virginia, Charles, Ruth, Timothy, Doreen, Anna, Margaret, Julia, Dorothy, Chris, Rolf, Gert, William, Rick, and John, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Nicholas, Christine, Mark, and Rob; and for the repose of the souls of Alan, Daisy, Anne, and Randall, religious . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . May 8: 1881 Mary Elizabeth Glass Hogan; 1909 Elbridge Coffin Roberts; 1911 Philip Schaeffer; 1948 Walter Frederick Anderson; 1961 Norman Falconer Cushman.


IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Daniel Bader, a member of the parish, died in hospice care at Roosevelt Hospital on the morning of May 4, 2011.  There will be a Service of Committal on Saturday, May 7, at 9:30 AM, at the Cemetery of the Evergreens, 1629 Bushwick Avenue, Brooklyn.  Please keep Dan, his wife Ethelyn, and his son Donald in your prayers . . . Marie Mueller died recently in Seattle, Washington, at the age of 98.  Mrs. Mueller was the widow of G. Edward Mueller, former parishioner and vice-president of the Board of Trustees.  Mr. Mueller died in 1992.  A Requiem Mass for Mrs. Mueller will be celebrated here at Saint Mary’s in August.  Please keep Marie, her son John and daughter-in-law Nancy and all who mourn in your prayers.


I PUBLISH THE BANNS OF MARRIAGE for Marcos Miltiades Desillas and Kathleen Fuller of Queens, New York.  If any of you know just cause why they may not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, you are bidden to declare it.  This is the second time of asking.  James Ross Smith


I PUBLISH THE BANNS OF MARRIAGE for Andrew William Gould and Kristen Marie Gennaro of Hamden, Connecticut.  If any of you know just cause why they may not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, you are bidden to declare it.  This is the first time of asking.  S.G.


THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The Visual Arts Program presents a lecture by Miguel Luciano in Saint Joseph’s Hall on Friday May 6.  Refreshments will be served from 7:00-8:00 PM and the lecture will begin at 8:00 PM . . . The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and the Adult Forum will meet on Sunday, May 8 . . . Our guest preacher on Sunday, May 8, the Third Sunday of Easter, will be Father Peter Powell . . . Father Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, May 7.  Father Jim Pace will hear confessions on Saturday, May 14


AROUND THE PARISH . . . We continue to be grateful for the many hours of time given for the work of the parish by so many during Holy Week and Easter Week . . . Many thanks to those who contributed reports for the Annual Meeting of the Congregation on Sunday, May 1.  Steven Heffner and Leroy Sharer were elected as delegates to the diocesan convention.  Randy Morgan and Mark Risinger were elected as alternate delegates.  They will represent us at the annual convention in November and at the convention called to elect a bishop coadjutor in October . . . The rector’s sermons for March and April have been posted on the parish web page . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 302.


FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The prelude at the Solemn Mass on Sunday is an improvisation on Victimae paschal laudes, the plainsong sequence for Eastertide.  The setting of the Mass ordinary today is Missa Suzanne un Jour by Orlande de Lassus (1532–1594).  The Flemish-born Lassus, sometimes called the princeps musicorum or “main writer of music,” was one of the late Renaissance’s most cosmopolitan and respected composers.  Much of his training was in Italy; later he worked as Kapellmeister at the court in Munich for almost forty years.  The mass is based on a “chanson” (a French song) of the same name by Lassus, which itself is a setting of a poem by Guillaume Guéroult.  The motet at Communion is a four-part setting of Regina coeli by the great Spanish composer Cristóbal de Morales (c. 1500–1553).  The postlude is the tenth variation, from Variations sur un vieux noël, Opus 20 (1922), by Marcel Dupré (1886–1971) . . . Hymns at the Solemn Mass are: Christians, to the Paschal victim; Come, risen Lord, and deign to be our guest; Now the green blade riseth; and This joyful Eastertide . . . At 4:40 PM on Sunday, before Evensong and Benediction, I will play a recital with violist Yaroslav Kargin.  The program includes music by Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583–1643), Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908), and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893).  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 Bach and the Early Baroque 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.


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! . . . The current series in the Adult Forum continues on Sundays through May 22.  Grace Bruni is leading 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.  Dr. Raverty writes, “In the mid-nineteenth century a secret society of young British painters from Oxford rebelled against the academy, signing their paintings with the mysterious initials, “PRB”. Influenced equally by the Gothic Revival and the contemporaneous Realist movement on the continent, much of their work is devoted to Christian subject matter, in emulation of artists of the early Renaissance and late Gothic periods. Their religious work was derided publicly by no less a figure than Charles Dickens for lacking decorum, and the movement had ties with the Anglo-Catholic revival and with socialism, both of which were controversial in the Church of England during the Victorian era.”


AIDS WALK 2011 . . . The small but energetic Saint Mary’s AIDS Walk Team is raising money for the fight against AIDS, and we are walking on Saturday morning, May 14, so we can be in church the following day.  In 2010, our team raised almost $15,000, and ranked 50th out of 3,000 teams registered for the Walk!  Our goal this year is $18,000, and we are hard at work, determined to meet that goal.  On May 4 we stand at $10,280, so we need your help.  We can collect money until June, but our target date is May 14.  Please contribute to the Saint Mary’s 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).  We are proud of our part in this fight and will treasure your involvement.  If you have questions, please e-mail the team leader, MaryJane Boland or speak to her on Sunday.



The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector
The Reverend James Ross Smith, curate
The Reverend James Pace, assisting priest

The Reverend T. Remington Slone, The Reverend Rebecca Weiner Tompkins, deacons

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. Miguel Gonzalez, Mr. Mario Martinez, Mr. H. Antonio Santiago, sextons