While taking a long walk by myself during my vacation in Houston I found myself thinking about newsletter articles I had written over the years. I wrote more than 500 newsletters for Trinity Church, Michigan City, Indiana, and I remember three that got me in trouble. In one, as a young rector, I wondered in print in the gentlest way whether our community really was doing the right thing in baptizing the third child in two families that had no real connection to any church community.
The other two came later in my tenure. One was inspired by an article in The New York Times about suburban New York City homes costing a million dollars and more that had fake shutters. I used the illustration to remind myself that Jesus always looked past the exteriors of peoples’ lives and into their hearts. More than a few people presumed I was attacking hair coloring and decoration.
The only other article that ended up provoking a deep reaction was one where I wrote that I did not subscribe to the concept of empathy. Sympathy, yes. Compassion, yes. But no matter how similar my situation or my life experience has been to that of another individual I can only feel what I feel, not what another feels. Each of us is unique. Another person cannot feel my pain, and I cannot really feel what another feels. Despite the widespread use of the word in our culture I don't think the word describes reality. Empathy, the word itself and the concept behind it, is a twentieth century creation of the psychoanalytic establishment. After the article someone wrote that I was like a child who enjoyed torturing animals because I had no empathy for others.
What provoked these reactions? I know that I am disposed to see the world in simple terms and I have lived long enough to know that the world is not always simple. But I have also lived long enough to know that deception and denial of reality in the long run cause the most problems of all. The real source of trouble in our lives is not truth. Sometimes truth should be shared carefully and wisely and there can be terrible problems when that is not done. But truth is almost never the problem. Denial and deception are the real trouble.
God who created us and redeemed us called himself the Truth. Truth is the source and end of life in that sense. Part of the journey is learning how to discern what is true about ourselves and our world. Part of the journey is learning how to grow into the truth. Truth challenges us and judges us. Truth can be used to abuse us but that is not the purpose of truth. Truth is a cross of sorrow and a cross of joy. It is truth about life, death and God that sets us free because God himself is Truth.
God, of course, has not left us alone as we journey towards truth. The One who created this earth created a place rich with joy despite its sin. I can remember as a young adult wanting to learn how to enjoy life more, not in the sense of having one party after another, but how to laugh more, how to have more of a sense of humor about the circumstances of life I could not control, how not to hurt so much along the way. And I am still trying to learn these things as a member of the Church.
Joy is something I find in being in relationship with others. Other people have shown me how to smile and to laugh. Help is something you and I should expect to find in our community in Christ. We were not created to make this journey to truth alone. We were created to make this journey together in Christ. Stephen Gerth
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Thomas Frederick Davies Haines died on March 20, 2000. He was ninety-eight years old. He and different members of his family split their memberships between Saint Mary's and the Church of the Heavenly Rest, Manhattan. Mr. Haines' son, Thomas, grew up in the parish and is a member of Saint Mary's still. The body of Mr. Haines will be cremated. A Requiem Mass will be offered on April 13; burial of the ashes will follow. Please pray for the repose of the soul of Thomas and for all who mourn.
PRAYER LIST…Your prayers are asked for Mabel, James, Dennis, Jack, Carol, Olga, Helen, Margaret, Shirley, Hannah, Dawn, Mary Bryn and Yamily, priest, and for the repose of the soul of Thomas . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . March 26: 1966 Frances Duckwork Young; March 29: 1984 Robert Edward Cerra; 1997 Brice Linville; March 30: 1968 Mabel Helen Arends.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Exodus 17:1-7, Psalm 95:6-11, Romans 5:1-11, John 4:5-42 . . . 9:00 AM Celebrant: Father Breidenthal & Preacher: Richard Lawson, 10:00 AM Celebrant & Preacher: Father Shin, 11:00 AM Celebrant & Preacher: The Rector, 5:00 PM Celebrant & Preacher: Father Shin . . . On Saturday, April 1, Father Shin will hear confessions . . On Saturday, April 8, Father Gerth will hear confessions.
AROUND THE PARISH . . .As we go to press, Mabel Lewis is now in rehabilitation at Long Island College Hospital. Please keep her in your prayers . . . While visiting Houston last week the Rector called on the Reverend Yamily Bass-Choate, whose husband the Reverend Horace Choate, served as seminarian and as an assisting priest and deacon at Saint Mary’s. Mother Choate was hospitalized for treatment at M.C. Anderson Cancer Center the day following her ordination to the priesthood. Please keep her and her family in your prayers . . . Father Douglas Brown, O.H.C. will be will us on Saturday, April 1, to lead Saint Mary’s Lenten Quiet Day. The day begins at 10:30 AM in St. Joseph's Chapel and concludes at 3:30 PM with the Eucharistic Benediction at the High Altar. The Sacrament of Reconciliation will be offered. A sign-up sheet is posted on the bulletin board in St. Joseph’s Hall . . . Attendance last Sunday 165.
SUMMARY OF MARCH 13, 2000, BOARD MEETING . . . At its meeting, the Board of Trustees: 1. Heard that the upgrading of the computers in the parish complex is on target and that the system will be up and running by May 1. 2. Heard of the need for an Endowment Committee, which will develop an endowment policy, including planned giving. 3. Heard that the Music Search Committee will soon meet with the Personnel Committee, in order to proceed with the search for a new Music Director. 4. Learned that a brass quartet will provide music for the procession into Times Square, on Palm Sunday. 5. Met with the Rev. Charles Fulton, to discuss the membership and ministry of the Board of Trustees. Leroy Sharer, secretary
This week at Saint Mary’s
10:00 AM The Rector's Class
10:00 AM Sunday Morning Bible Study
1:00 PM Journey in Faith
Wednesday 7:00 PM Paschal Mystery: Approaches New and Old
Friday 7:00 PM Stations of the Cross and the Eucharistic
Benediction at the Church of the Transfiguration
Saturday 10:30 AM Lenten Quiet Day with Father Douglas Brown, OHC
The Calendar for the Fourth Week of Lent
Monday Weekday of Lent
Tuesday Weekday of Lent
Wednesday Weekday of Lent
Thursday Weekday of Lent
Friday Weekday of Lent Special Lenten Abstinence
Saturday Weekday of Lent
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend Allen Shin, curate, The Reverend Thomas Breidenthal, assistant,
The Reverend Arthur Wolsoncroft, The Reverend Canon Maurice Garrison,
The Reverend Amilcar Figueroa, assisting priests, The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.