As rector of Saint Mary's I am very aware of the unusual importance of our local parish community for members of the wider Episcopal Church. I regularly receive letters that comment on our common life from people who either read parish publications or who occasionally attend worship here. Sometimes these are letters of thanks; sometimes these are letters of judgment. I have to remind myself sometimes that criticism is a form of pursuit. Even when the letters are negative or worse, it is remarkable that this place engages so many emotions. The letters of thanks, of course, easily overwhelm those that are less kind.
On Sundays I invite people who visit the parish from far away to be a friend to Saint Mary's, to visit us whenever they are in the city, and, without shame, I invite them to support our ministry. It seems to me that since I take this stance, I have some obligation to listen in some way to people who want to tell me about my own parish. Again, this is easy to do when someone is enchanted by the liturgy or the place. It is harder to do when people want Saint Mary's of the year 2001 to be the Saint Mary's they knew thirty years earlier.
Personal friends continue to teach me a lot about life and living. The lessons are sometimes so important I wonder how I managed before. I think of a friend who is also a member of the clergy who has a gift and maturity for genuinely respecting people with different opinions about all the hot button issues in the Church today. I know he drives a lot of folks around him nuts because he is at the same time clear about who he is and what he thinks and yet doesn't try to impose himself on others. Another great friend will almost never listen to me whine about anything at all. Another friend will listen to my whining but when that part of the conversation is done I know we will go to the place where we both can laugh and smile about life, even when it is hard. My friends always seem to see more in me and in my future than I see in myself.
I think one genuine mark of friendship is that it is oriented toward the future, not just the past. It may be fun to reminisce about the past but it is at least as much fun to enjoy today and to look forward to tomorrow. And I think this is a basic Christian orientation, as Christianity sees the present and the future as the best time because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives today and the work the Spirit is doing in bringing all of human history to its fulfillment in God's Kingdom.
I know I am a better friend and relative when I look forward with my family and friends. I suspect I am a better member of this Christian community when I look forward to the gifts of the new year and the years to come. Friendship is not just about the past, it is the future.
PRAYER LIST…Your prayers are asked for Mark who is hospitalized, for Harold who is gravely ill and for Beatrice, Jack, Olga, Helen, Mary, Lucille, Frances, Carl, Frank, Eleanor, Jane, John, Kersten, Nolan, Barbara, Santiago, Rick, Judy, Roy, Peter, Phillip, Harold, Charles, priest, and Rodney, priest.
GRANT THEM PEACE . . . January 10: 1994 William F. Lata, January 11: 1967 Sarah Bedell McDonald, January 13: 1994 Thomas E. Holz.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 89:20-29, Acts 10:34-38, Luke 3:15-16, 21-22 . . . 9:00 AM Celebrant & Preacher: Father Breidenthal, 10:00 AM Celebrant & Preacher: Father Gerth, 11:00 AM Celebrant & Preacher: Father Gerth, 5:00 PM Celebrant & Preacher: Father Shin . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, January 6 by Father Gerth and on January 13 by Father Shin.
I PUBLISH THE BANNS of Marriage between David Ray Copeland New York City and Kimberly Danette Coleman of New York City. 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.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . As we go to press, Mark Cho has just been taken to Saint Claire's Hospital. Please keep him in your prayers . . . The Vestment care day with Gina Bianco, fabric restorationist at the Metropolitan Museum, will be Saturday, January 13, 2001 from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. . . . There is a new altar flower calendar posted on the bulletin board in Saint Joseph's Hall. Altar flowers are needed for January 14, January 21, January 28 and Candlemas, February 2. If you are interested, please telephone the parish office at 869-5830 . . . As we go to press, the Rector is recovering from influenza. He is very thankful for those who have been covering for him . . . Can we get to $200,000.00 in pledges? Can we get to one hundred giving units? The 2001 Stewardship Campaign is not over! . . . Reports to be included in the Annual Report to the Meeting of the Congregation should be submitted no later than Friday, January 19 . . . The parish office and staff observe Monday, January 15, as a holiday . . . The Board of Trustees meets this month on Tuesday, January 16 . . . The Catechesis course meets on Saturday, January 27 . . . The 2001 Ordo Calendars have arrived. They are available in the bookstore on Sunday morning . . . AVE has arrived! If you have not received your copy please check with the parish office . . . Attendance: Sunday, December 31, 170; Monday, January 1, 55.
LIFE TOGETHER . . . A new Wednesday evening series begins on January 10. The series will be led by Father Breidenthal and will explore Dietrich Bonhoeffer's vision of Christian fellowship. The class meets in Saint Benedict’s Study from 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM.
LETTERS . . . The following letter was sent to the Rector on December 19, 2000 by the Reverend Andrew C. Mead . . . Dear Father, It is with great pleasure that I inform you that the Vestry of Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue has approved a grant of $5,000.00 to the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin for the restoration of Saint Joseph's Hall in honor of The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells. It is a pleasure to be of some assistance in this project . . . A letter of thanks, of course, has been sent to Father and the Vestry of Saint Thomas . . . The Reverend Gene Paradise, now assistant at the Church of Our Saviour, Atlanta, and formerly a member of Saint Mary's wrote to the Rector in August in response to the appeal for Saint Joseph's Hall. His letter included the following paragraph,
I am pleased by the early response to your effort to raise funds necessary to restore the parish hall. I remember many Sunday coffee hours spent in this space. Especially a Sunday when both Tallulah Brockman Bankhead and the Lady Peal (Bea Lily) were in attendance. It was a near riot. Bea Lily was "holding court" from a chair graciously provided to her by the rector. She was swathed in emerald green - coat, hat, dress, gloves, hose, shoes and purse. Miss Bankhead in her swarthy, loud voice exclaimed, "Darling, you have turned sooo green. I am so dreadfully sorry!" You can imagine where this remark led. I shall never forget Father Taber's look of exasperation as he was upstaged at his own coffee hour by theses dueling divas of the theater.
The Calendar of the Week
SUNDAY The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Procession & Solemn Mass 11:00 AM
Tuesday Julia Chester Emery, missionary
Wednesday William Laud, bishop
Friday Aelred, abbot
Saturday Hilary, bishop
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, The Reverend J. Barrington Bates, assisting priests, The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.