FROM THE RECTOR: PRAYER BOOK REVISION
You know we may be in trouble when you click on the Episcopal News Service headline, "Committee Will Propose Comprehensive Revision of the Book of Common Prayer," and discover a picture of the committee members with this caption, "Members of the Committee to Receive the Report of Resolution A169, which is considering revision of the Book of Common Prayer, clap along while singing a hymn before the start of their morning meeting on July 5."
The General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which meets every three years, seems poised to vote to begin to revise the Prayer Book. The current proposal would produce a new Prayer Book in 2030. Quite honestly, I don't think there's much chance that this won't happen. I can't help but be concerned about the consequences of this decision
Among the present proposals is that the revision will "utilize inclusive and expansive language and imagery for humanity and divinity." Okay. So how does one baptize without naming the Persons of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Can the Episcopal Church define Holy Baptism using different language for the Trinity, for God? Then, there's the Eucharistic Prayer—normatively addressed to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit. And just throwing in a Lord's Prayer beginning "Our Father" doesn't cover an absence of Trinitarian language in other prayers, especially in the principal prayer and creedal proclamation of the rite, the Eucharistic Prayer.
When I attended our diocesan priests' conference in 2016, one of the Eucharistic Prayers used mentioned "Abraham and Sarah." I confess I turned to the priest standing next to me and said very quietly, "Are we thanking God for the 'slaveholder' Abraham and the 'slaveholder' Sarah?" In other words, once one starts down that road, as it were, the theological problems begin to multiply, and they are not insignificant.
Some would date the work on the 1979 Prayer Book to the General Convention that adopted the 1928 book. That convention created the Standing Liturgical Commission (SLC). Its primary responsibility was to prepare for the next book. Most significantly, the SLC began to publish a series of liturgical studies (Prayer Book Studies) in 1950. These studies would continue until 1964, when the convention asked the SLC to present a formal proposal for revision. The 1976 General Convention approved a "Draft Proposed" Prayer Book with revisions that became our present Prayer Book in 1979. General Convention has been presented with something of the same timetable. What we haven't had since 1979 is twenty-seven years of Prayer Book Studies.
I wonder how many of us are still around who remember how hard it was to introduce the 1979 book in many places. Looking back, if memory serves, the decline in membership in the Episcopal Church began in the late 1960s. Some would leave in 1976 because of the ordination of women and in 1979 because of the new book, but by far most stayed. Yet, the Episcopal Church has not grown since then. The decline has accelerated as the present century began.
Since 1979, what had been a private declaration by ordinands became part of the public rite. At the beginning of ordination services, those being ordained say a declaration that concludes with these words, "and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church." I plan to continue to do so, but I worry that our Episcopal Church is turning away from its rich heritage of common prayer, a heritage that has served us so well from the font to the grave.
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Eugenia, Ptolemy, Sheila, Marcy, Nadira, Peter, Ron, Rhonda, Eloise, Angie, Maxine, Anita, George, Alex, Dora, Marilouise, Dennis, Bob, Abe, Randy, Burt, Mike, Kyle, Greta, Karen, Melissa, Eugenia, May, Heidi, Ridhima, Marissa, Takeem, David, and Sandy; for Horace, Gaylord, Louis, and Edgar, priests; and for all the benefactors and friends of this parish.
GRANT THEM PEACE . . . July 8: 1881 Tolford MacKenzie; 1895 Frances Lewis; 1896 George Cripps.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the Lord's crucifixion.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . On Wednesday, July 11, the church commemorates the life and witness of Benedict of Nursia, Abbot of Monte Cassino, c. 540. Saint Benedict is the father of Western monasticism. The Benedictine tradition continues to be enormously influential in the shape of life and prayer in the churches of the Anglican Communion. Mass will be offered at 12:10 PM . . . Friday, July 13, 6:30 PM, Centering Prayer Group, Atrium, Parish Hall, Second Floor.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Many thanks to all who assisted in so many ways for the funeral of Dick Leitsch on Thursday, June 28, 2018. It was a great blessing for all who were able to attend . . . Father Jay Smith returns to the parish on Tuesday, July 10 . . . Sister Laura Katharine, C.S.J.B., returns to the parish on Friday, July 13 . . . Sr. Monica Clare, C.S.J.B., will be on vacation from Saturday, July 14, through Friday, August 3 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 156.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Donations and volunteers are needed for our next Drop-in Day on July 11, and for the many requests for assistance between Drop-in Days . . . Please contact Sister Monica Clare if you would like to volunteer for this important ministry or if you would like to make a donation . . . We continue to receive nonperishable food items for our outreach partner, Saint Clement's Food Pantry. Please place those items in the basket near the ushers' table at the Forty-sixth Street entrance to the church.
ABOUT THE MUSIC . . . The cantor at the Solemn Mass on Sunday, July 8, is soprano Charlotte Mundy, a member of the parish choir. During the ministration of Communion she will sing a setting of Psalm 23 by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1901). In March 1894, while he was living in New York City, Dvořák composed a cycle of ten Biblical Songs, Opus 99, of which Psalm 23 is the fourth. These songs all derive their texts from the Psalter and were first published in Czech with English and German translations in 1895. The Psalms were scored originally quite simply for piano and voice. Dvořák orchestrated only the first five of the songs in a manuscript which was published posthumously in 1914. These Biblical Songs are notable for their simplicity of means and effectiveness of expression. They are often performed as a cycle or in select groupings. Psalm 23 lends itself well to liturgical performance.
The organ voluntaries this morning are the first and second movements of Cantata 29 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), transcribed for organ solo. Cantata 29, Wir danken dir Gott, wir danken dir (We thank you, God, we thank you) was first performed at the installation of the town council in Leipzig in 1731 and is known to have been performed subsequently on like occasions in 1739 and 1749. It opens with the brilliant instrumental Sinfonia which, itself, is Bach's reworking of the Prelude from his own third Partita for solo Violin, BWV 1006. As Bach recast it for Cantata 29, it is transposed from E to D-major, and the organ is assigned the original violin solo part. The second movement of Cantata 29, played for the postlude today, is a grand motet-style chorus (Wir danken dir), the music of which also appears twice in Bach's Mass in b-minor: at Gratias agimus tibi, and again as the concluding Dona nobis pacem. In its original form the four choral parts are supplemented by instrumental doubling, and a halo of three independent trumpet parts further adorns the climactic finish of this stately chorus. —David Hurd
LOOKING AHEAD . . . Monday, July 23, Saint Mary Magdalene (transferred) . . . Wednesday, July 25, Saint James the Apostle . . . Monday, August 6, The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ . . . Tuesday, August 14, The Eve of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary . . . Wednesday, August 15, The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary . . . Friday, August 24, Saint Bartholomew the Apostle . . . Monday, September 3, Labor Day.
AT THE GALLERIES . . . At the Jewish History Center, 15 West Sixteenth Street, New York, NY (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues): 1938 Projekt: Posts from the Past. From the Center's website, "Eighty years after the events of 1938, how does one grasp the mixture of horror and surprise felt by the victims of the Nazi regime? One significant way is to look at the letters, diaries, and photographs saved by German Jews and their families. Using documents from our archives and those of several partner institutions, the Leo Baeck Institute - New York | Berlin will update www.1938projekt.org with personal stories based on documents from our own collections and the collections of partner institutions-one for each day in 1938. These materials illustrate the range of reactions and emotions that individuals and families had as they struggled to escape Germany and Austria in order to survive. In addition, significant world events are described alongside the calendar entries to provide a broad context for the individual stories."