Saint Mary’s was founded by a priest and a group of laypersons who caught a particular vision of renewed Christian community that had sprung to life among Anglican Christians in the nineteenth century. It was in part a revival of patterns of living and praying from the past but it was grounded in their present and future. Saint Mary’s quickly became a center for a widespread revival that recalled the Episcopal Church to much of the most important parts of its heritage. Since those days, a renewed consciousness of the Lord’s sacramental presence among us has marked the life of the Anglican Communion.
Fresh ideas eventually become old. One of the most remarkable tributes paid to the Reverend Thomas McKee Brown, our Father Founder, on his death was the observation that although most people are apt to become set in their ways as they age, Father Brown was open to change, especially in worship. This is part of the original formation of our parish community and I think it accounts for the continual renewal of this parish through its history and its present day vitality. Saint Mary’s at its best has always been where the Spirit has been leading the community to new understanding and new expressions of Christian life and witness.
The idea of “Anglo-catholic” still signifies. I am an Anglo-catholic, although that term now
seems to encompass a wide range of meanings. In an earlier era, say for example 1960, it was pretty clear who was an Anglo-catholic. You called your priest “Father,” not “Mister” or “Doctor”. You went to “Mass” on Sunday and on Holy Days. Protestant Episcopalians had Morning Prayer & Sermon as their principal Sunday service most Sundays of the month. You went to Confession. You didn’t eat meat on Fridays. You owned devotional books and used a rosary. And you gave to your parish, tithing.
There was a strain of Anglo-catholics who tried to be as English as possible; others tended to appropriate - in an Anglican way - the spiritual life of the contemporary Roman Church. There was an ecumenical spirit, usually uncredited and often made fun of by more Protestant Episcopalians, among Anglo-catholics who saw common forms of liturgical worship as a sign of the possibility of returning the Church to visible unity.
Today, Saint Mary’s continues to be a place where we are caught up in the mystery of God and humanity as we come together as the Body of Christ. Most fair-minded Christians of any persuasion or background experience worship at Saint Mary’s as an authentic gathering of the Body of Christ. A few disparage us. A few want us to be the parish they think they remember that we once were. A few want us to fail. Most recognize that Saint Mary’s is a very special place which continues to have a witness to the wider Church about the possibilities for Christian community.
I write this to you on the final day of my third year as rector. Tomorrow night, Friday, February 1, the parish community gathers for the celebration of Candlemas on the Eve of the Presentation. At this altar Christ’s death and resurrection will again be proclaimed. As we gather we will seek to be his Body in this place and to do his work. The kingdom of God continues to grow in this place as a mustard seed; slowly and surely it becomes a great tree where all may find life and rest in it or under its shade. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Gloria who is hospitalized, for Alex, Marion, Olga, Peter, Michael, Kenneth, Ursula, Maureen, Marie, Rick, Edgar, Joanne, Robert, priest, and Charles, priest, for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Patrick, Edward, Christopher, Andrew, Robert, Joseph, Mark, Ned and David, and for the repose of the souls of Lotus and Alex . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 3: 1983 Van Buren Chaney; February 5: 1964 Joseph Alexander Steele; 1993 Gerald Dennis Bergstrom; February 7: 1954 John Von Runneau; 2000 Helen Allen.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Micah 6:1-8, Psalm 37:1-6, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Matthew 5:1-12 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, February 2, by Father Weiler and on Saturday, February 9, by Canon Garrison . . . NOTES ON MUSIC . . . The prelude before the Solemn Mass on Sunday will be Solemn Melody by Henry Walford Davies (1869-1941) and the postlude will be Prelude on ‘Saint Anne’ by Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (1848-1918). The Mass setting is Communion Service in F by Harold Darke (1888-1976) and the anthem at Communion is Jesu, the very thought of thee by Edward Bairstow (1874-1946). All of these composers had an important role in the music of England during their lives. Walford Davies was Organist of Saint George’s Chapel, Windsor, and later Master of the King’s Musick. Parry was Director of the Royal College of Music and a professor at Oxford University. Darke taught at the Royal College of Music as well, and during the Second World War was Acting Director of Music at King’s College, Cambridge. Edward Bairstow was Master of the Music at York Minster Cathedral for many years.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Reminder: The organ recital before the liturgy on Candlemas Eve begins at 5:00 PM! . . . From Barbara Klett, “Most of the parish knows that I am seldom without words but I was caught off guard on Sunday with so many kind words of thanks from the Rector, the beautiful flowers arranged by Howard and the warm applause from all of you. Many thanks." . . . The Rector will be on vacation Saturday, February 2, through Saturday, February 9 . . . A number of changes have been made to the parish website. There are also some wonderful photographs . . . Corrections to the 2001 Annual Report are still being made and should be available by Sunday, February 10. Your patience and understanding are appreciated! . . . Attendance last Sunday 225.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION NEWS. . . The last session of Father Richard Corney's class, “Toward Baptism in the Old Testament,” meets on February 6 at 7:00 PM. The class will meet in Saint Benedict’s Study for study and discussion of the final Old Testament lessons of the Easter Vigil service. "Journey in Faith," the series of classes especially designed for those new to the Christian faith, to Saint Mary's or to the Episcopal Church, begins meeting again this Sunday at 1:00 PM in Saint Benedict's Study. The next few sessions promise to be a compelling journey into the life, words and world of Jesus and what they mean for our world today. The Women's Spirituality Group meets monthly on the second Tuesday for study, discussion, and prayer. The next meeting, to which all members and friends of Saint Mary's are warmly invited, is Tuesday, February 12 at 7:00 PM in Saint Benedict's Study.
ASH WEDNESDAY SIGN UP SHEETS . . . The First Day of Lent has become a day when Saint Mary’s really does open her doors to all people. Last year over 2500 came through to receive ashes and hundreds of these assisted at Mass. Again this year, a beautiful Lenten service schedule card is in production. What makes this day possible is a full complement of clergy, seminarians, lay readers, ushers and altar servers and a very hardworking church staff. Extra greeters are needed for the main doors of the church on 46th Street and for the small entrance to the church on 47th Street. It is also very helpful to have people with a simple clip-on badge standing at strategic places in the church to direct traffic. Sign-up sheets to help during the day and evening will be in Saint Joseph’s Hall on Sunday, February 3, and on Sunday, February, 10.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Monday Saint Cornelius the Centurion
Tuesday The Martyrs of Japan
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend Matthew Weiler, curate, The Reverend James Ross Smith, assistant,
The Reverend Canon Maurice Garrison, The Reverend Amilcar Figueroa,
The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priests,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.