Warm and Smiling
Among the many kind notes we received in the parish office after the liturgies of Holy Week and Easter Week was one that spoke of how much it meant to receive a “warm and smiling welcome” at the door of Saint Mary’s, a welcome that continued through the liturgy. I was delighted by her words, of course, and very proud of our parish community. Our intentional welcome does matter, because when someone walks through the door, he or she is our brother or sister.
The ministry of welcome and fellowship does not belong primarily or exclusively to ushers or to members of the clergy. Ushers and members of the clergy are only servants of the congregation. The crucial ministry of welcome is given corporately and individually by members of the assembly, who in thought, word and deed welcome others, newcomers and all who are here, as Christ himself.
I confess it is new for me to think of the ministry of welcome as belonging primarily to the assembly. As much as anyone of my generation of clergy, I am ordained in a tradition within the Episcopal Church that has put a lot of focus on the ministry of the parish priest. But whatever welcome I give really means nothing if the members of the assembly do not want to speak to anyone, do not want to look at anyone, do not want to touch anyone, do not want to welcome Christ except on their own terms. All of us very occasionally may need to hurry from church for another commitment, but the idea that one can come to church and intentionally avoid speaking to others is simply wrong and makes a mockery of the words of the New Testament and the liturgy.
Perhaps because Father Louis Weil was our guest for the Annunciation, I found myself thinking about many experiences I had while in seminary in the early 1980s at Nashotah House. It was a very good time to be at that seminary. On Sunday mornings if students and their families did not go to Mass at a local parish, a seemingly informal Mass was offered in the oldest and first chapel of the Nashotah community. It was called the “Red Chapel” simply because the paint donated for the first chapel had been red and was continuously red thereafter. (I no longer remember the name of the chapel’s patron saint!)
The chapel had been renovated sometime in the 1970s. There was a simple altar. The floor was carpeted. There were pews along the walls, and do I remember one or two chairs? In contrast to the formality of the seminary’s principal chapel, this was a very informal space. One almost never entered the main chapel without finding someone in silent prayer. When one entered the Red Chapel, there would be children playing on the floor and people talking to each other about almost anything. The inevitable guitar player (remember it was 1980 when I entered – the 60s and 70s were still with us!) would be tuning. “Reverence” in a traditional sense seemed to be absent. It took me a while to get used to it. How could these people act so differently on Sundays from other times?
The answer of course was that everyone in the room was a very serious and devout Christian. All of the students and priests went to Morning Prayer, Mass and Evensong in the main seminary chapel Sunday evening through Friday evening. All of the children were growing up in Christian homes. The Sunday assembly did not carry the burden of the community’s religious life. I began to realize that my heart needed to learn to look at things a new way.
I think I am now the rector of a parish that is beginning to look at each other and our ministry in a new way. How we welcome the person who enters our church building on Sunday morning, how we help each other during the Mass, how we touch each other, and how we greet each other all matter. A genuine smile, one from the heart, can be a more powerful welcome than many words. If you and I bring to Mass the expectation that we can be helpful, there will be opportunities to welcome Christ.
The Church rediscovered the primacy of the assembly in the twentieth century. One can see this at Saint Mary’s today. The warmth of our community is genuine and real. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Eileen and Fred who are hospitalized and for Jerri, Myra, Mary, Sarah, Doreen, Mabel, Gloria, Marion, Olga, Peter, Betty, Kenneth, Maureen, Marie, Rick, Edgar, John, Joanne, Barbara, and Charles, priest, and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Patrick, Edward, Christopher, Andrew, Robert, Joseph, Mark, Ned, David and John . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . April 19: 1977 Gudrun Lagergren.
ABOUT THE LITURGY . . . The Sunday Proper: Acts 2:14a, 36-47, Psalm 116:10-17, 1 Peter 1:3-9, John 20:19-31 . . . On Saturday, April 13, confessions will be heard by Father Weiler . . . On Saturday, April 20, confessions will be heard by Father Gerth.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . On Sunday, April 14, at the Solemn Mass, the prelude will be Air by Herbert Howells (1892-1983), transcribed for organ from a set of two pieces originally for piano and violin. The postlude will be Acclamations from Suite Médiévale by Jean Langlais (1907-1991). This piece by the noted French organist and composer is based upon the plainsong Easter acclamation Christus vincit (“Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ rules.”) The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa ‘Ich segge adieu’ by Johannes de Fossa (c. 1540-1603) and the motet at Communion is Ego sum panis vivus by Juan Esquivel (c. 1563-after 1613). The little known de Fossa succeeded Orlande de Lassus as Kapellmeister of the Munich court in 1594.
A VISITING CHOIR ON APRIL 28 . . . We are delighted that the Choir of Men and Boys of Christ Church, Greenwich, Connecticut will be with us to provide music for Solemn Evensong & Benediction on Sunday, April 28. They have visited Saint Mary’s a number of times in the past and we again look forward to welcoming the Choir, and Mr. Robert Tate, Director of Music. They will sing a choral prelude at 4:45. The music at Evensong will include Magnificat and Nunc dimittis (Collegium Regale) by Herbert Howells and Set me as a seal by William Walton. We hope that many will be present to hear them.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Flowers are needed for the high altar for the rest of April. Please call the parish office to donate . . . As we go to press, Fred Ruth continues at Lenox Hill Hospital for evaluation and Eileen Sorensen is at Long Island College Hospital, Brooklyn, as she recovers from pneumonia. Please keep them in your prayers . . . Many thanks to all who helped for the Feast of the Annunciation. It was a wonderful evening of worship and fellowship. In addition to our guest celebrant and preacher, Father Louis Weil, Abbot Andrew Marr of Saint Gregory’s Abbey, Three Rivers, Michigan, was with us in choir for the Annunciation Mass. Abbot Andrew was a guest at the rectory while attending meetings at the Episcopal Church Center . . . The Board of Trustees meets on Tuesday, April 16, at 6:00 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study . . . Attendance for Easter was not 880 as reported last week. The correct number was 984 . . . Attendance Annunciation 151, Last Sunday 222.
RECEPTION FOR NEW FRIENDS AND MEMBERS . . . The Rector and Trustees of the parish will hold a reception in the rectory on Tuesday evening, April 16, from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM for new friends and members of Saint Mary’s. Invitations have been mailed, but it is entirely possible that our records are not complete. If you are new to the community and have not received an invitation, please let us know we’ve missed you and that you will be coming. (We will correct our records so this oversight will not, we hope, happen again!) There is no agenda for the evening other than to give newer members and friends of the parish a chance to meet members of the parish leadership, clergy and staff. A buffet supper is served. RSVP by calling the parish office at 869-5830.
WEDNESDAY NIGHTS . . . Father Jay Smith’s class, “Discovering Baptism in the New Testament” continues on Wednesday, April 17, at 7:00 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study. The first session focused on materials both in the Old Testament and materials written in the inter-testamental period that lie behind the baptismal imagery, language, and practice in the New Testament. The next class will focus on baptism in the Pauline epistles, especially Galatians and Romans. The purpose of this four-part class is to explore the Gospels and the Epistles in order to learn how baptism is understood and developed in the New Testament context. All members and friends of Saint Mary’s are invited to attend.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Third Sunday of Easter
Monday Easter Weekday
Tuesday Easter Weekday
Wednesday Easter Weekday
Thursday Easter Weekday
Friday Alphege, Archbishop & Martyr
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.