At the heart of this parish community is the massive and beautiful high altar. Daily, members of this parish community and others gather near it to pray. There are a very, very few occasions during the course of the year when perhaps one member of the clergy alone is present. This is the exception instead of the rule. Normally the parish clergy pray the Offices together with the assembly. The Eucharist, of course, is the work of the assembly. Certainly hundreds of people every day use the church for their individual prayers; but Christian spirituality in the great tradition is fundamentally a community spirituality. It is about being the Body of Christ.
Many of you know I worked in a very large Episcopal parish in Dallas just out of seminary. We didn’t have a clock inside the church but we were on a very tight schedule. This was not because we wanted to get out quickly; there were three services and lots of Sunday School for an average Sunday morning attendance of 1500. Sometimes the rector tried to speed things up by saying the Lord’s Prayer faster than the congregation. He never succeeded in speeding up the assembly.
As a presider, there is little that is more frustrating than when one or more people seem to be oblivious to the presence of others during the Office or Mass. Sometimes I sense that a particular congregation has no shared sense that Christian spirituality is primarily communal, not individual.
Again, as a presider, I cannot tell you how odd it is to have twenty people incapable of saying any of the prayers together. When this happens, I just lead and hope some may follow. There are fundamental formation issues here which are impossible to address during a liturgy.
I am aware that when I am celebrant I can give the assembly very little leadership during the singing of a few parts of the Solemn Mass. I can help to get the Creed back on track – just a little. But it is the assembly itself that sets the pace. If the clergy, servers or the musicians try to rush the people, the assembly just stops singing. In an unexpected way, it reminds me that the assembly is in charge and clergy, servers and musicians are its servants.
In Benedictine spirituality there is an awareness that some monks may be called eventually to a solitary life of prayer. But what is normative, of course, is the community. It is as a community in Christ that life is to be lived and lives are to be transformed. Our vocation as Christians is found in relationship to God and to each other.
Though one may try, it is really very difficult to sing out of rhythm in Saint Mary’s. I don’t know anyone who can fight Aeolian-Skinner Opus 981-A and win. There are many moments every Sunday when the assembly speaks, sings and prays as one. This happens at the Sung and Solemn Masses. Do the words or music transform us or is it that the words and music unite us in ways that only the Spirit easily and plainly sees?
We are intentional about worship at Saint Mary’s, not because we are the longest running show on Broadway, but because we care profoundly and radically about the truth revealed to us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Eileen, Gloria, Robert, Jerri, Myra, Tessie, Marion, Olga, Rick and Charles, priest. Pray also 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 . . . July 9: 1991 Blanche Evelyn Preene; July 11: 1981 Pelham St. George Bissell.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Robert McDermitt’s grandfather, Raymond McDermitt, died on June 30 at the age of 90 in Beaver, Pennsylvania. Pray for Raymond, for Robert and his family, and for all who mourn.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Zechariah 9:9-12, Psalm 145:8-14, Romans 7:21-8:6, Matthew 11:25-30 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, July 6, by Father Gerth and on Saturday, July 13 by Father Smith.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . On Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude will be Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier, BWV 731, and the postlude will be Präludium in G-dur, BWV 568, both by J. S. Bach (1685-1750). The soloist is Mellissa Hughes, soprano, and the anthem at Communion is Aus liebe from Matthäus-Passion, BWV 244, also by Bach. Last week our soloist sang a baritone aria from the Saint Matthew Passion, and it is wonderful to hear yet another aria from this astounding work.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Flowers are needed for the Sundays in August. If you wish to give them, please contact the parish office . . . Attendance for the Eve of Saint Peter and Saint Paul 128, Attendance last Sunday 207.
JULY WOMEN’S MEETING . . . Just because it is summertime that does not mean that Women and Spirituality Group is slowing down. Quite the opposite is true, actually! The Women and Spirituality Group has decided to continue meeting, as they have been, once each month on the second Tuesday. The next meeting is Tuesday, July 8 in Saint Benedict’s Study at 7:00 PM. All female members and friends of Saint Mary’s are warmly invited to attend.
A NEW SPRINKLER . . . Some time last year the old sprinkler was retired. I looked in a catalogue for a new one. We have a lovely old holy water bucket that does not need replacing. So I selected a simple sprinkler which has been in use ever since. Several months ago, however, a problem that was apparent from the beginning took on a new importance.
Saint Mary’s is a large building. To get the water over the assembly a celebrant needs to fling it with a certain vigor. The sprinkler has an absorbent sponge – the heart of the matter. However, the shaft of this new sprinkler was perfectly smooth. After one dipped it into the holy water and raised it, the water on the smooth metal meant one had to grip it very tightly or it would fly out of one’s hands – as it did one Sunday when yours truly was sprinkling the servers in the chancel at the end of a procession. Good looks, bad design.
Well, ordering a new one that is large and has something to grip on the end has taken a lot longer than I thought. I will be testing it out at the Solemn Mass on Sunday. Father Weiler and I think it will do the job nicely. I hope many will need to wipe their eyeglasses after Asperges me. S.G.
A Prayer for our Country
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Thursday Benedict of Nursia, abbot
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 Amilcar Figueroa, The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priests,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.