Prayers of the Assembly
The Prayer Book begins with a title page, a page with our Church’s certificate stating that it is The Book of Common Prayer. (We use a certificate because the Church has never copyrighted her book in the United States.) Then, there is a Table of Contents (widely overlooked), and two historic documents: the text of the Ratification of The Book of Common Prayer from the first American book and the Preface from that same book, adopted in 1789. Next is found the really new and important restatement of the work of the Church today: “Concerning the Service of the Church.”
Until the middle of the nineteenth century, Sunday worship on most Sundays of the year for Anglicans generally consisted of Morning Prayer, the Litany and the first part of the service of Holy Communion – at least through the sermon and offertory. Anglicans in the middle of the nineteenth century managed to invent Morning Prayer, Sermon & Offertory as a Sunday service – although the present Prayer Book is the first to make official provision for sermons and offerings to be taken at celebrations of the Daily Office.
The present Prayer Book was able to reclaim the role for the Holy Eucharist envisioned by Thomas Cranmer at the Reformation, a role entirely consistent with the best traditions of the Church,
The Holy Eucharist, the principal act of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day and other major Feasts, and Daily Morning and Evening Prayer, as set forth in this Book, are the regular services appointed for public worship in this Church.
Sadly, Morning and Evening Prayer as services of public worship have become for most Episcopalians an occasional thing. There are many reasons for this but it is not just that modern lifestyles have made gathering for prayer impractical. It’s always been impractical. It’s the clergy of our Church who have largely abandoned the public praying of the Offices and, I fear very much, the private praying of the Offices as well. There was an excellent sermon recently published in The Anglican Digest by the Reverend Dr. Phillip Turner, which was preached to the clergy of the Diocese of South Carolina. Father Turner, the former dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, called on the clergy to begin praying again and to pray the Offices publicly.
Daily Morning and Evening Prayer have been characteristic of the Anglican Church since the Reformation. I suspect that in generations previous to ours, members of the clergy of our Church had a greater common framework for confronting the challenges of the day. They prayed the Psalms and the Scriptures from the Prayer Book over the course of their ministries, over the course of their lives. Frankly, I have never known parishioners to be anything but supportive of the time the clergy spend in prayer in our churches.
What makes the Daily Office so special at Saint Mary’s is not just that the parish clergy gather for Morning and Evening Prayer. What makes it so special here is the role of the clergy to serve the assembly present for the Offices. It undergirds our ministry as pastors to the community just as our service of the assembly does at the Eucharist.
I love the Offices almost always; but I confess I love them most when the assembly has more lay persons present than members of the clergy. I love it when I begin the prayers and the assembly takes over. The assembly doesn’t need me to do the work for them; that’s not why I was ordained. I’m a pastor, not a substitute. It is the congregation which constitutes the Body of Christ. And it is Christ’s prayer, and only Christ’s, that is the acceptable offering to the Father. 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 . . . August 4: 1966 Harold Anderson Worrell; August 8: 1963 Charles Augustus Edgar; August 12: 1987 Toyoko Anne Tsutsumi Morton.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Nehemiah 9:16-20, Psalm 78:14-25, Romans 8:35-39, Matthew 14:13-21 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, August 3, by Father Gerth and on Saturday, August 10, by Father Smith.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . On Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude will be Ave maris stella III, Op. 18, No. 8 by Marcel Dupré (1886-1971), and the postlude will be Präludium in F-dur, BuxWV 144 by Dietrich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707). The soloist is Mellissa Hughes, soprano, and the anthem at Communion is Vidit suum from Stabat mater by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736). Pergolesi, composer of the comic opera La Serva Padrona, wrote Stabat mater during the last few months of his life. At that time he was living in a Franciscan monastery, and knew that his death was near.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Many thanks for all who have signed up to give flowers for August. The month is covered! . . . Saint Vincent’s Guild meets for brass polishing and sacristy cleaning on Saturday, August 10, at 10:30 AM . . . The new altar and credence table cloths have arrived and will be used on Assumption . . . The annual Assumption Appeal is being mailed this week . . . Attendance last Sunday 205.
SPREAD THE WORD . . . I think what we will be offering at Saint Mary’s on September 11 will be a great help to many people, Solemn Requiem Mass at 12:00 PM. The Right Reverend E. Don Taylor, vicar bishop for New York City, will preside and preach. Black vestments will be worn. The music for the Mass will be Missa pro defunctis by Tomás Luis de Victoria. The service will be a Solemn Mass. We expect people to come and go. We offer it at noon in consideration of our immediate neighborhood, Times Square. Please help us to spread the word. There is something unbelievably helpful and powerful about Masses for the departed. I know you will be strengthened by being part of the assembly this day. I know there are many who would also want to be here if they knew about Saint Mary’s. S.G.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Eve of the Transfiguration 6:00 PM
Tuesday The Transfiguration of Our Lord
Sung Mass 6:00 PM
Wednesday John Mason Neale, priest
Thursday Dominic, priest and friar
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Saturday Laurence, deacon
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.