Passion for Saint Mary’s
My correspondence with the wider community of the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin began on Monday, December 7, 1998. The Board of Trustees had elected me rector on Saturday, December 5. The letter came from a retired bishop who lived in Arizona. It was short, full of kind and supportive words. He had mailed it on Saturday the fifth. God only knows how he found out so quickly. I still have the letter with the postmark. His letter was a sign to me of how much Saint Mary’s matters for so many people. It is something I try never to forget.
Since its inception, the Lord has called people to this place for a great work, for a particular proclamation of the Gospel. I wonder if the papers of the Father Founder are still around someplace. I would love to know more about those early years in Longacre Square. Father Brown’s vision and the vision of the first members of the parish is still alive in the building, worship and people of the local and wider parish community. I think the passion we find in ourselves and in each other is very much the same. The level of personal commitment and sacrifice is the same too.
Not everyone falls in love with Saint Mary’s, though. Imagine that! Not everyone likes our building or its contents. There is a Protestant religious experience in which rejection of religious art in churches and opposition to the veneration of images is an inherent part of that experience. There are plenty of Episcopal churches with American and Episcopal Church flags in their churches but not a single image of Jesus or Mary – although one can often find a Saint Francis birdbath in the church of such congregations. It is a religious experience I have known and respected but not one that could keep me faithful. The richness of the tradition speaks to me. If I didn’t love this place I would not be here – and I think that is true for almost everyone associated with the parish.
We seem to be entering a period when the parish is growing again. For the first time since I arrived we have had three Sundays in a row in which the attendance has been over 300. There’s so much here. There is no reason at all why this parish cannot continue to grow. I hope we are worthy of the growth that seems to be coming to us.
I could not have predicted much of the shape of my life today when I came to Saint Mary’s. I simply didn’t know how very rich the liturgical experience would be in this place. I know of no cathedral and few parishes in our country with a liturgical life that approaches that of this community. I didn’t imagine that the parish would not have more children in it by now. Children are the most natural formal liturgical Christians of all – something the Christian Education industry and too few parents know. I have not buried anyone in the traditional way, that is, throwing dirt on a coffin in a graveyard, since I left Indiana. Personally, learning to live in Times Square continues to be unexpected and unpredictable. There are days, however, when I come up out of the subway into Times Square and my body heaves a sign of relief, “Home.”
Perhaps the most surprising thing of all to me about the passion I have for Saint Mary’s and the passion I see in others for our parish is how obvious it really is to newcomers. I cannot begin to recall all the times I have heard someone say something like, “The people here really like their church.” We really do. There are more than enough crosses in all of our lives. Our church community should be whenever possible a place of the greatest Christian joy possible. It’s all right to be in love with Christ, his Church and with his parish in Times Square. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Sarah, Julia, Grover, Annie, Paul, Robert, Eileen, Gloria, Jerri, Myra, Tessie, Margaret, Marion, Olga, Rick and Charles, priest. Pray for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Patrick, Edward, Christopher, Andrew, Robert, Joseph, Mark, Ned, David and John. Your prayers are also asked for the repose of the soul of Mildred . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . October 21: 1988 Philip W. Callanan; October 23: 1985 Adolphe Barreaux; October 26: 1987 Dorothea Moran.
I PUBLISH THE BANNS of marriage between Lana Veronica Mullen of New York City and Michael Paul Dougherty of New York City. If any of you know just cause why they may not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, you are bidden to declare it. This is the first time of asking. S.G.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Isaiah 45:1-7, Psalm 96:1-9, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, Matthew 22:15-22 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, October 19, by Father Smith and on Saturday, October 26, by Father Weiler.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Sung Mass, played by assistant organist Robert McDermitt, the prelude will be Passacaglia in d-moll, BuxWV 161 by Dietrich Buxtehude (1637- c. 1707) and the postlude will be Fugue in C Major from Sonata II, Op. 65 by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847). At the Solemn Mass, the prelude will be Ach, bleib mit deiner Gnade (from Op. 65) and the postlude will be Loben den Herren mit Pauken und Zimbeln shön (from Op. 101), both by Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa octavi toni by Orlande de Lassus (1532-1594). The motet at Communion is Jubilate Deo, also by Lassus, who was one of the most prolific composers of the sixteenth century and who wrote in nearly every musical genre of his time. We continue our organ recital series before Solemn Evensong & Benediction. This week, we welcome Dr. Adrienne Pavur of Bloomfield, New Jersey, who will play works of Bach, Buxtehude and Reger.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Altar flowers are needed for Sunday, November 3, 10 and 17. Please call the parish office to sign-up . . . Even if you missed the first session, you can still come to the new members class on Monday, October 21! Please call the parish office to let us know you can . . . The Rector will be away Friday, October 18, through Thursday, October 24 . . . Attendance last Sunday 315.
WALKING IN THE RAIN . . . Despite the nearly continuous rain on Saturday, October 12 more than a dozen of members and friends of Saint Mary’s continued our tour of New York City churches, which Father Shin began last year. We had a great time! I want to thank everyone who attended for their contributions to what was a fun and informative day. We were very well received by many of the clergy and people of several historic churches located on the Upper West Side (the focus of our tour). Everywhere we went people seemed to know of Saint Mary’s and our liturgy. The eyes of the pastor of Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church lit up upon hearing we were from Saint Mary’s the Virgin as he exclaimed, “Smoky Mary’s!” It seems that we have many more friends around the city than we may at times realize. Matthew Weiler
READING WITH SAINT MARY’S . . . Check www.stmvirgin.org in the Christian Formation section for an update on our discussion. This is a group that reads, thinks, prays, and questions together… but only meets once! During the month of October, we’ll be reading Writing in the Dust: After September 11 by Rowan Williams. Please email any questions, thoughts, or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. We meet for dinner and discussion on Wednesday evening, October 30, at 7:00 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost
Eve of Saint James’s Day 6:00 PM
Wednesday Saint James of Jerusalem
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Saturday Alfred the Great, king
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend Matthew Weiler, curate, The Reverend James Ross Smith, assistant,
The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priest, The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.