From Father Smith: “And which of you by being anxious…”
Last Sunday morning, I officiated at Matins at 8:30 AM, but, somewhat unusually, I was not scheduled to celebrate any of the Masses; and so, between 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM, I was free to do a number of the other things that need doing on a Sunday morning at Saint Mary’s. I helped to set up for the Solemn Mass. I made some preparations for the wedding scheduled for Sunday afternoon. I put out books for the Book Sale. I chatted in the sacristy with my clergy colleagues, our seminarian, and the servers. I made sure that Father Powell had his handouts for his Bible Study class. I tried to get to the bottom of a persistent set of problems with the sound system, without a great deal of success. I drank more coffee than I needed to.
All of this meant that I had a chance to walk around and through much of the parish complex on Sunday morning. At one point, I was hurrying through Saint Joseph’s Hall, feeling somewhat distracted and annoyed about the sound system, when I suddenly became aware of how much was happening right then, at that very moment, at Saint Mary’s; and I started to pay attention. There was Mother Mary Julia Jett, deep in concentration, calmly working with three of the older children, each of whom seemed eager to answer some, no doubt weighty, theological question which she had just asked them. They were loud. They were raucous. They had artwork in front of them.
Upstairs, three young girls were working with Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins in the Atrium on the day’s lesson in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Father Pace was celebrating the Eucharist, preaching a version of the fine sermon that he would also deliver at the Solemn Mass. On the second floor of the Mission House, Father Powell was talking about God, Moses, and the Book of Exodus. The ushers had gathered near the 46th Street entrance to the church and were greeting our visitors, organizing things on their table, and folding the newly-printed flyers about services for the homeless and others in need. The choir was up on the fourth-floor preparing to sing Mozart’s Missa brevis (something that they would soon do with amazing skill and expertise).
I stopped near the coffee urn and had a conversation with two visitors from North Carolina, a father and his teenaged son, who had come to Saint Mary’s because the concierge of their hotel had recommended the parish to them. They were enjoying the beauty of the space, happy to discover an oasis in the middle of a neighborhood that had begun to feel just a bit overwhelming. The dad told me that they’d been learning useful lessons about how to “survive on the streets of Manhattan.” I went into the church. I talked with a young woman who has been living in front of our building, for the last month or so. I recently named her, only somewhat facetiously, “the captain of the stairs.” We discussed some of the issues that have arisen among the folks who have been sleeping on the church steps. We laughed. We negotiated. We got serious. We worried together about problems that have no easy solutions. We agreed to talk some more. We parted company.
As I walked down the west aisle of the church, a man stopped me. He was with two young women, who, it turned out, were his teenaged daughters. He asked me if someone could give him a tour of the church, in order to explain what all of it meant, what the art meant, how the space worked; he wanted to know, pointing to the side chapels, “what those extra rooms were.” I asked him where he was from. He told me that he and his daughters were from Saudi Arabia. That stopped me in my tracks. I didn’t have a lot of time to give a tour, but I couldn’t resist. And so, there I was, talking to visitors who had come from afar: we talked about the meaning of Gothic architecture; we talked about mosques and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem; we talked about the use of images in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam; we talked about why the veneration of images is, for some Christians, a holy and devout practice, not remotely idolatrous. We talked about the difference between Protestants and Roman Catholics. I wondered if it was something like the difference between Sunnis and Shiites. We talked about God. The gentleman kept urging his daughters to come closer and to join the discussion. He seemed to want them to learn about us, about what we believe; he was eager for them to appreciate and understand our differences. He wanted them to know, to understand, to learn. It was really lovely. I told them to come back in a little while for the Solemn Mass, to see what it was like, to listen to the Mozart Mass, to smell the incense, to listen to the sermon. He said they would. I shook the father’s hand. The older daughter and I looked at each other. I decided that it would be impolite of me to try to shake her hand and, surprisingly, at the very same moment she decided that it would be impolite for her to refuse to shake this American, Christian, Western clergyman’s hand. We fumbled awkwardly with that particular issue of etiquette and began to laugh at the absurdity of it all; and then we said goodbye.
That tour of our complex was filled with grace for me. I stopped feeling distracted. I stopped feeling anxious. Now, just to be clear, the grace of God didn’t solve all of my, or our, problems. It didn’t make all my worries go away. The problems with the sound system didn’t magically disappear. The copier developed a nasty jam just as I was printing bulletins for the afternoon wedding. The problems with our homeless friends remain worrying especially as the weather gets colder. Still something about that forty-minute tour made me remember Our Lord’s words, “And which of you by being anxious can add a cubit to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Seek the kingdom of God, and these things shall be yours as well…Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom” [Luke 12:25-26, 31-32].
In this season, we talk a lot about stewardship. When we do that, we are talking about money to be sure. But we are also talking about worship and prayer, about mission and ministry, about service and creativity. I was very happy when I realized how much was going on here at Saint Mary’s last Sunday morning, even as I dream about what more we might one day do.
- I invite all of you to continue to support the life and ministry of this parish.
- I invite you to think about ways in which you can use your gifts in this community.
- I also invite you to make a pledge to support the parish monetarily, a gift that shows that you are committed to keeping our doors open, making it possible for us to serve our members, our friends, and our community; making it possible for us to continue as a place where we can worship together with our visitors from both near and far in a way that is both simple and elegant, both traditional and responsive to the needs of the modern world, both beautiful and attentive to the realities of the present moment.
- We cannot survive on the income produced by our endowment. We depend on the gifts of our members and friends. Only through those gifts can we maintain our beautiful, but no-longer-young building. Only through your gifts can we do what we are doing, while discovering new ways to serve, to worship, and create. Only through your gifts can we engage in the work of ministry, pastoral care, mission, and evangelism to which we are called.
If you have not yet made a pledge for 2014, I invite you to do so. So that we can keep our doors open. So Saint Mary’s can continue to be a place of blessing, raucous creativity, and amazing grace. James Ross Smith
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Charlotte, who is gravely ill, and for John, Dick, Sharon, Donn, Billie, Edwin, Pierre, David, Rick, Roger, Alan, Takeem, Rob, Linda, Babak, Jathon, Mary, Casey, Eloise, Arpene, Ryan, priest, and Paulette, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark, Alex, Elizabeth, Ben, and Daniel . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . November 17: 1913 George Mullins; 1919 Henry Albert Stuart; 1928 Evelyn Selden Delany; 1941 Francis Wright; 1976 Pauline Madeline Poviano.
FRIDAY ABSTINENCE . . . The ordinary Fridays of the year are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN 2013-2014 . . . As of November 13, two weeks into the campaign, we have received pledge cards from forty-nine households. We still have a ways to go: $161,151.00 has been pledged to date, 35.8% of our goal of $450,000.00. We have received eight pledges from households that have never pledged before, or that have not been able to make a pledge in recent years. Nine households have been able to increase their pledges this year. We urge all the members and friends of Saint Mary’s to return their pledge cards as soon as possible. We continue to ask that you prayerfully consider this year’s appeal and to be generous. Commitment Sunday is November 24, the Feast of Christ the King. Please help us to continue our mission and ministry to our members, to our community, to our diocese, and to the world. If you did not receive a pledge packet, but would like to receive one, please contact the parish office. Thank you to all who continue to support Saint Mary’s so generously . . . O God, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom. Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know Christ and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Adult Forum, Sunday, November 17, 10:00 AM, Mission House, 2nd Floor, Father Pete Powell concludes his three-part series on “The Book of Exodus” . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on November 20 in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . Father Jay Smith will have hernia repair surgery on Friday, November 22. He expects to be away from the office until Saturday, November 30. . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, November 16, by Father Stephen Gerth, and on Saturday, November 23, by Mother Mary Julia Jett.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . On Sunday, November 10, at 3:00 PM, Roger Castellani and Alan Ruscoe were married in the Lady Chapel. Father Steven Paulikas, rector of All Saints’ Church, Brooklyn, New York, preached and was the celebrant at the Eucharist. Father Jay Smith solemnized the marriage. Thank you to all those who provided assistance to get ready for the wedding on a very busy Sunday. Roger and Alan live in our neighborhood and join us for worship when they can. Please keep them in your prayers . . . If you would like to be confirmed or received into the Episcopal Church, please speak to a member of the clergy. Bishop Dietsche will be with us on Monday, December 9, at 6:00 PM . . . Parishioner John DeCamillis’s mother, Charlotte, is gravely ill. Parishioner Donn Russell was admitted to the hospital briefly last week for exploratory surgery. He is recuperating at home. Father Ryan Lesh’s mother, Billie Lesh, suffered a stroke early this week. She continues to recuperate in a hospital near her home in Colorado. Parishioner Sharon Singh was admitted to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center last weekend for treatment. She is now at home. Parishioner Dick Leitsch remains at Amsterdam House to continue his rehabilitation therapy. Amsterdam House is located across from the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, at 1060 Amsterdam Avenue, between 112th and 113th Streets. We suggest that you call Amsterdam House to make sure that Dick is there before visiting. The phone number at Amsterdam House is 212-316-7700. If you wish to visit a resident of Amsterdam House, you must bring a picture ID with you. Please keep Charlotte, John, Donn, Billie, Father Lesh, Sharon, and Dick in your prayers . . . Former parishioner Michael Innis-Jiménez is an assistant professor in the American Studies department at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. His book, Steel Barrio: the Great Mexican Migration to South Chicago 1915-1940, was recently published by New York University Press. You can listen to Mike discuss his book on the podcast “New Books in Political Science” . . . Donations are requested: for altar flowers on November 24, the Feast of Christ the King, and on December 15, Gaudete Sunday; as well as for the reception after the Solemn Mass on the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Monday, December 9 (transferred). If you would like to make a donation, please contact Aaron Koch in the Finance Office . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 276.
CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . From a review written by Anthony Tommasini in the New York Times, November 14, 2013, “On Tuesday night the Saint Thomas Boys Choir [of Leipzig, Germany], conducted by Georg Christoph Biller (the sixteenth Thomaskantor since [Johann Sebastian] Bach) and joined by members of the excellent Leipzig Baroque Orchestra, presented an exquisite program of works by Bach and Vivaldi at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin near Times Square. This was a highlight of Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival.” Preparations for the concert on Tuesday made for a hectic and busy day here at the parish. We were grateful, once again, to be able to work with Lincoln Center’s extremely professional production team. A special word of thanks is due to Aaron Koch, business manager; Mark Peterson, interim music director; and our sextons Stefano Esposito, Harka Gurung, and Mario Martinez, for working long and hard, and very professionally, to welcome our guests and make the evening a success (we also breathe a prayer of thanks that Con Ed did not find it necessary to continue their no doubt necessary, but decidedly cacophonous, work on 46th Street on Tuesday night). It was all worth it. Some 600 people entered our beautiful building to listen in silence to the sacred music of Bach and Vivaldi. JRS
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Anthony Piccolo (b. 1946), a New Jersey native, was discovered by conductor Laszlo Halasz while in a science laboratory. Mr. Halasz awarded his personal scholarship for Piccolo to attend the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, where he studied piano, orchestral conducting, and composition. He was awarded the Alice Wentz prize for piano performance. Upon completing a Master’s degree at Peabody, he worked with the National Symphony Orchestra under Antal Dorati. Piccolo subsequently moved to England, where he sang in the cathedral choirs of Lichfield, Canterbury, and Saint Paul’s, London. He composed twenty works for Canterbury Cathedral, several of which have become staples of the Anglican choral repertoire (including Sunday’s Mass setting, the Canterbury Mass). Upon returning to the States, Piccolo served as assistant conductor of the opera companies in Portland (Oregon), Wolf Trap, and New Orleans. For twenty years he served as assistant chorus master and children's chorus director with the New York City Opera, joining the staff of the Metropolitan Opera as Children's Chorus director in 2009. Several of Mr. Piccolo’s choral works, including two commissions which received their first performances at the Washington National Cathedral, have been recorded for Navona Records. At the ministration of Holy Communion, we will hear the fabled motet, E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come, by American composer Paul Manz (1919-2009). Widely known as a Lutheran church musician, recitalist, improvisationalist, and educator, Manz is particularly identified with this fine motet which had its genesis in a personal experience for Paul and his wife, Ruth, as they maintained an all-night hospital vigil with their firstborn son, whom they had been told would not likely survive the night. An initial sketch of the work, a setting of a paraphrase from the twenty-second chapter of the Revelation to John by Ruth Manz, became the inspiration for this choral classic. Their son John survived to become a highly respected Lutheran pastor and seminary professor. Mark Peterson
Advent Quiet Day . . . Saturday, December 14, 9:30-3:00 PM, “My Soul Magnifies the Lord”: Praying the Anglican Rosary. Led by Father Jim Pace. Father Pace is an assisting priest here at Saint Mary’s. He is the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs at New York University’s College of Nursing. In addition to his work in the medical field, Father Pace has extensive experience in parochial ministry, hospice care, and in the area of pastoral counseling. On December 14, we will gather, beginning at around 9:30 AM. Coffee and pastries will be served. The first address will begin at around 10:00 AM. We will attend the noonday services, including Mass, and then lunch will be served in Saint Joseph’s Hall. There will be time for quiet reflection in the church, the chapels, and in Saint Joseph’s Hall throughout the day. (We are of course hoping for a quiet day on 46th Street. Our neighborhood can sometimes become noisy in surprising and unexpected ways!) If you plan to attend, please RSVP by December 10, so we can make plans for lunch. If you have dietary restrictions, please let us know. A donation of $10 to defray the costs of breakfast and lunch will be gratefully accepted. JRS
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on November 20 or 27. The class, which is led by Father Jay Smith, will resume on December 4, at 6:30 PM, in Saint Joseph’s Hall. The class is reading the Acts of the Apostles this year. All are welcome. No prior experience is necessary. On December 4, the class will begin its discussion at Acts 9, with the conversion of Saint Paul . . . In the Adult Forum, November 17 at 10:00 AM, on the second floor of the Mission House, Father Pete Powell concludes his three-part series on The Book of Exodus . . . We regret that Father John Andrew will not be able to join us on Sunday, November 24 to give his talk in the Adult Forum on Archbishop Michael Ramsey. We are grateful that Mother Mary Julia Jett has agreed to step in and lead the discussion of some of Archbishop Ramsey’s written work. The class will meet on November 24, at 10:00 AM on the second floor of the Mission House. All are welcome . . . The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, Christian education for young children, continues on Sunday, November 17, at 9:45 AM, in the Atrium on the second floor of the Parish House. For more information, please speak to Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins. If you know families with children that might be interested in a vibrant and effective church-school curriculum, please tell them about the Catechesis and invite them to Saint Mary’s.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Donations to Episcopal Relief and Development may be directed to the relief effort in the Philippines . . . We are gratefully accepting donations of warm clothing, as well as new, unopened packets of underwear and socks, especially white cotton socks. We send some items of clothing to the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Other items are kept here for distribution to those in need . . Mother Yamily Bass-Choate, vicar, Church of San Andres, Yonkers, is a good friend of Saint Mary’s. Her husband, Father Horace Choate, served here at the parish in the early 2000s. Mother Bass-Choate and the people of San Andres are once again looking for donations for their Food Pantry’s Thanksgiving Project: their goal is to provide a Thanksgiving turkey dinner to all the families served by the pantry. A contribution of $20.00 buys a turkey for one family. We are happy to receive donations for this project. We will then send a check on to San Andres. Contributions can also be sent directly: San Andres Episcopal Church, 22 Post Street, Yonkers, NY 10705. Checks should be paid to the order of San Andres Episcopal Church.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Monday, November 18, 2013, 6:30 PM, The Seabury Auditorium at the General Theological Seminary, 440 West 21st Street, Kate Cooper in conversation with Deirdre Good about Prof. Cooper’s book, Band of Angels: The Forgotten World of Early Christian Women. Prof. Cooper is professor of ancient history at the University of Manchester. Prof. Good is professor of New Testament and academic dean at the General Theological Seminary . . . Saint Joseph’s Roman Catholic Seminary and Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary present Magnificat: Hymns to the Mother of God from East & West. An Evening of Sacred Song, Monday, November 25, 2013, 7:30 PM, at the Church of Saint Jean Baptiste, 184 East 76th Street. Tickets are $25.00 and can be ordered online . . . At The Cloisters, September 10–December 8, 2013, Fort Tryon Park, New York City: The Forty-Part Motet (2001), a sound installation by Janet Cardiff.