FROM THE RECTOR: WELCOME, BISHOP DIETSCHE
Every three years the church requires one of the bishops of the diocese to make a formal visitation of every parish. This visitation includes presiding and preaching at the Holy Eucharist, reviewing the parish register, and receiving information about the state of the congregation and its clergy. On Monday, December 9, the Right Reverend Andrew M.L. Dietsche will make his first visitation of Saint Mary’s since he succeeded the Right Reverend Mark S. Sisk as bishop of New York on February 2, 2012.
He’s been here before, of course, having served before his election and consecration as bishop coadjutor on his predecessor’s staff as canon for pastoral care. Just thinking about him brings a big smile to my face—and one thing I think it is fair for me to say is that he himself brings great joy to the work he has been called to do. I look forward to him being with us more than I can say.
The Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, December 8, has never been in an American Prayer Book, but it was in the Church of England’s Prayer Book of 1662 when, in 1867, Henry Kingsland Leonard and the Reverend Thomas McKee Brown, with the advice of the Right Reverend Henry Codman Potter, VII Bishop of New York, found three vacant lots, just east of Longacre Square for a new church. The owner of those properties, John Jacob Astor, Jr., gave them to the church with the stipulation “that the Church should be free, and positively orthodox in management and working” (Newbury Frost Read, The Story of St. Mary’s  17). Ground for the new church was broken on May 13, 1868. Its doors at 228 West 45th Street were opened on December 8, 1870. It was the feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Holy Communion was celebrated. Things were just getting started.
As I write on Thursday, December 5, conservators have just completed work on the main doors of the church. They’ve been closed for two days. The main doors are heavy wooden sliding doors. New brackets were fabricated for the tracks on which the doors open and close. We’ve learned that to keep the doors operating smoothly, all we need to do is to oil the axles once a week.
I happened to be the celebrant at the 12:10 Mass on Wednesday and Thursday this week. It felt very odd to be the altar at noonday with doors closed. During Mass the church just felt dark. But at Evening Prayer I realized it wasn’t a lack of light—even on a bright day very little light comes into the church. The problem: I couldn’t see into the street.
Sometime while the Reverend Donald Garfield was rector (1965-1978)—and I can’t remember when right now, clear glass panes were inserted into the main 46th Street doors. What one can usually see through the doors, night and day, is the city: people, cars, delivery trucks, and the occasional mounted police officer. Among the many things that makes our church home so special is this connection it has to its surroundings. We are a place apart, but then again, we are not.
The early newspaper accounts about the parish and its services that Read included in his book all remark on the ceremonial of the services as they were celebrated—so much here was new to Episcopalians in New York. But a careful reader of these articles would learn of the work that the clergy and people did for others and the pastoral care for which their first rector was beloved.
Some who are new to the parish community may not have been here for this feast before. Let me just say it’s one of the great services of the year at Saint Mary’s. It’s very easy for many of us who have been here for a while to recall on this night the wonderful people we have been blessed to know through this parish community who are now in the nearer presence of God.
The annual celebration of this feast is also a good time for us to be reminded of the words of Mary to Gabriel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). I hope very much that many may be here on Monday night to welcome our bishop and to celebrate the life of this parish. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Mickey, David, Edwin, Sumaya, Dick, Sharon, Rick, Dominique, Stephen, Billie, Pierre, Takeem, Linda, Babak, Jathon, Casey, Eloise, Arpene, John, priest, Clair, priest, and Paulette, priest. . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 8: 1892 Catherine Amelia Birdsall; 1907 Joseph McDowell; 1913 Margaret Dunbar; 1924 Clara Hilda Cross; 1946 Emma Widmayer; 1956 George S. Wallace; 1958 Pearl K. Roberts.
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.
A SPECIAL OFFERING . . . Envelopes for gifts to the Bishop’s Discretionary Fund will be distributed at the Solemn Mass on Monday night. Many extraordinary needs are met by our bishop only with your help. Please be generous.
A SPECIAL ANNIVERSARY . . . The Reverend James Ross Smith was ordained priest on Saturday, December 9, 1989 at the cathedral. He has always been a priest of this diocese. He began assisting at weekday services here in 1998. After serving as interim curate in the fall of 2007, he accepted the position of curate as of January 1, 1998. It is a real privilege to work with Jay. I know he has helped make me a better priest and rector. I also want to acknowledge him and his partner José Vidal who together and individually continue to help us welcome and broaden our witness in this place. I know Jay means so much to so many as pastor and priest. I want you to know he means so much to me too. S.G.
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN 2013-2014 . . . As of December 5, we have received pledge cards from ninety-five households. Although we received a large number of pledges on Commitment Sunday, for which we are very grateful, we still have quite a ways to go. We still have not heard from some of the households that made pledges for 2013. Our statistics thus far: $315,741.00 has been pledged to date, 70.2% of our goal of $450,000.00. We have received seventeen pledges from households that have never pledged before, or that have not been able to make a pledge in recent years; and twenty-two households have been able to increase their pledges this year (both very encouraging statistics). We urge all the members and friends of Saint Mary’s to return their pledge cards as soon as possible. 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.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, December 7, Convention to Elect a Suffragan Bishop. The parish clergy will be attending the convention at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, along with the parish’s elected representatives, Randy Morgan and Mary Robison. Please keep the candidates, and the diocese, in your prayers . . . Monday, December 9, Conception of the Virgin Mary: Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, Solemn Pontifical Mass 6:00 PM . . . Saturday, December 14: Advent Quiet Day, 9:30 AM to 3:00 PM . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, December 7, by Father Jim Pace and on Saturday, December 14, by Father Jay Smith.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Bishop Dietsche has written a letter to the diocesan community after learning of the death of Nelson Mandela. You can read that letter here . . . We welcome Linda Lees to the parish staff as office assistant. Linda is a member of the cathedral congregation and serves as a verger there. Linda, welcome to Saint Mary’s . . . Reservations for the Advent Quiet Day on December 14 are needed by Wednesday, December 11. Please contact the parish office . . . Donations are requested: for altar flowers for Sundays in January; we also hope to receive donations to help defray the costs of the reception after the Solemn Mass on Monday, January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. If you would like to make a donation, please contact Aaron Koch in the Finance Office . . . The Rector will be away Friday evening, December 13, visiting family in New England . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 288.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Sunday, December 8, The Second Sunday of Advent: This Sunday we hear Missa brevis by Andrea Gabrieli (c. 1510-1586). Gabrieli was an eminent Italian organist and composer who was long associated with the Basilica of San Marco in Venice. He was a chorister at the basilica and first studied there under Adrian Willaert. At a time when many musicians were flocking to Venice for training, Gabrieli went to Frankfurt, Germany, in 1562. He returned to Venice to assume the position of organist at San Marco in 1585, and enjoyed a great reputation as an organist there. Among his pupils were his famous nephew, Giovanni Gabrieli, and the German composer, Hans Leo Hassler (1564–1612). Gabrieli wrote a large number of works equally divided between sacred music “of the loftiest spirit,” and instrumental works and madrigals, often written in a distinctly comic vein. At the ministration of Holy Communion, we will hear the motet Vox clamantis in deserto, by Spanish composer, Juan Esquivel (c. 1560-1625). He was one of the most published Spanish composers of the early-seventeenth century. His music is marked by a preference for experimentation with chromaticism and unconventional voice leading . . . Monday, December 9, The Conception of Mary: Tomás Luis de Victoria (c. 1548–1611) is recognizably the greatest Spanish composer of the late Renaissance. While certainly not the most prolific of composers, Victoria stands as the master of the multi-choir mass, Missa Alma redemptoris mater, which we hear tonight being but one example. In this regard he relates closely to the composers of the Venetian School. Many commentators hear in his music a mystical intensity and direct emotional appeal lacking in the works of his contemporaries. There are distinct differences in Victoria’s compositional style when compared to others, such as the treatment of melody and quarter-note dissonances. There is none of the dazzling virtuosity and broad culture, none of the extraordinary diversity of other Renaissance composers. Yet there is a specialization to his music which is strictly liturgical and completely devotional in character. Since Victoria was by profession both priest and musician, it stands to reason that he wrote only sacred music, but it should never be thought that his music was always somber. He often uses dramatic word-painting in his work that reminds one of the madrigals of the period. Here is music which is at once joyful, passionately expressive, and yet completely indicative of a mature faith. At the ministration of Holy Communion, we hear a six-voice motet by another great Spanish composer, Francisco Guerrero (1528–1599), who, together with Victoria, and Cristóbal de Morales (c. 1500–1553), was a leader of the Roman School of composition. Mark Peterson
CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, December 14, 8:00 PM, Young New Yorkers’ Chorus presents “Re:Mix Christmas.” From the chorus’s website, “The warmth and beauty of YNYC’s popular Christmas Concert, with favorite holiday carols reimagined by the next generation of choral stars, including: Joshua Shank, Eriks Esenvalds, and Ola Gjeilo” . . . Saturday, December 21, 8:00 PM, Annual New York Repertory Orchestra Benefit Concert. Admission: $10.00. The program includes Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini, Kurt Weill’s, Little Threepenny Music and Edward Elgar’s Violin Concerto. Visit the orchestra’s website for more information and to make reservations.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will continue on December 11, at 6:30 PM, in Saint Joseph’s Hall. The class, which is led by Father Jay Smith, is reading the Acts of the Apostles this year. All are welcome. No prior experience is necessary. On December 11, the class will begin its discussion at Acts 10, with the story of the conversion of Cornelius the centurion and his household. The Bible Study class will not meet on December 18, 25, or January 1 . . . On Sunday, December 8, parishioner Brendon Hunter will lead the discussion in the Adult Forum in our ongoing Faith & Work Series. Brendon is assistant program director for Leadership Resources at the Episcopal Church Foundation. On Sunday, December 15, parishioner Blair Burroughs will lead the Adult Forum in a discussion of Centering Prayer . . . The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, Christian education for young children, continues on Sunday, December 8, 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 . . . Church School for the older children will meet on Sunday, December 8 and December 15, at 10:00 AM, in the Morning Room.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem (AFEDJ) makes a special plea for support each year, in December, around the time of the feast of Saint Nicholas on December 6. AFEDJ describes its mission thus, “As a non-political, independent nonprofit, AFEDJ acts as a partner with the Diocese of Jerusalem by helping to increase its capacity to teach and heal. AFEDJ raises funds for and promotes the humanitarian work of the Diocese of Jerusalem and its institutions so it may better serve the needs of all people in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Israel. AFEDJ is devoted to equity, respect and human dignity.” You may visit AFEDJ’s website for more information or to make a donation . . . 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. We also continue to collect non-perishable food items and cash donations for the Food Pantry. These donations have become increasingly important, since cuts in the Food Stamp program began recently and more of our neighbors are now depending on food pantries and soup kitchens. See a recent New York Times article concerning those cuts.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At the Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street, Chagall: Love, War, and Exile, September 15, 2013–February 2, 2014. This exhibition “explores a significant but neglected period in [Chagall’s] career from the rise of fascism in the 1930s through 1948, years spent in Paris and then in exile to New York. Marc Chagall (1887–1985), one of the foremost modernists of the 20th century, created his unique style by drawing on elements from richly colored folk art motifs, the Russian Christian icon tradition, Cubism, and Surrealism.”