The Angelus

Volume 16, Number 34


This spring and summer I’ve been working with two small leadership groups in the parish that I haven’t written much about, a Capital Campaign Committee and a Music Search Committee. Both committees have started their work, but there’s not a lot to tell yet. The members of the Capital Campaign Committee are MaryJane Boland, Steven Heffner, Clark Mitchell and Mark Risinger. The members of the Music Search Committee are Grace Bruni, James Dennis, Robin Landis, Mark Risinger and Geoffrey Williams. (Mark, who serves on both committees, is vice president of the board of trustees.)

The other day I realized that both groups, working on different tracks, plan to engage members of the local and wider parish community in shaping their work. Before asking for money, the Capital Campaign Committee needs to know what matters to those whose support will make the campaign a success. Before writing a job description for the permanent position of organist and music director, the Music Search Committee wants to hear from the local and wider parish community about the ways in which music matters—or doesn’t matter—for worship and life at Saint Mary’s. Both groups want to hear about ideas people have for the future.

As rector, this makes me very happy—and I hope it makes you happy, too. I think any fair review of Saint Mary’s history shows the parish community has always been at its best when it was looking to the future while cherishing the riches of the past.

In 2014 Saint Mary’s will balance its operating budget. We simply cannot raise the money we need for the conservation (church façade) and renovation (accessibility) of our church home without living within our means. The bequests we have received from the estate of Father Charles Whipple have replenished the endowment. The income from the last installment of this bequest, along with the pledges and gifts we receive, make living within our means possible in 2014 and going forward without radically changing our parish life. That said, stability for the annual operating budget is only one part of the work we need to do. The other keys to the future are the care of this extraordinary church in the heart of this great city and having some sense about what the Holy Spirit is calling us to do for others.

Many generations of faithful members and friends built and maintained this church. In its first century Saint Mary’s was very much at the heart of the emerging Anglo-Catholic movement within the Episcopal Church. The challenge of losing its residential neighborhood reshaped the congregation in the 1950s and 1960s. The great challenges of urban life in the 1970s and 1980s—and well into the 1990s—also reshaped the life of the parish. Quite frankly I have nothing but respect for the congregations of those years who regularly faced a dangerous neighborhood, to say nothing about the courage of the clergy, yes, courage, of the clergy who lived and worked here. Many sacrifices were made to keep the parish’s doors open and the regular services of the church offered daily.

As the city began to change, so did the parish. Beginning in the 1990s, under the leadership of Father Edgar Wells, the parish was able to make urgent repairs to the buildings and the organ. The repainting of the interior of the church in 1997 has extended the parish’s mission in ways no one imagined until the scaffolding erected for the painting was removed. Our organ is still important far beyond Times Square—and I hope someday, after the immediate challenges of conservation and accessibility, we will we be able to endow its care for its future.

When I served as curate for Charles Jenkins, retired bishop of Louisiana but then rector of Saint Luke’s Church, Baton Rouge, he often spoke to me about the grace of patience—wise words that I have always remembered. When I have more to share, especially about how these committees will be reaching out—almost certainly on different schedules—I will be writing to you. I know that your gifts and mine, and the gifts of those who have gone before, daily touch lives of those who see and enter this building. This is still a place that invites all to worship the Lord.

The first rector of the parish, the Reverend Thomas McKee Brown, wrote “A Short History of the Foundation of the Parish of Saint Mary-The Virgin, New York City, 1867–1868.” It was placed in the cornerstone of the first church, laid on April 6, 1868. Below is Father Brown’s statement of the mission of the building and the parish.

The designs are worthy of the Architect, well pleasing to the Trustees of the church, and when executed will be an ornament to the city, and we all pray, a useful means and blessing to the neighborhood—and honor to the Name and Glory of Almighty God.

The Rev. Flavel Scott Mines, is to be the Associated Priest in Charge, with the Revd. Mr. Brown, who enter upon the work, not only with the intention of preaching the comfortable Gospel of Christ and of ministering the Holy Sacraments to His people, but also, of restoring to its proper place and importance the Worship of God—and rendering Adoration to Him as a Congregational and ceremonial act—, (made beautiful, majestic and impressive by all the outward adornments, which are called the Beauty of Holiness, springing from the heart-love within); but, which in later times have been forgotten (N.F. Read, The Story of St. Mary’s [1931] 17).

I preserved the original spelling and punctuation. Please note Father Brown’s emphasis of worship as a congregational, not a ministerial, act. He and the parish were on the forward edge of thinking about the work and life of a parish. I hope we will find ways to grow on the rich foundation we have been given.—Stephen Gerth


YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Suzanne, Rasheed, Reha, Rebecca, Burt, John, McNeil, David, Takeem, Sylvia, Rick, Jack, Linda, Arpene, Paulette, priest, and Harry, priest; and for the repose of the soul of Sharon Geeta Singh . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . July 20: 1874 John Morgan Mulford; 1885 Marshall Stewart Allen; 1887 Adeline Woodruff; 1891 Louis Stalins Van Epps; 1931 Frank Doring.


THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR . . . are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.


THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Business Manager Aaron Koch will be on vacation this week. Parish Assistant Linda Lees will be in the office during the week while he is away. She may be reached by telephone at 212-869-5830, ext. 10 . . . The 12:10 PM Mass on Wednesday, July 23, will not be sung as Mark Peterson is away from the parish on vacation . . . Tuesday, July 22, Saint Mary Magdalene: Mass will be celebrated at 12:10 PM and at 6:20 PM . . . Friday, July 25: Saint James the Apostle: Mass will be celebrated at 12:10 PM and at 6:20 PM . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, July 19, by Father Pace. Confessions will be heard on Saturday, July 26, by Father Gerth.


AROUND THE PARISH . . . The monthly parish liturgical calendars for 2015, which list all of the commemorations and daily services through the year, have been posted on the parish web page . . . Flowers are needed for Sundays in July and August, including the Feast of the Assumption on August 15. If you would like to donate for a Sunday, please be in touch with Aaron Koch in the parish office . . . Sister Deborah Francis continues on her vacation through Monday, August 3. She returns to the parish on Tuesday, August 5 . . . Mark Peterson returns to the parish from vacation on Monday, July 28. This Sunday we welcome Dr. David Hurd to play at the Solemn Mass . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 169.


MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Hymnody continues to be our theme this Sunday, and two fabulously well-known hymns grace today’s liturgy.  “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” sung to the tune Lobe den Herren, is arguably one of two most oft-sung hymns in all of modern Christendom, the other hymn being, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.” In many hymnals, Lobe den Herren is known as Neander, named for Joachim Neander, a German poet and hymn-writer active in the Reformed Church of that time, who is responsible for the text, a paraphrase of Psalm 150. The tune first appeared in the Erneuerten Gesangbuch of 1665 and is attributed to no known composer. A hymn with a decidedly more illustrious attribution is, “Joyful, Joyful, we adore thee,” sung to the tune Hymn to Joy, which is, in fact, a reduction of the Ode to Joy which appears so triumphantly in Ludwig van Beethoven’s (1770–1827) Ninth Symphony (The Choral Symphony). Dr. David Hurd, who is our guest organist today, will play an improvisation on this tune at the conclusion of Solemn Mass. At the ministration of Communion, soprano Sharon Harms will sing the Exultate, the first portion of the larger motet by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791).—Mark Peterson


OUTREACH . . . We welcome donations of hand sanitizer; granola bars; applesauce, sold in small, plastic cups with peel-off tops; water; peanut butter and crackers; and other small items that can be packed in bags for distribution to those who are homeless . . . We continue to collect nonperishable food items for the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Please place your donations in the basket near the ushers’ table on Sunday mornings. You may also make cash donations.