FROM THE RECTOR: SABBATICAL REFLECTIONS
Father Jay Smith returns from a much-deserved sabbatical this Saturday, August 30. I confess over the last week or so I have been keeping track of the number of days left until he returns. I had dinner with him once while he has been away. We chatted briefly at Sharon Singh’s funeral. But, I’ve left him alone—though he will find a very few notes from me when he returns. And he will tell you more about his time away. I can say it’s been a really rewarding time for him. If his experience was anything like mine in 2009, the time and study while away will continue to bear fruit for him and for our parish in the years ahead.
I took a month of “sabbatical leave” one September during the ten years I served as rector of Trinity Church, Michigan City, Indiana. That leave was mostly about time away. It was spent at my mother and stepfather’s house on the Potomac River in southern Maryland where the river is just over three miles wide. I read a wonderful book that is still in print, Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay (1976).
There were crab traps out in the river in front of the house. In the mornings, I watched the watermen as I read the paper on the porch. As the weeks passed, they moved their traps away from the shore and closer to the center of the river. As fall approaches, the waters cool. The crabs begin their annual migration to the sands of Hampton Roads at the south end of the bay.
I never took a real sabbatical, one for study, until my twenty-fifth year of service as a priest, at the beginning of my eleventh year as rector of Saint Mary’s. Before the 2008 financial crisis unfolded, I applied for and received a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. It enabled me to be away from the parish for three months, from January through March 2009. With Father Jay Smith and Father Matthew Mead, the parish was in good hands while I was away.
My time began on January 1. I was in my office on December 31 until late in the evening—the celebrations in Times Square were well underway. The desk was completely clear; the email inbox was empty. I left for Berkeley, California, the next morning. I had two months to study New Testament Greek with an adjunct professor at our seminary there. The third month I was able to travel for the first time to southern France and to Spain. I was back at Saint Mary’s for Holy Week.
With a renewal of Greek, I began to rediscover the New Testament—and I have been excited about this ever since. Upon return, I reorganized my work so that I could have more time for study generally—so that I might become a better and a more disciplined preacher and teacher.
The letter of call between me and the board provides a three-month sabbatical every five years for me. I didn’t take the first one. I was due again this year. But my experience was so good that I know Jay needed to take one before I did. As you know, he received a grant from the Louisville Institute. I look forward to seeing how his time away has kicked up new energy for him.
Since I decided to enter seminary, like—I presume—all members of the clergy, I’ve endured jokes about having a job where I “only work one day a week.” While Jay’s been away, I’ve not been very responsive to such remarks. The clergy workload here is demanding. My last full days off were at the beginning of Jay’s sabbatical when I came down with bronchitis. That said, this time has been blessed for me in many ways. I certainly appreciate more of what we ask Father Smith to do and that he does it with all of his gifts, discipline, significant academic preparation, and whatever time he needs to get the job done. If Jay says he will take care of something, I never give it a second thought.
I’m very thankful that so many members and our other clergy colleagues made themselves available to help this summer. There’s still a lot that only full-time clergy can do. It’s one thing for a rector to be alone; it’s another thing for our curate. When I take my next sabbatical, we will employ an assistant for Father Smith—and we will employ someone to help me during his next sabbatical too.
The ongoing life of this community is very rich indeed. I’m very thankful I was called to be a part of it. I’m very thankful Father Smith will be back with us at the end of this week. Many things go into making Saint Mary’s a good place to be. If I may, on behalf of Father Smith and myself, I thank you for your support for the time away and study that enables us to grow in our work as the parish pastors, priests, and teachers.—Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Donn, Suzanne, Bob, Rebecca, John, McNeil, David, Takeem, Sylvia, Rick, Jack, Linda, Arpene, Rebecca, deacon, Paulette, priest, and Harry, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty; and for the repose of the souls of Irene Hunte and Charles Arthur Schaefer . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . August 24: 1898 Annie Hoover Allen; 1959 Mabel Lenora Heyny.
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 . . . Monday, August 25, is the Feast of Saint Bartholomew the Apostle. Mass will be celebrated at 12:10 PM and at 6:20 PM . . . Saturday, August 23, 10:00 AM: The Burial of the Dead for Charles Arthur Schaefer . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, August 23, at 11:30 AM by Father Pace and at 4:00 PM by Father Gerth. Confessions will be heard on Saturday, August 30, by Father Smith.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Congratulations to Reha Sterbin and Ben Slusky on the birth of their son Jacob Andrew on Saturday, August 16. Reha and Jacob are home from the hospital. We are thankful and very happy for them . . . The music search committee has prepared a survey for the parish community that invites reflection on music at Saint Mary’s. We expect the survey will go out this week . . . It was great to see Burt Abelson back with us on the Feast of the Assumption. He has returned home from convalescing and is doing well . . . As we go to press we’ve had word that Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins is much improved and expects to be back this Sunday . . . Many thanks to Gypsy da Silva for her assistance with copy editing bulletins and other materials while Father Jay Smith is on sabbatical. He returns to the parish on Saturday, August 30 . . . The Rector will be away from Saturday, August 30. He returns to the parish on Sunday, September 7 . . . Attendance: Assumption 336; Last Sunday 197.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Composers of the French Baroque were fascinated with the pipe organ, and many of them wrote works which changed the musical world’s perceptions of that instrument. These same composers did much to utilize new advances in organ building, much of which was unique to French organ builders, including specially composed mixtures (organ stops that “mix” unison pitches with fifths and thirds), and colorful reed stops. Louis Couperin (c. 1626–1661) was a French composer and performer of great renown. He was born in Chaumes-en-Brie and moved to Paris in 1650. Couperin was the organist of the Church of St. Gervais, one of the more important musical posts in Paris, and worked as a musician at court. He quickly became one of the most prominent Parisian musicians, establishing himself as a harpsichordist, organist, and violist. While he was quite prolific as a composer, his work was cut short by his death at the age of thirty-five. Louis Nicolaus Clérambault (1676–1740), another prominent French organist, was employed at St. Sulpice in Paris and wrote several “organ books.” The prelude today is taken from his First Organ Book, while a stirring work of Couperin is heard at the postlude. At the ministration of Communion, soprano Ruth Cunningham will sing an extemporized work on a medieval poem, O lilium convallium, in praise of the Virgin Mary, and will accompany herself on the Renaissance harp.—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.
Saint Cecilia Chamber Music Series
The Church of Saint Mary the Virgin
Monday Evenings in Saint Joseph’s Hall
Monday, September 8, 7:30 PM: Robert Cassidy, piano
This is the first recital utilizing our newly acquired Knabe Grand Piano.
In his only New York appearance, Mr. Cassidy will play works of
Mozart, Debussy, Brahms, and Noon.
Monday, November 17, 8:00 PM: Lucia Stavros, harp
Along with colleagues, she will play a program of works for solo harp
and ensemble pieces with flute and cello.
Monday, January 12, 2015, 8:00 PM: An Evening of Victor Herbert
Suzanne Woods, soprano; John Pickle, tenor; and
Boyd Mackus, baritone, will offer a program of favorites
from this master of the American operetta.
Monday, March 16, 2015, 8:00 PM: Art Song
Robin Frye, mezzo-soprano; Robert Mobsby, baritone;
and Douglas Drake, piano,
in a program of art song and treasured favorites.
Monday, May 18, 2015, 8:00 PM: May Daze
May Daze is a musical comedy by Peter Holbrook
on the life of Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians and the bewildered.
It is presented in the tradition of the medieval miracle plays,
featuring singers from the Choir of Saint Mary’s.
This is a fund raising event with reception following.