Of Parks, Priorities and Prayer
Monday I made myself go out for lunch. It was a beautiful day, a perfect day weatherwise. I went to Stella’s Delicatessen on West 44th Street, just off Sixth Avenue. It’s a good deli. Freshly roasted turkey on a roll, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise. Bottled water (Maine). Headed to Bryant Park. Crowded. Very crowded. Found a chair and proceeded to enjoy my sandwich, my water and watching the park be so alive on such a beautiful day.
Mondays of course are very busy days in the office at Saint Mary’s. There was to be a Board of Trustees meeting Monday night which means there are additional materials that need to be prepared and I need to be prepared. Father Shin is still in Korea on the diocesan youth trip along with Amelia Rochester-Nagy. Saint Joseph’s Hall and the rectory dining room have been rented out to a film company for the day. More chaos. Painters arrive on Wednesday to begin to do some work in the rectory. Unusually for Monday, there is a pile of mail; but there was no delivery on Saturday. I still made myself take time for lunch.
I almost did not go into the park after getting my sandwich. As usual, there were those countless details calling me back to the office. Mail that wanted response. Liturgies to be planned. Calls and visits to be coordinated. And yet, it was just a beautiful day. So like thousands of others whose work in midtown was probably calling them back to the office, I did as they did: I postponed the work and took a break.
Had I not gone into the park I would have missed watching people argue over giving up a chair which someone was using as a table. Fortunately, someone else got up and the argument didn’t need to go forward. As they ended up sitting next to me, I did get to listen to the boyfriend (who was arguing for the chair) be calmed down by his girlfriend who seemed to realize that he might better spend his time thinking about her. If I had not gone to the park I wouldn’t have seen so many people playing chess, all sorts and conditions, or so many couples, all combinations, obviously enjoying themselves.
There were also groups of office workers, colleagues. The guys were probably talking about sports or money or other usual subjects and the groups of women were probably doing the same. The weather seemed to be helping everyone relax and enjoy the moment of being alive on a wonderful day.
I have a vague memory of seeing a report on television years ago about the horrible condition of the park behind the main branch of the New York Public Library. And I seem to remember news reports about the park when it reopened. Now that I live and work here I have some sense of what a scary place Bryant Park was in the not too distant past. And I sense that part of the reason so many people who work here enjoy it is that the park is itself a sign of rebirth and spring any season of the year.
Politicians of all parties speak of what we "must do" or "have to do." I cringe when I hear this. Almost never is a sentence with one of these expressions true unless it refers to our physical bodies. But there are things that I think you and I should do. From time to time you and I should just stop and enjoy the world we have been given. I wonder if this is what Jesus did so often in the face of impatient and results-oriented disciples. Jesus "went aside to a lonely place," he "went out," he prayed, he doodled in the sand, and he sat down to play with children.
For most of us, forty-five minutes in a park or thirty minutes of prayer may not feel like it can alter the shape of the world. But I know on Monday I felt like a little boy again. Even though I walked back to the office as a New Yorker, head down, brisk pace-- in my heart I was dragging a stick against the buildings, picking up stones and throwing them, jumping up and trying to touch overhangs, playing with a ball and all the other little things boys do as they walk down the street on a beautiful afternoon.
Like the memory of an extraordinary Mass at Saint Mary's (like the celebration on Assumption!), the memory of a beautiful day in the park can be a spiritual gift in the middle of the working and living that we do. Though it began as a sandwich from Stellas, it ended up being a feast in the park. Perhaps there really are no "lesser" feasts after all. Each is a gift to be cherished. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Olga, Helen, Shirley, Hannah, Dawn, Mary, Lucille, Frances, Eleanor, Carl, Harold, Frank, Stephen and Deborah.
GRANT THEM PEACE . . . August 27: 1961 Leslie Evans Roberts; August 29: 1959 James Edward Emanuel, 1961 Joseph Thornell.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-25, Psalm 43:15-22, Ephesians 5:21-33, John 6:60-69 . . . 9:00 AM Celebrant: Father Breidenthal, Preacher: Richard Lawson, 10:00 AM Celebrant & Preacher: Father Gerth, 11:00 AM Celebrant Father Gerth, Preacher: Father Galloway, 5:00 PM Celebrant & Preacher: Father Shin . . . Confessions will be heard on August 26 by Father Gerth . . . Confessions will be heard on September 2 by Father Shin.
CLERGY NOTES . . . Our preacher this Sunday a the Solemn Mass will be the Reverend Peter J. Galloway, an old friend of Saint Mary’s. Father Galloway was first at Saint Mary's in 1982 as a seminarian. Since then he has earned several more academic degrees, authored several books and is currently vicar of Emmanuel Church, West Hampstead, London. The dedication of his most recent book, The Cathedrals of Scotland, says something of his relationship with Saint Mary’s: “To the Reverend Canon Edgar Wells and the people of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, New York, for their hospitality, generosity and kindness during many hot and humid summers.” . . . Father Shin returns from Korea Saturday night. We may or may not see him on Sunday morning depending on which time zone his body is in, but he does have the Sunday evening Mass as Father Gerth is leaving Sunday evening for vacation. The Rector will be away Sunday evening through Labor Day but he will be at Saint Mary's for all of the services in the morning.
SUMMARY OF AUGUST 21, 2000, BOARD MEETING . . . At its meeting on August 21, 2000, the Board of Trustees: 1. Welcomed Mr. David Gillespie and Mr. Robin Landis as new members of the Board of Trustees. 2. Learned that there is currently a total of 97 pledges for the year 2000, amounting to $162,269. 3. Learned that the Assumption offering for renovation of Saint Joseph’s Hall has so far brought in more than $10,000. The special appeal, in commemoration of Canon Wells’s 40th anniversary of ordination to the Sacred Priesthood, also yielded a pledge of $25,000, which will be paid over a period of three years. 4. Learned that the Rector is in the process of hiring a search consultant to assist him in the hiring of the new Music Director. 5. Heard a report about the progress of ongoing renovations in the Rectory. 6. Learned that Bishop Grein will be the celebrant on our Patronal Feast, the Immaculate Conception, on December 8. Father Andrew Mead, Rector of St. Thomas Church, will preach on that occasion.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . It was great to have Father Breidenthal back from vacation and continuing education leave last Sunday . . . Altar flowers are needed for Sunday, September 24. If you are interested in donating flowers in memory of a loved one or in thanksgiving please call the parish office at 212-869-5830 . . . Be sure to listen to the closing voluntary this Sunday. Robert Church will be playing his own arrangement of Aaron Copeland's "Fanfare for the Common Man." . . . Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker were the stars in the rectory for a Mercedes Corporation project. We understand this is not a film anyone is likely to see if he or she isn't associated with Mercedes sales. The rectory dining room was used as Broderick's Times Square apartment . . . Attendance last Sunday 158.
SAINT JOSEPH'S HALL APPEAL . . . As we go to press, $10,686.00 has been received for the restoration of Saint Joseph's Hall. We think at least $20,000.00 will be needed to do a first rate paint job and to provide for modest decoration. The painting will be a big project, something not unfamiliar to this congregation. The hall will need to be closed for four weeks to do the job right. Part of the expense will be repairing the cracks in the ceilings as well as painting. Much of the work will need to be done on scaffolding. We think it is important to do the job right so that it will not need to be redone for an extended period of time.
JOURNEY IN FAITH . . . Our catechumenate program, Journey in Faith, is ready for new participants. The first session will be on October 8. This Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults is open to those who wish to be baptized, to be confirmed, to renew Baptismal vows or to join the Episcopal Church from another denomination. The program is also certainly open to anyone who simply wishes to deepen his or her own spirituality. It is not too early to begin thinking and praying about whether this opportunity might be for you. It certainly is not too early to talk to friends and neighbors who might be looking for a new spiritual home or might simply wish to explore questions of faith. Allen Shin
Worship at Saint Mary’s
The Holy Eucharist
On Sundays Mass is said at 9:00 AM, 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM. A Solemn Mass is offered at 11:00 AM. Monday through Friday Mass is said at 12:15 PM and 6:20 PM. On Saturdays Mass is said at 12:15 PM.
The Daily Office
On ordinary Sundays Morning Prayer is said at 8:30 AM and Evening Prayer at 4:45 PM. Monday through Friday Morning Prayer is offered at 8:30 AM, the Noonday Office at 12:00 PM and Evening Prayer at 6:00 PM. On Saturdays the Noonday Office is offered at 12:00 PM and Evening Prayer at 5:00 PM.
The Reconciliation of Penitents
Confessions are heard on Saturdays between 11:30 and 12:00 and between 4:00 and 5:00. Appointments can also be made with members of the parish clergy for the Reconciliation of Penitents at other times.
The ordinary Fridays of the year are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
The Calendar for the Eleventh Week after Pentecost
Monday Augustine of Hippo, bishop
Tuesday The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist
Thursday Aidan, bishop
Friday David Oakerhater, deacon & missionary Abstinence
Saturday Monthly Requiem
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend Allen Shin, curate, The Reverend Thomas Breidenthal, assistant,
The Reverend Arthur Wolsoncroft, The Reverend Canon Maurice Garrison,
The Reverend Amilcar Figueroa, assisting priests, The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.