FROM THE RECTOR: THREE THINGS FROM 2010
It was Easter Day 2010 when I walked into Saint Joseph's Hall before Evensong, and parishioner Hardy Geer met me holding a few small pieces of limestone in his hands. I would soon learn that those pieces had chipped away from the façade of the church when the iron clamps that held the stones to the building had rusted and begun to degrade. We acted quickly to erect a sidewalk shed that would cover the entire façade on the Forty-sixth Street side of the church. From that time forward, everything involved in the restoration project has taken much more time than I ever imagined it would. Our architect, Michael Devonshire, Jan Hird Pokorny Associates, Inc., expects that new construction scaffolding will be up before too long and that some work will begin before winter weather arrives. I can hardly wait.
Those small stones, discovered on Easter Day 2010, make that Holy Week a memorable one for me, but there are two other reasons that particular weeks stands out for me: Bishop Frank Griswold's presence with us and a new approach for our parish to the Bread of Life.
I had invited Bishop Griswold that year to be the celebrant and preacher on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Great Vigil of Easter, and he had accepted the invitation. But, before too long, a problem arose. If I'm remembering the details correctly, it turned out that the bishop of the diocese of Washington had gone on sabbatical, and Bishop Griswold was asked to speak to the clergy of that diocese on the morning of Maundy Thursday at the National Cathedral. After some consultation, and fearing that Bishop Griswold would not be able to make it to New York in time, we decided that I would celebrate and preach here at Saint Mary's on Maundy Thursday. Now, I had written to the congregation in the Angelus in early Lent that I had been "thinking about how our Eucharistic signs might signify more fully that they are food." I told the parish that on Maundy Thursday we would have real bread baked for the service and New York red table wine, the sort that one would serve at a dinner with guests.
It turned out that Bishop Griswold arrived just after the Maundy Thursday liturgy had begun and sat in the congregation. He was pleased to find real bread and red table wine when he came up for communion. He asked if we could do that on Easter Eve. Yes, bishop. On the Fourth Sunday of Easter that year, "Good Shepherd Sunday" (named for the appointed gospel), we began using ordinary bread baked by parishioners and New York red table wine at Sunday Masses and at Sung and Solemn Masses on weekday evenings. (We still use hosts on weekdays for a variety of practical reasons-and hosts are always available for those who need them for whatever reason.)
This summer there has been a shift in my experience of communion. In the winter, extra bread from Sunday Eucharists can be used for a couple of days. This summer, the accidents of heat and humidity have meant that any bread remaining after the Sunday Eucharists is eaten at the Solemn Mass-or in the sacristy immediately after the service. It's one thing to have a very small piece of bread in one's mouth, followed by a very small sip of wine. It's another thing to be eating quite a lot of bread quickly and needing to drink enough wine or water afterwards. This summer's "cleaning up" has led to a shift in my awareness that the Lord's Supper is, indeed, real food. That never happened for me with wafers-even when I occasionally had to consume a lot of them, or needed to drink too much so-called "sacramental" wine.
In November 2007, Father Louis Weil gave an important lecture on sacramental signs at a conference in England. The title of his talk was "When Signs Signify—the Baptismal Covenant in its Sacramental Context." (You can read the talk in the Spring 2008 issue of Open, a publication of Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Music.) My colleagues and I try very hard to make sure that our sacramental signs are strong, clear, and worthy of our God and us, God's children. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Alexandra, Carlyle, James, Joseph, Karen, Kenneth, Timothy, Ilona, Sheila, Eloise, Angie, Maxine, Carlos, Susan, Marilouise, Ridhima, Dennis, Robert, Abraham, Randy, Burton, Michael, Kyle, Greta, May, Heidi, Takeem, David, and Sandy; for Horace, John, Gaylord, Louis, and Edgar, priests; for all the benefactors and friends of this parish; and for the repose of the soul of Sylvia Isler
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . We learned this week that Sylvia Isler, the mother of parishioner Kenneth Isler, died on Christmas Day 2017, while in care near her home in Paradise Valley, Arizona. Kenny had faithfully cared for his mother at home for many years. He then participated in her care after she required more help than he could provide at home. Kenny served here at the parish as acolyte, thurifer, maker of incense, and sexton for many years before his move to Arizona. Since then, he has returned to Saint Mary's on a regular basis in order to create the parish's distinctive and very popular blend of incense. He remains a valued member of the Saint Mary's community . . . Robert James McLaughlin, BSG, died on Thursday, August 30. Brother Robert James was a professed member of the Brotherhood of Saint Gregory since 2000. He was also an active member of the Church of Saint Mark in Philadelphia. Please keep Sylvia, Kenny, Brother Robert, their friends and family, the members of the Brotherhood of Saint Gregory, and all who mourn in your prayers.
GRANT THEM PEACE . . . September 2: 1875 Henry Coles Ward; 1891 Lester Warren Wood; 1916 Ruby Brown Flynn; 1949 Louisa Verplanck Richards.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the Lord's crucifixion.
BRAZIL DAY 2018 . . . The Annual Brazil Day will take place once again this coming Sunday, the Sunday before Labor Day, on Forty-sixth Street, in the heart of Little Brazil. Based on past experience-this is the thirty-fourth annual Brazil Day-this means that access to the church on foot at both entrances to the church for the morning Masses should be unimpeded. However, parking in the immediate neighborhood will be very difficult, if not impossible, and it is likely that by the time Coffee Hour begins celebratory noises from the street will be heard in the church. Please keep our Brazilian friends and neighbors in your prayers.
SAINT MARY'S AIDS WALK TEAM SAYS THANK YOU . . . From team leaders, MaryJane Boland and Clark Mitchell: Our team wishes to report our extraordinary success in the 2018 AIDS Walk, to thank God for his help, and to thank all the friends and parishioners who supported us. Our little team of 16 walkers ranked No. 6 of all teams walking, and we raised a total of $61,153.00 of the more than $4.4 million raised overall. Some facts and figures: 16 people were on our team; more than 270 people supported us; our supporters live in 23 states and 5 countries; and 9 of our walkers raised more than $1,000 each. This was a Saint Mary's event; we couldn't do it without you. We will walk again on the Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 19, 2019.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Monday, September 3, Labor Day, Federal Holiday Schedule; the church opens at 10:00 AM and closes at 2:00 PM. Noonday Prayer at 12:00 PM and Mass at 12:10 PM. The parish offices are closed. Only the noonday Twelve-step Groups meet in the Mission House . . . Friday, September 7, The Eve of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Friday, September 7, 7:00 PM, Centering Prayer Group, Atrium, Parish Hall, Second Floor . . . Saturday, September 8, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Mass 12:10 PM.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Sister Laura Katharine, C.S.J.B., and Sister Monica Clare, C.S.J.B., were with us at the Solemn Mass on August 26 for the last time as our "resident sisters." After a flurry of last-minute packing, tying up of loose ends, and giving of instructions to the servers, the staff, and the clergy, the sisters returned this week to their convent in Mendham, New Jersey. The past few days have been strange: Father Gerth and Father Smith keep looking for the good sisters to tell them something or to ask them a question only to discover that they really are gone. We are clearly missing them. We hope to see the sisters again soon, either here at the parish or in Mendham. Please keep them in your prayers . . . Pledge to keep up with your pledge! During the summer months we sometimes experience cash-flow problems as many friends and members of the parish are away, taking much-needed vacations. We are grateful to all those who continue to support the mission and witness of this parish . . . It has been wonderful having parishioner Rami Eskelin with us during these summer months. He has served at the altar on Sunday mornings and on Wednesdays at noon and has turned out to be a very fine thurifer. This coming Sunday will be his last Sunday with us for a while. He returns next week to Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts, for his second year. Please keep him in your prayers . . . Father Stephen Gerth will be away from the office on vacation through Wednesday, September 5. He returns to the office on Thursday, September 6 . . . We are very grateful to our assistant, Father Jim Pace, and to our assisting priests, Father Park Bodie and Father Matthew Jacobson, who are all helping out during Father Gerth's time away . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 122.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . Mark Risinger, bass and member of the Choir of Saint Mary's, is the cantor at the Solemn Mass on Sunday morning. During the ministration of Communion, he will sing "God, Who Stretched the Spangled Heavens" by David Hurd,organist and music director at Saint Mary's. Catherine Arnott Cameron (b. 1927) is the author of the poem. She was a professor of social psychology at the University of La Verne, California, from 1971–1992. Dr. Cameron is quoted, "As a child and teenager with a gift for writing poetry, I was troubled by the mismatch between words and music in some of the hymns sung in our church. I thought that one day I might write a hymn that was a harmony of poetry and music." The present hymn text, she says, "was written over a period of several months at a time when I was experiencing a new sense of direction, growth and creativity in my life." It has been included in many hymnals since its 1969 debut including The Hymnal 1982 (580). The Southern Harmony tune Holy Manna is commonly paired with these words. Oddly, given Dr. Cameron's concern for tune and text to match, the rural simplicity of this Southern Harmony tune may seem to be at odds with the bracing call to the future which characterizes the poem. In 1980, the present musical setting was commissioned from Dr. Hurd by Saint Andrew's Church, Louisville, Kentucky, in honor of the Reverend Frank Q. Cayce, rector. This musical setting brings a rhythmic, harmonic, and textural edge which seeks to satisfy Dr. Cameron's hope of achieving harmony of poetry and music.
The organ voluntaries represent two generations of nineteenth-century French organ composers. The Prelude is the second of three movements from the second Organ Sonata of Alexandre Guilmant (1837–1911). Guilmant became organist of Saint Sulpice, Paris, in 1863, Notre Dame in 1868, and La Trinité in 1871, where he remained for thirty years. He was a founder of the Schola Cantorum and succeeded Widor as professor of organ at the Paris Conservatory in 1896. Having studied with Lemmens, his students included such legendary musicians as Joseph Bonnet, Nadia Boulanger, and Marcel Dupré. He was a prolific composer having written more organ music between 1861 and 1911 than Franck, Saint-Saëns, Widor, and Vierne together. While his compositions were the vogue of his time, they were less frequently played after his death. In recent years, however, the renewed interest in Romantic organ repertoire has stimulated a fresh look at the works of Guilmant. Eight multi-movement Sonatas,composed between 1874 and 1906, figure prominently among Guilmant's organ compositions. The second movement of his second Sonata is gentle, lyric, and succinct.
The postlude is by the slightly earlier Abraham Louis Niedermeyer (1802–1861). While Neidermeyer was born in Nyon, Switzerland, and studied in Vienna, Rome, and Naples, he settled in Paris at age twenty-one and lived out his career there. He was a friend and collaborator with Gioachino Rossini (1792–1868) in several opera productions. Rossini was the far more successful opera composer, but Niedermeyer made significant contributions to church music as a composer and educator. In 1853, he re-organized and re-opened the École Choron, named for the French opera director and musicologist Alexandre-Etienne Choron who had died in 1834. This school was eventually renamed École Niedermeyer, and was known as a school for the study and practice of church music. Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924) is one of the school's many distinguished former students. Niedermeyer's Prelude in A minor utilizes a recurring pattern played on the pedals which, in turn, punctuates each change of the harmony played by the hands. —David Hurd
SAVE THE DATES! . . . Members of the staff often remark that one never knows what's going to happen if you take a walk through the church. Chris Howatt, office manager and member of the Saint Mary's Choir, was making his rounds on Tuesday afternoon, when a woman named Sasha Spielvogel stopped him, introduced herself to him, and told him that she had interviewed parishioner Dick Leitsch, shortly before his death earlier this year. Ms. Spielvogel is the artistic director of the Labyrinth Dance Theater and is creating a dance piece entitled Come Back Once More So I Can Say Goodbye: Passion, Struggle, Loss and Freedom—Gay Life in New York City 1965-1995. The piece will be presented June 14–17, 2019, at the Ailey Citicorp Theater/The Joan Weill Center for Dance, 405 West Fifty-fifth Street at Ninth Avenue. Ms. Spielvogel says she loved meeting and interviewing Dick and hopes that many Saint Marians will be able to see the piece next year.
ALTAR-FLOWER DONATION OPPORTUNITIES . . . The following Sundays have not been covered by donations: October 14; November 11, 18, and 25; the patronal feast, celebrated this year on Friday, December 7, and on Saturday, December 8; and Sunday, January 6, the Epiphany. We are also happy to receive donations for Christmas flowers and decorations. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the Parish Office.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Donations and volunteers are needed for our next Drop-in Day on Wednesday, September 26, and for the many requests for assistance between Drop-in Days. We are in particular need of basic items such as the following: packs of new underwear in various sizes for both men and women; slacks for both men and women, including jeans, chinos, khakis, etc.; packs of new socks, white and black; rainwear; knapsacks; and toiletry articles. Please contact Father Jay Smith if you would like to volunteer for this important ministry or if you would like to make a donation . . . We continue to receive nonperishable food items for our outreach partner, Saint Clement's Food Pantry. Please place those items in the basket near the ushers' table at the Forty-sixth Street entrance to the church.
LOOKING AHEAD . . . Friday, September 14, Holy Cross Day, Morning Prayer 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Mass 12:10 PM,Sung Mass 6:00 PM. . . Friday, September 21, Saint Matthew, Apostle & Evangelist, Morning Prayer 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Mass 12:10 PM,Holy Baptism and Mass 6:00 PM . . . Friday, September 28, Eve of Saint Michael and All Angels, Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Saturday, September 29, Saint Michael and All Angels, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Mass 12:10 PM . . . Thursday, October 4, Saint Francis of Assisi, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM.
AT THE GALLERIES . . . At the New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West at 77th Street, "Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow," September 7, 2018–March 3, 2019. From the museum's website, "This exhibition explores the struggle for full citizenship and racial equality that unfolded in the fifty years after the Civil War. When slavery ended in 1865, a period of Reconstruction began, leading to such achievements as the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. By 1868, all persons born in the United States were citizens and equal under the law. But efforts to create an interracial democracy were contested from the start. A harsh backlash ensued, ushering in a half century of the "separate but equal" age of Jim Crow. Opening to mark the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, the exhibition is organized chronologically from the end of the Civil War to the end of World War I and highlights the central role played by African Americans in advocating for their rights. It also examines the depth and breadth of opposition to black advancement."