FROM THE RECTOR: MARRIAGE IN THE CHURCH
As I write, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church is meeting in Indianapolis. It will surely make headlines, one way or another, because the convention is going to vote on whether to authorize a service for “Blessing Same Gender Relationships.” (The entire report from the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music is available in the convention’s Blue Book.) If press reports are to be believed, the service will be authorized for use, but I don’t think its adoption will solve anything. Its passage will create disaffection among those who oppose same-sex relationships; it will be disheartening to those who believe in marriage equality.
I suspect many people would be surprised to know that the church hasn’t always been in the marriage business. There was continuing resistance to the medieval church when it began to try to insist on public marriage. Private marriage, that is, the free consent of a man and a woman to be married, was all that had been required in the west since Roman times and before. The church’s involvement gained acceptance for two practical, pastoral reasons. Public marriage made sure that men couldn’t back out when a child was on the way and that people who didn’t know they were too closely related by blood would be blocked by their community from marrying—the origin of reading of the banns of marriage.
In England, it wasn’t until 1754 that there was a Public Marriage Act, in effect forbidding private marriage. By that time, private marriage was already widespread in the American colonies. We know it today as “common law marriage.” It arrived with the first Virginians in 1607. It remains legal in many states today. It’s worth noting that a common law marriage, contracted in a state where it is legal, is generally recognized by states which do not permit such marriages.
The Blue Book report grounds its proposals for blessing relationships in our theology of baptism. With respect, if it were really about baptism, their report would not be so complicated. Where and when these new rites, if authorized by convention, can be used is a big variable. Not only do state laws about marriage and civil unions influence what may be done, but every bishop will have discretion about whether any of the rites, or portions thereof, can be used in a diocese.
To be fair to the Standing Liturgical Commission on Liturgy and Music, and to the contributors that undertook this project at the request of the 2009 General Convention, the report reflects a lot of hard, difficult work. However, the real issue three years ago was, and remains, marriage equality. I don’t think it is going to go away.
When Ronald Reagan first ran for the Republican nomination in 1976, I remember thinking he wouldn’t get very far—he was divorced and remarried. Well, marriage was changing in the 1970s, as it has many times through history. Father David Wood, Grace Church, Joondalup, Perth, Australia—who preached here at Father Wells’ anniversary Mass in 2010—wrote recently to his parish:
Leaf through the Hebrew scriptures and you will find multiple wives, or visit Africa where many Muslim and some Christian communities still practice polygamy today. Besides, until fairly recently marriage as an institution had more to do with property and breeding than with life-long companionship. The truth is that legislating for same-sex marriage is not about dabbling in social engineering so much as catching up with the latest evolution of marriage, as de facto same-sex relationships spring up across western societies. The real question people of faith need to be asking themselves is: ‘Do we really want anything less than marriage for all the loving couples we know?’ (June 24, 2012)
In our state, same-sex couples can get married. At present, that’s not permitted by the Episcopal Church. Bishop Sisk, who supported legal marriage equality in New York, will permit parish priests to bless a marriage that is civilly performed by someone other than a member of the clergy. The new rites that are proposed for adoption will not change that. My strong sense is that “marriage” is the word that most, but not all, members of the parish will expect to hear in this church when any couple stands before this altar—and sooner rather than later.
Saint Paul wrote, “Pursue the things that make for peace, and build up the common life” (Romans 14:19, New English Bible). I think we should aim for Paul’s words to mark our common life. I believe you and I are called to witness to what we believe is true. God’s kingdom continues to unfold. He’s not absent from the journey. He’s very much with us, looking in his own way for all his sheep to come into his fold. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Mary, Robert, Nicholas, Linda, Casey, Angeline, George, Ben, Anna, Jeanne, Wayne, Barbara, Joseph, Jan, James, Gail, Helen, Arpene, Joyce, Betty, Sharon, Chandra, Dorothy, and James, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Elizabeth, Nicholas, and Matthew, and for the repose of the souls of Milagros Perez, Robert Pierce, and Louis Vargas . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . July 8: 1881 Tolford MacKenzie; 1895 Frances Lewis; 1896 George Washington Cripps; 1904 M. Perlach; 1922 Mildred Krause; 1932 Annie Long.
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 . . . Father Jay Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, July 7. Father Stephen Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, July 14.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . During the summer months we often experience cash-flow problems here at Saint Mary’s. Bills continue to arrive in the mail, summer or not! We thank you for your generosity . . . Donations are needed for altar flowers for the following Sundays: July 15, 22, and 29; and for August 5, August 15, and August 19. If you would like to donate flowers on one of those dates, please contact the parish office . . . Father Jay Smith will be on vacation and away from the parish between Monday, July 9, and Sunday, August 5. He returns to the office on Monday, August 6 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 183.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . Guadalupe Peraza, mezzo soprano, is the cantor for the Solemn Mass on Sunday. The prelude is the chorale improvisation on O Gott, du frommer Gott, Op. 65/50, and the postlude is Nun danket alle Gott, Op. 65/69 (Marche triomphale), both composed by Sigfrid Karg–Elert (1877–1933). At the ministration of Communion, she and I will sing the motet Tota pulchra es by Giovanni Felice Sances (c. 1600–1679). Sances was born in Italy and studied in Rome. As a tenor, he sang for several opera productions, before moving to Vienna in 1636. In 1669, he became Kapellmeister to Ferdinand III and composed and performed operas, chamber and sacred music. Tota pulchra es is scored for alto and tenor voices and basso continuo (today played on the organ). It is a lively, virtuosic setting alternating between two time signatures—one in three (a reference to the Virgin Mary and the Holy Trinity), and the other in four, and is composed in a manner similar to that of Monteverdi. James Kennerley
SAINT MARY’S IN CENTRAL PARK . . . Parishioner Grace Bruni is leading an expedition of Saint Marians to Central Park to picnic in style and to hear the New York Philharmonic on the Great Lawn on Friday, July 13, and on Monday, July 16. These free concerts, which begin at 8:00 PM, feature works of Tchaikovsky and Respighi (July 13) and Lyadov, Tchaikovsky, and Brahms (July 16). You can meet Grace in the Park in the late afternoon or travel uptown to the Park after Evening Prayer here at Saint Mary’s. For more information, or to get a cell-phone number so you can locate the Saint Mary’s group on the day of the concert, please contact Grace via e-mail.
SAINT MARY’S WOMEN’S GROUP . . . Please join the members of the Saint Mary’s Women’s Group on Wednesday, July 11, for a visit to the Rubin Museum to see the current exhibit, "Illuminated: the Art of Sacred Books" and, afterwards, for a visit to the High Line park for those who care for a stroll. The group will gather at 6:00 PM in front of the museum, at 150 West 17th Street (between Sixth and Seventh Avenues). All women of the church are cordially invited to attend. Please feel free to bring a spouse, friend, or child, if he or she is interested! Email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the church office to RSVP. We need your reservation for this event by Monday, July 9.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Major Feasts in July: Monday, July 23, Saint Mary Magdalene; Wednesday, July 25, Saint James the Apostle . . . Major Feasts in August: Monday, August 6, The Transfiguration of Our Lord; Wednesday, August 15, The Assumption of Mary; Friday, August 24, Saint Bartholomew the Apostle.
HOSPITALITY AT SAINT MARY’S . . . If you would like to make a donation to help cover the costs of the reception on August 15, please contact the parish office. We are also happy to receive donations to support our hospitality efforts on Sunday morning!
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We continue to collect non-perishable food items for the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Please consider making a regular donation to the Food Pantry. Look for the basket in the back of the church or in Saint Joseph’s Hall. You may make a cash donation as well. If you would like more information about how the Food Pantry works or if you would like to volunteer, please contact Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B., or Father Jay Smith . . . We recently updated and printed a new edition of our brochure, “Resources and Assistance for Those in Need.” (Thank you, Deacon Mary Jett, for revising and re-designing the brochure!) Look for copies on the ushers’ table and in the sacristy. Note that we caught one error in the brochure after it was printed: The hours of the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry are as follows, All Fridays except the first Friday of the month, 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.; and all Saturdays except the first Saturday of the month, 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. The Food Pantry is not open on Mondays.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Bill W.: A documentary film about the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, at the Quad Cinema, 34 West 13th Street, 212.255.2243, www.quadcinema.com. Visit the theater website or call ahead to make sure that the movie is still playing at the Quad, since the schedule changes week to week, apparently without a great deal of advance notice.