FROM THE RECTOR: WHAT WE BELIEVE AND DO
The Episcopal Church’s webpage has just won an award for its new design. With respect, I don’t think the new design is entirely successful. I’m not sure what to make of the page’s black background and fuzzy photographs—not to mention why I would want to respond to the invitation, prominent in the middle of the page, to “Customize your stained glass.”
In the section called “What We Believe,” there is no simple statement of what we Episcopalians believe, only a list of additional links to many documents. The link to the Prayer Book doesn’t take you anywhere except to videos that don’t open on my computer. The Episcopal Church itself does not put our Prayer Book on its website—though you can find a link to an almost complete online edition maintained by someone else in some places on the site. I find this omission of our Prayer Book strange.
The first thing listed in the section labeled “What We Do” is “Public Policy,” the second, “Young Adult Service Corps.” How many of us Episcopalians actually do these things? How many of us even know these are the things our church does? I note worship is not listed under “What We Do.”
How does one evaluate any church webpage? Many years ago I found myself on a website for a Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church somewhere. And I say somewhere because there was no street address, no name of a town, and no service times listed. At the top of my list of things I want a webpage to do is to answer these two questions right away: “When are the Sunday Services?” and “How do I get there?” I am a regular churchgoer—not to mention being a rector of a church. Question: what else should we be putting on Saint Mary’s webpage, front and center?
I’m a great fan of the tag line found on most Episcopal Church signs, “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You.” That is really true of our congregation. The range of people who come here simply to visit this extraordinary space or to join us in worship reflects the diversity of the human family in wonderful ways. Our open doors and the welcome laity and clergy give are all key to this witness and presence. Our building certainly reads “Christian” and it says, “Welcome.” It’s a warm building and, to use T.S. Eliot’s phrase, “a place where prayer has been valid” (The Complete Poems and Plays: 1909-1950  139).
For many years on our home page, under the photograph rotation in the upper right hand corner (which Deacon Mary Jett is updating!) has been this statement: Saint Mary's was founded in 1868 with two great purposes. It was to be the parish church for the neighborhood - then called Longacre Square, here in midtown Manhattan; and the parish was founded to be a witness to catholic Christian tradition within the Episcopal Church. We remain committed to catholic Christian witness as we seek to embody and extend the love God has shown for us in Jesus Christ. Our members and friends now live both near and far from Times Square. Please join us.
It’s time for new wording. First, I think it needs a welcome for those the Holy Spirit may be trying to bring, not to us, but to faith. The historic questions for adults being enrolled for baptism begin, “What do you ask of God’s Church?” “Faith.” What does faith offer you?” “Eternal life.”
The founding rector, Thomas McKee Brown, wrote of the importance of our parish being “free,” that is, one could enter for worship without paying a subscription for a pew—“pew rent” being the common way in which Episcopal parishes were financed well into the twentieth century. He also wrote that Saint Mary’s was founded for the renewal of congregational worship, in his words, “restoring to its proper place and importance the Worship of God—the rendering Adoration to Him as a Congregational and ceremonial act” (Newbury Frost Read, The Story of St. Mary’s  16, 17). I think it is almost impossible to sit through a service in this parish without being drawn into participation in some way.
Webpages do not make a church, but like newspapers and books in other times, a webpage can be a real help in letting others know who we are and what we are about. Daily, God is worshiped in this church. Daily, the Scriptures are read and psalms are prayed. Hymns are sung. Sermons are preached. Confessions are heard. Outreach ministries supported. Christian education is offered. Pastoral care is offered. Relationships among members of Christ’s Body are built up. Most of all, God works among us to bring us into a saving relationship with him and with each other.
We believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Our great work is to worship him and to follow him in whatever way he calls us to serve. If I may speak on behalf of our parish, this is what we believe and what we do. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Joseph, Harriet, Arielle, Sylvia, Lillian, André, Marie, Sal, Mattie, Sharon, Linda, Phillip, Ben, Janet, Rita, Janice, Casey, Angeline, George, Anna, Joseph, Barbara, Arpene, Joyce, and William, religious; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Elizabeth, Nicholas, and Matthew; and for the repose of the soul of LeRoy Daniels . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . September 23: 1874 Margaret Miller; 1938 Harris Dobb Baker.
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, Friday abstinence is not observed following the celebration of Mass on the Eve of Saint Michael and All Angels.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Friday, September 28: The Eve of Saint Michael and All Angels. Said Mass 12:10 PM, Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Father Jay Smith will hear confessions on September 22 and September 29. If you do not see a priest in the church at the appointed times for confession, please speak to the sexton on duty and he will call the priest on duty; or you may call the parish office ahead of time to make an appointment.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . The Right Reverend C. Franklin Brookhart, Jr., bishop of Montana, will ordain the Reverend Mary Julia Jett to the priesthood on Wednesday, October 3, at 6:00 PM. The Reverend Canon John G. B. Andrew, rector emeritus, Saint Thomas Church, New York City, will preach. A reception will follow in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . If you are thinking about volunteering to work with the children in the Church School here at Saint Mary’s, this might be the right time for you to take the workshop “Safeguarding God’s Children,” required by the Diocese of New York. The next workshop will take place on Wednesday, October 17, 2012, in Donegan Hall in Diocesan House on the close of the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. Please contact Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins or Father Smith for more information . . . Attendance: Holy Cross Day 86; Last Sunday 176.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The organist is Benjamin Sheen, who plays while James Kennerley is on vacation. Ben is a former organ scholar at Christ Church, Oxford University. He is now a student at The Juilliard School, and has accompanied the parish choir on several occasions this year. The prelude is Berceuse à la memoire de Louis Vierne by Pierre Cochereau (1924–1984). The cantor is Ruth Cunningham, soprano. At the ministration of Communion, Ruth sings the motet O virga mediatrix by Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179). The text is the Alleluia for Masses of the Feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Hildegard was a German abbess, author, composer, and philosopher. Between seventy and eighty of Hildegard’s compositions survive, including a collection entitled Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum (“Symphony of the Harmony of Celestial Revelations”), many of which are dedicated to the Virgin Mary. James Kennerley
PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . On October 7, the Sunday fall, winter and spring schedule returns: Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 & 10:00 AM, Church School 9:45 AM, Adult Education 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM (choir returns), Evensong and Benediction 5:00 PM . . . Monday, October 8, Columbus Day, Federal Holiday Schedule . . . Saturday, October 13, Oktoberfest, 6:00 PM-9:00 PM.
VISUAL ARTS PROGRAM (VAP) . . . On Thursday, November 1, All Saints’ Day, VAP will present a new exhibition in the gallery in Saint Joseph’s Hall, “Genesis: Paintings by Erick Sánchez.” Sánchez’s pictures are meditations on some of the biblical stories in the early chapters of the Book of Genesis and all have been created for this exhibition. VAP is seeking to support Erick in his preparations for the exhibition and hopes to assist him with the cost of supplies, crating, moving, and transportation. Saint Marians and their friends, and all those who support artists who are inspired by religious, biblical and spiritual themes, are invited to contribute to this effort by making an online donation. If you have questions, please contact José Vidal.
SMV WOMEN’S GROUP . . . Please join fellow parishioners for an outing at the Museum of Biblical Art on Thursday, October 25, 6:00-9:00 PM, for the “Louis C. Tiffany & Art of Devotion” exhibit. A fellowship dinner in the Lincoln Center area will follow. The museum is located at 1865 Broadway & 61st Street (northwest corner). For additional information please speak to Renée Pecquex or Mary Robison. If you plan to attend, please RSVP using the group’s email address.
ADULT EDUCATION, OCTOBER 2012 . . . Sunday, October 7, 10:00 AM: Dr. Dennis Raverty will introduce the class to the life and work of Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859–1937), an African-American painter who specialized in religious and biblical subjects . . . Wednesday Night Bible Study Class (October 17, 24; November 7, 14, 28; December 5, 12, 19): Father Jay Smith will lead the class in a study of the Lord’s Prayer. The class will discuss contemporary Jewish prayer forms, the text of the Prayer in the gospels, and early patristic interpretations of the Prayer, hoping to understand what the Our Father has to teach us about the act, goals, life, and discipline of prayer.
OKTOBERFEST & HYMN SING 2012 . . . Our annual Oktoberfest and Hymn Sing is on Saturday, October 13, 6:00-9:00 PM. Dinner is potluck. Please contact Grace Bruni or Father Smith if you think you might be able to bring a dish to share. Beverages will be provided. Invite a friend! All are welcome!
ALL SAINTS’ DAY HOSPITALITY . . . Donations for the reception on November 1, All Saints’ Day are needed. The Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold, XXV Presiding Bishop, will be celebrant for the Solemn Mass. Please contact the parish office. We are also happy always to receive special donations to support our hospitality efforts on Sundays! Thank you to all who have made contributions to this very important ministry!
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We are beginning now to gather toys and other gift items for children of all ages. They will be donated in November to the New York Foundling Hospital and AIDS Action International. Donations can be left, with a note on them explaining what they are for, in the parish kitchen or you may give the items to Father Jay Smith . . . We are also receiving donations of small- or medium-sized luggage to be used by children in foster care. The luggage is given to the Foundling Hospital. Please contact Father Jay Smith . . . We recently updated and printed a new edition of our brochure, “Resources and Assistance for Those in Need.” Please look for copies on the ushers’ table and in the sacristy. One useful item that we added to the latest edition of our brochure is a link to the Coalition for the Homeless website’s resource guide. The Coalition describes this digital guide as “an online version of the widely popular Coalition for the Homeless Resource Guide. In it, we provide the most comprehensive catalog of emergency services – shelter, outreach, soup kitchens, etc. – available for homeless families and individuals in New York City.”
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Sunday, October 7, 2012, 7:00 PM, “Tales from the Life of Saint Francis in Great Paintings of the Western Tradition,” a presentation by Dr. Dennis Raverty, Saint John’s Lutheran Church, 81 Christopher Street, near Sheridan Square . . . At the Museum of Biblical Art, 1865 Broadway at 61st Street, Louis C. Tiffany and the Art of Devotion, October 12, 2012-January 20, 2013. The exhibition will consider the array of church decorations and memorials that Louis C. Tiffany (1848-1933) produced beginning in the early 1880s . . . At the Rubin Museum of Art, a cultural and educational institution dedicated to the art of the Himalayas: Free Seniors Day, a special initiative to welcome older adults to the museum on the first Monday of every month, beginning October 1. Seniors (65 and older) visiting the Rubin Museum on Free Seniors Day enjoy free admission, a 10% discount on select items at the Shop and Café, and a full schedule of special programs.