FROM THE RECTOR: TAKING RESPONSIBILITY
As I headed out to a routine medical appointment the other day, I grabbed a volume of writings by the late Edwin Friedman, The Myth of the Shiksa and Other Essays (2008). Ed died in 1996. He was a gifted thinker and teacher. He continues to be influential with congregational ministers and rabbis through his writing. He used to like to quip that he had worked in all three professions that are concerned with “saving” people: religion, government and therapy.
As I waited for my appointment, I began to read the first piece in the collection, “An Interview with the First Family Counselor.” The counselor turns out to be Satan. Ed is the interviewer. The first family is a couple, Adam and Eve. The essay is a wonderful read, especially because the subject matter is so serious without being handled in a serious way.
It’s about human relationships and, not surprisingly, about salvation—an interesting word for a rabbi to use in a conversation with Satan. Ed was all about looking forward, about getting to the future. One can’t change the past. Satan tells us what he knows about salvation and how the future can be different. It’s something he tries constantly to sabotage. What can actually change the future? People learning to take responsibility for themselves—and not attempting to fix others—changes what is possible. Satan discloses this was part of the plan of the Creator, the Holy One.
Storytelling enables people to say things in imaginative ways. More importantly, stories often enable people to hear things imaginatively—and to act on them.
A lawyer once asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus didn’t answer directly. He told the lawyer a story about a man beaten up by robbers and left for dead. Then Jesus asked the lawyer, “Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” Saint Luke does not tell us what direction the lawyer’s life took after his conversation with Jesus (Luke 10:25-37). I don’t think he learned anything from Jesus’ story that he did not already know. But Jesus may have opened a door, as it were, for the lawyer to choose to act in a new way—despite whatever rules he or his religion had imposed on him in the past, despite whatever moral failings he possessed. Jesus left his future up to him.
Two other volumes by Ed have been published since his death—and I think it is not insignificant that all three of them have been published by the Episcopal Church’s publishing group, Church Publishing. The other two are A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix (2007) and What Are You Going to Do With Your Life: Unpublished Writings and Diaries (2009).
The latter volume takes its title from a baccalaureate address Ed gave to the graduating class of Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring, Maryland, in 1960. In that year, he was still a congregational rabbi, had not taken a political appointment in the Johnson White House, or become a family therapist. But in reading the address you can see the outline of where his own life would take him. The great Italian educator Maria Montessori (1870–1952) wrote about the “inner teacher” each person has that leads him or her to learn. I think it’s fair to say a Christian knows this “inner teacher” as the Holy Spirit.
In “An Interview with the First Family Counselor,” Satan tells us that he spends a lot of his energy trying to trick humanity into believing it can be “all-knowing, all-powerful, or live eternally” (page 11). This keeps humans from growing, from becoming more responsible for themselves and their lives.
I know I became an Episcopalian for many reasons—serendipity as significant as any I could name. Our church has been a community that has offered rich opportunities for growth, for becoming like a “scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven . . . who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old” (Matthew 13:52). To borrow a phrase from Rabbi Friedman, “What are you and I going to do with the rest of our lives?” Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Jian Guo, Don, Mark, Demetrio, Laurence, Mary, Richard, Joseph, Harriet, Arielle, Betty, Beneb, Carol, Sharon, Linda, and Arpene; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Elizabeth, Nicholas, and Matthew . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . October 14: 1915 Margaret Farson; 1928 Lemuel Torrens; 1929 Wallace Clark Brackett; 1976 Harriet O’Brien.
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 . . . Oktoberfest & Hymn Sing, Saturday, October 13, 6:00-9:00 PM, Saint Joseph’s Hall and choir loft. If you arrive after 6:00 PM, enter at 145 West 45th Street. Dinner is potluck, but if you don’t have access to cooking facilities or are hopeless in the kitchen, come anyway and feel free to bring a friend! All are welcome . . . The Board of Trustees will meet on Monday, October 15, at 6:30 PM . . . Wednesday Night Bible Study begins October 17 at 6:30 PM, on the second floor of the Mission House, immediately following Evening Prayer . . . Thursday, October 18: Saint Luke the Evangelist: Mass will be celebrated at 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Father Stephen Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, October 13; Father Jay Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, October 20. 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.
LOOKING AHEAD . . . All Saints’ Day is Thursday, November 1. Solemn Evensong will be offered on Wednesday, October 31, at 6:00 PM. The music includes Short Service by Orlando Gibbons (1583–1625) and O Quam gloriosam by Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548–1611). The celebrant and preacher for the Solemn Mass at 6:00 PM on All Saints’ Day will be the Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold, XXV Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church . . . All Souls’ Day is Friday, November 2. Solemn Mass will be at 6:00 PM. Full details about the service schedule for these days and the choral music can be found on the parish webpage.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . If you are interested in being confirmed or received as a member of the Episcopal Church, please speak to Father Gerth or Father Smith. We will be confirming and receiving candidates on All Saint’s Day, Thursday, November 1 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 206.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . Asperges me this Sunday is sung to a setting by Michael Haydn (1737–1806). We generally sing the plainsong setting of the Asperges, but, from time to time, use concerted settings of the text, which creates a unified musical bridge between the entrance rite and the Song of Praise. The setting of the Mass ordinary is Mozart’s Missa brevis D–dur, KV 194, composed in 1774. Although accompanied today on the organ, Mozart’s Masses were performed with orchestra: this Mass has parts for two violins, bass, organ and three trombones (doubling the lower voice parts), which is a typical scoring for his Masses (in this period, music usually included a viola part). The music is simple and brief, as implied by its title (“brief Mass”). These features were a direct response to the strict rules set out by Archbishop Colloredo, Mozart’s benefactor at the time. At the ministration of Communion, the choir sings the motet Ave verum corpus, KV 618, also by Mozart. Despite its unassuming, almost childlike simplicity, this work, written in June 1791, was one of the last that Mozart would compose (he died six months later) . . . Benjamin Sheen, a student at the Juilliard School, will play the organ recital on Sunday at 4:40 PM . . . James Kennerley
ADULT EDUCATION . . . 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. No prior experience or preparation are required. The autumn schedule for our adult-education offerings has now been posted on our website . . . Sunday, October 14, 21, 28: Father Jim Pace will draw on his pastoral, theological, and medical knowledge and experience as he leads the class in a discussion of three Prayer Book rites, the Reconciliation of a Penitent, Ministration to the Sick, and Ministration at the Time of Death.
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN . . . The Stewardship Committee is making plans to mail its annual appeal letter at the end of October. Commitment Sunday is November 25, the Last Sunday after Pentecost. For more information, please contact MaryJane Boland. Please pray for the success of the campaign. We are grateful to all those who give so generously to support the mission of the parish.
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.
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.
THE VISUAL ARTS PROGRAM (VAP) . . . The Kickstarter fundraising effort in support of Erick Sánchez’s Genesis series of paintings has been successful! We reached our goal, which means that the funds can now be released to Erick to help defray the costs of supplies, moving, and transportation. The Genesis exhibit opens in Saint Joseph’s Hall on All Saints’ Day, Thursday, November 1, at the reception following the Solemn Mass. Thank you so much to all those who have supported this project so enthusiastically. Your generosity has been inspiring and is much appreciated. José Vidal
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At the Museum of Biblical Art, 1865 Broadway at 61st Street, Louis C. Tiffany & 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. . . Friday, October 26, 6:00 PM, “Sweet Dreams: A Documentary Film about Women Healing Rwanda,” will be shown at the General Theological Seminary. Its presentation is co-sponsored by the Society of Saint Blandina at General Theological Seminary and Anglican Women's Empowerment. Details and tickets available online here.