FROM THE RECTOR: WHAT WAS I THINKING
Thirty years ago I was preparing to be ordained deacon on Saturday, June 11, at the Cathedral of Saint James, Chicago. I had graduated from Nashotah House Seminary a few weeks before. I was getting ready to move to Dallas to begin work at the Church of the Incarnation on Monday, June 27. Over the past few days I’ve been trying to recollect what I was thinking in those days about what my life would be like—and I’ve been chatting about this with Father Jay Smith who was ordained deacon at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine on June 10, 1989.
One thing I remember clearly: I was worried about whether the bishop would ordain me. No one has a right to be ordained. If the bishop decides at the last minute not to ordain someone, the bishop doesn’t have to do it. I know I’m not the only person who has worried about this—and once ordained deacon, one could then begin to worry about whether one would be ordained priest.
Another thing: I wasn’t thinking too far into the future. I was 29 years old and had been in school since I was five. I was ready to be out. It didn’t matter that I had no special training for working with youth—my major responsibility in my first job. Those were the days when many parishes were able to be places for younger, newly ordained members of the clergy, in a real sense, “to apprentice.”
My dad was pleased that the clergy of the church had pensions and health insurance. My mother was proud and she surprised me by being a little sad. She told me she had seen how hard the life of the clergy could be from time to time. That said, she never thought I had chosen the wrong life—or it had chosen me.
I remain thankful for all the four jobs I have had since ordination. It was not easy to start out as an assistant priest in a parish as large as Incarnation, Dallas, but I learned so much being the only junior colleague to four priests who were all much more senior than I was. A large part of the rector’s job there was administration. I had no idea that would be so much of my ministry in the years ahead—and I think I have been a better rector because of the experience in working in that very large parish.
After two years in Dallas, I had a call from Charles Jenkins, who had just started work as rector of Saint Luke’s Church in Baton Rouge. For over three years I served as his curate. John Senette, a priest senior to both of us, came on board shortly after me. All of us were graduates of Nashotah House Seminary. I loved my colleagues, the congregation, and Baton Rouge. John went on to become dean of Christ Church Cathedral, New Orleans. Charles became the tenth bishop of Louisiana. When the time was right, they encouraged me and helped me to find a job as rector.
In December 1988, I was called to Trinity Church, Michigan City, Indiana. While there I began working in two areas that continue to shape my life, Bowen Family Systems Theory and the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Trinity was a small, but serious and welcoming Anglo-Catholic parish. It was there I learned that I was the priest of the congregation because I was first the pastor of the congregation—and not the other way around.
The bishop who sent me to seminary, James Montgomery, retired in 1998. In 1979, he was bishop of Chicago and encouraged the trustees of this parish to consider a priest who was serving in his diocese to be the eighth rector—and that would be my predecessor, Edgar Wells. After being called to Saint Mary’s, I learned the chairman of the Search Committee, Linda Bridges, had gotten my name from Bishop Montgomery.
I will be away on my ordination anniversary this year. I continue to be thankful for the trust placed in me as rector of this parish. I remain excited about the future of the Episcopal Church and of this parish, as excited as I was on that very hot and humid day in Saint James’s Cathedral when the bishop asked me if I believed I was called to this life and work, and I replied, with the words of the Prayer Book, “I believe I am so called.” Stephen Gerth
STAFF NOTE . . . Saint Mary’s said goodbye to James Kennerley as organist and music director at a special reception following the Solemn Mass on Corpus Christi. James has accepted a position at the Church of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, New York City, and will enter the master’s program in historical-music performance at The Juilliard School in the fall. He goes with our very best wishes . . . I’m very pleased to announce that parishioner Mark Peterson has accepted the position of interim organist and music director. Mark began his music career as organist of Trinity Lutheran Church in his hometown of Sioux City, Iowa, at the age of sixteen. He held posts during his college years, and became assistant organist and director of youth choirs at the Cathedral Church of Saint Mark, Minneapolis, Minnesota, upon graduation. He came to New York in 1995 to be assistant organist and the music department administrator at Trinity Church, Wall Street. He has served at the Church of St. James the Less, in Scarsdale; Saint Bartholomew’s Church, White Plains; and finally, Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims, Brooklyn Heights, New York. From 2003 through 2009 he was the director of music and organist at Saint Paul’s Church, Carroll Gardens, a historic Anglo-Catholic parish in Brooklyn. Educated at Iowa State University and Saint Olaf College, Mark did graduate work at Cambridge University. Mark is a composer and contributor to the Episcopal hymnal supplement, Wonder, Love and Praise, and also a carillonneur, and choral clinician. He has been active in the leadership of the New York City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Donn, Dana, Guy, Finnegan, Peter, Pamela, Henrietta, Sean, Denise, Casey, Tyler, John, Kelli, Nancy, Eloise, Sharon, Linda, Christopher, Jane, Diana, Dolores, Eileen, Arpene, Lura Grace, religious, Paulette, priest, Rowan, priest and Thomas, bishop; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Marc, John, Elizabeth, Daniel, and Nicholas; and for the repose of the soul of Wayne Eley . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . June 9: 1917 Gardner Van Reed; 1939 Louise Unsold; 1952 Roy Whitson Lay.
FRIDAY ABSTINENCE . . . 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 . . . Byrd Ensemble, Concert, Saturday, June 8, 8 PM . . . Tuesday, June 11, Saint Barnabas, Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, June 8, by Mother Mary Julia Jett, and on Saturday, June 15, by Father Jim Pace.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . Music at Solemn Mass on Sunday revolves around some of the brilliant works of the German composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847). In his short life, Mendelssohn wrote an amazing array of works in nearly every musical form and for virtually all instruments and ensembles, but often returned to the organ as both composer and performer. While undoubtedly influenced by the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Mendelssohn managed to utilize the older forms (like the badly neglected Prelude and Fugue) while instilling them with his own personal innovation and graceful drive. The Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in G, Opus 37, which we hear as the prelude on Sunday, is a prime example of his mastery of earlier forms. A devout Protestant, Mendelssohn grieved the loss of music as an integral part of the liturgy as was exemplified by the traditional Lutheran service, and even wrote that within the “Church of the Word” (a nineteenth-century development), “… there seems little possibility for true church music, and I do not see at which points in the service there should be music.” In the face of this frustration, Mendelssohn chose to write primarily concert music. The aria heard during Communion today is from the well-known oratorio, Elijah, a work which owes it inspiration to the Passions of Bach. It is gratifying to hear and to be able to present these marvelous works within the liturgical framework that is Saint Mary’s. Mark Peterson
AROUND THE PARISH . . . In early May, former parishioner and faithful acolyte, Sean Cassidy, was admitted to Saint Clare’s Hospital, Boonton, New Jersey, for treatment. He is now at home receiving treatment on an outpatient basis. Please keep him in your prayers . . . Father Jay Smith celebrates the twenty-fourth anniversary of his ordination to the diaconate on Monday, June 10. Please keep him in your prayers . . . The New York Philharmonic’s Concerts in Central Park will take place this year on Saturday, July 13, and Monday, July 15. As in past years, a number of Saint Marians are planning to attend. For more information, you may contact parishioner Grace Bruni . . . The exhibition Devoción, works and photographs by Máximo Cólon, continues in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . We encourage our members and friends who have made a pledge for 2013 to try, if at all possible, to keep up with their pledge payments during the summer months, a time when we sometimes experience cash-flow problems. We are grateful to all those who have pledged for 2013 and to all those who continue to support the parish so generously. . . We hope to receive donations for altar flowers for the Sundays in July and for several Sundays in August. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office. If you would like to sponsor the reception on August 15, please contact Father Smith or Aaron Koch . . . The Rector will be away from the parish on vacation from Friday, June 7, through Friday, June 14 . . . Attendance: Corpus Christi 254.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Electronic versions of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger’s Guide to Free Food and Assistance are available here . . . We continue to gather non-perishable food items for Saint Clement’s Pantry. Please contact Sister Deborah Francis for more information about the Pantry’s work . . . Information about disaster relief in the aftermath of the tornadoes in Oklahoma is available on the website of the Diocese of Oklahoma. Information about donating to Episcopal Relief and Development for disaster relief is available here. Red Cross Disaster Relief information is also available here.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At the Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA): “As Subject and Object: Contemporary Book Artists Explore Sacred Hebrew Texts,” June 14–September 29, 2013 (the Museum is currently closed for installation). MOBIA is located at 1865 Broadway at 61st Street . . . At the Morgan Library and Museum: “Illuminating Faith: The Eucharist in Medieval Life and Art,” May 17–September 2, 2013. From the Morgan website, “Featuring more than sixty-five exquisitely illuminated manuscripts, Illuminating Faith offers glimpses into medieval culture, and explores the ways in which artists of the [medieval] period depicted the celebration of the sacrament and its powerful hold on society. The exhibition presents some of the Morgan’s finest works, including the Hours of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, one of the greatest of all Books of Hours; the exquisite Preparation for Mass of Pope Leo X, which remained at the Vatican until it was looted by Napoleon's troops in 1798; a private prayer book commissioned by Anne de Bretagne, queen of France, for her son the dauphin, Charles-Orland; and a number of rarely-exhibited Missals. Also on display will be objects used in medieval Eucharistic rituals, such as a chalice, ciborium, pax, altar card, and monstrances.” The Morgan is located at 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street.