FROM THE RECTOR: HOW WE SEE
Last week I went to Larchmont to have lunch with Tom Nicoll, rector of Saint John’s Church. He, Doug Fisher—now bishop of Western Massachusetts, formerly rector of Grace Church, Millbrook, and I were the three priests from our diocese attending a 2007 session of a conference sponsored by the Church Pension Fund. Until Doug’s election as bishop last June, the three of us got together for lunch three times a year—once in Larchmont, once in Millbrook and once here in the city. It turned out to be one of our responses to the “Credo Conference.” Tom and I have continued.
Before we had lunch we went to the church so I could see the finished renovations of the sanctuary and nave. A lot of very thoughtful conservation and renovation has been done that seems entirely right and respectful of the beautiful stone church. Wooden pews and floors have been refinished. The building allowed for the font to be moved just enough to give the font a prominence as you enter the church and for the celebration of Baptism.
Carpet has been removed. The aisles have a new tile floor that very soon will look almost as if it were original to the building. The new lighting is great. A wooden reredos that obscured part of the principal stained glass window in the chancel has been removed. Much has been done that will not be noticed by a newcomer because of the care and quality of the design and craft.
Tom Nicoll, the rector, and his congregation have done wonderful job in the care and renewal of their church home. In wonderful old buildings, there is always work to be done another day—I didn’t let Tom dwell on that at all. The recent work has all been done—and the money raised—during the recession. I hope they are very proud of themselves.
The stone church is built in a gothic style. The choir and organ are in the chancel, which is not large. The free-standing altar—a design from the 1970s, as I recall—is still a project for another day. The chancel apse has three large stained glass windows. Jesus is the middle window’s figure, flanked by two angels in the others. I didn’t ask, but I think it’s Jesus as Risen Lord. What I remember is that he stands with raised hands, the ancient posture for Jewish and Christian prayer.
A white—or ivory—paint gives prominence to the windows and to the priest who will stand behind that altar. He or she will stand using this same posture. I’m sure Father Nicoll will let me know, but my hunch is that the rector of that parish who was there when the window was installed may not have ever used the traditional posture for prayer. The spread of the liturgical movement in the Episcopal Church across the twentieth century changed the ordinary ritual of our denomination.
If it were possible to bring forward in time the spirituality of Christians from the classical age, we would “read” that window differently. Our posture for prayer for all would be the same as the priest at the altar and the Jesus in the window. It would remind us who we are in a very particular way, that is, the Body of Christ. It would be another prophetic way of stating what I saw a couple months ago on a poster in Bishop Charles Jenkins’s study, “Remember: Every Child is the Christ Child.”
Other thoughts: How does the Lord Jesus want us not just to see him, but to see ourselves? What does he see, if you will, when he looks at us? How does he see us looking on others?
One of the great things about living in this city in our time is the presence of so many people from so many countries, races, cultures. The richness of God’s creation of humankind itself is a witness to God’s power. We Christians believe the death and resurrection of God’s son is the witness to God’s love. As citizens of this country we continue to grow into the words that shaped our founding, “all men are created equal.” As members of Christ’s Body we are called to continue to grow into the words of Jesus, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Lura Grace, religious, who is gravely ill; for André, Penny, Terri, Malik, Babak, Tyler, Emma, Phyllis, Alexander, Gene, Joseph, Mary, Jim, Charles, Henrietta, Sean, Denise, Dolores, Doris, Casey, Eloise, Sharon, Linda, Christopher, Jane, Diana, Eileen, Arpene, José, Paulette, priest, Rowan, priest, John, bishop, Paul, bishop, and Thomas, bishop; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Elizabeth and Daniel . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . July 7: 1921 Grace Westerfield.
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 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, July 6, by Father Stephen Gerth and by Father James Pace on Saturday, July 13.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . The sidewalks will be open but West 46th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues will be closed on Saturday, July 6, and on Sunday July 7, from 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM . . . Sister Laura Katherine is away on vacation. She returns to the parish on Monday, July 15 . . . Father Smith is on vacation. He returns to the parish on Tuesday, July 30 . . . Attendance: Saint Peter & Saint Paul 61; Last Sunday 226.
THIS SUNDAY’S MUSIC . . . The study of hymnody is a broad, complex, and fascinating one. It encompasses the plainsong hymns of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the chorales of Martin Luther, the prolific brilliance of Isaac Watts, the evangelical fervor of John and Charles Wesley, and so much more. Many hymns began life in another form or as part of a greater work. Last week’s great standard, “Christ is made the sure foundation,” is actually the final section of a larger verse-anthem by the Henry Purcell (1659-1695) entitled, O God, Thou Art My God. “Lift every voice and sing,” which we sing at the preparation this Sunday, comes to us by another road. The text was publicly performed first as a poem as part of a celebration of Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12, 1900, at the segregated Stanton School in Jacksonville, Florida. Its principal, James Weldon Johnson, wrote the words to introduce their honored guest Booker T. Washington. The poem was later set to music by Johnson’s brother John in 1905. Since that time it has become a part of the fabric of the Southern United States and gained widespread recognition during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. It is often referred to as the African-American National Anthem. Many hymnologists (yes, there are indeed such people!) don’t generally classify “Lift Every Voice” as a hymn, yet in spite of their reservations the piece has found its way into many denominational hymnals, including our own Hymnal 1982 . . . During the ministration of Holy Communion we will hear soprano Emilie Williams sing the beloved Traditional African-American Spiritual, Give me Jesus, in an arrangement by Fernando Ortega. Mark Peterson
PHILHARMONIC IN THE PARK . . . Saint Mary’s evening at the New York Philharmonic’s Concerts in Central Park will take place this year on 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.
CHAPEL CLEANING COMMITTEE . . . Ordinary cleaning is not an easy thing in a church home like ours. Most of our church’s fixtures and furnishings are old and require special care. Over the years, I have had to stop staff and volunteers from cleaning things because they didn’t know what they were doing—one well-meaning person once started to clean a section of the Daingerfield murals in the Lady Chapel. (I stopped it!) That said, a small committee is forming to dust and clean things that can be cleaned by people who work with care. Adam Morrow, a new member of the parish, is heading up this committee. If you are interested in joining them, please email Adam: email@example.com. S.G.
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 . . . The “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk” will take place on Sunday, October 20, in Central Park. For more information about how to participate, please visit the Walk’s website.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Monday, July 22, Saint Mary Magdalene, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Thursday, July 25, Saint James the Apostle, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Tuesday, August 6, Transfiguration, Mass 12:10 PM and Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Thursday, August 15, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Morning Prayer 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM. Father John Beddingfield will preach at the Solemn Mass.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Adelynrood is a retreat and conference center in Newbury, MA, owned and operated by The Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross. The center offers retreats during the summer months for both women and men, facilitated by retreat leaders such as the Rev. Barbara Crafton and the Rev. Martin L. Smith. There is more information at the center’s website . . .