FROM THE RECTOR: SARA LOUIE COOKE, 1841-1892
Behind the open double doors in the center of the narthex there are two memorial plaques commissioned by the board of trustees in 1897. The first plaque to be approved was not the memorial to William Scott, who died in 1889, but the one for Sara Louie Cooke, who died on July 21, 1892. Scott was the first president of the board of trustees of this parish and a generous benefactor in his lifetime—he was also the first rector’s father-in-law. But it was Sara Louie Cooke’s bequest that built the second and present church. This Sunday is the one hundred twenty-first anniversary of her death.
She is buried in her family’s plot in Green-wood Cemetery, Brooklyn. Parish historian Dick Leitsch tells me that her tombstone is by far the simplest of those that mark the other Cooke graves. She was the last member of her immediate family to die. She has instead a far more significant memorial—and I don’t mean this building. Her legacy is the encounter millions of people have had with God in this church since its doors were opened on December 8, 1895. (Even a modest projection of 200 people per day for 100 years yields a total of 7,300,000. I’m confident the actual total is at least double this number.)
Newbury Frost Read (1887-1950) was a member of the parish and served on the board of trustees from 1929 until his death. He’s best known now for a book about the parish, The Story of St. Mary’s (1931). The account is based on the official records of the corporation, “The Society of the Free Church of St. Mary the Virgin.”
Writing about the events of the year 1894—the cornerstone of the present church was laid on December 8 that year, Read wrote, “One wonders what the present St. Mary's would have been had the then Trustees at the time of its erection been more interested in financial security than in raising as worthy a testimony as they could to the Glory of God. One thing is certain: that it is fortunate for us, the present Parishioners, that the then Board was not solely interested in considerations of sound business policy. Had they been, they would probably have remained in the old Church, and invested the Cooke legacy, on the income of which the Parish could have been supported very comfortably without any worry to the Trustees—until it died of comfortable dry-rot” (83).
Read believed this parish was carried forward from its inception “by faith and courage,” with a sense of “God’s presence, God’s guidance, God’s love and care, as clear as ever they appeared to Apostle or ancient Prophet” (13). I believe God is present among us still and continues to call us to growth and service to others in Christ’s name and for Christ’s sake—and I know I am not alone in my conviction. But with respect, I believe we are also at a time when we do face “considerations of sound business policy.” I don’t think God needs us to live beyond our means for the advancement of his kingdom.
At the annual meeting of the congregation in May I was able to report that with the final distribution from the estate of the Reverend Charles Everett Whipple that we expect to receive this year, almost certainly for the first time since 1984 Saint Mary’s will not be invading the principal of its endowment to pay its operating expenses. Father Whipple will be very pleased. Saint Mary’s has turned a corner, as it were, on managing its operations. It’s now time to work on our buildings. They have been in use daily for over 135 years.
The board of trustees has approved a contract with Jan Hird Pokorny Associates, Inc., a firm that specializes in the conservation of historic buildings—and they have started their work on drafting the plans for the most urgent needs. This week I am meeting with a group to begin putting together ideas for structuring the capital campaign that will meet these building needs so that this church can continue to serve all with its doors open and the regular services of the church offered daily.
There is something serendipitous about Sara Cooke’s anniversary coming on a Sunday this year. I invite you to join me in thinking about her legacy. For the record, her gift did not come with any restrictions on its use. As far as I know, it was not her idea to build this building. That leadership came from the first rector, Thomas McKee Brown. The board received it with faith in the future of our then emerging Anglo-Catholic tradition. They built with the conviction that the sacramental life helped bring people into a saving relationship with Christ and helped sustain them in that relationship. We may have some “dry-rot” in our buildings that we need to clean up, but I hope you and I have no dry-rot in our faith in the future. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Leslie, Tyler, Emma, Phyllis, Mary, Sean, Casey, Eloise, Sharon, Linda, Diana, Eileen, Arpene, Rebecca, deacon, Paulette, priest, and Thomas, bishop; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Elizabeth and Daniel; and for the repose of Lura Grace, religious . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . July 21: 1892 Sara Louie Cooke; 1922 Charles Goldsborough Stirling; 1962 Anna Stambaugh Marais.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Sister Lura Grace, C.S.J.B., died on Sunday, July 14. She was sixty-four years old and had entered the Community of St. John Baptist in 2002. She will be buried in the convent cemetery on Friday, July 26. May her soul, and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. S.G.
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 . . . Monday, July 22, is the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene. Mass will be celebrated at 12:10 PM and at 6:20 PM . . . Thursday, July 25, is the Feast of Saint James the Apostle. Mass will also be celebrated on this day at 12:10 PM and at 6:20 PM . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, July 20, by Mother Mary Jett and on Saturday, July 27, by Father Stephen Gerth.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins continues to recover from her recent illness. Please keep her in your prayers . . . Flowers are needed for summer Sundays. Please call the parish office to donate! . . . . Sister Deborah Francis is on vacation. She returns to the parish on Tuesday, August 6 . . . Father Smith is on vacation. He returns to the parish on Tuesday, July 30 . . . Attendance Last Sunday 196.
THIS SUNDAY’S MUSIC . . . Healey Willan (1880-1968), English-born organist and composer, immigrated to Canada in 1913. He served initially on the faculty of the Toronto Conservatory of music and took the position of organist at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Bloor Street. He subsequently became professor of music at Trinity College, Toronto, and was, in time, to head the department. Known as the dean of Canadian composers, Willan was to become the director of music and organist for the great Anglo-Catholic Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Toronto. There he established a remarkable program consisting of both mixed and chant choirs, and he wrote an entire catalogue of mass settings for use at St. Mary Magdalene’s. Willan greatly influenced American Anglicanism from his place up North and is probably best remembered for his Missa de Sancta Maria Magdalena from both Hymnals 1940 & 1982, of which we still use portions here at St. Mary’s. At the ministration of Holy Communion Mark Risinger sing the American classic, At the River, in an arrangement by Aaron Copland (1900-1990). Mark Peterson
SAINT MARY’S AIDS WALK TEAM . . . As we reported last week, the final figures on the AIDS Walk are in, and our team was one of the Top 20! We thank the many Saint Marians and friends of Saint Mary’s who supported us—and we invite you to join us as fundraisers and walkers on Sunday, May 18, 2014. We thought you would like to know that nine team members raised a total of $25,000.50. There were 203 donors from five countries. The United States donors came from twenty-six states. The smallest donation was six dollars, the largest $2,500.00. Included in our total was $1,037 from the offering of the congregation on Maundy Thursday. Again, thank you so much for your support!
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 . . . 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 . . . At the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library, 170 Central Park West (at 77th Street), now through September 15, “AIDS in New York: The First Five Years 1981-1985.”