FROM THE RECTOR: ANOTHER DEATH IN MY FAMILY
My mother’s younger brother, Donny Matthews, died on Wednesday. He died in the house he himself built in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and where he and his wife Edna reared their three children. He was seventy-seven years old. Like my mother, my uncle suffered in recent years from Alzheimer’s disease. His wife, three children, and their families will miss him terribly.
The news last week that his family was preparing for his death hit me pretty hard. Donny was a big part of my very early childhood years. His death brought to the fore my mother’s death in April. I’m so very sad that they both are dead, even though I am deeply thankful that they are no longer suffering.
I’m way behind in acknowledging all the notes and cards I received after my mother’s death—and I don’t know that I will ever get through the box. One of the notes I got—still unanswered—was from Carolyn Owens Moore, my mother’s best friend in childhood. They had remained in contact all of these years. In her note she mentioned the “swamp”—I’m sure it’s called a “wetland” today—that separated their streets and through which they climbed to get to each other’s houses. The swamp has a particular meaning for me too.
My uncle Donny married in 1959, just a week before my fifth birthday. Before then, my uncle lived at home with my grandmother and at different periods of my young childhood we lived there too. One memory that stands out among many others is of him taking me across the street to the swamp and cutting a slingshot for me out of a branch of a tree. Those readers who remember the movie Citizen Kane will know what I mean when I say that, in a way, that slingshot was my “Rosebud.”
My uncle was a carpenter by trade who became a successful businessman in the construction industry. But I wouldn’t describe him that way. I would begin by saying simply that he was a Christian. His faith in Christ shaped who he was as a husband, a father, and a grandfather. I’m sure it was not always easy. Faith is certainly a gift, but it is also a response. Donny was purposeful throughout his life in the way that he responded to God.
The funeral will be at Thalia Lynn Baptist Church, Virginia Beach, on Monday afternoon, August 26. He will be buried in Virginia Beach after the service. As we go to press, I don’t expect to be at Saint Mary’s on Sunday. I expect I will return to the parish sometime on Tuesday.
The last time I was in Norfolk I stopped at the cemetery where my grandparents are buried. I remember I was surprised at how quickly tears came. When I was five we moved from Norfolk to what is now Virginia Beach, but was then still Princess Anne County—a new suburban area, not yet a city. However, my mother was born in the city of Norfolk, and my father and his parents were born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, certainly a much smaller city than Norfolk, but still a city. Cities, even small cities, are different than other places. Since leaving home to go to college, except for the three years I was in seminary in rural Wisconsin, I have always lived in cities and it seems very likely I always will. I have always been happiest living in cities, even one where an uncle could find a swamp to fashion a slingshot for his young nephew.
The New Testament’s final vision of heaven is of the heavenly city, New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-4). It’s where I have faith I may someday be with all I know and love. I don’t expect that any of heaven’s songs will move me more than the great hymn by William Walsham How (1823-1897), the English bishop who captured the Book of Revelation’s final vision of God’s city in his hymn, “For all the saints who, who from their labors rest”—and that perfect tune, Sine Nomine, by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). I remind you and myself of the last verse, “From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast, through gates of pearl streams in the countless host, singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: Alleluia, Alleluia!” Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Edna, Jean, Lawrence, John, Ida, Jeff, Maggie, Takeem, Babak, Tyler, David, Emma, Mary, Sean, Casey, Eloise, Sharon, Linda, Arpene, Rebecca, deacon, and Paulette, priest; for the repose of the souls of Diana Good and Donny Matthews; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Alex, Elizabeth and Daniel . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . August 25: 1892 Albert Gardner; 1921 Harriet Dobbin Hopkins; 1964 Anna Marguerite Della Rocca; 1971 Elvira Herg Oxx; 1983 Arthur Atkinson, III; 1990 Eliphal B. Streeter.
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.
STEWARDSHIP AT SAINT MARY’S . . . “Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave—that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm. And therefore, this courage allows us, as the old men said, to make ourselves useful. It allows us to be generous, which is another way of saying exactly the same thing.”—Marilynne Robinson, from her novel, Gilead (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2004).
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, August 24, Saint Bartholomew the Apostle, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM & Mass 12:10 PM . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, August 24, by Father Jim Pace, and on Saturday, August 31, by Father Jay Smith.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Mother Mary Julia Jett moved uptown to Union Theological Seminary, in Morningside Heights, this week, in order to begin a doctoral program in church history. She remains an assisting priest here at Saint Mary's. Please keep her in your prayers, and give her an encouraging word, as she begins her studies . . . Sermons preached by Fathers Gerth and Pace this summer have all been posted on the parish website . . . Altar flowers are needed for most Sundays in September. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 203.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . The prelude before the Solemn Mass on Sunday is Prelude: Sarabande (Suite for Organ) by Gerald Near (b. 1942). The postlude is Final (Suite for Organ), also by Near. Generally considered one of the finest composers of church music writing today, Gerald Near first studied theory and composition with Leslie Bassett, organ with Robert Glasgow, and conducting with Elizabeth Green, later returning for graduate study in orchestral conducting with Gustav Meier. He also studied composition with the renowned Leo Sowerby and the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Dominick Argento. In 1982, Near was one of the first recipients of a McKnight Foundation Fellowship. That year also saw the performance of two commissioned works for the National Convention of the American Guild of Organists in Washington, D.C.: the anthem, “Sing Alleluia Forth” and the “Short Festival Te Deum.” The following year he moved to Dallas, where he was first appointed organist and choirmaster and then canon precentor at Saint Matthew’s Cathedral. He is Director of Aureole Editions and currently resides in New Mexico. At the ministration of Holy Communion, soprano Ruth Cunningham will sing the Marian anthem, O lilium convallium. The text is translated by S. Hellauer, the setting is by Ms. Cunningham who accompanies herself on the medieval harp. Mark Peterson
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . 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 . . . We are already gratefully accepting donations of warm clothing, as well as new, unopened packets of underwear and socks, especially white cotton socks. We send some items of clothing to the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Other items are kept here for distribution to those in need.
ADULT EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class resumes on September 18, at 6:30 PM, in Saint Joseph’s Hall. The class, which is led by Father Jay Smith, will be reading the Acts of the Apostles this year. The class will not meet on October 16 or November 6 . . . The Adult Forum resumes on Sunday, October 6, at 1:00 PM in the church (note later time on this date). We kick off the adult-education season with a presentation and tour led by Dr. Dennis Raverty and Mr. Dick Leitsch, The Art of Saint Mary’s in Its Architectural and Historical Context. All are welcome at our adult-education classes and no prior preparation or experience is necessary . . . Adult Forum: October 13, 20 & 27, at 10:00 AM, on the second floor of the Mission House, The Poetry & Hymnody of Syriac Christianity, led by Mother Mary Julia Jett . . . Adult Forum: November 3, 10, 17, “The Book of Exodus,” led by Father Pete Powell; Adult Forum: November 24, Anglican History & Tradition: Archbishop Michael Ramsey, a lecture-presentation by the Rev. Canon John G.B. Andrew, rector emeritus, Saint Thomas Church, New York City.
HOSPITALITY AT SAINT MARY’S . . . As many of our members and friends know, we try to offer a particularly festive reception following Solemn Mass on feast days. These receptions have proven to be happy events and have given us the opportunity to greet our many visitors on those occasions. The financial costs, however, are significant. The next reception will take place on Friday, November 1, All Saints’ Day. Other receptions will be offered in 2013-2014 on December 9, the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (transferred); January 6, the Epiphany; March 25, the Annunciation; April 19, Easter Eve; and May 29, Ascension Day; If you would like to make a donation to help support our efforts on any of those days, or if you would like to volunteer to help with hospitality, please contact José Vidal, Aaron Koch, or Father Jay Smith.
THE VISUAL ARTS PROGRAM (VAP) . . . A new exhibition of work by Pakistani-American artist, Qinza Najm, is now on view in the Gallery in Saint Joseph’s Hall. Ms. Najm’s paintings have been shown in exhibitions in Atlanta, Dubai and New York. The exhibition, “Sublime Allegory,” had its official opening on Thursday, August 15. Ms. Najm tells us that “I am eager to break stereotypes. My works embody the struggles and conflicts that surface when one inhabits a world [that exists] between the two extremes of East and West, trying to stay true to her traditional Pakistani roots, while simultaneously navigating life in New York.” Ms. Najm is convinced that “spirituality exists within the self, and not in any one or any particular kind of religion.” She says, “The works are meditations that interrogate personal demons in order to conquer them . . . The adaptation of religious imagery represents a battle between ‘ego’ and ‘empathy’ between the two cultures.” She hopes that her large-scale paintings will invite the viewer to form his or her own stories and to connect to the work with an open mind.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . .Lincoln Center presents the White Light Festival, October 24–November 23, 2013. Offerings include Manganiyar Seduction, northwest Indian Sufi music; early-music aficionado Jordi Savall’s The Cycles of Life, which begins with kabbalah’s creation story and travels through birth, youth, love, marriage, maturity, and death by painting an aural mosaic of Sephardic lullabies, Greek dances, Hebrew songs, Christian Orthodox chants, and Sufi devotional songs; the Cleveland Orchestra’s program The Divine Presence: Beethoven’s: Grosse Fuge & Mass in C Major and Messiaen’s Trois petites liturgies de la Présence Divine; Philip Gröning’s film, Into Great Silence, about the Carthusian monastic community at the Grande Chartreuse; the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir’s program, Word Made Flesh, including works by Arvo Pärt and W.A. Mozart; Transcending Time, a program offered by the Tallis Scholars, which includes music of Taverner, Tallis, Muhly and Pärt; and, on November 12, right here at Saint Mary’s (and not away from the parish), the Saint Thomas Boys’ Choir of Leipzig presents a program entitled Gloria, which includes music of Bach and Vivaldi. You may visit the festival website for more information.