The Angelus

Volume 15, Number 40


I’ve just started reading a book by Allegra di Bonaventura who teaches at Yale, For Adam’s Sake: A Family Saga in Colonial New England (2013). It’s based on an extraordinary diary by a Connecticut shipwright, Joshua Hempstead (1678–1758). The diary is about Hempstead’s life and the world in which he lives, but di Bonaventura’s focus is on the life of his enslaved servant Adam Jackson (c.1701–c.1764). Adam was born into slavery in that town in another household and eventually bought by Hempstead. There’s much more to know about slavery in colonial New York and New England—and my reading continues. But the book also brought to my attention something I didn’t know anything about: the colonial Congregational church’s “Half-Way Covenant.”

In colonial Massachusetts and Connecticut, a “half-way” membership “option,” if you will, emerged in the latter part of the seventeenth century for those who were not “visible saints.” Committing to a half-way covenant meant a person was baptized, attended church and could have his or her children baptized, but the person couldn’t receive communion until his or her personal story of conversion and righteous living was witnessed publicly by the congregation (For Adam’s Sake, 53-4).

In a sense, one might say this was a Puritan version of Anglican confirmation before Communion or the Roman Church’s version of confession before Communion. The same phenomenon is expressed in very similar ways across all but a few Christian denominations. The problem of what the late Mark Dalby (1938–2013) calls “unqualified communicants” is a very old one. It’s not about giving communion to the unbaptized, but about who among the baptized may receive (Admission to Communion: The Approaches of the Late Medievals and the Reformers [2013] 33-4).

Many, many Christians have been worrying about the religious commitment of others for a very long time. In the synoptic gospels, Jesus shares his meal with Judas Iscariot even though Jesus knows Judas will betray him. Matthew and Paul will write about excluding baptized sinners from the fellowship of the church (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5:11). Paul also wrote, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (1 Corinthians 11:27-30).

In a 2007 lecture, Louis Weil called attention to the beginning of the last chapter of the Great Catechism of Gregory of Nyssa (c. 334–c. 394). For Gregory, Weil wrote, “the meaning of baptism as a new birth, a dying and rising with Christ, is undermined if that new being is not somehow manifest.” I’m not a systematic theologian, but, with respect, one cannot help but see, in this instance, some startling similarities between the theological thought of Gregory and the colonial Congregationalists.

At this point in my life, my religious convictions begin with believing that God himself is present in every life, acknowledged or not. At its best, I believe the church is the environment where people may work on, grow in, and be sustained in the journey of their lives. The Eucharist is more about the nurture of life in Christ than it is about the discipline and outward signs of Christian living. Of course these are not unrelated—and therein lies the challenge to trust in the Holy Spirit’s work and to act on our convictions by the way we grow in relationship to others.

Hard though it is for us to believe, many of the “visible saints,” as the colonial Congregationalists called themselves, owned slaves. If I have it right—at this point in my reading of di Bonaventura’s book, Adam Jackson’s father became a freeman and eventually bought freedom for Jackson’s mother; and even though his parents continued to live in the same town, Adam, and his sister, were left behind in slavery. Adam remained a slave of people who were recognized as active, practicing Christians, even if they were only “half-way” and not fully “visible saints.”

Until the end of time, there will be people who do things so evil that they lose their “selves” in evil. But God is at work as creation continues to unfold in our lives and in the lives of those who will come after us.

William Bright (1824–1901) was a priest of the Church of England and Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Oxford University. He was a gifted translator of older prayers from Latin to English (Ancient Collects [1857]). The following prayer is one of my favorites, first included in the American Prayer Book in 1928. It’s also included in the present book:

“O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light riseth up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou wouldest have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see light, and in thy straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen” (The Book of Common Prayer [1979] 832). Stephen Gerth


YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Barbara, Joy, Linda, Vincent, Charles, Albert, Sean, James, Ella, Ida, Jeff, Maggie, Takeem, Emily, Babak, Tyler, David, Emma, Mary, Casey, Eloise, Sharon, Arpene, and Paulette, priest; for the repose of the soul of Gilbert Cattell; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Alex, Elizabeth, Ben, and Daniel . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . September 1: 1890 Rosetta Ann Wright; 1905 John W. Horton.


IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Gilbert Cattell, a former member of Saint Mary’s, died on Saturday, August 24, after a long illness. Gil was an altar server here for many years. A Solemn Mass of the Resurrection will be offered at the Church of Saint Ignatius of Antioch on Saturday, September 21, at 11:00 AM. Please keep Gil, his family and friends, and all who mourn in your prayers.


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, September 2, is Labor Day. The church will be open from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. The noonday services will be offered. The parish office will be closed . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, August 31, by Father Jay Smith, and on Saturday, September 7, by Father Stephen Gerth.


A NOTE FROM THE RECTOR . . . Father David Wood will be in residence at the rectory during the month of September. He is the parish priest of Grace Church, Joondalup, Perth, Australia, and a scholar. Father Wood was last with us in 2010 as preacher for the celebration of Father Wells’s fiftieth anniversary of ordination to the priesthood—that wonderful sermon is on the parish website. He has just led his congregation through the construction of an already acclaimed new church home. He will preach at the Solemn Mass here on Michaelmas, Sunday, September 29—and he will be heading home that night. It will be great to have him with us again. S.G.


AROUND THE PARISH . . . The tower bells were rung at 3:00 PM on Wednesday, August 28, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington at which the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his speech, “I Have a Dream” . . . Former parishioner Sean Cassidy had surgery at Saint Clare’s Hospital in Denville, New Jersey, on Tuesday. It is likely that he will remain in the hospital for several days and then continue his recuperation at home. Please keep him, and his partner, James Alden, in your prayers . . . Dr. Deirdre Good, professor of New Testament at the General Theological Seminary and member of the parish, was recently appointed academic dean at the Seminary. Please keep her in your prayers . . . A special word of thanks to parishioner Ruth Cunningham for her solo last Sunday, a Latin-language anthem called “O lilium convallium,” which she accompanied herself on a medieval harp. It was a very special offering and most appreciated . . . The Reverend Patrick J. Williams will be ordained priest at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine on Saturday, September 7, at 10:30 AM. Patrick was a member of our noonday congregation before he went to seminary. He remains a good friend of Saint Mary’s. Please keep him in your prayers . . . New York Polyphony released its latest CD this week. The disc, entitled Times go by Turns, comprises three Masses composed during a period when the conditions for English Roman Catholics—and Roman Catholic composers—underwent radical change. The disc also includes two modern works, commissioned by the quartet, as well as one of the last compositions by Richard Rodney Bennett (1936–2012), A Colloquy with God, the setting of a poem by Sir Thomas Browne for four male voices The Bennett piece was dedicated to New York Polyphony. The members of the quartet are great friends of Saint Mary’s. The CD may be purchased online . . . Because of complications in the parish calendar this year, Oktoberfest and Hymn Sing will not take place. If all goes well, it will return next year! . . . Father Pete Powell’s sermon on Sunday, August 25, has 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 . . . The Rector will be on vacation from Saturday, August 31, through Friday, September 6 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 175.


MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Organ music on Sunday morning comes from the pen of Paul Manz (1919-2009), a musician best known as an organist and composer. During his career, Manz performed numerous concerts, appearing with symphony orchestras at Lincoln Center, New York, and the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C. Manz was a well-regarded church musician both in the United States and abroad, and was a frequent lecturer at liturgical seminars and organ clinics. The hymn festival was an event which he almost single-handedly brought back to popularity in this country. A product of the University of Minnesota and Northwestern University, Manz was awarded a Fulbright scholarship for study at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Antwerp, Belgium, where he worked with Flor Peeters. Manz served on the faculties at the University of Minnesota and Macalester College, Saint Paul. In 1957, he became professor and chair of the Division of Fine Arts, Concordia College, Saint Paul, but returned to full-time service as cantor at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. After thirty-seven years of service there he accepted a post at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saint Luke in Chicago. Saint Luke’s established the Paul Manz Institute of Church Music in 1983, with Manz as director. Manz retired from the institute and Saint Luke’s in 1999. At the ministration of Holy Communion we will hear baritone Joe Chappel sing “Love bade me welcome,” one of the Five Mystical Songs of Ralph Vaughan Williams (1868–1958) set to the poetry of the great priest-poet George Herbert (1593–1633). Mark Peterson


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.


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.


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.


AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, September 6-8, 13-15, at 7:30 PM, the Mettawee Theatre Company presents Taliesin: “The story of Taliesin comes from a medieval Welsh tale of sorcery and court intrigue, in which the power of inspiration is accidentally bestowed on an unlikely kid, who can suddenly see beyond everyday reality, becoming Taliesin – “radiant brow,” inspiration for all poets in the Welsh bardic tradition. Our production will incorporate an array of giant figures, puppets and masks in this celebration of transformation and imagination. Visit the cathedral website or the theatre company’s website for more information.