FROM THE RECTOR: THE SHEPHERD
I’ve written before that, whenever possible, I avoid reading at the Daily Office or Eucharist certain passages of Scripture. The two narratives that are most challenging for me are the Healing of the Man Born Blind (John 9:1–41) and the Raising of Lazarus (John 11:1–44). Two years ago, as gospeller on the Fifth Sunday in Lent, I made it almost to the end of the Raising of Lazarus (John 11:1–44). If memory serves, I had to pause after these words, “Jesus said to [Martha], ‘Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?’ ” (John 11:40), before I could continue, singing, “So they took away the stone” (11:41a).
The heart of the Evangelist John’s message, I think it is fair to say, is found in John 10, immediately after the story of the Man Born Blind. There, Jesus addresses the Pharisees, who know that he has healed the blind man. Jesus tells them that he is “Sheepgate and Shepherd” and “Messiah and Son of God.” (See Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John , I:383–412). Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” [10:11] . . . “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand” [10:27–28] . . . “I and the Father are one” [10:30].
As I worked on last Sunday’s gospel, the Parable of the Prodigal, or Lost, Son (Luke 15:11–32), I suddenly realized that I had never fully appreciated the significance of the passage’s place in the gospel. Tax collectors and sinners seek to hear Jesus (15:1); Pharisees and scribes object: “This man receives and eats with sinners” (15:2). Jesus responds by telling three parables—the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son. The first two are, in a sense, Luke’s introduction to Jesus’ telling of the parable of the Lost, or Prodigal, Son. The theme of losing and finding is summed up in that powerful story. Then, later in Luke, Jesus explains why he is going to accept the hospitality of the tax collector, Zacchaeus. He says, “For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost” (19:10). In Luke, Jesus doesn’t call himself a shepherd. His actions speak for him.
Lost sheep and lost coins matter, but God’s lost children matter most. To those of us whom Jesus has found when we were in trouble in our lives, it comes as no surprise to hear Jesus say to the man crucified along with him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). I cannot help wondering—did the man, hearing Jesus’ words, realize that Jesus saw all people as lost but found, as children of God (Luke 3:38), and as his own sisters and brothers (Luke 8:21)? Merciful and generous love are at the heart of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Our Anglican tradition encourages us to seek to be in right relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters. Here’s a prayer from the 1928 Prayer Book (page 597), and the 1979 Prayer Book as well, that’s worth committing to memory:
Almighty God, we entrust all who are dear to us to thy never-failing care and love, for this life and the life to come, knowing that thou art doing for them better things than we can desire or pray for; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (page 829)
It also works quite well as a personal prayer, “Almighty God, I entrust my life to your never-failing love and care . . . ” —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Carmen, José, Donald, Norman, Cyrisse, Wendell, Norman, Michael, Rita, Daniel, Michelle, May, Alexandra, Kyle, Karen, Susan, Marilouise, Takeem, and Dennis; for Horace, Gaylord, Louis, and Edgar, priests; and for all the benefactors and friends of this parish.
GRANT THEM PEACE . . . April 7: 1954 Mary E. Johnson.
THE WEEKDAYS OF LENT and 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 . . . Sunday, April 7, The Fifth Sunday in Lent, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 & 10:00 AM, Adult Education 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM, Solemn Evensong and Benediction 5:00 PM . . . Wednesday, April 10, Sung Mass 12:10 PM; The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet on April 10 at 6:30 PM . . . Thursday, April 11, Mass with Healing Service 12:10 PM . . . Friday, April 12, Evening Prayer 6:00 PM, Stations of the Cross 6:30 PM; Centering Prayer Group, 6:30 PM in the Atrium in the Parish House, Second Floor.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . The conveners of the Saint Mary’s Centering Prayer Group are considering the possibility of holding a second session, in additional to their Friday meeting at 6:30 PM, on Sunday afternoons. If you are interested, or if you would like to know more about Centering Prayer, contact Blair Burroughs, Renée Pecquex, or Ingrid Sletten . . . We are looking for donations for altar flowers for the Sundays of Eastertide . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 172.
AIDS WALK 2019 . . . On Sunday, May 19, Saint Mary’s AIDS Walk Team will once again walk to support those living with—or at risk of contracting—HIV/AIDS. This year, Saint Mary’s Team hopes to be even more successful than last year, when we raised $61,153 and ranked number 6 among all teams.
Team leaders MaryJane Boland and Clark Mitchell recently met with Kelsey Louie, the CEO of Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) to hear more about what our funds help to pay for and learned some exciting news about the organization. Two takeaways from their meeting: GMHC has moved to a new space, more centrally located on West Thirty-eighth Street and better suited to serve the 15,000 clients it sees a year; and GMHC has announced a strategic partnership with a leading HIV research and education nonprofit, ACRIA, which will broaden GMHC’s scope to include not only service, but also research and policy.
We invite you to join our Team and raise money with us—or simply to make a donation to Saint Mary’s AIDS Walk Team. You can join or donate to our Team online. You may also donate by mailing us a check, paid to the order of AIDS Walk New York I (not paid to the order of Saint Mary’s), to the Finance Office at 145 West 46th Street, New York, NY 10036, or place your check in one of the shrine boxes in the church or in the collection basket. If you have questions, please contact Father Jay Smith or co-leaders MaryJane Boland and Clark Mitchell. We are very grateful to all those who have supported the Team in past years, and we look forward to this year’s campaign.
FROM BROTHER DAMIEN . . . On any given day, we may have hundreds of visitors come through the doors of the church. Some are tourists, drawn in by the beauty of the nave. Others come to pray. Most days, a few dozen men and women come to Saint Mary’s because they have nowhere else to go. It is good to see people in the church resting, taking shelter from the weather, and enjoying the quiet and safety that our space offers. I am heartened by the fact that many of these guests are known by name to our clergy, staff, and members of the parish. Since I’m a Franciscan, it’s probably not surprising that I think of this last group, our unsheltered neighbors, as our most important guests.
One familiar face (for his privacy, I won’t use his name) has been missing from our pews for several months now, but was here last Sunday to visit. He’s been absent from our pews because he has beat the odds and found a permanent place to live, off the streets, in a safe, clean room elsewhere in the city. Now he can focus on things like getting full-time work, focusing on his health, and building a life that is more than scrabbling to survive. It’s not an easy feat, and surely, he’s got a long way still to go. For many reasons, getting back off the street once you’re experiencing homelessness can be an insurmountable task.
So I congratulated our friend on such good work and good fortune. While we don’t see him here daily any more, he told me that he had to come back, and will continue to do so, to say thank you. He thanked us for keeping our doors and our hearts open, and for giving him a place to be warm, safe, and valued while he struggled and waited for the opportunity to put his life back together. For him, our welcome mattered. You may not know his name or his face, but he is among “the least of these my brethren” (Matthew 25:40). He is us. He is Jesus. And he asked me to tell you thanks. —Damien Joseph SSF
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The name Healey Willan (1880–1968) is well known to many Episcopalians because of his Missa de Santa Maria Magdalena, composed in 1928, which appeared in The Hymnal 1940 as the “Second Communion Service.” Although this setting, named in honor of the Toronto parish Willan served as organist and choirmaster from 1921 until his death, was never used regularly in that parish, its usage had become fairly ubiquitous in Eucharistic Episcopal parishes in the years leading up to the 1979 edition of the Book of Common Prayer. The “Willan setting” was retained in The Hymnal 1982 and remains well-known although its usage has attenuated as parishes have gravitated to worshiping in more modern English. However, Willan’s career and reputation went far beyond composing the congregational Mass setting for which Episcopalians remember him. He composed more than eight hundred works including operas, symphonies and other music for orchestra and band, chamber music, and music for piano and organ, in addition to a great quantity of choral church music. His liturgical music included fourteen choral Masses, motets for many occasions, canticles, and hymn settings. Willan was a champion of historic liturgical chant and the aesthetic of Renaissance church music. He incorporated these influences and mingled them with an appreciation of the rich harmonic palette used by the late nineteenth-century masters. Through his compositions and choral direction he significantly set the standard for North American Anglo-Catholic church music in his time. Willan’s esteem was such that he was commissioned to compose an anthem for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and was present for the ceremony.
Sir John Stainer (1840–1901) might well have been one of the heroes of Healey Willan’s youth. The eighth of his parents’ nine children, John Stainer at age ten became a chorister at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London. Later he was to hold organist positions at Saint Michael’s College, Tenbury, at Magdalen College, and eventually at Saint Paul’s Cathedral. Still later he became professor of music at Oxford. He was quite highly esteemed as an organist, composer, and scholar. In 1888, he was knighted by Queen Victoria. Stainer’s compositions include Anglican services and large anthems, many of which are now rarely performed due to changes in liturgical patterns and musical taste. However, his passion oratorio The Crucifixion, composed in 1887, is still performed annually in many churches. Stainer’s The Crucifixion is subtitled “A Meditation on the Sacred Passion of the Holy Redeemer” and is a work of modest length in comparison to the great baroque Passion oratorios of such composers as J. S. Bach (1685–1750) and G. F. Handel (1685–1759). Its librettist was W. J. Sparrow Simpson (1860–1952) with whom Stainer had previously collaborated on another work. It is scored for mixed voices, bass and tenor soloists, and organ. Intended to be within the grasp of most parish choirs, it includes five hymns for congregation, one of which, Cross of Jesus (The Hymnal 1982, #160) is sung every Friday in Lent at Saint Mary’s at Stations of the Cross. Of the twenty movements in The Crucifixion, the ninth, God so loved the world, is the one for which the entire oratorio is known and for which Stainer is most remembered. This setting of John 3:16–17 for unaccompanied chorus or quartet pairs a particularly summative scripture passage with music of inspired simplicity. It will be sung as today’s Communion motet. —David Hurd
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . On Sunday, Father Peter Powell continues his series, begun in November 2018 and resumed on the first Sunday in Lent, on the Elijah/Elisha cycle in 1 Kings 16:23–2 Kings 13:25 in the Sunday Adult Forum at 10:00 AM through Palm Sunday. You are welcome to join us . . . The Adult Forum will not meet on April 21, Easter Day, nor on Sunday, April 28. The class meets next on Sunday, May 5, at 10:00 AM, when Mary Robison will discuss her work in the parish archive. Mary writes, “Father Taber, rector of Saint Mary’s between 1939 and 1964, writes in the April 1950 edition of Ave, the parish magazine, ‘Just inside the church door at the foot of the south aisle there has been erected our Calvary Shrine . . . a thank offering for the sacrifices of the men and women of Saint Mary’s in World War II. It is a call to us all willingly to offer up our daily sacrifice in union with the Great Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.” We’ll talk about the shrine, and its symbolism, while focusing on the sacrifices made by two parishioners during the war. The first is Constance Rivington Winant (1899–1983), the wife of John Gilbert Winant, U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, 1941–1946. Mrs. Winant’s gifts to the parish are memorialized in the chapels. The second is the Rev. Dr. Clifford E. Barry Nobes, parish missionary, interred in a concentration camp in the Philippines during the war.” Mary is a librarian and archivist. She serves the parish as usher, reader, and secretary of the Board of Trustees . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class, led by Father Jay Smith, will meet on April 10, when the class will continue its reading of the Passion Narrative in the Gospel of Luke, which is heard at Mass this year on Palm Sunday. On April 10, the class will begin its reading at Luke 23, “Jesus delivered to prefects and kings, Pilate and Herod” The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on April 17 or 24.
HOSPITALITY MINISTRY AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We hope to receive donations to help pay for the holy-day receptions on April 20 (Easter Eve) and Thursday, May 30 (Ascension Day). If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office. The total cost of each reception is around $500.00. We appreciate all donations in support of this important ministry. Any and all donations are always used to make up the deficit each year we normally experience in the hospitality budget. When making a donation, please make a note that it is for the Hospitality Ministry, and we thank you.