FROM FATHER SMITH: WE MAKE OUR SONG
During my sermon at the Solemn Mass last Sunday, I talked a bit about James Weldon Johnson's great anthem, "Lift every voice and sing," which we then sang at the Offertory. At Coffee Hour, I spoke with Gregory Eaton, who was visiting with us that day. Gregory was the greatly respected director of music and organist at the Church of Saint Ann and the Holy Trinity in Brooklyn Heights for twenty-one years, between 1993 and 2014. He now serves as organist-choirmaster at All Saints' Church, Austin, Texas. Gregory is a good friend of Saint Mary's, and he knows the parish well. While we drank our coffee, Gregory and I were joined by two or three parishioners, and we ended up sharing with each other what we knew about the brilliant African-American author, composer, and activist, James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) and his iconic hymn. At one point, Gregory reminded me that Johnson is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. (Father Thomas McKee Brown, first rector of Saint Mary's, is also buried there.)
As we talked about Johnson's connection to New York and his final resting place, Gregory smiled and said, "You know, I once took a group from Saint Ann's to Green-Wood. We found Johnson's grave. We stood there in a circle, and and we sang "Lift every voice."
The memory seemed to be a happy one for Gregory, and the image of a group of Episcopalians singing that hymn around Johnson's grave made me happy, too. It was an image that has stuck with me all week. At one point, I made the connection--"All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia" (Burial Office, Book of Common Prayer 1979, 499).
Christians have been going to graves for centuries in order to pray, worship, grieve, sing, remember, tell stories, eat commemorative meals, and sit in reverent silence. In the church's early years, when Christians first started doing things like that, their neighbors thought them very strange. Those polytheist neighbors mostly thought it wise to maintain strict barriers between the living and the dead. For them, the bodies of the dead were "ill-omened." They defiled the living. It was best to keep the dead respectfully in their proper place and to stay well away. (See Peter Brown, "The Holy and the Grave" in The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity, Chicago 1991, pp. 1-22).
But Christians saw things differently, because they believed, as Peter Brown points out, that heaven and earth had somehow been joined, and that the lives, and the triumphant deaths, of the martyr-saints were somehow proof of that joining. That's why the relics of the martyrs became holy objects, charged with meaning. Those relics didn't defile. They inspired hope. As Peter Brown explains, "[All early Christian writers insisted] that the martyrs, precisely because they had died as human beings, [now] enjoyed intimacy with God. Their intimacy with God was the sine qua non of their ability to intercede for and, so, to protect their fellow mortals. The martyr was the 'friend of God' " [Cult of the Saints, pp. 5-6].
One of the members of our parish community has a tattoo on his arm that reads, "Practice Resurrection." The tattoo catches my eye now and again, and then I think, "Good advice." I remembered the tattoo this week as I thought about Johnson's hymn, and his grave, and all that hopeful singing. And it suddenly occurred to me: we are really only able to "practice resurrection" because resurrection exists. It's already happened. That's what Saint Paul means when he says, "But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Cor 15:20). Resurrection is a gift that is not ours to give. It is pure grace. To "practice" grace is to share what we've already been given.
Jesus Christ is the Risen Lord, human and divine, ascended and exalted. It is he who joins heaven and earth. Because he lives, the Holy Spirit can make him present to us in life-giving and unpredictable ways. Christ is risen. Resurrection exists. That's why we live in hope. That's why we are able to sing, even at the grave. --James Ross Smith
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Jorem, Rita, Jennifer, Heidi, Jonathan, Bryan, Dianna, Beulah, Cyrisse, Wendell, May, Willard, Alexandra, Karen, Susan, Carolyn, Ivy, Marilouise, Takeem, Carmen, José, Michael, Robert, and Barbara; for all those working on the renovation of the church building; for Horace, James, Gaylord, Louis, and Edgar, priests; for James, bishop; for all the benefactors and friends of this parish; and for the repose of the souls of Devra Freelander and Eva Mozes Kor . . .
GRANT THEM PEACE: July 14: 1938 Bertha Cass Sims; 1943 Mary Mills; 1982 Ruth B. English.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Sunday, July 14, The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Summer Worship Schedule: Morning Prayer 8:30 AM; Mass 9:00 & 10:00 AM; Solemn Mass 11:00 AM; Evening Prayer 5:00 PM . . . Wednesday, July 17, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Ministry to the Homeless: Drop-in Day, 2:00-4:00 PM, Mission House Basement . . . Thursday, July 18, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Mass with Healing Service 12:10 PM . . . Friday, July 19, Centering Prayer Group, 6:30 PM in the Atrium in the Parish House, Second Floor.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Thinking about baptism or confirmation? The Bishop of New York will be with us for the Solemn Mass on the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, this year on Monday, December 9, and at that Mass we will be celebrating the rites of initiation, baptism, confirmation, and reception. If you have been thinking and praying about taking such a step, please speak to a member of the clergy. We would be glad to be of help . . . Brother Desmond Alban SSF, Minister Provincial of the Society of Saint Francis Province of the Americas, was at Saint Mary's this past week. Brother Desmond has come to visit several times now to spend time with the brothers and to get to know us. It has been good to be able to spend time with him. We hope that he will visit us often . . . James Tamelcoff, Jr., lives in Madison, Virginia, north of Charlottesville, and is a member of Saint Mary's. He tries to be in New York to worship with us on six or eight weekends each year. We baptized James's daughter, Jordan, not long ago here at the parish. On Friday, July 12, at 7:00 PM, at the Gramercy Theatre, 127 East 23rd Street, James's band, Cash Unchained, will be performing their trademark "ultimate Johnny Cash experience," a tribute to Cash and a program of Cash's memorable and influential music. The lead singer is James's son, James Tamelcoff III, who "captures Cash's trademark baritone voice," according to one reviewer. For more information and to buy tickets, you may visit the theater's website . . . Longtime parishioner, Steve Potanovic, recently moved to Florida to begin a new job. He was in New York last week and worshipped with us at the Solemn Mass on Sunday. He tells us that the move went well--he recommends the Amtrak Auto Train--and he enjoys his new job. He has found a parish near where he lives. We hope that he will return back home to visit us often . . . Daniel Okobi, M.D., Ph.D., was in town recently and joined us for Solemn Mass. He is currently a second-year neurology resident at UCLA Health, a consortium of hospitals, medical centers, and clinics affiliated with the university. He tells us that he is doing well and that his work is demanding but very satisfying. Daniel is a good friend of Saint Mary's and worshipped with us frequently while he was doing his doctoral work at NYU . . . Father Gerth is away on vacation until the evening of Monday, July 22. He returns to the office on Tuesday, July 23. Father Jay Smith will be away on vacation between Tuesday, July 23, and Tuesday, August 6. He returns to the office on Wednesday, August 7 . . . We hope to receive donations for altar flowers for the following dates: August 4, 11, and 18; September 1, 8, 22; October 13, 20, 27; and November 1, All Saints' Day . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 152.
THE BUILDING: WORK IN PROGRESS . . . The workers will soon finish constructing the scaffolding on the 46th Street side of the church. Netting will cover a good portion of the scaffolding once that work is finished. The plywood sheds on the sidewalk level are being fortified and secured. The process to secure permits for later stages of the work is going well. Once the scaffolding is fully in place, a subcontractor who specializes in asbestos abatement will begin work on the roofs of the Parish House and the Mission House. We expect that work to begin shortly. The work will be overseen and the roofs will be secured and protected by our contractor. Once the asbestos removal has been accomplished--in about two or three weeks' time--the workers will begin pointing stone on the façade and removing other stone elements for conservation and re-casting. Please pray for the success of the project and for the safety of those working on the building.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . On Sundays from the Third Sunday after Pentecost until the first Sunday of October the Choir of Saint Mary's is represented at Solemn Mass by a single cantor who sings the traditional Gregorian Introit, Alleluia, Offertory and Communion, as well as a vocal solo during the ministration of Communion. The ordinary of the Mass, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei, are congregational settings. New Plainsong, the setting sung at Solemn Mass this summer, was composed by David Hurd (b. 1950), organist and music director at Saint Mary's, in 1978 and has been sung widely by Episcopal and Roman Catholic congregations since its publication in The Hymnal 1982 and Worship Third Edition, a Catholic hymnal of similar vintage. (A new Roman Catholic edition of New Plainsong has recently been issued to accommodate the current revised Missal texts.) The original intent of New Plainsong was to be to the Episcopal Church's Rite II what John Merbecke's 1550 setting was to the Eucharistic texts of the Book of Common Prayer 1549: a simple, monophonic, mostly syllabic musical setting which could be sung unaccompanied. While New Plainsong, which has now been in use for over forty years, is no longer literally new, it was composed as original music in the style of chant rather than being adapted directly from historic plainsong. The "new" in the title is meant to speak of the relationship with the "old" medieval repertoire on which it was modeled.
The cantor on Sunday morning is countertenor, Jonathan May. During the Communion he will sing Lament from Stabat Mater by the Welsh composer Karl Jenkins (b. 1944). Lament is the fourth of the twelve movements of Stabat Mater, a major work for chorus and orchestra which received its premiere on Saturday, March 15, 2008, at Liverpool Cathedral, performed by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra. In addition to the traditional twenty-stanza thirteenth-century poem, Jenkins' Stabat Mater draws texts from other sources that are written in several different languages. The text of Lament was composed by Jenkins' wife, Carol Barratt. Jenkins' musical career has been multi-faceted. Having received his early musical training from his father, a school teacher, organist, and choral director, he holds a doctorate in music from the University of Wales and has received many additional honors. He is recognized for his work with jazz-rock ensembles and other imaginative collaborations as well as his commercial, sacred, and concert works.
The organ voluntaries on Sunday are both works of J. S. Bach (1685-1750). Bach's Toccata in C, BWV 564, often referred to as Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue, is a youthful work which effectively combines Italian and German elements. The central portions of this multi-sectional work, played for the prelude on Sunday, are an Adagio with lyric melody accompanied by a plucked-style bass with discrete harmonic enhancement, followed by a chordal section of rich harmony leading from the minor tonality of the Adagio back to the major mode. The postlude is Bach's Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 533, also a youthful work, dating from around 1703 when Bach was at Arnstadt. This concise piece is full of bold gestures which, in spite of its modest length, may have led to it being nicknamed "The Cathedral."
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Our next Drop-in Day will take place this coming Wednesday, July 17, from 2:00 to 4:00 PM, in the Mission House basement. On those Wednesdays when a Drop-in Day does not take place, we continue to offer our Grab-and-Go days-from 2:00 to 3:00 PM-in the former Gift Shop off the church Narthex. On those days, basic, even emergency, items can normally be provided-socks, underwear, toiletry articles, and, in the winter months, cold-weather clothing. Please contact Brother Damien if you would like to donate cash, clothing, or toiletry articles, or to volunteer for this important ministry . . . We continue to receive donations of canned goods and other nonperishable food items for the Saint Clement's Food Pantry. Donations may be placed in the basket next to the Ushers' Table at the Forty-sixth Street entrance to the church.
LOOKING FOR VOLUNTEERS . . . Since Sister Laura Katharine returned to Mendham last September, the work of the sacristy has been restructured, but some work, of necessity, has been neglected. Brendon Hunter has organized a group of parishioners to care for candles on the altar and in the church. He has also done essential work with our vestments. Marie Rosseels and MaryJane Boland have been laundering linens, both large and small. All of these volunteers, along with Clark Mitchell and Father Gerth have been baking the altar bread. However, these hard-working volunteers clearly need help. We invite all parishioners to consider working with our newly re-constituted Altar Guild. For more information and to get a tour of the chancel, sacristy, smoke room, and frontal room, please speak to Brendon, Marie, MaryJane, or Father Gerth.
LOOKING AHEAD . . . Monday, July 22, Saint Mary Magdalene, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Thursday, July 25, Saint James the Apostle, Mass and Healing Service 12:10 PM and Mass and Healing Service 6:20 PM . . . Tuesday, August 6, The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Mass 12:10 PM and Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Thursday, August 15, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM.
AT THE MUSEUMS . . . At the Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street, Open Daily 10:00 AM-6:00 PM, City of Workers, City of Struggle: How Labor Movements Changed New York, through January 5, 2020. From the museum website, "For some two centuries, working people's movements have shaped New York-and vice versa. Some of the first labor organizations in the country were formed by the city's artisans in the early nineteenth century, and some of the nation's foremost labor leaders have been New Yorkers, from Samuel Gompers and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn to A. Philip Randolph, David Dubinsky, and Sidney Hillman. But working New Yorkers have also struggled with each other over pay, power, and inclusion. New waves of workers-women, immigrants, people of color, and the 'unskilled'-have repeatedly defined their own movements for a better life, and in the process remade city life in ways that affect all. City of Workers, City of Struggle: How Labor Movements Changed New York traces the social, political, and economic story of these diverse workers and their movements in New York through rare documents, artifacts, and footage, and considers the future of labor in the city."