FROM THE RECTOR: SESQUICENTENNIAL COMING
On Sunday, December 8, 2019, Saint Mary’s will celebrate the beginning of our one-hundred-fiftieth year of ministry. The doors of the first church, located at 228 West Forty-fifth Street, opened for worship on December 8, 1870. It was a Thursday and was kept as the Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1895, December 8, was the Second Sunday of Advent. Though not strictly rubrical, it was celebrated in the new building as the Feast of the Conception of Mary. Newbury Frost Read’s The Story of St. Mary’s (1931) is available online at Project Canterbury. The bishop of New York consecrated the church on December 12, 1895. The December 1895 issue of the The Arrow, a parish magazine then published by a men’s group, the Sons of St. Sebastian, from October 1891 through March 1899, is an important record of the services celebrated that month.
I’m very delighted to announce that the Right Reverend Andrew M.L. Dietsche, the bishop of New York, will be with us on Monday, December 9, 2019, to be celebrant and preacher for our patronal feast and the beginning of our year of sesquicentennial celebrations. The Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold, XXV Presiding Bishop, will be here to be celebrant and preacher on December 8, 2020, to conclude our special year. As this newsletter goes out, our annual Assumption Appeal has been mailed. It’s asking for gifts for the Sesquicentennial Celebration Fund. Planning for these and the other celebrations and ministries during this year is just beginning.
In addition to the work underway for the conservation of the façade, at the request of our board of trustees, our architects and attorneys are close to completing a proposal for an accessible ramp for the West 47th Street door to the church. There is room between the door of the church and the door of the rectory to place a ramp, one that will not need a turn. Of course, that’s not the only accessibility need that we have. I can’t think of a greater need for our ministry of welcome to all.
The Reverend Thomas McKee Brown (1841–1898; rector 1870–1898) was celebrant for the first Solemn Mass in the church on December 8, 1895. He was celebrant and preacher for the Solemn Mass on Sunday, December 15. His sermon was published in a Memorial—again, thank you, Project Canterbury!—under the title, “The Anniversary Sermon, Church of St. Mary the Virgin, New York, Preached on the Octave of the Opening Services of the New Church on the 25th Anniversary of the Parish Feast of the Conception of the Virgin Mary 1895.” He said, “There is a religiousness, magnificence and grandeur about this Church which of itself is more than a striking lesson, which at once finds a response in our spirit and teaches us to look farther beyond. It is not merely walls and vaulted roof that we see, but religious truth, which elevates the soul wherever the eye may rest” (page 39). I know these words are still true.
Finally, this week, on Tuesday, August 6, we celebrate the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In addition to the 12:10 Daily Eucharist, there will be an Evening Sung Mass at 6:00 PM. The next week we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Thursday, August 15. There will be a Sung Mass at 12:10 PM, an organ recital at 5:30 PM, and Solemn Mass at 6:00 PM. I hope very much many friends of the parish can join us that day. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Gary, Rita, Bryan, Dianna, Beulah, Cyrisse, Wendell, May, Willard, Alexandra, Karen, Carolyn, Ivy, Marilouise, Takeem, Carmen, Michael, and Burton; and Horace, Gaylord, Louis, and Edgar, priests; Melissa and James, bishops; and for all the benefactors and friends of this parish . . . GRANT THEM PEACE: August 4: 1941 Louise Crater Mudgett; 1959 Carrie Stringham; 1960 Doris Thomas; 1966 Harold Warrell.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the Lord’s crucifixion.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Sunday, August 4, The Seventh 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 . . . Tuesday, August 6, The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Mass 12:10 PM, Sung Mass 6:00 PM; Ministry to the Homeless: Grab and Go, 2:00–3:00 PM, Narthex . . . Friday, August 9, Centering Prayer Group, 6:30 PM in the Atrium in the Parish House, Second Floor.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . August 9, 2019, will be the fifty-ninth anniversary of the ordination to the priesthood of the Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus. Congratulations, Father Wells! . . . Brother Thomas SSF has returned from his mission work in the diocese of Northern Michigan . . . Father Jay Smith returns to the parish on Wednesday, August 7 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 117.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The cantor today is soprano Charlotte Mundy, a regular member of the Choir of Saint Mary’s. During the communion she will sing Song to the Dark Virgin by Florence B. Price (1887–1953). Florence Price was a remarkable and ground-breaking American composer. At a time when women and African-Americans were essentially excluded from the world of classical music composition, Price earned national recognition as the first African-American woman to be performed by a major orchestra when her Symphony in E minor was premiered by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1933. Price, whose maiden name was Smith, grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, in a middle class African-American social context, her parents both being professional people. Having received her first music instruction from her mother, her advanced music studies were at the New England Conservatory of Music where she distinguished herself as a pianist, an organist and a composer. After graduating, she held teaching positions in Arkansas and Georgia and, in 1927, settled in Chicago where she established her career as teacher, performer and composer. Her more than three hundred compositions include symphonic and chamber works, works for solo piano and organ, and vocal and choral pieces and arrangements. Today’s communion solo is one of Price’s many art songs, in this case a setting of a poem by the noted African-American writer and social activist Langston Hughes (1902–1967).
The organ voluntaries today are also compositions by Florence B. Price. Price composed many short piano and organ pieces for practical and pedagogical use. Since she was an accomplished theater organist, it is not surprising that some of her organ pieces bear titles which suggest programmatic inspiration or application. Price’s musical idiom is generally conventional and conservative for her time. Her organ works are conceived for the orchestral tonal pallet of the organs fashionable in her formative years. In Quiet Mood, with self-descriptive title, is played for the prelude today. It is characterized by a lyric melody sounding against a gently oscillating accompaniment and supported by long sustained pedal tones. Festal March, played for the postlude, is a character piece well-described by its title. —David Hurd.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Our next Drop-in Day will take place on Wednesday, August 21, 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.