FROM THE RECTOR: ANOTHER GREAT WEEK
Sunday, May 1, is the Sixth Sunday of Easter. As is our custom, at the Solemn Mass on this first Sunday of what is traditionally the month of Mary, we will include the May Crowning devotions at the conclusion of the service. Following the Mass, the Annual Meeting of the congregation will be held in Saint Joseph’s Hall. Thursday, May 5, is Ascension Day, a principal feast of the church year. Our celebration will begin on Wednesday evening with Solemn Evensong for the Eve of Ascension Day. On Thursday, the Right Reverend R. William Franklin, bishop of Western New York, will be celebrant for the Solemn Mass at 6:00 PM. It will be great to welcome him back to the parish. In addition to our evening Solemn Mass, there will be a Sung Mass here at 12:10 PM.Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: CHANGE ORDER NUMBER 1
Work on the new rectory roof has begun. Since December, with short breaks at Christmastide and during Holy Week and Easter Week, I have been part of a weekly meeting with our architects, Jan Hird Pokorny, Associates, and with our contractor, West New York Restoration. I’ve been learning a lot. I’ve been very impressed by the knowledge, skills, and commitment to a historically significant building they are bringing to us. It’s a meeting I look forward to attending very much.
FROM THE RECTOR: EUCHARISTIC SHEPHERD
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) has played an important role in my spiritual life and my work as a priest since I first encountered it at Saint James’ Cathedral, South Bend, Indiana, in the winter of 1989. CGS is a Montessori approach to religious formation for children ages three to twelve. Though Roman Catholic in origin, it has been adapted by other denominations, including our own. This ecumenical approach was encouraged by its founding leaders, the late Hebrew scholar Sofia Cavalletti (1917–2011) and her Montessori colleague Gianna Gobbi (1919–2002). Cavalletti and Gobbi believed that God was at work in every child’s life. This catechesis provides an environment for every child to work on the relationship with God he or she already had in his or her life.
FROM THE RECTOR: OPEN DOORS PHASE 1
On Trinity Sunday, May 22, following the Solemn Mass, we will celebrate the end of Phase 1 of “Open Doors: The Campaign for the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin.” When the feasibility study was conducted in the spring of 2015 by the Episcopal Church Foundation. They recommended that we set a goal of $1,718,000. To date we have received pledges that total $2,682,859 and unsolicited donations of $19,420 for a campaign total to date of $2,702,279. Thank you, God. Congratulations, Saint Mary’s.
FROM THE RECTOR: REJOICE
I was up before dawn on Easter Day, to go the tomb, as it were—actually to work on my sermon—which couldn’t help but remind me of the women in the resurrection stories in the gospels; and like those holy women, I discovered something I did not expect to find. In Matthew, on the morning of the resurrection as Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph are going from the tomb to tell the disciples what they have seen and what they have been told by the angel to tell the others, Jesus greets them with the command, “Rejoice” (Matthew 28:9a). In his book Matthew 21–28: A Commentary (2005), Professor Ulrich Luz writes, “With this greeting he confirms and deepens the ‘great joy’ the women already have [received] (v.8)” (page 607).
FROM THE RECTOR: EASTER DAY AT SAINT MARY’S
As I write before sunrise on Good Friday, the church is dark and bare. There’s only enough light in the church so those who have been coming in during the night can move about safely. The candles are burning in the Mercy Chapel, where the Sacrament was reposed at the close of the Eucharist last night. But in a real sense, we have been celebrating the Lord’s resurrection all week.
FROM THE RECTOR: HOLY WEEK 2016
Only once in the seventeen years I have been at Saint Mary’s have we been unable to process through Times Square on Palm Sunday. The usual worry is rain. This year, as I write on Friday, March 18, snow is forecast for the afternoon and evening. I have a hunch that it will be all right—and a memorable start to Holy Week. The focus of our worship on Sunday, of course, is not the Liturgy of the Palms. It’s the Eucharist and the proclamation of the passion, this year, from Luke.
FROM THE RECTOR: FINDING THE FORTY DAYS
Last week I realized that the 1979 Prayer Book kept not only the traditional twelve-day Christmas Season, but also a full forty-day season of Lent and Holy Week—except in the years when the Annunciation, March 25, occurs in Lent. If one begins with Ash Wednesday, omits the Sundays in Lent and the Sunday of the Passion, and then counts the weekdays through Holy Saturday, one has forty days of Lent and Holy Week. This reading of the Prayer Book’s section called “Days of Special Devotion” (page 17) is confirmed by the section called “The Titles of the Seasons” (pages 31–32).
FROM THE RECTOR: CONNECTIONS
The last few weeks have been busy ones for me, but there have also been some unexpected graces. When I woke up on Wednesday morning, February 24, I got in touch with several musicians, including Dr. David Hurd, who recently left his position at the General Theological Seminary as professor of church music and organist. Dr. Hurd was already committed for Holy Week and Easter Day, but he recommended an organist who, he thought, was available. I’m delighted to be able to announce that Dr. Timothy Pyper will be our guest organist and choral director for the seven principal liturgies of the week.Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: LOOKING AHEAD A LITTLE
On Tuesday, February 23, 2016, Board Vice President Marie Rosseels and I accepted the resignation of Simon Whalley as organist and music director. The hearts of all of us in the parish leadership are heavy. Simon made a real contribution to our common life in the short time he was with us. I’m sure all who read this will join me in wishing him the very best.Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: LENT WITH LUKE
The gospel lesson on the First Sunday in Lent in all three years of the lectionary cycle is the story of Jesus’ temptation, successively from Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Year A, Matthew gets the first Sunday, but on the other four Sundays John takes over, and the church hears four truly great lessons. They are: Nicodemus meeting Jesus (John 3:1–17 [Note: next year we will read the whole passage, 3:1–21]); Jesus and the Samaritan Woman (John 4:5–42); Jesus healing the man born blind (John 9:1–41); and Jesus raising Lazarus (John 11:1–44).Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: SILENCE IN LENT
Saint Mary’s offers us a beautiful and acoustically alive space for worship. It’s very kind to all who sing. It is one reason our choral program is so strong and so varied. Our organ was built to take full advantage of the acoustic—and it does. There are many Sundays when I am aware of the congregation singing the Lord’s Prayer and other chants almost with one voice. I look forward to the greater simplicity of the Sundays in Lent because these strengths—our building, the acoustic and our congregation’s willingness to sing—have enabled us to limit the use of the organ to accompany hymns. Just after Christmas Simon Whalley and I met to discuss the music in Lent. He wondered if the choir might sing from the chancel instead of the gallery. I said, “Let’s try it.”Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: TRANSFIGURATION PILGRIMS
With the new Prayer Book the Episcopal Church hears the story of Jesus’ transfiguration every year on the Sunday before the beginning of Lent. The story is found in Mark, Matthew, and Luke. This year we hear Luke 9:28–36. Briefly, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up to the top of a mountain. There his uncomprehending disciples see his physical glory as God’s Son. As at his baptism, his Father’s voice is heard. In all three gospels, when Jesus and the disciples come down from the mountain and encounter the crowd that follows Jesus almost everywhere, a demon who has possessed a boy will be waiting for him (Luke 9:37–43a).
FROM THE RECTOR: CANDLEMAS 2016
On Monday, February 1, God willing, I will begin my eighteenth year of service as rector of Saint Mary’s. (Yes, the eighteenth. I became rector on February 1, 1999.) Because it is the Eve of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple, commonly called, “Candlemas,” Solemn Evensong will be offered at 6:00 PM. This service speaks to me about the character of the parish as much as the services that will be celebrated on Tuesday, February 2.
SPECIAL WEATHER NOTICE
As we go to press on Friday, January 22, 2016, I want you to know that I plan to send out an announcement at noon tomorrow about the schedule for Sunday. It’s not unusual for weather forecasts to be wrong, but there is a blizzard warning for Saturday and Sunday for New York City and most of the mid-Atlantic region. The MTA expects public transportation to be “services up and running during harsh winter weather conditions.” That said, sidewalks may not be clear; it may not be safe to venture out of one’s home until Monday. Common sense is one of God’s gifts for all of us. Again, I plan to send an announcement at noon tomorrow about Sunday. —Stephen GerthRead More
FROM THE RECTOR: THE WEEK IN CANTERBURY
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has its roots in the Episcopal Diocese of New York. Since 1968 the World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church have celebrated it jointly between the Feast of the Confession of Saint Peter the Apostle on January 18 and the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul on January 25. I was once in Rome for this celebration, where Protestants were received with genuine courtesy and grace. That said, then and now, I believe Pope Paul VI (bishop of Rome, 1963–1978) had it right when he said, “The Papacy, we know well, is without a doubt the most serious obstacle on the road to ecumenism” (my translation from the French original: April 28, 1967). But the papacy is certainly not the only obstacle to Christian unity. There are many such obstacles between and among all Christian denominations; and, of course, unity has been impaired within individual denominations as well.Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: LITERALLY OPEN
The doors were literally wide open at Saint Mary’s on Christmas Eve. It was so warm in the city that the doors were open during the day on December 24 and through the evening for the 5:00 PM and the 11:00 PM Christmas Eve Masses. Large congregations were in the pews at both services. People (hundreds) kept coming in during the evening to see what was going on. Lucky ones observed the church (meaning the people) in worship and caught some really great music. It was a happy Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Times Square.Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: CHRISTMAS AND EPIPHANY
December 25 is still the first day of the Christmas Season in the Episcopal Church, January 5, the twelfth day. We Episcopalians have hung on to the traditional twelve-day season and have continued to celebrate the older festival of the Epiphany on January 6. In the Christian West, the Epiphany celebrates the coming of the wise men, the story told in Matthew 2:1–12. In the Christian East, the Epiphany evolved as a celebration of the baptism of Christ. Both East and West include early winter celebrations of Jesus’ nativity, his baptism, and his first miracles.Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: CHRISTMAS 2015
As I write on Wednesday afternoon, December 23, the city is darkening with the early sunset at the beginning of winter and also with the dark clouds of rainstorm. Yet, the city is bustling. The sidewalks and streets are crowded. The church itself remains largely quiet. But flowers and greens have been delivered. Much work is being done; more will be done tonight after the church closes. Upstairs, the church staff is so ridiculously busy that everyone has a smile on his or her face. It’s great to hear Christmas hymns and music being practiced for the services on Thursday and Friday. Christmas is almost here. The power of this Good News is waiting for you and me. I can hardly wait.Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: ADVENT TO CHRISTMAS
For reasons that are mostly lost to history Advent is the most complicated season of the church year. By comparison, all of the others are pretty straightforward. I first learned the phrase “liturgical bleeding” in connection with Advent from Father Louis Weil while his student at Nashotah House. Now something else has happened. In my lifetime, Christmas has “bled,” if you will, in the other direction in church and in society. That said, Advent is still Advent officially in the Episcopal Church, and at Saint Mary’s, Christmas is still Christmas. I don’t want to miss any of it.Read More