The Angelus

Volume XI, Number 5

From the Rector: Christmas Letter

This will be the last article I write to the parish community before I begin my sabbatical leave on January 1.  I’m writing on Tuesday afternoon, December 23.  Decorating in the church is well underway – a small army of volunteers is hard at work.  Even with greatly reduced expenditure, our flower guild has made extraordinary use of their resources – assisted by a few special donations.  The church already looks great and they aren’t finished yet.  Brass has been polished today and Father Mead will “candle up” the altar tomorrow.  The choir will be rehearsing tonight.  The wonderful festival which is Christmas will be here very soon.

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Volume XI, Number 4

From the Rector: Mostly Christmas

This coming Sunday is the last Sunday of Advent.  The focus of the day is our final Sunday preparation for the great festival of Christmas.  Sunday is the ancient, weekly celebration of the resurrection.  By the end of the first century, a Sunday in the spring comes to be celebrated as the Sunday of the Resurrection, which we English speakers call “Easter.”  By the beginning of the fourth century, a celebration of Jesus’ birth has emerged near the shortest day of the year.  We English speakers call this feast “Christmas Day” – the day of the Christ Mass.  In the darkness of the year, the true Light comes into the world.

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Volume XI, Number 3

From the Rector: Mostly Advent

A few well-known feast days happen at the beginning of the Advent Season.  These are Saint Nicholas’s Day on December 6, Saint Ambrose’s Day on December 7, the Conception of the Virgin Mary on December 8 and Saint Lucy’s Day on December 13.  December 21 is the Feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle.  Yet, in this parish church, Advent is still Advent for the four weeks before Christmas Day.

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Volume XI, Number 2

From the Rector: The Story of St. Mary’s

In 1931, Newbury Frost Read, a member of the parish and a trustee, wrote a history of this parish, “The Story of St. Mary’s: The Society of the Free Church of St. Mary the Virgin, New York City, 1868-1931.”  What was to become the Great Depression was well underway.  Frost records that at the beginning of 1930 the trustees were surprised Saint Mary’s had ended 1929 with a positive balance, even though it was only $8.34.  Money was far from the only challenge the parish faced.

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Volume 11, Number 1

From The Rector: Retrenchment

The Board of Trustees at its meeting on November 17 reworked the operating budget for the remainder of 2008 and made decisions shaping the operating budget for 2009.  The collapse in the United States equity markets in September and October cost Saint Mary’s approximately 1.2 million dollars.  This was money the trustees had set aside two years ago to fund deficits in the annual operating budget as we continued our steady growth to a balanced budget.  The trustees have made substantial and difficult cuts in personnel and program to keep the parish on a prudent path.  None of these cuts would have been made if the financial situation were not what it is.

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Volume 10, Number 52

From The Rector: Christ the King

The last Sunday of the Church year, since the liturgical renewal of the 1960s, is observed as a commemoration of the kingship of Christ.  An embattled and defensive bishop of Rome instituted this feast in 1925.  Remember that this was before the Vatican became a city-state through a treaty with Mussolini’s Italy in 1929.  Since 1870, the bishops of Rome had turned themselves into “prisoners” within the Vatican’s boundaries.  Pope Pius XI believed that a feast to commemorate Christ’s lordship would fight the “plague of anticlericalism” of the day.

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Volume 10, Number 51

From The Rector: Sabbatical

Just after Easter Week 2008, several lay leaders and I began to work on a proposal to the Lilly Endowment, Inc. for a grant that would fund a three-month sabbatical for me this winter.  I’m very pleased and proud to say that the Lilly Endowment has awarded Saint Mary’s this grant.  The award will provide money for study and travel and to cover some of the expenses the parish will incur for assisting clergy while I am away.  I will be away from the parish from January 1, 2009 through March 31, 2009.  My first Sunday back will be Palm Sunday.

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Volume 10, Number 50

From Father Smith: The Gift of Gratitude

As some of you who are reading this know, I studied theater in college and in graduate school.  The reason I moved to New York over thirty years ago was to “seek my fortune” as an actor.  When I arrived in the city in 1977, I had just received a Master of Fine Arts degree from an upstate university with a small, intensive, conservatory program in acting.  My fellow students and I – there were about fourteen of us, seven in each year – spent much of our time together.  During the day we studied acting, voice, movement, and related disciplines; at night we attended rehearsals.  We were a motley crew,

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Volume 10, Number 49

From the Rector: Voices and Dirt

In September my siblings and I began the process of cleaning out my mother’s house in southern Maryland.  She has Alzheimer’s disease and will never return home.  While there we visited the graveyard at Trinity Church, St. Mary’s City, where my stepfather, Bill, was buried.  None of us had been there since his funeral on February 19, 2007.  His gravestone had just gone up and we wanted to see it.  Yet I think we were drawn there by something much greater than the stone, memory or love.  I think about our human biology that does not allow us to forget our parents, those who have gone before.  And I think there is something in our biology that does not allow us to forget God.

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Volume 10, Number 48

From Father Mead: All Saints’ Day

One of the things that I like most about Saint Mary’s is that all major feasts are celebrated when they actually occur.   There is a venerable tradition of moving some feasts to Sunday so that everyone can be present for the feast, and in many churches this seems appropriate sometimes.  Saint Mary’s is a special place, where it’s possible to celebrate every feast on the date on which it falls, and I am thankful for that.   Our celebration of any major feast begins, whenever possible, the night before.  This is commonly referred to as the Eve of the particular feast.  This year, All Saints’ Day, November 1st , falls on a Saturday, and it will be observed at our noonday services that day, but our primary celebration will be Friday night, October 31st, the Eve of All Saints’ Day.

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Volume 10, Number 47

From The Rector:  Looking Back and Looking Forward

I happened to be in Amsterdam with friends in August 2001.  It was a wonderful week in many ways.  Memories of that week have remained especially sweet in light of what was to happen shortly after I returned.  Since then, too, I have read more about the Netherlands and Amsterdam when I have the chance.

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Volume 10, Number 46

From Father Smith: Working, Praying, and Giving to Spread God’s Kingdom

Many years ago, while wandering through the galleries containing the Met’s permanent collection of European paintings and feeling overwhelmed, and not a little bit bored, by all those grand scenes drawn from classical mythology, I came across a painting that told a different, more contemporary kind of story.  It was a large canvas, by an artist whose name I don’t remember and, in my ignorance, probably didn’t recognize.  The picture depicted a large, luxurious room in some Roman palazzo where two portly, dangerously red-faced, and sumptuously dressed prelates sat in throne-like chairs listening with a certain attitude – perhaps boredom, perhaps disdain –

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Volume 10, Number 45

From the Rector: Seen and Unseen

Last winter I began a serious effort to get the heating pipes underneath the church insulated to reduce heat loss.  Since coming to Saint Mary’s, I have been working with our plumber to repair and replace leaking pipes and valves.  But I had been told repeatedly since arriving at Saint Mary’s that nothing could be done about the heat loss.  The church uses Con Edison steam for heating.  The system was installed years ago.  Any insulation job would be too big and too expensive to do.  I didn’t train to be a building manager, but I’ve learned to be persistent over the years.  As I write, the job is basically complete for a little less than $6,000.00.

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Volume 10, Number 44

From the Rector: Some Primary Things

Just the other day, when I stepped into an elevator, a lady asked, in what turned out to be a Columbus, Georgia, accent, “Are you an Episcopal minister?”  I replied, “Yes, ma’am.”  It reminded me of another elevator conversation I had shortly after coming to Saint Mary’s.  A woman asked, “Are you an Episcopal priest?  Does your collar mean you are ‘high church’?”  Again, I was new to the parish – and in that moment, rather proud.  I replied, “As a matter of fact, I’m the new rector of the highest parish in the land.”  Even then, however, that’s not the way I would want to describe Saint Mary’s.

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Volume 10, Number 43

From Father Mead: Through the glass, darkly

Every autumn I write an Angelus article outlining the upcoming Christian Education Program that is being offered at Saint Mary’s.  In addition to that, this year I’d like to try to explain why I believe these classes are useful for all of us, and why I hope you will attend if you are able to.

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From the Rector: Triumph of the Cross

Sunday, September 14, is Holy Cross Day.  It is a “Feast of our Lord” that may take precedence over the ordinary Sunday celebration, and certainly this is the tradition at Saint Mary’s.  Quite unlike the Sunday of the Passion or Good Friday, the Mass is triumphal in its sorrow, its joy and its proclamation.  We use a beautiful responsorial psalm at the Solemn Mass.  The refrain is simple and simply powerful, “Faithful cross above all other, one and only noble tree.”

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Volume 10, Number 41

From the Rector: The Most Important Things

While on vacation, I came across a book that I’d looked at a few years ago when it first came out, Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies’ Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral.  It was written by two members of Saint James’ Church, Jackson, Mississippi.  It’s part cookbook, part commentary.  It’s the kind of book my mother might have taken someone as a hostess gift.  I laughed and laughed as I browsed through it, but I got the point.  No excuse.  Dead or alive, you and I are supposed to do the right thing in life, especially when it comes to dying.

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Volume 10, Number 40

From Father Smith: Some Thoughts on Evangelism

I recently asked a parishioner if he could remember why he had decided to join Saint Mary’s.  I was curious about what had drawn him here in the first place and if there had been something particular, some “tipping point,” that had convinced him to stay.  He smiled and said, “Well, this will seem silly to you, but I had been coming here for a while, mostly to daily Mass.  I’d sit out in the nave.

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Volume 10, Number 39

From The Rector: Churches of the Fathers

Of all the curious events in the Anglican Communion this year, among the most curious to me was the invitation to address the Lambeth Conference given by the archbishop of Canterbury to Walter Kasper, the Roman Catholic cardinal who is president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.  It wasn’t the first time Archbishop Williams had asked Cardinal Kasper to address a gathering.

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Volume 10, Number 38

From The Rector: You Welcomed Me

Many of you know that our parish kitchen has been closed since last fall.  For the moment, there are too many other maintenance projects in the pipeline that must take priority over this one. Fortunately, we can still serve a few things from the kitchen -- coffee, tea, juice and light packaged refreshments – and at receptions on principal feasts, wine, punch and their accompaniments.  But more than that, no.  Curiously, coffee hour on Sundays lasts longer than when the kitchen was working. 

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