The Angelus

Volume 18, Number 5

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.

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Volume 18, Number 4

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.

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Volume 18, Number 3

FROM THE RECTOR: TWO CAMPAIGNS

“Open Doors: The Capital Campaign for the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin” is underway. Bishop Frank Griswold, Bishop Allen Shin, and a large congregation were with us for the Solemn Mass on our patronal feast, the campaign’s official beginning. It was great to be able to announce at the reception following the service that we have received advanced pledges of $2,625,053. The campaign goal: $4,475,000.

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Volume 18, Number 2

FROM THE RECTOR: THE DOORS WILL BE OPEN

The doors will be open on Tuesday, December 8, 2015, for our neighborhood, our city, and the world that passes through what is now Times Square as they have been since December 8, 1870. It will be the one hundred forty-fifth celebration of our patronal feast, the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It will also be the day on which we begin “Open Doors: The Campaign for the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin.”

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Volume 18, Number 1

FROM THE RECTOR: ADVENT 1870–2015

In 1870 the First Sunday of Advent fell on November 27. Eleven days remained until the doors of a new parish for a new neighborhood, then called Longacre Square, would open for its first service. Things have not been the same in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America since the doors of the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin opened.

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VOLUME 17, NUMBER 52

FROM THE RECTOR: BELONGING TO CHRIST

Personal. Last week as the plane on which I was traveling was taking off, without thinking, the quiet prayer I said to myself was, “I belong to Christ.” Then followed several moments with no words at all in my mind. This was something new. For decades now—yes, decades (ouch)—my prayer on taking off and landing has been one complete “Hail, Mary.” I don’t even think about it; it’s a habit. Those few words, again, “I belong to Christ,” and the silent moments made me think about where it was coming from.

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VOLUME 17, NUMBER 51

FROM MARK RISINGER: PLEDGING, PAST & PRESENT

“I shall, I fear, be dark and cold with all my fire and light; / Yet when thou dost accept their gold, Lord, treasure up my mite.” These words of the poet John Mason appear in a hymn that the boys at my school love to sing. As a teacher, I enjoy the challenge of explaining the sentiment they express with their reference to the parable of “The Widow’s Mite”

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VOLUME 17, NUMBER 50

FROM THE RECTOR: OPEN DOORS—THE CAMPAIGN FOR SAINT MARY’S

Every capital campaign needs a name. We have one: Open Doors. As our leadership team approached the campaign, a consistent theme in many conversations with members and friends of Saint Mary’s is the importance of our doors being open seven days a week. Right now, the main doors of the church are overshadowed by a sidewalk shed. The 47th Street doors need a ramp to make our church accessible to more people

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VOLUME 17, NUMBER 49

FROM THE RECTOR: ALL SAINTS’ DAY

Massey Shepherd (1913–1990) wrote about the collect for All Saints’ Day composed by Thomas Cranmer for the first Book of Common Prayer, “It is one of the most characteristic expressions of the doctrine of the Church, both visible and invisible, in all of the Prayer Book. The basic theme is Saint Paul’s conception of the Church as ‘the Body of Christ’ ” (Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary [1950]). It is a powerful and beautiful prayer. Here is the collect in contemporary English:

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VOLUME 17, NUMBER 48

FROM THE RECTOR: ORIGINS

John Jacob Astor, Jr. (1791–1869) gave three lots to the new congregation that was organized in 1868 as the Society of the Free Church of St. Mary the Virgin. The lots were in what is now called Times Square. The first rector, Thomas McKee Brown (1841–1898), would later write that the land was given “on the condition that the Church should be free, and positively orthodox in management and working” (N. F. Read, The Story of Saint Mary’s [1931], 16–17).

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VOLUME 17, NUMBER 47

FROM THE RECTOR: URBAN CHRISTIANITY

Last week as a guest at the annual conference of the Society of Catholic Priests (Episcopalians!), I heard presentations by the Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold, XXV Presiding Bishop, the Reverend Albert Cutié, rector, Saint Benedict’s Church, Plantation, Florida, and the Reverend Nadia Bolz-Weber, a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I was very glad I was able to attend. Bishop Griswold spoke about the work of the society. Father Cutié spoke on “Católicos Latinos.” Pastor Bolz-Weber called her meditation, “Emergent Catholicity from a Cranky Lutheran.”

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VOLUME 17, NUMBER 46

FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR: “SING TO THE LORD A NEW SONG”

Many people are firmly convinced that, at one point in the movie Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart turns to the nightclub pianist and utters those now famous words, “Play it again, Sam.” Unfortunately, that’s not what Bogie said. In a similar way, many people believe that Saint Augustine of Hippo once wrote, “He who sings prays twice,” though that’s not what he wrote, or not exactly. This is too bad, since such a pithy quote would be an admirable way to start an account of the role of the choir here at Saint Mary’s. In fact, however, Augustine was making a more subtle theological point. In his commentary on Psalm 73 he writes as follows:

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VOLUME 17, NUMBER 45

FROM THE RECTOR: EXCITEMENT

This Sunday the “regular” Sunday schedule returns. There are four changes from the summer schedule on Sundays: (1) Morning Prayer is sung not read; (2) the parish choir sings at the Solemn Mass; (3) Solemn Evensong, Sermon & Benediction is offered in place of reading Evening Prayer; and (4) Christian education resumes at 10:00 AM on Sunday mornings (and at 6:30 PM on Wednesday evenings!). Since the time of the New Testament, worship and education have been among the fundamental characteristics of Christian congregations.

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VOLUME 17, NUMBER 44

FROM THE RECTOR: HOW WE LISTEN

One summer in the 1990s I had the privilege of taking a two-week class at Notre Dame given by Jewish liturgical scholar Lawrence Hoffman. A book assigned in that class was especially helpful for someone like me who knew little about prayer in Judaism. The cover of the paperback edition showed an Orthodox Jewish man facing the temple wall in Jerusalem. When I started looking among my books for it recently, I couldn’t remember the name of the author. I thought I remembered the title; but I really didn’t. Thanks to the Internet, I eventually found the reference: The Gate Behind the Wall: A Pilgrimage to Jerusalem (1984) by Samuel Heilman. I finally located my copy.

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VOLUME 17, NUMBER 43

FROM THE RECTOR: FALL 2015 ARRIVES

The fall equinox this year will occur on Wednesday, September 23, at 5:06 AM Eastern Daylight Time. It will arrive for me in Lost River, West Virginia, where I will be attending a workshop, Leadership in Ministry. I have participated in this workshop twice a year since before I became rector of Saint Mary’s. Most of the participants, but not all, are members of the clergy.


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VOLUME 18, NUMBER 42

FROM FATHER SMITH: THINGS TO COME

It is a rainy and muggy day here in New York as I sit down to work on this edition of the newsletter. Friends from England report that it has been chilly in London, but not here in New York, not yet. Still, there are signs of autumn in the air at Saint Mary’s, despite the late-summer heat. The Stewardship Committee is hard at work on the fall campaign. The Capital Campaign Committee has also been busy, preparing for a launch toward the end of the year.

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VOLUME 17, NUMBER 41

FROM THE RECTOR: “CLARITY AND CONSENSUS”

The 2015 General Convention directed the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music “to prepare a plan for the comprehensive revision of the current Book of Common Prayer” and to present that plan to the 2018 General Convention. And if this were not enough for them to do, the convention also asked the Commission “to prepare a plan for the comprehensive revision of the Hymnal 1982.” So, I went to the web page of the Archives of the Episcopal Church to look at the records of the Reports to the General Conventions (the so-called “Blue Books”) and the Acts of General Convention.

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VOLUME 17, NUMBER 40

FROM THE RECTOR: MORE FROM SAINT MARK

Until Father Pete Powell introduced me to Ulrich Luz’s commentary on Matthew, I never found the commentaries I owned very useful for preaching. Luz changed my mind about how I think about commentaries and how I read them. Now I have another one that I value highly, Joel Marcus’s two-volume commentary on Mark (Anchor Yale Bible series)

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Volume 17, Number 39

FROM THE RECTOR: OUR CAPITAL CAMPAIGN

On Easter Day 2010, when I came down from the rectory for Evensong, parishioner Hardy Geer met me in Saint Joseph’s Hall with what looked like small rocks. He told me that some small chunks of stone had fallen from the 46th Street façade of the church. Within a day or two a sidewalk shed was put up. Architects were hired. The lay leadership of the parish and I began the long journey to the capital campaign.

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Volume 17, Number 38

FROM THE RECTOR: PLANNING FOR CHALLENGE

Part of my daily reading since last April has been a paragraph or so from a book about Bowen Family Systems Theory. The first book was Your Mindful Compass (2013) by Andrea Maloney Schara. Right now, I’m just about finished reading Perspectives on Congregational Leadership: Applying Systems Thinking for Effective Leadership (2009) by the Reverend Israel Galindo. An American Baptist minister, Galindo is now an associate dean at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia,

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