FROM THE RECTOR: TO GROW UNDERSTANDING
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has its origins in the diocese of New York. Paul James Francis Wattson, S.A., born Lewis Wattson, was still an Episcopal monk and priest in 1908 when he suggested that the week between the January feasts of Saint Peter and Saint Paul (now known by Anglicans as the Confession of Saint Peter on January 18 and the Conversion of Saint Paul on January 25) be observed as a "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity." But by this time Wattson was on his way to Rome. In 1909 his Episcopal religious community, the Society of the Atonement, was received into the Roman Catholic Church. He continued his ecumenical work throughout his life. He died in 1940.
FROM THE RECTOR: BACK TO GENESIS
Every year on Monday after the First Sunday after the Epiphany (this year, Monday January 8), the church begins reading Genesis at either Daily Morning Prayer or Daily Evening Prayer (this year in the morning). For some years now, Genesis has ranked in my heart and mind as my very favorite book in the Old Testament. (For the New Testament, John's gospel still has a slight lead over Mark-but it's close.) We're reading more of Genesis than required by the lectionary-it's always permitted to read more, but not less, than the appointed lessons. We don't read everything, but I've been surprised by how much good stuff we've been able to add.Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: EPIPHANY SEASON
On the day after the Epiphany, January 6, most years there will be one or more pictures of Orthodox Christian men and boys diving into often frigid waters to retrieve a cross that has been tossed into the waters. In the Christian East, the Epiphany is not about the visit of the wise men-probably astrologers, but about the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. The history of this feast is complicated, but after Easter and Pentecost, it is the third most ancient festival.Read More
This year there is one Sunday after Christmas Day before the Epiphany, January 6-some years there are two. Last year, when Christmas Day fell on a Sunday, the next Sunday was January 1, 2017, the Feast of the Holy Name of Our Lord-so no First Sunday after Christmas Day. With the Epiphany falling on Friday, January 6, 2017, the next Sunday after January 1, 2017, was the first Sunday after the Epiphany.Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: CHRISTMAS WITH CHRIST
I am writing this on the morning of December 21, 2017, the Feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle, the first day of winter. A number of people have been at work all week to prepare flowers and greens for Christmas-and I know that many hours were spent planning what needed to be ordered. Yesterday afternoon, Father Jay Smith, Dr. David Hurd, and I reviewed the bulletins and service details. Saturday I will be meeting with sacristy team leaders to prepare for rehearsals. New York is alive with the signs and sounds of the season. But in the church-and in the rectory-it's still Advent, as it will be on Sunday morning, December 24. Do come on Sunday morning for the last celebration of the Advent season. Late Sunday afternoon we begin to celebrate Christmas with Christ as the Body of Christ.Read More
During my most recent time at Saint Mary's when someone suggested perhaps New York City is no longer my home and Nashville is, I explained I've figured out a way to be in both cities as my complicated circumstances--health, finances, family--have made that desirable, though it's a work in progress. The idea of home itself is complicated, as is its supposed opposite, homelessness. I'm fortunate to be on one side of the line between those two modes; more people all the time aren't, as we see wherever we live.Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: ADVENT LIVES
Advent is alive at Saint Mary's. With Christmas Day being a Monday, the season this year is as short as it can be. Next year, when Christmas Day is a Tuesday, Advent will be as long as it can be. I associate Advent with the snow I encountered during my first year in graduate school at the University of Chicago-and it brings the memory of walking on fresh snow there on my way to and from my first confession at the local parish. I think it was the first period when I attended the Episcopal Church regularly enough to appreciate the season.
FROM THE TREASURER: GENEROUS DONOR MATCHES NEW GIFTS
I'm writing to you today with some exciting news. There's never been a better time to renew and refresh your commitment to Saint Mary's and to the Open Doors Campaign. An anonymous donor has just issued a challenge to the community, agreeing to match $100,000 if we can raise that much in new pledges for the Open Doors Campaign before the end of 2017. For every additional dollar you pledge to the campaign, the parish will receive two dollars-thanks to this most generous member of our community.Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: YEAR'S END
This Sunday, the Last Sunday after Pentecost, now identified as "Christ the King" in editions of the Prayer Book with the Revised Common Lectionary, is the fifty-third Sunday of the current church year-it began on November 27, 2016. This year the gospel lesson is Matthew 25:31-46, known as "The Great Judgment." Next year we will hear John 18:33-37, where Jesus is on trial before Pilate. (We also have the option in the original lectionary of hearing Mark 11:1-11, Palm Sunday-and I have preached on both over the years.) Although the 1979 lectionary and the Revised Common Lectionary omit John 18:38, "Pilate said to [Jesus], 'What is truth?' " I'm thankful that the Prayer Book gives us permission to include it, and we do.
FROM THE RECTOR: PRIMARY MINISTERS
Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins will be away from Saint Mary's from this coming Monday, November 20, until Christmas Eve. Her absence is driven in large part by health issues arising from the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Given this, and given some of my recent experiences worshiping in other Episcopal congregations, I thought it might be helpful to write about who does what in Episcopal Church worship, and why, with reference to Saint Mary's.Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: WHITE, GOLD, AND BLACK
Saint Mary's has a beautiful black frontal. I suspect it was made in the 1930s. In the fall of 2004, it was substantially conserved by Christina Carr, a conservator in the Department of Textile Conservation, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. With continued care, I suspect it will be here for many, many years. What has changed very slowly over the past few years, however, is how and when we use it. The changes reflect the theological direction of the present Prayer Book: "The liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy. It finds all its meaning in the resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we, too, shall be raised" (The Book of Common Prayer , 507).Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: NO SEPARATION
This week I share the homily I wrote for the 12:10 Mass on All Souls' Day. It includes a reflection on the murders committed by a terrorist inspired by the so-called Islamic State in our city on Tuesday, October 31, 2017.
The mother of one of my good friends died at the end of September. I had visited with them in April. Her death was unexpected, but it was a release from the suffering from Alzheimer's disease. In that sense, it was a blessing that many of us have prayed for when someone in our own families has had this terrible disease.Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: ALL SAINTS' AND ALL SOULS'
Everyone keeps Christmas Eve on Christmas Eve, but fewer and fewer parishes keep the other two "principal feasts" that most years fall on a weekday: The Epiphany on January 6 and All Saints' Day on November 1. We still do. So, I begin with the service schedule for All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, November 2.Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: WOES OF ISAIAH AND JESUS
Two Sundays ago, the appointed gospel was the Parable of the Vineyard (Matthew 21:33-43). It's the day after Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He's teaching in the temple. The Old Testament lesson was the plaintive text called "The Song of the Vineyard" (Isaiah 5:1-7). It ends with these words, "For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed;Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: GOD IN OUR LIVES TODAY
I'm writing on Friday, October 13, from Chicago where I am attending the Annual Conference of the Society of Catholic Priests of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada until Saturday. I want to tell you about two of the presentations we heard yesterday. (I'm saving the third presentation, by the Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold, on sacramental Reconciliation for when I am home and can access my books.Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: OCTOBER HOPES
It was in the fall of 1976, when I was in graduate school, that I first attended the Church of the Ascension in Chicago. Many readers of this newsletter may know of the crucifix on the outside wall of that church and the words there from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass" (Lamentations 1:12). It's a powerful, even jarring, proclamation of Christ's sacrifice. Between the main doors of Saint Mary's, the Virgin holds her child, a proclamation of another truth: the Incarnation of the Son of God. I hope the faith in Christ we share, especially with those victims of the shootings in Las Vegas, can help keep the shadows of despair from many hearts.
FROM THE RECTOR: ECHOES OF DEDICATION
Many members and friends of Saint Mary's remember Helena and George Handy. Helena died in 2001, George in 2012. George was head of the usher guild for many, many years. He was also the last member of the congregation who had grown up in and still lived in the neighborhood. Their ashes are reposed in the vault in the Lady Chapel. Although there was a white frontal on the altar for his funeral, I wore the black vestments that had been worn in 1928 for the burial of George's father when George was ten years old.Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: A PARISH CALENDAR
In 1789, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America adopted its first Prayer Book. The statement of "Ratification" and the "Preface" of that first Prayer Book are still reprinted at the beginning of all of our American books. If you don't know the Preface, I think you will like reading it. It's helped to shape the thinking of our American church since its organization after the American Revolution. Here's one of its most important paragraphs:Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: REVISING THE PRAYER BOOK
The Anglican Theological Review (Summer 2017) has published an important article, "Revising the Episcopal Church's Book of Common Prayer (1979): Liturgical Theologians in Dialogue," by Scott MacDougall, Ruth Meyers, and Louis Weil. This article is available online to non-subscribers here. Scott MacDougall is an assistant professor of theology at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. Ruth Meyers is Hodges-Haynes Professor of Liturgics there, and Louis Weil, now retired, is professor emeritus in the chair now held by the Reverend Dr. Meyers. The article is very much worth reading for what it says and doesn't say.Read More
FROM FATHER SMITH: HOLY CROSS DAY
In Scripture we read, "We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). In the Nicene Creed, we proclaim, "For our sake [our Lord Jesus Christ] was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures." During the Eucharistic Prayer, we chant, "Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again." This is the Paschal mystery, the heart of the Christian faith.Read More