Rector’s Chronicle: June 2005

Dearly Beloved in Christ,

Included with this Chronicle of mine is a letter from the Wardens describing the results of our Vestry Retreat Day this past April 16. As I thank the Wardens and Vestry for their time and efforts on that good day, I thank also Father Stafford, Father Austin, and Barbara Pettus for their presence and contributions. I trust that you will find the spirit and message of the Wardens’ letter informative and inspiring. Meanwhile, I have some additional matters to report to you.

EASTERTIDE EVENTS

In my Lenten Chronicle I commented on John Scott’s first Christmas here as a test that was passed with flying colors. Certainly the same glorious passage was true of Holy Week and Easter. John had not done Tenebrae before and loved it, along with our other rites of Holy Week. Fifty days later on the feast of Pentecost, we produced a new Procession for the day, based on the ancient Veni Creator Spiritus, which was well received at both 11 a.m. with the Solemn Eucharist and at 4:00 p.m. on its own. Looking back on the whole 2004-2005 season, there is no doubt that we have made a marvelous new beginning at the heart of our mission as an Anglican choral foundation with John Scott’s brilliant leadership.

That new beginning is also due to strong leadership at Saint Thomas Choir School, where Father Charles Wallace has just completed his first school year as our Headmaster. [His predecessor, Gordon Roland-Adams, returned home to England shortly after Easter. GRA has a flat in London, where he has been joined by his cat Humphrey. Nancy and I accompanied GRA home; Humphrey made the trip alone. Father Wallace and the graduating eighth graders will visit GRA this month on a trip to various choral sites in England.] I speak for the Vestry, Choir School Committee, Choir School faculty and staff, the boys, and the rest of the school’s constituency, in saying Father Wallace has made an excellent beginning. Over the weekend of Choir School graduation, we gave Father Wallace enthusiastic and grateful applause. I gladly record my thanks to him here.

Additional Eastertide events included a fun Friday night out April 29 for the young people of the Church, joined by the Father Wallace and the eighth graders of the Choir School, for bowling. [I can’t resist noting that the Rector had our highest score that night.] May 1-3 was the annual Choirmaster’s Conference, the first in John Scott’s aegis, and it was very well attended – led by James O’Donnell, Director of Music at Westminster Abbey. Sunday, May 8, the Right Rev’d E. Don Taylor, Vicar Bishop for New York City, came to confirm and receive seventeen new members.

The Choir School Spring Benefit on Friday, May 13, was a great hit in a number of surprising ways. We had a silent auction, good dining and fellowship, decorations that transformed the school gym, and dancing to music supplied by school parents Mr. (and Mrs.) Tom Rosenthal. We had an excellent turnout. The choirboys sang some beautiful songs for the gathering, and later, the choirboys themselves, joined by Father Wallace and the faculty in the end, danced up a storm. Mr. Scott enjoyed dancing all evening, as did his daughter Emma. In fact, it seemed that everyone, including yours truly, danced. We also raised approximately $40,000 for the Choir School. You know people are having a good time when most of them stay till the very end. Thanks go to many people, but especially Co-chairs Jenny Barker and Barbara Chiofaro and all who assisted them in the care and hard work that made the evening such a success. It was one of the best and most fun events we have had. When the choirboys say that, you know it’s true.

While I was in England seeing GRA home, I spoke at an extraordinary, massive celebration Saturday, April 9, for the 150th anniversary of the Society of the Holy Cross (SSC), priests’ fellowship of which Father Martin and I are long time members. I delivered a short Bible Study on Saint John 21:15-22 (the rehabilitation of Saint Peter by the risen Lord) at the beginning of the day at Royal Albert Hall. There were over a thousand people at that hour, and by the time of the afternoon’s grand Eucharist (presided over by the Bishop of London) the hall was completely filled to its over 5000 (nearly 1000 SSC priests and over 4000 laypeople) capacity. The SSC is a child of the Oxford Movement’s church revival, and this was a joyous celebration (refreshingly free of partisan church politics) of the best devotional achievements of the Anglo-Catholic movement in the Anglican Communion.

We congratulate our graduating eighth grade Choir School boys and their families. Here they are with the schools they will be entering next fall: Patrick Stephen Balling to St. James, Maryland; Matthew Fang Xiao Feldman to Fiorello H. LaGuardia, New York City; Justin Christian Joseph Hoffmann to St. George’s, Rhode Island; Oliver William Holt to St. James, Maryland; Richard Douglas Jarrett, who is undecided on his choice; Henry Charles Rosenthal to St. James, Maryland; Aaron Cabrera Primero to Groton, Massachusetts; Graham Prescott Roberts to St. Alban’s, Washington, DC; and Stefane Toka Paki Victor to The Hill School, Pennsylvania. Ave atque vale! Their graduation – the ceremony on Saturday, June 11, and then their final Choral Eucharist on Sunday the 12th, was a highlight of this year.

FATHER PARK BODIE

Father Park Bodie finishes his ministry at Saint Thomas this summer and leaves us at the end of August. There will be a coffee hour reception in his honor following the 11:00 a.m. Choral Eucharist, Sunday, August 7. Park, his wife Suzanne, and their sons Asher and Miles, have been with us for seven years. Beginning with the title of Curate and then as Sacrist and Precentor, Father Bodie has been of great help to me in planning and executing our liturgies. He has provided pastoral assistance and spiritual guidance, including sacramental confession, to a good number of souls. We thank God for the good work Father Bodie has done for us. I am collecting a purse to give to Park at the August 7 coffee hour reception. If you would like to contribute to it, please write a check to Saint Thomas Church and earmark it “Father Bodie Purse.”

THE CONCERT SERIES

The Music Department will soon be announcing the 2005-2006 Concert Series. At a recent gathering for the major benefactors of our Friends of Music, Mr. Scott disclosed the exciting events for next season. He also thanked and praised Brian Gill for his three years as our Concert Series Manager during a time of great transition in our music leadership, and then he introduced and welcomed Ms. Claudette Mayer as our new Concert Series and Music Development Manager. The expanded title reflects our desire to build up our Friends of Music and the base of support for our music program. A graduate of both Georgetown and Columbia as a student of economics and international business, Ms. Mayer has broad experience in investment banking, financial analysis, marketing and sales. Choosing to leave a successful business career after nearly 30 years, she says she is excited to start a new chapter of her life promoting the music of Saint Thomas Church and Choir School, and our Concert Series in particular. Sacred music and choral singing are among her main interests. The daughter of a US Foreign Service Officer, she was raised in Europe, Africa and Asia and speaks French, German, Russian, and Spanish (and was an interpreter for the 1972 Olympics). We are delighted that she has joined us at a turning point in her life, for we are beginning a new chapter of our music ministry at this moment. This is an exciting appointment, and thanks are due to the Music Committee, William Miller, Chairman, and its ad hoc subcommittee led by Kazie Harvey, to Barbara Pettus, and to John Scott.

AN INSPIRING GIFT

At the Choir School graduation ceremony Saturday June 11, Father Wallace announced the gift to the Choir School of a chorister endowment by Susan and Denny Lewis in memory of their son, Ogden Northrop Lewis, Jr. “For years we have had the dream that, one day, we might be able to endow the boy choristers to help offset the ever-rising costs at the school. This year our prayers have been answered, and we are delighted to announce the first such endowed choristership.” The Ogden Northrop Lewis choristership, given to a boy showing integrity, kindness and leadership qualities – traits evident in their son from early years at the Buckley School, then Groton, and later at Harvard – has been awarded to fourth grader Daniel Castellanos for the next four years. We are grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Lewis for their generosity and their thoughtfulness. They hope that others who love the music at Saint Thomas as they do will help secure its future by following their lead to endow additional choristerships. Substantial donors are sought to build on this beginning by Susan and Denny Lewis, who write, “To think that a true choir boarding school can flourish in the United States today is inspiring.” If you are interested in this endowment initiative, please direct your inquiry to Ms. Barbara Pettus, Executive Director of Administration and Finance at 212.757.7013.

THIS SUMMER

My wife Nancy and I once again will spend July on Monhegan Island, ten miles off the central Maine coast, where we have vacationed since 1980. We spend most of our time reading, walking, and taking in the beauty of the island. I intend to have a good list of books to report in September. However, in last September’s book report, I overlooked one of my most surprising (and favorite) reads from last summer: Joan of Arc by Mark Twain. Twain, a skeptic, came to admire the saint as one of the purest (on what he regarded as powerful evidence) human beings ever to live. He declared the book to be his best, the one he had worked hardest on. Amazingly, Twain’s biography of Joan of Arc is published by the staunchly Roman Catholic Ignatius Press. It is moving, well written by a great master, and thoroughly researched from documents stemming from Joan’s scandalous condemnation as a heretic and then from her rehabilitation as a saint and patroness of France. I recommend it to you.

Speaking of summer, let me ask those of you who will be away not to forget Saint Thomas. We rely on a steady flow of pledge payments to support our ministry. Thank you in advance for keeping up your pledge.

Now I commend the Wardens’ letter to your attention, and I wish you a restful summer.

Faithfully your Priest and Rector,

Andrew C. Mead