Rector’s Chronicle: Summer 2006

Dearly Beloved in Christ,

Before I take off for the month of July to Monhegan Island, Maine, I want to write to tell you what a good Eastertide and spring we have had, as well as to give you a heads-up on some future events. In the meantime I hope you use your summer to rest and refresh yourselves. Remember that the day of rest called for in the Decalogue is a commandment for our good, not a suggestion.

NEW ORLEANS: PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE

Courtesy of parishioner Dave Barger of JetBlue Airways, the Choir flew to sing a special concert March 25 at Trinity Church, New Orleans. My report of that trip, together with photographs, can be seen on our website. Early in Eastertide I received a note from the Trinity Episcopal School’s Headmaster, the Rev’d Michael Kuhn, a priest I knew from my days in Boston. I pass along his moving words:

“The gift of your choristers was an offering of greatest value. Their voices inspired this community in ways we are still speaking of weeks after they’d gone. They reminded me of the need for beauty most especially during times of loss. Those voices were a blessing to us… I really can not adequately express to you how much hope such acts inspire in those of us who are just plain weary of the stress, work and uncertainty. Your acts are the ‘daily bread’ from God that sustains our journey here and now…”

Led by our Youth Minister, Father Jonathan Erdman, a group of our high school age young people, joining a similar group from the Church of the Heavenly Rest, are flying this August to New Orleans for several days to do volunteer work, again courtesy of Mr. Barger at JetBlue. On Sunday, September 10, just about one year since Hurricane Katrina struck, the Rector of Trinity Church, New Orleans, the Rev’d Dabney Smith, will preach at our 11:00 a.m. Choral Eucharist.

EASTERTIDE REVIEW

This past Eastertide was graced by several notable events. The month of May was merry as well as busy. The Choir School Spring Benefit Gala on Friday, May 5 was by all accounts a great success in terms of money raising, community building, and fun. We raised over $25,000. The leadership of the event was driven by several Choir School parents, as well as volunteers from the parish. Again there was good food, music and dancing.

On Saturday May 7, Bishop Sisk preached, celebrated the Festal Eucharist, and confirmed and received one of the largest groups of new members in several years, 24 in all. Most of these new members (those other than the younger choristers) were faithful attendees of the Tuesday night Christian Doctrine Class. I thank Father Austin for his considerable help in teaching and preparing this good group for Confirmation and Reception. The Sacrament of Confirmation is for those who have not received the laying-on-of-hands by a Bishop in Apostolic Succession. Reception is for those who have been confirmed by a Bishop of Apostolic Succession in another Communion, such as the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Churches. Our Christian Doctrine Class, which consists of fifteen sessions, resumes this September.

John Scott and the Choir of Men and Boys and Concert Royal gave an Eastertide concert, “Bach Cantatas: From Death to Resurrection” on Tuesday May 10, which was well attended, well received and well reviewed in The New York Times. The concert concluded the successful 2005-2006 season, which saw upward trends in both attendance and supporters in the Friends of Music. The Choir also recorded a new CD, “Easter on Fifth Avenue,” which is now in production.

My wife Nancy and I flew to Bermuda May 17-19, at the invitation of the Bishop, the Right Rev’d Ewen Ratteray. I preached for the Bishop’s tenth anniversary of consecration at a Solemn Eucharist at the majestic Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity in Hamilton. It was a happy occasion and a privilege to preach for an old and good friend in the ministry. Bishop Ratteray is the first native Bermudian to be Diocesan Bishop of Bermuda, which is one of the oldest Anglican communities outside Britain.

The Rev’d Dr. Robin Griffith-Jones, Master of the Temple Church in London, gave what can only be called a tour de force on Sunday, May 21, at a 10:00 a.m. lecture, with slides, on The Da Vinci Code, followed by a sermon at the 11:00 a.m. Festal Eucharist on the real role of Saint Mary Magdalene. He signed copies of his book, The Secrets of the Temple. It is a good little book, by the “Real Master of the Temple”, available in our bookstore, critiquing (in fact charitably making short historical and theological work of) Dan Brown’s best seller.

The Women of Saint Thomas, called into renewed activity by Father Robert Stafford, concluded a most successful new first 2005-2006 season of fellowship with a concluding luncheon and architecture tour of Radio City on Thursday May 4. Plans for next season are well in hand. The Altar Guild, which has benefited from the revival of the Women of Saint Thomas by the recruitment of new Altar Guild volunteers, had a final luncheon Thursday, June 1, at Tang’s Restaurant on West 55th Street, where a good time was had by the members, and thanks to Robert Stafford for good inspiration and management.

A festschrift in honor of the Rev’d Canon Professor Robert Wright, a book of essays entitled One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, edited by Marsha Dutton and Patrick Gray, was published by Eerdmans this Eastertide. It included a dustcover blurb by yours truly praising Father Wright, and an essay by Father Victor Austin, who, as our Theologian-in-residence, has produced a number of essays and articles and participated in theological conferences. Father Wright, the author of our critically acclaimed Parish History Book, is Professor of Ecclesiastical History at The General Theological Seminary and an honorary assistant at Saint Thomas.

As I announced in my Lent Chronicle, our Rector Emeritus, Father John Andrew, has joined the active staff of my Assisting Clergy, blessing us with his presence in greeting, celebration of masses, and occasional preaching – which he began as the preacher on the second Sunday of Easter, appropriately enough on our patron Saint Thomas as a witness of the Resurrection. He reports that he enjoys his role as my newest junior curate, and I think he’s doing a good job at it.

ORGAN COMMITTEE

In 2005, the Vestry commissioned two independent consultant reports on the condition of the Saint Thomas Arents Memorial Organ. In addition to providing a comprehensive history of the chancel organ, both reports concluded that, although the instrument receives weekly maintenance and certainly has not suffered any neglect, the toll of New York City humidity and airborne dust, along with normal wear and tear, has resulted in an instrument in unquestionable need of restoration or re-building. The reports also reveal that, over the years, various modifications to the organ have given us what could be described artistically as a French concert instrument, which is a stark departure from our original Skinner organ which was designed and built specifically for our building and intended to accompany Anglican choral music and support congregational hymn singing.

Based on the conclusions of these reports, the Rector and Wardens established an Organ Committee to interview the consultants and review recommendations of their reports. The Committee will then identify and explore feasible options for renewal or rebirth of the organ, being mindful of both Saint Thomas’s unique heritage and reputation for the highest standards of choral music as well as the wise and responsible use of financial resources. The Organ Committee’s findings and recommendations will be submitted to the Vestry for deliberation and action.

The Committee was constituted in April and has met on three occasions; including a familiarization tour of the organ (featuring a climb through various chambers) conducted by Mr. Larry Trupiano, who has maintained the instrument since 1971, and extensive presentations by prominent consultants Jonathan Ambrosino of Boston and Joseph Dzeda of New Haven.

Serving on the Organ Committee are The Rector, Mr. John Scott, Mr. Kenneth Koen, Mr. Jeremy Bruns, Mr. Colin Fergus, Ms. Barbara Pettus, Mrs. Hope Preminger, Mr. Philip Ragland, Dr. Karl Saunders, Mr. Charles Updegraph and Ms. Laurel Unwin. Mr. John M. Neiswanger is serving as Chair of the Committee. Mr. Neiswanger chaired the Music Committee for six years and headed the advisory committee which assisted the Rector in his selection of John Scott as our Organist and Director of Music in 2004. Those seeking additional information on the work of the Committee should contact Mr. Neiswanger. Consultant reports, as well as John Scott’s report to the Rector and Vestry, are available upon request from the Music Office at the Church.

IN CONCLUSION

Choir School Graduation Weekend was a great occasion, including a Guest Speaker and Preacher, The Rev’d Canon Brian Rees, Headmaster of The Pilgrims’ School at Winchester Cathedral, England, and President of the Choir Schools’ Association. Headmaster Father Charles Wallace announced the Frances Falconer Choristership, our second endowed choristership. It was awarded to sixth grader Heath Allen. (Father Wallace says “Twenty-eight to go!”) Congratulations to graduating eight graders Michael Amos, Simon Chase, and Connor Hoff. We are proud of them and wish them the best of success.

Here are a few reading recommendations for the summer. I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe is about a brilliant, poor freshman girl at an elite university, and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is about human clones in the England of recent decades. Both novels probe the roots of what Pope John Paul II so often referred to as the dignity of the human person. In non-fiction I recommend Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin, and His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph Ellis. Both books will make you grateful for great leaders at critical times in American history. I’ll bring you my summer book report in September.

Speaking of September, mark your calendars: Weekday Choral Evensongs begin Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday September 5, 6 and 7. The full Choir of Men and Boys begins Sunday September 10 at 11:00 a.m. That same day at 4:00 p.m., the Eve of 9/11, we will have a special Choral Evensong for the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attack. On Friday September 29, there is a banquet at the University Club to mark my tenth anniversary as your Rector, a calling and privilege for which I thank God.

Faithfully your priest,

Andrew C. Mead