Rector’s Chronicle: September 2008

Dearly Beloved in Christ,

September is start-up month. The air cools. The pace quickens. Children start and go back to school. Some older ones of us have fond memories of back-to-school, running all the way to college if we were so fortunate. Here at Saint Thomas Church and Choir School, our choirboys start and return as does our Sunday School – along with the whole panoply of liturgical, musical, educational, and fellowship activities. Our Saturday Soup Kitchen, however, has never missed a week, all the way through summer. Nor has the weekly round of daily Eucharists, Monday-to-Friday at 8:00 a.m., 12:10 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., together with Morning and Evening Prayer at the beginning and the end of the day in the Chantry Chapel. Many of our activities have necessarily rested during June, July and August, but the essential work of the Church has been wide awake.

NEW MEMBERS OF OUR STAFF

Two new members of our staff appear this September and will be visible and audible servants of our liturgy and music. In order of appearance, we have a new Assistant Organist, Kevin Kwan, who joins John Scott and Fred Teardo and brings the organist team to full strength; and we have a new Verger/Manager of Communications, David Daniel.

Kevin Kwan is a native of San Francisco. He is a 2005 graduate of the University of California, San Diego (BA in Music/Organ Performance; BS in Management Science), and he received a Master of Music (Organ Performance) from the Cleveland Institute of Music in 2007. Kevin was Organ Scholar at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in San Diego and Organ Scholar at the (Presbyterian) Church of the Covenant in Cleveland. Most recently he was Organ Scholar at Gloucester Cathedral, England. Here at Saint Thomas Kevin will work daily with the Choir of Men and Boys, playing for services and assisting in the training of the choristers.

A particular word of thanks goes to Fred Teardo, whom Dr. Scott promoted from Assistant to Associate Organist last September. Fred has done a wonderful job for the past year, doing the work of two while the search for the Assistant went on.

David M. Daniel becomes Verger and Manager of Communications in succession to Max Henderson-Begg, whose untimely death last May saddened the Saint Thomas family. David has been a worshiper, member and supporter of Saint Thomas since 2004. He has a strong faith and a particular love for the overall work and ministry of the Church. He was recently appointed a lector (reader of Scripture at Sunday liturgies). David, who hails from Missouri and is the youngest of nine children born to a Lutheran Pastor and his wife, has degrees from the University of Texas at Austin (BA in 1990 in Government and History) and the Ohio State University College of Law (JD in 1994). David has worked as a writer, teacher, counselor, trainer and director for The Princeton Review from 1994 to 2006; and as a consultant for The Princeton Review, McGraw-Hill, and the New York City Department of Education from 2006 to 2008. Most recently, David has been the Lead Content Developer for ClearPoint Learning, a new venture.

Thanks to those who pitched in to help with the many facets of the Verger/Manager of Communications job since last May: Fr. Jonathan Erdman, Barbara Pettus, Fr. Charles Wallace, Jerry Givins, Heather Cross, Warren Johnson, Michael Hunter, Douglas Robbe and Fr. Victor Austin have all lent valuable assistance in the interim and will be very helpful in the transition for a new person.

THE EVERY MEMBER CANVASS FOR 2009

On Sunday, October 5, the Feast of Dedication, the Every Member Canvass for 2009 will officially begin and continue until ingathering of pledges on Sunday, November 23, the Feast of Christ the King. Much work is done by the Every Member Canvass Committee both before and after those official dates. Thanks to Kari and Lucky Gold for their co-chairmanship of this year’s EMC after their good leadership with Jeff Wentling on last year’s record-breaking effort. We exceeded $1.3 million for 2008.

The Every Member Canvass is the fiscal, spiritual backbone of fund-raising for Saint Thomas among its living members. The faithful departed have left us an endowment. We must be good stewards of that sacred trust from our forebears and benefactors. We must not draw down too much, as we have been doing, on those invested funds – because it prevents their growth and compromises Saint Thomas’ financial future. We have worked hard to keep expenses down. So the annual giving of our living members is the way, on the income side, that we can be responsible stewards. In order for us to be in proper financial health, our annual giving needs to be at $2.5 million. That’s a big leap from where we are, but we have come a long way. In other words, we need to keep breaking records in our annual giving. But now here is a word I hope many of you will take to heart:

What I call leadership pledging has made a dramatic difference. Not very long ago you could count on your fingers the number of pledges above $5,000. But for 2008 we received 80 pledges at $5,000 and above; 31 of these are pledges of at least $10,000. Leadership giving accounts for over 60 percent of the pledged total for our last three record-breaking Canvasses, all of which have exceeded $1 million. So I appeal directly to those of you who are able: Please consider joining me and the others making leadership pledges of at least $5,000 or, if you have the means, $10,000. This leadership giving is what can take us to our goal of annual financial health and stability.

Beyond the arithmetic of finances, your pledge is like no other gift you make. Your pledge stems from your faith as a return of thanks to our Lord for all he has given you. Whether you are a person of means or simply living from monthly check to monthly check, what you pledge to your church matters most in terms of what it represents as a proportion of your income. That is why Jesus commended the poor widow’s offering (the “widow’s mite”) as a greater gift than large sums contributed by the wealthy (“for she has given her whole living”). I ask you to respond to this campaign with prayerfulness and generosity. The Canvass brochures will soon be on their way with the pledge cards. Make a prompt response with a sacrificial, joyful pledge to Saint Thomas Church and Choir School for 2009.

MUSIC THIS FALL AT SAINT THOMAS

The September-December 2008 schedule of choral services at Saint Thomas has been published and distributed, including online at www.SaintThomasChurch.org. The Concert Series brochure for the 2008-2009 season has also been published and should be in your mailbox. Before I go further, let me commend Jacqueline Slater and Claudette Mayer for such a comprehensive, attractive publication. It’s a keeper for your coffee table for the whole season. A concise version of the Concert Series is also available online, where you can buy tickets.

Without repeating here the schedules, let me point out two offerings in particular. On six Saturdays at 4:00 p.m. – October 4, 11 and 18, and November 8, 15 and 22 – John Scott will perform recitals on the Arents Memorial Organ of the complete organ works of Messiaen in this centenary of the composer’s birth in 1908. You may recall the large turnouts in the winter and spring of 2007 for Dr. Scott’s ten Saturday afternoon recitals of the complete organ works of Buxtehude. This series of Messiaen’s organ works builds on that earlier success.

In the liturgical schedule, note that Remembrance Sunday, November 9, will feature a Solemn Requiem with Fauré’s beloved Messe de Requiem performed by the Choir of Men and Boys with the Orchestra of Saint Luke’s, under the direction of John Scott.

While the Sunday morning choral liturgies are, and always have been, the best attended of our services, let me commend the beauty and power of our Choral Evensongs, Sundays at 4:00 p.m. and especially those on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. Those Evensongs are the most special offering of our choral foundation. They are a perfect way, if you can, to conclude a workday and to begin an evening. I have long believed that Evensong is the glory of the Anglican heritage, a daily glory which can be enjoyed in most English cathedrals but is largely unknown in the United States. We are very blessed, because of our Choir School, to be able to offer Choral Evensong as we do at Saint Thomas.

EDUCATION, FELLOWSHIP, PRIESTS

The round of Saint Thomas activities resumes on all fronts this fall, including Christian Education for adults and young people, and the Women of Saint Thomas. These activities are noted in our Sunday leaflets in due course. Fr. Victor Austin and Fr. Jonathan Erdman both publish and distribute schedules, which are also online. There are Tuesday evening courses on Practical Prayer, the Confessions of Saint Augustine (back after some years by popular demand); Wednesday evening courses on Aquinas (through the writing of the remarkable Herbert McCabe); and four monthly discussions, “Good Books and Good Talk” on the third Monday evening of the month from September to December. The Sunday morning classes will have two series: one on “Authority: We Can’t Get Along Without It” followed by “Christian Hope: The Surprise of Life after Life-after-Death.” The Rector’s Christian Doctrine Class will resume in January and continue for sixteen meetings through April, preparing for Confirmation and Reception on the first Sunday in May by Bishop Sisk. It’s a full, vigorous program, and I encourage you to participate where you can.

Mention of these activities reminds me how blessed we are at Saint Thomas in our full time assisting clergy: Father Stafford our Pastor; Father Austin, our Theologian-in-residence; and Father Erdman, our Curate and Youth Minister. I am also grateful for the priestly assistance of my “junior curate,” Father John Andrew. They all assure good priestly attention and pastoral care for the people of Saint Thomas. Each of them has a clear vocation and love for Christ which radiates in their ministry and presence. It is a joy to serve at the altar and among the people with them.

Speaking of priests, it was a pleasure to have the help this summer of the Rev’d J. Anthony Fletcher on Sundays and weekdays. Father Fletcher, a priest in the Church of England, lives in Sandwich, Kent, near Canterbury. From 1971 through 1973, Nancy and I, and then newborn daughter Emma, lived in the attic of Father Fletcher’s clergy house at St. Alban’s, in the Cowley section of Oxford, when I did graduate work there as a new priest. Since his days in Oxford, Father Fletcher served for 25 years as Vicar of All Saints Church, Hanworth, west of London near Heathrow Airport, retiring five years ago. I have listed Father Fletcher as one of our honorary clergy, and I trust he will return to us periodically.
We will have some priests, beloved and eminent, as our visiting preachers for services this fall season. At Festal Evensong, Sunday September 14, at 4:00 p.m. the Feast of the Holy Cross, the Rev’d Joel Daniels, whom Saint Thomas sponsored for ordination, will be the preacher. Joel was ordained in 2007 and is Associate Rector at Saint Barnabas Church, Irvington-on-Hudson. The Very Rev’d Robert Willis, Dean of Canterbury Cathedral and a friend of Saint Thomas, will preach Sunday, October 26, at the 11:00 a.m. Choral Eucharist. On Sunday, November 2, which we observe as the Solemnity of All Saints, the Very Rev’d Joseph H. Britton, Dean and President of Berkeley Divinity School at the Yale University Divinity School, will preach at 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

BOOK REPORTS

People tell me they enjoy my summer book reports. Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout (author of the superb Abide With Me) is a series of connected stories in the life of a sharp-tongued retired small-town Maine school teacher who learns some things about love and mercy before she dies. The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, is the story of a family in which the father and daughter, left behind by the death of a beloved wife and mother, are threatened by a custody suit brought by the father’s wealthy in-laws. The narrator is the dog, who tells the story at the end of his own life. Thirteen Moons is Charles Frazier’s first novel since his acclaimed On Cold Mountain. It is another epic of American history, centering on the Cherokee Nation’s removal from southern Appalachia to Oklahoma (the Trail of Tears). The protagonist/narrator is a white orphaned “bound boy” who is sent to run a trading post in southern Appalachia. He is adopted by a Cherokee chief and his life runs from the Monroe Administration to the era of the telephone in the early twentieth century. House of Sand and Fog by Andre Debus III follows the pattern of the classic tragedies but is set in contemporary California: A proud, idealistic Iranian immigrant (a former officer of the Shah) contends with a fragile, addictive white American woman for possession of her house, which has been auctioned off by a bureaucratic mistake. Everything goes wrong through misunderstanding and willfulness on both sides – especially on the part of an over-involved policeman in love with the woman – as the suspense builds to the conclusion.

These books I recommend, but my favorite (and Nancy’s) was Peace Like a River, a first novel written in 2001 by Leif Enger. It is a story, situated in the upper Midwest, of a motherless family, of siblings, of a father and his three children; of bullies, outlaws, vengeance, murder and mercy, of life and love, of poverty and generosity, and of miracles (real ones). There is a trip, in the midst of a terrible killing, to the afterlife. In the father, Enger has drawn a credible picture of an extraordinary saint, rooted in American soil and culture. The story is told by the asthmatic middle child, who is brought into this world with a prayer by his father. It continues with a tornado and, after many harrowing adventures, ends with life after death, in this world and the next.

So now, off we go into September! May the Lord bless, protect and prosper Saint Thomas in all its endeavors to promote his glory and his kingdom.

Faithfully your Priest and Rector,
Andrew C. Mead