Rector’s Chronicle: June 2009

Dearly Beloved in Christ,

With the Feast of Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, Saint Thomas has completed the first cycle of the Church Calendar which begins in Advent. Summer is upon us, with the Sundays after Pentecost stretching ahead through the next five months in liturgical green. Now is also the end of the second semester for schools, including our Choir School. The choirboys take a summer break and will return to sing Sunday, September 13, while our summer liturgies will be sung by visiting guest choirs. What a great season the whole Choir of Men and Boys, under the direction of John Scott, have given us. Thank you to Dr. Scott and the entire Music Department, and to Fr. Charles Wallace, Headmaster of Saint Thomas Choir School, and to his entire faculty and staff.

SINCE MY LAST CHRONICLE

The weekly Sunday service leaflets, now published on our website as is this Chronicle, provide ongoing news and announcements, while The Rector’s Chronicle gives quarterly pastoral commentary on various matters of parish life. I last wrote to you in mid-Lent with Holy Week and Easter fast approaching. Looking back on those always momentous liturgies, several things stand out.

The liturgies themselves were powerful because of the loving hard work, from so many among both staff and volunteers, which produced such re-presentations of Christ’s mighty acts – in ritual, music, and preaching.

1) In ritual, my fellow clergy, the Verger and Assistant Verger (and the Rector’s Secretary who produces those many special leaflets), with the acolytes, altar guild, lectors, ushers and security people, florists, maintenance staff (and behind them the rest of the administrative and finance staff), together with so many who simply help out in any way they can – all come together in one corporate offering to the Lord. It is amazing. It is frequently praised and commented on. And whenever there is criticism, I take it to be precisely because of the high standards involved whenever people commit themselves to the pursuit of excellence; that is, to give to God their very best pro amore Christi et Ecclesiae.

2) The music, already noted above, was superb, starting with Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion and running right through the drama of Palm Sunday’s Passion, the Triduum (the Three Days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil) and of course Easter Day. For me particular high points were the singing of the Passion with Victoria’s parts for the crowd; Durufle’s Ubi Caritas and Gibbons’ Drop, drop, slow tears, for Thursday’s Foot-Washing; Lotti’s Crucifixus at the end of the Good Friday liturgy; and, frankly, everything about Easter, both the Vigil and the Day. I love watching Dr. Scott turn to direct the congregation for its part in the Christus vincit, but there is nothing like hearing everyone sing the great Easter hymns, especially, Jesus Christ is risen today! Thanks to those whose special contributions made the Easter Brass possible.

3) The preaching, both by our Guest Preacher, Dr. Rhodes, for the Three Hours on Good Friday afternoon, and by my fellow clergy all week at various times, was powerful. Father Austin on Maundy Thursday and Father Stafford on Good Friday evening were for me particularly memorable. For all of us it is a great privilege to preach the Gospel at such glorious liturgies.

Saint Paul said to the Galatians, that “it was before [their] eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.” That is the goal of our rituals, our music, and our preaching. It comes to quite a climax at Saint Thomas in Holy Week. Thanks to all who make it possible in all ways, both great and small.

THIS JOYFUL EASTERTIDE

The Right Rev’d E. Don Taylor, Vicar Bishop for New York City, made his last visit to do the Maundy Thursday Foot-Washing, a ceremony he has performed for over a decade. Bishop Taylor is retiring from New York to his home, Kingston, Jamaica, but there the Bishop of Jamaica has appointed him Rector of Saint Thomas Church in Kingston. Bishop Taylor has been a friend. Our Choir of Men and Boys, directed by Dr. Scott, provided the choral music for a great farewell Mass at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine for Bishop Taylor celebrated by Bishop Sisk, Saturday, May 16. The cathedral was full and was a testimony to the affection in which so many hold Bishop Taylor. We wish him Godspeed.

On Sunday April 26, the Choir made what by all accounts was a very successful trip to sing at The National Episcopal Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Washington, DC, in a joint choral offering with the National Cathedral’s Choir and the Choir of Canterbury Cathedral. Mention of this trip reminds me that the Choir, just after I wrote my March Chronicle, made a late-Lent domestic tour to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, which would not have been possible without the generosity of parishioner Dave Barger, CEO of JetBlue Airlines, who has provided air travel for the Choir for several of its tours.

Other notable events of Eastertide and after:

• Bishop Sisk came to preach, to confirm and receive 15 new members, and to celebrate the Festal Eucharist, Sunday, May 3. It is always good to have Bishop Sisk, and we welcome those whom he confirmed and received into full membership at Saint Thomas. Many have taken the Rector’s Christian Doctrine Class, which has sixteen sessions from January to May. Thanks to Father Austin for his assistance in the class. The teaching is on the basics of Christian Doctrine from the perspective of the Anglican/Catholic tradition in the Episcopal Church. Anyone may and is invited to attend all or any of the classes, which begin with the Creation and Fall, continue with Redemption by Christ and the Sacraments of the Church, and conclude with the Last Judgment. The outline and subjects remain the same, but the classes are always new and take a different tack from year to year. The give-and-take with class participants is a favorite part of the hour-long classes, which begin at 6:30 (after Evensong) and finish at 7:30 pm. Join us next year.

• The Sunday of the Bishop’s Visitation was the start of the annual Choirmasters’ Workshop, conducted this time by Andrew Lumsden, Director of Music at Winchester Cathedral, UK. It is an opportunity to encourage all those who keep the sacred flame of Anglican choral music. The choirmasters watch the visiting conductor rehearse our choir, and there are talks on various matters. I enjoy taking part in the last afternoon, Tuesday, when there is an organized conversation with the guest conductor, Dr. Scott, and the Rector.

• The Rev’d Raymond Rafferty, Pastor of Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church on the Upper West Side, preached at Festal Evensong, Sunday, May 10. We had the Admission of New Choristers in that service. This was fitting, because Father Rafferty, who appreciates good liturgy and music and whose parish is known in the Archdiocese for both, commented on the admission of our choristers in his well-received sermon.

• William R. Miller, OBE, emeritus Vestryman and Chairman of the Music Committee and archangelic supporter of Dr. Scott and the music program, was honored for his long, faithful leadership of Saint Paul’s Cathedral Trust in America at a banquet, Wednesday, May 27, at the Harvard Club. The Dean of St. Paul’s made the presentation of the Sir Christopher Wren Award. Many Saint Thomas parishioners attended the banquet, which was chaired by parishioner John Harvey, while our Vestryman Jon Meacham, Editor of Newsweek, gave the evening’s address. A very special guest of honor and speaker was Lady Soames, the daughter of Sir Winston Churchill. Congratulations to Bill, and thanks to him and to his wife Irene for their continuing love and support for Saint Thomas.

• On Friday, June 12, the Saint Thomas Soup Kitchen had its end-of-semester-but-never-end-of-service supper in the Parish House. There has been some discussion about the exact anniversary this year is, but it is 24 or 25 years of serving meals to the poor of New York City. The Soup Kitchen was started at the Choir School by former Headmaster Gordon Clem as a ministry for the older boys at the school and has over the past decade evolved and moved to the Parish House for its base. Every Saturday morning, volunteers take about 350 bag lunches out on routes in what is roughly west midtown Manhattan. If you multiply 25 years times 52 weeks times 350 meals, you have a goodly number of offerings to the poor carried by our volunteers. If you would like to join, you are very welcome to show up any Saturday at 10:00 a.m. at the Parish House, and you will be gladly received to help out in one way or another. Not everyone can manage the routes, but there are plenty of less ambulatory tasks to do. Particular thanks for many seasons to Frank Reinauer for organization and to Jean Savage for heading the kitchen. Thanks to all who help this vital ministry and fellowship at Saint Thomas.

CHOIR SCHOOL GRADUATION

Choir School Graduation and Prize Day, the weekend of June 6-7, 2009, was inspiring. The Guest Speaker at both the Saturday ceremonies and the Trinity Sunday Festal Eucharist, the Rev’d Dr. F. Washington Jarvis, Headmaster Emeritus of the Roxbury Latin School in Boston, reached (and moved many of) his hearers from old to young. Father (his preferred title, and he goes by the name Tony) Jarvis was Headmaster for thirty years of the oldest private school in the United States in continuous service, founded by John Eliot, “Apostle to the Indians,” in 1645. He began at Roxbury Latin in 1975, the same year I began as Curate in the Parish of All Saints Ashmont, where Tony has been an assisting priest ever since. He preached the Three Hours at Saint Thomas on Good Friday, 2008. Nancy and I claim Tony as an old friend, but he made new friends here over the weekend, beginning with our own Headmaster, Fr. Charles Wallace, who invited and introduced Fr. Jarvis.

The graduating boys, all of whom are going off to excellent and exciting new schools, gave either speeches or performances on the piano. All were the results of obvious hard work and evidenced the discipline and poise learned in countless choral rehearsals and services. John Scott gave a short address, right to the point. Prizes were won by boys of all ages. Fr. Wallace, as he presented each of the six graduating eighth graders with his certificate, added a gently humorous, affectionately humanizing observation about each boy. We are proud of them and grateful for their years with us: Daniel Castellanos, Aidan McGiff, William Murphy, Massimo Pellegrini, James Schreppler, and Matthew Williams. They understand with gratitude the great gift of their time at Saint Thomas Church and Choir School. May God bless and protect them and their families as they start a new chapter of their lives.

MONEY, BY THE WAY

I wrote at length in the last two Chronicles about the financial situation at Saint Thomas. This time, I want to emphasize briefly two things before I sign off. First, the Every Member Canvass for 2009 has been a strong sign of our members’ commitment and spirit. Now just over $1.2 million, we are near the record-breaking level of the 2008 Canvass reached before the Recession. God bless you, and thank all of you who have responded so well to our appeal. Second, we continue to search for ways to hold down and to reduce expenses. Clearly the Recession is here for a while, and we must do all we can to come through it with the Church and Choir School whole. I am aware, from both my own and our church families, how people are suffering the effects of these hard times.

This summer and fall, once their reinstallation is complete and the scrims and scaffolding are removed, you will see the restored stained glass windows on the north side. The blue windows in the reredos will be the last of this phase to reappear, towards the end of this year. We do not have the money to continue the project at this time into phase two, which is the south side. We are still in the conception phase of planning for the new Great Organ, and we will make these plans known when they are decided. Again, funding for this project, as with the stained glass restoration, will determine the timing of any work. Rest assured that the Rector, Wardens and Vestry have as first priority the financial stability of our Church and Choir School.

MORE PERSONALLY

Nancy and I plan to spend July once again on Monhegan Island, Maine. The island, favored by many artists, is ten miles offshore from the central Maine coast. It is rustic, and life there is simple. Cell phones do not work well there. Once again, we intend to read books. This year I am going to revisit John Updike, who died last year and who wrote a poem I used in an Eastertide sermon (see For John Updike among the website sermons). I expect to have book reports for you in the September Chronicle. Finally, we became grandparents for the fourth time on May 13, when Nicholas Matthew Mead, seven pounds and one ounce, was born, second son to Nicole and Matthew Mead. Thanks be to God! This comes with my love and prayers.

Faithfully your Priest and Rector,

Andrew C. Mead