Dearly Beloved in Christ,
We are at Lent’s midpoint as I write this, and Palm Sunday is two weeks away. Holy Week, the heart of the Church’s Year and the annual jewel of Saint Thomas’ liturgy, is almost upon us. This Lent Father Austin and I have been teaching a series of classes on Sundays at 10 o’clock on the rites of Holy Week. The good attendance and evident enthusiasm for the subject confirms how much Holy Week means to our congregation. At many points in these classes, from my teaching perch at the lectern, I see in people’s faces how powerfully moved they are by the thought of what is conveyed by the liturgies; namely, the passion and death of our Savior.
What we emphasize in the classes is that all Holy Week liturgies are in fact Easter liturgies. The sovereign principle which runs through each one is that on the third day God raised Jesus from the tomb; that Christ is risen. Even, I should say especially, in the depths of the Solemn Liturgy of Good Friday, the Church is showing how profound our Lord’s victory is, as he shows solidarity with us even in the worst throes of abandonment and death. Holy Week is the public presentation, in liturgy, through music and preaching, of those mighty acts whereby God in Christ has reconciled the world to himself.
The preachers for the Great Three Days this year will be Father Anthony Fletcher for Maundy Thursday, Father Victor Austin for the Solemn Liturgy of Good Friday, and yours truly for the Great Vigil of Easter on Holy Saturday, as well as for Easter Day. For the three hour service beginning at Noon on Good Friday, the Very Rev’d Joseph Britton, Dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, will give the addresses on the Seven Last Words of Christ. More information on the liturgies and music for Holy Week is available on the website and on printed schedules at the Church.
A NEW PRIEST FOR SAINT THOMAS
I am pleased to announce that the Rev’d Michael D. Spurlock has accepted the call to be my Curate at Saint Thomas, beginning this June 1. Father Spurlock will share the full range of the priestly ministry, assisting especially with the pastoral care of our people. He will engage not only our long-time parishioners, but assist in our growing ministry to our many visitors and newcomers as well.
Michael Spurlock was born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1968 and received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee in 1993. From 1995 to 1999 he worked in editing and publishing in New York City. He met his wife Aimee in Central Park, and they married in 1997. They have two children, a son Atticus, 10, and a daughter Hadley, 3. In 1999 the Spurlocks moved from New York to Tennessee where Michael continued in secular employment. In 2004 Michael entered Nashotah House Theological Seminary under the auspices of the Bishop of Tennessee (Nashville area). Upon graduation he was ordained in 2007 and since then has served as Vicar of All Saints Church, Smyrna, Tennessee.
Michael was sent to All Saints by the Bishop with the assumption that the congregation would probably have to sell the church and its property, because his immediate predecessor led most of the members out of the Episcopal Church and Diocese and moved down the road. All Saints was new and had a large debt, and only a remnant of parishioners remained. One day, a community of Karen refugees (Anglican Christians from Myanmar) knocked on All Saints’ door and asked if they would be welcome. Since then they have swelled the congregation (they even have a Karen priest) and they use the church’s several acres as a glebe, farmed cooperatively by both the Karen and the Anglos as well. All Saints has the Diocese’s full attention, the church has not been sold, and there appears to be a bright and exciting future. So Father Spurlock brings us not only his experiences in editing and publishing, but also some new-found knowledge of an immigrant culture as well as agriculture. He has learned new flexibility. He can drive a tractor. Who knows what surprises await him in New York City.
As a member of the Board of Trustees at Nashotah House, I noticed Michael and Aimee while he was a seminarian there. I believe the people of Saint Thomas, younger and older, newcomers and longtime members, will find Father Spurlock to have the qualities we look for in pastoral care; I am thinking of patience, careful observation, good listening skills, and genuine care for people. He is deeply committed to the Gospel of Christ as the basis for his work and conveys his faith with clarity and intelligence.
LOOKING BACK AND FORWARD
The Mardi gras party on Shrove Tuesday, the eve of Ash Wednesday, was a hit, a well attended good time. Given the remarks from those hundred people who attended, I am sure we will do it again next year. There were costumes, Dixieland music, gumbo and other good food and drink. Special thanks for planning and work go to Kari Gold, Nancy Mead and Linda Morfi, as well as to Ann Kaplan and Douglas Robbe and others for support.
I keep in touch with Father Stafford, who wants me to convey this message. “I send my warmest greetings to the parish, and I want to thank everyone for their good wishes and support upon my retirement, which I am happily enjoying. Especially, I want to thank those who contributed to the Our Lady of Fifth Avenue Fund in honor of my years of service at St. Thomas. I am grateful to Fr. Mead, the Wardens, the vestry, and my many friends of long-standing in the parish for the kindness shown me. Blessings to each and all; with prayers and much love – Robert Stafford.”
An eminent Anglican priest and scientist, John Polkinghorne, will be in New York in May to receive an honorary doctorate at the General Theological Seminary, and, thanks to Father Austin, will then give a public lecture at Saint Thomas on Thursday evening, May 20. Dr. Polkinghorne’s lecture is entitled “Can a Scientist Pray?” He will also preach at the 11 a.m. Eucharist on Pentecost, Sunday, May 23. The Rev’d Dr John Polkinghorne, KBE, FRS, is fellow and retired president, Queens’ College, Cambridge University. He was founding president of the International Society for Science and Religion and in 2002 was awarded the Templeton Prize. He is the author of many books on science and theology. Details about Dr. Polkinghorne’s lecture will appear in Sunday leaflets, and on the website.
You will soon be hearing from me and parish leaders about the Capital Campaign to fund the organ and stained glass window projects. Here let it suffice for me to ask God’s powerful blessings upon our efforts in this area to secure and advance our mission – which is about to be on glorious display in Holy Week 2010. May the Lord bless us all as we celebrate the heart of his Gospel!
Faithfully your Priest and Rector,
Andrew C. Mead