Rector’s Chronicle: September 2010

Dearly Beloved in Christ,

After a very hot and humid July and August, September so far has obliged beautifully with cooler temperatures and clearer, drier air. Isn’t that what makes September a favorite month for so many? At Saint Thomas we are off and running, September-style, at both the Church and the Choir School. Everything, led by the choral liturgies, gets going again all at once, and may we say, Thanks be to God! The website carries the news of upcoming events on all fronts.

I returned from my July vacation to hear how well received have been our new clergy (and their families), Fr. Michael Spurlock, Curate, and Fr. Joel Daniels, Assisting Priest. This includes their sermons, which you may read and hear on the website. Together with Fr. Victor Austin, Theologian-in-residence, and a well-recovered Fr. John Andrew, Rector Emeritus, we have a good-spirited team of priests, and we are inter-generational, from 30-something up each decade to 70-something. Lest we forget, Fr. Charles Wallace, our Choir School Headmaster, is very much a priest whose age is transcendent; he flourishes with all the generations. In October we will be joined for a month by Fr. Anthony Fletcher, honorary assistant from England.

JONATHAN ERDMAN’S INSTITUTION

Attending and preaching for Father Erdman’s Institution, Tuesday, September 7, as Rector of Calvary Church, Louisville, Kentucky, was a joy. Three Bishops of Kentucky – retired, about-to-retire, and about-to-be-consecrated – were present, along with a good number of clergy and a congregation of happy Calvary parishioners. I liked what I saw on all sides. Jonathan is off to a good start, and he sends his blessings and affection to the Saint Thomas congregation. He, his wife Andrea, and their two children Sarah and Joseph, are settling happily into their new home. Sarah, who has up to now known only New York City, was thrilled, looking at their back yard, to see and say that she had her own park.

EVERY MEMBER CANVASS FOR 2011

You will shortly receive the mailing for the 2011 Every Member Canvass. Thanks to Ann Kaplan our Director of Development, and to Canvass Co-Chairs Jesse Adelaar and Heather Cross and to their committee for all their work on this attractive mailing. This contains your pledge card, which I hope you will prayerfully consider and return as soon as you can. I have already written to our approximately 80 Leadership Pledgers, those who pledge at least $5,000 annually to Saint Thomas Church and Choir School; the response from them is so far very encouraging and has included some generous increases of pledges. Of course we are always looking for new members and supporters. In these difficult economic times, especially since 2008, I have been struck by how steadfast our supporters have been.

Saint Thomas has been blessed by congregational generosity throughout our history, and our endowment, our invested funds, is critical to our sustenance. But we draw down too heavily on these funds, and to attain financial health, our annual giving to the Every Member Canvass, now over $1.2 million, needs to be twice what it is for Saint Thomas to be financially healthy. But do not let that necessity overwhelm you. Let it inspire you to pledge, and to do the best you can. For, as the Lord says, where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

The theme for this year’s Canvass features the words of the loving Father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son to his older son, who challenges the Father’s generosity to the prodigal. As he entreats the older child to join the reunion party, the Father says, “Son, you are ever with me, and all that I have is yours…” Let us rejoice at God our Father’s generosity to us all, whether we have been “good” children or prodigals. Returning a generous sacrifice of a pledge in thanks to God through Saint Thomas Church and Choir School is an excellent way to rejoice as Jesus bids us. Please pledge, and if you are able, would you please consider making an increase for 2011? Thank you.

[Webmaster note: the opportunity to begin to pledge online for the 2011 canvass will begin on October 1. Until then, pledges made online are for the 2010 canvass.]

 

BOOK REPORTS

I have to thank our son Matthew for pressing upon me his recommendation of what for Nancy and me has been the book of the year, a classic: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. For a long time Matt has been telling us to read it; that it is one of the best books ever written. For some reason we both have had a resistance to reading it. It is 1,500 pages. But up in Maine I had the time, and surprise, discovered that it’s a riveting page-turner all the way. Not a chapter, not a page really, is wasted. This masterpiece is about the exhaustion of revenge during a tumultuous period in early nineteenth century France. It also resonates, obliquely, with the insights of Christianity. The hero, Edmund Dantes, having been dealt an appalling injustice as a young man, settles his scores decades later by bringing his enemies into the light, where they self-destruct. But then the hero moves through justice, even into mercy and grace. I should have known how good it is when, on the Modern Library cover, I saw this comment from Robert Louis Stevenson: “A Perfect Piece of Storytelling.” It sure is. Dumas’ father was one of Napoleon’s generals, so the author knew a good amount, directly, about the high drama of the times.

After I finished it and Nancy started, I kept asking her, “How’s the Count doing?” She’d answer that this or that was happening and then say sharply, “Now don’t say anything!” It’s that good.

There were other books too. From last winter I recommend Andre Agassi’s Open: An Autobiography, the story of the reluctant tennis great. Little Bee, by Chris Cleave, is about the fatefulness of encounters and decisions; in this case those of a Nigerian girl and a British family. Though brutal, it is strangely comforting at the end. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon features a Cemetery of Forgotten Books. It’s a gothic tale set in Barcelona which tightens into an amazing climax, with an epilogue resuming the introduction. I also read John Updike’s Couples (having read his four Rabbit novels last year), and it seems pretty much the last word on the moral decline and fall of the old WASP upper middle class in New England: the town’s Congregational Church burns down at the end. A detective mystery series by Bruce Alexander, fictionalizing an historic person, the blind seventeenth century London judge Sir John (brother of Henry) Fielding, begins with Blind Justice. Many familiar characters such as Johnson and Boswell make appearances, as Sir John and his young apprentice (the narrator), solve all sorts of crimes, deceits, and puzzles.

AND NOW: Stay tuned to the website, which presents Saint Thomas in all its dimensions, and may the Lord bless us as we begin a new season in the name of Christ our Lord.

Faithfully your priest and Rector,

Andrew C. Mead