In this week’s news…
- The Rector’s Message
- This Week’s Service
- Meditation from Fr. Spencer
- PPE Outreach Project
- Adult Education
- Thursday Evening Prayer and Meditation
- Sunday’s Virtual Coffee Hour
- Children and Families’ Zoom gathering
The Rector’s Message
I have had some interesting email exchanges with some of you following last week’s letter; it seems that the idea of discovering stillness as not necessarily an absence of noise was something that resonated with a number of you. This week, I have asked Fr. Spencer to continue that discussion and he writes below.
This Sunday, Dr. Filsell plays a remarkable organ mass by Kenneth Leighton. Here you can find links to short film he has made explaining the piece at the Miller-Scott organ. There is a second short film where he and I have a conversation about the piece and the liturgical use of the organ.
I have received a lovely letter from the Dean of York. As you know, our Choir School was founded by T. Tertius Noble who came to Saint Thomas from his position at York Minister. We thought we would share that letter with you all.
Many of you will have seen the article on ‘New York’s patron saint of PPE’ in the Washington Post recently as it has been shared widely around the parish. Congratulations to Rhonda Shearer for her dedication to hospitals, front-line workers, and homeless shelters in providing personal protective equipment. Several of you have asked how you can support Rhonda’s efforts. Please contact Fr. Moretz and he will connect you. If you wish to contribute to the GoFundMe appeal, the link is below.
Finally, I am delighted that a number of you have offered practical support for parishioners who do not have access to computers or the internet. If you know someone who would appreciate receiving a CD through the mail with worship, music, and podcasts from Saint Thomas, please contact Fr. Moretz or Linda Morfi. If you know someone who does not have a CD player, I have been offered several to give away; please let us know.
Your priest and pastor
This Week’s Services at St. Thomas Church
The Solemn Eucharist of the Fifth Sunday of Easter
Sunday, May 3
Video and Audio Webcasts available at 8am
Shrine Prayers (Intercessions) and Mass
Monday, May 11 – Saturday, May 16
Audio Livecast at Noon
Evening Prayer and Meditation
Thursday, May 14
Via Zoom at 6:30pm
(see complete information above)
The Solemn Eucharist of the Sixth Sunday of Easter
Sunday, May 17
Video and Audio Webcasts available at 8 am
Storms and the Mountain: a Reflection on Stillness
My brain is full of storms.
You wouldn’t know it to look at me most days, perhaps. I can come across as calm, confident, joyful, a little tired maybe. Rarely like I have a head full of storms. But I do. They’re big thunderclouds of anxiety and smaller whirlwinds of distraction but they all conspire towards the same end – they make stillness difficult.
Father Turner, in his message last week, wrote beautifully about the practice of silent prayer and the pursuit of inner stillness. He shared his own experience of praying silently even when surrounded by distractions and disturbances. Seeking God amidst the noise of the world and of our own minds.
Of course all of our brains are full of storms. Thought itself involves crackling electro-chemical lightning moving around inside our skulls. Our rapid-fire thoughts and ability to consider one thing and then suddenly another are all a part of the wonder of the human brain.
But when we want to be still and know that God is God (to paraphrase Psalm 46), our constant thinking can be frustrating. “Monkey mind” is what some of our Buddhist friends call it. Father Martin Laird calls it “the cocktail party in our heads.” For me, it is often my to-do list intruding, or the insistence of my restless body, a rehearsal of my personal fears and disappointments, or my annoyance at noise of the world outside the window. These days, worries about the virus and the economy, cabin fever and frustration with limitations, also make regular appearances.
So how do we silence the “monkey mind?” How do we send the mental cocktail party guests home? Well, we don’t. As Father Turner said, we accept them. We allow the thoughts to exist, to pass us by like leaves flowing by on the surface of a stream. We note them and we let them go.
There’s a very loud construction site next door to the Saint Thomas Choir School where I live. When the windows are open in my apartment, a steady stream of noise is nearly all I can hear. But if I pay attention, between and beneath all of the table saws and the hammering, I can hear sparrows singing. And, beneath that, silence.
Theologian Paul Tillich once famously described God as “the Ground of Being.” Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote that God is Being Itself. The great “I Am” of the Hebrew Bible. God exists before all and creates all and upholds all. God is. More solid than the earth beneath our feet.
Father Martin Laird, in his excellent book on silent prayer “Into the Silent Land”, uses the image of a mountain covered by storm clouds to describe what happens in silent prayer. It is also the ultimate reality of our lives in their deepest part. The storms of our thoughts and our lives rage around the mountain but the mountain itself remains. Solid, immovable. The mountain is our foundation in Being. No matter what, we remain grounded in the being of God. This is the reality even when we find ourselves focused on or distracted by the storms. God is always there. God is. Our task, in prayer and in life, lies in returning to the fundamental fact of the mountain when the storms threaten to sweep us away.
The following words were apparently found in the breviary of Saint Teresa of Avila after her death:
“Let nothing trouble you, nothing frighten you.
All things are passing; God never changes.
Patient endurance attains all things.
Whoever possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.”
It won’t ever be perfect, our attempt at stillness, our practice of silence. The thoughts will intrude and distract. Our prayer will be full of interruptions. The storms will come. But, with patient endurance, we will return again and again to the strength and peace of the mountain at the center of everything. Being Itself.
For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken.
Father Adam Spencer
Associate for Pastoral Care
“Cut Red Tape 4 Heroes” Initiative
With your help, Personal Protective Equipment is being delivered to New York City doctors, nurses, and healthcare staff. This initiative has distributed to more than then thousand healthcare workers and those at risk, and has purchased more than one million units of PPE for distribution.
Please come to the aid and the rescue of our heroes! The more money we raise, the more supplies we can provide. We need caring people to step up so we can continue delivering to hospitals and providing for healthcare workers in need.
100% of your contribution will go directly to NYC First Responders, EMT, ER, hospital, healthcare workers and those at risk.
For more information contact: [email protected] 212.925.8812
Adult Education at Saint Thomas Church
Sunday, May 10, 10:00-11:00am
A study class on the English and Greek texts of
Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians
Tuesday, May 12, 6:30-8:00pm
Relationships: Marriage, Commitment, and Religious Communities
Friday Online Bible Study
Friday, May 15, 12:45-1:45pm
A study on the Gospel of John with Fr. Bennett.
Children and Families’ Sunday Zoom Gathering
Our Young Teens group FAITH ALIVE meets on a weekly basis and will meet again on Sunday, May 10, at 9:30am.
Our Nursery and Sunday School families are also joining together for their weekly Sunday Zoom! this Sunday, May 10, at 10:15am.
If you know a child or family that would like to participate, in either or both of these gatherings, please email Mother Turner for the required invitation codes.
As we discover new ways of being a church community during in this new chapter of our lives, we will be producing an additional weekly newsletter for families Be Faithful, Be Creative and Be Connected.
If you know a family who wishes to be added to the distribution list for children and families, please also contact Mother Turner.
Evening Prayer and Meditation
Thursdays at 6:30pm via Zoom
Saint Thomas Church has begun a regular 6:30pm Thursday service of Evening Prayer and Meditation that you can join online, led by Fr. Adam Spencer, Associate for Pastoral Care, and Sr. Promise Atelon, Deacon and Seminarian. This service will take place over the Zoom platform.
Please join us for this time of peace and prayer together.
For log-in access to these worship services, please contact Fr. Spencer.
“Virtual” Coffee Hour, May 10 at 12:30pm
This coming Sunday, we will continue hosting our “Virtual Coffee Hour” which will use the conferencing program “Zoom” to host a virtual meeting. This meeting will start well after the webcast of the service on Sunday, May 10 at 12:30pm and will last no longer than an hour.
It will start with a short prayer and will continue with checking in and conversation, as best we can. The pacing and scope of the online gathering will very much depend on the amount of people who join in. We will continue to experiment with Breakout Rooms, which will allow for smaller groups to talk together. The hour will be moderated by Fr. Moretz and you can contact him to learn more and receive login credentials.
Please click here to learn more about Zoom, an extraordinary tool for communication and community.
I look forward to joining all of you who can make it for “Virtual” Coffee Hour this Easter Day!