The Rector’s Message for the Week of November 29, 2020

Rector Turner
The Reverend Canon Carl Turner

Dear friends,

Like many ‘ex-pats’ I have fallen in love with Thanksgiving Day. Of course, in Great Britain we sing some of the Thanksgiving Day hymns a month or so earlier when we celebrate our traditional Harvest Festival. But there is something about the mix of Thanksgiving not only for the harvest, but also for family and friendship, and what this great country means to its people. That’s why I always choose the hymn:

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plan!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

A special thanks to those of you who packaged Thanksgiving Day meals for parishioners and took the time and the trouble to deliver them all over the Boroughs and into New Jersey. There is a great deal that we can be thankful for at Saint Thomas Church, and that includes our fellowship as a community of faith.

The recent news of successes in vaccine trials is an answer to prayers but, of course, there are still many more months before these vaccines will have enough of an effect to slow down the advance of this pandemic. As I write this week’s letter, I was alarmed by the doubling of the hospitalization rate in New York State, and the predictions of the mounting death toll nationally. Our Bishop wrote to the clergy and asked us to be alert to the rising number of infections, to the care of our elderly and frail parishioners, and the need to follow State and CDC guidelines. The clergy and the Vestry are monitoring the situation and if there is (as predicted) a significant spike in cases after Thanksgiving, we may need to suspend in-person worship at least on Sundays for a period of time.

The Vestry has been thinking hard about how to implement one aspect of the strategic plan, namely, to raise revenue and reduce expenses. The pandemic has given increased urgency to both of these goals. We are hearing difficult stories from other churches, charities, and arts institutions all over the country as they plan their budgets for 2021 – many cultural icons in New York have been affected.  Following our strategic planning presentation to the parish, members of the Vestry met with most of the parish and school staff and faculty this week to explain how this is affecting us also. The senior managers of the Church and School will review their budgets exactingly to ensure they are sustainable over time. We are united in working as a team to push forward with our vision and our mission.

Participating in our 2021 Annual Appeal is one crucial way to ensure vitality and health for us and for our beloved Choir School.

I must pay tribute to Edie Morrill and her team of ushers who have tirelessly, and carefully, welcomed worshippers over these past few weeks. I am also grateful to our new ushers – members of the young adult group and chorister parents, who have allowed Edie to rotate people sparingly. Thank you!

So, Advent Sunday is upon us and with it comes a new Liturgical Year. Our livestream system, the gift of the Merow Foundation, will allow many more people to join us for Advent and Christmas. Dr. Filsell is working so hard with the music department to ensure that we have a splendid musical offering during this season, and I know he is hoping for one or two lovely surprises! Because we cannot have processions at the moment, this Advent Sunday will be a little different. The 11am Solemn Eucharist will begin with the Great Litany and a chance to listen to powerful readings about the Second Coming. At 3pm, we will have a sequence of readings and music for Advent. Titled ‘The King and his Kingdom,’ we will journey through the Old Testament, prophets, then listen to Paul’s writing to the Romans, and end with a reading from Matthew’s Gospel ‘Keep awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.’

Let me end with a poem of Archbishop Rowan Williams called ‘Advent Calendar’

He will come like last leaf’s fall.
One night when the November wind
has flayed the trees to the bone, and earth
wakes choking on the mould,
the soft shroud’s folding.

He will come like frost.
One morning when the shrinking earth
opens on mist, to find itself
arrested in the net
of alien, sword-set beauty.

He will come like dark.
One evening when the bursting red
December sun draws up the sheet
and penny-masks its eye to yield
the star-snowed fields of sky.

He will come, will come,
will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child.

Affectionately,

Your priest and pastor,

Carl