Alison and I have just returned from our first visit with our family since December 2019! The pandemic has affected so many families in this way who have been unable to travel or to meet. Unfortunately, it was one of the most fraught journeys we have ever made to the UK as we had to have numerous COVID tests, fill in many forms and, on arrival, quarantine for ten days. Although that limited the time we had with our family, we finally met our newest grandchild, Charlie, who was born ten months ago. Here is a fun picture of us outside Exeter Cathedral.
On Sunday we will celebrate the ministry of Father Cheng as he transitions from delivering our Adult Education program to Theologian in Residence and Honorary Associate Priest. We are actively searching for his successor and we hope to welcome a new priest before too long. In the meantime, we have an interesting number of classes planned for the fall with some fascinating teachers.
Fr. Cheng has taken the Adult Education program to completely new heights and doubled the number of people who attend because of his teaching skills and his thirst for learning. In addition to working exceptionally hard, he is also a wonderful loyal colleague and so very humble. I have received many emails remarking on his classes over the past two years – my favorite was from a parishioner who decided to watch the on-demand classes on 1 Corinthians in Greek and said she ended up ‘binging’ on them!
Of course, we are delighted that Fr. Cheng will remain our Theologian in Residence. Although he will step back from delivering the program, he will still preach and teach occasionally and, more important, continue to hive advice and theological reflection.
Please join us on Sunday as he preaches on the glorious feast of St. Mary the Virgin when, with churches in the East and the West, we think of her entrance into heaven. The service will finish with a procession to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fifth Avenue. We will then have a Zoom Coffee Hour to greet Fr. Cheng and Michael.
We also want to announce that our beloved Sr. Promise Atelon SSM, former seminarian and now Associate Priest, has accepted a call to serve on the clergy staff of Trinity Wall Street. Her last services with us as assisting priest will be Sunday, August 22 and Tuesday, August 24, which is the Feast of Saint Bartholomew. We look forward to reflecting more on her gracious and centered ministry in next week’s newsletter.
If you have ever visited the Metropolitan Museum and its European Galleries, you have probably noticed the large number of renaissance images of Mary and the Christ Child. They are exquisitely beautiful and tender images. However, sometimes, the images that people have of Mary are mere fantasy for they forget that the girl from Nazareth questioned the Angel Gabriel before responding to God’s call. Mary became a home for God in her womb but, first, she made room for him in her heart. Her ‘yes’ to God was not forced on her by the angel – she gave it freely and began a journey that would take her to the foot of the Cross and to her Son’s grave. But, as witness to her Son’s resurrection, the Acts of the Apostles also tells us that the followers of Jesus after his Ascension gathered with her to pray and break the bread. Some say that she is the archetype of the Christian – filled with baptismal grace and believing in the promises of Jesus. She points the way still to her Son and, as in Cana of Galilee, invites us to “do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5).
In the close of Salisbury Cathedral there is a bronze statue of Mary called ‘The Walking Madonna’. Unlike the many pious images we are used to seeing, this Mother of God is on a journey – striding forth. This poem by Anne Lewin is inspired by that image.
Happy Feast Day!
Your Priest and Pastor,