As the Episcopal Church approaches the 2015 General Convention, there has been discussion, yet again, of same-sex marriage. On a Listserv that I can’t quote without permission, someone wrote “An important question to be addressed is whether the individual or the nuclear and/or extended family is the fundamental moral unit in Anglican (and/or our) moral theology, that is, the possessor of rights and privileges, and duties and responsibilities, within the Christian community. (This of course is the or a classic distinction between so-called liberals and conservatives.)”
I must confess that I am astounded by this remark. First off, on its face it begs a question. It seems to me to be debatable whether “the fundamental unit of moral theology” is equivalent to “the possessor of rights and privileges, and duties and responsibilities, within the Christian community.” Any relevant rights and privileges we have as Christians come to us through God’s grace. And all of us have duties and responsibilities – to each other, to God’s creation, and to God.
Second, is not “moral theology” the catholic term for Christian ethics? It seems to me that ethical responsibility ultimately rests with the individual. The summary of the law says “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” and “Thou shalt love hy neighbor as thyself.” Note the singular pronouns. [I am quoting the Rite I version from page 319 of the 1979 prayer book because contemporary English does not make a distinction between singular and plural in second person pronouns.]
In the baptismal covenant of TEC, we are asked “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” and “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” The answer to each is “I will, with God’s help.” Again, note the singular pronoun.
We are called by God and by the church to act ethically and morally as individuals. To act ethically and morally is to be in right relationship with God. As human beings, we can only be in right relationship with God if we are in right relationship with our fellow human beings, and indeed with all creatures great and small and with all creation. And the responsibility to do so in on each one of us as an individual.
It’s been almost six months since my last post on this blog. I’m thinking of using it again on a more regular basis. We’ll see what happens.
I’ll start with the first day of spring. My friend Marie Runyon was 100 years old that day, last Friday. I remember that Marie once told me that she first came to St. Mary’s in the 1940s and Wikipedia states that she moved to New York in 1947. Over the years she has been at St. Mary’s on and off. [Note: the two links for St. Mary's take you to different pages.] Currently she is more closely connected to Christ and St. Stephen’s Church.
On Friday afternoon, March 20, there was a potluck party in Marie’s apartment to celebrate her birthday. St. Mary’s people there, besides Liz and me, included Dorothy Ross, Janet Dorman, and Bonnie Phelps. Patty Ackerman, who was at St. Mary’s in the 1990's was also there. There were also a number of people from Christ and St. Stephen’s.
On Monday, September 29, 2014, Liz and I and our five year old granddaughter Juliana climbed Mt. Elmore, in Elmore State Park, about a half hour away from our daughter Jane’s home in North Middlesex, VT. We walked up the Fire Tower Trail, which on the trail map is marked at 1.25 miles. When we got to the park, a little before noon, a whole school, the Wolcott Elementary School, was coming down from the top. When we got to the top, the views were spectacular.
In order to make a loop, we had decided to return on the Ridge Trail, labeled as 2.2 miles. The trail up had some challenging steep climbs over rocky territory, and we heard from someone on the top that the ridge trail also had some challenges, but that there were also numerous stretches that were fairly level.
It was somewhere between 1:30 and 2:00 when we started down the ridge trail. We expected to get back to the trailhead in a couple of hours. There was a sign that told us that the Balancing Rock was a half mile along.
Well, for me it was mighty slow going. There were lots of ups and downs, and my legs were getting tired which made me very slow. Because of my neuropathy I take very cautious small steps on terrain like that.
I think we had been going about two hours when we got to the Balancing Rock – I was dismayed, that it was taking so long and here we were less than a quarter of the way. As it got close to 5 o’clock, Liz decided that she should go ahead to call and let Jane and Scott know that we would be later than we expected. It's lucky she did. Juliana stayed with me, and we kept plodding onward. I began to get concerned as the sun sank lower and lower and visibility got more and more difficult. I realized we had a long way to go and thought that it was possible that darkness would overtake us. Juliana was getting tired and anxious to be home and see mommy and daddy and Amanda. I told her that we just had to keep going and we would see them when we got to the end.
Meanwhile, as Liz discovered that it was farther to the bottom than she expected she realized it wasn't a matter of saying we would be late, it was a matter of calling for help. As it happens, we had left our cell phone back at the house (normally it would have been in the car -- we're just not cell phone people.) So she had to find someone who could call.
As twilight was coming on, a young couple caught up with us and I asked them whether they had a flashlight. They did, and I anticipated joining up with them and continuing onward. And then, a woman came up the trail towards us with a dog. She was Nikki (I’m don’t know how she spells it) and Liz had encountered her as she got to the bottom. It had taken Nikki about 20 to 25 minutes to reach us from the bottom. She thought there was about a half hour before sunset. Nikki told me that she had called Jane and that emergency had also been called, so I knew help was on the way. The other couple proceeded on down.
I told Nikki that I wanted to keep going and not wait for help to arrive. With Nikki’s aid I negotiated some fairly rough terrain, some of it sitting down and sliding along. Nikki was on her cell phone to both the state police and later to the Elmore Fire Department, which functions as a rescue squad. As we went along, Juliana was doing pretty well -- she's a game girl. Nikki was watching out her for as well as guiding me.
Finally, the Fire Department arrived, and things changed. I don't know what time that was, but it was sometime after 7, perhaps as late as 7:30, because it was pretty dark. I didn't realize it, but along with the fire department was a state policeman.
The firemen asked me if I wanted to proceed with my walking sticks, or whether I preferred to have two guys sort of walk me along. I told them I wanted to use the sticks, and I wouldn’t mind having people beside me at the same time.
From that point on, I was surrounded by the firemen. When I described the setup to her, Liz said it reminded her of the 14 guardian angels in the Evening Prayer from Hunperdinck's opera, Hansel and Gretel. She's right, it was like that. I’m sorry that I remember only two of my guardian angels' names – Zach, who was on my right and Joe who was on my left. For most of the next two hours, Zach walked backwards or sideways, holding on to me as I inched along. It was as if we were dancing, slowly, down the trail. Joe was also gripping me on the left, but he was mostly walking forwards. It had taken them about twenty minutes to get to me, but I took 6 times that long to walk out. At the outset, the state policeman and Nikki were behind me with Juliana, but after a while they went on down ahead so that Juliana was reunited with her parents and Amanda. I’m told that Nikki was carrying Juliana piggyback, but I didn’t see it.
This neuropathy is a real drag – I can keep up a pretty good pace when I get moving on level ground – slowed only by the old knee injury and my limp. But on uneven ground I’m slow and on severely uneven ground I’m agonizingly slow.
I’m very grateful to Zach and Joe and the others for tolerating my slow pace. Coming down that trail in the dark was a real ordeal – what I was most aware of at the time was my slowness. At one point someone on the radio asked from the base if there was anything we needed that would help. I didn’t hear what answer the guy on our end gave, but I said “How about wings,” Zach and Joe said they liked my sense of humor. In fact I kept my spirits up the whole way.
When we finally got to the end, I was relieved to see and hug Liz and Jane. They had been waiting a long time and the waiting was in some ways more of an ordeal than I had experienced. For me. it was just a very slow walk out. I was doing something -- walking -- the whole time.
Liz and I rode down from the trailhead to our car in the assistant fire chief’s truck – I don’t remember his name either. Jane and Amanda walked down (it’s not a long walk and it’s on a fire road so it’s easy) and Scott and Juliana, who was by now sound asleep, rode in the emergency vehicle. The girls got teddy bears that the Vermont Teddy Bear Company donates to the fire company to give out. I think I deserved a teddy bear too, but no one thought to give me one.
Jane drove Liz and me back to the house and after we went in the first thing Jane gave me was a big glass of wine. By now it was 10:15 and too late to make supper so I went to bed on crackers and cheese and grapes.
I’ll never forget slowly dancing down the mountain with Zach holding me the whole way.
Our good friend Winnie Varghese took this picture of some of the St. Mary's contingent at the march.
Holding the banner at the left is one of this year's interns, Spencer, next to him is former intern Sydney Korngay, then Liz, then looking to the left Andre Zucker, next is Janet Dorman, then someone I don't know the name of, then partially obscured Lisa Slocum, then peeking over the banner is Lysander Puccio, then another person I don't know, and finally yours truly.
Here's another picture of the banner, also by Winnie:
Holding the banner is another intern, Lillian, and in the lower right corner is our junior warden, Celia Braxton.
St. Mary's people who marched but aren't in these pictures include Dane, Armando Howard, Bonnie Phelps, Evie Fortna, Dorothy Ross, Lynda Burton, Shirrell Patterson, Sheila Patterson, Marilyn Seven, and maybe others we didn't see. Among the alums that I know of besides Winnie were Chloe Breyer and Ansel Scholl, and Anne Ditzler. Thanks to Janet for helping remember who was there.
i spent the better part of the afternoon yesterday finding out how to add our new rector Mary to the Diocesan Payroll service and get her signed up for health insurance.
Zoraida, the payroll manager, sent me six forms, and on one of them was a statement that for clergy we need a seventh form. I managed to download that from the diocesan website -- it was page 11 of a 12 page compilation of forms, most of which duplicated the forms I had been sent and had already printed.
Sara, the benefits administrator, sent me the form for the health insurance. Since Mary is coming from another parish in the diocese, Sara told me what plan she was in now, but Mary still has to fill out the form anew.
In all there were eight forms. Four the clergy person has to fill out, and four just the parish fills out. It came to me to send Mary the four for the clergy person so that she could fill them out and send them back to us. Two of them we need to add to.
The other four are written in such a way that the presumption is that the treasurer will sign them. I'm prepared to do that. There is, however, a timing complication - I won't be in New York very much for a few weeks. In additon to sending Mary the forms she needs to complete, I sent copies of all the forms to the wardens, Radford and Celia, for their information. The one that came as part of a 12 page packet, I printed and scanned, so as not to confuse anyone with the duplicates in the other part of the packet.
Liz and I are getting as much time here at Heart Lake as we can, and we also are going to Vermont in a week and a half for our granddaughter Juliana's fifth birthday. So we will be in New York on only a few days before Mary starts at the beginning of October. We will be there this week Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (Sunday is the Climate March.) Next week we will be there Thursday only. (If you count evenings we will be there Thursday evening this week and Wednesday evening next week.)
The week following the birthday party on the 28th, we will wend our way back to New York. Depending on whether we come by way of Heart Lake, we will get there either on Wednesday or on Friday or Saturday.
Then comes Mary's first Sunday at St. Mary's as rector. We'll be there for that. Probably we'll come back here sometime that week, at least for Columbus Day. I don't yet know when we'll turn off the water here and drain the pipes.
I have another task related to Mary while I am in New York. Mary and her family are moving into the rectory on the last days of September, when Liz and I will be in Vermont. Since the parish has to pay for the move, I have to arrange for a bank check to the moving company and cash for the tip before we leave. I also have to reimburse Mary for the deposit to the moving company.
All of this is in addition to the fact that I have to prepare a financial report for the vestry meeting on September 28 -- a day I'll be away so I have to get the report done four or five days in advance.
This is one, perhaps the first, in a contemplated series of posts on the history of St. Mary's, Manhattanville. Researching and writing that history is my current project.
We are about to have a new rector at St. Mary's. (For the moment, I won't release her name on the internet since the Letter of Agreement has not quite been finalized .) I'm taking this opportunity to make a list of all of the rectors we have had since our founding in 1823. By and large this is just a list of names and dates. More information about these people will be included in my history, and some of it will be posted here..
First, the rectors during or just before my time at St. Mary's. I first came to St. Mary's in November of 1958. The list begins with Dr. Ackley, who had retired when I cam here, and ends with Earl Kooperkamp, who left a little over two years ago. The dates given here are from my memory..
When my partner Rex Slauson came to St. Mary's, the rector was Charles Breck Ackley. Dr. Ackley had served as rector throughout the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s and here it was the middle of the 1950s.
Dr. Ackley was succeeded by Richard Gary, who was priest in charge in the late fifties and early sixties.
Dick was succeeded by Neale Secor, who started as seminarian, became assistant and then priest in charge in the late 1960s and finally was styled rector, although he was never formally called as rector.
Neale left in the early 1980s and after a brief interim was succeeded by Floyd "Butch" Naters Gamarra, who had to leave because we didn't have the money to pay him.
After another brief interim, in the mid eighties Robert Castle became rector.
Bob left at tne end of the 1990s and was succeeded by Earl Kooperkamp.
Earl left in May 2012 and we have been without a rector since.
After an interval of over a year, we began a formal search in the summer of 2013 and the search has just concluded with the selection of a rector.
We expect that our new rector will begin on October 5, but the Letter of Agreement has not yet been finalized and signed by the Rector, the Senior Warden, and the Bishop. So it's almost a done deal but the i's aren't yet dotted and the t's are not yet crossed.
Second is the list of rectors from the the organization of St. Mary's in December 1823 up to Dr. Ackley in 1920. The dates here are from my notes and I have not double checked them yet.
This brief account necessarily can only hint at the fascinating complexity of the first thirty five years of St. Mary's' history and the various ministries associated with its early rectors, William Richmond and Thomas McClure Peters.
When St. Mary's was organized at the end of 1823, William Richmond was elected as rector. William Richmond was already rector of St. Michael's and St. James'. Over the course of the next thirty years, William Richmond served three stints as rector.
After less than two years William Richmond resigned in 1825. John Sellon was elected to succeed him, and his name appears on the mortgage for the church building, but he never actually served as rector.
Next the vestry elected Thomas Thornton Groshon, who was lay reader from even before the church was organized in 1823 and who was a member of the first class to enter General Seminary. Unfortunately, Thomas Groshon died in the yellow fever epidemic of 1828, before he was ordained, so he never served as rector.
In 1828, William Richmond resumed the rectorship for the next ten years, while still the rector of St. Michael's and St' James'. He considered his parish to be all of Manhattan north of Greenwich Village.
In 1837 William Richmond turned over his duties at St. Michael's, St. James, and St. Mary's to his brother James Cook Richmond, who remained until 1842.
In 1842 William Richmond resumed the rectorship and held it until 1852. Also in 1842, he appointed Thomas McClure Peters, a seminarian at General Seminary, to be lay reader.
William Richmond went on a misison trip to the West Cost at the end of the 1840s and Thomas McClure Peters was effectively in charge. Peters realized that St. Mary's could not survive without resident clergy and he was responsible for the erection of the rectory in 1851, at which time he also became rector. Thomas McClure Peters was also Rector of All Angels Church in Seneca Village. In the meantime he had married the daughter of William Richmond and they all lived in William Richmond's house. in the 90s. St. Mary's Rectory was occupied by George L Neide, an assistant who did most of the services at St. Mary's.
In 1855 George Neide resigned as assistant. The rectory was enlarged to its present size and Thomas McClure Peters moved in wirth his family. He remained only until 1858 when his father in law William Richmond died and Peters was elected rector of St. Michael's.
Charles F Rodenstein became recotr in 1859 and stayed only until 1860 when he entered miedical scgool.
George F Seymour, who had been the first warden of St. Stephen;s College, later Bard College, was rector from March 1861 to 1862.
Charles Coffin Adams came in 1863 abd stayed until he died in 1888.
Lawrence Schwab was rector from at least 1891 to 1898. I need to check some records that are not avaialble online to determine when he started. That is the time the Sunday School Building, now the parish hall, was built.
Hiram Richard Hulse was rector from 1899 to 1911 or 1912. Again the records are not online. During his tenure, the old church was torn down and the present church was built.
John Loftus Scully became rector in 1912 and he died in 1914.
Francis A Brown came at the end of 1914 and remained until 1918.
Frederick W Goodman came in October 1918 and stayed only until sometime between May 1919 and May 1920.
Charles Breck Ackley was here by May 1920.
Five, now almost six rectors since I have been at St. Mary's.
Twelve rectors and one lay reader, who was in effect the pastor, before I came.
We are about to engage the eighteenth rector, nineteenth if you count Tom Groshon or John Sellon, twentieth if you count them both.
About my sources: As I indicated, for the rectors after Dr. Ackley, I have relied on my memory for the purposes of this post. For the earlier period, my principal sources are online scans of Journals of Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of New York; the Annals of St. Michael's Church by John Punnett Peters; and the Landmarks Preservation Commission's 1998 report on St. Mary's (researched and written by Eric K. Washington). There is also a list of Rectors, without dates, on the St. Mary's Harlem website, that appears to have been compiled by Dt. Ackley for the 100th anniversary of St. Mary's in 1923. My finished history will have appropriate citations to sources. I have not yet been able to consult the actual minute books of St. Mary's because access to the archives closet has been blocked for several months and it hasn't seemed worth it to try to gain access.
I'm a retired math teacher with a keen interest in English Literature. I have been active at my local Episcopal church for more than 50 years. My current project is to complete a history of St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Manhattanville, which will have its 200th anniversary in 2023. I'm also working on
a family history for my first and second cousins and I hope to publish on the web a version of my Masters Essay on The Dunciad.