I was overwhelmed by the response to my post last week.
Last Monday, I was planning to post something to this blog and then turn to some business about my mother’s finances. I was running behind, in part because of the response to my post last night and in part because of a post by MadPriest of a letter from the Bishop of Bethlehem. MadPriest scooped the world (he must have had some help.)
Actually there was so much that morning in the blogosphere – so much that provokes me to think about things and write about things. And then the rest of the week – especially Thursday and Friday when I was off tending to my mother’s situation.
Perhaps I’ll begin by telling a little about me.
After I graduated from college in 1958, I came to New York for graduate school in English at Columbia University. Midway in my first semester I met Rex, the man who became my partner. Rex introduced me to the Episcopal Church, first at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and then at St. Mary’s. I began going to St. Mary’s in mid November 1958 and took confirmation classes at Columbia, in beautiful St. Paul’s Chapel, from an Episcopal chaplain whose name I do not recall. John Krumm was the university chaplain, but he did not give the confirmation classes.
On a Saturday in the spring of 1959 I was confirmed at the Cathedral by Bishop Donegan. I have been a member of St. Mary’s ever since. Rex was on the vestry for quite a long time. We both sang in the choir. I do not remember when I was first elected to the vestry. St. Mary’s is a few blocks from Union Theological Seminary, and we have often had a number of seminarians either on a field work assignment or just making us their New York church home. Often we have been the sponsoring parish for Union students who feel a call to the Episcopal priesthood. In 1972 and 1973, both Emily Hewitt and Carter Heyward were at Union and St. Mary’s and were deacons at St. Mary’s. Rex died in February, 1973, of a massive heart attack. Emotionally, I fell apart in a big way. At the same time, that was a very special time in the Episcopal Church and at St. Mary’s. Two letters that I wrote at that time appear in Carter Heyward’s A Priest Forever and can be found here. (This link takes you to the section where my letters appear. The whole section is worth reading, but if you’re in a hurry to see my letters, once on the page, Find “Mellen”. To read the entire book, click this link.)
I’m skipping a lot of personal details here but in November of 1974 Liz and I decided to marry and we married in February 1975.
THE PAST WEEK
First, on Monday, there was the letter by the Bishop of Bethlehem Our cottage at Heart Lake is in the Diocese of Bethlehem, and Liz and I sometimes go to St. Paul’s Church in Montrose. (More often, we go to the Heart Lake United Methodist Church, but more about that at another time.) I am truly impressed by Bp. Marshall’s letter – a lot has been said about it in the blogosphere, including by me, so I’ll say no more.
Then, on Tuesday there was Tobias’s 1994 meditation for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. During the 1990's and on into the summer of 2001, Liz worked at the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute, and I became acquainted with the Society of the Atonement, both the Friars and the Sisters. I'm always struck by Tobias' creative writing, as well as by his thought. On Friday he followed up splendidly on the Tuesday post.
I’ll just mention in passing the marvelous letter by Bonnie Anderson that can be found at ENS, and the appropriate move by Bp. Peter Lee of Virginia and the concomitant statement by PB Katharine.
I didn’t get to the Manhattan Together launch at St. Bart’s on Thursday, because Liz and I were in Binghamton at my mother’s. But we did go to a “Music Tasting” on Friday evening sponsored by the Orfeo Duo. And we went Saturday evening to the 13th annual “Hands Across the Street” dinner, co-sponsored by the Grant Houses Residents Association and our own Morningside Gardens Community Relations Committee. (I’m not going to say much about Morningside Gardens on this blog until my term is up, but I noted that I was the only Board member who attended.)
PRISON MINISTRY SUNDAY
Today, the third Sunday in Epiphany*, was designated Prison Ministry Sunday by Diocesan Convention two years ago. At St. Mary’s we have an active prison ministry and today Yvonne Logan preached a sermon that was constructed as a reflection on the gospel for the day, Luke 4:14-21, especially the end of verse 21 “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” and the following verses that are not in appointed pericope and thus were not read.
I was particularly interested in the first reading, Nehemiah8:2-10, because at present I am taing notes on the particularities of the documentary hypothesis as set forth by Richard Elliott Friedman in The Bible with Sources Revealed, which is really just about the Torah. Earl Kooperkamp read the first lesson, and Elizabeth Kooperkamp read the second lesson, which also has a special meaning for me because of Hooker’s use of the text. (I haven’t mentioned my interest in Hooker before.)
The offertory hymn was “Brightest and Best” by Reginald Heber, to Harding’s familiar tune Morning Star. “Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.” At communion we sang Horiatius Bonar’s “Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face,” to the tune Nyack by Warren Swenson, who was the organist at St. Mary’s for a time in (I think) the 1970's. The celebrant was Chloe Breyer, who sang the Sursum Corda, which is unusual at St. Mary’s. Chloe sometimes writes for Slate - see, for example this December 2005 article on an alternative to the Virgin Birth. The first responder (“HLS2003") appears to me to confuse the fundamentals with orthodoxy – an example of the notion of “true religion” that I spoke of last week.
In a comment last week at MadPriest’s, I mentioned our own Bishop Catherine. Well, in just four weeks she’ll be making her first “official” visitation to St. Mary’s. Stay tuned.
* UPDATE January 21, 2008. A comment today by valhymes made me realize that I had inadvertently typed Advent instead of Epiphany.