Holy Week 2018
Holy Week a Quarter Century Later:
It was twenty-five years ago that I prepared for my first Holy Week at All Saints, Manhattan. I had never performed liturgy that was so Anglo-Catholic. I had never censed an altar, never sung a mass, never done Stations of the Cross. Like Alice, I was in Wonderland! I was told we have a finely tuned liturgy here and we don’t need any changes. But try as we will, change is inevitable and inexorable. We move from life to death and from death to life.
Yes, the Church has changed, in some ways for better and in some ways not. But what strikes me is how much I have changed. Then I knew the gospel as it had been delivered to me. There was, no doubt, a certain liberal point of view. But as I get older I could more clearly hear the prophet Jeremiah’s words that “I will create a new covenant, not one made of stone but one planted in your heart.” What has come to me is that inner sense that Jesus had when he repeatedly stated in the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard it said, but now I say to you . . .” something different. In the same way, those who heard him teach, said he taught as one with authority, not like the scribes. He spoke what he knew in the depths of his being.
This is not to claim that I have the same wisdom and authority as Jesus — far from it. What I am saying is that years and years of following the liturgy and reading the lessons, that a deeper internal sense of the meaning of things have made me trust in that inner “still small voice” of the God within. Yes, I can still be wrong, but now there are times when the Spirit speaks strongly and my main task is not to hinder that voice.
Sometimes the liturgies can seem too long and too remote, maybe too symbolic or obscure. But I do believe that the faithful exposure and attention to these externally practiced rituals allow for the slow process of having the deeper truths begin to work an alchemy in the soul that gradually transforms into having the compassionate mind of Christ. I believe Jesus “got it” very quickly and profoundly. I feel that some of it has trickled in through the faithful observance of the Word and Sacraments over the years.
This Holy Week, I am calling all of us to the faithful practice of the Church’s most sacred liturgies that have us follow in the footsteps of Jesus during the most intense days of his life. The Greeks in last week’s gospel from John said, “We want to see Jesus.” I want to see him too and I also want to see the world and my life the way Jesus saw his world and his life.
For us mortals, it might take years to get a glimpse, but once that reality has been glimpsed, all else feels superfluous. Let’s not give up on the breaking of the bread and fellowship of the faithful, for in so doing we participate in the slow but steady process of working out our salvation with fear and trembling, as we find ourselves gradually transformed by the renewal of our minds.
Please join us this year for our carefully prepared liturgies of Holy Week as described below.
The Rev. Steven J. Yagerman
Holy Week at a Glance
Palm Sunday: March 25 at 10am. This Sunday serves as a foreshadowing of Holy Week. We move from the ecstatic welcoming of the crowds singing Hosanna and waving palms as Jesus enters Jerusalem, to the tragic rejection and execution of Jesus. Could it be that all of our lives begin with a joyful entry into the world only to subsequently experience rejection and mortality? Could it be that the resurrected life cannot begin until we go through this first death of our innocence and naiveté? All Saints Levy Choir School choristers will be joining us for this celebration.
Agapé Supper: Thursday, March 29 at 5:30. An informal meal celebrated around a communal table. Typically the meal includes middle eastern foods such as salads, pita bread, humus, olives, roast chicken. It would be great for each person to contribute a dish of some kind. Please let the office know (212-758-0447) what you intend to bring, or check the sign up sheet at coffee hour on Palm Sunday. We will do the foot washing at this meal, to remind us of when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet.
Maundy Thursday: March 29 at 7:30. This is a service rich in symbolism. It includes the veneration of the reserved sacrament in the chapel and concludes with the ceremonial stripping of the altar, as a sign of Jesus’ being stripped of his dignity as he stands in solidarity with all victims of human violence throughout the millennia. We ask ourselves, “How do we participate in a culture of violence and scapegoating?
Good Friday: March 30 at noon. In this service, again, rich in archetypal imagery, we stand at the foot of the cross and ask, in the words of the old spiritual, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Here we experience the sobering poignancy at the core of our faith, i.e. God is not found in a pristine world beyond, but rather embedded deep in the midst of our human condition.
Easter Vigil: March 31 at 9pm. Taking our cue from the early church, as it ended a strict Lenten season, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, beginning in the darkness before Easter morning. The Church, shrouded in darkness, is lit by the light of Christ, which is symbolically carried into the midst of the congregation atop the Paschal Candle. Speaking with symbol and sacrament we find a language deeper than words speaking about the apotheosis of humanity through the resurrection of the Christ. Can we manifest the power of this resurrection in our Church and in our lives?
Easter Morning: April 1 at 10am. Our normal festive celebration of Resurrection Sunday! Not a historical observance, but a celebration of signs of the resurrection in our lives. This is the central celebration of the entire year. If one has been through the discipline of Lent, then Easter serves as a sign that a new and different kind of life is available to be lived in the here and now. Can we think of a reason we wouldn’t want to share in this new life? In facing our mortality and in solidarity with the scapegoat / victim, we enter the risen life of our Lord!
November 30, 2017
Dear Friends and Parishioners:
The Magi came to Jesus bearing gifts. They did not come to support a Church or a political cause, to balance a budget or to pay a tithe. They came because they knew they were in the presence of the Holy and responded accordingly.
Today there are many reasons to support All Saints. There are the ongoing expenses of the Church. There is the need to preserve a traditional church with an inclusive agenda. There is the biblical injunction to share your first fruits with the Lord and of course the imperative of the biblical standard of the tithe.
But the model of the Magi is the truest rationale for giving. Our lives are lived in a post-modern world. Many things call for our already divided attention and stretched resources. It’s easy to judge the church by the standards of other businesses or charities. By these standards, it is hard to imagine giving very much when all of us are feeling the anxiety of strained finances. In fact a significant pledge might well feel irresponsible and unwise.
But when we imagine our lives lived in the presence of the Holy, everything changes. No longer is it, “How much do they want now?” but “How can I adequately show my devotion?” This doesn’t mean giving until it hurts, it means giving until it feels right.
I know in our church people come to experience the grace of the living God in the Word and Sacraments, and many show their appreciation in various acts of service. Through the years I have seen people welcome every life experience, from the joys of new birth to the tragedy of death and loss. In every case the presence of the Presence, the Gospel of God’s unremitting love, has been the proclamation and the mission of this church.
This year, I once again ask you to exercise your spiritual imagination. Allow the still small voice of God in your hearts and minds to flourish like the biblical mustard seed into a grand reality. St. Paul urges us to have the “Mind of Christ” within us. As we come into this consciousness, we begin to see the possibility of the Holy in our midst, and how it is made manifest in the life and work of the local Body of Christ here at All Saints. With this mind, I encourage you to consider your pledge to the church in the days ahead with the joy of the Magi, who crossed a vast expanse for the privilege of bringing gifts to the Christ child.
The Rev. Steven Jay Yagerman
November 10, 2017
A Few Thoughts on Recent Events:
In the past few days we have seen tragic acts of deadly random violence disturb any sense of security we might imagine we have. We know, instinctively, that any one of the victims on Manhattan’s West Side or in Texas pews could have been one of us, or one of our loved ones. What can a person of faith say about these events and perhaps more importantly, what can a person do in response to this violence?
We know that our teacher, Jesus is sometimes called The Prince of Peace, yet he was not only aware of the violence that befalls innocent victims, but he also willingly became a victim of the violence that lies just beneath the surface of every community in every age. Whether the violence is from a hostile foreign agent, a deranged madman, or a state bent upon restoring order, Jesus was not surprised by violence, but rather warned his disciples to expect it.
It seems the Christian should realize a few things more clearly than the average person. First is the acknowledgment that violence is endemic to the human experience. The mature Christian sees that God does not control the universe from outside like an angry god bent on revenge or a puppeteer who simply makes problems disappear. Rather the God of Jesus seeks to expose and subvert human violence through a compassionate identification with the victims of violence.
The great movements of social change in the past century were inspired by the example of Jesus’ non-violent resistance. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King stood with the oppressed and allowed the world to see the violence that the way of non-violence elicits. It’s not that these followers of the way were inciting violence so much as revealing the violent heart that oppresses all who come in contact with this system of vengeance and recrimination.
How can we respond? We must remember that Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” This means that making peace is an active engagement with the world in which we all live. We must examine our own violent instincts and confess them to God and to each other. None of us is pure and completely innocent. From that self-examination, we must actively comfort the afflicted, which means getting our hands dirty and not ignoring the various and sundry ways people all around us are victimized all the time. This means naming systems and behaviors that parade as normal but in fact damage and defile the image of God in others and ourselves. We must be bold in taking chances. We must in fact, risk being seen as traitors as we try to understand the needs and perspectives of those who might seek to harm us. What is it that they really want? Why is it that they perceive us as the reason for their affliction?
In short, Christians must understand that their compassionate response to human suffering is the way God chooses to act in the world. What might once have been seen as an angry god’s righteous vengeance should now be replaced by understanding that God is interested in being “embedded” in the human condition as both conscience and consciousness. By being that presence that rejects violence by identifying with the victims of violence, there is a leverage point from which grace and a fresh start for humanity is possible.
All Saints Day, 2017
In 1942 Aaron Copeland composed Fanfare for the Common Man. To me, his title for this regal composition is almost the perfect description for All Saints Day. That is, it is a grand tribute to the common person. These are the people that have no statues or streets named after them and that history and later generations will forget, but that by faith, we assert, God sees, remembers, and cherishes. All these common saints are marked by a common faith. This faith is not a credal assent, but rather a kind of daily courage to move forward and continue to practice compassion and work for peace.
This particular day has tried the mettle of all of us. The terrorist in our midst has once again shown us that our very lives are fragile and that death is capricious. It has shaken our sense of confidence in the structures that define our lives. Our governmental leaders advise us to be strong and to go about our daily lives. This is good insofar as it goes, but I think the “knight of faith” uses these moments to move closer to his or her essential connection to the Spirit that creates, sustains, and animates life.
Common saints are not those who believe all kinds of details of miraculous things in the Bible or elsewhere. Common saints are those who wake up every morning with a sense that despite thoughts and feelings to the contrary, my life is and the life of others are worth living. Basically, faith is a statement that life is of such infinite worth that I will continue to practice empathy, compassion, and justice, and will work hard to restore and enhance the dignity of every human being.
This Sunday, our Liturgy will be a fanfare for common men and women everywhere who are marked by a quiet, almost invisible faith that fills this world with the possibility of love.
The Rev. Steven J. Yagerman
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CELEBRATION OF ALL SAINTS DAY
The Levy Choir School will sing this Sunday for the second time this year, joining forces with our professional adults in a jazz rendition of When the Saints Go Marchin’ In, arranged by Nicholas White. The jazz ensemble led by Dennis Joseph consists of clarinet, bass, drums and piano. The Psalm is a setting of Praise His Holy Name by Keith Hampton, arranged by Chip Prince, our favorite supply tenor and pianist for the fabulous jazz ensemble. During Communion as a moment of reflection for those that have passed from earth, staff singers Sarah and Marta sing the haunting Pie Jesu from John Rutter’s Requiem. Come celebrate All Saints Day Sunday at 10am.
HALLOWEEN ON OUR BLOCK OF E. 6OTH
Festivities Halloween day started at the tram, where little people had their pictures taken and were given large bags to hold their candy. Parents equipped with maps began the evening’s adventures. In just one hour, Suzanne handed out over 100 goody bags with Choir School flyers to neighborhood children. The evening ended with a Levy Choir School party hosted by one of the parents. Kids and parents all gathered for Halloween food and merriment.
September 20, 2017
Dear Friends and Parishioners:
Jesus said, when a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies…it will bear much fruit. In the summer it certainly feels like the church goes into a kind of reverse hibernation as people scatter far and wide for vacation. But through the pain of this dissolution, I pray that the church will once again resurrect this fall to show forth the glory of God’s presence in love, worship and service. Even in the summer, there were many intimations of new growth and I believe with your help, presence and support we can once again see All Saints Church be a powerful manifestation of the gospel as it constitutes the local body of Christ in sacramental community.
The following are a few of the things we are excited about and ask that you join us in this enthusiasm.
(All good things come to those who wait!)
This Sunday, September 24, our adult choir is back from the summer break. We are pleased to announce that we have several new members. Marta Kukularova from Bulgaria will be our new staff alto, and Pavel Suliandziga from Siberia is auditioning for the tenor position. By popular request Wayne Arthur Paul will be our new staff bass. After Wayne sang at a summer service, many parishioners expressed how much they were moved by his singing and presence. We are happy to say that Sarah is returning as our staff soprano after spending the summer performing in Italy. We know you will embrace the whole choir this Sunday. We also would like you to join us for a special lunch picnic following this service.
The Levy Choir School Senior Choristers already resumed working together on Wednesday, and the junior choir will begin their sessions this Sunday. We have three brand new senior members, and two junior choristers have moved up from junior chorister rank, so the senior choir now numbers 10 singers. The senior choir meets on both Sundays and Wednesdays from 5pm to 6:30. They have been asked to participate with 150 other treble choristers in a concert at Westminster Choir School in Princeton, led by renowned St. Olaf conductor Anton Armstrong., on Saturday, Oct. 21. Music Director Suzanne personally had the privilege of singing under his direction. This promises to be an amazing experience for our choristers. Consider taking the train to come hear us. Otherwise, you can hear them here in worship the next day, Oct. 22.
St. Francis Day: Blessing of the Animals Service
Wednesday, Oct. 4, at 6 PM
A brief Wednesday evening service of the Blessing of the Animals will be held on the front steps of our church. Bring your pets or just bring pictures of them. The Levy Choir School will sing, and a church potluck dinner will follow, so bring your favorite dish! Please invite friends and especially any children you know who might be curious about joining the choir.
Still to come:
We are planning to introduce a youth Sunday School in October for the children who have been coming to All Saints. We are actively putting a team together of teachers and volunteers to help us start by early October with the help and leadership of our seminarian (soon to be a priest!) Kije.
Kije is also helping put together a weekly Wednesday night Eucharist and Christian Study course for Wednesday nights, beginning in October.
Although we are blessed to have a reasonably large endowment, the church is still dependent on the gifts and pledges of our parishioners. Moreover, our giving is more a part of our personal devotion and commitment than it is maintenance of our church operation. Like offering our prayers and incense at the altar, giving our gifts and resources to the church is an expression of adoration that deepens and manifests faith.
The Joy of Volunteering!
Did you know that every week your fellow parishioners spend hours of their Saturday in food preparation and cooking in order to feed God’s hungry and needy children. It is strong spiritual medicine, both in the giving and the receiving. You are invited and welcome to participate. All you have to do is whistle! You know how to whistle don’t you?
Click http://allsaintsnyc.org/current-activities/ for parish news, Sunday’s readings, and the week’s service sheet.