June 30, 2019

Dear Friends,

      You may recall that a few weeks ago I wrote about problems with the bells in our tower. The good news is that after a few days of silence, the system went back up and all seems to be functioning properly. One of the bugs that needed to be exorcised was the selection of hymns that the computer would play at noon and 6 pm every day. Programed into its memory are dozens upon dozens of hymns, but all we ever heard was a repetitive loop of the same select few. Chief among these was hymn 544 in our hymnal, “Jesus shall reign where’er the sun” to the tune of Duke Street. It’s a terrific hymn that I’ve always enjoyed, but one way to ruin a perfectly pleasant song is to play it again, and again, and again. And again. Fortunately, the system is fixed and we are hearing a greater variety of hymns. 

           Having read this, you may be surprised, then, to come to church on Sunday morning and find that our opening hymn at the morning services is – you guessed it – 544: “Jesus shall reign where’er the sun.” In fact, I actually exercised my rectorly veto power in deleting another hymn to include this one. Why? Verse 4 of 544 contains a vivid phrase that will be appropriate for the day: “Blessings abound where-er he reigns: the prisoners leap to lose their chains.” 

           As you know, this weekend many cities around the nation, and New York City in particular, will be celebrating the 50th  anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. This uprising sparked the long and ongoing march toward the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in society, the most recent example being the Marriage Equality Act. The hymn suggests what the Scriptures teach: that anytime people rise up to lose the chains of oppression, injustice, hatred, bigotry, and willful misunderstanding that have bound them, this is a sign that the kingdom of God has come near. “For freedom, Christ has set us free,” is how St. Paul phrased it in his letter to the Galatians, the Epistle we will coincidentally hear this week. 

           I mention all this not only for theological reasons, but because Grace Church will be at the epicenter of the Pride celebrations on Sunday. In fact, the main festivities will be taking place on 4th Avenue directly behind us, with the central stage being located between 9th and 10th  Streets. The organizers of the events were very kind in asking us when our 11 am service concludes. In the summertime we are usually done by noon. Therefore, the plan is to use our bells – yes, our bells! – that play hymns at noon as the signal. When the bells finish they will cue up the National Anthem and the party will officially begin. It should be something to see and experience! See below for the streets that will be affected. It will be wise to allow extra time to get here.

           This edition of the Weekly Epistle will be the last “weekly” for the summer, and covers all of July. The next edition will come out at the beginning of August and will take us to September. But who’s thinking about September? I’m certainly not!

           Summer blessings to you all.  See you in church.