7 November 2012
Dear Sisters and Brothers,Yesterday at Morning Prayer in the Chapel, we returned to something like normal. We celebrated the Office with our coats pulled tight around us and hats on our heads. Custom being set aside, even some of us men kept our heads covered. Custom or not, what matters is that we did our officium.
The Hebrew Bible lesson assigned for that morning, from Sirach, could not have been more apt.
By his command he sends the driving snow and speeds the lightnings of his judgment.
Therefore the storehouses are opened, and the clouds fly out like birds.
In his majesty he gives the clouds their strength, and the hailstones are broken in pieces.
The voice of his thunder rebukes the earth; when he appears, the mountains shake.
At his will the south wind blows; so do the storm from the north and the whirlwind.
He scatters the snow like birds flying down, and its descent is like locusts alighting.
The eye is dazzled by the beauty of its whiteness, and the mind is amazed as it falls.
Few Christians would claim that God, the Merciful, sent the destruction that has devastated so many people in the past week. Yet, few would claim that, even sandwiched between a hurricane and a freezing nor’easter, the God who is forever revealing the Divine Self is not to be found: God’s command, God’s majesty, God’s will, God’s dazzling beauty mirrored in creation. “And the mind is amazed.”
We finished the Office, had breakfast, and went back to our classrooms and offices. The day went on without a hitch.
Many of our own GTS families, as well as families from the surrounding neighborhoods, depend upon our Children’s Garden (http://www.gts.edu/childrens-garden41) for day care. As the Seminary started up again, so did the Children’s Garden. Ms. Susan Stein and her colleagues took up their work in unheated buildings. They are part of our ministry here at GTS, and they are working in far-from-ideal situations to allow our seminarians and their partners to get back to work, and others who have given their children into our care. Caring for children is always a challenge, but doing it in such stressed circumstances is almost heroic, so we owe our partners thanks and admiration.
Working in the cold is not easy, nor is living in the cold. Many of us here still are. As I reported two days ago, Dodge and Kohne Halls have heat now, thanks to the geothermal system. The rest of the residence halls, however, are still without heat. Thanks to Mr. Anthony Khani, space heaters have been secured and distributed to households on the Close. Space heaters are a good solution for now, but no one thinks they are a long-term fix. Anthony, in close collaboration with Fr. Lang Lowrey, our President, is working to get steam back into our radiators, and I am confident that the work will soon pay off.
As I write to you, Wednesday evening at 8:00, it is 32F in Manhattan. The wind is not extreme, but cold rain and snow have been falling since early afternoon. The sidewalks are covered with slush. It is not a good time to be without heat. What people say about a damp cold being colder than a dry cold is true. Many of us here on Chelsea Square are doing out best to fend off the chill and continue our work.
Even in “the driving snow,” General Seminary continues to be a community committed to its mission. Our ever-growing cohort of commuters – students, staff, and a few faculty members – worked against tremendous obstacles to be here the past two days. And those who live on the Close are of good cheer. I have seen members of this community who were ready to make a cutting comment about another member of the community pause, recognizing the harm their unkind comment could do, and stopping mid-sentence. I have seen others ready to whine about the discomfort of our common life these days (Who wants to eat lunch trying to manage flatware while wearing gloves?) catching themselves and holding their peace. It has been very gratifying.
Our beloved sisters and brothers at Sewanee give a highly-prized award every year, the “Ecce quam Bonum” award. The name comes from the first words of Psalm 133.
Ecce quam bonum and quam jucundum est Habitare fratres in unum.
The BCP Psalter (page 787) translates it as:
Oh, how good and pleasant it is, * when brethren live together in unity!
At General, during these often potentially fractious days, we have lived together in unity. How good and how pleasant!
At Evensong tonight, I was halfway down the aisle, all dressed like a penguin, before I realized that Dr. David Hurd, our remarkable Professor of Church Music and Director of Chapel Music, was playing a variation... an improvisation... (I wish I were a musician so I would know the right term!) on “Frosty, the Snow Man.” Gradually, we all got it. And so, gradually, we all smiled. And some of us laughed. And so, becoming joyfully mindful of the God who is ever present, we came into the presence of God with joy, as Psalm 100 (BCP 729) exhorts us to do.
Be joyful in the LORD all you lands; Serve the LORD with gladness And come before his presence with a song.
And so we did.
Before the procession began, however, and before Dr. Hurd began his clever and very pastoral music, the community had begun its sacred play. Here we see Mr. Peter Secor, MA, Diocese of New Jersey; Mr. William Ogburn, MDiv, Diocese of Pittsbugh; Ms. Lauren Holder, MDiv, Diocese of North Carolina; Mother Mary Julia Jett, Diocese of Montana; and Father James Reho, our chaplain and doer of many good things. The hats, scarves, and coats were not a spoof. This is how we made ourselves ready to sing and listen and pray in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd tonight. Ecce quam bonum and quam jucundum est!
We are grateful for the continuing support of you all. We, with you, are prayerfully mindful of those who have suffered and are suffering and will suffer far more than we can imagine.
As always, I ask you to pass this along to those who might want to know what is going on at General, especially our bishops.
Yours fraternally, Patrick+ (The Rev.) Patrick Malloy, PhD