News from Saint Thomas week beginning March 31

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Lent at Saint Thomas Church

This Lent, Saint Thomas’s Church invites you to share in a rich array of opportunities to discover where God seeks to meet you through our Lenten worship program, study and education, as well as times for quiet reflection and pilgrimage at other churches in Midtown. Please join us as we make our way through the pain and sorrow of Good Friday to encounter the new life and sustained hope of the Easter dawn!

Here is a list of all of the special parish activities for the fourth full week in Lent:

The Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 31

  • 8am Said Eucharist
  • 9am Sung Eucharist and Sermon
  • 11am Choral Eucharist and Sermon
  • 4 pm Choral Evensong and Sermon

Sunday Theology Class: “Easter Vigil” with Fr. Spencer
March 31, 10am on the fifth floor

Sunday Sermon Series at 4pm, “The One who Sings Prays Twice”
March 31, “Prayer as Syncopation,” Bishop William “Chip” Stokes.

Healing Prayer and Anointing of the Sick

  • Sunday, March 31, after the 11am Mass
  • Tuesday, April 2, during and after the 12:10pm Mass

Devotional Study
Monday, April 1, 12:45-2pm

Pilgrims’ Course Class: The Christian Exodus: An Introduction to Holy Week.
Tuesday, April 2, 6:30-8:15pm

Holy Hour
Wednesday, April 3, 11am-12pm

Evening Theology Class: Disrupting Times: When History meets Mysticism,
with the Rev. Dr. Robert D. Flanagan
Wednesday, April 3, 6:30-8:00pm in Andrew Hall

Weekday Services in Lent
Monday April 1 to Friday April 5: 8am, 12:10pm & 5:30pm.

Shrine Prayers
Monday, April 1 to Saturday April 6, 12pm

Stations of the Cross
Friday, April 5, 6:30pm, at the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, New York City

Saturday, April 6, 11am-11:45am, or by appointment

To learn more about the complete schedule of Lenten seasonal offerings, please follow this link.

Clergy Reflection for the Fourth Week in Lent

Have you ever been taken by surprise?

One recent vacation led us to St. Petersburg, however on one particular summer’s day I swiftly began to regret signing up for our fast track tour of the city. Everywhere I turned was packed with tourists, bedecked in dripping waterproofs, for it had been raining all morning.

Next on the agenda, was the Hermitage, with its golden ceiling, opulent staircases and multiple galleries bedecked in treasures that drew people in from around the globe.

Growing up in the Brownies I continue to live by their motto “Be prepared”–This even extends to preparing for a visit such as this–by reading up on the history and “not to be missed” exhibits. However, on this occasion I had simply wanted to absorb the experience. My temporary feeling of being unkempt by the rain, hemmed in, combined with this lack of preparation however, turned out to be a good thing.

I will never forget turning a corner into a new room and being caught by surprise. I was aghast and stopped in my tracks by the next piece, which greeted me in full view.

Fellow visitors also rejoiced as they recognized its significance. For some it was yet another beautiful piece of artwork, somehow camouflaged into the Palace’s frame-laden walls requiring little more that a momentary glance, before the tour moved on.

For a short moment the path was clear and the noise around me seemed to dissipate. I could see the next unexpected yet familiar masterpiece for myself. I was moved, not simply because of its age, subject or even that I wasn’t expecting it. Rather it was as if I had bumped into a familiar friend and yet was seeing it for the first time. It is replicated the world over, (and even found on the front of our Lenten Friday Bible Study Guide).

This large captivating image was none other than Rembrandt’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son.”

Many of you will know this image richly composed with deep reds, dark, empty spaces and glimpses of light. It portrays intimacy between father and son, and an “indissoluble spiritual togetherness”. [1] It also points to characters at the periphery of the scene and draws us in. In the words of the curators of the Hermitage Museum it portrays an event:

“The event is treated as the highest act of human wisdom and spiritual nobility, and it takes place in absolute silence and stillness. The drama and depth of feeling are expressed in the figures of both father and son, with all the emotional precision with which Rembrandt was endowed.” [2]

My fascination with this image continued to unfold as I discovered that this was crafted in Rembrandt’s latter years and was somewhat of a mirror, or parable of his own life. “The Return of the Prodigal Son,” explored by Henri Nouwen as “A Story of Homecoming,” we shall hear afresh as our Gospel is proclaimed this Sunday. This parable, like many other parables offers us multiple layers of a story to which we can return to both hear and enter, as it were for the first time.

Also later in life, and having been inspired by his very own pilgrimage to St. Petersburg to see this very picture, Nouwen rediscovered and redefined his vocation, in the context of the L’Arche Community. [3] He went on to reflect at length on this Dutch Master and offered meditations on themes of desolation, resentment, reconciliation and renewal as seen in his book by the same name: The Return of the Prodigal Son. [4]

Henri Nouwen writes:

“The true center of Rembrandt’s painting is the hands of the father. On them all light is concentrated; on them the eyes of the bystanders are focused; in them mercy becomes flesh; upon them forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing come together, and, through them, not only the tired son, but also the worn-out father find their rest.”[5]

Nouwen gives insight into the heart of Luke’s parable of the Prodigal Son, as well as the complete Christian mystery:

“Perhaps the most radical statement Jesus ever made is: ‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.’ God’s compassion is described by Jesus not simply to show me how willing God is to feel for me, or to forgive my sins and offer me new life and happiness, but to invite me to become like God and to show the same compassion to others as he is showing me…What I am called to make true is that whether I am the younger or the elder son, I am the son of my compassionate Father. I am an heir…The return to the Father is ultimately the challenge to become the Father.”[6]

So often when this parable is shared we hone in on the son and become distracted by the details of his wayward ways. We can thus miss the immensity of God’s love and his rejoicing at our homecoming as his child, no matter our age. Similarly we can also miss his call to go and do likewise. [7]

In Ignatian Spirituality we are encouraged to enter into the themes of a story by identifying with different characters. As you prepare for Mass perhaps take a moment to read the parable again. Maybe this time reading it slowly through the eyes of the jealous, second son or the Father. Ask God to reveal to you, not only in your familial relationships, but in all your encounters both where and how you need to be reconciled or show more compassion, in the way our Father is compassionate.

Lent gives us an opportunity to revisit and re-enter into Jesus’ narratives and teachings, whether by reading the Trilogy of the Lost (coin, sheep and Son), walking the Way of the Cross, or hearing the very account of the Passion itself in word and music.

Lent is about turning around, setting aside time to encounter something new, to even be taken by surprise, and as we gather for Laetare Sunday, to rejoice: we, YOU, are loved.

In many countries Laetare Sunday is also Mothering Sunday. This day was traditionally a day of homecoming, especially for servants to return home to their mothers. This day remains a day of gratitude, color and rejoicing in our Mother Church in the middle of Lent.

As we hear this parable once again, we give thanks for those in our lives who have nurtured us, believed in us and shown us God’s forgiveness, compassionate love and embrace.

Mother Alison Turner
Director of Children and Family Ministry

[4] Nouwen, H.J.M. “The Return of the Prodigal”(London: Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd., 1992. Reprinted 1994.)
[5] Nouwen, 1994, 96.
[6] Nouwen,1994,123.
[7] Nouwen,1994, Epilogue: Living the painting, 134-9.

Disrupting Times: When History meets Mysticism

Join the Rev. Dr. Robert D. Flanagan as he shares his passion for the Golden Age of Mysticism during our Evening Theology Class on two Wednesdays, April 3 and 10, from 6:30 to 8:00pm.

The Fourteenth-Century was a time of momentous change and disruption. It was also a period of great spiritual discovery. The stark contrasts between the technological, environmental, and societal upheaval and the profound experiences of the century’s mystics make it a fascinating time for us to explore.

Over the course of our sessions, you will learn about the similarities the fourteenth-century has to our time and engage with prominent mystical voices from the era, also known as the Golden Age of Mysticism. We will read about and discuss the seminal events of the time and read and contemplate the pragmatic writings of several fourteenth-century mystics.

To attend, all you need is a curious mind and a desire to deepen your knowledge of history and your understanding of mysticism.

The course will be held in Andrew Hall for April 3, and the Fifth Floor of the Parish House for April 10.

All are welcome! Please contact Father Moretz at if you have any questions.

Introducing our Guest Preacher for Holy Week: the Right Reverend Richard Chartres

We look forward to welcoming Bishop Chartres to Saint Thomas Church as our guest preacher for several services throughout Holy Week.

Richard Chartres first visited New York in the early 1980’s as Chaplain to Archbishop Robert Runcie. At that time Canon John Andrew, of blessed memory (who was himself a former Archbishop’s Chaplain), was Rector of Saint Thomas.

Subsequently, Richard Chartres became the parish priest of St. Stephen’s Rochester Row in the Diocese of London. At the same time he served as Gresham Professor of Divinity and co-authored a history of Gresham College.

In 1992, he was appointed Bishop of Stepney, one of the areas of the Diocese of London and was later translated to the Bishopric of London itself in 1995. He served the Diocese during a period of substantial growth for 22 years until his retirement in 2017. He remains Dean of HM Chapels Royal.

During his tenure as Diocesan Bishop, he fulfilled various national roles. He chaired the Church Commissioners who administer the historic assets of the Church of England. He was also Chair of the National Church Buildings Division, and founding Chair of “Shrink the Footprint,” the Church’s environmental campaign. He has also been the Archbishop’s envoy to the Orthodox Churches.

Most significantly, twelve years ago he participated in the founding of St. Mellitus College, which has made a large contribution to the increase of the numbers of ordinands in training. The number entering training this year nationally in the Church of England exceeds the total for any year since 1963.

After retiring from Parliament as a member of the Lords Spiritual, he was, unusually, re-appointed as a Life Peer, and is currently active in the legislative work of the House of Lords.

Richard Chartres is now an Assistant Bishop in the Diocese in Europe, and in his home Diocese of Salisbury.

He is married to Caroline and they have four children.

Introducing our Guest Preacher for the Three Hours Devotion on Good Friday: the Reverend Elaine Farmer

The Reverend Elaine Farmer, our preacher for the Three Hours Devotion on Good Friday, April 19, 12pm – 3pm, is a priest of the Anglican Diocese of Canberra & Goulburn and an internationally active scholar, teacher, and author. She was ordained in 1993, among the earliest women ordained to the priesthood in the Anglican Church of Australia. She has served in several parishes, taught homiletics and ministry formation, and been Associate Editor of
St Mark’s Review, Australia’s oldest theological journal.

She has preached in Anglican dioceses in Australia, New Zealand and in the United States, and preached in 2018 at Westminster Abbey. She has been a keynote speaker at various Australian and international conferences.

A book of her sermons, …And the Angels Held their Breath. Sixteen Reasons for Exploring the God-Option (Australasian Theological Forum) was translated into Bahasa Indonesia by the Jesuits and given episcopal imprimatur. She was also a contributor to Don’t Put Out the Burning Bush, a book on preaching and worship also published by the Australasian Theological Forum.

Elaine now lives in Canberra with her husband, Bill, whose diplomatic career included appointments as Ambassador to Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and Indonesia. They have two children and six grandchildren.