Michael Liccione—Sermon Review: Saint Thomas Church (New York City)

Posted by Kendall Harmon

One of Manhattan’s most illustrious Episcopal congregations, Saint Thomas Church is best known for its glorious liturgical music and the stunning architecture of its 1913 church building, in French High Gothic style, on Fifth Avenue at Fifty-Third Street. The church’s choir of men and boys, modeled on that of King’s College, Cambridge, is made up of boys who attend the residential Saint Thomas Choir School and professional adult singers. On Sunday, March 28—Palm Sunday—the musical highlight was Orlandus Lassus’ exquisite Tristis est anima mea, which was sung as the offertory motet.

Because it was Palm Sunday, the 11 a.m. service differed from the norm. It began with an elaborate procession that included children; a gospel reading; and the blessing of palms. And, as the rector, Fr. Andrew Mead, noted in his sermon, the Solemn Eucharist of the Passion that followed omitted the usual bidding prayers—that is, the prayers of intercession—and ended in silence. The purpose of the silence was to signify our need to contemplate Christ’s Passion as Holy Week began.

Fr. Mead’s sermon was shorter than usual because of the unusual length of the service, but his message was as rich in traditional doctrine and practical spirituality as his sermons always are....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Parishes* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryPreaching / Homiletics

Posted March 30, 2010 at 1:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Harry Edmon wrote:

We don’t end our Palm Sunday service in silence, but we do on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.  We also start the Good Friday service in silence.  It really helps keep you in the proper mood.

March 30, 2:58 pm | [comment link]
2. Ad Orientem wrote:

It’s nice to know where Dr. Liccione wound up for his new job.  He used to run one of the best Roman Catholic blogs on the web until he got the call to move to New York.  Back in the day I was a faithful reader (and occasional correspondent).  First Things’ gain is blogdoms great loss.


March 30, 3:01 pm | [comment link]
3. WestJ wrote:

My wife went to St Thomas when we were visiting New York in February (My daughter and I went to the Natural History Museum).
She went to the 9:00 am service which she said was beautiful, but the clergy and choir nearly outnumbered the congregation (35 on that Sunday). I imagine the 11:00 service is better attended, but it is good to have dead men’s money to keep things going.

March 30, 3:34 pm | [comment link]
4. Ralph wrote:

I’ve heard Fr Mead preach, and would agree that’s he’s really good. The choir and organist are unbelievable. A lesser preacher would be very intimidated by the strength of the music program.

I still prefer a festive ending for the Palm Sunday service. The problem with that, of course, is that many parishioners don’t “do” Holy Week, only coming back for the Easter Day service. So, it seems more and more Palm Sunday services have a Good Friday ending.

March 30, 4:01 pm | [comment link]
5. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Why in the world is this fluff piece in First Things?  I mean, I’m glad Fr. Andrew Mead is orthodox, practical, and an effective preacher, and they certainly do have by all accounts a stunning music program that truly exceptional.  But what’s the point here?

David Handy+

March 30, 4:19 pm | [comment link]
6. Adam 12 wrote:

I like the doctrine esposed at St. Thomas but never feel like I really belong there when I go there…the music is glorious but the seriousness and formality of it all somehow makes me feel like a kid in Sunday School again. Going across the street to St. Patricks, I somehow felt it was a church for the masses (excuse the pun). Candles were burning everywhere from thousands of workshipers offering prayer. I wish the good people of St. Thomas well in New York City.

March 30, 4:20 pm | [comment link]
7. teatime wrote:

At our parish, we depart in silence to begin the solemn Holy Week, too. I think it’s fitting.

Good review, and I don’t consider it “fluff.” It’s a sermon review—lots of internet sites and even newspapers do them. I think it’s helpful to have such features—it gives people a sense of different churches and may even prompt seekers to attend.

March 30, 5:38 pm | [comment link]
8. BMR+ wrote:

The new calendars both of Roman use since the 1960’s and the 1979 BCP eliminated Passiontide and combined V Lent, Sunday of the Passion, with Palm Sunday.  Perhaps this recognizes the reality that for a majority Palm Sunday “is” Holy Week.  Most folks will next be in Church on Easter Morn.  Certainly the recent custom of an ensemble reading of a Passion Gospel on Palm Sunday reinforces the effort to keep Holy Week in front.  I would imagine the effort to ask folks to depart from the Church in silence is in keeping with that. We do that on Good Friday, but perhaps we’ll give it a try next year.  Certainly a notable contrast from our boisterous entry with “All glory, laud, and honor.”

Bruce Robison

March 30, 6:18 pm | [comment link]
9. Don R wrote:

#5, note that it’s a post from one of the various First Things blog sites, which are generally a bit different in tone and content from the journal itself.

March 30, 7:10 pm | [comment link]
10. azusa wrote:

#5, my question too. Maybe thery should do a piece of chasubles as well.

March 31, 3:30 am | [comment link]
11. evan miller wrote:

I’d be delighted with a piece on chasubles!
Personally, I found the article delightful.  It’s so refreshing to read about a parish that still retains glorious music, liturgy, ritual and solid, orthodox preaching in a splendid building.  Too often in reasserter blogs, all we read in the comments is sneers that imply that formality and beautiful liturgy are incompatible with authentic worship.

March 31, 10:37 am | [comment link]
12. Sarah wrote:

RE: “It’s so refreshing to read about a parish that still retains glorious music, liturgy, ritual and solid, orthodox preaching in a splendid building.”

Hip hip hooray for the music, liturgy, ritual and preaching—I’m with you Evan Miller!

March 31, 8:19 pm | [comment link]
13. Michael Liccione wrote:

David Handy (comment #5):

You asked: “What’s the point here?” I think you stated the point very well in the sentence preceding your question. There’s no reason why that wouldn’t have sufficed as the point.


April 16, 2:51 pm | [comment link]
14. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

Well I certainly like to read about something different once in a while.  It makes a change from reading the same old articles on the same old subjects, and then the same old comments over and over again.

St Thomas’s has John Scott as director of music who came from St Paul’s in London.  He was organist and music director for ages, and took the choir to a peak of great excellence.  If I was in the States I would go and listen to them.  St Paul’s loss, St Thomas’s gain methinks.

April 16, 4:22 pm | [comment link]
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