Meet our Volunteers
Why I Love Saint Mary’s… Hundreds of friends and the curious still seek out Saint Mary's on great feast days with the organ exultant, clouds of incense rising and gorgeous vestments on display. And this is a glorious aspect of the parish - a link with earlier times when lavish worship in the beauty of holiness was a hallmark of our status as an international Anglo-Catholic shrine. But times have changed and we have grown into a greater awareness of what it really means to be catholic Anglicans. The true measure of a parish, I believe, is not the splendor of the liturgy, but how God's people are supported, encouraged and helped to find meaning in an ever more confusing world. Under Father Gerth's guidance, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we are learning as a parish what it means to be more fully the Body of Christ in Times Square. Our life together is achieving a wholeness I have not witnessed in forty years as a parishioner. We must give thanks for those in the past whose vision founded the parish, for those through the years who have sacrificed to maintain our tradition, and for those in our own day who strive to create a solid foundation to hand on to those who will follow. Saint Mary's truly is a living treasure that must be cherished, preserved and celebrated.
I came to Saint Mary’s on Corpus Christi 2004 mostly to observe what I thought would be a very strange ritual: people pouring out of the church to stroll around Times Square….During that walk through Times Square I stopped being an observer and became a participant. I fell in love with Saint Mary’s. I realized that the “stroll” around Times Square was really the people of God in procession, trying to demonstrate their love of the Lord and of each other…. When we came back and knelt in the cool and quiet of the church, I believe the Holy Spirit came to me to charge me with a commitment to the Saint Mary’s community, and I transferred my membership that very week. My husband’s ashes are in Saint Mary’s columbarium, my life is enriched by the many friends I’ve made here, and I give as much of my time, talent and treasure to Saint Mary’s as I am able.
When Mary and I moved to New York in 2000, we knew about Saint Mary's by reputation - beautiful space, great music, sophisticated liturgy with a smidge of incense - and it certainly lived up to it….However, I've grown over the years to love Saint Mary's not for the mystical, aesthetic experience but rather for how real the place is….Saint Mary's is not an abstraction or just a reputation but rather it's a real place, a parish filled with real people actually doing their best to live a life in Christ. I feel truly blessed to be a part of it.
The first time I walked through the doors of Saint Mary’s was on a lunch hour in the summer of 2006, shortly after my employer had moved its offices (conveniently) around the corner on 6th Avenue. I had only recently started to look for a church home, after many years of being “out in the cold.” Initially, it was my intention only to attend as a weekday congregant…until I experienced my first Solemn Mass at Saint Mary’s on All Saints’ Day. It was Saint Mary’s at its glorious best: beautiful liturgy, music, incense, flowers, plus three adult baptisms to boot. It so happened that I sat directly behind the newly baptized, still dripping with Holy Water, and I felt an urgent longing to be part of this wonderful community. The very next Sunday, I started to attend Solemn Mass regularly and one year later, on All Saints’ Day in 2007, was officially received in the Communion of the Episcopal Church. Since then, my bond with Saint Mary’s has grown into a deep commitment and I want to do all I can to ensure that Saint Mary’s will be here to benefit many future generations.
I fell in love with St. Mary's in the fall of 2001 and have been an active parishioner ever since. There are three main reasons I've found such a home in this parish.
First, the people. I have created deep friendships with the people of this parish. We have laughed together, cried together, mourned together, celebrated together, prayed together and worshiped God together. I consider myself lucky to have marked one of life's most important events with the people of St. Mary's, when my husband, David, and I were
married here in 2013. David and I were the first same-gendered couple to have been married at this historic parish. We are delighted that this opportunity is available to all couples here now, gay or straight.
Second, and equally important: St. Mary's doors are open to all who enter. We provide a safe space for homeless people to find refuge, office workers and others to come in and light a candle and say a prayer. Every day, our sextons open our doors and those passing through find a powerful space to encounter God, whether in private prayer or in the daily round of Offices and Masses. The Blessed Sacrament is the focus of our building and of our common parish life. Our building itself points to Jesus Christ and to the power of a living God.
In spring 2003, I sang as an extra bass for the Feast of Christ the King. It was a gig. I sang at many churches when I was not traveling to perform. But when I started teaching full time and traveling less, I thought of Saint Mary’s, and in 2005 I became a permanent member of our choir. When the Rector asked me to be on the search committee for a new organist and choirmaster, he learned that I was still a member of a Baptist church in Houston. I was confirmed as an Episcopalian on All Saints’ Day 2008. From the beginning, the experience of singing at Saint Mary’s was different from any other place in town. As an historian, I’m interested in ways in which historical traditions manifest themselves in living traditions. To sing on Sunday morning the same Gregorian propers that I teach during the week is a special thing.
Clint Best has been a member of Saint Mary’s for more than 40 years. Clint has been for many years an invaluable volunteer in the finance office. Since his recent retirement, Clint has devoted even more of his time to help with the administration of Saint Mary’s business affairs and was a co-chair of the original Open Doors Campaign planning committee.
MaryJane Boland is a Senior Director of the Executive MBA program at NYU’s Stern School of Business at New York University. She lives on the Upper West Side and is an active member of the guild of servers, the stewardship committee, the ushers’ guild, the AIDS Walk team, and many other activities at Saint Mary’s.
Steven Heffner works in the scholarly publishing industry as Director of Product Strategy for Wolters Kluwer in New York. He and his wife Mary and 12-year-old daughter Agnes live in the East Village and have been active members since they moved to New York in 2000. Steven serves on the Board of Trustees, currently as the Assistant Treasurer, is a member of the stewardship committee and a relatively unreliable member of the ushers’ guild.
Recently retired after 35 years as a human resource professional in international banking, Marie Rosseels now devotes her free time to volunteer work at Saint Mary’s as a member of the board of trustees, the stewardship committee, the guild of acolytes, the ushers’ guild, the flower guild, and various other activities.
Clark Mitchell is a director of the BAND Foundation, where he focuses on initiatives ranging from biodiversity conservation to stemming the worst effects of climate change. He lives in the West Village with his husband, David, and donates a lot of his time to Saint Mary’s. Clark is a former Treasurer of the Board of Trustees and is a frequent altar server at Mass and Evensong.
Third: We are a Prayer Book parish in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. This is an incredibly rare gift that St. Mary's offers to the Episcopal Church, the broader Anglican Communion, Christians of all stripes and those of other faiths or none at all. It is important that we continue to provide a place to celebrate the great feasts, fasts, and other liturgical observances with the extreme care that our parish takes with this special form of congregational worship.
Mark Risinger, PhD is a music historian and professional singer. He has taught at Yale and Harvard and now teaches at Saint Bernard’s School in Manhattan. Mark has an impressive resume of performances in the U.S. and abroad, and he sings in the Saint Mary’s professional choir or as the cantor for special services and occasions. Mark has served on the board of trustees, is a member of the readers’ guild, and has been an invaluable member of our music search committees.