Worship & Music

Sundays

On Sundays, infant- and child-care is available from 10:30 a.m. until the end of the 11 a.m. service. Please ask an usher for directions.

 9 a.m. – Holy Eucharist at Side Altar

11 a.m. – Holy Eucharist in the Church, with choir and sermon (choir on break during summer)
During the school year, children are invited to attend our Sunday School during the 11 a.m. service. Please ask an usher for directions.

 7 p.m. – Service of Meditations and Sacrament including chant, interfaith readings, and communion.

Weekdays*

 6 p.m. – Holy Eucharist at Side Altar
*except federal holidays, Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Monday

Worship

Worship at Ascension is central to our parish life and mission.

The thurifer, acolytes, choir and clergy prepare to process down the center aisle for Palm Sunday.

The beauty and formality of our liturgy is consistently mentioned as one of the things that drew parishioners to Ascension. Many of us initially “came for the worship, but stayed for the worshipers.” (If you know Anglican-speak, the liturgy at Ascension can be characterized as “broad church” — “not too High, not too Low,” as one parishioner put it.) We have two services on Sunday based on the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. The 9 a.m. service at the side altar is a “said” Eucharist without music, and attracts a dedicated group of 10 to 20 worshipers on an average Sunday. The 11 a.m. service is a “sung” Eucharist from September through May, with service music, a chanted Eucharistic prayer, and a full professional choir. The 7 p.m. service, led by a priest and cantor, is a quiet, meditative experience that includes the day’s Gospel lesson, directly or indirectly related readings from other traditions and sources, a brief homily by the priest, 10-15 minutes of silent meditation, and a simple Eucharist with all participants gathered around the altar. On weekdays (except holidays), we have a 6 p.m. said Eucharist, which draws a handful of regular worshipers and visitors.

O

n major feast days, we “pull out all the stops” with incense, extra choir voices, and a grand procession through the church. On Christmas Eve we celebrate a 5 p.m. family service and a 10 p.m. festival Eucharist; on Christmas Day we have an 11 a.m. Eucharist with carols. An Ash Wednesday liturgy is offered at 8 a.m., noon, and 7 p.m. Ascension’s Holy Week services are an extremely important part of our parishioners’ worship experience. The exuberant liturgy of Palm Sunday is in contrast to the three weeknight Eucharists that follow. On Maundy Thursday, the clergy participate in foot washing and stripping the altar, followed by an all-night prayer vigil of parishioners in the chapel. In recent years, our three-hour Good Friday service has included the reading of the Passion Gospel, with members of the congregation taking various roles, and the Veneration of the Cross. The Great Vigil of Easter on Saturday night begins in darkness with the lighting of new fire and ends with the joyous first Eucharist of the Resurrection. We may have a baptism or three that night, as well. Two services follow on Easter Sunday, the said Eucharist at 9 a.m. and a glorious Eucharist at 11 a.m., which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that, at Ascension, Easter Sunday is truly the queen of feasts.

While each Sunday has its joys, several other special celebrations throughout the year mark our calendar. For example, the Sunday following Ascension Day — our “name day” 40 days after Easter — is our traditional time for confirmations, because a bishop pays us a visit. On the feast of St. Francis of Assisi (the Sunday closest to October 4), we hold a Blessing of the Animals in our Fifth Avenue garden. Parishioners and neighbors bring their beloved pets and we take especial joy in those parts of God’s creation that so unreservedly love us back.


Music

The north ranks of the Manton Memorial OrganMusic holds a very special place in the hearts and minds of parishioners at Ascension. Many of us were first attracted to services here by the high quality of the music and the spiritual dimension it adds to the liturgy. A long tradition of musical excellence, both in the services and in our renowned concert series, has built Ascension’s national reputation, attracted new members and frequent visitors, formed a strong internal bond within the parish, and served as an important outreach to the broader community. Much of the credit for this goes to our choir director and organist for more than 30 years, Dennis Keene. A highly regarded musician who trained in prestigious schools and with famous mentors, Dr. Keene brings a level of professionalism that builds on our traditions and maintains the highest musical standards.

A choir of 15 paid singers and several professionally trained volunteer parishioners perform at the 11 a.m. service every Sunday from September to May, as well as on Christmas Eve and at Holy Week services. Many of the singers whose initial contact with Ascension was as paid choir members eventually joined the parish, attracted by the synthesis of music, liturgy, and spirituality they experience here. In addition to the hymns and responses, the choir generally performs at least two anthems, usually an Offertory and a Communion piece, and, once a month, a choral setting of the Ordinary of the Mass. Feast days feature additional musical pieces. Repertory is broad and varied and includes periods and styles from Gregorian chant to great classic pieces, traditional Anglican standards, spirituals, American works, and new compositions.

T

he most outstanding recent development in Ascension’s musical life has been the building, installation, and inauguration of the Manton Memorial Organ. Designed specifically for Ascension and built by one of the world’s finest artisans, Pascal Quoirin of St. Didier, France, the new organ made its debut in late 2010 following an extensive renovation of the church interior and a long, careful installation process. With two consoles, one electric-action and one mechanical-action (“tracker”), 95 stops, and 111 ranks, the organ is tailor-made to perform the eclectic repertory favored at Ascension. It is the first French-made organ ever installed in New York City and was made possible by a generous grant from The Manton Foundation honoring the memory of two beloved long-time parishioners and supporters of music at Ascension, Sir Edwin and Lady Manton.

Ascension Music, Inc., is a separately incorporated concert organization that presents performances by the Voices of Ascension, led by Dennis Keene, artistic director. The professional group evolved from a long-standing series of “services of music” at Ascension and was incorporated in 1991 to facilitate attracting financial support from a broader range of the community. Ascension Music also takes advantage of the prestige of our new organ by presenting a series of recitals played by some of the world’s best-known organists. The concerts are often reviewed and attract a sophisticated, devoted audience, providing recognition and renown for the parish well beyond the limits of churchgoers and the religious community.