Episcopal Church of Saint Mary the Virgin
New York City - April 21, 2010
I went to the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin on 46th Street the other day to take pictures. A service was going on when I arrived so I just stood by the entrance and started screwing my gorillapod onto the bottom of my camera. I kneeled down on one knee and laid my camera on the floor for a straight shot at the sanctuary with the priest conducting service at the altar. After a few shots another priest in black cassock approached me. I remembered seeing him by the door inside when I came. I stood up expecting him to tell me I was in the way and that a service was underway would I mind if I move along.

But instead he said, “Do you call yourself Mugsy?”

“Um, no,” I said.

“There was a man here the other day. The pictures he took were wonderful. He called himself Mugsy. I thought maybe youíre him,” he said.

I said, “No. But Iím willing to share my pictures...”

I didnít finish my sentence when, smiling, he handed me the churchís business card. On its back was scribbled an e-mail address.

I simply nodded. He turned, still smiling, and walked away.

It didnít take a moment for me to realize that I was just given permission to take pictures of the church. I kept cool but was thrilled. The service soon ended and so I walked into the sanctuary as people were leaving. From the center aisle I started taking pictures of the altar, the ceiling, the rose window, and organ in back. For the next few minutes, I was the church's “official” photographer.

Not too far from where I crouched were a woman in plain business suit and the priest who just finished the service. They were in discussion I surmised of whatever business matters were at hand. When they were done I stood to one side to give the woman passage. I half-expected her to give me an excuse-me-what-is-the-nature-of-your-business-here look. But instead she smiled very friendly, almost childlike Iíd say, when she walked by.

For me, a lifelong employee tutored in the ways of Wall Street, it was mostly about a fair exchange. In exchange for satisfying my craving for capturing their church through optics and electronics, I will gladly share the images I take.

But I realize churches work differently. They operate on the principle of charity. When they give, they ask for nothing in return. And so when services are offered to them for free -- or, in my case, may be sought for free -- they likewise hold nothing back in receiving. Especially so when they can proudly show off the church that they are passionate about.

And maybe thatís how giving-and-receiving should be. More than just a simple exchange it should also always be a cheery reminder that someone is doing the giving.

Click on a picture to enlarge.
Rose window.
Sanctuary from the back.
Scenes from the Passion line the walls.
Candle offering.
Rose window exterior.
Church facade.
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