Saturday, December 29, 2007

Not my favorite hymnal

We are traveling to visit family and friends during the 12 Days of Christmas, away from our home parish. For Christmas Day services, we went to former PECUSA parish that's now continuing Anglican under Abp. Gregory Venables. Alas, before they fled PECUSA they had switched to the 1979 BCP and 1982 Hymnal. The Christmas service gave me several reminders of why I dislike the 1982 Hymnal.

The first thing I noticed was the musical typography. When I tried to sing the carols, the 1982 Hymnal used very small note symbols that were impossible to read in the low light of the church. I don't have my library of hymnals in my suitcase, but I checked the 1940 Hymnal at our relative's house and the staff spacing appeared to be 20-25% bigger. (I will have to lay them side-by-side when I get home).

The other problem was the politically correct Christmas carols. Under Hymn #87, Charles Wesley’s Christmas megahit has been further mangled:
Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace:
hail, the Sun of Righteousness.
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that man we no more may die,
born to raise the sons of us from the earth,
born to give them us second birth.
Hark, the herald-angels sing
glory to the new-born King.
In searching for the exact PC words, I found an Englishwoman (and poet) who objected to this abomination as grocery story background music. She should count her blessings: at least in England grocery stores play Christ-mas carols.

The next mangled hymn was in the second verse of Isaac Watts' all-time favorite, Joy to the World! As printed in the 1982 hymnal, the m-bomb has been edited out:
Joy to the world! the Savior reigns;
let men their us our songs employ,
while fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat, repeat the sounding joy.
This still conveys the original sense of praising God, but to me the imperative seems much weaker since it is directed to the first person plural.

I had forgotten about this bowdlerization of traditional carols, and thus was not prepared to belt out the correct wording when the time came. The congregation seemed unsure as to whether to use the old or the new words, but obviously a generation of Americans is being raised to assume that the PC words are the correct way to sing these hymns.

From Tuesday's selection of six hymns, I had assumed the pattern was that the PECUSA hymnal committee would not change the first verse of a hymn because it was too visible, but were tinkering with the second verses. However, in the final hymn — O Little Town of Bethlehem — the dreaded m-word made it through intact. Verse 2 of Hymn #79 reports
For Christ is born of Mary;
and gathered all above,
while mortals sleep, the angels keep
their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars, together
proclaim the holy birth!
and praises sing to God the King,
and peace to men on earth.
I don't know why this use of the m-word survived but others did not.

All told, this reconfirms my opinion that Hymnal 1982 is an interesting supplemental book, but dubious as a primary pew hymnal.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Mary had a baby

December is the month when Anglicans spend a lot of time talking and thinking about the Virgin Mary, culminating with the celebration of Christmas Day.

Mary's place in Christian history begins with the Annunciation, celebrated in the church calendar in March. This gives us the best Marian hymn of the entire 1940 Hymnal, Hymn #117. The Annunciation is recounted by Luke’s Gospel, in a passage that was a recent recommended reading from from my subscription to the Bible Gateway verse-of-the-day feed,
And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." (ESV, Luke 1:30-33)
The Orthodox make a big deal about the Theotokos (“Mother of God”) while Catholics have a strong Marian worship tradition that include a Mary altar, and recitations of “Hail Mary.” My sense is that the Anglicans are somewhere between the Orthodox and Catholics at one end, and the bulk of Protestants at the other.

However, when it comes to Mary the Anglo-Catholics seem to be closer to the Roman Catholic Church than to Reformed or Calvinist traditions or even some forms of Lutheranism. If you visit an Anglo-Catholic parish named “St. Mary,” you would expect this even more so.

Sure enough, during the service at Hollywood’s St. Mary of the Angels earlier this month, there were two distinctly Marian references. One is The Angelus which (according to the pew service booklet) comes at the end of every service at St. Mary’s. I didn’t take the booklet (and thus the exact words) with me, but I know it did include three Hail Marys. The other Marian reference was the hymn “Ye Who Own the Faith of Jesus,” which in its typesetting looks like it was from TEH or Hymns A&M. Each refrain “Hail Mary, hail Mary, hail Mary, full of grace.”

Together, the 14 (3+11) refrains of Hail Mary suggest that St. Mary’s is on the Catholic end of the Anglo-Catholic scale.

Interestingly, Mary is less prominent in traditional carols for these 5-6 weeks of the liturgical calendar. Most of the Advent and (Christian) Christmas carols talk about the coming of Jesus — or, as the billboards say, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” But the child-bearer obviously figures in some of these tellings. In the 1940 Hymnal, a handful of the December hymns reference the Virgin birth: 17, 18, 20, and 41. For some reason, it seems like the oldest hymns are the most devout in their Marian emphasis, as with this most succinct statement (translated for Hymn 18) of the 8th century hymn by St. Germanus: “Behold, a virgin mother brings forth God’s only Son.” Other hymns merely refer to “mother Mary.”

In an odd coincidence, this month as brought two interesting surveys on Christian belief on the Virgin Mary. First blogger Anne Coletta quoted the Spectator (with amplification from a British blogger) which asked leading British Christians the simple question ‘Do you believe in the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ?’ Apparently, some Church of England clergy do not.

Meanwhile 75% of 1,005 American adults surveyed this month by David Barna (quoted by David Virtue) believe the virgin birth to be literal fact. Barna writes:
Of the six Bible stories examined in the survey, this story was the most widely accepted.

Mary’s virgin birth was accepted as literally true by two-thirds of upscale adults (66%) "Upscale" people are those who have completed a four-year college degree and have an annual household income of $75,000 or more.
In a follow up to the Spectator interviews, the leader of the Anglican Communion was interviewed live by Simon Mayo of the BBC on Dec. 19. As transcribed by The Telegraph, he was (as always) somewhat equivocal:
Archbishop of Canterbury: We know his mother's name was Mary, that's one of the things all the gospels agree about, and the two gospels that tell the story have the story of the virgin birth and that's something I'm committed to as part of what I've inherited.

Simon Mayo: You were a prominent part of a Spectator survey in the current issue which headlined' Do you believe in the virgin birth?' there are some people in this survey who would say they were Christian who don't have a problem if you don't believe in the Virgin birth;' how important it is it to believe in that bit?

Archbishop of Canterbury: I don't want to set it as a kind of hurdle that people have to get over before they, you know, be signed up;, but I think quite a few people that as time goes on, they get a sense, a deeper sense of what the virgin birth is about. I would say that of myself. About thirty years ago I might have said I wasn't too fussed about it - now I see it much more as dovetailing with the rest of what I believe about the story and yes.
Contrast that to the unequivocal answers in the Spectator survey by Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali (one of Rowan Williams' most prominent conservative critics in the CoE) and also by Rev. Nicky Gumbel, developer of the Alpha Course.

Of course, Abp. Williams' in the BBC interview got the most headlines for saying the three wise men (and thus presumably the Epiphany) were a legend, but that’s another story.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

My latest Christmas album

When visiting friends last weekend, our (English) host showed me a Christmas CD of which he knew I'd approve. And I did. So I bought it from Amazon. It seems to be out of print, so I bought it used, and it arrived Friday.

A major attraction was that it contained performances by two leading English cathedral choirs, from Wells and Salisbury. The recordings were made in 1978 and 1987, respectively, although the latter says it was a benefit concert (for cathedral restoration) "in the presence of the H.R.H The Prince of Wales." Apparently HRH has made restoring Salisbury Cathedral a personal priority.

Whether through the original scheduling or the culling of duplicates, most of the traditional carols are on the Wells part of the CD, but I did very much like the Salisbury rendition of “In the Bleak Winter.” The texture of several of the Wells carols (notably “Once in Royal David’s City” and “Coventry Carol”) show how a choir can vary and build emotional intensity on a simple carol in a way that congregation singing cannot.

I have 29 Christmas albums on my MP3 player. Most recordings of Christmas carols seem to be schmaltzy commercial versions by secular musicians, so it’s nice to hear the traditional songs of Christian worship interpreted by (Anglican) church choirs.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The original KJV

Most American Christians know that the King James bible was the first officially authorized translation of the Bible into English — as authorized by King James (and thus called the “Authorized Version” in England).

The King James was first released in 1611. It followed the earlier (unauthorized) translations by John Wycliffe and followers in the 14th century, and Tyndale’s Luther-inspired translation of the New Testament in 1524.

The King James Version was read in most churches until the late 20th century. In the past two decades has become popular as a computer text (first on PCs, now on the Internet) because unlike the NIV and RSV, its copyright has long since expired and is now in the public domain.

This oft-read KJV is thought of as the version Authorized by James, but the reality is that modern Americans have been using the 1769 edition. If the 1769 seems archaic, the 1611 (in Middle English) would be incomprehensible.

For those who want to understand the history of the 1611 edition and all the changes up to 1769, New Zealand Bible scholar David Norton has published A Textual History of the King James Bible. It is the definitive treatment of the text of the KJV, rather than earlier books that focused on biographies of its editors.

Norton has also re-edited and re-released the 1611 edition (under the cryptic name ) (but with modern spelling) for those who want to study from the earlier edition. Cambridge University Press has a dedicated website that explains more about the project.

Thanks to Rev. Peter Toon for summarizing the differences between the 1611 and 1789 editions, and the importance of the original.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Catholic view on hymnody

Blogging about hymns is a bit of an esoteric habit. I’ve mentioned a Lutheran blog by Josh Osbun (alas on hiatus) and a COE blogby Cathy Osborne — and of course the occasional KFUO radio session — but otherwise there isn’t much out there.

Today, following the link from GetReligion to Amy Welborn’s blog to her blogroll, I found a blog on Catholic hymns entitled “Hymnography Unbound,” written by “Kathy” of Washington, DC.
I don’t know to what degree these two blogs will overlap in their readership. The author is concerned about Catholics avoiding use of inappropriate Protestant hymns by Germans, clearly not a concern here. (I suspect we share some concerns about extreme Calvinist interpretations).

However, I liked her posting about what people look for in hymns (traditional, singable tunes), and she’s written a lot about Latin hymnody. The blog has both a longer history and higher monthly output than the ones I cite to the right, but I still haven't decided whether it will turn out to be a longterm favorite.

I have to admit, I'm the tyro here. “Kathy” writes hymns as an avocation, Osborne has a classical education and is fluent in Latin, and Osbun is training to be an ordained minister. So bear with me as I share my personal observations from a American Anglo-Catholic lay perspective.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Happy 300th birthday Mr. W.

On the Anglican-music mailing list (no relation) I saw a reminder that today is the 300th anniversary of the birth of Charles Wesley, the lyricists for more than 5,000 hymns. The best known of these are "Hark, the herald angels sing" and "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today." My personal favorites would be "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" (set to Rowland Prichard’s Hyfrydol) and "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing" (which my boyhood choir director liked to have us sing to Land of Rest).

To mark the occasion, the public radio show Pipedreams did a complete episode on the Wesley musicians: Charles Wesley, his son Samuel and his grandson Samuel Sebastian. I have not had a chance to listen the show (available online), but presumably it does not spend a lot of time on John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church.

This evening, Boston’s Old North Church (in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, alas) is hosting a commemoration of Charles Wesley's 300th birthday. This is the actual church where he preached back in 1735.

I’m sorry that I can’t make it, but happy birthday, Charles.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Traditional worship making a comeback

Today’s GetReligion includes an interesting posting by Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, commenting on a US News story that claims there’s a movement towards returning to traditional worship in Catholic, Muslim and Jewish faiths.

After commenting on the story and the trend, Mollie notes the superficial nature of trying to cover so many faiths in one story. Although not a Lutheran, Mollie is a member of the LCMS, the moderately conservative Lutheran branch whose work with KFUO I often praise here. Although I’m not a Lutheran, Mollie is the GetReligion whose worship attitudes I feel most comfortable (particularly since TMatt went Orthodox), as demonstrated by today’s quote:
But as someone who worships liturgically and grew up worshiping liturgically, it seems to me that a lot of this “movement” isn’t so much about returning as staying put. Confessional Lutherans will keep worshiping the way we do even when this “return to tradition” fad gets passed to wherever the leftover WWJD bracelets are being hidden. It’s funny to me that those of us that don’t change with the times every few years only get coverage because apparently a fad is guiding people in our direction.
In addition to Mollie’s points, the first thing that grabbed me about the article was the backlash by liberals against the trend towards the Tridentine mass in the Catholic church:
Some liberal Catholic clergy are completely skeptical about the scope and meaning of the traditionalist turn. "It's more hype than reality," says the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and political scientist at Georgetown's Woodstock Theological Center. Reese thinks the church should focus less on the Latin mass than on the three things that draw most churchgoers: "good preaching, good music, and a welcoming community."
which was partially be rebutted by a Catholic neocon:
But Sister Patricia Wittberg, a sociologist at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis, sees more substance in the new traditionalism. "I think churches that can articulate what they do and what they stand for tend to grow better." To that extent, she says, the conservative turn in the church makes sense. But she points out that there are two kinds of conservatives. "One group," she says, "would like to take things back to the [16th-century Counter-Reformation] Council of Trent, but I don't think the future's with them. I think the future is with a group that is interested in reviving the old stuff and traditions in a creative way. Sisters in traditional orders may wear habits, but they often live in coed communities."
Although Anglicans were not mentioned, it was interesting to read about an evangelical Protestant church adopting a liturgical calendar and (occasionally) saying the Nicene Creed.

This seems to go against another article by TMatt, in this case in his paid job as a religion columnist. (Hat tip to innocent as doves). Entitled “Hitting the 500-year wall,” he speculates what as to what will come next on the 500 year cycle after the Crucifixion, the fall of Rome, the Great Schism and the Reformation. The expert he quotes seems to be promoting some form of postmodern Christianity (aka “emerging Christianity”), but I wonder if the real trend (as evidenced by the Anglican wars) of having Christianity led over by the African church — or, as the article quoted by David Virtue today puts it:
African Christians regard their Christian faith as their whole life and not just a part-time activity, said the head of the World Council of Churches on Sunday. The Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia’s response was to a question posed by Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III of the famed Washington National Cathedral about why Christianity was exploding in Africa whereas Christian denominations in the United States have been reporting declining membership.

“Religion is seen not as a part-time occupation, but it permeates the whole life,” WCC General Secretary Kobia answered. “There are many Africans therefore that think their future will be much more hopeful if they embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is projected that by 2025 there will be 700 million African Christians in the world – a phenomenal increase from about 10 million in the early 20th century.

Current Anglican Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola, for example, has more people in his church pew on any given Sunday than all of the Anglican churches in the United States and Europe combined, according to Kobia.
The collapse of 2,000 years of European Christianity would certainly be a big deal. Alas, from my narrow personal tastes, it might also mean a dying out of Gregorian Chant and other forms of traditional worship derived from the medieval Roman church: let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The detour from Charles Wesley to Christmastide

Hymn 27 of my favorite hymnal is listed as the entrance hymn for Christmas Eve, ten days hence:
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled:
Joyful all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies,
With the angelic host proclaim,
Christ is born in Bethlehem:
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King.
There are certainly few hymns that allow such an enthusiastic proclamation of Christ's birth to ring in the new season. Of course, the Mendelssohn melody makes it possible, just as Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Easter hit helps proclaim Christ’s resurrection.

The 1940 Hymnal hints as changes to the lyrics with the notation “Charles Wesley, 1739, alt.” But the real story is brought out in an article (with a book adaptation) in today’s Christianity Today.

The original Wesley version praised the “King of Kings,” consistent with Luke’s Gospel. However, this was changed by George Whitfield to “Glory to the newborn King.” Gordon Giles identifies subtleties of Methodist and Calvinist theology that underline these decisions, but I guess I’ll have to buy his latest book on Christmas readings to learn more.

In looking up Giles, I found an earlier chapter he wrote on the theological basis of musical performance. The book is not on Amazon, but it is indexed by Google.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A new US church - a decade away?

While the 1940 Hymnal is a great hymnal, at some point the various traditionalists will stop paying money to support the PECUSA pension fund and produce their own hymnal. This is an effort I'd like to help. I was wondering if that is going to happen any time soon, but (in a purely selfish sense) later would give me more time to get ready.

The most plausible basis for a new denomination is the Common Cause Partnership, a hodgepodge of current PECUSA members (AAC, ACN, FiFNA), recent defectors (AMiA, CANA), the first of the postwar defectors (APA), and the earliest of all defectors, the 19th century REC. While the APA (now merged with the REC) has a laudable record in opposition to the late Bp. James Pike, it has strained relations with the various Continuing Anglican churches formed in the wake of the 1977 Congress of St. Louis.

Even among CCP, there is considerable divergence of theology. Despite claimed adherence to formularies of the 1662 BCP, there are real questions as to whether constituent members are most devoted to 1662, 1928 or 1979 prayer books. Disagreements over ordination of women has been deferred but not forgotten.

Now Rev. Peter Toon (of the Prayer Book Society) has tried to estimate what it would take to turn this loose confederation into an Anglican province:
To create from the present fledgling Common Cause an autonomous and inter-dependent Province in North America of the Anglican Communion is a task that is enormously difficult and time-consuming. It cannot be done in less than 3 years, maybe in less than five or even ten.

Indeed, bearing in mind the entrepreneurial skills of some of the major players—especially in CANA and AMiA—and recalling the powerful centrifugal forces of American religion and culture, many rational persons would say that it is impossible, and that at best, what will occur is loose kind of federation of Anglican groups who meet irregularly to cooperate in various ways on matters of shared concerns.
Five years seems like a best case, given how far CCP has come (or not) in the three years since it was founded.

So it seems like I will have plenty of time to work on my studies, both the formal studies and independent reading on Anglican hymnody.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

What is "Anglo-Catholic"?

An important term in the Anglican church is the term “Anglo-Catholic,” but it seems to be used by different people to mean different things. These are some of the (implied) definitions that I have seen

  1. Intellectual followers of the Oxford movement that created the 19th century Anglo-Catholic revival. The problem is that few understand the movement in depth, let alone adhere to all its tenets — but they still want to claim the movement’s mantle and its theological legitimacy.
  2. The Elizabethan (or Henry VIII) definition, i.e. Catholic but without a pope. Surely there are many Anglicans whose doctrines on real presence, apostolic succession, even the seven sacraments are identical to the Church of Rome, but refuse to join the world’s largest Christian denomination over married priests or the claims of authority (or infallibility) by the Bishop of Rome. This seems to fit the OED definition.
  3. Episcopal (or ex-Episcopal) traditionalists who are high church: i.e., the Nashotah alumni, not those from Trinity. If you go to Anglican blogs in the U.S. like VirtueOnline this is the most common meaning.
  4. High church Anglicans in general, no matter what their doctrine. In this view, if you adhere to traditional ritual — preserving the “bells and smells” — it doesn’t matter what your theology is.
  5. Anglican rite Catholics, typically led by married PECUSA priests who’ve fled PECUSA for the RCC.
Today I came up with a sixth definition: Anglicans who like to add Latin to their service. This was brought to me while attending a service at the most Anglo-Catholic church in all of Los Angeles: St. Mary of the Angels, the former parish of Cecil B. DeMille whose 1930 sanctuary was funded by Mary Pickford. The church left PECUSA in 1977 and managed to keep its building.

The 10 a.m. service was a triple-header, as proclaimed by the cover of the 24-page seat bulletin:
The Institution
of the
Reverend Father Christopher Pierce Kelley, SSC
as the fifth Rector
in the ninety year history
of the Parish Church of
Saint Mary of the Angels,
with administration of the
Sacrament of Confirmation ...
Solemn High Mass
for the
Second Sunday in Advent

These are the Anglican who are more Catholic (at least in ritual) than today’s American Catholics. They long for the pre-Vatican II days, or, as the new rector remarked afterwards — “what Pope Benedict calls the ‘classic’ liturgy ... as in ‘Coke Classic.’ ” It doesn’t hurt that St. Mary’s is a member of the Traditional Anglican Communion, which is seeking to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. (Confusingly, the TAC’s US branch is called the ACA, or Anglican Church in America).

The 11-member choir sang an entire mass (the Mass in A minor by Harold Duke), as well as separate anthems for the offertory and communion, in addition to the prelude (a Bach air on organ and cello). During communion, bells rang not only on the altar steps but in the bell tower. (Alas, the two pew hymns did not include any of the great Advent hymns in the 1940 Hymnal.)

At its peak, the altar party had 11 men, including five with purple Advent robes: the bishop (Rt. Rev. Darren Williams), two priests (Rev. Kelley and the bishop’s chaplain), two ordained deacons. The six laymen included dueling thurifiers. (A friend suggested that “tandem” is probably a better modifier than “dueling” for a dual-thurible ceremony.) No matter what you call it, a service with five purple robes, dual (duel) thurifers and plenty of Latin would seem to fit a definition of “Anglo-Catholic.”

Many of PECUSA’s fleeing Anglo-Catholics (definition #3 above) are affiliating with other provinces of the Anglican Communion. For the Diocese of San Joaquin and Bp. John-David Schofield (Rev. Kelley’s former boss), yesterday’s historic vote to leave PECUSA (TEC) was followed by a vote to temporarily affiliate with the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of South America under Primate Greg Venables.

The oversight by foreign primates has certainly infuriated TEC leaders, but the hope is that it will allow the ex-TEC parishes (and now dioceses) to continue to participate in the Anglican Communion. Meanwhile, TAC is going the other way — seeking communion with Rome and not Canterbury. Perhaps we could say that one of these is Anglo-Catholic and the other Cathlo-Anglican. But which one?

Interestingly, Episcopalian-turned-Orthodox blogger Terry Mattingly once predicted that the Anglo-Catholics will be in communion with Constantinople before Rome:
One of my very first exposures to Orthodoxy, outside of a history textbook, was actually in the Episcopal Church, in which it was explained to me that there are many people within Anglicanism who think of the Church of England as the Orthodox Church of England, from before the Schism. Part of the tension between Anglicanism and Rome was that the Celtic church was such a consciously separate unit to itself. It had so many things in common with Orthodoxy as opposed to the Roman way of doing things. Primarily with regard to monasticism—they had the emphasis on monasticism as opposed to the more political Roman system of dioceses.

So it was in that context that I first heard a quote attributed to Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey. He was a very Anglo-Catholic, very conservative, traditional Anglican. He said that the mission of Anglicanism was to become Orthodoxy in the West and seek union with the Church of the East. Now I had always heard ecumenism in an Anglican context discussed in terms of ecumenical work with Rome. That was the first time I ever knew that there was a stage when ecumenical ties with Orthodoxy were actually much greater.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Beliefnet unbeliever

This is a bit off-topic, but as a religion blogger I felt compelled to comment.

This morning's paper brought the news that Rupert Murdoch is adding Beliefnet to his Fox Entertainment media empire. The property will become part of Fox Digital Media, with wonderful cross-promotion opportunities for Zondervan and Fox-owned religious media.

The joke opportunities are endless. As the London Guardian reported:

Lo, Murdoch did bring the good news and stored up riches on earth

Rupert Murdoch is out to prove that you can serve God and mammon after all. The media tycoon's Fox Entertainment has bought beliefnet, the largest online faith and spirituality network.

The site is a portal that includes interviews with celebrities and politicians, social networking tools, blogs, inspirational stories, sacred text searches and views from teachers and preachers. Discussion boards carry topics such as "Can inter-faith dating work?" and "Extreme abstinence". Beliefnet was founded in 1999 and the company claims to have 3 million unique visitors a month and nearly 11 million subscribers to a daily email newsletter. Beliefnet provides content across a broad range of faiths.
I've never ever been impressed with Beliefnet: as its title says, it's about "faith and beliefs," and not the R-word.

I'm not interested in "belief," I'm interested in religion, specifically Christianity and the Anglican strain therein. So (as regular readers know), I frequent GetReligion, VirtueOnline, the Issues Etc. Internet radio show, and (as time permits) Christianity Today.

Certainly more general coverage of religion can be interesting, as with the Washington Times BeliefBlog plugged by GetReligion this week. (Blogger Julia Duin is author of some of the best PECUSA schism coverage by any daily newspaper). But I've always thought that Beliefnet tried too hard to avoid any point of view, as reinforced by its founder's defense of the Fox buyout:
That’s a lot of diversity within the company. For those concerned that News Corp won't tolerate viewpoints that arent conservative Christian, consider that Harper One has published Jim Wallis, Paolo Coelho, Feisal Abdul Rauf, Jean Houston, Robert Bly, the Kama Sutra, the Pagan Book of Living and Dying, the Koran and more.

As for the idea that being part of News Corp means that we're going to have to abandon our mission of tolerance and respect for a wide variety of faiths, I’d first like to call your attention to the only quote from Fox in the press release announcing this:

“Beliefnet has garnered respect for its commitment to quality, editorial strength and unbiased approach to faith and spirituality from a broad range of consumers, religious and political leaders, journalists and advertisers,” said Dan Fawcett, President of Fox Digital Media.
There you have it. Beliefnet is worried about losing the loyalty of those who consider "Fox News" a swearword, or fear religious media being controlled by "conservative Christian" viewpoints. So it doesn't want to show any signs of adhering to a particular faith — the faith to which I adhere (along with Fred Barnes and others).

Yes, I know there's a wide range of viewpoints within the evangelical community as represented by CT, but it's among the most oft-mentioned news sources used by religion reporters. And GetReligion has a new liberal Catholic contributor from the left coast, who agrees on many but not all of the tenets of his LCMS, Orthodox, Episcopal (and ?) co-authors. Another source is the magazine World, which a friend reads in the paper form.

But all of these start from a common point:
that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. (1 Timothy 1:12)
That should be a point on which all Anglicans can agree, since it was included in every prayer book from 1549 to 1979. (This means an emphatic "yes" to question #2 of the famous tmatt trio.) That is certainly not a "belief" shared by the whole world, particularly those afraid of "conservative Christians."

Monday, December 3, 2007

Happy New Year!

There are many things reassuring about tradition in worship. One, I believe, is continuity of worship across time and space — the idea that wherever you go, you’d get consistency. In manufacturing, we’d call that quality control.

So it was more than a little gratifying that the First Sunday in Advent brought the first hymn in my favorite hymnal, with Charles Wesley’s words to the 18th century German tune:
Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
I can't say it's my favorite December carol or even my favorite Advent carol. But, as the back pages of the Hymnal 1940 make clear, it's a standard hymn for Advent I, and a great way to signal the beginning of the new church year.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Where to get that free hymnal

While traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday, I visited a small ACA parish worshipping out of a rented duplex. Not surprisingly, they used the familiar 1928 BCP and 1940 Hymnal. What was unfamiliar was the stamp on the front:
Operation Pass Along
805 CR 102
Eureka Springs, AR 72632
Sure enough, there’s a website, which notes that 135,000+ books have been forwarded under this ministry since 1972 for just the cost of postage. One would have to guess that the bulk of the shipments have been 1928 BCP and 1940 Hymnals rendered surplus when replaced by their 1979 and 1982 counterparts.

OPA is one to be one of a series of ministries sponsored by the Society for Promoting and Encouraging the Arts and Knowledge. Another ministry is The Anglican Digest, today edited by Rev. Kendall Harmon, director of communications for the TEC diocese of South Carolina — but best known as the creator of the blog named after Titus 1:9.

OPA seems to be one of the few efforts supported by both the Episcopal left and right. Perhaps it’s because reuse is far more environmentally (and economically) sound than recycling. Or perhaps just because it’s the Christian thing to do.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Preserving traditional faith and worship

Even if 16th century theologian Richard Hooker did not (as often claimed) give us the metaphor of the 3-legged stool (scripture, tradition and reason), tradition has played an important part in providing a continuity of scriptural interpretation over the millennia: most Anglicans could tell you something about what happened in the First Council of Nicaea, even if they couldn’t give you the year (325).

From the narrow prism of my personal tastes I once assumed that traditional worship and traditional liturgy (specifically music) go hand and hand. Casual observation of the unfolding American schism show that’s obviously not the case. The theological traditionalists leaving PECUSA (TEC) since the 2006 General Convention (and over the past 30 years) have included both those with modernized worship and those with traditional worship.

These two traditionalists groups seem to go by the labels “evangelical” and “Anglo-Catholic,” represented by Trinity and Nashotah seminaries, which finally realized last month that they have more similarities than differences. Similarly, of the dioceses heading for the TEC exit, Pittsburgh (Bp. Duncan) represents the evangelicals while San Joaquin (Bp. Schofield) and Ft. Worth (Bp. Iker) represent the Anglo-Catholics. The Anglo-Catholics (my homies) seem to like the 1928 BCP and the 1940 Hymnal, while the Evangelicals seem to be Rite II from the 1982 Hymnal and perhaps even non-hymnal music.

But again, this is an excessively narrow view of Anglican worship in North America. In fact, both forms of music are common on the progressive (modern theology) side of the aisle.

Most visible are the modern theology and music, a faction I’ll call “Blowin’ in the Wind,” in homage to the social gospel folk music epitomized by the Mary Travers version of the Bob Dylan song. These ultra-modernists have brought us a series of politically correct “hymnals” — even more modern and PC than Hymnal 1982:

  • African-American: Lift Every Voice & Sing (1981) and Lift Every Voice & Sing II (1993)
  • Feminist: Voices Found (2003)
  • Other PC theology: Wonder, Love & Praise (1997)
This is also the quadrant of the most extreme cases of the TEC, as with this example recounted by David Virtue a week ago:

The Sunday after General Convention I returned to my home parish for Gay Pride Sunday and participated in a Disco Mass for which gays and lesbians turned out in force. The opening hymn was a beautiful jazz rendition of ‘Over the Rainbow.’ Musical offerings came from gay men in sequined tank tops and from the Director of Music who was ushered into the service singing a disco number complete with go-go girls. The queen of St. Mark’s appeared in full drag to deliver the homily and the closing hymn was, Sister Sledge’s ‘We Are Family.’"

At the same time, there are many high church progressives, including the majority of the participants in the Anglican Music (no relation) mailing list, a refuge for high church organists and music directors. They are often found in the big urban cathedrals in liberal dioceses, where gay rights are more salient than in the suburban churches. My first encounter with this was on a business trip many years ago to San Francisco, where I attended Church of Advent near Union Square, and found that their definition of “inclusive Anglo-Catholic” did not include traditional theology. So this actually suggests four alternatives:

High Church Progressives
Hymnal 1982

Hymnal 1940

Blowin’ in the Wind
Wonder, Love and Praise


A microcosm of this 2x2 division can be found (for now) in the Diocese of El Camino Real, which installed Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves as its first female bishop two weeks ago today. The installation took place not at the small cathedral in downtown San Jose, but at St. Andrews in affluent Saratoga, which features high church worship complete with the most modern of theology. Each of these four quadrants are currently represented in the Diocese of ECR:
  • High Church Progressives: epitomized by St. Andrew’s, a sanctuary (tellingly) dedicated by Bp. Pike in 1963. At the recommendation of a former parishioner, I attended a service here five years ago. Only the second rector in fifty years, his sermon talked about updating the faith for the 21st century, which should have been an an early warning sign. After he denied the divinity of Jesus Christ, I should have walked out but I was too shocked to react. Here are my contemporaneous notes of what he said:
    He said the big issue of updating the faith was the conflict between science and religion. He said we know now that rain is caused by weather systems, and diseases is caused by bacteria and the breakdown of cells. He went on: “The writers of the scriptures didn’t know that. Jesus didn’t know that.”
  • Blowin’ in the Wind: this is most of TEC and I’m assuming this is most of the diocese, at least in liberal Northern California. These are services I try to avoid.
  • Anglo-Catholics: St. John’s Chapel of Monterey is a 1928 BCP parish established in 1894 by C.P. Crocker and C.H. Huntington, half of the “Big Four” railroad barons who created the Central Pacific Railroad and with it the western part of the transcontinental railroad. The parish once drew heavily from Fort Ord before the base closed in 1994.
  • Evangelicals: St. Edward’s in San Jose is a member of the Anglican Communion Network, with visitors from Bp. Duncan but a decidedly modern take on worship style. As the website proudly proclaimed earlier this year:
    Our 10 am Sunday service is a contemporary update of our traditional service. If you are familiar with Episcopal, Lutheran, or Roman Catholic worship, you will still recognize the pattern of the service. The structure is the same but the music is really contemporary. Now when some churches say they have contemporary music they mean music that was written in the 1960s. We like some of that music as well, but lets get real for a moment...those are golden oldies. When we say contemporary, we mean this year or even the past five years. We do occasionally sing old hymns and even golden oldies, but when we do its usually with a remix to bring it up to date. At the moment, our Music Ministry is enamored with “Jesus loves me” Punk Style! It rocks.
Without any direct evidence, I suspect that the traditionalists will not be remaining in the diocese much longer. The coverage of the installation by the San Jose Mercury and the LA Times (the latter pilloried by GetReligion) did not give much indication of the theology or administrative policies of Bp. Gray-Reeves. However, given the people who selected the bishop (and her controversial predecessor) I suspect she will be among the most liberal and aggressive in the national TEC.

If so, St. John’s and St. Edward’s will be leaving the diocese of ECR, just as most of the traditionalists left the Diocese of San Diego after it got a new liberal bishop. With California law unsettled right now, it’s not clear if they will be leaving with or without their sanctuaries, but this thin remnant of theological diversity within the diocese (and much of the TEC) is unlikely to last much longer.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Is liturgy fragmenting with the culture?

In my previous attacks, er, comments on modern worship style, I had assumed a stylized dichotomy of Anglican worship: centuries-old high church hymns, and modern guitar masses complete with praise bands. I realized that was an oversimplification, but since I only attend churches where the argument is over allowing music newer than Vaughan Williams, I was content to lump all "modern" worship into one pile.

This of course blurs the distinction within both hymn-based and non-hymnal modern worship. The former would be formal hymns with organ that happen to be composed since 1960 -- some with sound theology and some not, some with sappy tunes and some real music. The latter would cover a wide range of praise music, from a simple guitar mass to an amplified praise band.

I'd previously praised Terry Mattingly's coverage of this topic, as with his interview last year on KFUO. Thus, it's not surprising that TMatt has contributed two other observations on the topic this month to his GetReligion blog.

On Veterans Day, he commented on a NY Times article on a Southern California megachurch that has three main bands (and many lesser bands) to cater to various tastes. To Terry, this one quote says it all:
“When you start a church,” said Tom Mercer, 52, the senior pastor, “you don’t decide who you’re going to reach and then pick a music style. You pick a music style, and that determines who’s going to come.”
To which TMatt -- the Baptist-turned-Epsicopalian-turned-Orthodox worshiper -- commented:
So is there anyone in the church older than Boomer rock? Are there any ties that bind this congregation to the church of the ages? It would seem not.
I agree with Terry: I hope my grandchildren will someday be singing Rock of Ages (to Toplady), Isaac Watts, Wesley, and all the other classics of hymnals 100 (or 200 or 300) years ago.

But then today he posted a really thought-provoking postlude, in which conservative NY Times columnist David Brooks notes the fragmentation of the popular music genre.
The 1970s were a great moment for musical integration. Artists like the Rolling Stones and Springsteen drew on a range of musical influences and produced songs that might be country-influenced, soul-influenced, blues-influenced or a combination of all three. These mega-groups attracted gigantic followings and can still fill huge arenas.

But cultural history has pivot moments, and at some point toward the end of the 1970s or the early 1980s, the era of integration gave way to the era of fragmentation. There are now dozens of niche musical genres where there used to be this thing called rock. There are many bands that can fill 5,000-seat theaters, but there are almost no new groups with the broad following or longevity of the Rolling Stones, Springsteen or U2.
Brooks ties it back to modern marketing:
[Springsteen guitarist Steven Van Zandt] describes a musical culture that has lost touch with its common roots. . . .

If you go to marketing conferences, you realize we really are in the era of the long tail. In any given industry, companies are dividing the marketplace into narrower and more segmented lifestyle niches.
In other words, there will never be a single "contemporary" worship style for those who reject traditional liturgy, but a pluriform of alternatives.

The modernists in liturgical music make two major arguments: we need to be modern to be relevant (or popular or to reach young people), and every era has added contemporary popular music to the liturgical canon. I have never considered the former to be a serious intellectual argument, but rather a matter of personal preference.

The latter, however, seems a valid rebuttal to those who would freeze back in 1906 or 1940. Whatever I might say about most of the additions to the 1982 hymnal, for example, I think Hymn 335 is a keeper: it was used for the 2005 communion celebrating the unification of two continuing Anglican provinces.

After thinking about it for several years, I've come up with an answer: I'm not rejecting everything in the new hymnal, but most of the new stuff is mediocre and will soon be forgotten. I only want that music that will be used 100 years from now. Most of it is not going to stand the test of time, just as there are hymns by Luther or Watts or one of the Wesley clan that have deservedly fallen into disuse.

Meanwhile, I think the fragmentation of popular culture will make traditional hymnody more not less important. If there is no common thread among the various "contemporary" worship music (whatever that might be), then the only thing sure to survive is that which has already stood the test of time and can make the claim of continuity across the generations. A hundred years from now, I'd bet none of today's top 50 hits of CCM (or anything from Wonder, Love and Praise) will be used, but Christians will still be singing Ein feste burg, Adeste fidelis and Sine Nomine. Maybe those in English-speaking parts of the world will still call themselves Anglicans.

This makes it even more important that we preserve what is known about the writing and performance of 500 years (or more) of Christian hymnody.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Happy Remembrance Day

Today was both Veterans Day and a Sunday, and thus the observance of this major national holiday fell on the actual day.

Most history buffs know that the holiday dates to the 1919 signing of the Treaty of Versailles, marking the end of the Great War. In the U.S., holiday was known as Armistice Day beginning in 1926, but was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.

In the U.K., it’s always been Remembrance Day, and poppies are worn to commemorate the horrible deaths of trench warfare in the fields of Flanders. I first heard the term back in 1976, in a passing reference made by Alastair Ian Stewart in his offbeat love song, "Sand in Your Shoes." (Most boomers only remember the title track, “Year of the Cat”).

I did not know until this morning that Remembrance Day is also the official name in Canada, but Canadian comic strip artist Lynn Johnston this morning published a poignant tribute to one of the main characters, 86-year-old WW II vet Jim Richards, father of the cartoonist’s alter ego (Elly Patterson).
In observance of the date, the closing hymn today was Hymn 512 in the 1940 Hymnal. (The Navy hymn without the Army/Air Force references of Hymn 513). It was a bittersweet choice — the hymn is a favorite of mine, but for some reason opening the page to the hymn brought a tear, because of the reminder of my father (a World War II vet at whose funeral we sang Hymn 513). I lost it twice briefly while singing the hymn, although it appears nobody noticed.

However, after the service the choice became a bittersweet one for the entire congregation, as our rector announced he was resigning in the next month to become a Navy chaplain. I admire him greatly for making this difficult choice, and respect him (like all other military personnel) for making the sacrifice most of us are unwilling to make. But we now are left hoping to find a strong spiritual and pastoral leader, which is not a situation any parish wants to be in.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Some other interesting websites

In my free time, I've been researching other sites for topics relevant to Anglican liturgy and hymnody. Here are a few that I've found:
  • Music in Anglicanism, a small set of scanned public domain (mostly expired copyright) books and reports about music in PECUSA and the Church of England. It's part of the overall Project Canterbury online archive.
  • The Anglican music e-mail list, which seems to be mainly TEC choirmasters asking (or bragging) about what music they're going to perform next Sunday, but also includes resources and pointers to other sources.
Not specifically Anglican are
  • Choral Public Domain Library, which archives materials with expired copyrights (90 years old or more).
  • The Gregorian Yahoo Group, with both discussion of Gregorian chant and also an online repository of scanned files.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Better music, better faith

In looking up last week’s news on the global Anglican soap opera, I found an interesting musical commentary entitled “Does Simple Music Form Simple Faith?” by NY Times classical music columnist Bernard Holland. Reacting to contemporary worship music, Holland writes
With its hand-clapping, inspirational, just-folks character, how different this music is from a tradition that ran from plainchant through Josquin and Palestrina to Mozart and Beethoven, and finally to Messiaen and Britten. Without the church to inspire -- not to mention finance -- great composers, how diminished the history of music might seem to us.
After citing the Verdi Requiem as an example of both musical and religious power, Holland recalls the tension between poetry and effective evangelism with (to me) a very familiar recollection of childhood past:
The church has reason to fear great beauty … from the mesmerizing graces of the Latin Mass or the splendid poetry of the Anglican Church's Book of Common Prayer. I am one small example, having spent the Sunday mornings of my youth in the Episcopal Church allowing Thomas Cranmer's magical imagery and liquid liturgical responses to roll off my tongue without a thought to God at all.
As a confirmed 1928 BCP ritualist who discovered Christianity as an adult, to that I say “Amen, brother!”

Still, Holland holds out hope that those of us seeking to preserve the music of traditional liturgical worship may someday be vindicated:
Ritual-driven, beauty-ridden Catholics, Episcopalians and Lutherans may not be doing as well right now as they would like, but history keeps turning in circles, and they may have their day again.

Meanwhile grab that guitar. Clap those hands.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The church’s unfoundation

If the Lutheran Church’s greatest contribution to hymnal theology is “A mighty fortress is our God,” then certainly one of the greatest of the 19th century Church of England is Samuel Stone’s “The Church’s one foundation” (set to the tune of Aurelia by Samuel Sebastian Wesley, grand-nephew of Methodist Church founder Charles Wesley).

London Times religion reporter Ruth Gledhill feels guilty about reprinting the satirical take on the TEC (PECUSA) modernism that is expressed as a satire of the Stone-Wesley hymn. It culminates in this final stanza:
Our church has no foundation
And Christ is not her Lord.
She is our new creation
By our own mighty word.
The Bible's too oppressive,
And morals leave us bored.
Who then is our salvation?
It's our own selves - adored.
Perhaps she'd be even more reticent if she knew it was posted to David Virtue’s website more than a year ago. The Wayback Machine seems to be malfunctioning, but my e-mail archives show that I forwarded these same lyrics (quoting Virtue) to friends back in August 2006.

Postscript: One of Gledhill’s readers added this one from the early days of the women’s ordination debate, sung to Bill Joel’s “She’s always a woman”:
She can reverence in style, genuflect with a flair
She can keep you entranced with a flick of her hair
Then she'll hold up the elements so you can see
She looks like a priest but she's always a woman to me

Oh I consider it fine
If she takes bread and wine
In her kitchen at home
But if she starts that round here
Then I'm sorry my dear
I'll be heading for Rome

Get to the Getty while the getting is good

Next month, I’m hoping to visit the exhibition of hand-copied medieval church music being shown at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The exhibition, which closes Oct. 28, was covered earlier this month in the Los Angeles Times. (I learned of the article and the exhibition because I follow the LA Times religion section via RSS feed).

I can’t explain it better than reporter Francisco Vara-Orta:
Before the advent of the 15th century printing press that eventually made books available to the masses, Christian priests, monks and nuns in the Middle Ages relied on rare, handmade and colorfully illustrated choir books to preserve their music generation to generation.

Music in the religious world in Europe had been passed down orally until the 800s, when monks began to transcribe their melodies onto the parchment of their choir books. Now more than 40 of these works, dating from 1170 to the early 1500s, are part of the “Music for the Masses” exhibit at the Getty Center.

“These manuscripts offer one of the best windows into learning about the Middle Ages,” said Christine Sciacca, assistant curator of the Getty Museum’s department of manuscripts. “It shows not just what people saw but also what sound was like back then.”
Of course, the Getty is an art museum, so the emphasis is on the drawings and illustrations, not upon the (Latin) words (still Latin). Still, the Getty emphasizes the importance of the manuscripts as among the earliest examples of written Western music:
Beginning in the 800s in Europe, music was first transcribed with “neumes,” which look like a cluttered collection of rising and falling dots and lines. Rather than representing specific notes to be sung as is done today, the neumes instead indicated whether the vocalist should go higher or lower in pitch and how long to hold a tone.

Eventually, around the 1260s, the chants became more elaborate and the neumes were replaced by small squares written along a horizontal, usually red, four-line staff. Today, notes are written in rounded forms on a five-line staff.
Even without visiting the museum, some photographs and explanatory information are available on the Getty’s website. One webpage explains examples of the two forms of notation, i.e. the neumes and four-line staff. Another page explains the difference between the gradual and missal (for the mass) and the antiphonal and beviary (for the daily prayers). Some of the books can be browsed online.

The highlight of the exhibition is the 12th century Stammheim Missal, saved from an abbey in Lower Saxony. In true museum fashion, the Getty is selling a coffee table book of reproductions from the missal. The latter is not from this exhibition, but the Getty’s earlier 2001 exhibition “Illuminated Liturgical Manuscripts.”

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Abominable NO man

The reports from New Orleans — e.g. the New York Times — are saying that the TEC bishops are saying no to the Windsor bishops, no to Dar es Salaam, and yes to the status quo. That is to say, nominal compliance with Anglican Communion’s wishes but (in many dioceses) open defiance without sanctions.

This is not a blog about the looming TEC schism/Anglican realignment: there are plenty of more active blogs covering that. Of interest here are two issues. One is what the traditionalists (AAC, ACN or Common Cause or whatever they call themselves) do about a hymnal once they leave TEC. The second is any musical divergence between the two camps.

Quoting blogger Baby Blue, Ruth Gledhill of the London Times offers two examples of postmodern hymns being favored by the TEC bishops. The second is
All creatures of our God, sing praise,
with thankful hearts your voices raise
O sing praises! Alleluia!
O Brother Sun with golden beam,
O Sister Moon with silver gleam!

Dear Mother Earth, who day by day
unfolds our blessings on our way
O sing praises! Alleluia!
The flow'rs and fruit that in you grow,
let them God's glory also show!
As she notes, this is the modernist update of familiar Anglican hymn based on 13th century words by St. Francis of Assisi. The Anglican world uses the 1919 translation by William Draper. Even the 1982 hymnal is willing to use the “K” word:
All creatures of our God and King,
lift up your voices, let us sing:
Alleluia, alleluia!
Bright burning sun with golden beams,
pale silver moon that gently gleams,
O praise him, O praise him,
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
I would note that the “Mother Earth” is in the Oremus version, the Hymnal 1982 (#400), and the CoE Songs of Praise, Enlarged Edition (#439). The hymn does not appear to be in Hymnal 1940 or the two earlier CoE hymnals — The English Hymnal (1906) or Hymns Ancient & Modern.

As a kid, we sang the same tune from Hymnal 1940 as “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones” (#599). No sister moon there.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

An ancient hymn of devotion

I argue for the importance of retaining traditional hymns, such as those that predate the 1861 English hymnal, Hymns Ancient & Modern. Today we retain a large body of hymns from the 16th century, but what hymns would be considered “ancient”? From the medieval period? The Dark Ages? Only a handful of hymns date from before the 11th century, even though much plainsong remains in the Gregorian style.

Last week’s service concluded with one such hymn, Hymn 204 from my favorite hymnal:
Humbly I adore thee, Verity unseen,
who thy glory hiddest ’neath these shadows mean;
Lo, to thee surrendered, my whole heart is bowed,
Tranced as it beholds thee, shrined within the cloud.
It is a childhood favorite, a really timeless chant that evokes simple adoration of the Lord our Savior. The 1940 hymnal attributes the original (Latin) words to Saint Thomas Aquinas as of 1260 (while others attribute it to 1264). Sure enough, it’s easy to find the original seven verses online from the Roman missal.
Adoro te devote, latens Deitas, quae sub his figuris vere latitas: tibi se cor meum totum subiicit, quia te contemplans totum deficit.

Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur, sed auditu solo tuto creditur; credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius: nil hoc verbo Veritatis verius.

In cruce latebat sola Deitas, at hic latet simul et humanitas; ambo tamen credens atque confitens, peto quod petivit latro paenitens.

Plagas, sicut Thomas, non intueor; Deum tamen meum te confiteor; fac me tibi semper magis credere, in te spem habere, te diligere.

O memoriale mortis Domini! panis vivus, vitam praestans homini! praesta meae menti de te vivere et te illi semper dulce sapere.

Pie pellicane, Iesu Domine, me immundum munda tuo sanguine; cuius una stilla salvum facere totum mundum quit ab omni scelere.

Iesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio, oro fiat illud quod tam sitio; ut te revelata cernens facie, visu sim beatus tuae gloriae. Amen.
After coming home from church, I found the Latin version in my MP3 collection, converted from my copy of the 1990 Gregorian Chant CD by the Benedictine Monks of the Abbey of St. Maurice & St. Maur. Even without understanding the Latin, the familiar haunting melody evokes religious worship of centuries past.

The Episcopalian translation is credited by Oremus to the Monastic Diurnal of 1932, a Benedictine list of prayers (while the 1940 Hymnal implies an original 1939 translation). The Monastic Diurnal is out of print in the US but available new in the UK.

The Church of England has been singing a different translation by James Woodford, variously estimated at 1850-1852, which first appeared in Hymns Ancient & Modern:
Thee we adore, O hidden Savior, Thee,
Who in Thy sacrament dost deign to be;
Both flesh and spirit at Thy presence fail,
Yet here Thy presence we devoutly hail.
It’s in my 1869 edition of A&M, as well as The English Hymnal. Below is a summary of the various versions:

Hymns Ancient & Modern1869

1st tune

1869: “old melody”
subsequent: “Plain song”
1869: uncredited
subsequent editions: “Bishop Woodford and compilers”
The English Hymnal1906331“Proper Melody (from the Solsines Version)”“Bishop J.R. Woodford”1,5,6,7
Hymnal 19401940204

Adoro Devote
“Benedictine Plainsong; Mode V, 13th century”

“Hymnal Version, 1939” 1,2,5,7
Hymnal 19821982314

Adoro devote
“French church melody, Mode 5, Processionale, 1697”

Hymnal 1940 (but with new translation of last verse)1,2,5,7
Lutheran Worship1982432“mode V; Processionale, Paris, 1697”New lyrics by Frank von Christiersonn/a

There are also differences in the music — beyond the question of whether the tune dates from the 13th or 17th century. All the versions of the past 140 years begin on a D, but the rhythms are distinct. Hymns Ancient and Modern uses both triplet and a dotted rhythm (and longer note) at the end of every phrase:
In TEH, the triplets are gone, but the dotted rhythm remains. On this side of the pond, the Hymnal 1940 has equal durations except that it doubles the duration in both the middle (“thee”) and end (“unseen”) of each phrase:

Hymnal 1982 suggests equal durations except at the end of each phrase:

Among LCMS Lutherans, I didn’t find it in the 1941 The Lutheran Hymnal, but found the music in the 1982 Lutheran Worship (without the Aquinian word and new insipid stanzas). Interestingly, these lamentable words seem paired with the most accurate musical notation: instead of D major, LW shows Mode V in the key of A major (since a Lydian mode tune ending in D is ending on the subdominant).

Update Sept 3, 2pm: My use of “ancient” was too sloppy, for two reasons. First, as my Orthodox reader Jeff reminded me, the writings of 13th century Aquinas are largely rejected by the Eastern branch of Christianity. Theologically, it seems like an “ancient” hymn should date to the period of one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church, and thus an “ancient” hymn would be one that predates not only the 95 Theses (1517) but the Great Schism (1054).

Second, I had forgotten that “ancient” (history, culture, writing) referred to a specific historical period ending in the 5th century with the Fall of Rome.

So even though a 13th century hymn is one of the oldest in the hymnal, it probably doesn’t qualify as “ancient.” But then what does? There are a few hymns from before 1054, but how many from before 476? Do we have accurate dates for any of these hymns? This raises another question: are there any “ancient” hymns in
Hymns Ancient & Modern. Alas, that’s a question for another posting.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Papists and Gregorian chant

As noted last week, while I like to listen to the KFUO Lutheran radio show Issues Etc. (hosted by Pastor Todd Wilken), it’s usually weeks or months after the original broadcast. The show often touches on issues of traditionally liturgical worship and hymnody.

This week was one of the few days that I wish I’d listened live and been able to call in — to the interview of Lutheran pastor Ben Mayes on the topic of “Gregorian Chant,” in the second half of the final hour of Monday’s show.

The discussion touched on an important form of historic music and a liturgical form, as well as helping liturgical Lutherans overcoming the denomination’s long-held antipathy towards the Roman Catholic Church. This exchange captured the latter bias that seems to be common among those in the LCMS:
Rev. Wilken: Some people are going to hear this and say ‘This is just Roman Catholic stuff, this is Eastern Orthodox stuff — this has nothing to do with Reformation Christianity.’

Rev. Mayes: (Quoting Luther’s An Order of Mass and Communion): ‘It is not now nor ever has been our intention to abolish the liturgical service of God completely, but rather to purify the one that is now in use from the wretched accretion which corrupt it, and to point out an evangelical use.’
Mayes also cited specific chants in Volume 53 of Luther's Works, pp. 70, 178, 182.

The Gregorian chant predates the Reformation and in fact the Great Schism, and thus is attributed to the unified Catholic (i.e. Christian) church of the first millennium. In particular, credit is usually given to the 6th century Pope Gregory I who (Rev. Mayes argued) standardized an already established liturgical music.

The online version of Grove’s music encyclopedia defines Gregorian chant as
A term conventionally applied to the central branch of Western Plainchant. Though not entirely appropriate, it has for practical reasons continued in use. Gregorian chant originated as a reworking of Roman ecclesiastical song by Frankish cantors during the Carolingian period; it came to be sung almost universally in medieval western and central Europe. …
Grove’s argues that the 8th century attribution of the form to “Gregorius” may have referred to Gregory II, but I’m not familiar enough with the controversy to render my own opinion. Rev. Mayes said only that “many people” credit it to ”Gregory I, who was Bishop of the Church of Rome.” (Studiously avoiding the P-word)

Rev. Mayes notes that the Gregorian chant was retained (in Latin) in the Lutheran church into the 18th century, and re-introduced in the 19th century. In addition to the original Latin, in the U.S. the chant has been sung in German and English. The LCMS publishing house, CPH, published books containing Gregorian chants in 1895 (by Friedrich Lochner in German) and in 1942 (in English).

Rev. Mayes praised the chants for the primacy of the words, and how the music is provided to embellish and beautify the words — not to impose emotion upon them. In fact, he was promoting an upcoming Solemn Vespers in St. Louis next month (shades of COE!). He also mentioned the free English recordings of the Psalms contained in his (soon to be reprinted) book, Brotherhood Prayer Book.

IMHO the power of the Gregorian and subsequent medieval chant is a timeless tribute to the glory of god. It’s good to see those potentially suspicious of “Papist” influences embracing a liturgical form that was preserved by the Catholic church across the next 10 centuries of the Dark and Middle Ages, long before any glimmer of the Reformation.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Learning from Lutheran Liturgy

Although we have a news site and a blog, the life of an American Anglican cherishing traditional liturgy sometimes seems a bit lonely and isolated. Meanwhile, in the US there are 3x more Lutherans than Anglicans/Episcopalians — and their traditionalists are better organized — so there are opportunities for American Anglicans to learn from their Lutheran counterparts.

Sure, the doctrinal split of ELCAmajority liberal, some conservative — parallels that of The Episcopal Church, although there are more of them (4.8 million vs. 2.4 million). However, ECUSA is smaller than the 2nd largest Lutheran group, the 2.5 million-strong Missouri Synod (LCMS) which is more traditional in its outlook, in that it has (mostly) resisted the pressures of the postwar cultural changes.

Although not a theologian, from what I’ve seen of the LCMS media, the LCMS holds beliefs similar to continuing Anglicans on issues such as the role of scripture, liturgy, morality and other key issues in American Christianity. Of particular interest among the LCMS media is KFUO AM, a physical St. Louis terrestrial radio station with online podcasts. Several times a month, I try to catch up on the podcasts from the show Issues Etc. As with any talk show, Issues Etc. reflects the tastes of its host, LCMS Pastor Todd Wilken. (Note to my Anglican friends: he’ll answer to Rev. Wilken but not Father Wilken).

Normally each hour covers one or two topics. About half of the topics are expositions of Lutheran (LCMS) doctrine, some (but not all) of which are consonant with Anglican belief. The rest are a smattering of Sunday school teaching, pop culture, political controversy and liturgy.

The occasional episode talking about liturgical music are probably the best source of interviews and discussion on issues of interest to this blog. Over the period I’ve been listening, Pastor Wilken has run a number of programs (with expert guests) about traditional vs. contemporary liturgical music. Let me highlight three, which present a consistent set of arguments in favor of the former vs. the latter.

“Religion & Pop Culture,” Terry Mattingly (March 19, 2006)

My favorite Issues Etc. episode of all time was the interview with religion writer Terry Mattingly, a syndicated columnist, a college instructor, book author and cofounder of GetReligion, one of the best blogs in all cyberspace. Appearing to promote his book Pop Goes Religion, Mattingly spent two hours with Wilken critiquing various trivailizations in modern worship.

In the first 10 minutes of the first hour, he slammed contemporary music and TV screens in worship. In the 2nd hour, Mattingly got to the crux of the attempts to change (or abolish) the hymnary to keep music current with today’s tastes. Mattingly asked:
How many of us will be singing songs that our parents and grandparents sang?
At the end, Mattingly asked: “Why are so many young Christians trying to turn church into a night club?”

Mattingly himself had many years’ experience with Anglican music. Raised in Texas as the son of a Baptist preacher, he went to Baylor University but then left the Baptist church. He was an Episcopalian for two decades before joining the Antiochian Orthodox Church a few years ago.

“The Impact of Music,” Prof. Barbara Resch (July 24, 2007)

Dr. Resch is a music professor at Indiana University and a church choir director, with particular training in childhood music education and the psychology of music. Her half-hour interview focuses on the psychological and physiological impacts of music on human beings.

In one of the more memorable exchanges, Rev. Wilken asked “Is music spiritually neutral?” to which Prof. Resch replies that every musical style has associations, so that adding new lyrics to a familiar style will still evoke those associations. She is critical of contemporary worship music that tries to manipulate feelings towards non-spiritual aims. Asked about praise choruses, decries popular “ear worm” music (like “Feliz Navidad” or “YMCA”) whether secular or nominally religious.

“Praise Bands,” Pastor Jon Sollberger (August 15, 2007)

Rev. Sollberger is pastor of two parishes in Orchard, Nebraska and a former praise band guitarist. He was interviewed in the 2nd half of the first hour of this Wednesday’s show.

Pastor Sollberger’s basic criticism is that a “praise band” (i.e. contemporary music performance) inherently changes the focus and goals of the service:
Rock & roll belongs to the world. Electric guitars played from the front of any venue — where people are sitting and looking at that guitarist — is not worship, it's performance. And we even as a church will never ever get past that.
Consistent with Prof. Resch, he notes that certain styles of music "carry too much baggage" to be effective for worship. In particular, using secular music styles:
We're going against the basic tenet of God and his word: the church is to influence the world, not vice versa...

It comes down to this: the church just doesn't do the things of the world as good as the world does. So we should let the church be the church, because if church sounds and feels like the world, well why are we wondering why people aren't coming?
Asked to address common criticisms of “authentic” (or traditional or liturgical) worship — such as that the (Lutheran) music is from the German 16th century — Rev. Sollberger notes that liturgical worship belongs to the church. Meanwhile, contemporary music which belongs to the world, and tends to subordinate the words to the music.

Finally, to the claim that contemporary music is necessary to attract youth, he emphasized the importance of scripture over music:
You don't attract the youth with anything else but God's word. We are not saved by style; we are not saved by the taste in music. The Word accomplishes the purpose for which it is sent.

From his choice of guests (and their views), I suspect Pastor Wilken & I are of similar mind on liturgical music. Although it’s not necessary to rewind the liturgy to when Martin Luther was promulgating his 95 theses in 1517, I think we both would agree many liturgical innovations of the subsequent 490 years should be treated with suspicion — particularly those of the last 10% of that period. For Anglicans who trace their faith back to the 1559 Book of Common Prayer (or the modern 1662 update), key elements of the ’59 book remain recognizable 350 years later in the 1928 BCP, the gold standard for continuing Anglican groups in the U.S.

Thus the challenge of “authentic” worship (Wilken’s adjective) is to preserve it for all generations without turning it into a museum piece. My hunch is that this means a subtle evolution of the canon and its musical expression, while preserving the historic texts, and being able to trace continuity of message and meaning to the earliest written texts of the church. To me, the test for any new music would be: is this additions intended to preserve or to change the received meaning of the liturgy?