Friday, December 31, 2010

Imagine standing against bigotry

In less than 24 hours, more than 100,000 revelers will be crammed into Midtown Manhattan, waiting for the “ball” to drop above Times Square. If this year matches previous years, the lead up to the final countdown will include John Lennon’s peace anthem, “Imagine.” Lennon described his Billboard #1 hit this way:
'Imagine' is a big hit almost everywhere -- anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic, but because it is sugarcoated it is accepted. Now I understand what you have to do: Put your political message across with a little honey."
So before he gets to describing his socialist nirvana, Lennon first trains his caustic political commentary on the church:
Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
As a kid I sang along with most of the Beatles songs, but as an adult Christian I hold this song and similar sentiments anathema (in the New Testament sense of the word).

Still, I wonder how many nominal Christians will hear the song tonight — on TV or in person — and ignore this “sugarcoated” attack on their faith and (one would hope) their entire identity. And I often wonder why the Catholic League, Focus on the Family or some other group hasn’t complained about its use in a public setting — to me a more offensive choice than any moment of silence. (Apparently in 2005 the president of the Catholic League did complain in a TV interview about efforts to make Lennon’s prediction a reality.)

Christians here take their faith seriously, so perhaps there’s hope. Conversely, in May 2009 the Liverpool (Church of England) Cathedral allowed the song to be played on its church bells despite complaints that (as Lennon bragged) the song is anti-religious.

Words mean something — in TV ads, radio jingles, hymns, rap music and pop anthems. It seems that Christians have an obligation to consider all the words they come across in life and the culture, particularly when instructing their (and others’) children in how to live out a Christian life.

Update, June 29: According to a former aide, Lennon actually repudiated his former socialist ideals in the final years of his life and strongly: preferred Reagan over Carter:
"I also saw John embark in some really brutal arguments with my uncle, who's an old-time communist... He enjoyed really provoking my uncle... Maybe he was being provocative... but it was pretty obvious to me he had moved away from his earlier radicalism.

"He was a very different person back in 1979 and 80 than he'd been when he wrote Imagine. By 1979 he looked back on that guy and was embarrassed by that guy's naivete."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

An end to one Anglican tradition in San Diego

On Sunday, the parishioners of Holy Trinity (ACNA) in San Diego held their final Sunday worship service in the sanctuary (a half mile from the Pacific) that they have called home for six decades. Having surrendered their legal fight with the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego, on Thursday their rector will hand over the keys to the diocese.

A brief story ran last week in the neighborhood weekly, the Peninsula Beacon. On Wednesday, the San Diego Union-Tribune is running a major feature story on this, the last Schism II church in San Diego to surrender its building. (The next to last parish, St. Anne’s of Oceanside, gave up their property a year ago.)

Attending services on both Dec. 25 and 26 at Holy Trinity was very poignant for me, and not because this was the second time I witnessed an ACNA parish surrender their building to TEC. This one was more personal, because this is the parish that my father once attended.

At both services, Fr. Lawrence Bausch, SSC made reference to the move. The Christmas service emphasized Christ coming for our eternal salvation, and thus the need to focus beyond temporary and temporal concerns. The Christmas 1 sermon highlighted some of the history of the parish, which began worship at an Ocean Beach home on Trinity Sunday 1921. (A 95-year-old parishioner attended both the first service and Sunday’s final service in their longtime sanctuary.)

Despite the sadness, it was no surprise: this move has been a long time coming. Holy Trinity (along with St. Anne’s and a third parish in Fallbrook) was first sued in 2007. Other than St. James Newport Beach, I believe all the other California churches have given up on their fights against their respective dioceses. (TEC litigation against the Diocese of San Joaquin poses different legal issues.)

I’ve followed the Holy Trinity situation intermittently over the last three years. Last summer, the vestry and then an all parish meeting decided to abandon the legal appeals and hand over the building to the TEC. As I understand it, the expenditure was certain but the benefit highly uncertain, and at this point the church leaders decided that it was time to move on (both figuratively and literally).

Unlike in Oceanside, the diocese was in no hurry to get the building back. There is a very liberal parish, All Souls, less than two miles away. There is no rump “Episcopalian” membership of Holy Trinity — the entire parish is leaving lock, stock and barrel. Unlike the other disputed properties, the diocese does not even list Holy Trinity in its church finder. Plans to hold a Jan. 9 service as the nucleus of a new congregation seem unlikely to succeed. At the same time, the Union reports that the diocese wanted $2 million to sell the building and was unwilling to rent it to Holy Trinity.

Meanwhile, the “farewell to the building” service (with about 100 people present) was the most crowded I’ve seen since the litigation began. I only recognized a handful of people, in part because (as with elsewhere in California) people have been moving to lower cost locations as the economy has soured.

As the Union article notes, the Holy Trinity faithful are moving (literally) next door to the sanctuary of a much larger LCMS parish, Bethany Lutheran. Sunday’s service concluded at Bethany with a joint prayer between Father Bausch and Pastor Steven Duescher. The combined congregations sang “The Church’s One Foundation” from the Lutheran Service Book (words by Samuel Stone, tune by S.S. Wesley).

However, in the shared space, Holy Trinity will have a less than desirable Sunday worship time: 8:00, before the home parish (10:30), Immanuel Korean Church (12:30), and a non-denominational church (5:00). The facilities (especially parking) are spacious, but the time will be a challenge over the long haul.

Fr. Bausch was called to Holy Trinity in 1979, and he fits the parish so well that it’s hard to imagine the parish with anyone else. How many Episcopal (let alone Anglican) priests are regular surfers? However, his position at Holy Trinity is perhaps a fluke, since in 1979 he was also being considered at another Anglo-Catholic parish in the diocese, St. Michael’s of Carlsbad. The rector called to St. Michael’s in 1979 retired in 1995, and his replacement was forced out earlier this year by the Bishop of San Diego. Once the largest Anglo-Catholic parish in the diocese, St. Michael’s is now destined to become a bastion of high church progressives as its Anglo-Catholic members have formed a new ACA parish, St. Augustine of Canterbury.

In some ways, however, the San Diego ACNA parishes — even without permanent facilities — seem on a more sound foundation than much of ACNA — perhaps due to the mutual support that they provide to each other. Five San Diego area parishes are among 19 in the Diocese of Western Anglicans. These five in San Diego County (population 3 million) contrast with three in Los Angeles County (population 9 million). In part, this seems a testimony to two doctrinally sound (and one decent) bishops who preceded James Mathes, keeping them in the ECUSA longer than most of the West Coast — whereas L.A. and Bay Area are home to many Schism I parishes (ACA and APCK, respectively) that formed decades due to local heresies by people like Jim Pike.

Still, any parish without a building has a long row to hoe. Holy Trinity starts with their 1928 BCP (which the diocese had no use for) but will need to rebuild most of the other assets it had accumulated over the past 90 years.

Update: Photos taken during and after Dec. 26 worship service.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Grinch who ruined Advent

In eight hours, it will be Christmas Day. While the gift giving and receiving no longer provide the excitement of my youth, I do very much enjoy the chance to listen to (and sometimes sing) my favorite hymns of the year. Normally on Black Friday, I load up my 471 Christmas songs on my iPod and play them through the month of December.

But this year, Baptist-turned-Episcopalian-turned-Orthodox pedant Terry Mattingly (of GR and TMatt fame) has been on a tear to ban Christmas carols before December 25. If we were in a Antiochian Orthodox theocracy (fat chance), none would be allowed on the radio, malls or churches before 12:01am tomorrow morning.

It’s been part of his nonstop campaign this month to convince reporters to adopt his typology of American holiday observance: “The Holidays” (the politically correct aversion to the "C" word) vs. “Christmas” (the fat guy in the red suit) vs. "the Nativity of our Lord” (guess which one he thinks is genuine.) He posted on this theme on Dec. 7, Dec. 14 and Dec. 23 on GetReligion, and Dec. 13 on his personal website.

On one level, I see his point. I don’t think that Christmas carols should be sung on Sunday morning in church, when we observe the season of Advent. (And, in fact, made sure this was the policy at our church.) They are two different liturgical seasons for Anglicans, the readings are different, the theology is different — and we have a great selection of historic Advent hymns to choose from.

I could certainly endorse his 2009 column in which he called for keeping the two seasons distinct: the preparation for the coming (or second coming) of our Lord is different from the celebration of it. He quoted from an essay by a Baptist preacher and seminary professor:
Advent … comes to us from a Latin term that means ‘toward the coming.’ The purpose of this season was to look toward the coming of Christ to earth; it was a season that focused on waiting. As early as the 4th century A.D., Christians fasted during this season.
However, I disagree with his current jiihad against premature Christmas revelry, on points both big and small.

The smallest point is on use of carols on Dec. 24. Yes, it’s not Christmas until 12:01am, and for years (centuries?) Christians observed a Christmas vigil to take communion after midnight. When I was newly married and in the choir, I went to the midnight mass and enjoyed it greatly. However, my new bride tried it once and concluded that she couldn't stay up that late and function the next morning.

I believe drawing from Jewish tradition, many Christian feasts are observed after sundown the night before. Most Anglican churches I know jump the gun by a few hours with a family Christmas Eve service around 4 or 5 p.m. Is it so doctrinally wrong to sing these carols two (or eight) hours early to accomodate the realities of young children and their sleep schedule.

TMatt also blasts the habit of Lessons and Carols to be performed on some Sunday in Advent, rather than during the 12 days of Christmas. What planet has he been on? I know that the December date has been the norm among Episcopalians for more then 40 years — since I sang at several such services as a choirboy. And I’d be willing to wager $100 that I could find such services during Advent in 19th century England, even during the height of the Oxford Movement.

But let’s set that aside and come to the real point: take your hands off my iPod — particularly the 228 of the 471 songs that celebrate Baby Jesus. (Or, if you prefer, “The Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” as TMatt calls it.)

The exigencies of work are such that for more than a decade, I have frequently been out business travel the week before Christmas, up until Dec. 23 or even Dec. 24. One year on Dec. 24, I attended a Sunday morning Anglican service in Yokohama and then the Christmas Eve service at home in California. Christmas music — particularly the sacred kind — is how I prepare myself for the observance of the Christmas season.

Choirs sing Christmas songs in November or even earlier to practice their parts. Why not allow amateur hymn-lovers to remind themselves of the forgotten lyrics of verses 4 and 5 so they’ll be ready for Christmas morn?

Finally, let’s not forget the big picture: the point of Christmas carols — like any other hymns or sacred music — is to communicate and reinforce the faith. In an increasingly secular world, more time spent singing Christmas carols can’t be a bad thing, particularly with the generations growing up (unlike I did) in a world when schools and malls and radio stations no longer sing about the Christ in Christmas.

I was proud to hear my youngest explain to us today: “Christmas isn’t about the presents. It’s about the birth of Jesus.” After remarking on the role of music in celebrating His birth — and how the Christmas carols are her favorite church music of the year — she concluded: “You get to sing amazing music.” I’d say that carols such as The First Noël and Hark the Herald Angels Sing are doing a pretty good job of what the composer and lyricists intended, of preserving the faith across the generations.

As it turns out, we no longer attend service on Christmas Eve: the competing family celebrations make it impractical to get away, even at 4pm. So as we have for the past four or five years, tomorrow morning at 10am we’ll be in church singing our favorite hymns, at a time authorized by Metropolitan Mattingly.

But for the rest of you, enjoy your Christmas hymns today — on the radio, in your car, and of course in church this evening.

Joy to the world! The Lord is come!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lo he comes

We went to two Advent 4 services this morning — one our regular service, one a baptism at another. This is the last of the four weeks where we anticipating the coming of our Savior: the next time we’re in church (either Friday night or Saturday morning), it will be the Christmas season.

The two parishes are Continuing Anglicans and within driving distance of each other. Otherwise, there’s not a lot in common: one was H40 and 28 BCP, the other H82 and 79 ASB.

But the one thing they had in common was two hymns about Jesus’ coming: “O come, O come Emmanuel” (H40: 2, H82: 56) and “Lo, he comes with clouds descending” (H40: 5; H82: 57/58.) By my count, these are two of the seven hymns that form the canon of Advent — the accepted Anglican Advent hymns of the past century.

While I’ve written about Veni Emmanuel, the Charles Wesley hymn I think is underappreciated and worth further mention. (Interestingly, Hymnal 1940 Companion lists it as an Advent 2 hymn, but neither of us got it “right.”)

The 18th century text has two 18th century tunes: St. Thomas and Hemsley, and each parish chose a different tune to end their respective services. The former is the one I grew up hearing as a child in ECUSA parishes, and the voice leading makes it pretty straightforward to sing. (Episcopalian refugees today at the early service also seemed to recognize the tune.) H40 companion says it’s attributed to John F. Wade, from the same manuscript as Wade’s Adeste Fidelis.

I find Hemsley (by Thomas Olivers) intriguing, but more than a little challenging. The choir at the 2nd service was strong enough to carry us, but I think it would have been beyond our abilities at the 1st service with a much weaker choir.

So the Wesley words are a worthy conclusion to Advent in either form, with the choice of melody depending more on musical ability than musical merit.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Halfway through Advent Year A

At church I’ve been helping to pick hymns for Advent, which somewhat makes sense since the music leaders are not Episcopalian or Anglican but also is a bit odd given we use Hymnal 1982, for which my feelings are well-advertised. (And no, this blog does not solely exist to knock H82.)

It’s also a little confusing because Hymnal 1940 has a built-in lectionary guide for hymns but ECUSA decided to make a buck selling ancillary products to achieve the same goal in H82. (Reviews of those products some other time.) Plus the 1979 prayer book has its lectionary and so the H82 guides are tied to that lectionary, but our Schism II parish is using the RCL which is slightly different.

Still, it’s a lot of fun to apply what little I know about hymns to weekly worship and I got many positive comments today from the hymn-lovers among our fellow parishioners. (In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.)

In trying to come up with four hymns each week — matched to three readings and a Psalm for each of four Sundays — it’s been a mixed bag. Sometimes the text is really really clear; in some cases, a hymn guide makes a linkage that I don’t see (but I used the hymn anyway); and in some cases, there’s no obvious linkage so the hymns all tie to one of the other readings.

I started by keeping out Christmas hymns and making sure the best Advent hymns got scheduled. I started from my list last year of the most consistently popular Advent hymns. I supplemented this with a very good (i.e. I agree with it) overview of the best Advent hymns in H82, from Full Homely Divinity (which like this blog seems to anonymously posted by a virtual online ministry.)

There is also the online cross-reference for choosing H82 hymns at the website of Dr. Shirley, using a lectionary cross-reference by Charles Wohlers and Rev. Richard Losch. The Isaiah readings were particularly difficult without this list.

One problem common to any season is that some hymns can be used at any time, not necessarily for a given Sunday. At least half of the hymns from my greatest hits list are of the “the Messiah is coming” variety which of course is the whole theme of Advent. Some hymns (or readings) may focus on the specific Baby Jesus aspect, or on Mary or on his second coming.

So some of what I did was organize the H82 hymns from a H40 sensibility. (This is after all our Rite I service, many of whom used the H40 for years.) At any parish that I’m at, I’m going to pick/lobby for the first hymn of the first week of the church year to be Hymn #1 from H40 (H82 #66): “Come, thou long-expected Jesus.” It’s appropriate to be sung at any time during Advent, but both by convention and its bright nature, it provides a strong (and reassuring) signal about our focus this time of year.

Conversely, it’s hard to pick the right time for Veni Emmanuel (H40 #2, H82 #56) because it fits so well through out the season. At least one friend joked that if I had my way we’d do it every week which is not far from the truth. This year, however, I advised using it to bracket the last Gospel of Advent in the RCL Year A (Matthew 1:18-25), the story of the angel visiting Joseph. In particular, verses 21-23:
21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us).
(With a better choir, we’d use recitative and air from the Messiah.)

The other theme that comes up throughout the season — but particularly on Advent 2 — is John the Baptist. There are several hymns that talk about John, but the mandatory one is “On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry” (H40 #10, H82 #76) which fortunately is both familiar and easy to sing.

At times the choices were highly idiosyncratic. For Advent 3, both Isaiah 35:1-10 and Matthew 11:2-11 make explicit reference to opening the eyes of the blind.  To me, this suggested six words of “Amazing Grace” (“was blind, but now I see”) which seemed like a good enough excuse to lay on four verses of this congregation favorite.

Alas, a bridge too far this morning was to program Sleepers Wake (H40 #3; H82 #61). The Philip Nicolai tune is long and difficult and I don’t think it’s familiar to American Anglicans. I don’t recall hearing it as a kid, so I think I may have mistakenly classified it as familiar from my brief sojourn as an LCMS Lutheran (where it is much beloved). This is a very challenging hymn, and of the four Anglican (3 continuing, 1 TEC) congregations I have most often attended over the past five years, I’m not sure any of them could do it without a strong well-practiced choir.

I also learned that if there’s a three verse limit — four for the sequence hymn — that verses should be consciously chosen for each hymn. For “Creator of the stars of night” (H40: 6; H82: #60) — the John Mason Neale translation of the 1st millennial text — I picked the first verse and the last two. The final verse is a trinitarian ending that I didn’t want to omit, but frankly I thought the penultimate verse (of the H82-altered text) was the most germane to Advent:
Creator of the stars of night,
Your people’s everlasting light,
O Christ, Redeemer, save us all,
We pray you hear us when we call.

Come in your holy might, we pray,
redeem us for eternal day;
defend us while we dwell below
from all assaults of our dread foe.

To God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Spirit, Three in One,
praise, honor, might, and glory be
from age to age eternally.
Now that I move from the theoretical to the practical, there are at least four dimensions for choosing a hymn:
  • Fit to the readings
  • Importance of the hymn (historically, musically, etc.)
  • Inherent singability
  • Site-specific singability, i.e. familiarity to this congregation
We’ll use these criteria next year for Advent, and will probably apply them next month when we re-open the Sanctus selection.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Episcopalians for H40

In looking for Advent hymns, I found a couple of unexpected tributes to my favorite hymnal in the blog of a TEC priest. Not a cradle Episcopalian, Fr. Daniel Martins notes the role that Hymnal 1940 played in his selecting ECUSA:
I became an Episcopalian in the early 1970s, and a semi-mystical experience with the Hymnal 1940 in a piano practice room at Westmont College played a big role in setting me on that path. I was so moved that I thought to myself, “Where have these hymns been all my life? If there’s a church that actually sings them, I need to be in it.” And so I am.
The first hymn he highlights is Hymn 451, which begins “Lord, forever at thy side Let my place and portion be; Strip me of the robe of pride, Clothe me with humility.”

In a subsequent posting, he talks about Hymn #438 (“Jesus, gentlest Savior, God of might and power”) by Anglican Catholic lyricist F.W. Faber. As it turns out, he has many posting on Hymnal 1940 across the years of his blog. It appears as though he’s a learned man of Anglo-Catholic tastes. The comments on his H40 postings seem to come from a mix of TEC and post-TEC Anglicans.

As it turns out, Fr. Martins is actually Bishop-elect Martins, 11th Bishop of Springfield — assuming he gets the necessary consents. Apparently having worked in San Joaquin has convinced some TEC leftists that he’s a closet schismatic, even thought the liberal faction of his new diocese takes him at his word that he won’t try (nor could he) take the diocese out of TEC.

There are certainly others like Fr. Martins. A few of my friends have stayed in the TEC; they haven’t changed what they believe, but don’t (as I do) think it’s a problem that the PB and the majority of the HOD and HOB key elements of the traditional faith. Or their institutional loyalty (or aversion to schism) outweighs any doctrinal differences with the majority faction.

I wonder if there will be a bridge for liturgy between Schism I, II and TEC near-traditionalists. The obvious stumbling block is gender-neutered language, supported by the high church faction of TEC and many in ACNA and adamantly opposed by the BCP28 Schism I. Still, I could see sharing hymns between us — although by definition, a BCP28 traditionalist isn’t going to be composing a lot of new hymns.

It may be that those of us who are theologically doctrinaire Anglo-Catholics will cooperate with those we left behind in TEC in South Carolina and a few other dioceses. Or perhaps when (if) Hymnal 1940 goes out of print, it will be up to a Schism I group to keep it alive forever as the politically incorrect language becomes anathema to TEC, even if it can make a buck from it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sing to the Lord a new psalm

Once upon a time, choirs would chant the psalms every Sunday morning. (We could always tell whether or not choir practice was rushed by whether the choir agreed on when to leave the common tone for the closing pattern of each verse.)

I don’t know how many churches currently do so, but there is now a project by a Texas-based Catholic nonprofit to compile various settings for Psalms for each of the three years of the RCL. (28 Prayer Book parishes need not apply.) The material is made available free via a Creative Commons license.

The content is at, while the project is described at the website of Corpus Christi Watershed and also a posting at the First Thing Evangel blog. The project explains its project in Jan 2010 a commentary published in Homiletic & Pastoral Review.

I haven’t had a chance to go over the settings with the piano, but my impression is that they are mainly (or) entirely newer settings since the website highlights their contemporary composers. Four are in honor of historic Catholic leaders — including Thomas Aquinas — but no provenance is given with the settings.

Perhaps more interesting are the resources on Gregorian Chant, including a historical essay on accompanying the chant by resident composer Jeff Ostrowski and free copies of Nova Organi Harmonia (a 1940s compilation and harmonization of Gregorian Chant).

Overall, there is a wealth of material at the Chabanel/CC Watershed websites which certainly bear further investigation.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Name that Sanctus!

Last week, the organist wanted to pick a new Sanctus and so did a run through with interested members of the congregation. I knew most of them and so sang them (from memory — not sight-reading) so the others could get an idea.

The constraint was that it should be Rite I and from Hymnal 1982. We’d been singing the Proulx (S125) but people noticed that the Rite II words didn’t match the rest of the Rite I service (including what we say for the Sanctus if there’s a substitute organist.)

For our church efforts and this blog, I decided to do a Sanctus inventory, spending a few hours flipping through the back of H40 (both the 1943 and 1981 editions), the front of H82 and various other sources.

As is the custom in most American Anglican (or TEC) parishes nowadays, we use the combined Sanctus/Benedictus (“Blessed is He”) rather than ending on “O Lord Most High” as was the norm 40-70 years ago, when I was growing up and when Hymnal 1940 was produced. In fact, it wasn’t until the Supplement II edition of H40 (1981) that my favorite hymnal got the longer version of the Sanctus.

I’ve been accused of being biased against H82 (I’d rather think of it as it as a fair assessment of its strengths/weaknesses) but the reality that a) even more than for hymn melodies, service music chants are a matter of personal taste and b) both hymnals have included some dubious choices, where you say “why did they do that?”

In fact, it appears that one of the main reasons for a new hymnal nowadays is for the hymnal editors to put their friends’ (or personal favorite) hymns into the book and perhaps generate some royalties. There is evidence of this not just in H82 but also for H40 and the Lutheran Service Book.

To be fair, Hymnal 1982 has a disadvantage that to my knowledge no previous hymnal ever faced: the church couldn’t decide on a common liturgy, so there are separate settings for each of the two variant rites. (In a stroke of remarkable bad timing, the 2006 LSB went with the unfortunate “Also with you” just before the CCT and RCC (partly) corrected this error by switching to “And with your spirit.”)

The upshot:
  • The original H40 has seven settings of the Sanctus: four complete communion services (Merbecke, Willan, Oldroyd and the Douglas/medieval plainsong settings) as well as three additional settings of the Sanctus alone. The Supplement I (1961) adds four more complete settings: Sowerby, Bodine, Waters, Shaw. Overall, this means 11 settings of the Sanctus, plus (after 1981) a Sanctus/Benedictus version of the 8 primary communion services.
  • H82 offers five Rite I settings (S113-S117). It reprints (with tinkering) the three most widely used (and IMHO best) settings (Merbecke, Willan, Douglas) for Rite I, supplemented by two others: one from the C.W. Douglas Missa de Angelis and one that James McGregor claims to have adapted from a 16th century mass by Hans Leo Haßler.
  • In H82, these five Rite I settings are joined by (count ’em) 11 Rite II settings (S121-S131). (Does this perhaps hint where the hymnal committee’s priorites lay?) Among them are late 20th century settings by McGregor, Proulx, Martens and Hurd — names that show up repeatedly in the S-section of the book.
In our singoff at church, the Willan was very familiar and was briefly the favorite. This was the one I sang every week as a boy soprano in the pro-cathedral choir. Despite my medievalist biases, I think it has earned popularity far beyond mere familiarity. Willan is North America’s greatest Anglican composer and (after Vaughan Williams) probably the most important 20th century composer of Anglican church music. The one gripe (again legitimate) is that it requires a wide range that would be easier for the choir than the congregation.

One that was also familiar was the Merbecke from The Book of Common Praier Noted (1550), the first English language setting of the mass. Unlike the 1662 prayer book — or the 1928 where it was optional — the first Anglican Sanctus included the Benedictus, matching the words of the original 1549 BCP:
Holy, holy, holy, Lorde God of Hostes: heaven (& earth) are full of thy glory: Osanna, in the highest. Blessed is he that commeth in the name of the Lorde: Glory to thee, O lorde in the highest.
The Merbecke is a great choice, but our rector veto’d it as too somber for all but the penitential season, which he defines as including Lent but excluding Advent.

So we probably would have gone with the Willan until a new parishioner chimed in “What about the Schubert?” I had to admit she had a point. During my Lutheran days, I’d previously sung the English translation of the Sanctus with the setting from his 1827 Deutsche Messe (D.872). Unlike most service music (notable exception: the Scottish Gloria), it has a beautiful and singable harmony — of great personal concern now that I’m decades removed from my boy soprano days.

As with a lot of other Romantic era compositions, the piece a tendency to be sappy but I think our organist will avoid that. Listening German and English versions available on YouTube, the two are quite different. The German original is very slow (literally Sehr langsam, 3/4 with 50 bpm) which wouldn’t be sappy but would probably be too slow for weekly worship use.

The other problem for us is that Schubert is published by H82 (S130) as part of the 11 Rite II majority rather than the 5 Rite I minority. The H82 words are the Rite II favorite:
Holy, holy, holy Lord
God of power and might
Heaven and earth are full of your glory
Hosanna in the highest, Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord
Hosanna in the highest, Hosanna in the highest.
Taking the German
Heilig, heilig, heilig, heilig ist der Herr!
Heilig, heilig, heilig, heilig ist nur Er!
Er, der nie begonnen,
Er, der immer war;
Ewig ist und waltet, sein wird immer dar
Allmacht, Wunder, Liebe, Alles rings umher!
from Yahoo and other sources it appears that a more accurate translation would be:
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord!
Holy, holy, holy is He alone!
He, who always was
Is eternal and reigns, and will be forever.
Eternal, and prevails, will be accessible is
Omnipotent, miraculous, love all around!
So no “Power and Might.” But then the Luther text used by Schubert is not the same as the English translation of the Latin.

The words and music were adapted by Richard Proulx, who is described by his Facebook group as follows:
Richard Proulx (1937-2010) was a widely published composer of more than 300 works, including congregational music in every form, sacred and secular choral works, song cycles, two operas, and instrumental and organ music. He served as a consultant for such denominational church hymnals as The Hymnal 1982 (Episcopal Church), New Yale Hymnal, the Methodist Hymnal, Worship II & III, (Roman Catholic Church), and has contributions in the Mennonite Hymnal and the Presbyterian Hymnal. Proulx was a member of The Standing Commission on Church Music of the Episcopal Church and was a founding member of The Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians. 
On the one hand, Proulx had a front row seat to get his music into H82. On the other hand, he seems to be solely responsible for taking the Sehr Langsam Sanctus in German and adapting it for congregational singing in English. Another hymnal lists it as 1985 — the same copyright date as on p. 930 of H82 — while an entire arrangement of the mass by Proulx was published in 1989.

So we have a piece out of copyright for more than a century, with a new arrangement that includes a non-literal translation. It appears there is only one version of this arrangement that uses the Rite II rather than the original BCP words. (Too bad the question didn’t come up before he died in February, or we could have emailed him.)

The Rite II words, derived from the ICEL texts, are now considered obsolete by the Catholic church. Instead, consistent with the other liturgy changes, English speaking Catholics will soon revert to Cranmer’s original 1549 words stripped of the thees and thous:
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
I’ll be curious to see if the AMiA, ACNA and of course TEC will adopt the more accurate text, and thus bring along the service music with it. One distinct advantage is that the Rite I/II then become a syllable-for-syllable equivalent and thus could use identical settings.

If he were alive, we know that Proulx — as the former organist of the Catholic cathedral in Chicago — would have updated his Sanctus for the Vatican-approved text. One eulogy called him “one of the last great composers within the Catholic milieu who came of age in a time before commercial-style pop music came to dominant American parishes” while another called him “the leading champion of traditional Catholic church music post–Vatican II.” He sounds almost like a 20th century John Mason Neale.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Ephemeral Orthodox worship

As an Anglo-Catholic, when I thought of Catholic worship I thought of Latin, profound reverence, bells & smells. These guys (and they’re all guys) still hold to tradition with a capital T as part of a strong central authority and a continuous line back almost 2,000 years.

Alas, I found out that since Vatican II, American Catholics are almost as likely to have a sappy praise band as the average liberal Protestant denomination, and only slightly less likely than the average nondenom evangelical church. In fact, when flipping channels in my car radio to EWTN last month, I heard the same sappy CCM praise hymn that I recognized from my rare (but sometimes unavoidable) visits to Evangelical Rite II Anglican services. Yes, Pope Benedict hopes to restore some sanity to the RCC, but I think even his goals are modest.

Well, I thought, at least there’s the Orthodox. Ever since defecting from Anglicanism to swim the Bosphorus, JLeebcd has been signing the praises (sometimes literally) of his new denomination — while attacking the contradictions of his former denomination with the vengeance of a true convert. To listen to Mr. Leebcd, the Orthodox faith was Paradise Found, the one True Church preserving the historic traditional liturgy.

One of the links he’s been sending me has been to Ancient Faith Radio — chief propaganda ministry for the Antiochian Orthodox Church, sort of an online-only version of EWTN (or Issues Etc.). Perhaps the most prominent discussion of hymns and liturgy at the site are the podcasts of Father John Finley in a series called “Singing the Triumphal Hymn.” I checked out a few podcasts before realizing that the AOC is also afflicted with the CCM disease.

The autobiographical series traces the journey of Fr. Finley from his childhood and college upbringing as an Oklahoma Baptist to the AOC by way of the Antiochian Evangelical Orthodox Mission. His podcast biography says that he is “with the Missions and Evangelism Department of the Antiochian Archdiocese,” but doesn’t say what authority or role he wields.

In particular, I learned the most about Fr. Finley (if not the AOC) from his initial podcast in November 2008 entitled “Music to My Ears,” apparently reading from a 2003 article he wrote for Again Magazine, a defunct publication from Concillar Press.

After talking about his various praise compositions — first for evangelicals and then for the AEOM and AOC — about four minutes before the end Fr. Finley explicitly stated his thesis demanding contemporary hymns tied to the contemporary culture:
Whenever the subject of changing or modifying or developing the music is discussed, it seems that someone will always say. “We’re Orthodox, we don't change.”

Then I can certainly understand this statement when spoken in reference to the canon of the Holy Scriptures, the creeds, the doctrines of the faith, the structure of the services, and so on. But when we consider church art, this attitude relegates the artist — whether a musician or an icongrapher or an architect — to the role of scribe.
He argued it was essential for the church to encourage artists to continually develop new forms of expressing devotion through these arts:
The only alternative is to stagnate in the preservation of what might be called “museum quality music,” reducing the church's artistic relevance in society to that of a curator.
This candid egocentrism is appalling on so many level: the urgency of continually messing with the liturgy — as witnessed by the many faithful — is driven by the need for self-expression by a handful of self-nominated (or politically connected) artists.

I certainly agree with one part — the stuff that’s survived for centuries is “museum quality” and the stuff from the last 20 years is not. Fr. Finley sang some of his music and the most charitable thing that could be said is that it’s good for American Orthodox praise music. Unlike Sister Toolan’s greatest hit, I don’t think these 20th century contributions will survive (except in archives) into the 22nd century.

It’s ironic that the AOC (like JLeebcd) proclaim their message as one of “Ancient Faith,” while the American Orthodox church suffers from the same desire to chase the contemporary culture as their Roman brethren. To quote my comments on contemporary Catholic worship 19 months ago on this blog:
But, overall, the hymn choices seemed to alternate between lounge singer and bad campfire music. So not timeless (as in the centuries of Catholic heritage), not chosen from the best of the past 50 years of modern Christian music, and not even the sort of professionally composed CCM that might be heard on a praise music radio station.
(I was inspired to reuse this earlier passage by the praise of Vicar Josh Osbun.)

Pop Goes Religion: Faith in Popular CultureTo respond to Fr. Finley (Baptist to Orthodox) and Mr. Leebcd (Episcopalian to Orthodox), I pull out my trump card — religion writer Terry Mattingly — who is Baptist-to-Episcopalian-to-Orthodox (AOC). He has frequently criticized the efforts by Christians to chase the culture, first with his book Pop Goes Religion and then with various appearances on the Issues Etc. (Lutheran) radio show. Like me, he strongly favors timeless hymns rather than the transient and contemporary ephemera of modern praise music.

Let me close with two quotes from his Issues Etc. interviews:
How many of us will be singing songs that our parents and grandparents sang? (March 19, 2006)
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. (Nov. 11, 2007)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Reformation Day!

As a child, I used to love the hymns of All Saints’ Day. So imagine my surprise during my first fall at our local LCMS parish, when I found that taking priority over All Saints’ Day every year was Reformation Day, commemorating Oct. 31, 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door.

Oddly, the Lutheran Service Book (the 2006 LCMS hymnal) lists only four hymns for the occasion. Not surprisingly, one is Martin Luther’s greatest hit, Ein Feste Burg, presented in both the 1941 (The Lutheran Hymnal) metric familiar to LCMS German-Americans and a rhythm that sounds more normal to my ex-ECUSA ears. [Correction] Thanks to the translation by F.H. Hedge, it appears in all the American and English hymnals, and so American Christians (if there are any left) will be singing Luther’s 1529 hymn on its sexcentennial if not its septcentennial or millennial anniversary.

Two others in the LSB list I’d never heard of: “God’s Word is our great heritage” and “O little flock, fear not the foe.” (The latter is a Winkworth translation of a lyric by Johann Altenburg).

The fourth was a Winkworth translation of a Luther hymn, in this case the 1541 “Er halt uns, Herr, bei dein em Wort.” The CyberHymnal reports the three verses as:
Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word;
Curb those who fain by craft and sword
Would wrest the kingdom from Thy Son
And set at naught all He hath done.

Lord Jesus Christ, Thy pow’r make known,
For Thou art Lord of lords alone;
Defend Thy Christendom that we
May evermore sing praise to Thee.

O Comforter of priceless worth,
Send peace and unity on earth.
Support us in our final strife
And lead us out of death to life.
As far as I can tell, it’s not in either of H40 or H82. says it appears in the 1977 and 1999 editions of the Australian Anglican hymnal, but nowhere else among the many Anglican hymnals that it indexes.

The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) has 12 hymns rather than 4 for Reformation, including the three aforementioned Winkworth translation of German hymns. But what really caught my eye was another Winkworth translation — listed as “O Lord, Our Father, shall we be confounded” (#269) but originally written by Winkworth as “Ah! Lord our God, let them not be confounded.”

The original words were written by Johann Heermann in 1630. No matter what the words, the bonus for this hymn is the use of the 1640 tune Herzliebster Jesu by Johann Crüger. Singing Crüger is one of the things I miss most from my Lutheran period.

The CyberHymnal reports the TLH words for the five verses:
O Lord, our Father, shall we be confounded
Who, though by trials and woes surrounded,
On Thee alone for help are still relying,
To Thee are crying?

Lord, put to shame Thy foes who breathe defiance
And vainly make their might their sole reliance;
In mercy turn to us, the poor and stricken,
Our hope to quicken.

Be Thou our Helper and our strong Defender;
Speak to our foes and cause them to surrender.
Yea, long before their plans have been completed,
They are defeated.

’Tis vain to trust in man; for Thou, Lord, only
Art the Defense and Comfort of the lonely.
With Thee to lead, the battle shall be glorious
And we victorious.

Thou art our Hero, all our foes subduing;
Save Thou Thy little flock they are pursuing.
We seek Thy help; for Jesus’ sake be near us.
Great Helper, hear us!
I could not find the hymn reported in Oremus using Google or its Catherine Winkworth index, suggesting that it may not be used by Anglicans anywhere. It’s too bad — not just because of the doctrinal content, but because the Crüger tune should be easy for most congregations to sing.

So if I’m asked to contribute to the New Anglican Hymnal, this timeless hymn is going to join Ein Feste Burg as part of the canon of borrowed Lutheran hymns.

Friday, October 29, 2010

One was a solider and one was a priest…

As a child, my favorite hymn of the fall season was the quintessential All Saints hymn, “For all the saints.” However, a close second was the other All Saints hymn “I sing a song of the saints of God,” which has a particular resonance with children ages 4-100.

The only hymnal I knew was Hymnal 1940, which lists a total of seven All Saints hymns (two with alternate tunes). In addition to these seven hymns (#126-130), H40 also recommends a list of 12 “also the following hymns.” In the latter list is “I sing a song of the saints of God” (H40 #243), which is officially listed among the “Hymns for Children”. In H82 (#293), it’s listed under multiple Holy Days (both saints’ days and All Saints).

As a child, I was captivated by the words that Lesbia Locket Scott (1898-1986) wrote in the 1920s. Decades later, the end of the 2nd stanza remains committed to heart:
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
and one was slain by a fierce wild beast;
and there's not any reason, no, not the least,
why I shouldn't be one too.
In fact, it was such a vivid part of my childhood that this was one of the three hymns we (successfully) requested from H40 for the baptism of our first child.

The tune, Grand Isle, was written by John Henry Hopkins (1891-1945) to match Mrs. Scott’s words in 1940, so that the poem could become a hymn for Hymnal 1940. It’s a very easy tune to sing, and is particularly catchy in building up to the conclusion of each of the three stanzas.

Apparently I’m not the only one who found it catchy. In the COE, it’s mentioned by a calendar of the Diocese of Ely. The song has been blogged by Episcopalians like the Redhead Editor, and the God’s Friends newsletter. ECUSA has even turned it into a children’s book, to add to the profits of the Church Pension Fund.

However, I don’t want that to detract from the effectiveness of this song for children’s ministry. I don’t think Mrs. Scott (or Mr. Hopkins) could have anticipated what The Episcopal Church would become in the 21st century.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

For All the Saints

As a child, my second favorite floating church holiday (after Christmas) was All Saints’ Day. Today, I might put Ash Wednesday ahead of that, but not Epiphany. Good Friday and Ascension, alas, aren’t much of day for hymn singing.
Hymnal 1940 had such wonderful hymns for the occasion that the Sunday closest to Nov. 1 was definitely the high point of low season. But when we were church shopping decades later, there was one particular hymn from our childhood that my wife would ask me to check to see if it was being sung — to determine which parish we would attend for the Sunday closest to Nov. 1. This is the same hymn that Dr. Ian Bradley introduces calls “a magnificent processional song of triumph rejoicing in the communion of saints” in his 2006 Book of Hymns.

That hymn is “For all the saints,” #126 (1st tune) in Hymnal 1940. H40 offers eight of the 11 verses of William W. How’s 19th century text. These are the same eight verses found in in The English Hymnal, which offers three different tunes: Sine Nomine, Sarum, and Luccombe. On this side of the pond, the PECUSA Hymnal 1916 only had the second tune (H16 #295), but the editors of Hymnal 1940 decided to carry both Sine Nomine and Sarum.

Like most Anglican households, the only tune we sing for these words is Sine Nomine written by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1906 for TEH in his role as TEH music editor. Indeed, this is the only tune that was carried forward to New English Hymnal (#197) and Hymnal 1982 (#287).

I’ve previously called this Ralph Vaughan Williams’ greatest hit (at least for church music), and justifiable so. Searching my bookcase, the eight verses and RVW tune are also found in three LCMS hymnals, The Lutheran Hymnal (#463) Lutheran Worship (#191) and Lutheran Service Book (#677). The same words and tune are also in The Presbyterian Hymnal (1990, H #526) and even the 1975 Baptist Hymnal (#144).

But when TEH came out in 1906 the tune was new so the hymnal helpfully explains: “Suitable or use in procession.” Alas, processionals seem to have fallen out of favor, or RVW would be known to many Anglicans as the author of two great church marching tunes — the other being that Easter/Ascension/Pentecost favorite, Salve Festa Dies.

Bradley helpfully notes how How’s words were originally sung to another tune (called For All the Saints) written for it in 1869 by Joseph Barnby. This is apparently the same tune called Sarum in the 1906, 1916 and 1940 hymnals. Bradley concludes that the RVH tune “is now almost universally used.”

In the original version, the TEH music editor arranged the eight verses into 3 unison, 3 harmony and then 2 unison. H40, H82, LW and NEH, are faithful to this arrangement, while the LSB would certainly allow it but is typeset in a way that does not make the unison verses obvious.

Correction, Oct. 30: As it likes to do, Hymnal 1982 drops the accompanying parts from the pew edition (presumably to sell the accompaniment edition, available for 4x as much.) However, the vocal parts are available for verses 5 and 6, as in the other editions. (Thanks to Raving Revisionist” for pointing out my error in the original version of this posting.)

The editors of H82 also resisted the temptation to bowdlerize the lyrics. Even if H82 is not my favorite hymnal, the missing accompaniment is my only complaint for the RVW classic.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Doctrine matters

Recently I had a new visitor to my blog, Pastor “Amberg,”† who suggested additional hymns for my list of recommended Advent hymns. Like fellow LCMS clergyman Josh Osbun, Pastor Amberg has his own blog. (Vicar Osbun, alas, has suspended blogging after the birth of his stillborn son.)

Pastor Amberg’s blog, Lutheran Hymn Revival, quotes Ambrose and Fortunatus (among others) in the sidebar: this is my kind of Lutheran, so I subscribed immediately.

Browsing recent posts to the blog, I was drawn to one entitled “Purity of Doctrine”. Some relevant excerpts:
The praise of the Bible is always talking about what God has done for poor sinners and when the psalmist does speak of his reaction to God, it is always for a didactic reason (e.g., Psalm 139:14,ff)

The praise of pop Christian culture rarely mentions the forgiveness of sins and often speaks of our (insert incredible adjective) reaction to how (insert awesome adjective) God is.  The author of "In Christ Alone", the best contemporary song I've heard, makes similar remarks in an interview.

And so I don't think we should be perfectly fine with Lutheran churches looking for worship songs from sects that deny that Christ wants to give the forgiveness of sins in His Supper and in Baptism, the very foundation for the Christian life.  This is not a matter of music.  This is a matter of identity.  The pure Word of God defines who we are. Wouldn't it be unwise at the very least and sinful at the worst to throw out rashly hundreds of years of time-tested music and words for the sake of satisfying the capricious musical cravings of a spoiled- (I pray not completely) rotten, entertainment-driven generation?  If I were to ask my 3 year-old what he wants to eat, he would choose chocolate cake every day.  This generation would choose over-emotionalized sweets.  But who has the real love to refuse them these sweets and give them the nourishment they need?  And we wonder why they never grow. …
Elsewhere in his blog, Amberg has criticism of the doctrine of specific Anglican or Methodist hymns.I don’t know that I’d share all his criticisms of these hymns, but I completely agree with his view on the importance of hymn doctrine and the general vacuousness of most CCM or other praise music.

This is also another reason why hymnals are important: a hymnal codifies a church’s doctrine and minimizes deviations from doctrine. It doesn’t matter whether the hymnal is photocopied, oversewn or a PDF: what matters is that it has been vetted the same as any other part of the liturgy. As Anglicans, we don’t allow just anything to be read as scripture or prayer, so of course the hymn selection should be put to the same test.

† Elsewhere the blog implies that the pastor‘s real name is Mark Preus

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Non-non-traditional liturgy

Today after lunch, three Christians got into a discussion at work over traditional and non-traditional liturgy. I know one of the Christians — an East Coast ECUSA type who remains in TEC — because we used to work in the same office. The other one is the son of an Ethiopian Orthodox priest, who I met at a Bible study at work.

The Episcopalian is renting a room to the Ethiopian immigrant, and though I should meet him because we have “similar” views on liturgy. When pressed, he said that we both reject non-traditional liturgy — which is certainly true.

But then we found it was hard to define what “traditional”, “non-traditional” and “not non-traditional” worship are. Is it the words? Is it the music? Is it the theology? (“Mother God” etc.)

My companions seem to think that traditional worship and traditional theology were strongly related. I would disagree: go to almost any TEC cathedral and you’ll find the High Church Progressives (as I termed them three years ago), who want all the pomp and circumstance of traditional worship but reserve the right to modernize the theology to their heart’s content.

I suppose at some level the “traditional” is easiest to define: Orthodox or Catholic worship — possibly in an incomprehensible language — conducted by the priest according to a set form, using words and music that are unchanged for centuries. Post-Reformation, even the Anglo-Catholics switched to the vernacular as did the RCC post-Vatican II. This is pretty rare in the US today, except perhaps for a few Greek-American (Ukrainian-American etc.) kids who don’t understand the language at their Greek Orthodox Church,

So what about “traditional” is traditional?
  1. A set liturgy — ruling out most Evangelical-leaning Christians and most of the Reformed denominations.
  2. Traditional liturgy — among Anglicans, separating those who use the Book of Common Prayer from Rite II and the rest of what Peter Toon called the alternative service book.
  3. Traditional language — KJV or RSV or ESV, not the gender-neutrered NRSV or TNIV.
  4. Old hymns — ruling out all but some traditionalist Continuing Anglicans and LCMS types.
  5. Any hymns at all —  ruling out the praise bands and CCM sanctuaries.
  6. Old technology — wooden seats, no electronic organs or amplification, no PowerPoint sermons or videorecordings — probably would cover many Church of Christ parishes.
  7. Old theology — the Virgin birth, the bodily death and resurrection, the Trinity, creeds, truth of the Bible and things like that. (Let’s leave out for now theological differences between Orthodox, Catholic, Lutherans, Calvinists and others.)
As my 2007 posting meant to suggest, it’s certainly possible to find old theology with a rejection of old-style liturgy. The AMiA is filled with them. I’ve visited various ACNA parishes that firmly rejected both TEC heresies, but before they left TEC also shunned the thees, thous and Bach — places like Grace Anglican Church of Carlsbad (formerly St. Anne’s Oceanside). St. James Anglican Newport Beach and St. James San Jose (formerly St. Edward’s).

No church organized by mortal man can or will be perfect. If I had to choose, I guess I’d say #7 (old theology) is paramount, followed by #4 (old hymns.) Certainly I’ve felt at home at any hymnal-based LCMS parish I’ve visited, and I’d probably be fine at many PCA or EPC churches (even if the Presence is more Real to me than my fellow parishioners).

But is this the problem with American cafeteria-style Protestantism, with complete unbundling of worship, doctrine and hierarchy? I’d love to recover the liturgical consistency of my childhood PECUSA, but even a Schism I unification is unlikely to resolve these problems.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

New is not improved

The Evangel blog has a brief post about a new translation of the Bible called the Common English Bible. Blogger David Koyzis asks:
After so many decades, is the runaway proliferation of bible translations in English still about making the Word of God more comprehensible to ordinary people? Or is it by now about niche marketing?
It also has a good user discussion of Bible translation proliferation, the style of this new translation (something like the New Living Translation), and even the need for better Spanish language materials. (Discussions like that are what popular blogs get. Sigh.)

The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, Revised Standard Version, Expanded Edition (Hardcover 8910A)There’s no doubt that the Christian publishing houses push TNIVs and NRSVs and NKJVs to make a buck. While I personally use the ESV as a slightly improved (and non-politically correct) update of the RSV, I’d have been quite happy to stick with my Oxford RSV for another 50 years. I also despair that the NIV we gave our daughter for confirmation may be intentionally rendered “obsolete” (or at least out of fashion) by the time she graduates from high school.

Some of this translation fragmentation is an inherent problem of the everyone-decides-for-themselves attitude brought by the Reformation. As Koyzis observes in the comments to his posting
I rather think that the proliferation of bible translations is part of the same mindset that produces such huge numbers of denominations in North America. There is a longstanding tendency to begin everything anew when we’re dissatisfied with the old. But wouldn’t it be better to refine the old and avoid wasting so much time and effort starting from scratch?
This seems to be an an affliction the Catholics also picked up after Vatican II.

Lutheran Service Book - Pew EditionAlas, there is a similar sort of planned obsolescence for hymnals. Is it to make a buck? Clearly this is a problem with the LCMS and their Concordia Publishing House empire, which will want to sell another hymnal in 2025 or 2030 to supplant the Lutheran Service Book (2006).

Is this continual updating because of an undue fixation on the (con)temporary, the transient, the worldly culture? Is it the ahisotricity that seems to afflict every generation? Or is it our consumption-driven culture’s fixation on new! New! NEW!

For myself, the important goal for an Anglican hymnal is to provide the timeless hymns that connect us to nearly 2000 years of Christian worship. I see little that needs to be improved on Hymnal 1940. Yes, a few hymns are missing, but in this day of the Internet and laser printers, such omissions can easily be supplemented. The most objectionable part of the hymnal is that proceeds from its sales to go support KJS’ fading empire.

A few of the Schism I “provinces” seem to get this: if the CoE can use the BCP 1662 for three centuries, why can’t we use a single prayer book and hymnal for a century or even longer? Or, as happened with H40, add a few supplemental hymns in later editions (e.g. Joy to the World, Hymn #775 in the later editions of H40.)

Alas, I fear that most of the ACNA seems to prefer Hymnal 1982, despite its manifest failings, and will either continue to promote it or eventually supplant it with something even more “new” (even if not “improved.”) The decision of the LCMS with the LSB to improve their hymnal by reverting to more traditional hymnody seems to be a rare exception. (The LCMS is also unusual in having elected a new leader who vows to turn back the tide of theological modernism.)

Thanks to Google Books, musicologists and other highly motivated layman now have full access to all the great 19th century hymnals, including Hymns Ancient & Modern and Medieval Hymns and Sequences. That might get it into the hand of the music director, but it doesn’t get it into the pews (except perhaps for those parishes that either print or videoproject the hymns for each week’s worship materials.)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The once unexamined Anglican life

Growing up in a religiously mixed household, I spent the first half of my childhood as a Presbyterian, the second half as a High Church Episcopalian. Obviously the latter stuck, since today I’m an Anglo-Catholic (although I could just as easily see myself as a member of a LCMS or PCA parish with a strong liturgy.)

The 60s had not yet done its full damage to ECUSA or the other mainline Protestant churches. In retrospect, it was at the end of an era, a period of blissful ignorance for American Christians. I had never heard of the late Bishop Pike while Jack Spong was still an obscure nominally Christian parish priest in North Carolina or Virginia.

Thanks to the splintering of TEC and the larger counter-revolt against unbiblical Christianity, I am far more knowledgeable about doctrine and the reasons for picking a church than I was when my parents were picking churches with nice music in close driving distance. As a preface to observations about where we Anglo-Catholics are today and what we claim to believe, I want to summarize a few memories of what ECUSA was like before battles over Women’s Ordination and the 1979 prayer book changed the church forever,

At our weekly service didn’t do bells and smells, but after attending some more “liberal” ECUSA parishes I knew we were a very high church ECUSA parish. Robes, liturgical colors, reverence, genuflecting, great organ music and three choirs (boys’, girls’, adult) and lots of acolytes were the norm. My parents made reference to “High Church” vs. “Low Church” Episcopalians, but I didn’t realize that was a 200+ year old term from the Church of England.

I knew we had a 40-year-old prayer book, but not about Hooker, the 1549 BCP, the 1662 BCP or the Oxford Movement. I knew we had a 30-year-old hymnal, but not about the 1916 or 1892 predecessors — let alone The English Hymnal, Hymns Ancient & Modern or Medieval Hymns and Sequences.

I knew we were Protestant, and compared to other Protestants we were fairly big on formal liturgy and ritual. (I didn’t realize how big the differences were until as an adult I attended a Fundamentalist church with no prayer book, no formal liturgy, no instruments, but really long sermons.) I assumed Catholics had fancy music and lots of bowing, not realizing that post-Vatican II that most US parishes were drifting towards pop music services.

I didn’t understand the crucial theological differences among Protestants, particularly between the Reformed tradition of Calvin, Knox or Zwingli — who rejected almost any Catholic liturgy or theology — and those Protestants who like Luther who had sought to reform Catholic excesses while holding to Apostolic tradition. But then I was relatively naïve about prejudice: growing up ost-JFK, I was actually in my 20s before I first saw any examples of anti-Catholic Protestant zeal.

Over the last decade, I’ve lost my innocence as one-by-one all the traditionalists have been driven from the Episcopal Church in California. I now know that being an Anglo-Catholic is a minority of those who claim the Anglican tradition in North America, and from my European travels it appears that’s almost as true in England as well.

But the most important thing I didn’t know then — but know now — is that historically differences of Anglican liturgical style were associated with far more important theological differences.

The 19th century forebears of Anglo-Catholicism — the priests and scholars of the Oxford Movement — were fighting a two-front war in the Church of England. On one front were those “liberals” who, like today, sought to minimize the importance of doctrinal inerrancy. The other front was against the Evangelicals, an unresolved tension from the first decade of the church in Tudor England.

Why does Anglo-Catholicism matter? As John Henry Newman wrote in 1834 (during his Anglo-Catholic days) in Tract #38 of the Tracts for the Times:
The glory of the English Church is, that it has taken the VIA MEDIA, as it has been called. It lies between the (so called) Reformers and the Romanists.
and in Tract #41:
I would do what our reformers in the sixteenth century did: they did not touch the existing documents of doctrine [Note 7]—there was no occasion—they kept the creeds as they were; but they added protests against the corruptions of faith, worship, and discipline, which had grown up round them.
In short, Anglo-Catholics believe in the historic catholic (small c) church. We are divided from Rome in much the same way the Orthodox divided from Rome — with differences over specific doctrine (and of course certain ecclesiastical authority), but not over the importance of the ancient church that culminated with our three creeds. (One of the key doctrinal issues with the Orthodox is of course over the exact wording of those creeds.)

As far as I can tell, there are very few Protestants who place continuity with theological tradition (at least from the first six centuries) on par with Scripture. (Perhaps a few American Lutherans feel this way, but certainly not those in the national churches of Europe.) Thus, the Anglo-Catholics hold a crucial niche in Christian theology, as well as offering a possible avenue for reunification of the Church catholic — as witnessed by Orthodox ecumenicism that has abandoned TEC for the ACNA.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dying for faith

In order to understand and articulate my Anglo-Catholic beliefs, I’ve been reading many books about the Church of England. I quickly focused my reading on two formative periods: the creation of an independent church under the Tudors (1534-1603) and the Anglo-Catholic movement of the 19th century.

Of all this reading, none of the books — nor any other book of English history — moved me as much as The Sisters Who Would Be Queen, about the disputed succession after the death of Edward VI (1537-1553) that put Lady Jane Grey on the throne for nine days before her capture and eventual execution. While the modern interpretation was that this was a bold power play between rival Tudor factions, it also reflected the first major struggle over how (or if) the Church of England would continue after Henry’s death.

Like any schoolboy, I knew that Henry VIII had three children who succeeded him, one of them Catholic. I also knew that Elizabeth I died without issue, and somehow the throne was inherited by James I (and thus the House of Stewart). I’d never heard of Jane Grey, or her younger sisters Katherine and Mary, let alone their claim to the throne of England or Jane’s brief time on the throne. (Apparently Jane was elevated as a heroine to Victorian England, as testimony to her staunch evangelical beliefs.)

Spoiler alert: I highly recommend the book, but the drama was magnified by not knowing how it would turn out. So if you have time, read the book, not the rest of this article.

Jane (1537-1554), Katherine (1540-1568) and Mary (1545-1578) were great-granddaughters of King Henry VII. Their maternal grandmother, the first Mary Tudor, was the younger sister of Henry VIII, and briefly married to King Louis XII until his death in 1515. From her second marriage to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, she had four children: two sons who died in childhood, and two daughters. The eldest daughter, Frances Brandon Grey (1517-1559) had three daughters: Jane, Katherine and Mary.

Frances was thus niece to Henry VIII, of extremely high status within the House of Tudor during his lifetime, and is buried in Westminster Abbey. Although she was buried with royal honors, both her eldest daughter and her husband were eventually executed by her cousin Mary (aka Bloody Mary).

Both author Leanda de Lisle and other writers pay the highest tribute to Lady Jane, her evangelical passion and her intellect. Tutored alongside her cousins (once removed) Elizabeth and Edward, various accounts suggest that she was the most capable and serious student tutored at Henry’s royal palaces.

Certainly many of the machinations by Jane, Mary and Elizabeth were about power and control of the throne. The only clear successor to Henry was his only son Edward, and his death left an ambiguous line of succession (and eventually the end of the House of Tudor).

As all three Tudor women learned, there are limits to the authority of a queen (or prince or princess) during an era when English kings still led their troops into battle. At the age of 16, Jane Grey held the throne for nine days in 1553, in between the death of Edward and her capture by troops loyal to Mary. Despite their difference in religion, the half sisters Mary and Elizabeth agreed not to contest their respective claims to the throne, allying them against the Grey sisters and their subordinate claims.

But there is more than just raw power politics in Lay Jane’s life and death. With Henry’s death in 1547, Edward became sovereign of the church his father had created at a time when Continental intrigues (and Mary) sought to return the allegiance of CoE (and England itself) to the Pope. Instead, Edward’s reign brought the CoE its first two prayer books (in 1549 and 1552) under the leadership of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1532-1553 who was also executed by Mary.

De Lisle makes clear that the only way that Jane came to the throne (even temporarily) was because she shared the evangelical faith of Edward VI and his vision for the Church of England. The terms of Edward’s will passing the throne to Jane and her male heirs — bypassing Mary — was based on the Protestant zeal she shared with Edward.

De Lisle also argues that Jane would have been a highly knowledgeable and passionate leader of evangelical reform in Britain. Under royal tutors, Jane had learned to read the Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek. Educated as a potential royal consort, she closely followed the theological debates that raged across Europe and divided Christian from Christian during the 16th Century.

Instead, Jane was seized and imprisoned by Mary indefinitely in the Tower of London. When forces loyal to her mounted an unsuccessful revolt, she was beheaded along with other plotters. She was offered clemency if she converted to Catholicism, but she refused.

As she waited condemned, she wrote a series of devotional prayers and letters to family. De Lisle offered brief excerpts of this prayer written during her final days in the Tower:
O Lord, thou God and Father of my life, hear me, poor and desolate woman, which flieth unto thee only, in all troubles and miseries. Thou, O Lord, art the only defender and deliverer of those that put their trust in thee: and therefore I, being defiled with sin, encumbered with affliction, unquieted with troubles, wrapped in cares, overwhelmed with miseries, vexed with temptations, and grievously tormented with the long imprisonment of this vile mass of clay, my sinful body, do come unto thee, O merciful Saviour, craving thy mercy and help, without the which so little hope of deliverance is left, that I may utterly despair of any liberty. …

It was thy right hand, that delivered the people of Israel out of the hands of Pharaoh, which for the space of four hundred years did oppress them, and keep them in bondage. Let it therefore, likewise, seem good to thy fatherly goodness, to deliver me, sorrowful wretch, (for whom thy Son Christ shed his precious blood on the cross,) out of this miserable captivity and bondage, wherein I am now.  …

Only, in the mean time, arm me, I beseech thee, with thy armour, that I may stand fast, my loins being girded about with verity, having on the breastplate of righteousness, and shod with the shoes prepared by the gospel of peace: above all things taking to me the shield of faith, wherewith I may be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked; and taking the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is thy most holy word: praying always with all manner of prayer and supplication, that I may refer myself wholly to thy will, abiding thy pleasure, and comforting myself in those troubles that it shall please thee to send me; seeing such troubles be profitable for me, and seeing I am assuredly persuaded that it cannot be but well, all that thou doest. Hear me, O merciful Father! for his sake, whom thou wouldest should be a sacrifice for my sins: to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory. Amen.
Instead of such a pious leader — who married and would likely have brought forth heirs — Jane and Mary were succeeded by Elizabeth I, who compromised between the Reformed and Catholic to maintain her power on the throne — including a 1559 revision of the BCP that attempted to split the difference between the two factions. (Anglicans bear the consequences of this Elizabeth “fudge” some 450 years later.)

At several times in the book I found myself crying for the sisters Grey. Perhaps it’s because the book — and the extant record — provides such a vivid account of their lives, unlike the numerous Christian martyrs of the first millennium. Perhaps it’s because the royally born Jane had multiple options to avoid execution but she stood by her beliefs to her death, in a way that seems incomprehensible to modern sensibilities.

I don’t know if the Anglican church (or England itself) would have been better off with the evangelical zeal of Queen Jane instead of compromising of Queen Elizabeth. I think we would have had a clearer statement of faith, and perhaps a more meaningful role of English regents as Supreme Head of the Church of England.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Less schism in Schism I?

John Henry Newman aside, I’ve always had profound reservations about the RCC and the proposed Ordinariate that was pursued by The Anglican Communion, one of the major Schism I Continuing Anglican groups and one of the few with a significant presence outside the US.

Thursday David Virtue posted a pastoral letter from Rt. Rev. Daren Williams, one of the bishops of the Anglican Church in America (the US affiliate of TAC). His major points as I read them:
  • In 3 of the 4 ACA dioceses, the bulk of the laity today do not want to exercise the option offered by the Ordinariate and become Catholic.
  • Even discussing this option has created great confusion and turbulence in the ACA, with three parishes in his diocese defecting to other Continuing Anglican groups.
  • Rather than Swim the Tiber, the ACA should be working to repair the historic and regrettable schisms among Continuing Anglicans, staring by entering into communion with the Anglican Province of America.
To the last point, Bp. Williams wrote:
It is my conclusion that before we can enter into significant communal relationships with larger bodies of Catholic Christendom, we need to make another effort to unite with those near to us who share the same goals in Anglicanism.
Amen! This is remarkable sanity for a Schism I bishop, given that a major problem for 1928 BCP groups has been the proliferation of purple shirts — with a widespread suspicion that egos and powers have more to do with this fragmentation than any significant theological issues.

Perhaps the most surprisingly honest passage in the letter:
Anglicans in the ACA are comparatively small in number and we often struggle to make ends meet.
Bp. Williams seems to be much more honest than the Schism I “bishops” and “primates”. Together, all the Schism I parishes probably have less than 50,000 members across all the “denominations” or “provinces” — less than a single large TEC diocese.

Personally, I think we have been long overdue for a reunification of the Schism I, 1928 Prayer Book Anglo-Catholics that began with the 1977 Congress of St. Louis and the 1978 Denver ordinations. Whether or not we bridge the gap to ACNA/Schism II — or win more allies jumping from the TEC ship — fixing this historical accident is one move that is possible today, if the clerical hierarchy will let us.

As one of the commenters on the Virtue Online site put it:
The retirements of some of the old Continuum bishops seems to be leading to this opportunity to come back together. The personalities that used to get in the way seem to replaced by younger more reasonable men, without the baggage of old grudges. My prayers are with them.
Let’s pray for this sane path forwards for Continuing Anglicans everywhere.