Friday, May 29, 2015

Pentecost-al hymnody

After Sunday's service, I wanted to blog about Pentecost hymnody and then realized I wrote a detailed discussion three years ago. So instead, I tried to make a list of important Pentecost (née Whitsunday) hymns.

I looked through three hymnals - The English Hymnal (1906), Hymnal 1940, and Hymnal 1982. Below is the list of all hymns where the text (if even not the tune) is found in at least two of the three hymnals. (In some cases, TEH used different tune names for the same tune so I compared the actual tune music to make sure).

Only three hymns made all three lists: “Come down, O Love divine,” “Glorious things of thee are spoken,” and of course our household favorite, “Hail Thee Festival Day.”

While I have my personal favorites for hymns, clearly these three stand out for their endorsement by three hymnal committees 75 years apart.

Breathe on me, Breath of GodSwabiaH40: 375.1
Breathe on me, Breath of GodNova VitaH40: 375.2, H82: 508
Come down, O Love divineDown AmpneyTEH: 152, H40: 376, H82: 516
Come, gracious Spirit, heavenly DoveGood Shepherd, RosemontH40: 378.1
Come, gracious Spirit, heavenly DoveMendonH40: 378.2, H82: 512
Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspireVeni CreatorTEH: 153
Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspireVeni CreatorH40: 217.1, H82: 504
Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspireCome Holy GhostH40: 217.2, H82: 503
Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly DoveSt. AgnesH40: 369, H82: 510
Come, thou Holy Spirit, comeThe Golden SequenceH40: 109.1
Come, thou Holy Spirit, comeVeni Sancte SpiritusH40: 109.2, H82: 226
Creator Spirit, by whose aidAtwoodTEH: 156, H40: 371
Creator Spirit, by whose aidSurreyH82: 500
Glorious things of thee are spokenAustriaTEH: 393, H40: 385, H82: 522
Glorious things of thee are spokenAbbot's LeighH82: 523
Gracious Spirit, Holy GhostCapetownTEH: 396, H40: 379
Gracious Spirit, Holy GhostTroenH82: 612
Hail thee, festival daySalve Festa DiesTEH: 630, H40: 107, H82: 225
O blest Redeemer, ere he breathedSt. CuthbertTEH: 157, H40: 368
O come, Creator Spirit, comeVeni CreatorTEH: 154.1, H40: 108.1
O come, Creator Spirit, comeGrace ChurchH40: 108.2
O King enhroned on highTempleTEH: 454, H40: 374
O Spirit of the living GodMelcombeH40: 256, H82: 531
Spirit divine, attend our prayersGraefenbergH40: 370, H82: 509
Spirit of mercy, truth and loveMelcombeTEH: 631, H40: 111
Spirit of mercy, truth and loveCornishH82: 229

Monday, May 18, 2015

The challenges and opportunities of post-Christian America

Despite the reputation of many Anglicans — especially Anglo-Catholics — of being inwardly focused (“sacristy rats”), the reality is that we need to be reaching out to reach new members, bring more people to (or back to) Christ, and fulfill the great commission of Matthew 28:18-20.

According to the headlines, the 2014 Pew “Religious Landscape Study” says Christianity is declining in America. But after listening to a May 13 interview with veteran religious journalist Terry Mattingly on Issues Etc. (especially the last half), I think the story is that the nominal Christians are no longer nominal and instead becoming vaguely spiritual or not religious at all. (Rod Dreher and Ed StetzerEd Stetzer have the same opinion).

On the one hand, this is a shame, because in my experience the raised-but-no-longer-Christian are the easiest to bring to church: they know of the faith, they often know it’s important, and they’ve just been (without knowing it) waiting for an point in their life when they realized that knowing and worshipping God is the most important thing we can do in this life. To some degree that’s my own journey. Still, Stetzer has advice on how to reach both audiences with the Christian message.

Mattingly's interview talks about his own (latest) denomination, the Eastern Orthodox, and how successful Orthodox parishes are those that can reach visitors who are “looking for a beautiful, stable, creedal version of the faith.” This seems like a goal ready-made for Anglo-Catholic Anglicans.

Finally, the headline version of survey results lists Episcopalian/Anglican as 1.2% of the country: 0.9% for TEC and 0.3% for the non-TEC Anglicans. By comparison, ELCA is 1.4%, and more evangelical Lutherans (such as LCMS and WELS) total 1.5%.

The age and education distribution seem similar (with TEC having more graduate degrees and the Anglicans having more college graduates overall). The one notable difference is that 5% of the TEC are shacking up (“living with a partner”) vs. 1% of the Anglicans. The proportion of never-married (unmarried + living together) is about the same — 20% for Anglicans and 21% for TEC — so our need to minister to those seeking to marry (and hopefully raise kids) in the church is more urgent than ever.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The sign of the eternal cross

From a March 11 blog posting by Nashotah seminarian Cameron MacMillan:
Nine services per week in an Anglo-Catholic chapel yields more signings of the cross than Carter had liver pills.

We know that by the second century, Christians were marking themselves and other objects with the sign of the cross. The gesture was a consecratory sign of blessing, and was often made my persons on their foreheads. Perhaps among the early Fathers, Tertullian is best known for his words on the signum crucis:
“With every departure, in the beginning and end of all activities, from getting dressed to putting on shoes, in the bath, at table, in lighting the lamps, when we go to bed, when we sit down, in each of our actions, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross.”
Tertullian, writing in the early 200s, speaks of the gesture as if it is something that’s been going on for quite some time. So, whatever we think of the sign, we know its use originated very early on in the life of the Christian Church.

Furthermore, St. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage in the early third century, saw the sign of the cross to be supported by the biblical action of God’s people being marked in special ways as the faithful, those with whom God had covenanted and would be obedient and trusting of the Lord’s protection
In my travels, I have noticed that different Anglo-Catholic parishes make the sign at different times, although we appear broadly similar to each other, and similar to (but less frequent) than Roman Catholic practice. Occasionally I’ll find another Protestant church (usually Lutheran) where the sign is made at least once during the service, usually when invoking the Trinity at the closing benediction.

Meanwhile, my Orthodox friends are quick to point out that we Westerners do our crossing backwards. They also specify that only three (or two) fingers should be used when making the sign.

Still, I am reassured by the (broad) unity of practice among liturgical Christians today — and, more importantly, the continuity of practice back to the earliest days of the Church, linking us to the early Christians.

When thinking about making liturgical choices, I sometimes use a thought experiment. Suppose a Christian from the 200s or 500s or 1000s or 1500s was transported to the 2000s? Would he or she recognize what we are doing today? As MacMillan and others note, clearly our Christian ancestors would recognize the sign of the cross — an enduring acknowledgement of the eternal redemption purchased by our savior on the cross.