Friday, September 8, 2017

Holy Orders and the Future of the ACNA

Today the ACNA released a statement from the special College of Bishops meeting this week to consider the future of Women’s Ordination in the ACNA. The bishops met to follow up on the Holy Orders Task Force report that was completed in January and released in May.

Abp Foley Beach said the statement was “unanimously adopted”; the key paragraph says:
…we acknowledge that there are differing principles of ecclesiology and hermeneutics that are acceptable within Anglicanism that may lead to divergent conclusions regarding women's ordination to the priesthood. However, we also acknowledge that this practice is a recent innovation to Apostolic Tradition and Catholic Order. We agree that there is insufficient scriptural warrant to accept women's ordination to the priesthood as standard practice throughout the Province. However, we continue to acknowledge that individual dioceses have constitutional authority to ordain women to the priesthood.
As with the original report, there was no news coverage and surprisingly little commentary on this decision to keep the status quo (at least for now).

A critic from the Continuing Anglican movement wrote:
Clearly, one cannot tell, despite their name, if they are a church or a confederation of churches. In reality, it is confusing even to many on the inside; actually they are both in certain ways.

The tragedy of their decision regarding Women's Ordination is that they are following on the same road, in the same direction as the Episcopal "Church" from which they claimed independence only eight years ago.…
A conservative REC priest layman saw it as a permanent endorsement of “dual integrities”:
Although disappointed with their decision, I do have to give them credit on one thing – they did not kick the can down the road, but went ahead and made their decision.  Whatever one feels about WO, it’s better to know where we stand now than later.

However, I do not think the bishops realize, or at least are not admitting in this statement they realize, what danger ACNA is in.  Archbishop Beach’s statement that the bishops are “more unified than ever” seems wishful to me.  Maybe the bishops are very unified but many of the rest of us in ACNA are not. But I will have to put that subject aside for another post or two.

And perhaps the bishops are not all that unified.  I do not have privy information nor should I speculate.  But a close reading of the statement may reveal divisions.  
In the most detailed commentary, today’s Anglican TV webcast by Kevin Kallsen and George Conger spent almost a half hour of their 39 minute broadcast on the COB decision and the earlier report. They stated that there were clearly enough anti-WO votes in the House of Bishops for a moratorium (which many expected).

The two noted that the Internet — both their own comments page and Facebook — were burning up with comments; however, I consider this somewhat disingenuous as Conger posted a link to the Anglican Ink press release to two ACNA and one Continuing Anglican discussion groups.

An anti-WO comment on Anglican Ink said:
Essentially, ACNA is TEC with the clock rolled back to about 1980. With the exception that ACNA has now institutionalized multiple episcopal jurisdictions in all places- since that is the only way this works. There will be a WO and a non-WO jurisdiction overlapping everywhere for the foreseeable future, and the resulting "impaired" communion within the church. Essentially, 2 churches that have a common hierarchy and home office. If you ask "who is the bishop?" you will get 2 answers.
The general reaction of the pro-WO posters on Facebook was relief that there was no change. A longtime WO supporter wrote in support of dual integrities and thus the status quo:
WO is unique within Anglicanism as it is a doctrine under reception. This means that any province may ordain women priests and bishops and none must. This basic attitude within the Anglican Communion is the model the ACNA was founded upon and which our Constitution and Canons reflect, and which the College of Bishops just affirmed. Many believe the biblical witness is clearly in support of their side, so we agree to disagree and carry on.
Kallsen and Conger were more positive than most on the decision, thinking a brilliant political (and perhaps ecclesiastical) decision — and showing stronger leadership and unity than (for example) the Church of England or GAFCON. Conger — an official in the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida — predicted that if the ACNA ended WO, then many of these women would join TEC which would be a PR nightmare.

Kallsen and Conger read the statement as deferring a decision for now. Others (as with the REC priest) see it as confirming that dual integrities will never be revoked. Some on the anti-WO side, drawing parallels to TEC, predict that the dual integrities will continue until enough dioceses elected pro-WO bishops to change the policy and allow female bishops.

I don’t know how it will turn out, but it’s hard to see how two different integrities will still be in a single jurisdiction a generation from now: it’s an unstable compromise that nobody will accept in the long run rather than a permanent solution.

It seems like a more stable solution would be dual integrities, dual provinces — perhaps sharing custody of their liturgy and seminaries, and both members of GAFCON. Each province would be true to its core beliefs — presumably including female bishops for the C4SO province. Over time we could see whether these are both orthodox provinces that differ only over women’s ordination, or whether they fundamentally have two incompatible theologies.

Update Sept. 12: While news coverage is limited, there were three newer reports posted:

On Sept. 9, Anglican Ink posted an open letter from Bp. Todd Hunter (of C4SO) — the leading advocate of women’s ordination in the College of Bishops — that implies that the outcome was a victory for his cause:
Thankfully, the outcome of the conclave permits C4SO to continue our practice of ordaining women of character and integrity as priests and deacons, enabling them to serve in whatever way their spiritual gifts, calling and temperament call for. We continue to conduct this practice in humility toward those who disagree with us, and we do so with a laser focus on mission and being ambassadors of God’s kingdom—male and female alike. I am proud to serve alongside our women. They have shown extraordinary patience and grace during a particularly difficult period of waiting to receive the outcome of this conclave.
On Sept. 12, Pittsburgh Bp. Jim Hobby — successor to retired Abp. Robert Duncan who created the “dual integrities” — published a letter that emphasizes more conciliatory nature of the decision and less the victory of his side.

On Sept. 10, journalist David Virtue of Virtue Online called it a “Solomonic Decision” in a commentary that read in part:
In a decision that will not please everybody, but one that goes against the grain of progressive Anglican provinces like The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Church of England, the Church in Wales, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Australia and AOTEAROA; the Anglican Church in North America vetoed women bishops and women priests, but left open the door to those dioceses that still wish to ordain women.
He then listed the status of women’s ordination in the global Anglican Communion, as well as the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church,. He concluded by quoting former ECUSA priest  (and onetime philosophy professor) Alice Linsley arguing against women’s ordination.



Sunday, August 20, 2017

We believe as we sing

Although they have broken from the Episcopal Church, many AMiA and ACNA churches continue to be guided by the liturgical “reforms” of the Episcopal Church, including the theology that led up the 1979 prayer book.

In his article on the theology of worship in the standard textbook on Anglicanism, Prof. Louis Weil of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific states
Anglicanism gives force to the ancient adage, Lex orandi legem statuat credendi, ‘the law of prayer establishes the law of faith. (Weil, 1998: 61).
From this, he emphasizes the ongoing need to update the liturgy to keep it relevant (emphasis added):
[T]he Prayer Book plays a dynamic role in shaping a new liturgical mentality in which the odd [sic] truths are seen afresh. Such a transition never takes place easily, because there seems to be a natural conservatism in worshippers in regards to the rituals through which faith has been articulated. … [C]hange must come so that we may be faithful to the gospel as it speaks to the real world in which we live.  [66]
Singing is Liturgy

In their modest revision to Rite II of that prayer book, the ACNA rejected the most glaring doctrinal errors of the words of that prayer book. But as lex orandi makes clear, the experience of liturgy is not just words.

It seems as though (outside the REC and Continuing churches), there are many 21st century Anglican clergy who consider themselves theologically orthodox, and yet choose (or allow their music minister to choose) the most contemporary form of worship music, up to and including songs off the top 40 list of the Contemporary Christian Music radio station.

By any definition, congregational singing during the service is part of the liturgy and the liturgical experience. (At many evangelical churches, it is the only part that in which the congregation participates). And thus the nature of how we worship is not just the words we sing — the explicit hymn doctrine — but how we sing them.

Of course, today we instruments that didn’t exist in 1st century. The invention or improvement of instruments didn’t stop with the perfection of the pipe organ in the baroque period or even the invention of the fortepiano in the 18th century.

But the idea that we must constantly update how we sing and other aspects of worship means — by the principles of lex orandi — that we must constantly update what we as Anglican believe. The latter means that we are thus rejecting the idea of Anglicanism as being a Protestant manifestation of the historic, undivided church, in continuity with Christian beliefs throughout the millennia.

I am hoping that most readers of this blog would find the latter a step too far. I can’t claim that this principle means banishing all CCM from the nave, but at least it should cause the clerical and lay leadership of an orthodox parish to think about what it says to the culture — and the congregation — to choose such music for the weekly worship.

References

Weil, Louis, “The Gospel in Liturgy”, in Booty, John E., Stephen Sykes, and Jonathan Knight, eds., The Study of Anglicanism. Rev. Ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998, pp. 55-83.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hymns for Trinity 9

As part of my Sacred Music class at Cranmer the class was required to select hymns (and explain the selection) for a Sunday communion service, weekday morning and evening prayer, and for a special service (in my case, ordination of a priest).

My assigned Sunday was Trinity 9 (next Sunday). Since it seems germane to the theme of this blog, below is my assignment and what I submitted. Ground rules for the assignment:

  1. All hymns should be taken from Hymnal 1940;
  2. For this hymn only one “obscure or unfamiliar” hymn was allowed. Since the seminary is headquartered at the Church of the Holy Communion in Dallas, the hymns regularly used at CHC were used by the class to define “familiar” hymns.

9th Sunday after Trinity (Holy Communion)

Readings:

  • 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, which emphasizes the unity of believers while calling out human sins of the Old Testament that displeased God
  • Luke 15:11-32, The Prodigal Son

There are not obvious hymns about the Prodigal Son in Hymnal 1940, and so all the hymns chosen for this week are tied to the Epistle.

These hymns touch on three aspects of the first lesson: Conformity to God’s Will, Church Unity and Brotherhood. Each of these is a topic listed in the Topical Index of The Hymnal of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America 1940 (hereafter Hymnal 1940). The first topic relates to our union with God — sometimes called vertical communion — while the latter two both relate to our union with other Christians, otherwise known as horizontal communion. All of the hymns selected for this Sunday fit one of these two themes.

Processional: 535, “Rise up, O men of God” [1]

In the Hymnal 1940 Topical Index, the topic “Brotherhood” (page 800) lists 17 hymns. One of these is “Rise up, O men of God”, written in 1911 by William Person Merrill, an American Presbyterian minister, for the Presbyterian brotherhood movement.[2]

This brief hymn — four verses of Short Metre (6.6.8.6) — touches on both types of communion and unity. On the one hand, a part of each verse emphasizes unity with fellow Christians, as with verse 2 (“Bring in the day of brotherhood”) and verse 4 (“As brothers of the Son of man, Rise up, O men of God.”) At the same time, the brief hymn emphasizes obedience to God, as in verse 1 (“Give heart, and soul, and mind, and strength to serve the King of kings”), in contrast to the disobedience and sin that Paul laments in 1 Cor. 10:6-10.

It is relatively singable: except for the first phrase, the melody has simple voice leading, and the first four notes are in unison. It also has simple meter, with 20 of the 26 syllables on a quarter note (the remainder split between paired eighth notes and dotted half notes). According to Hymnary.org, it appears in more than 200 hymnals — known to multiple denominations, but not among the most popular. It did appear in all three Episcopalian hymnals of the 20th century: Hymnal 1916, Hymnal 1940 and (in inclusive language form) Hymnal 1982, and is familiar at the Church of the Holy Communion (hereafter CHC) in Dallas.

Gradual: 465, “Nearer, my God to thee”

In the Topical Index, nine hymns are listed under “Conformity to God.” The most familiar would appear to be “Nearer, my God to thee” (#465). According to Hymnary.org, the hymn has been published in more than 2,000 hymnals. The hymn was originally written in 1840, based on the Old Testament dream of Jacob, in which God renews his covenant with the children of Abraham and Jacob vows to tithe all that he has to God.

All five verses emphasize how Jacob will get nearer to God through obedience and worship to God. In other words, Jacob is the model of Old Testament obedience to the Law sought by Paul, rather than the disobedience that he specifically chastises.

Sermon: 536, “Turn back O man”

In the rare week when the focus of the sermon is known before the bulletin is printed, I would choose a hymn that ties directly to that focus. Otherwise, my preference for something that is reflective, to help each parishioner think about his or her role as a Christian and prepare his/her heart to hear the message being preached.

Among the 17 hymns listed in the “Brotherhood” Topical Index in the Hymnal 1940, the most familiar to me is “Turn back O man” (#536). The hymn begins on a reflective note, opening with a call for us to think about and repudiate our “foolish ways”. It builds up to a call for church unity with its final verse:

Earth shall be fair, and all her people one:
Nor till that hour shall God’s whole will be done.
Now, even now, once more from earth to sky
Peals forth in joy man’s old, undaunted cry.
Earth shall be fair, and all her people one.

The voice leading of the melody is simple. It is a relatively recent text, written in 1916 for a tune and arrangement by Gustav Holst (based on an earlier tune from the 16th century Genevan Psalter). It appears in two Church of England hymnals edited by Ralph Vaughan Williams — Songs of Praise (1925) and Songs of Praise Enlarged Edition (1931). However, according to Hymnary.org, it appears in only 56 hymnals — a relatively small number — and so I would have to assume that it would be unfamiliar to Americans not raised on Hymnal 1940.

Recessional: 396, “The Church’s one foundation”

A key theme of the first lesson is Paul exhorting the faithful in Corinth to be united in their love of and obedience to Christ. In the Topical Index on page 801, Hymnal 1940 lists six hymns for “Church Unity.” Hymn 396, “The Church’s one foundation”, discusses both the horizontal communion between the members of the Church, and the vertical communion of the Bride of Christ (i.e. the Church) to Christ. This latter role of the Church is emphasized throughout the hymn through the use of the female pronoun to refer to the Church, as in the second verse:

Elect from every nation, Yet one o’er all the earth,
Her charter of salvation, One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses, Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses, With every grace endued.

The third phase of this verse recalls 1 Cor. 10:3 in the first lesson: “all ate the same spiritual food” (ESV, New KJV) or “did all eat the same spiritual meat” (KJV).

The hymn is both familiar and has a singable tune with simple voice leading and straightforward harmony. It should also be known to most English-speaking Protestants and Catholics, appearing on a list of 150 ecumenical hymns compiled by the Consultation on Ecumenical Hymnody.[3] According to Hymnary.org, it appears in more than 700 hymnals, and it is a familiar hymn at the CHC.

Footnotes

  1. Normally I would consider this as a recessional hymn, but that could be risky in some parishes where the Hymnal 1940 text would be considered sexist and have people leave church with an un-Christian attitude. If I had a newer text, e.g. “Rise up ye saints of God” (#551) in Hymnal 1982, then I would probably use it at the end. Otherwise, I am counting on people to forget any imagined slight over the next hour of the service.
  2. Except as noted, all historical and biographical details about hymns and hymnwriters is taken from The Hymnal 1940 Companion, 3rd rev. ed., New York: The Church Pension Fund, 1956.
  3. This list of 150 ecumenical hymns is reported by Gary D. Penkala, “Core Hymnody,” CanticaNOVA Publications, URL: http://www.canticanova.com/articles/hymns/art241.htm

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Come, let us sing!

Today is the first day of Forward in Faith North America’s annual conference. The 2017 Assembly is being held 13 miles from DFW in the Texas Metroplex, in the Diocese of Ft. Worth.

We kicked off the Assembly with a sung evensong, with a 17-voice choir formed by the local music director and volunteers from St. Vincent’s Cathedral and St. Mark’s Anglican in Arlington. Their obvious talent aside, it was great to hear a medium-sized choir, which sounds so much more full and than the 4- to 10-voice choirs I’ve mainly heard the last 15 years. (One small gripe: like most volunteer choirs, there weren’t enough men’s voices with only 5 of the 17).

The service was a 1928 BCP Evening Prayer, although the text was obviously unfamiliar to many of those present. (One tip-off: saying “Holy Spirit” instead of “Holy Ghost.”) The music was picked with taste from the English repertoire, included chants and anthems by John Stainer, John Goss, Alec Rowley, and C.H.H. Parry.

However, as a member of the congregation (rather than in the choir or an organizer), I (re)learned a valuable lesson. There was literally no music to sing — unless you count the monotone chant of the creed and the Lord’s Prayer. As you might expect for a conference of Anglo-Catholic clergy (including five bishops and one bishop-elect), there was a lot of music talent in the pews — and some of us sang along anyway (particularly on the psalm, where it was practical enough to learn as we went.)

So there were at least two key lessons:
  • For most churches and most occasions, more music should be sung by the congregation than by the choir alone. That often means two really great and elaborate anthems, and then three hymns plus service music where the congregation can sing along.
  • If the congregation is asked (or expects) to sing along, don’t trick them. For example, if we sign “Amen” after the officiant for three prayers, either make the Amens all the same or write out the music.
And this points to a final lesson. Over the past few years, I learned a lot about take-for-grantedness by visiting a wide range of churches before choosing my current church, and I’ve also tried to visit unfamiliar churches while traveling. The clergy, music director and choir need to get out more so they have empathy for how those in the pews experience the liturgy.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Picking a tune for Whittier’s greatest hit

This morning’s bulletin included a copy of “Dear Lord and Father of mankind,” which meant it wasn’t in the hymnal — but it was. So this warranted further investigation.

When I got home, I checked my six 20th century Anglican hymnals — it’s in all of them, but with different tunes. All seem to use the same five verses — dropping the 4th verse of Whittier’s original 6 — and it appears to have escaped bowdlerization in the later hymnals (perhaps because the only offensive word, “mankind”, appears in the first phrase). However, there are five different tunes.

In chronological order:
  • The English Hymnal (1906): #383, Hammersmith
  • Hymnal 1916: #120, 1) Newcastle; and 2) Rest
  • Songs of Praise, Enlarged Edition (1931): #481, 1) Repton; 2) Nicolaus (Lobt Gott)
  • Hymnal 1940: #435, 1) Hermann (same as Nicolaus); 2) Rest
  • Hymnal 1982: #652, Rest; #653, Repton
  • New English Hymnal (1986): #353, Repton

Text

The 1872 text is by John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892), the American poet whose work I had heard of as a kid but (it appears) I never read any of it. His name is more familiar because it was attached to a street near my elementary school (and high school), a town (where Richard Nixon grew up) and a college. The Cyber Hymnal reports that this abolitionist was known as “America’s ‘Quaker Poet’,” that he authored nearly 100 hymns and perhaps 20 are still found in hymnals. Of these texts, “Dear Lord” is the only one I recognize.

Here are the five verses, in the form that (according to Hymnal 1940 Companion) it was first adapted in 1905:
Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways;
reclothe us in our rightful mind,
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard
beside the Syrian sea
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word
rise up and follow thee.

O Sabbath rest by Galilee,
O calm of hills above,
where Jesus knelt to share with thee
the silence of eternity,
interpreted by love!

Drop thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm!

Usage

The hymn is listed as a general hymn except in 1916, when it’s called out for Septuagesima. The Liturgical Index of Hymnal 1940 lists it for morning prayer at Trinity VII MP, and evening prayer on Lent III and St. Matthias. In the Lectionary hymn choices by Rev. Richard R. Losch on DrShirley.org, it is recommended for
  • Epiphany 3A/St. Andrew: Matthew 4:12-23
  • Epiphany 3B: Mark 1:14-20
  • Epiphany 5C: Luke 5:1-11
  • Last Epiphany B/Proper 8C: I Kings 19: 9-21
  • Proper 7B: Mark 4:35-5:20
  • Proper 14C: Hebrew 11:1-16

Tunes

These are the five tunes across the six hymnals:
  • Hammersmith, by William Henry Gladstone, M.P. (1840-1891), eldest son of the famous British prime minister.
  • Newcastle, written in 1875, it is the only surviving hymn of English organist Henry L. Morley (c. 1834).
  • Nicholaus, written in 1554 by Nicholaus Hermann (c.1500-1561), the early Lutheran hymnwriter; the tune was arranged and harmonized by J.S.  Bach (apparently for his BWV 151 cantata).
  • Hermann, the same tune, but harmonized by Winifred Douglas for his Hymnal 1940.
  • Repton, written in 1888 by Sir C. Hubert H. Parry (1848-1918), second director of the Royal College of Music who is buried in the Chapel of the OBE at St. Paul’s Cathedral. The New English Hymnal says it was “from a song in his oratorio Judith.
  • Rest, by English organist Federick Maker (1844-1927), written in 1887 specifically for this text.
All except the Parry have four part harmonies. If the hymnal choices reflect broader congregational popularity, today the choice seems to be between Rest and Ripton.

Rest is the one we sang as a kid, is familiar to an Episcopalian of the past century, and has four part harmonies; however, cradle Episcopalians are no longer the core audience for Anglican churches. Ripton has only a melody — the Parry harmonization is for organ and not voices — but is the one that’s on all the recordings (by English choirs, naturally).

Because the range is better for lower voices, I vote for Rest. Our music director (an Anglophile) votes for Ripton because, well, it’s Parry; my teenage daughter also votes for it, because it’s the one she’s learned on YouTube.

I get the argument about Parry, but musically I don’t give Parry, Stainer, Stanford or even Elgar the same deference as Purcell or Tallis. (I would put Holst and Vaughan Williams in the latter category). So here it seems like a matter of taste or congregation familiarity. But in the long run, if Americans don’t record their tunes they’ll be forgotten by future generations.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Luke, John and Zechariah

June 24 is the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, in the Anglican, Lutheran and Roman Catholic calendars of saints’ days. Because the Annunciation takes place when Elizabeth’s pregnancy is six months along, the Western church traditionally dates John’s birth six months before Jesus.

This week, Issues Etc. reran an hour-long show on this feast day — a 2016 interview with Pastor David Peterson, an LCMS pastor from Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Although the Anglican and Lutheran liturgies are different, most of the points are applicable to Anglican liturgy as well.

There are many elements of the life of John — and Jesus — that are only told in the first two chapters of Luke. This includes three key canticles of the traditional liturgy: the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), Benedictus (1:68-79) and Nunc Dimittis (2:29-32) — respectively the songs of Mary, Zechariah and Simeon.

The Benedictus, of course, is what Zechariah says at the ceremony that names (and circumcises) John. While the 1549 BCP is derived from the Coverdale (and Tyndale) translations, the same similarities can be seen in more modern spelling in the 1662 and KJV
Benedictus (BCP 1662) Luke 1:68-79 (KJV)
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel: for he hath visited and redeemed his people;
And he hath raised up a mighty salvation for us: in the house of his servant David;
As he spoke by the mouth of his holy Prophets: which have been since the world began;
That we should be saved from our enemies: and from the hand of all that hate us;
To perform the mercy promised to our fore-fathers: and to remember his holy covenant;
To perform the oath which he sware to our forefather Abraham: that he would give us;
That we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies: might serve him without fear;
In holiness and righteousness before him: all the days of our life.
And thou, child, shalt be called the Prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people: for the remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God: whereby the Day-spring from on high hath visited us;
To give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death: to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son: and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now: and ever shall be, world without end. Amen
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,
And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;
As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:
That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;
To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;
The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,
That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
As the the New Advent encyclopedia states
The whole canticle naturally falls into two parts. The first (verses 68-75) is a song of thanksgiving for the realization of the Messianic hopes of the Jewish nation; but to such realization is given a characteristically Christian tone. As of old, in the family of David, there was power to defend the nation against their enemies, now again that of which they had been so long deprived, and for which they had been yearning, was to be restored to them, but in a higher and spiritual sense. …

The second part of the canticle is an address by Zachary to his own son, who was to take so important a part in the scheme of the Redemption; for he was to be a prophet, and to preach the remission of sins before the coming or the Orient, or Dawn, from on high.
According to the New Advent encyclopedia, it was Benedict who added this canticle to the morning office (lauds) in the 6th century. In Cranmer’s original 1549 BCP, the Benedictus was the only canticle available after the second lesson of Matins. The 1552 BCP — Cranmer’s final prayer book before his execution— gives a choice of the Benedictus or the Jubilate Deo (from Psalm 100); this pattern continues into the 1559 and 1662 BCP, as well as the US prayer books from 1789 to 1928. (The 1979 prayer book, as is its wont, gives a choice of 21 canticles after either reading).

As a choirboy (prior to H82 and the 1979 prayer book), we sang morning prayer every other Sunday, and the words of the Jubilate Deo are etched in my brain; for the Jubilate Tune 645, the F-major chant by William Russell (1777-1813) seems the most familiar. It’s rare nowadays that I see a sung morning prayer, but if I were to pick a sung Benedictus, it would be #634, the G major chant by James Turle (1802-1882).

The podcast made one additional point. Zechariah (like his wife) is from the priestly line of Aaron. When Zechariah meets Gabriel in the temple, he lost his ability to speak for doubting the angel. According to Pastor Peterson, this means that he cannot finish the service, which would have concluded with the Benediction of Aaron (which is also called the Priestly Blessing) from Numbers 6:24-27:
The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:
The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them.
As Pr. Peterson reminded me — from my Missouri Synod days — this benediction is the closing prayer of the LCMS Holy Communion service. A quick check of my bookcase shows this benediction closes the Divine Service both in the 1941 and 2006 LCMS hymnals, as well as the 1978 LCA hymnal. In American Anglican liturgy, this benediction can be found in the Rite I Evening Prayer in the 1979 prayer book — but it is dropped in the ACNA draft liturgy (which most often follows Rite II in form and wording).

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Farewell, Oremus

At a sacred music class last month, we compared notes about favorite websites for Anglican church music. I think Oremus was at the top of the list.

Alas, that was past tense. For a term paper (for this class), I went to Oremus to look up hymns from my favorite hymnal, and found this sad notice:
Started in 1997, the Oremus Hymnal is no more as May 30, 2017 due to copyright concerns. As I do not have the time or interest to update hundreds of webpages, I have taken the long overdue step of closing down this site. I am sorry that the material here will no longer be available here, but in the over two decades since starting this project, many other, excellent sites have become available. Google Books also has hundreds of historical hymnals available to browse for free.

If you need further help finding hymns, I suggest you go to Hymnary.org, which contains many more texts and audio files than I could ever hope to produce on my own.

Due to many requests, I have put the hymn suggestions for the lectionary back up. None of the links work, but they do list the first lines.
Lectionary Year A
Lectionary Year B
Lectionary Year C
This site was created by Steve Benner and was last modified on May 30, 2017.
On the one hand, I can sympathize with Steve, having created a much simpler website (on a different topic) the same year. Rather than a single guy, Hymnary.org has behind it the resources of Calvin College and its Calvin Instiute of Christian Worship.

From a legal standpoint, it should have been possible to include U.S. hymnals prior to 1923. British copyright law seems to provide 50 years after the death of the author (which means The English Hymnal and other Vaughan Williams has been available almost a decade). But again, I still understand why it wasn’t worth separating the wheat from the chaff.

There is one other reason I go to Oremus: the Liturgical Psalter, a little-known (but beautiful) translation whose licensing rights reverted to the authors in 2001. It's almost as poetic as the Coverdale psalter (found in most prayer books of the past 400 years), and a lot easier to understand.

Still, the index of dozens of Anglican hymnals at Oremus will be missed. I’m not sure if Hymnary can fully replace it, but that's a question for another time.



Monday, May 29, 2017

Another progressive theological innovation

Mainline Protestantism Declared A Safe Space For Those Offended By The Gospel
The Babylon Bee
May 25, 2016

LOUISVILLE, KY — … Speaking on behalf of [mainline] Protestant denominations… a spokesperson issued the following statement: “We are in agreement that there is a great need for churches to rise up and create spaces that are safe for questioning and accepting our identities, doubts, fears, failures, and blatant sins. Effective immediately, we are declaring all mainline Protestant churches safe spaces, where there are no judgments, conviction, repentance, or gospel presentations whatsoever.”''

The statement listed elements that safe space churches should remove from their premises, including “crosses, Bibles, pulpits, organs, hymnals, systematic theologies, and sermons exhibiting any form of triggering micro-aggression. Be considerate.” Words like “sin,” “hell,” “death,” “wrath,” “propitiation,” and “substitutionary atonement” are also on the ban list.

On behalf of all of mainline Protestantism, the spokesperson expressed heartfelt joy that they were able to make such a major step toward accepting—and not judging—anyone who may be on a path toward God’s judgment. …

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Ecumenical funeral music

Over the weekend, I went to the funeral of an old friend of my father’s. He was both younger than my dad (by 13 years) and died at an older age (81 vs. 90), so I went to represent my father’s gratitude to someone who’d been very good to him.

The title of the church didn’t make it obvious, but in the pews the hymnals were embossed “First Assembly of God” which made this the first time I’d ever attended an Assembly of God service. (The local AoG church had rented its space in the past to the ACNA, and I’ve seen AoG televangelists on TV, but never actually attended a worship service). The preaching and use of the Bible matched my expectations (and I mean that in positive way).

The hymnal (Sing His Praise,  Gospel Publishing House, 1991), was little used by those attendees (two of us pulled it out), as the church had long since converted to praise band and projection screens. The drums were at the center of the stage, behind a plexiglass shield, for the next day’s performance worship music.

There was no choir, only a pianist. Other than her prelude and postlude, the music consisted of
  • “That Will be Glory,” solo by one of the pastors
  • “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” instrumental trio
  • “It is Well with my Soul” (#112, verses 1,3,4), sung by the congregation. It had the familiar harmony so in the refrain, I was able to do the men’s part in response to the upper (and unison) voices.
  • “How Great Thou Art” (#9, verses 1,3,4), sung by the congregation but interrupted by the pastor to make a point prior to the final verse
The pianist knew what she was doing. The pastor seemed to think changes in tempo made his singing more dramatic, which worked for the solo but not when he was leading 150 voices in singing. This approach to singing the music is undoubtably a local practice that would have been familiar to the many parishioners in attendance; I found it unfamiliar if not slightly confusing. 

It made me think that if you have a service with a large number of visitors — given how rarely non-Christians attend baptisms nowadays, that would mean a wedding or funeral — it's not just the choice of hymns (including tunes and words) that will make a difference on congregational participation. It’s also the style of performance.

Finally, it reinforced my prior prejudices: if you are going to have Christians in the room who are used to singing hymns, three hymns is the minimum and four is better. Those in attendance sang with gusto, and I think would have welcomed more verses if not more hymns.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Singing ancient Easter testimonies

Theologically, Easter is the greatest Christian feast, the culmination of the Christian year. It is also a great opportunity for mission, since it's one of the two Sundays where C&E Anglicans (or Catholics or Lutherans) will darken the church doors.

Thus it's not surprising that most churches schedule good hymns for Easter, as our Anglo-Catholic church did this morning, and at the blended service at daughter's college parish. And of course -- next to Christmas — there is the embarrassment of riches: 18 hymns (some with multiple tunes) in The English Hymnal, 17 hymns (three with multiple tunes) in Hymnal 1940, and 33 hymns (7 with multiple tunes) in Hymnal 1982.

Still, today I was struck that all four of the hymns sung at our Anglo-Catholic church were derived from Latin and Greek texts that trace back to  the pre-Reformation undivided church. I was also struck — not surprisingly given the original sources — the debt we owe to John Mason Neale for being able to sing them today.

Procession: Hail thee festival day! (H40: 86; H82: 175)

We sang all nine verses, alternating (as written) between women and men. It is based on the 6th century Latin text, “Salve festa dies,” by Venantius Honorius Fortunatus (b. 530-600/609), making it one of the oldest hymns in Anglican hymnody.

The texts have been translated multiple times since the 16th century. This version begins with Hymn 624 of The English Hymnal (1906) with the now-familiar tune Salva festa dies by music editor Ralph Vaughan Williams. The Hymnal 1940 Companion credits the H40 version to Hymn 389 of Songs of Praise, Enlarged Edition (1931). While SOPEE alternates between the two tunes, the idea of alternating verses between women and men seems to have originated with H40.

Gradual: The Day of Resurrection (H40: 96.1; H82: 210)

We sang three verses to the first tune, the middle verse in harmony; Hymnal 1982 also lists a descant. The 8th century Greek text is by St. John of Damascus.. Our hymnals use the translation by John Mason Neale from his Hymns of the Eastern Church (1862), a text that entered the ECUSA hymnary with its Hymnal 1874. The tune Ellacombe is from an 18th century German Catholic hymnal.

Communion: At the Lamb's high feast we sing (H40: 89; H82: 174)

Although I've sung this before, somehow I never really appreciated it. The Latin text is from the Roman Breviary created for Urban VIII (pope 1623-1644), but can be traced back to the 6th century text “Ad cenam Agni providi.” The 1850 translation is by Robert Campbell.

It is uniquely suited as the Easter communion hymn, and as the first of the four verses explain:
At the Lamb's high feast we sing
praise to our victorious King,
who hath washed us in the tide
flowing from his pierced side;
praise we him, whose love divine
gives his sacred Blood for wine,
gives his Body for the feast,
Christ the victim, Christ the priest.
Even better, is the 17th century tune Salzburg (best known for “Songs of thankfulness and praise” H40: 53). I enjoyed singing the middle two verses of the four-part harmony by J. S. Bach, a harmonization that in my book is hard to beat.

Recessional: Jesus Christ is Risen today (H40: 85; H82: 207)

As I texted our daughter this morning, the 1st commandment of Anglican hymn selection is to end on an upbeat tune. At Easter time, this seems eminently well suited.

For the recessional, we sang all four verses: 2nd and 3rd in harmony, 4th unison with descant. Hymnal 1982 also lists a descant from the 1950 edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern.

The 14th century text, Surrexit Christus hodie, has been translated multiple times since 1708. The H40 hymnal companion attributes the current version of the tune to a compilation by John Wesley and the final addition to the text to Charles Wesley.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Exemplary Passion anthem

Hymns for Palm Sunday and the Passion narrative tend to focus on Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem. However, in choir we are rehearsing “Ihr Töchter Zions”:
Ihr Töchter Zions, weint über euch selbst und über eure Kinder.
Denn siehe, es wird die Zeit kommen,
da werdet ihr sagen zu den Bergen: fallt über uns!
Und zu den Hügeln: deckt uns!
It is from Felix Mendelssohn’s sacred oratorio, Christus, Op. 97. The anthem is in triple meter and it feels like one of Mendelssohn’s dances or songs, with the lyric passages plaintive in Christ’s warning to the citizens of Jerusalem.

On Thursday, we are singing it in English translation:
Daughters of Zion, weep for yourselves and your children,
For surely the days are coming,
when they shall exclaim to the mountains: “Fall down on us!”
and to the hills: “hide us!”
The text is adapted from Luke 23:26-28 (KJV):
26. But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.
27. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.
28. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.
This is the passage (only in Luke) of the passion, after Jesus has been condemned by Pilate but before he arrives at Calvary.

The phrase “Daughters of Zion” does not appear in Luke, but does appear earlier in the passion narrative upon Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem — in Matthew (21:5) and John (12:15) — both quoting Zechariah 9:9 and Isaiah 62:11.

The reading shows up in the lectionary differently among Anglican prayer books. In the 1928 BCP, it’s the gospel for the Maundy Thursday mass, as it was in the 1662 BCP.

From 1979 onward, ECUSA (and the ACNA) have read Luke 23 the same way in their parallel three year lectionaries: the 1979 prayer book, RCL, and ACNA trial use. In all three, Luke 23 appears in the Sunday lectionary on Palm Sunday Year C (2016 and 2019).

Whenever this gospel is read, this Mendelssohn piece seems like a great anthem to support that reading.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The world’s favorite Annunciation hymn

Today’s date, March 25, is nine months before Christmas, and thus the traditional date the Church celebrates the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is controversy (between the most Catholic and Reformed extremes) over the role of Mary in the church, nonetheless creedal Christians acknowledge the saviour who “was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary.” Our knowledge of the Annunciation comes from the Gospel of St. Luke, as one of the events Mary pondered in her heart and later recounted to Luke.

Issues Etc. on Friday presented the Luther perspective on the Annunciation, in an interview with the LCMS Director of Worship, Pastor Will Weedon. In honor of the day, the LCMS radio station (Lutheran Public Radio) is playing Christmas music all day today.

As Pastor Weedon points out, it’s hard for the church to celebrate a joyous feast when it falls in the middle of Lent or especially — as in 2016 — when it falls on Good Friday. As he also notes, this is a case when it’s fortunate if a church’s midweek service lands on this feast, since (under both Anglican and Lutheran liturgical calendars) no feasts are transferred to the Sundays of Lent.

The Annunciation is called out in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as one of 25 major feasts of the CoE, and remains on the shorter list in the current CoE liturgical calendar. The 1928 Book of Common Prayer retains the same list of 25 fixed Holy Days. The new ACNA liturgical calendar seems clearer than the 1662 in that it distinguishes between seven principal feasts (Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity, All Saints’, Christmas) that take precedence over 16 Holy Days (including the Annunciation).

Today’s collect in the 1662 (and 1928) BCP links the Annunciation to the incarnation, passion and resurrection of our Lord:
We beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts; that, as we have known the incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an angel, so by his cross and passion we may be brought unto the glory of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Hymns for The Annunciation

Hymnal 1940 lists two hymns for this date and recommends three others
  • 117 “Sing of Mary, pure and lowly”
  • 118 “Praise we the Lord this day”
  • 317 “A message came to a maiden young”
  • 418 “Blest are the pure in heart”
  • 599 “Ye watchers and you holy ones”
Hymnal 1982 has a longer list
  • 263, 264 “The Word whom earth and sea and sky adore” (from Hymns Ancient & Modern)
  • 265 “The angel Gabriel from heaven came,” the famous Basque carol that was also featured in the Issues Etc broadcast (and is #356 in the current Lutheran Service Book)
  • 266 “Gabriel of high degree,” a new hymn translation by Carl Daw
  • 267 “Praise we the Lord this day, from an 1846 CoE hymnal
  • 268, 269 “Ye who claim the faith of Jesus,” an early 20th century text; the first with a new tune by David Hurd
  • 270 “Gabriel's message does away,” a translation of a Latin text from J.M. Neale’s 1853 Carols for Christmastide
Despite my frequent criticisms of Hymnal 1982, it has consistently done a better job of making available hymns for these Holy Days. In this case, it corrects the omission by Hymnal 1940 of the world’s best known Annunciation/Christmas carol.

The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came

The text is a paraphrase of a Basque text by Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924), a Cambridge grad, choral director and later Anglican churchman. His best known hymn is “Onward, Christian soldiers.”

Because it has only recently (late 20th century) entered into the standard repertory and hymnals, I have not been able to find mention of the hymn in a reliable hymnal companion such as Ian Bradley’s Book of Hymns or those for the Lutheran Book of Worship or Lutheran Worship. (The explanation in the 1990s Presbyterian Hymnal companion is characteristically sketchy).

Wikipedia — that source of eternal truth — credits the Basque original to Charles Bordes (but doesn’t list an original publication date). It also says the current arrangement was first published “by Edgar Pettman in his 1892 book Modern Christmas Carols.” However, there is no mention of this carol in the version of the book archived by Google Scholar. CPDL has various Basque and English versions, appearing to rely on the Wikipedia explanation. The wonderful YouTube performance of the carol by King’s College Cambridge credits Pettman (1866-1943) as the arranger. 

I finally found it explained in The New Oxford Book of Carols (1992), an indispensable resource alongside the original The Oxford Book of Carols (1928). I quote from the former (pp. 641-642):
One of the best-known Basque carols in England. It was collected by Charles Bordes and appeared at the beginning of his volume Douze Noëls populaires in the series Archives de la traditional basque (1895), to which he also contributed the volume Dix Cantiques populaires basques.

…His publication stands head and shoulder above similar collections, and remains a primary source. The melodies are unharmonized, and the texts are edited by J.F. Larrien, who also provided French prose translations.

Whatever the provenance of ‘Birjina gaztettobat zegoen’ and ‘Oi Betleem!’, the texts are sophisticated literary productions, presumably by a Basque cleric. Perhaps they are from a publication (of the eighteenth century?) which caught the public imagination, and came to be sung to folk tunes; or, as in the usual French tradition, perhaps the texts were written to fit existing folk-song melodies. …

… R.R Terry set a number of items (including the present one and ‘Oi Betleem’), and George Oldroyd set the entire volume, both composers using English translations. But it was Pettman’s settings of ‘Birjina’ and ‘Oi Betleem!’ that caught the public’s fancy, and they have remained extremely popular.

The other great merits of Pettman’s settings of this carol and ‘Oi Betleem’ is their texts, which do not attempt to mirror the Basque, a spacious language which has English translators searching for words to fill up the long lines. In this case, Baring-Gold conveys the gist of the original eight stanzas in four of great refinement.”
While Pettman presumably finished the work before his death in 1943, the original publication date and title are still unclear. Clearly texts published by Bordes in 1895 would not appear in a Pettman book of 1892. The oldest reference I find in Google Books is from a 1961 list of new publications at the Library of Congress, listing sheet music they received in June 1961. In general, a Google search of the web produces pages that replicate the (seemingly inaccurate) Wikipedia provenance.

Whatever the source, I am grateful that this most suitable Annunciation carol entered the repertoire in the latter half of the 20th century.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Planning a funeral

My father-in-law died suddenly a month ago, and last weekend was his memorial service. I ended up planning the service — as I had for my father back in 1995 — and learned a little more about funeral liturgy and service planning. In particular, 22 years ago I was one of the two decision makers while this time I was a consultant to my mother-in-law and her five adult children.

Both men had their services conducted by the longtime rector of Holy Trinity Anglican Parish in San Diego. While my dad’s service was held at the same site they’d had since 1921, the rector and 95% of his congregation walked away from the site ten years after losing their court case with ECUSA. Our service was held in the LCMS church they have called home since then.

Know the Decedent

I had asked my father-in-law for his hymn list in 2007, and reconfirmed in the summer of 2015. So we had four hymns that he wanted — Battle Hymn of the Republic, Faith of our Fathers, O God Our Help in Ages Past and Eternal Father.. To this, his widow added Amazing Grace. Both Faith of our Fathers and Amazing Grace were part of his sister’s 2006 memorial mass. I asked the rector to find a place in the service to sing all five hymns.

As at my father’s funeral, the multi-service version of the Navy Hymn (H40: 513) was a non-brainer for an Army vet. (WW II for my dad, Korea for my father-in-law). The only downside is that (to distinguish the two hymns), the hymnal begins “Almighty Father” rather than the more familiar “Eternal Father.”

My father-in-law had grown up in the most high church Episcopal parish in San Diego — now the cathedral — and was married at that church with an organ his parents helped fund. His boys had been in their chorister program (one overlapping with me), so we had an organist and I recruited a four-voice choir from among my friends. (It didn’t hurt that the bass is a member of the church choir, and all of the choir were Anglicans who’d worshipped at Holy Trinity).

Finally, I was told quite firmly that the service would begin on time. I guess this should not have been a surprise: my father-in-law was quite punctual, a source of tension during that phase when my wife and I were constantly late coming to family gatherings.

Know the Family

As at their aunt’s service, the children wanted a bagpiper. As at that service, we did it with Amazing Grace: in this case, the bagpiper played a stanza, and then we modulated into new key for five verses of organ, choir and congregation. (The bagpiper explained apologetically that he doesn’t get much choice of key on his instrument).

However, in preparing the order of service, I recommended that we end the service with Amazing Grace rather than begin it. If we started with the bagpipe, I feared there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house — or at least in the family pews. It turns out those fears were misplaced. The loved ones are going to cry during the service, but that’s a normal and healthy thing, and it’s something to be encouraged (as long as they don’t happen to be doing a reading at the podium).

Know the Audience

Who will be in the congregation is more predictable if the departed is an active member of the congregation. But that was not the case.

Still, we more than 150 packed into the service, which my own pastor says is unusual for someone in his 80s. He was active in 3 clubs, and had about 20 members of his boating safety association present. From various parts of the liturgy — the creed, the responsive sentences — it was clear that many in the audience (his generation, not mine) were current or former active church members.

It appeared that not all the congregation were regular singers, and some hymns clearly were more popular than others. Both are a topic for another time.

Planning the Service

The first choice that had to be made was the liturgical rite. Holy Trinity is a longtime Anglo-Catholic parish that is switching from Rite I to the ACNA liturgy. However, all their funerals have been Rite I, so we used that. (My father in law worshipped the greatest portion of his life using the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, but Rite I from the 1979 prayer book is what he'd used most recently).

I did some comparisons of the texts later on. The 1928 and the 1979 Rite I are very different liturgies, even though the wording of some prayers are the same. Meanwhile, portions of the February 2017 ACNA liturgy are identical to Rite II, including the Apostle’s Creed and many of the prayers. (Rite I and II seem to have the same structure but different language).

We then had to decide whether to include the Mass; in the end we did not. We weren’t sure how many would take Communion: however, we had a big crowd and I think we would have had more participants than at my aunt’s service — probably a majority. Without including Communion, 3 of the 5 hymns were before/between/after the Gospel and homily.

As with most American funeral or memorial services, we used the Authorized Version of Psalm 23 (said responsively this month; sung at my father’s service). To include all five hymns, the second psalm of the 1979 prayer book was replaced with a sequence hymn. The final reading was from John 14, which begins with the “many mansions” passage and concludes with the great statement of faith: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

The family discussed who would do the three readings: OT, psalm, Epistle. As in a Sunday Rite I service, we elected to have a fourth lay reader (rather than the priest) read the intercessory prayers. Some of the likely nominees (e.g. people who did readings at our wedding) declined out of concern that they might break into tears.

For a service that primarily serves Anglican churchgoers, a simple leaflet (with pointers to the prayer book and hymnal) would have sufficed. We elected to go with a service booklet — full prayers, readings and hymn text — with nine 8.5" x 5.5" pages printed on letter paper (plus a cover and other material). Three of the hymns were in the hymnal, but I don’t know if any hymnals were opened by anyone other than the choir or me.

I found one gotcha on booklet preparation. If I had to do over again, I would have typed the hymn text straight from the hymnal (and proofread it three times) rather than copy and paste from Hymnary.org or Oremus.org. Those sites have the text from one particular hymnal, and that text is unlikely to exactly match that of H40 (or whatever the preferred hymnal is). If I were in the habit of running church services, I would make a database of the exact text of all the hymns from my hymnal, no matter how many hours that would take.

Final Thoughts

In my current lay ministry class, one of my classmates is a part-time volunteer wedding planner at our church. After this, my family joked I had a future as a funeral planner.

Planning a funeral — like a wedding or a baptism — is not something that we do often in our lives. Absent written instructions from the grave, it is also made more complex by having one (or more) family members trying to discern the decedent’s wishes so that they can be honored, while at the same time sensitive to those of the survivors.

To allow for out-of-town travel, we had four weeks to plan this memorial service, while another recent funeral (elsewhere in the family) was scheduled in nine days. From the standpoint of logistics (not bereavement), two weeks is a reasonable interval. Anything less than that requires an immediate meeting with all the relevant family members to understand their wishes (rather than waiting for the next weekend as we did). It might also require someone taking a day off of work to pull together a complete service in a day or two, rather than over a week or two. (I don’t know how much work it was to plan the reception because I merely showed up).

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I value tradition, order and doing things properly — as did my father-in-law. Even without that, it really helped to have a prayer book and rector who (with clear pastoral sensibilities) set clear limits on what was and was not acceptable. With all the planning and other activities of that day, it was tempting at times to forget the real purpose of the service, as captured by the penultimate prayer of the service:
Into thy hands, O merciful Savior, we commend thy servant B. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech thee, a sheep of thine own fold, a lamb of thine own flock, a sinner of thine own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of thy mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

39 years of Continuing Anglicanism

On this day in 1977 was the consecration of the four former ECUSA priests as the founding bishops of the Continuing Anglican movement in Denver. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but it changed American — and global — Anglicanism forever.

Fast forward 39 years. The Anglo-Catholics who stayed behind in ECUSA would have to admit the ones who left were right about how ECUSA would turn out. Those who joined ACNA on or after 2009 have now separated from ECUSA (most at great cost), and they have a liturgy that’s more like the 1928 in substance even if it’s more like Rite II in language.

But instead of a single jurisdiction — they chose the name “Anglican Church of North America” — the Continuing movement fractured again and again: the lesson of 500 years of Protestantism seems to be that once you’ve done schism – placing your own personal theological convictions over ecclesial authority — it’s easy to keep doing so. The issues that divided the Continuing churches seemed to be authority and a desire to keep purple shirt, rather than actual doctrine.

The one piece of good news is that four of the alphabet soup are having a joint synod in October. The synod will bring together (at least for a week) the Anglican Church in America, Anglican Catholic Church, the Anglican Province of America, and the Diocese of the Holy Cross. As a Californian, I’d like to see the Anglican Province of Christ the King participate, but it’s been in turmoil since the resignation and death of its founder, Bp. Robert Morse — one of the Denver four.

Today's Newest Clergy

Clergy at end of Saturday’s ordination service
Source: Diocese of the Holy Trinity Twitter feed
Today I attended an ordination for a former classmate of mine, the newest clergy member in the Anglican Catholic Church. Sean Patrick Michael Cochran became be a bivocational deacon, the first deacon for St. Mary Magdalene in Orange, California, assisting its rector, Fr. Neil Edlin. In honor of Deacon Cochran’s heritage, at the recessional we sang all seven verses of “I bind unto myself today” (H40: 268) while the organist played preludes and postludes on Irish melodies by Charles Villiers Stanford.

The consecrations were done by Bp. Stephen Scarlett, whose see is at the Denver cathedral that was the home of Bp. James Mote; Scarlett was consecrated in 2013 by Bp. Mark Haverland (today the head of the ACC), who in 1998 was consecrated by Mote. (Today’s service was in the pro-cathedral in Newport Beach, Calif. where Scarlett spends most of his Sundays).

After Bp. Scarlett read the opening part of the 1928 BCP ordination service, he noted that the prayer book had assumed a stable church. Left unsaid was that the nature of belief, the role of the church, and the role of the Episcopal (or Anglican) church is fundamentally different than 90 years ago.

Instead, he argued, each deacon — like others in the church — needs to be a missionary. He listed three specific ways:
  1. Christian witness. The customary evangelical conception is that witness is going to tell a non-believer. However, today’s Anglican cleric needs to model a deeper spiritual life of prayer that will potentially transform the life of those who find it. “As we grow in our spiritual life, that is our witness ...and evangelism is inviting others into that life of prayer"
  2. Seeking out the lost sheep. Again, we think of seeking the sheep as being those who wandered off — or never set foot in the church; but, Scarlett argued, the lost may already be in the pews, but alienated. Implicitly referencing Mark 2:17, he cited Jesus’ admonition that the physician has come to heal the sick; the clergy need to look inside and outside the church to find new avenues to reach the lost.
  3. Discerning one’s own spiritual gifts. Even if two people have the same order, they have differing gifts (1 Corr. 12). To be effective, clergy and laity need to honestly understand their talents so they can apply them to support the mission of the church.

The music and liturgy were great, but too often Anglo-Catholic churches are organized as museums to historic worship rather than something relevant to potential members. I hope that the path laid out by Bp. Scarlett will be effective in growing the church. Even in places where it doesn’t give us more Christians, it should give us stronger Christians — strengthening the faith of the Remnant that we have in the pews — which certainly has to be numbered among our goals even this is less exciting than attracting more “butts in seats.”

Friday, January 13, 2017

Favorite Lutheran Epiphany hymns

Last Tuesday, the listeners of Issues Etc. answered an open call for their favorite Epiphany hymns. Host Todd Wilken hosted a 56 minute session with the various listener comments.

As Pastor Wilken noted, Epiphany has three roles in the liturgical year
  • The eponymous feast, commemorating the visitation of the Magi, representing more broadly the expansion of the mission of the Church to reach the Gentiles.
  • The transition between Christmas and Lent (which IMHO is more about Christmas at the beginning and explicitly pre-Lent at the end)
  • The home of specific feasts, such as the Baptism of our Lord and (for Lutherans) the Feast of the Transfiguration
As with other shows, the audience was primarily (if not entirely) Lutheran — and thus the votes represent a LCMS audience (presumably picking their hymns from the Lutheran Service Book or The Lutheran Hymnal).

The two most popular choices (with four votes each) were the first two Epiphany hymns in the LSB:
  • “Songs of Thankfulness and Praise” (LSB: 394; TLH: 134; H40: 53): text by Christopher Wordsworth. In the LCMS hymnals they use a St. George by 19th century English organist George Elvey. However, the Anglicans (ironically) use Salzburg, written by 17th century German Protestant composer Jacob Hintze (working for the Calvinist Great Elector of Brandenburg) and harmonized the great Lutheran Kapellmeister — J.S. Bach himself.
  • “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright” (LSB: 395), with text and tune by 16th century Lutheran pastor Philip Nicolai. The earlier translations were “How Lovely Shines the Morning Star” (TLH: 343) and "How Bright Appears the Morning Star” (H40: 329),
Other hymns from the Epiphany section of the LSB that were mentioned (and would be familiar to Anglicans) were As with Gladness Men of Old (LSB: 397, TLH: 127; H40: 52), Hail to the Lord's Anointed (LSB: 398; TLH: 59; H40: 545) and Brightest and Best of the Sons* of the Morning (LSB: 400, TLH: 128; H40: 46).

Note that for the latest hymnal for the “conservative” LCMS, the title phrase “Sons of the Morning” in Reginald Heber’s 1811 text was inexplicably changed to politically correct "Stars of the Morning" in the LSB.

As was true seven years earlier, the German Lutherans (and their hymnals) omit two of our favorite Anglican hymns for the season: “What star is this, with beams so bright” (H40 #47) and “Earth has many a noble city” (H40 #48).

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Celebrating the Circumcision

Today is the feast that has been known since the 6th century as the Feast of the Circumcision. In the Book of Common Prayer, from Cranmer's original 1549 to the 1928 American edition, it’s called the Circumcision of Christ.

Feast Day

What we know of the circumcision comes from one verse in Luke’s gospel: “And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Luke 2:21, ESV). This makes reference to his parents learning of his name in the Annunciation (Luke 1:31) and the dream of Joseph (Matthew 1:21). The Bible doesn’t say much about the ceremony, nor about that of his cousin John (Luke 1:59-79), but the nature of the ceremony of circumcising and naming Jesus was as expected for the male child of line of Abraham (Matthew 1:1-16).

The theological issues of the Circumcision are discussed in a December 2014 episode of Issues Etc. featuring Dr. Arthur Just, which was rebroadcast a week ago. As they note, the Circumcision of Jesus is obedience to the Old Covenant, while it is meaningless for the New Covenant (Colossians 3:11).

The 1549 BCP acknowledged this history with its collect (in modernized spelling) that persisted through 1928:
Almighty God, which madest thy blessed son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man; Grant us the true circumcision of thy spirit, that our hearts, and all our membres, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy son Jesus Christ our Lord. 
In the 1979 prayer book, the feast has been renamed The Holy Name and the collect drops all reference to the Circumcision. Marion Hatchett, in one of his more partisan apologies for the ’79 revisionism, quotes someone else as saying Cranmer et al “turned the day into a commemoration of circumcision, rather than of the Circumcision of our Lord” (Commentary on the American Prayer Book, 169) — without explaining why the book drops all reference to circumcision rather than trying to shift the emphasis to The Circumcision.

In the ACNA trial liturgy, it’s called The Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, but the collect puts more effort into explaining the theological significance of the feast:
Almighty God, whose blessed Son was circumcised for our sake in obedience to the Covenant of Moses, and given the Name that is above every name: give us the grace to faithfully bear his Name, to worship him in the Spirit given in the New Covenant, and to proclaim him as the Savior of the world; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Festal Hymns

In Hymnal 1940, there is one hymn (#113) for “The Circumcision” and 10 alternate hymns that focus on the holy name. In Hymnal 1982, there are five hymns (#248-252) listed for “Holy Name”, and the one circumcision hymn is gone. One hymn in common between the two is “Jesus, Name of wondrous love!” (H40: 323; H82: 252). However, as you might expect, the list of alternate hymns in H40 includes a variety of hymns about the name of Jesus that are sung at other times (e.g. what’s now called Christ the King Sunday) such as “At the Name of Jesus” (H40: 356; H82: 435).

The English Hymnal (1906) has two hymns (#36-37) for “The Circumcision of Christ” and my copy of Hymns Ancient & Modern (1868 edition) lists three hymns (#55-57). The common thread is “The ancient law departs” (A&M: 55, H40: 113), with the familiar tune St. Michael from the Genevan Psalter by 16th century composer Louis Bougeois. The hymn was dropped from The English Hymnal (1906) and Hymnal 1982.

The Hymnal 1940 Companion credits the original French text to Sebastian Besnault, as published in 1736. The 1860 translation of five verses is credited to the first edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern:
The ancient law departs,
And all its terrors cease;
For Jesus makes with faithful hearts
A covenant of peace.

The light of light divine,
True brightness undefiled,
He bears for us the shame of sin,
A holy, spotless child.

His infant body now
Begins our pains to feel;
Those precious drops of blood that flow
For death the victim seal.

Today the name is Thine,
At which we bend the knee;
They call Thee Jesus, child divine!
Our Jesus deign to be.

All praise, Eternal Son,
For Thy redeeming love,
With Father, Spirit, ever One,
In glorious might above.
It immediately entered the American hymnody with Hymnal 1874, but by 1940 retained only three of the five verses (1,2,4). The missing third verse is an important one in explaining the Circumcision as the first time that Christ shed his blood for mankind, when he (with the help of his earthly parents) fulfilled the Mosaic covenant so that it might be abolished.

Still, this very familiar tune (what’s not to like about a Genevan Psalter tune?) and the text that matches the festal day seem like one that should be embraced (not ignored) whenever the appropriate collect and/or readings are scheduled for church.

Update: Former Anglo-Catholic (now Ordinariate Priest) Fr. John Hunwicke defends the recent decision of the RCC to de-emphasize the Circumcision in this feast, and instead emphasize the BVM and the Incarnation.