Monthly Archives: April 2007

Let’s have a Party!

I’m intrigued by LutherPunk’s comment below about what he sees as the coming growth and development of local organic liturgies. Especially since he says in the context of ecclesial bodies with well-determined liturgical structures. I want to hear more about what he thinks on that. Furthermore–I’m wondering what the rest of us think–or hope–will be emerging as the Body of Christ continues to gather and form itself liturgical in the unfolding century. So–I’m announcing a blog carnival entitled:

“Common” Prayer in the 21st Century

You’ll note the quotes around the word common… I’m choosing to highlight that for a number of reasons. What does it mean for our prayer common in this day and age? What is the internet doing to our notions of common prayer? One of the hallmarks of the post-Vatican II era is the notion of indigenous liturgies; how does this fit into our understanding of common prayer? Furthermore, the denominational structures and lines that we currently inhabit will–I’m convinced–be shifting, perhaps radically, in the coming years. What will it mean to have common prayer between, across and along these? I ask in particular because the possibility of separated Anglican brethren seems but a few months away–what liturgical bonds of affection may we share? What if the much rumored motu proprio appears and the Tridentine Mass reappears on the scene; what might this mean for us all–on both banks of the Tiber?

All you have to do to participate is post something that relates to this wild mass of questions, and drop me a comment here or an email at haligweorc at hotmail before May 14th. As before, if you’d like me to post something here on your behalf, I’ll be happy to accommodate, just contact me…

So–smooth your wax, sharpen up your stylus, and drop me a note before the 14th!

Communio Project Completed

The communio is the music and texts appointed to be sung during the distribution of the Blessed Sacrament in the Roman Rite. The texts tend to be a combination of psalm texts and other parts of Scripture interwoven with one another. As such, they represent a classic form of interpretation through juxtaposition that is at the heart of the Western liturgical tradition of biblical interpretation. That is, the meaning of the biblical texts is neither declared nor forced upon the singers/hearers, but instead is coaxed forth by the apposition of two or more texts joined by context and experience.

NLM reports the final completion of a project of its mother organization, the Church Music Association of America, that I will reproduce in full:

The Communio Project of putting all communions with Psalms online is now finished. You can see them here. This the one place where you can find the music for the communion antiphon sung in the manner recommended by the General Instruction. They were typeset by chant master Richard Rice. At last, the full collection is available to the world for instant download and, we can hope, singing every Sunday forever more.

Do visit and check out these treasures. While they are listed for ease of convenience on the site in alphabetical order, the index file at the top shows their proper liturgical ordering. They are in Latin with the traditional square notation, but the scripture references are included and the second page contains an English translation of the text. I’ll offer one here in the spirit of the season.

An Era Ends

With the thunderous chords of “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” Don Saliers concluded his last lecture as a professor today. Even those who don’t recognize his name have felt his impact through our liturgies. Don is one of the ringleaders of the renewal in Protestant liturgics following on the heels of Vatican II–the renewal that gave us most of the hymnals and worship books currently in use in the mainline denominations. His thought and that of his colleagues determined the majority of the changes in the ’79 BCP and the ’82 hymnal as well as the Lutheran LBW and, of course, his own Methodist ’89 hymnal.

As much as I grouse about some of the changes, theologies, and ideologies embodied in these recent books and liturgies, I–and we–owe him and his companions a deep debt of gratitude for their commitment to drawing on the best of the tradition for proclaiming the Gospel to today’s world.

Did I mention that he is a Benedictine oblate as well? I credit much of his success to this grounding, giving him a deep connection to the rhythm of communities at prayer inaccessible through academic study alone.

The old order is passing away; what is to come–has yet to be seen. Don is retiring, and his comrades with him. Too few are following in their footsteps. The next generation of liturgical scholars is small. We are now beginning to face and will soon feel the consequences of the loss of these wellsprings of wisdom who combine deep learning with great souls.

Preaching and Plagiarism

There’s a very thought-provoking article by homiletician Tom Long currently up at the Christian Century on rampant sermon theft. Speaking as a teacher of preaching, he’s not exaggerating the situation…

There’s a much longer post here to be written that I’ve started at times but never satisfactorily completed that probes the contours of this issue moving from a condemnation of interpretative laziness, the need for both priest and parish to be open to the transforming text–a possibility often shut down by bad preaching–balanced with a rejection of novelty and originality for its own sake, ending with an affirmation that the work of preaching is not about creating something new but passing on what we have received–but passing it along in ways that enables the church to experience anew the living Jesus who is at the heart of what we pass down.

Read the article. Don’t plagiarize. Do proclaim the power of the resurrection.

Random Thoughts

  • bls had an interesting parish visit yesterday and thinks about the spread of “traditionalist-yet-welcoming” priests–specifically young women priests.
  • Speaking of young female “traditionalist-yet-welcoming” priests…M did some supply work yesterday at a parish in the area. (Did I mention “beautiful” in that list of attributes…?) It’s a very interesting parish; it’s a blend of long-time locals in what’s generously referred to as a “transitioned” neighborhood, some new people moving in with a revitalization initiative but the majority of the congregants are people with mental illness/special needs who live in nearby group homes. M had done spent a couple of months there several years ago and it was wonderful to see some of the faces and personalities I remember from that time. It was also wonderful to see M behind the pulpit and altar again (they have a nice east-wall altar but supply clergy don’t have the option of rearranging furniture) and to participate in a beautiful sung mass by some who takes the time to practice it beforehand…
  • Speaking of singing, looking at the Google click-throughs that have been directing people to the site, I think I may need to put up some resources on how to point various things for chanting and also something on Anglican chant.
  • I will also be putting up–as time allows–a page with some of the trial liturgies I’ve had here including the Anglican Offices of the Dead, a cleaned up version of my Anglican Lauds/Vespers (aka the commute liturgies), and an ordo for the standard BCP Offices. This one is my inspiration; while it presents a completely proper ordo that follows the intention of the Rite II service, I’ll post the version I use with Rite I that takes its cues from the 1662 book. It’s a version that tries to honor both the classical Anglican pattern while falling entirely within the rubrics of the current authorized American use. I’ll just warn you that time is rather limited; these may be a bit in coming…
  • If I had time, I might watch some movies… Two have come to my attention recently. The first is a review of “The Lives of Others” commended to us by Raspberry Rabbit. The other is, of course, Into Great Silence commended by quite a host of people including Caelius and, most recently, Anhaga of Old English in New York with whom I once sang Compline though neither of us knew it at the time…

Anglicans & Africa (Updated)

My sole personal experience of African Anglicanism came in the person of one of my preaching students. He was already a priest in the Nigerian church, in the US to improve his theological training. Passionate, intelligent, he was an amazing preacher; my class learned a great deal from hearing and responding to his sermons. His best sermon–I forget the text–was on the connection between the call of the Gospel and the rule of law. This took most of the class by surprise. Whenever Gospel and law are connected in American preaching it tends to be about legalism or attempts of one political part or the other to make a selective reading of a text. Not in this case. He wasn’t pushing a party agenda–he was pleading for law. He explained a bit about the African context at the conclusion of the sermon. We in the US take the rule of law for granted. He couldn’t. Not where he was from. Pleading for the rule of law was essential for him because it was so often denied in the political culture he was from.

(And yes, for the record, he also shocked them when one student asked him his views on homosexuality and he expressed his utter disgust…)

It’s this reality of life on the ground in Africa that so often we miss in our electronic debates–and it has truly profound implications on what we do. For instance, As the center of gravity in the Anglican Communion shifts southward, how aware are we making ourselves of what is going on in Africa? How many of the self-styled “orthodox” know what the major political and social issues are in Africa–and how their ecclesial allies are coming down on them?

This has now come to a head.

The crisis in Zimbabwe is reaching a breaking point with President Mugabe attempting to extend his corrupt rule yet again. There’s a story here about the brutal suppression of non-violent protests. I kept reading about “bishops” speaking out against Mugabe and his regime–and I kept hoping they were Anglican. I was wrong. No, as CNN reports here, it was an Easter message from Roman Catholic bishops across the country.

What is the response of the Anglican bishops? Dr. Chilton writes about it here at the Episcopal Cafe. This is what conservative Anglicans are pinning their hopes to. Does this look like the Gospel?

(n.b.: Don’t mistake this for a whole-hearted embrace of Mugabe’s opposition either–I don’t know their politics nearly as well as I’d like. I’m equally guilty of not knowing African current events as well as I should. It should be obvious, though, that Mugabe’s oppression which has been censured by not only Western human rights groups but also other African groups and governments is beyond the pale.)

UPDATE: I am more than happy to report that Stand Firm has called attention to this matter. I applaud Greg Griffiths for calling this to the general attention and condemning the Mugabe regime. There are some who dispute the level of the letter’s support for that government but the important thing is that the issue is being aired.

On Lectionaries, Texts of Terror and Clobber Verses

This is an update to the thoughts below on lectionary usage of troublesome biblical texts. Bls made some great observations over at Dr. Good’s comments. She and I have had this discussion before but I’m afraid it hadn’t quite sunk in entirely. Here’s another try.

I think what I was saying before about texts that we cut out of the lectionary holds true for most of what are referred to as “texts of
terror.” These texts, especially those identified by Phyllis Tribble in her book of the same name have, for the most part, been repressed and expunged by the mainline churches. In the intro class where I read Tribble’s book, most of us had never encountered these texts before and were shocked that they were in the Bible. These passages need to be heard and wrestled with so that we might formulate our understanding of God and who the people of God have been in relation to them.

“Clobber verses” present a different problem entirely. These are not problematic texts that have been repressed; rather they are–as bls points out–all too well known in their decontextualized, weaponized form. They include the Romans texts for queer folk, the 1 Cor texts for women, and the curse of the descendants of Ham in Genesis used for generations to justify slavery and apartheid. I definitely see her point that she could live just fine for a while without encountering these liturgically.

[As an aside, I feel the need to state that there is a difference between clobber verses and verses that make us feel uncomfortable. The Magnificat or Beatitudes may make a rich man feel uncomfortable–but that in no way allows him to claim it as a clobber verse. I’d define a clobber verse as an atomized text used for the purpose of dehumanizing a group of people to legitimate official oppression.]

In her comments bls mentioned “waiting a few years” before bringing them back in. That resonates with me in the sense that people who have been oppressed by a text may, as part of a healing process, need to encounter the text again–but how do we honor the different amount of time that it will take for each individual to encounter it in a public liturgy?

On a separate note, is there a way that reading these clobber verses in their Scriptural context and in the gathered liturgical community can be defused and redeemed? I focus specifically on context because their weaponized form depends largely–if not entirely–on their disconnection from the biblical texts from which they are drawn and the scope of the biblical narrative as a whole.

Liturgy is so important and so complex because it encompasses so many aspects of human and theological life. It draws together the Scriptures, moral and spiritual formation, pastoral needs, the handing on of tradition, and a host of other factors together. This is one of those intersections where the pastoral dimension comes to the fore and, to be honest, that’s a dimension of it that comes less naturally to me than others. So–what do we do with these; what should we do?

On Censored Lectionaries

Dr. Deidre Good of GTS has written a short thought about ++Rowan’s lecture on Scripture interpretation. (h/t *Christopher) In it, she specifically addresses something that is a major concern of mine. That is, if the liturgical gathering is the primary and normative locus for the Body of Christ encountering the Word of God, why are our lectionaries piece-meal? Why do they consciously skip certain texts–and what does this say about us as an interpretive community…

One of the fundamental things that make Christians Christians is that
we share a canon. We have wrestled and struggled with the Scriptures for centuries and that is part of what makes us who we are. What does it do to us and to our formation when we choose to not wrestle with God?

Some of the comments engage the whole idea of selected readings at all. I have thought a bit about this and point back to something I wrote on this topic a while ago. I’d like to revisit it again soon but time, at present, does not permit…