Daily Archives: January 15, 2011

American Sarum: Saturday Morning

Morning Prayer

The day’s events opened with a sung service of Morning Prayer. As you can imagine at a conference of Anglican musicians, the singing was wonderful. The psalms were well-chanted by all; standing in the midst of the congregation singing the hymn was a great experience. Morning Prayer occurred and God was duly worshipped.

It was a perfectly acceptable prayer book service, but I was confused at some of the choices made. The psalms were chanted with the cantor singing the first half of the verse and the congregation singing the second half—I don’t believe I’ve ever experienced that before and found it unusual. The canticle following the single reading was the Te Deum. While I would have chosen the Benedictus on principle, the Te Deum is a perfectly legitimate choice—but the Suffrages were set A. Our current Suffrage B is the set that the West has historically appended to the Te Deum. The ’79 BCP detatched them from the Canticle and appointed them as an option, making them the natural choice when the Te Deum is used.

The combination of these choices made me wonder—if the conference is on American Sarum, why not do a more Sarum-style Office? Why not use the Benedictus, and if the Te Deum is used, why not use the suffrages sung with it at Salisbury? Why not use Sarum practice in chanting the psalms? The implication is that the Sarum Use is exclusively a Mass use. And it may be at this particular church—I haven’t seen any references to public Offices. But it needn’t be and shouldn’t be; a use that consciously engages the Sarum tradition is missing a significant piece of that tradition if it omits the Offices.

Session I: Fr. Unterseher

The first session was by Fr. Cody Unterseher, a priest associate of the parish who is finishing a PhD in Liturgics at Notre Dame, and a member of the Pray Tell blogging team. This session was focused around the notion that, contrary to the oft-repeated parish phrase, no—we haven’t always done it that way. Thus, as a theory-based introduction to the conference as a whole, it served as a reminder that there has always been diversity in Christian liturgy. Drawing on the work of Paul Bradshaw and others, Fr. Unterseher noted that discontinuity is as much a feature in Christian liturgy as continuity. No—we haven’t always done it that way. While I do have some quibbles with some of his historical points—particularly around what level of continuity did exist and an overly hasty dismissal of the Ornaments Rubric—the presentation did a good job of introducing non-specialists to the legitimate discontinuities in the liturgical past. The purpose of this historical introduction was make the point that discontinuities are not uncommon in our liturgical record—and we now live in a situation of much change and turbulence. We should’t let how we’ve done thing in the past hold us back from what we could be doing and how we can leverage our historical resources to help us in this new situation.

Session 2: Dr. John Harper

This session was one of the reason I came to this conference and Dr. Harper did not disappoint. In a fast-paced and data-rich hour, Dr. Harper walked us through the key points grounding the medieval Use of Sarum. He began by reminding us that there was a clear and distincive Ecclesia Anglicana that authorized the Sarum Use between 1534-1549. During this fifteen-year period between Henry the 8th’s definitive break with Rome and the introduction of the first Book of Common Prayer, England was a church apart from papal domination that authorized the Sarum Use as the official use of the realm. Homing in on the word “Use,” he challenged the typical protestant equation of Use with texts and suggested that we gain a fuller sense of the term is we understand a Use to be the confluence of:

  • Materials—both texts and objects
  • People—both as offices held by individuals and the personalities who inhabit those offices
  • Place—meaning both a geographical location and the normative worship spaces
  • Time—used in a general periodic sense but also referring to the local sense specific to a day and place

He then explicated these four factors with a wealth of detail and a fantastic set of slides which included the two cathedral sites at Old and New Sarum and the major stages in the construction of New Sarum. This was coupled with a discussion of the major individuals—mostly bishops—who saw the growth and expansion of Sarum and how the community of canons likewise grew until it reached a stabilized number of 52 canons on a quarterly rotation in New Sarum.

Regarding the spread of the Sarum Use he noted that it was one of the earliest coherently codified Uses in England; due to the cathedral’s shift to New Sarum and Richard Poore’s compilation of the customary and ordinal for the new building, Sarum offered a clearly defined system which other dioceses could borrow for use and adaptation. Furthermore, Sarum Use was frequently adopted by parishes in diocese which retained a monastic cathedral. Since parishes couldn’t use monastic uses without significant adaptation, the secular Sarum Use was a natural substitute for writing/compiling their own.

Dr. Harper’s final point was to return to the concept of a Use as something very much more than just a text. Medieval liturgy was very much a “sensory polyphony” where a variety of sights were overlaid by a variety of sounds and a variety of smells. Texts, actions and movements were also layered with the various parts of the worshipping body participating in different activities at the same time and only coming together at the main cofluences of the liturgy like the Great Elevations.

We were left with a sense of the wealth and richness of the liturgical environment and the possibilities that existed for us in appropriating even a bit of these for our current context.

American Sarum: Friday Night

M and I arrived at the conference late Friday afternoon and have been on the run until now. I’m stealing a moment between arriving for coffee and heading up to Morning Prayer. As a result, I’ll be putting out a few thoughts now that I may go back and fill in later. (Do let me know if there are specific points you’re interested in.)

The conferece is very well attended—indeed, I think that there are more participants than the organizers initially expected and there are moments when the logistics seem clearly scaled to a smaller crowd. There are about 100 participants; I’d guess that about two-thirds are musicians, the other third being clergy. Among the clergy there’s a nice group representing the Society of Catholic Priests.

The main activity of the night was a concert by the Trinity Wall Street choir singing medieval English music. The first half was music from the thirteenth century to the Eton Choirbook (c. 1500). The second half offered selections from composers during Queen Mary’s restoration of the Sarum Rite between Edward and Elizabeth. The music was glorious.

MP calls… More later.

Englishing Sarum

Time and leisure being what they are, this post will be far more a set of pointers than a properly-researched orderly exposition. I’ll loop back and hit Late Sarum later—I think it more important for the purposes of the coming American Sarum conference to consider a key step in the Sarum story: its leap to the modern day.

I choose the somewhat unwieldy “Englishing” quite deliberately because I want to highlight two of its sense, both of which are fully at play. The first is that, for the Sarum materials to have an impact on the England the America of the modern day, they had to leave the language of Latin and enter the tongue of English. This is the simplest meaning of the term.

However, something else is going on here as well. As a recent commenter pointed out in regard to another topic, you can never go back again. Bringing something forward from a past time into a present gives it a whole new set of meanings based on the new context, how the present context views the past, and the purposes and ideologies involved in selecting and reviving this particular slice of the past (and not others). There was a very deliberate program of “Englishing” at work in the 19th century revival of Sarum.

One of the key movements in 19th century, particularly Victorian, England was Gothic Revival. This was a confluence on romanticism, medievalism, and nationalism that found expression in a variety of ways. The term is most commonly associated with architecture, but it stands at the heart of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) and became a major cultural force.

Pause for a moment to consider King Arthur. Unless you’re a trained medievalist, your chief exposure to King Arthur and the Round Table is fundamentally rooted in Gothic Revival forms of romanticized medievalism lavishly illustrated by some of the great painters produced by the philosophy of the PRB. Tennyson’s Idylls of the King is a classic example of how these movements filtered into the broader English consciousness.

Catholic expressions of Anglicanism (i.e., Anglo-Catholics and other folks) typically trace themselves back to the Oxford Movement—and this is correct in a general theological way. The Oxford Movement was not Anglo-Catholic, though, and readers of the Tracts are often surprised at the amount of weight given to topics like bishops and the relationship between Church and State rather than ritual or ceremonial. The movement that had more impact on the daily practice and perception of the Church of England was the Cambridge Movement which birthed the Cambridge Camden Society which would become the Ecclesiological Society and exerted a disproportionate influence on how churches were built, decorated, and appointed. The Cambridge Camden Society, founded by Blessed John Mason Neale and comrades, was explicitly and fundamentally medievalist in orientation. The majority of Neale’s hymns are translations of medieval texts and even his original compositions—like Good King Wenceslaus—are medieval in character.

It’s within this context that a renewed interest in Sarum sources began. If you check back to the previous post on editions, you’ll note that the Victorian period—the second half of the 19th century—is when the publishing really took off. Because of the ideologies surrounding the revival, “Victorian Sarum” is both more and less than “historical Sarum.” Translations and syntheses of “Sarum” practice became an odd amalgamation of 1) historical sources, 2) contemporary Roman Catholic practice, and 3) the authors’ fancy. The balance of these three components varies by author and by work, some being more grounded, some being more fanciful.

Sarum becomes a cypher for a host of things. Sarum becomes directly equated with English. Thus other regional uses like Hereford, Lincoln, Exeter, and York were both plundered for raw material when there were Sarum gaps, and were downplayed in order to keep Sarum front and center. (Christopher, Pfaff’s chapter 14 is entitled “Regional Uses and local variety” and covers the English non-Sarum material quite well.)  When Sarum is equated to English then it was given a natural antithesis: Roman. Now, a more objective view will recognize that in the heyday of the Sarum Use there was no strictly “Roman Use.” The sense I get from what little I do know of late medieval Continental uses is that many of them had their own local customs and traditions. There was no monolithic “Roman” practice from which Sarum diverged, and it was probably as unique as its neighbors. My sense is that when Rome did move to standardize, it relied on the liturgical uses of the mendicant orders—particularly the Franciscans because the orders were already trans-regional (due to the whole “wandering” bit implied in “mendicant”).

Thus, if you wanted to espouse catholic practices but still keep a certain distance from Roman Catholicism and all that stood for in pre-Victorian and Victorian England, an appeal to “Sarum” was your key. It was both medieval and catholic but conceptually not Roman Catholic. It was native and English, and not a foreign imposition. Too, there’s the “Ornaments Rubric” which deserves a massive post of its own for the role it played—or was given to play—in grandfathering in Sarum appointments and ceremonial.

There’s quite a lot more to say here. Actually, there are probably several book-length studies that could written here. I don’t know if any have and would love to hear if you know of any…

In any case, given the current concerns, I want to point to just three resources. These are what I consider to be the three central works on Sarum/English ceremonial from the end of the 19th century and that have done the most to create what is referred to variable as the Sarum or English Use:

  • Vernon Staley’s Ceremonies of the English Church
  • W. H. Frere’s Principals of Religious Ceremonial
  • Percy Dearmer’s Parson’s Handbook

Each of these is available for download from Google Books and each deserves a post in their own right.