Monthly Archives: April 2014

Children in Church: Easter Vigil Edition

bls rightly points us to Ben Myers’ wonderful post on his son’s experience of the Easter Vigil.

All I can add is: YES!

Well, actually, I know I can’t help myself from adding a bit more…

Two things.

First, I said a while ago that I needed to write up how M used to do her children’s mass because it truly was exemplary as far as I’m concerned. It was a well-done Anglo-Catholic prayer book low mass that incorporated children, but talked down neither to them nor to their parents. And both the kids and the parents loved it. I do actually need to write that up…

Second, Ben Myers’ observations parallel mine. The girls were in church quite a lot over the last few days, even going all three Nocturns at the Tenebrae. (I took them home and put them to bed so they didn’t get through Lauds. My decision—not theirs.) They loved it. Heading home, G’s principal comment after chanting through 12 odd psalms was “That’s what real Christian music is supposed to sound like, not the praise stuff they make us sing in chapel [at school].”

H is used to hearing Anglican Chant in church; she wasn’t used to us singing Gregorian tones there (we have sung it at home a few times), but after the Tenebrae she was at it like a pro—and insisted that we sing along with the choir at the Vigil. The psalms in our leaflets were unpointed, but she did a fine job of sight-pointing with me. (So, if my 8 year old can pick it up, why do some feel that adult congregations can’t…?)

Because the sign-up sheet was left unguarded in the parish hall, both girls signed up to serve as lectors, several times. They did great. Yes, we practiced and went over words, and worked on projecting and all. (H never did fully wrap her tongue around “ordinances” and also ended up with one syllable to many or to few…) But at 10 and 8, they read just as well as the adult lectors.

Kids want to sing, they want to serve, they want to have the full-body experience. Yes, they want to play with fire. And we should let them! Carefully, of course. They neither want nor need a second-class liturgy. They went it well-done and as rich and deep as the rest of us.

Liturgical Juxtaposition

One of the things that I talked about in my dissertation that I’m revisiting as I frame it into a book is the principle of liturgical juxtaposition. That is, one of the ways the liturgy functions is to draw Scripture together—literally placing passages one next to the other—sometimes purposefully, other times accidentally as different cycles draw different texts together, then leaving the participant to tease out connections and relationships between them. Sometimes these come only at a great stretch as we see in some tortured allegories of the liturgy. At other times, they flow effortlessly, naturally, and powerfully.

That was my experience at Morning Prayer today. The Passion from yesterday still ringing in my ears, reading Psalm 72 (on the monthly cycle), a psalm of royal triumph, juxtaposed with the Monday in Holy Week antiphon: “The Lord was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and He opened not His mouth” neatly captured the contrast that will animate the rest of the coming week.

Episco-pitch: The Short Version

A number of people have been posting their elevator pitch for the Episcopal Church. A while back I did my elevator pitch for the faith in general which I still quite like. But here’s my take. It assumes a very short elevator ride:

Faith seeking Understanding,
Rapt in the beauty of holiness.
Treading the sacramental path into love.

Perhaps it even qualifies as an Episcopal haiku rather than elevator pitch…

Maundy Thursday Musings

Not being a priest, I have no authority to shape liturgical celebrations at the local level. In a certain sense, this gives me the freedom to play “what if” and think through various scenarios without having to commit to one to embody in the midst of community that has its own histories that may either support or resist what I dream up in my head!

Of the various liturgical possibilities and quandries within the span of high-church Anglicanism, I think that perhaps the most interesting with which to wrestle is the tone of Maundy Thursday.

As I interpret the various services I’ve seen and attended, there seem to be two main types. The first is to emphasize the establishment of the Eucharist. In this version, Maundy Thursday is radically different from the Lenten and Holy Week liturgies around it. The vestments are white, the Gloria in Excelsis—unheard since the Sunday of the Transfiguration (or perhaps the Annunciation)—peals out its joy, and the Eucharist is celebrated in its highest possible state.

The second is to emphasize its setting within Triduum and Holy Week. Here the vestments are either the crimson or ox-blood or Lenten purple of the season, the Gloria remains tucked away, and the emphasis rest less on the gift of the sacrament to the Church than a man’s prophetic—and proleptic—last meal with his friends.

Like most of the mysteries of the Church, there ought to be a sense of both/and rather than a strict either/or. However, when it comes to the textures of the service, the vestments, the music, the tone of the event, you really do have to choose one or the other. Vestments are either crimson or white. In Rite II, you either use the Gloria or the Kyrie (or the Trisagion). The Opening Acclamation is either penitential or not.

The prayer book to which we look for guidance, gives us very little to go on. Indeed, it begins with the singularly unhelpful rubric, “The Eucharist begins in the usual manner, using the following Collect, Psalm, and Lessons.” Really? “Usual”? What’s that supposed to mean—usual Lent, usual Holy Week, or usual Feast of Our Lord/Institution of the Eucharist? The collect emphasizes the institution of the Eucharist as its central point, yet does not omit a reference to the night before Christ’s suffering.

As a liturgist who is also a biblical scholar whose work focuses on the gospels, I find this one of our toughest nuts to crack.

That is, if we celebrate Maundy Thursday as a Eucharistic festival, do we overshadow, obscure, or distract from our experience of Triduum and the gospels’ emphasize on the events around Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection? Recall the, I think accurate, summation of Mark’s Gospel as a Passion Narrative with an extended introduction. Recall that the evening of Maundy Thursday begins at John 13; almost a third of the John’s Gospel, from chapter 13 to the middle of chapter 20, occurs within the three-day span.

In one sense, this quandry can be constructed along classical lines of Christian argument as the age-old fight of sacrament vs. Scripture. But I think it’s deeper than that. Really wrestling with it engages some of the deep questions about the inter-relationship between the meal of Jesus in the upper room and the sacrament of the Church society, between our Lord’s command to repeat what he did in his memory and the forms in which we share this ceremony now. Rather complex questions of sign, intention, metaphor, and continuity vie with one another here.

My own preference is to let Maundy Thursday be the Triduum’s inauguration, where Jesus gathers with those whom he trusts and to whom he teaches his last lesson of love in two ways, both firmly rooted in ritual action. Then we watch a third way unfold as trust unravels, and he is betrayed into the hands of those who seek his life. I’m all for a blow-out celebration of the sacrament—and that’s why we have Corpus Christi, a day to revel in the gift of grace given to the Church. But to make Maundy Thursday that day, it seems to me, obscures a bit the uncomfortable yet necessary truth that the betrayer of trust is a disciple who loves Jesus. As we do…

The best of the celebration-style gatherings that I have seen use the contrast between the service’s glorious start and its stark ending in stripped sanctuary as a pivot. The contrast is an integral part of the liturgy’s experience. And I think that it can serve as an effective entry into the Three Great Days. But, on the whole, my preference is to experience it the other way.

For my part, of course, it’s not in my hands. I actually don’t know how my parish will celebrate it this year; I’ll find out next week. And I’ll be fine with whichever way we do it. However, I still see this day with its complex confluence of themes worth wrestling with…


Logos Anglican Base Package

The good folks at Logos Bible Software have sent me a review copy of their latest work, the Anglican Base Packages. I’m going to be writing a formal review for this software for The Living Church, but as a means to prepare for that, I’ll be putting it through its paces and posting informal reviews here as I work through various sections of it.

A little back story… I first used Logos Bible Software when the religion department at St. Olaf got a computer lab and installed it there 20 years ago (!). I liked it enough that I bought a copy for myself that I used through the latter half of college and my first few years in seminary. Looking through the old files on my hard drive, I found a review of it I wrote 10 years ago while assisting in the revision of the third edition of Biblical Exegesis. I liked it then too, but thought its search capabilities at that time came in second to the other big dog on the block, BibleWorks (then version 5). Since then, I haven’t done a lot with Bible software. I’m curious to see how far progress has come in the last ten years!

When I first got involved with Logos, it tended towards two main markets, Bible-studying evangelicals and academics. They were one of the first early systems to have good original language support, but a lot of their English-language library add-ons tended towards conservative evangelical devotional materials—mostly things that had gone out of print. In the days before Google Books, this was a good thing if you wanted such material. These days, post-Google Books, you have to step up your game significantly!

And they have…

In recent years, they have produced a product line specifically geared towards Roman Catholics called Verbum. In addition to biblical materials, they included good resources across the span of church history—from the Fathers through the medieval period up to the modern day.

Now—it’s our turn. Just looking at the number and span of resources in the Anglican Base Packages, I’m blown away. The people who put the list of resources together really knew what they were doing. It has many of the patristic and medieval resources that were in the Catholic set, and includes a wide array of Anglican authors through the centuries and across party divisions. Naturally, it has a strong prayer book section. The biblical material looks great too. I plan to look at all of these areas in detail in further posts, so I won’t dig into them here. Overall, my first impression of the package has been fantastic!

Here’s the official press release on it:

Bellingham, Wash., March 27, 2014 — Logos Bible Software has announced a new line of scholarly libraries tailored to Anglicans/Episcopalians. The new “base package” libraries offer all the features of Logos’ nondenominational base packages, with a resource lineup that meets the specific needs of Anglican scholars and pastors.

Conventionally, in-depth study requires access to a large physical library and large blocks of time for study and reflection. Logos’ Anglican base packages aim to overcome these barriers — they include hundreds of titles from the Anglican tradition, accessible on a computer or mobile device. All the resources are linked using Logos’ proprietary code, enabling users to jump between Scripture and Tradition with a click. This means Anglican scholars can spend less time on busywork and more time learning and reflecting.

“The Logos Anglican program is one of the best tools for personal spirituality and ministry that I have come across,” said Rev. C. K. Robertson, PhD, canon to the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. “Actually, it is more of a toolbox than just a tool, as there are so many wonderful aspects of it that I am only beginning to discover! Not only are the biblical materials incredibly helpful, but the pieces devoted to the Book of Common Prayer and the other Episcopal resources make this absolutely invaluable. I heartily commend this work to all members of the Episcopal Church.”

Logos has been creating world-class Bible software for more than 20 years. It has almost 2 million users in more than 210 countries, and partners with more than 200 publishers to provide the best content from the scholarly world. Logos’ in-house biblical-language and theological scholars do original research and consult on software development.

Last year, Logos hired an Anglican expert, Ben Amundgaard, to design a product line that would meet the needs of Anglican and Episcopalians. Amundgaard consulted other Anglican scholars and emphasized the classic Anglican integration of Scripture, Reason and Tradition; the result is a biblical and theological library customized to the needs of Anglican scholarship.

“I have happily used Logos software for Bible reference and study since 1995,” said Rt. Rev. George Wayne Smith, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. “Every day I open the software to pray Morning and Evening Prayer from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer 1979, using the Logos resource for the Daily Lectionary. I also have at hand works by foundational writers in the Anglican tradition — theologians like Thomas Cranmer, Richard Hooker and Lancelot Andrewes. I am thrilled to learn that Logos is releasing even more packages from this tradition that I love and call home.”