St. Bede Psalmcast: Episode 10

The 10th episode of the St. Bede Psalmcast is now up! It’s a wide-ranging discussion of Psalm 8, the Scripture appointed for the The Feast of the Holy Trinity, that gets into a number of hot-button topics and unexpected places. If nothing else, this episode gives credence to my dictum that the psalms provide the perfect starting place to get into almost any branch of Christian theology and practice!

 

Posted in Anglican, Psalms | Tagged | 1 Comment

New Breviary Update

Here is the latest version of the breviary code revision! There are a few bugs that I’ve found so far—notably around the “Previous Office” button moving from Morning Prayer to Compline.

I’m still revising it and am working on a “Save” button.

http://breviary.stbedeproductions.com/test/office.html

Posted in Breviary, Tech | 1 Comment

Church as Resource 1

I saw two things yesterday that made me remember a third and that tapped into something that I’ve been thinking quite seriously about for a while now.

The first was Kyle Oliver’s post on Formation with Young Adults. Do read the whole thing, but these are some of the lines that jumped out at me:

Young adults – those in their 20s and 30s, often called Millennials – seem to be everywhere, except, of course, in church. If we truly believe that the church needs millennials, and that millennials need the church, what is the way forward? . . . 

The challenges are real: Pew Research reports that only 18 percent of Millenials say they attend religious services “nearly every week” or more, as of the late ’00s. Religion may well become more important to the Millennials as they age, but slight upward trends do not change the experience of church for the young adults who are currently attending, where the young adult experience can be one of isolation and alienation. It is often difficult to form a critical mass for young adult fellowship or programs. . . .

What no denomination can afford to continue is the habit of trading on denominational loyalty alone. For example, in the Episcopal Church, campus ministries flounder when they say “We’ll be a home for all the Episcopalians on campus.” Many Episcopalians aren’t looking for such a home, and many more don’t particularly care if the Episcopal shield is on the sign out front.

A post-denominational approach acknowledges that the broader Christian tradition is much more important than the way denominations slice and dice that tradition. Denominational identities can help us form distinctive, authentic Christian communities that don’t assume a membership model of the past (“every Methodist will join our group”).

Gathering around a common Christian identity – core teachings of the faith, patterns of common worship and fellowship, a desire to grow and live in integrity – is more engaging than denominational differences. . . .

Online spaces are a primary outlet for all kinds of authentic expression, including religious expression. We shouldn’t assume that young adults demand that all of our faith formation practices have an online component, but strategic efforts can lead to additional “faith touches” and a sense of ongoing connection and belonging amid busy young-adult lives.

I was reminded of this later yesterday evening when I heard a report on Marketplace that has been excerpted for this article on the growth of the fitness industry into a $3 billion business.  Here’s the section that caught my attention in particular:

What is the “mind and body” part here? There is this quasi-religious, sometimes cult-y thing going on.

Well, it is a symptom of our times in many ways. We are an anxiety-ridden, stressed out people here, especially in the urban centers of the United States…. You know, there have been a lot of studies around millennials, especially not going to a lot of organized religion, but they are finding a lot of community in their social groups. And a lot of those social groups are manifesting around fitness boutiques, running clubs, cycling clubs. And part of it is, people feel better after they exercise. It calms them down, and there’s a lot of science around that. You know, you go for a run you clear your head … you feel like you can deal with your life a little better.

The irony, of course, was that I had just dropped off G at ballet and was on my way to the gym to work out…

I totally identify with this because I’m part of it. Furthermore, at least a couple of clergy have said to me that if they weren’t clergy serving parishes, they’d much rather spend nice Sunday mornings out for a run or bike with friends. And—Sunday mornings are precisely when people my age and younger gather to run and bike, and the majority of races are held then. Despite this, M and I have noticed that many of the runners we know are quite religious, most of them Christian (and Saturday vigil masses are very popular among the Roman Catholics for obvious reasons…).

The key limiting resource for people like me—middle-aged(!), middle-class/affluent, educated, white people—is time. Yeah, we may be cash strapped too, but the time pinch sometimes hurts worse than the money pinch (and those two are interconnected in ways that are better saved for another conversation…). If we are going to spend the coin of our time, then we’d better be certain that we’re getting a good return on investment.

If I choose to go for a run on Sunday morning, I can see some very clear, very immediate results that also point towards long-term benefits. It gives me an opportunity to be social by hanging out with my running friends (and there’s nothing like a twenty-miler to spark long soul-baring conversations that can lead to good friendships), I feel better, I can see the benefits on the scale and in my increased level of fitness. Too, I can feel confident that the benefits of this run will keep on going. It helps me stay in a healthy (and fun) habit that will keep me active longer and reduce medical bills in the future.

The goal of the Christian faith is to live the reconciliation with God effected through Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit. It’s about living a life that is deeply in touch with reality and that strives to point to the principles of love, justice, compassion, and mercy that we believe have been woven into the fabric of everything by our good God.  My belief is that living this way should and can have a number of practical everyday benefits.

However, we as the institutional church have failed at drawing a clear connection for our current society regarding how sacrificing a Sunday morning that could be spent doing other beneficial things helps us achieve this goal and this life.

Furthermore, the institutional church has, in some cases, actively assisted in alienating people from the Sunday morning experience—even those who continue to identify as Christians. This is where the first two pieces also got me thinking about the third piece, one from Tony Clavier last year on the “Dones.”

Easter Sunday brought with it the usual railing from clergy and churchfolk about the C&E crowd: those who only darken our doors at Christmas and Easter. Some clergy heap scorn on them. I don’t feel scornful, but I have been frustrated with them in the past. Undoubtedly some of these are P3s (People with Pious Parents) who have no connection or desire for a connection to a religious life. But others are people who do self-identify as Christians and who do feel some obligation to show up occasionally. My frustration as a member of the institutional church is driven by the knowledge that if we all acted this way, the institution itself would collapse on itself and leave them no where to g for their occasionally fixes of public worship.

Now—what I’ve done here is set up some thoughts around people who don’t show up at church for a variety of reasons yet who may well have leanings in that direction.

I could go in a lot of directions from this point. This is what the question that’s been rattling around in my head for a while, though…

Based on the 2015 Pew Study on the Religious Landscape of America, 40% of Roman Catholics say they attend church between two times a month to a few times a year; 20% say they attend “seldom/never.” Likewise, 43% of Mainline Protestants say they attend two times a month to a few times a year, and 24% attend “seldom/never.” And yet, despite “Unaffiliated” being the category with the greatest numerical growth, these infrequent attenders choose to identify with a faith group rather than be called a “None”.

Now—this next part boggles my mind… Working from a related drilldown question on frequency of prayer correlated with church (non)attendance, 50% of the twice a month to a few times a year folks report that they pray daily; of the “seldom/nevers,” 27% say that they pray daily. (This data is displayed on the same page linked to above, just lower down.)

If we believe what these numbers are saying, there’s a whole lot of prayer going on from the C&E crowd or people who never do darken our doors.

What do we do about this?

From where I sit, clergy have a stake in institutional survival. They have to if they intend to get paid to do their thing and to have a stable place in which to do their thing. Thus, they have a vested interest in getting people in the door.  Personally, I think the faith thing works a hell of a lot better when people are coming in the doors and are doing things together because, properly done,  Christianity is a team sport (i.e., see any of the passages where the Body of Christ is discussed particularly those by Paul…).

However, what is the church doing (i.e., what are we doing…) to serve as resources or to provide resources for those who choose not to be involved in our Sunday morning activities, yet who still acknowledge some sort of faith pull to the degree that they would tell a surveyor that they pray daily?

I’m reminded too of comments from readers here who tell me straight-up that they don’t attend anymore or do so infrequently yet are still attracted by and/or participate within the church’s patterns of prayer.

Consider once more the fitness crowd. Here is a body of people who—whether they’re actually regular about it or not—believe in the value of disciplined, long-term activity for personal growth/benefit.

What can we be doing to make the connection here that hasn’t happened?

(And I’ve got no answers, just questions…)

Posted in Evangelism, Formation, Spirituality | 7 Comments

On Children in Church

My latest post is up on Grow Christians, a site for Episcopal families with children.

This is an initial post on having kids in church coming from my particular perspective: the single dad in the pew juggling two kids… That’s in no way intended to minimize the work and impact of Mother M on raising the girls up in the faith, rather, it reflects our usual Sunday morning reality: She’s working—I’m managing the girls.

I’ve got a few more posts outlined in my head that fit into what may become an occasional series, “Secrets of a Pew Whisperer.”

Here’s what I’d consider the key point of this first post:

[M and I] care about how our children believe, and the way that they inhabit, engage, and ultimately own a place in the worshiping community is an essential part of that. In our baptismal vows, we promise to share the Good News with others; as parents, our primary mission field is our own kids.

In the next set of thoughts, I’ll likely revisit one of my fundamental convictions about the character of the Episcopal Church and one of my real concerns with the continued relevance and vitality of the catholic movement within it: a lack of openness to children as full and welcome members of our communities and people with ministries to exercise among us.

Posted in Anglican, Formation | 1 Comment

On Writing for the King

While packing lunches this morning I had a thought hit me that I need to look into further…

The life of Cassiodorus falls into two major sections: The Politician and The Theologian. Cassiodorus begins his political career as quaestor around 507, serves as consul in 514, becomes the magister officiorum in 523, and becomes praetorian prefect in 533. His political career ends somewhere within the period of the Gothic War—when the Roman Empire in the East decides to reassert its western claims and attacks the Gothic kingdom that had been controlling Italy and the West (ostensibly under direction of the East, but not really). Cassiodorus goes to Constantinople sometime around 540 with the remnants of the Gothic court and members of the senatorial class fleeing the violence.

At this point—during his time in Ravenna as the Gothic kingdom is collapsing and in his move to Constantinople—he begins some fairly major literary activity, notably, the collecting and editing of his Variae: books of letters that he wrote while serving the Gothic kings.  As he says in the preface, “All of the letters, therefore, which I have been able to find in various public archives that have been dictated by me as Quaestor, as Magister Officiorum, or as Prefect, are here collected and arranged in twelve books.” The vast majority of these letters were written in the names of the kings. Indeed, the books are arranged according to the people for whom Cassiodorus was writing. Hence, Book 1 is “Containing 46 Letters written by Cassiodorus in the Name of Theodoric.”

Around this time, Cassiodorus makes the decision to leave public life and become an ascetic. He writes his treatise “On the Soul” which he sometimes refers to as the thirteenth book of the Variae. After this, he embarks directly on the writing of his commentary on the Psalms.

What hit me this morning is the relationship between the Variae and the Psalm commentary…

The Variae is a great collection of letters written by Cassiodorus in the names of others.  The dominant perspective on the Psalter that he inherits from Augustine and the rest of the patristic tradition is that David wrote the psalms on behalf of Christ through the dictation of the Holy Spirit. When you look at it from this perspective, there seems to be a strong thematic continuity: both the Variae and the Psalms are collections of brief occasional writings written by one writer on behalf of the sovereign…

I don’t want to push this concept too far—i.e., I don’t think it is a controlling concept in the commentary— or overemphasize the continuity between the two works here, but I am feeling the need to re-read some big sections of both in light of this new thought.

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Update on New Breviary Offices

Since my previous post, I’ve been able to log some significant time getting bugs fixed and features added to the new code base.

Morning Prayer in the new format is here: http://breviary.stbedeproductions.com/test/Morning_79_BCP.html

I’m happy to announce that Evening Prayer can now be found here: http://breviary.stbedeproductions.com/test/Evening_79_BCP.html

But…you might be saying…what if I don’t want to have to go to two different places to get my offices? Never fear, this is a temporary intermediate state while I get things functioning correctly. I’ve already thought of a number of possible end-states where you can go to one place and get the offices you’re after. As usual, I’ll play with a couple, and we’ll figure out what you like best…

Some items to note:

  • The Prayer for Mission is now a choice; all of the options are available, but one is made active.
  • If you’re overwhelmed by options, you can get rid of most of them with the “Simplify Options” button.
  • A number of things will appear now as they ought too—hymns, commemorations, etc.
  • The right creeds are with the right rites.
  • Kalendar selections exist now. There are only three options at the moment: Lesser Feasts & Fasts 2006 (the official Calendar of the church—more on this anon), Great Cloud of Witnesses (made available at General Convention but not yet published in tangible form), and my own idiosyncratic House Kalendar. I’ll add back more as time allows and as I receive requests.

There are some known issues that I am working on:

  • If you begin on a day with ferial psalm antiphons, select a kalendar that is observing a saint, then decide that you really want to go back and not celebrate the saint, the code has trouble recall the initial ferial antiphons.
  • I’m sure there are more waiting to be found…

There are some things I haven’t gotten to.

  • Chief among them is a way to capture/save/apply preferences. I think we’re really close on this one; I’m just trying to determine if there are some more elegant ways to make it happen rather than a basic brute force approach.
  • Non-current BCP adds. Some folks have recommended some additional changes not yet included. I am both sympathetic and supportive of these—but not right now. The mission on the SBS is to provide an office with full options that is licit within the rubrics and rules of the ’79 BCP.  I may well consider incorporating some of your earlier or ore far-reaching options once I can get the core material nailed down—but the core material does now and will always take precendence.

Things I’m mulling over…

  • Yes, both canticles deserve antiphons. And, I have a nice model for Evening Prayer in the Palmer Evening Office antiphon book where there are appointed Magnificat antiphons coupled with broadly seasonal Nunc Dimittis antiphons. However, that raises questions. What if the first canticle at EP is something else and the second is the Mag? Where does the Mag antiphon go? With the Second (Gospel) canticle? What about a good source for MP First Canticles?

Let me know what you think, and we’ll keep moving forward here…

Posted in Anglican, Daily Office, Tech | 4 Comments

Experimental Code for Morning Prayer

As promised earlier, here is a link for Morning Prayer in the new experimental version of the St. Bede’s Breviary code base:

http://breviary.stbedeproductions.com/test/Morning_79_BCP.html

As you’ll see, most of the usual breviary options are present. The two main areas that I intend to get to but have not yet fully addressed are the Calendar/commemorations and a mechanism to save individual options. However, on the latter I think you see that selecting options is no longer the hassle it could be with the earlier editions.

There are probably still some bugs lurking in it, some I’ve discovered, a few I probably haven’t. I am working on the ones I know about in addition to getting Evening Prayer up on line too. Let me know what you think of the new interface and if you run into any problems…

Posted in Liturgy, Tech | 14 Comments

Duck Mode

I’ve been in duck mode for about the past month or so. All is quiet, but there’s massive amounts of churn below the surface… Hopefully this will be coming to an end very soon. Here are some of the things in progress:

  • I’m finishing up a major software project which is where most of my time has been focused.
  • I’ll soon be debuting a brand-new code-base at the breviary. Most of the code changes I’ve made at the breviary over the years have been fairly small and incremental. This isn’t. I’m seeing more evidence of complications with the preferences, especially with iDevices. This change should resolve that and should make navigating the options easier and cleaner. I will retain the “classic” format as the main entry point to the breviary, but will put up copious links to the new method and invite input. Additions/corrections will occur there until I’m happy with it, then that will become the default. I will likely keep the classic version somewhere as a backup.
  • The St Bede Psalmcast will resume from its hiatus.
  • In concert with that, I’ll be posting a lot more as I dive head first into the Cassiodorus/Psalms book projects.
  • Speaking of books—I’m now hearing June from the Forward Movement folks on the prayer book spirituality book, but I’ve seen cover art and internal layout! It looks fantastic, and can’t wait to share more…
  • Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music meetings have been happening, I’m again co-chairing the Calendar subcommittee and have some things to say about that. I’m also part of the subcommittee to discuss a plan for the process of revising the BCP. And, yes, I have thoughts there too…

But remember, all of this is my “spare time” stuff! The day job continues, dance competitions are springing up all over the calendar, and M will be starting her new job as rector of a parish in the area on Monday!

Pray for us…

Posted in Administrative, Random | 2 Comments

Skulls

I have a new post up over at GodSpace; it’s quite appropriate for the end of Lent, I think. Enjoy!

More posts once I get over a nasty stomach bug…

Posted in Psalms, Spirituality | Leave a comment

Thinking on Hymns

I’m in the final stages of edits for my next book, the one on prayer book spirituality. It finally has a title: Inwardly Digest: The Prayer Book as Guide to a Spiritual Life.

As I went through the section on the Calendar yesterday morning, I realized that while I’d talked about the hymns in some seasons, I’d left others out. So–I spent some time with the hymnal, and put together some thoughts on those.

In going through that exercise, I was reminded just how much the early hymns of the West, those by Ambrose, Gregory, Venantius Fortunatus, Caelius Sedulius, and the the early anonymous compositions connect Scripture, liturgy, and doctrinal themes into a seamless sonic package.

When I think and write about the ways that liturgy provides interpretive lenses for both Scripture and Christian experience, I think these hymns play a particularly important role in not just making some foundational connections but handing them down and keeping them alive.

Meditation on these early Office hymns, what they teach us, and how they teach it is just as much a part of our patristic heritage as doctrinal treatises…

Posted in Chant, Daily Office, Patristics | 3 Comments