American Sarum: Monday Morning

Session 7: Panel Discussion

This session was a discussion with four panelists and the occasional addition of a fifth. The panelists were:

  • Bishop Whitmore (BW)
  • Canon Jeremy Davies (JD)
  • Dr. Allan Doig (AD)
  • Dr. John Harper (JH)

Fr. Cody Unterseher (CU) also addressed a few of the questions. I sat with my laptop and typed like crazy. I won’t pretend to have recorded everything, but I think I hit the high points. So—here’s my record of the proceedings.

? (me): From my perspective, we’re looking at liturgy from the wrong way around if we don’t start with theology. That is, liturgy and ceremonial is the kinetic expression of a community’s theological commitments. How would you encapsulate the theology that drives an English/Sarum Use?

BW: Issue is not how has it gone, but what will you do next? The gap between the boomer generation and the next two is the biggest that has ever existed. Boomers want things to be free—Gen Xers and millennials are interested in order. They’re more traditional. They’re more interested in the experience of the worship. Statistics show us that the RC is the fastest growing church; the fastest growing liturgical movement there is the return to Latin movement.

AD: The sense of integration; the way that within the architecture everything has to go with the grain and be integrated. All of the symbolism coordinated allow a rich and dense and layered language with which to express the theology being working out in the congregation. The architecture, the deliberate use of what is there, adjustments can be made to employ that linguistic system you’re developing because there are some things you just can’t express.

JD: There are principles which are quite important—the principles cut across the party boundaries. One of things about John Harper’s presentation is that we’re moving away from text . The preparation and presentation are important as well, especially the use of the senses. That gets the liturgy off the page. What works for people in the performance/apprehension of worship is when all the senses are engaged. Tried to rediscover that at Salisbury. The cathedral had been turned into an auditorium, we’ve moved the chairs out as they weren’t there in the medieval period—the rite gave a structure to the shape. The experience of the ornamented space—the texture. The sense of moving across thresholds and mystery. There are places to go. Moving, being enticed, bit by bit beyond where we are—it’s a way of enfleshing the theology.

JH: The mere fact that we’re doing this research project with the *experience* of worship is critical. We may have a better shaping of the questions about the experience of medieval worship by doing it however inadequately. 20-30 years ago everyone was seeking authenticity. They realized pretty quickly that you couldn’t recapture historical authenticity. But readings of the texts grounded in historical principles is better than not. We are God’s people in the now. I’m conscious of how much my understanding changes of what’s going on—a pointer from yesterday: the distinction between a liturgy that uses the music of its time and a liturgy like Dearmer who was working with Ralph Van Williams in the English Hymnal . Plainsong was intended by those editors as the congregational music. In 1549 we inherit the liturgy as being simplified, our theology of liturgy and music is the least developed.

?: Do we sometimes presuppose a style of music when we envision a liturgy; what’s the place of guitar music and gospel?

JH: In designing the program that we conduct at the University, I wanted to put the underpinning principles back for leaders of worship and liturgy. We had three strands: ministry and worship, music and worship, and the applied. My starting point is that liturgy without a single note sounded is already music. It’s about the interplay between silence and sound. A said service still has the big rhythms. Without that underlying understanding of the liturgy as a whole you’ve missed something.  If it doesn’t make the people pray better, then you’re doing something wrong. Dropping things in to please certain groups is the wrong way to go.

?: The problem is not just the under 30s but the over 30s—they want to be entertained. How do we move them from there to this?

BW: People only do what they know how to do. We know entertainment. The way they unlearn it is that someone has to teach them. One of our difficulties is that we have not embraced our teaching role. In the ordination rite we ask only two things: pastors and teachers. We have yet to embrace that. The parish priest has to embrace the rabbinic role in the community. You have to start with the experience and then go to the theory. We desperately need to recapture the teaching ministry. What we do in worship has to be tied into the teaching ministry of the church. I don’t like how we separate music and liturgy into two different things—they’re two parts of the same thing.

? (Lizette Larson-Miller): The growing tendency in TEC is to minimize training of clergy. I come from the disestablished west coast where most clergy have only been Episcopalians for only a few years. We have to give them the ethos and training very quickly. Putting the Sarum use in the context of a pluralistic society and church; how do we take an adaptation of an inculturated tradition and put it in the place of a multicultural situation?

BW: We need to take the Dr. Phil approach to constructive theology—how’s that working for you? (thumbs down). The way to go forward is to go backward. We have to reach into our past to pull out what works and put it back in place. We have to ask some honest hard questions—for the young clergy in the room, in 10, 20 years, most of us will be dead—it’ll be your church. You’ll be the bishops. You have the opportunity starting now to transform the church and make it something that will help the religious experience of people all over. If we just keep doing what we’re doing we’ll be part of a small “emergent” church. We have to look past the latest theological fads and draw on the past in a reasoned way. This is about the incarnation. We have a core set of doctrines. For us it’s incarnation: the coming of flesh makes a difference. Bringing the tradition into the present and making it live makes all the difference.

AG: the liturgy and all that goes with it is language. If the liturgy is the embodied preaching of the church we’re never just saying one thing. We’re expressing and working towards a whole range of things. There will be a core that remains the same, but it reaches in a lot of … Sarum doesn’t just have one thing to provide.

JD: When I was being trained at Cambridge in my sermon class, a preacher said, “But I’m not a theologian…” The principal completely lost his temper—if you’re not a theologian you shouldn’t be a priest! There is a range of systematic theologies on the Continent and America—England doesn’t really have one and has to borrow it. We can’t escape from systematic to make it up as you go. Theology came alive when I went into an east end parish. Practicalities and aesthetics are part of it, but there’s an education formation that’s part of it. When we introduced Common Worship at Salisbury, we decided there was no point in a consultation—we did it for 6 months, then had a presentation on why and articulate the principles under the change. Then we reshaped the liturgy around the constructive ideas produced by that forum. It’s a theological process as much as anything else.

JH: I take a different take. Many musicians are involved with church because that’s how they’re part of church. As a practical thing, I live on Anglesey. It’s an island of 400 square miles, mostly smaller communities. We have 70 Anglican churches. The quota for stipendiary ministry is 9 as a foreseeable maximum. One thing that the church in Wales is trying to address is the priesthood of all believers and how the laity will have to be formed to keep the churches open if we’re going to. Where is the teaching that lay musicians are receiving? You may be lucky to have a liturgy teacher on staff and they’re usually scholarly rather than practical. To take the cultural thing, we face it because we’re a bilingual church. One of the most painful things for me is when a well-known hymn comes up in Welsh and I can’t understand it. Or I’m playing a hymn I can’t understand. We’ve gone overboard with the gathered community/circle thing. It doesn’t address the individual who wants to sit behind the pillar. Nor does it deal with the theology of where the choir belongs—and a choir is like its own church. When do you make church in the Thursday evening when you come together to practice? One of the things about the service this afternoon is the freedom you have to engage or not engage in the service. The choir and the priests take the responsibility of making sure the flow of the worship goes forward give the laity a freedom to engage in a variety of ways. People will come and go and be touched or not touched but we have the job to just keep doing it. Just sustaining it is important.

?: (Fr. Parker): There are several elephants in the room—one that Dearmer addressed was the lawlessness of the clergy and musicians and what they were doing in church. The Parson’s Handbook has a good deal to say about following the rubrics. Lizette’s question was the most pertinent. The answer has to relate to how we relate to authority and tradition in the church. That has to be sustained. In America the BCP is no longer Common Prayer—rubrics are generally disregarded except when it’s convenient. You do what seems best. To have common worship, you have to agree on what’s common. The other is the Reformation. The BCP is the filter through which Sarum had to come—we don’t have that. By what authority and how do we make a common life in a pluralistic society?

JD: Great question—no clear answer. One of the virtues of Common Worship is that it is fairly common. There has been an ecumenical drawing together within the COE. There was a huge change after Vatican II. There has been a convergence. How and whether one should deal with aberrant practice is a question. I always go to the bishop and ask him—that’s one way to deal with it. Bishops also have a responsibility for the commonality of the bishop. (Depending on the bishop…)

JH: I could have talked about the Reformation more. Last night we heard the musicians’ response to the Reformation. Mundy’s response—priest was the third son of the Duke of Northumbria. You see them responding and taking out the altars and reducing the spending on liturgy in 1551. The parish priest also made sure all the vestments had been put in Westminister and he collected them back at Mary’s reign. Worchester flip-flopped its chancel over the Marian reign. I think of our own recent changes. Last night was mostly chapel royal—the Byrd preces with the chant still there. The continuities are there. There was a respect for the theological things but you also see the syllabic setting of the evening hymn. As for what happens in 1559, there’s article by Robert Barrows—best musicologist alive—on the Elizabethan settlement . Every musician should know Queen Elizabeth’s injunctions on the place of music from 1559. Only words within the BCP should be sung or said at MP/EP; what sounded in the music should be plain and distinct. Respect for the authority of the book! That stays in the COE until the 19th century. When hymns are introduced in 1820 by the first priest who dared to do so, his congregation took him to court for it. I grew up in a MP/EP parish where you sing the hymns before and after the service and on either side of the sermon.

BW: Something about authority that I learned from the army. Once you’ve been given authority it has to be exercised properly. By virtue of ordination vows we’re under authority—if those who have it don’t exercise it, that’s their problem. Everything done here has the authority of the bishop. We still struggle with authority. If I’m not willing to be obedient it doesn’t matter how much authority is in the system.

? (Mark): Thinking again about words and language our Prayer Book offers two different linguistic rites. Should there be a place for the traditional liturgical language in our current idiom? What’s the place of traditional language going forward?

BW: Since we have one authorized BCP, yes. I don’t see prayer book revision anywhere on the horizon. [general applause at this point. It may have started somewhere near us…] Most people in the House of Bishops were priests who had to implement the 79 BCP. We don’t have the will to do it now. There has to be a generational turnover in the HOB. Resolution in 2003 to change the BCP was struck down by 80% in the HOB. We will eventually have to revise the prayer book. Liturgy lives by adapting it to where you are. Be a willing participant. But we’re safe for a while.

?: If the church is not at a point to revise the BCP, how can we revise the hymnal?

BW: I don’t know, I didn’t vote for it. Remember, we authorized a study to see if revision should go forward.  Whatever happen will happen in the HOB first. The HOB actually does understand the relation between liturgy and music.

? (BW): how do you recognize the difference between Sarum and Roman Rite?

JH: Speaking before 1500, I answer this way… In going to the Roman Mass, I know what’s going to happen in which order even if I don’t know the language. If you had travelled through Europe, you’d be able to follow just fine. I wonder if there’s some way that local practice can also share in the broader continuity.

?: Flannery O’ Conner critiques Southern Baptist culture in her letters—it’s [worship is] not about us. We all have to make choices in shaping liturgy and music. How do you make the choices to make sure it’s not about personal choice and preference?

JD: I’ve been there for 25 years and that helps. I’ve built up a rapport with the congregation and with wider congregations. Building up over time trust builds too. You get a way of listening to what people say Liturgy is also ministering on all sorts of levels. There’s a lot of formal but also informal discussion with the staff as music and liturgy work in the same space at the cathedral. We’ve also had to find ways through committees to widen that conversation. There’s partly the discipline; it’s not just about choosing an appropriate text but looking at the  texture as well. 16th century polyphony has a richness but is unaccompanied—it presents a texture about Advent, giving the feel of the season, feast. I like to have French music during Epiphany because the 20th century French had an extraordinary sense of liturgical sensibility in music. It captures the mystery.

CU: On the Sarum—after Trent there was a straightening process that put an Italian Baroque aesthetic on all of Europe. Medieval England was a pick and choose game. There are some practical aesthetic markers. Rome uses 6 candles; EU uses 2. Riddels and side-posts. These are found across  continental diocesan uses but Dearmer connected these with an EU in contrast to the Italian Baroque style.

?: Sarum blue—isn’t it just faded purple?

JH: No. One of the thing we’re currently doing is a searchable version of the Sarum medieval customary. There’ll be six Latin texts. With 6 English translations. In the register of St Osmund. There is a specification of color. Blue is signaled there as one of the colors. Purple is a royal dye.

?: What is characteristically different between the Roman and the Sarum Use?

JH: First a defensive question—liturgists and liturgical theologians are primarily interested in the first hundred years of liturgy. Not the Medieval. There’s a big hole about what we read. I wouldn’t dare to write that book that I wrote 20 years ago.  There’s a study of 400 churches over 400 years in one county to look at how the churches changed and how the theologies changed there that has to be grasped. Dick Pfaff’s book on late medieval feasts—do get it. One of our students is working on the theology of the late medieval Jesus Mass. Rededication of monastic cathedrals were to Jesus—Christchurch and then subsidiary saints.

?: Atonement theology has covered the Incarnation piece so heavily, when will Anglican teachers formulate liturgies that talk about and lift up the incarnation and tone down the Atonement?

BW: You did point out one of the theological difference between Sarum and Roman. One of the core doctrines of the Roman church is about the atonement. That’s not core for us (?) the way we worship doesn’t flow from the doctrine of the atonement. Being raised Roman and going through a Roman seminary, I don’t hear the strands of atonement sounding for us the way it does there. We hear the strands differently because we start from a different perspective. The uniqueness of our view flows from our particular perspective and history. I don’t know when we’ll get to our incarnational root but we’re going in the right direction.

JD: There isn’t just one doctrine of atonement. I don’t think we should think in terms of minimizing it, but putting it in context. In the Cranmer prayerbook, there’s no mention of the resurrection outside of the creed. The place of the Holy Spirit likewise. The atonement is in a different context.

? (Fr. Parker): How do we make the richness of the Sarum Rite/Use available in a Reformed context and with our current BCP? The object is to make people holy. That’s what our liturgy does. We survive and grow. We want to make the numinous more readily available. I want to know how to make that happen in my building with my people, being faithful to the question of one use.

CU: The use, properly speaking, is the externals. If we’re all using the prayer book must we be using the same externals?

BW: I think the fullness of that answer has yet to be unfolded. This is the first time a conference like this has been put on. This is a beginning. We can’t just lay it down now that it’s happened. What is the next step? How do we help you look at your building and go from there?

AD: Referring to something John said—the Sarum family—there have always been different inflections of the language of Sarum but a core of expression. Sometimes a dialect becomes a dominant form of a language because it’s been useful in a certain place. It makes sense to inflect it differently based on the needs of your position. Something it’s discovering something that was lost that will reinvigorate it.

JH: What we saw last night was not available to Percy Dearmer. We have so many more resources to enrich our understanding. I’m petrified to write a book because emy knowledge is so narrow—but if somebody doesn’t have the courage to have a go at it, it won’t happen. I found the liturgy comfortable and rich. Fr. Bird knows how to use technology as well. He can face east with a good microphone and good amplification. Note how different it’ll be this afternoon when Jeremy says the service without it.

6 Replies to “American Sarum: Monday Morning”

  1. Lizette’s question is also my own. I’m not sure that it was answered. Yes, it’s about the Incarnation–I whole-heartedly agree, and as He was inculturated in Salisbury does not of itself lend itself to our context whole cloth, nor does Emergent necessarily mean that we cannot or should not borrow from the riches of our ancestors in the faith. And what may have worked in the past may not work in our context, and other things in the past may work. Which gets us to some particulars around what theology, what christology, is norming what we recycle. Sarum makes some assumptions around mediation that the positive aspects of the Reformation in Anglicanism cannot accept, for example, intercession through the BVM and Saints to Christ, rather than Christ as sole mediator. I noted this tendency shows in The American Missal as well. Like Michael Ramsey, the positive aspect of the Reformation, Christ’s sole Headship because the only headship not localized, Christ’s sole Mediation because very God and very Human, and emphasis on God’s initiative are very catholic indeed–and Lutheran as the current ABC remarked of Ramsey, but incompatible with a wholecloth take of Sarum. So, I get back to what are some particulars of Anglican theology, christology, etc. And we do have some.

  2. I could add additionally, that careful study of our praying shows that in contrast to Sarum, propitiatory language is eliminated and Irenaean and Psalmic orientation around sacrifice are used as a lenses to interpret such to God’s sacrifice to us, God’s self-offering to us in Christ by the Spirit. The emphasis is on God’s mercy toward us in Christ by the Spirit, who takes us into God’s own life without merit of our own and invites our participation, our fellowship. We need not earn mercy or beg for it, it is gift to us unearned and lavishly given in Christ. Part of this is a breakdown in a particular Roman understanding of these matters as things are reinterpreted through the late Medieval period toward a concern for a particular emphasis on the Incarnation, that nevertheless led to appearance of our needing to earn God’s love by the time of Reform. Again, being charitable and recognizing that rites are reinterpreted over time in ways that those who first knew them might not recognize or approve.

    We may not have a singular confession or a systematic hero or even many systematic expositions, but there is some basic christological governing or directionality in our praying: Christ’s merits only (again comparison of Sarum collects with our own is important in this regard as Louis Weil also notes)–we have access directly to the Living God mediated through this One Lord Jesus Christ; Christ is the one and only propitiation needful or efficacious once-for-all and the Great High Priest, who, in the words of Jewell, offers us to the Father (rings of Luther); God comes to us by the Holy Spirit and gathers us unto Christ (the so-called Sursum Corda piety of Cranmer that Sykes observed) who shows us before the Father and comes to us in Word and Psalm, through Word with Water, as Word with Bread and Wine; this all happens through and by the Holy Spirit.

    Additionally, noting emphasis on elements and word, our praying tends to hold together two ritual idioms: presentational (pre-Reformation) and proclamatory (Reformation). Both, I might add are part and parcel of a healthy Benedictine tradition.

    None of this means as you know, that I set aside asking the Theotokos or other saints to pray for me or talking to them as I have special relationship with several as though family, but this is possible because we are all in Christ as He is in us, or that my devotion to Our Lady can ever be separable from the Incarnation from which her chief title derives. And the Whole Family is no more so close than at Holy Communion.

  3. Good thoughts, Christopher. Certainly no one is suggesting that the Episcopal Church will or should take up the Sarum Rite directly. And, as you may note in my discussion of the proceedings so far and that I’ll clarify with my final post of conference coverage, the point is less the Sarum texts, and more the experiential environment of Sarum.

    (In fact, I was rather surprised by an almost complete lack of discussion of the Sarum texts themselves but I’ll address that in my wrap-up; it’s significant that the medievalist presenters at the conference were both fundamentally in the arts: Dr. Doig spoke on the architecture, and Dr. Harper is a musician and musicologist rather than a “textual” liturgist as I tend to be.)

  4. I used this tonight for EFM @ St Marks. I love how one of the suggested books is not only out of print, but only available, used, from Amazon Uk for £90 … just like material from Sewanee. I did see that a book of Dr Pfaffs’ is available for Kindle. There goes the birthday money out the window before I get it …

  5. That’s interesting. No discussion of the texts? While certainly I am interested in the full flesh of liturgy, texts are a vital piece of liturgical remains–and we’re lucky to have them with Sarum at several points in its history. For we texty types to not discuss the texts when looking at liturgical theology is problematic while recognizing that the texts are the not the fullness of a communication that is multisensory through space, color, etc.

    I might add as I did in a previous post at my blog, our theologia incarnationis should not leap to a quick division of Incarnation and Atonement, or Nativity and Cross. As Temple came to in his later theology, the Incarnation and Atonement are of a piece. The Incarnation is boldly shown forth at the Cross, which I think is no small means why some early Christians objected so strongly to a suffering and dying Jesus.

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