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.

8 Replies to “An Era Ends”

  1. Indeed. One will note, that some of the old order, a certain Dr. A, however, have in remained unrepentant on remembering the old orders… and are perhaps leading the new generation as even as they prepare to pass on the baton…

    The future I suggest is in two primarily different directions: 1) a continuation along the ordo route in ever-increasing diversity in orders and theologies attendant to these as the retrieval of the 4th century has shifted now to the 2nd century (though not recognized by folks going the ordo route); 2) a critical orthodox revisiting of the historical orders and ways of life (our rites) of one’s particular tradition and theological commitments–and non-negotiable Nicene-Constantinopolitan commitments–with a move to reappropriate these in our time and proclaiming the Gospel in our place and among these peoples. I tend to fall into the second grouping…

    And though I’m concerned we’ve lost something particular to us in the Ecumenical and Liturgical movements, and especially regarding Sin and a Lenten sense of life, this set of scholars renewal is not all to be knocked, after all, our Triduum rites are a part of their effort, and I wouldn’t trade them back now. I will honor each as they retire, many of them have been mentors even as they recognize that something different is afoot amongst the younger.

    I wonder what they will be grousing about in our theologies and ideologies sometimes? Sometimes I think I swing between repristinization and reform, for example.

  2. We’ve discussed the repristinization thing before, an attempt to return to 2nd century purity… The only way that makes sense to me is if we believe the Spirit fell silent for 18 centuries and I am not willing to go there.

  3. Repristinization seems to be happening though among those going for 1662, Trent, some Anglo-catholic this or that or some other example, etc. That’s more what I meant. So it’s not just attempts to return to 2nd century purity, but 17th century purity or sometimes 16th century purity or even 20th century pre-1979 purity. The question for me is how to consider if we’ve “leaped” over or put aside something of that long history of a rite in reform from the 6th century on in the Roman rite in its English inheritances for 4th century repristinizations that leaves a sense of loss And how to reconsider that 1500 years of inheritance without pretending we can naively recover 1549, 1662, etc.

    Those going for the 2nd century often don’t notice that they’re going for liturgical diversity no longer coupled to 4th century theological commitments. And that it looks an awful lot like consumer culture.

  4. I think the future will be the local, organic liturgies. This will be both good and bad. It will really depend on the quality of liturgical education that folks receive at the sems. Personally, I think we need folks like you guys, Derek and *Christopher, to be part of that renewal of liturgical education.

    I for one am glad that I got to spend so much time with Don Saliers. Though we come to different conclusions on some issues, the love of liturgy I received from him will stick with me for a long time.

  5. I think the future will be the local, organic liturgies.

    What do you mean by this, lp?

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