Decision on Calendar Issues

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music met yesterday afternoon. One of the top topics was the future of commemorations and the state of the Episcopal sanctoral calendar. I had pulled together the work of the subcommittee into a document which was further modified by committee and which was subsequently posted to the SCLM blog where we asked for feedback. Based on the feedback and discussion in the SCLM, we will be moving forward with a reconfiguration of HWHM tentatively retitled “A Great Cloud of Witness” (likely with a clear and descriptive functional title appended to the Scriptural phrase…).

Here are the key features of the recommendations:

  • We clarify that the sanctoral calendar of the Episcopal Church consists of those days celebrated by all—the Principal Feasts and Holy Days of the Book of Common Prayer—and that the calendar in the prayer book reflect this.
  • We clarify that all other days are—as they have always been—optional. They can be celebrated or not at the discretion of the presider or parish.
  • We move away from a canonization model. Instead, the resource follows a “family history” model and identifies people who have been significant and important for the church being the church in the 21st century.
  • The recognition of sanctity of any of the people either on or off the list is a local decision.
  • The central ecclesial act of recognizing a saint is eucharistic celebration. In order to clarify that the list of names and the resource is not a sanctoral calendar, entries will contain a collect for devotional purposes but not full eucharistic propers. However, suggestions for appropriate propers will be provided should a local community choose to honor a given person or group as a saint or saints.
  • Speaking of collects, the prayers currently contained in HWHM will be overhauled. We agreed that the goal is for each commemoration to have an actual collect that is appropriate for worship (not a supplementary mini-bio as one person said in the meeting…). However, given the scope of work, some entries may share appropriate Common collects if unique rewrites cannot be completed for all.
  • The bios will also be redone to remove errors and to highlight Christian discipleship.
  • Because this is not a sanctoral calendar there will be a clause in the criteria allowing for extremely occasional inclusion of non-Christian people with the clear understanding that the bio needs to be upfront about the fact that this is an exception and be equally clear on how the person’s life, witness, work, whatever directly connects to the church’s understanding of Christian discipleship. For example, all of the Dorchester Chaplains will be included—even Rabbi Goode—because the a significant part of the witness of this group is their ecumenical nature. To leave out Rabbi Goode would undercut an important aspect of the commemoration. Is anyone suggesting that Rabbi Goode is a Christian, “anonymous” or otherwise? No. Is his inclusion here indicating that the Episcopal Church now thinks of him as a saint? No. Instead, it recognizes that he was an integral part of a heroic gesture of compassion and ecumenical cooperation that local congregations are free to observe or not at their discretion.
  • The Weekday Temporal material and the Commons for Various Occasions will be collected together and will receive greater emphasis as equally valid alternatives on non-festal days.

There are other things that haven’t been fully decided that still remain to be hashed out. Too, none of this is official until General Convention renders a decision on it. GC may decide to scrap the whole thing and go back to HWHM. However, this represents what we’re working to pull together and put before convention.

As regular readers know, I don’t consider this a perfect solution. There are a number of things I would do differently if it were up to me, but it’s not—this is part of a church-wide process that must satisfy a wide range of theological and political positions. However, it is a workable solution, and addresses many of the flaws identified in HWHM. Whether we’ve just created new flaws, only time will tell…

8 thoughts on “Decision on Calendar Issues

  1. Barbara (bls)

    I’m really glad for the clarifications you’re talking about in points 1 & 2 there; I don’t think that’s very clear to most people (as it wasn’t, really, to me). I love the focus on the local, too.

    And from the little I know about HWHM, the rewrite of the collects sounds like a good thing (and should be a lot of fun, too!).

    Thanks for all your work, and for these updates….

  2. Michael Poteet

    For whatever its worth, as an interested Presbyterian observer with no real “dog in the hunt” but an appreciation for liturgy, I think these guidelines sound very good. One thing my tradition misses out on by not having such a calendar is a deeper knowledge of the “family history,” as these put it. Looks as though you and the committee have done some good work – I’ll look forward to seeing what happens next!

  3. Tom Sramek Jr

    I’m also happy with the “highlight Christian discipleship” piece. We just celebrated Emily Malbone Morgan today, whose collect (GC 2008) went from saying that she established the society of the Companions of the Holy Cross “so that women who live in the world might devote themselves to intercessory prayer, social justice, Christian unity and simplicity of life” to (GC 2012) her establishing the society to “provide respite for women working in factories.” The Gospel passage moved from the story of Mary and Martha to “no one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket.” Focus on discipleship, people, not primarily social justice or relief!

  4. Beth

    I’m glad for this in a sort of “best we can do” way.

    Making an explicit clarification that this is neither a list of people TEC considers saints, nor an expected calendar for liturgical observations, is helpful. (I like the idea above of “Great Cloud of Witnesses” being organized other than by date; it seems to me that would increase the odds of people’s noticing the clarification that is going on!) Putting more emphasis on the temporal and various occasions propers is a great move as well. And I’m grateful that the SCLM listened to what, at least from the blog comments, looked like a pretty widespread concern about assimilating non-Christians or persons whose Christian motivation for their good works was unclear.

    I do hope that the reworking of the collects will both trim them down significantly and pay attention to grammar and sonority issues.

  5. Fr. Aaron Orear

    This is why bright sparks like you work on projects like this. I thank God (really and truly I do) that the Church has you. Personally, I’d have balked at the sheer scale of work, the high likelihood of being vilified no matter what was produced, and the necessity of working with such a broad yet somehow still limited mandate. I’d have just thrown my hands up (or just thrown up), hollered “What the hell is wrong with Lesser Feasts and Fasts!?” and headed off to the pub.

    Speaking of which…

  6. Derek Olsen

    Yeah, some of the vilification has already happened. Some of the comments in committee when I offered up my first draft of this were…interesting.

    I agree that putting it in a non-calendar order would help people see that we’re doing something different. However, the Commission was not willing to go that far. Perhaps at some point down the road.

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