SCLM: Initial Meeting

So—I’ve now had experienced my first meeting of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music. I’ve been processing it now, both figuratively and literally. That is, I was appointed secretary so I’ve been literally processing the meeting by compiling my notes into a coherent set of minutes.

It’s an interesting group. On the balance, it’s very much weighted to the “liturgy” side rather than the “music” side. Of the members gathered, only two are full-time church musicians—there is a third who was unable to join us this time. Of course, two of the priests are quite musical as well and others of us have interests in the music area. Nevertheless, out of an appointed group of 12 that’s not too many. Musically, their interest and passion is in looking outside of the box (particularly the box represented by the ’82 hymnal) and gathering resources for world music.

On the liturgical side of things, I got only a slight sense of where people were. Clearly there are a range of views represented—as is proper—and, not surprisingly, I find myself on the more conservative side of the represented spectrum. Obviously, I don’t know how things were in the past, but I don’t think that the Commission in its current configuration can be accurately described as being united behind any one particular agenda.

Most of what we did was business stuff. We elected officers, hashed out priorities and budget requests, and tried to figure out meeting times. (And trust me, working out meeting times among 18 very full schedules is not an easy task!) Needless to say, our main priorities are those directed to us by General Convention. The four big areas that will require and demand most of our attention this triennium are 1) feedback and continued theological work on the rite for same-sex blessings, 2) work on resourcing congregational song, 3) continued work on Holy Women, Holy Men, and 4) revision of the Book of Occasional Services and materials heading into EOW (like the liturgies on the adoption of children and the creation materials). Other items that are not as front-and-center (but on which we still hope to get good work done) include material for combating Christian anti-Judaism particularly with reference to interpreting lectionary texts, criteria for acceptable biblical translations, and the electronic publication of resources.

While I’ll be involved with all of these, I signed up to work specifically on HWHM, Christian anti-Judaism, and electronic publication. While the working groups have been identified, the heads of the groups have not.

Clearly lots went on and I have thoughts and opinions on the meeting for which this is not an appropriate forum. I do want to say a little about meeting people. I’m really glad that it was a joint meeting gathering a whole lot of people into one group.  I had the opportunity to meet in person many whose names have become very familiar to me over the past six or so years. I got to meet Jim Naughton in the flesh for the very first time! The Presiding Bishop addressed us and I did pass her in the hall once—nothing to report there. Gay Jennings, on the other hand, I did cross paths with several times. She comes across as a very straight-shooter and as being quite grounded; I liked what I saw of her. In passing, I met Marshall Scott, Susan Snook, reconnected with Sam Candler, and met a number of readers. I enjoyed meeting my whole group; we’re an interesting lot but I think we’ll work well together. In particular, I got to meet and share meals with two people I’ve been wanting to meet for some time—Dr. Louis Weil, liturgy professor at CDSP, and Gregory Howe, custodian of the prayer book.  Here we are in a small camera phone pic: (from left to right—Louis Weil, Gregory Howe, and me)


One thing that I noticed overall across all of the many folks gathered and which I’ll probably write about further was a relative dearth of young laypeople. Liza Anderson and I were noting that so many of the younger folks there were ordained. It made me wonder if we, as a church, have succumbed to the notion that the clerical estate is the proper state for anyone that interested in church. Alternately, it underscores the difficulties that we laypeople face in participating in leadership: clergy can either get time off to travel to meetings like this or they’re on the clock while doing it. Me—it’s vacation time from work that then takes away from what’s available to spend with my wife and kids. (And I’m just glad I’m not an hourly employee anymore or it would mean lost wages as well!) At this point I have no point—I’m just putting out an observation that I hope to reflect on at leisure.

One last thing which falls under “business”… Regarding Holy Women, Holy Men, I would like to ask for your help. I’ve expressed my own opinions on the project, its overall shape, and some of its specifics both here and elsewhere. The resolution voted on at Convention (A051) directs its third resolve thus: “that the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music continue to seek responses from the wider Church during the coming triennium.”

I’m looking for your response here.

What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it? What do you find problematic about it? Where do you see it as an improvement over Lesser Feasts & Fasts?

20 Replies to “SCLM: Initial Meeting”

  1. Regarding HWHM, I object to the wholesale redefinition of sainthood and the kalendar, along the lines you’ve described (and whatever is done with HWHM, I would wish that the collects be revised away from the ‘good example’ or ”mini-bio’ style to proper collects). My simplest suggestion for a way forward would be to revisit the BCP Kalendar; restore a catholic sense of red- and black-letter saints; then publish a compendium of optional local observances that may include the sorts of person that HWHM promotes (along with more obscure, more regionally-appropriate, more narrowly-theological, and other personages) as possible options. They may thus overlap days; each could have her or his own day; they could be added or dropped easily, without as much institutional trauma. Catholic saints and observances for a catholic church; and partisan figureheads, regional figures, occasional heroes all can have their day in a supplement clearly distinct from the lesser feasts of the BCP Kalendar.

  2. Serving in the Anglican Church of Canada, I haven’t had the opportunity (burden?) of using HWHM, so I cannot comment on the content. The title, though…gag. Something must be done about the title. It screams “AGENDA!” Can’t judge a book by its cover? Nonsense. In the same way that you’d know exactly what theology and ideology under-girds the Jeremiah Project by the use of the word “project”, you know by the title that Holy Women, Holy Men is out to promote institutionalized diversity. Holy Women and Men would be better. Lesser Feasts and Fasts would be better still. Why change the title? Call it LFaF 2015 if you want to prevent confusion, though somehow y’all use the BCP and all agree on what it means without adding the 1979 every time.

    Incidentally, here in Canada we have For All the Saints, which nicely uses the hymn title and is a thoroughly catholic book. Deo gratias.

  3. Could something be done about the bios that precede each feast? In at least some instances what you get from that short bio is very inconsistent with what you’d find in a longer bio. And perhaps we might think again about including some of the “forerunners” to the reformation, like Wyclif (sp?). At least in his case it seems like he was included primarily because he fought with church authorities without much attention being paid to what the arguments actually were.

  4. AKMA, There was discussion in our breakout group of something like this—a discussion of local options. Also, a few folks brought up the Canadian model that has levels of commemoration; right now the principles are set against it, but it may get revisited.

  5. I do agree on the sense the title gives. I think diversity in our kalendar is a great thing but when it gets strictly mandated and institutionalized and quota-driven, it makes me fear for the result. As of yet, though, I don’t know and can’t speak to the process.

  6. I think a number of things need to be looked at around these topics. I have a similar fear around Kepler and Copernicus. I don’t know a lot about their spiritual lives (yet) and my concern is that they’re included because they stood up to the church and are reckoned as “proto-progressives” rather than because they were saintly individuals.

  7. I found some info on Kepler’s early life ( and apparently his mother narrowly escaped being burned as a witch because she was an herbalist. Despite Kepler’s life-long interest in astrology, his interest in astronomy revealed actual, provable, replicable findings of scientific fact. He studied theology and philosophy at Tűbingen, as well, and fell in love with mathematics while there. I was intrigued to find that in the 16th century, a belief in astrology could coincide both with the [Lutheran] faith and with scientific inquiry. Does he belong in the list of Holy People?

  8. One of the biggest concerns that I have (aside from what AKMA ably set out above, to which I would only add that the inclusion of non-Christians as ‘saints’ is very problematic; but that is a symptom of the redefinition of sainthood…) is that the collects, particularly for many of the new ‘feasts’, are not collects in the traditional sense. As such, their usefulness for public, liturgical worship is limited. I doubt there could be much traction with this, because to deal with it effectively would require rewriting large swaths of HWHM. I suppose my point is that, if we have to deal with the commemoration of WEB DuBois (Aug 3), we should at least do so with a proper collect.

  9. Actually, Philipp Melanchthon, the most important German Reformer after Luther studied astrology and, IIRC, even served at someone’s court in that capacity. My sense is that the line between astronomy and astrology was far less clear in the early Renaissance than it is now. It was/could be understood as a proper investigation into God’s creation: if God made everything, and everything was interconnected, then—they reasoned—God’s designs will reflect in his creation. Don’t forget that Elizabeth I’s tutor was John Dee, the quintessential example of both an early scientist and occultist…

    I don’t know if Kepler belongs—I think it’s an open question.

  10. Derek,
    Is there a mandate for point 2 “work on resourcing congregational song”? I recall (dimly) the Hymnal Revision survey about this that ran last year, and I got the sense that there was no great interest in this, at least right now.

  11. Actually, there is a GC mandate. It’s resolution A048: “Form Congregational Song Task Force.” While the survey results indicated that there was not a strong enough desire to revise the hymnal, it showed that there was a strong need for Province IX/Spanish language materials. Furthermore, some thought that the survey results were skewed due to its self-selecting nature and that there is a greater need for more out-of-the-box materials than was expressed in the survey vehicle.

  12. I’m glad you will be addressing the issue of anti-Judaism in the liturgy (personal for me since my wife is Jewish). One of the biggest problems is “the Jews” in the Gospel of John. In my very liberal parish (Borg and Crossan are de-facto official theologians) the gospel reader sometimes interpolates “the authorities” but other times the text is simply read as printed. The issue has never been addressed in sermons or Christian ed to the best of my knowledge.

  13. I suppose it’s to late to do anything with the massive tampering of people’s poetry throughout the hymnal. :-/ Hark how all the Welkins Ring was gone before my *grandparents time*, so that’s probably a done deal, but I’m only 33 and will continue singing “Here I raise my Ebenezer, Here by Thy great help I’ve come;” and “Born to raise the sons of Earth, born to give them second birth” because those are the words I grew up with. (In the latter case, I always suspect that, Canticles 1/12 notwithstanding, the alteration was made with some agenda to remove from Illuvatar’s Dwarvish race the possibility of Redemption.)

  14. This is my single biggest beef with the output of the SCLM since the prayer book came out, after the fact that they apparently couldn’t write anything good, short, and vigorous. The emasculations of the hymnal are annoying (and its musicological fixation on “correct” versions of the music means that a lot of organists simply play certain hymns out of 1940), but I can put up with that, and I ignore it at will. The Campaign Against God the Father, though, is right out, and I feel that I must insist that scripture, when repeated in liturgy, must be repeated accurately, and I found the pattern of amendations and omissions in the pseudo-daily-office abomination most objectionable. And everything they put out now is afflicted with this, including the same-sex blessing rites and seemingly every other supplemental text. The BCP, not Enriching Our Worship, ought to the be the basis for supplemental texts, at least until the BCP gets a proper revisions; and really, I want to see EoW simply repudiated.

  15. Hear hear! My partner and I were recently married at our Anglo-Catholic parish. The rite for same-sex blessings that was approved at Convention was never a consideration–not only did we find the theology presented in the rite a bit self-centered and immature (seriously, is it just assumed by folks who write liturgies in committee that gay people think God is a rainbow unicorn that showers warm feelings on his people and helps them to be nice? That’s the impression I got from the rite, at any rate) but the fact that it didn’t come from the prayerbook doomed it in our eyes. The latter was our rector’s chief concern: if we’re saying that marriage is for same sex couples as well as opposite sex couples, why have we determined that the marriage rite in the prayerbook won’t do for both, or that a special rite is needed for the one but not the other? Thank God our Bishop authorized use of the prayerbook rites for in same sex marriages–we had a lovely Rite I service (with very few textual alterations), the Tournai Mass setting, and minor propers from the Trinity votive (a la Sarum custom for weddings). We felt like we were participating in an actual liturgy as opposed to a self-help meeting. We had the sense of being part of a tradition, a sense of responsibility being given to us, a new way of being towards each other and towards everything around us into which we were (as a couple!) being incorporated that was bigger than the moment, larger than we were and are, and gracious beyond our understanding, lovingly providing us the means by which we could live into this new state of relationship.

    Sometimes I feel like church committees are so interested in getting people in the door–being welcoming and affirming and all that, particularly with respect to gay people–that we’ve neglected to invite folks further into the house, having become content to keep the party in the foyer. We’ve become a church in which we’re all just milling around by the door, sharing some lovely hors d’oeuvres, enjoying each other’s company, laughing at everyone’s good jokes and funny stories, smiling broadly at each other…but not bothering to notice the feast that’s already been prepared for us in just the next room and which is already underway.

  16. I too would like to see EOW repudiated, or at least hidden far away where my local clergy can’t find it! Do you suppose the SCLM would be willing to re-title it accurately: Impoverishing Our Worship – Detrimental Liturgical Materials? No, I thought not.

    But it would at least give a hint to those who are about to use it. They seem not to be able to discern the quality of this material just from the text itself!

  17. I’m late on this, having been away, but some of my comments on HWHM:

    1. There are simply way too many commemorations. We need more ferias than days with commemorations. I think if you actually pray the office every day, you benefit from the feeling that most days are routine. The larger movement of liturgical time/in-sequence readings to me seems to get lost when almost every day is “special.”

    2. Agree with what AKMA said on the “good example” notion of sainthood as extremely problematic, especially when it includes non- or nominal Christians and can end up advancing a quasi-Pelagian theology. Also on being careful to maintain red vs black letter distinctions.

    3. The collects are often too long, not in real collect form, not theologically robust, and lacking language that is perceptibly congruent with our historical prayer vocabulary. Many of them try to get across too many didactic ideas about the person and are thus extremely hard to follow orally. Some of them are flatly ungrammatical.

    4. Many of the decisions made in this resource will, I think, feel very dated in 20-40 years, in a way that more classical, sober, “traditional” decisions would not.

  18. As an academic descendant of Copernicus (and probably Kepler), I don’t find much in their lives that suggests they cultivated sanctity or encourages sanctity in myself. They were ordinary Christians in a more devout age who mainly sought to participate in the intellectual currents of their time. Copernicus was nearly defrocked for his relationship with his housekeeper.

    Despite his deficiencies in holding marriage in honor, I do find sanctity in the life of Galileo, whose theological work in defending his scientific work is both innovative and grounded in Augustine and Bonaventure.

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