SCLM Meeting Today

The Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) is meeting this afternoon. This is our first meeting since the budget numbers have come back and, with those in hand, we’ll be able to set our plan of work for the various sub-committees of the SCLM for this present triennium.

In figuring out what that scope of work will look like, I’ve submitted two documents for the two committees that I’m involved with. Here are the highlights on those two…

Further Thoughts Towards an Episcopal Almanac

At the last meeting, I raised again the possibility of an almanac that would supplement the sanctoral calendar. My sense is that some of the commemorations currently being placed on the Church’s calendar don’t represent true sanctoral occasions but that there are those in the Church who still see them as worthy of note. An almanac could be a proper repository for these or for people that the Church would like to remember but for whom the title of “saint” either doesn’t quite fit or where we’re still exploring their sanctity. The sense was that they wanted to hear more in terms of details.

This piece presents some a proposal containing details.

First, I identify six “centers of energy” that I see in the Church around HWHM (with the caveat that my labels are admittedly broad and imprecise and that they are not meant to represent everyone who may identify with a certain label):

  • A Liberal Protestant energy: This movement sees inclusivity as a core commitment of TEC. The definition of “saint” is a broad one. It tends be more vocal about a reluctance to judge the holiness of another. This energy would likely see a reduction of HWHM—particularly if it adversely impacted the diversity represented in the Calendar—as an attempt to “roll back the clock” to a calendar of old white male bishops. [I see this at the Episcopal Café and Facebook]

  • A Broad Church middle energy: This movement seems concerned with the number of commemorations, a loss of ferial days, and is not sure about the sanctity of some of the additions. On the other hand, there is also a reluctance to judge the holiness of others. In general, this group expresses puzzlement around TEC’s theology of sanctity. [I see this at the Episcopal Café, Facebook, on my blog, and specifically on Crusty Old Dean’s (Tom Ferguson of Bexley Hall) post on Lent Madness]

  • An Anglo-Catholic energy: This movement may or may not have an issue with the number of commemorations, but has a narrower definition of saint: inclusion in the Calendar is seen as the church’s official declaration on the eschatological status of the commemorated. There are concerns whether all of the commemorations in HWHM meet this standard. Too, there is a concern that the collects do not appropriately express a robust theology of sanctity. [I see this at on my blog, on Facebook, and summarizes most of the feedback I have received personally]

  • A conservative protestant energy: This movement sees HWHM as a yet another example of the political liberalism of TEC leadership and regards most of the new commemorations as politically motivated. [As seen particularly in the comments section on Lent Madness regarding Frances Perkins]

  • An agency energy: This movement comes from the fact that we explicitly asked specific agencies and groups within the church to put forward candidates. Having done so, there seems to be an obligation to accept them. Furthermore, the work has been done to create the biographies and the propers; to not use them now would be a waste of that time and effort.

  • A legislative energy: This movement is around the establishment of official, published criteria. There is concern that the committee created criteria, then disregarded them in the addition of new commemorations raising an integrity issue.

These are the main tensions that we need to negotiate if we want to create a successful product that will be used across the Church.

Then I turn to the current shape of HWHM and show that it contains an odd alternation between temporal and sanctoral material. It’s a book made up of small sections pieced together and doesn’t have a coherent structure. My proposal is to gather the current material into three sections:

  1. a “Holy Women, Holy Men” section that contains the propers for the sanctoral Days of Optional Observance and recommendations on the local identification and observance of saints containing the Commons of Saints.

  2. a “Temporal Cycle” section that contains the ferial propers in temporal sequence as adapted from the Canadian BAS followed by the alternative six-week thematic lectionary.

  3. a “Various Occasions” section that contains the votive propers followed by an integrated Almanac.

Thus, the resource would put the three principal options for non-Holy Days (a lesser feast, a temporal ferial day, or a votive) on more or less equal footing. The third section would contain the almanac and the people and commemorations there would be presented as specific representatives or examples of certain votives.

My plan for work in light of this is admittedly ambitious. I’m suggesting that we put *all* of the Lesser Feasts back on the table, create a wiki, and—once we have nailed down our operative criteria at our June meeting—we document our evidence for each criterion for each commemoration. Those who fulfill the criteria are candidates for inclusion in a re-formed Calendar; those who don’t meet all the criteria and who are yet deemed significant to our Church and its history will be placed in the Almanac along with other worthy people, movements, and occasions.

Too, I recommend that each section will be prefaced by some basic information regarding what the section is about and how the material in it can and should be used. Specifically, this will address the question about how the Lesser Feasts interact with the Daily Office.

We’ll see how this goes. Some of the folks I’ve discussed it with see it as a workable solution given the various difficulties that have to be negotiated. We’ll see what the others think…

Electronic Publications

As I reviewed the relevant General Convention resolutions around the issue of Electronic Publications, I was quite surprised to find this one:

Resolution 2009-A102 (Authorize Use of the Enriching our Worship Series) represents a major change in policy with regard to the digital realm. After first enumerating the complete set of materials within the EOW series (Enriching Our Worship 1: The Daily Office, Great Litany and EucharistEnriching Our Worship 2: Ministry with the Sick and Dying and Burial of a ChildEnriching Our Worship 3: Burial Rites for Adults together with a Rite for the Burial of a Child; and Enriching Our Worship 4: The Renewal of Ministry and the Welcoming of a New Rector or other Pastor) a resolving clause states: “That these liturgical texts be freely available in electronic format on the internet” (emphasis added). It should also be noted that the original text of the resolution did not contain this resolve clause; it was added by the committee in the House of Bishops and concurred in the House of Deputies. According to this resolution, therefore, one of our tasks must be to ensure that these four resources are freely available for download and use.

So—GC has already resolved that this action should be taken. It hasn’t been. Now, I’m not going to say that EOW is my favorite set of resources out there, but I am curious to find out why this resolution wasn’t implemented.

We had a couple of resolutions referred to us as a Commission; referrals are non-binding in that they are there for us to review and then to decide what we believe the best course of action to be. Here’s my take on these two:

Resolution 2013-D060 (Planning for Making Liturgical Resources Freely Available on Any Device or Platform) was concurred for referral. Unlike the previous resolutions, it is not binding, but has been given to us for our study and to formulate policy with regard to whether and how it may be put into place. It directs the SCLM:

to begin planning in the next triennium for the structuring of all liturgical and musical resources as format- and platform-independent content, so that it may be made freely available to any device or medium, and to return to the 78th General Convention with a proposal and budget to begin the work.

This resolution goes a step beyond the policy laid down in 2009-A102. It does affirm the free availability mandated in the prior resolution, and furthermore introduces the principle of format- and platform-independent material. The key point here is that, following this policy, a PDF is no longer sufficient as it does not meet the format-independent requirement.

Also concurred for referral was 2013-D079 (Provide Electronic Availability of Liturgical Resources). While similar in spirit to 2013-D060, it is less specific. It too directs that all liturgical resources approved by General Convention be made “electronically available and easily accessible, both online for downloads and in electronic media such as CD-ROM, DVD, and their successor technologies.” It does not use the word “freely.” While it does so less clearly than 2013-D060, this resolution also functionally requires platform-independent solutions in its mention of successor technologies. The main difference is the urgency and accountability; it directs a timeframe (by the end of calendar year 2013) and a mechanism for oversight (reports to Executive Council by DFMS staff).

I’m in favor of these. I think that they’re very much heading in the right direction.

Electronic frontiers do not—for the most part—open up new mission fields. Instead, I think they give us a new angle onto the existing mission field. Social media and mobile computing give us a means to put worship, devotional, and formational tools at our congregations’ finger-tips quicker and easier than ever in the past. Too, in this resourcing, we can also make it easy for them to communicate via social media that they are using these things and that they are a part of their spiritual life. That, in turn, will raise awareness of their spiritual practice amongst their social networks and possibly lead to helpful and healthy conversations about what modern faith looks like and what faith practices foster it.

We need to free our liturgies and our hymnals so that they can be easily and effectively leveraged to create useful devotional tools and helpful worship aids. Period. Full stop.

As long as there is a monopoly on these materials, ours hands will be digitally tied.

On the other hand, these two referred resolutions, while having the right idea, are pretty short on awareness about the multitude of issues facing such a move. I see four main policy issues that will have to be sorted through before material can be put online:

  • “freely…”: I support freely available electronic materials on the internet. As a member of a small congregation and keeping in mind 2013-A076 on the dissemination of resources to small congregations, I know that free access to all of our liturgical books would be a financial bonus to cash-strapped parishes. However, we would be remiss if we did not note that Church Publishing is in the business of selling liturgical materials including the electronic Rite Series software. As the Church pension system is tied to Church Publishing, we should consider the impact free liturgical materials might have on the broader system.

  • “All liturgical materials”: One of the issues tied to expenses is that some of our resources—notably the Hymnal 1982—make use of materials already under copyright and someone must pay licensing fees for them. Given the incorporation of copyrighted materials in some of our liturgical books, are we legally able to make all of our resources freely available for download? If not, what will our policy with regard to these materials?

  • “…available”: Another facet of copyright is that the materials produced by the Church are under copyright. As a result, their re-use is restricted if not prohibited.   The only exception of which I am aware is the Book of Common Prayer which has been placed in the public domain. While 2013-D060 does not mention copyright, it cannot be effectively implemented with copyright protection in place as currently configured. Creative Commons licenses offer a more nuanced approach to copyright protections. Rather than doing way with copyright, these licenses represent a way to retain intellectual property rights and protections but to voluntarily waive certain aspects of those rights to enable greater digital development particularly around the creation of derivative works. We should explore how these might help us in making our materials more available.

  • “platform-independent”/”successor technologies”: In order to present electronic material in a stable, flexible and—above all—useful format, we need to move beyond PDFs. A PDF document is superior to a book in two ways: it cannot be directly altered and it is far more portable. However, it remains locked into a linear paradigm. Hyperlinks and bookmarks mitigate this shortcoming to a minor extent, but do not solve it. Following 2006-A049, we need to decide upon an open standard format that offers more dynamic possibilities than a PDF. While PDFs are fine in the short-term and ought to be part of our long-term distribution strategy, they need to remain a facet of it and not be its totality.

I’m recommending that we figure out what the barriers are to implementing a freely-available EOW and get that material up as soon as possible in PDF form. I’d also like to honor the intention of the other two resolutions as fully as possible. This means getting as many of our authorized books as possible online as free PDFs before the end of 2013.

Too, we need to work towards platform independence. My goal here is too look at the encoding options, pick one, and to draft a resolution for GC2016 requesting funding and approval for the construction of a Standard Electronic Edition of the Book of Common Prayer.

So—a lot of interesting discussion will be taking place today. I’ll keep you updated on how things unfold…

5 Replies to “SCLM Meeting Today”

  1. Very glad you’re on the SCLM, Derek…such thorough, thoughtful, and essential work you’re doing! Thank you!

  2. It’s very important in the discussion about access to materials to keep content and methodology separate. We have a grand a glorious tradition–the Book of Common Prayer was the first example of “copy-left”: you can use it freely, but you can’t claim it as yours. Unfortunately copyright with some of the resources (H1982, VF, and WLP) is complicated, so some materials might need to be restricted (maybe with login). What doesn’t have to be free is a resource like the Rite Series–as effectively a search and retrieval engine working on public content.

    And I think the almanac is one of the few proposals that gets us out of the “luto foecis” (Ps. 39:3) that is pastiche of HWHM, while still retaining a historical access to examples we should know.

  3. Walter,

    You’re quite right about a differentiation between a front-end interface and a back-end data repository. I’m envisioning a back-end—whether that’s a TEI-compliant XML file or something else—that will keep the texts simultaneously available and stable. But the free and available use of that back-end does not preclude more sophisticated interfaces that could cost money provided that the there is at least a free basic interface allowing the material to be read in an html/PDF format.

    The use of non-church-held copyrighted material is a hurdle that we’ve got to work through.

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