Tag Archives: Prayer Book Revision

GC Wrap-up: Prayer Book Revision

General Convention has concluded for another triennium. The sky has not fallen.

Lots of people with far more time on their hands than I have been and will continue to be commenting on a host of things. Rather than trying to do all things poorly, I shall focus exclusively on three resolutions and what changes they may (or may not) effect. I’ll do it a post at a time so as not to mix things up too much…

A068: Plan for the Revision of the Book of Common Prayer

For as long as the link endures (I’m told at least Labor Day?) the text of this resolution as passed can be found here. After that point this link will no longer work and there ought to be a new one from the Episcopal Archives folks.

This resolution:

  • Creates a new Task Force (a thing that exists in a different canonical space from the SCLM) on Liturgical and Prayer Book Revision. The SCLM will still exist; this will also exist alongside it. Exactly how they will relate to one another is unclear at the present time.
  • The TFLPBR (pronounced Tiffle-Pibber) is supposed to report to GC80 (held in Baltimore!! Woohoo—church nerd party at my house!!). But—here’s the thing: the resolution doesn’t say what it is to report on… It is not tasked with “presenting a new prayer book” and there are no timelines for anything like that. General Convention has given the TFLPBR a very open-ended charge.
  • The emphasis is on a dynamic process of watching local organic revision that contains several broadly construed themes: fidelity to our historic rites, a continued emphasis on Eucharist and Baptism, loving reconciliation, creation care, the riches of our collective multi-dimensional diversity, inclusive and expansive language and imagery for humanity and divinity, and emerging technology.
    • Wow, that’s a lot of stuff… We’re casting the net broadly and not very specifically.
  • The intention of the resolution reads to me like we are not asking the the TFLPBR to be drafting things as much as we are asking them to watch the local level, identify good stuff/best practices, and to share those perhaps with an eye to coming up with things based on them at a later date.
  • The 1979 prayer book has been “memorialized” and the TFLPBR has been asked to draw up new constitutions and canons to provide legislative space for the identification and dissemination of liturgical creativity. So—the current books stay in the pews; more books are appear there—or maybe things will start appearing in your bulletins or in downloads on your smart devices.
  • The work of drafting and revising, then, is not actually in the hands of the TFLPBR—at least not at this point. Instead, it is supposed to happen at the local level. This could become chaos. In theory, the choke-point to prevent it from dissolving into a liturgical free-for-all in which each go their own way is the bishop: the bishop will engage the congregations and expansive, experimental efforts will be collected—and, one supposes, assessed?—at the local level for broader dissemination to the TFLPBR and the Church.


What the heck does all of this mean?

Honestly, there’s enough fluidity in the language and potential gaps in understanding that it still remains anyone’s guess. Check back with me in three years… However, this is the way that I am reading the situation right now:

The center of gravity for revision under this resolution is not with national bodies. Specifically, it does not reside within the SCLM. Neither the SCLM nor the TFLPBR will be drafting liturgies for imposition on the church. (At least, not at this point nor under these directions.)

The center of gravity is at the local and diocesan levels. We are the ones who are supposed to be doing the work which will then be sifted and assessed. If there are gate-keepers in the process, the gate-keepers will be operating at the diocesan level: the diocesan liturgical commission that will “collect, reflect [upon? one hopes?], teach and share these resources with the TFLPBR.”

If you are interested in classically grounded, theologically astute, inclusive, truly Anglican liturgies coming out of this process, then it seems to me your two best moves are these: 1) talk to your bishop what experimentation will look like in your diocese, and 2) volunteer to be part of the liturgical commission.

The regnant assumption is that all experimentation will be tilted in a free-form, free-church-ish, breezy kind of direction. And perhaps it will be—if people who think otherwise don’t step up! That’s exactly why I drafted this liturgy when permissions to use Rite III were passed by the previous General Convention: to remind you that all revision doesn’t have to be like that. Don’t let yourself be locked into these mental frameworks! Instead, consider what it means to do inclusive/expansive revision that truly is grounded in the historical liturgies around our sacraments.

For what it’s worth, I am planning to speak to my bishop, seeking permission for the St. Bede’s Breviary to engage in some experimentation on the Daily Office. I will retain the prayer book forms as options, of course, but will also seek to do some (modest) experimentation on the Offices that I believe will improve the rites while connecting them into the history and theology of the Office in the West. Don’t expect these changes anytime soon, though—I have a bunch of other things on my plate to complete first. (Including the Anglican Breviary. Work on that continues…)

Brief Notes on GC & Prayer Book Revision

  • Prayer Book Revision was passed by the House of Deputies.
  • As of this writing, it has not been passed by the House of Bishops which is required for it to become actual passed legislation. [Update 7/9/2018, 12:53 PM EST—The bishops are at work on it; according to the version in the virtual binder, they have taken off the table any changes to Rite I, the Historical Documents, and the Lord’s Prayer.]
  • If Because the bishops make made changes to the resolution and then passed it, it will have to be re-debated and re-passed without amendment in the House of Deputies. Because if they do amend it, it will then have to be re-passed in the House of Bishops… And if any approval in either place does not occur before convention ends, the thing as a whole is dead.
  • The Project, Budget, & Finance committee has not yet released a budget. What work gets done depends on what funding is given and with which strings.

Ok—say it passes. What next?

  • The resolution as currently written directs the SCLM to follow the plan proposed in the Blue Book. which includes both qualitative and quantitative listening. This is where my “big data” Bulletin Collection Project is laid out.
  • Does this mean that the Bulletin Collection Project will happen? It’s likely—it depends on the funding and the degree to which the funding is designated. If it has a line-item or is directed towards the Episcopal Archives (who would be the ones directing it), it will almost certainly happen. If the money is given in a big bucket to the SCLM to decide how they want to parcel it out, then it will depend entirely on the next iteration of the SCLM and to what degree they follow the directions given to them.
  • (If you don’t know what I mean by “Bulletin Collection Project,” the Blue Book has a garbled form of it, but the big picture for it is laid out in this post written after last GC which lists the two other things that I still think we need 1) big-data bulletin collection, 2) transparent input from the church, and 3) transparent drafting mechanisms.)
  • What “next iteration of the SCLM”? Remember that appointment for clergy and laity to the SCLM is only for two triennia; bishops serve only one. Each triennium, half of the membership turns over for the clergy and laity—and all the bishops do. Thus, several of my friends and colleagues will be rolling off and we do not know who will be put on it. And you can bet that if you thought trying to get on the SCLM was difficult and contentious before, it will only be moreso now with revision in the air!
    • (I’ve seen a few comments online wishing I hadn’t resigned. It wouldn’t have made a bit of difference, because my term would have been up now anyway and I accomplished what I could do while I was there.)

That’s enough for now—time to get some actual work done…

Expansive Language Rite II

Friend of the blog Mother Laurie Brock has posted a resolution for General Convention that would offer an immediate trial use first reading of an expanded language version of the Rite II Eucharist. The resolution with liturgy is here, the liturgy alone is here.

As readers should know, I’m not a fan of revision and I’m usually wary of expansive language. Imprecise or incorrect theology is always the number one concern when liturgy gets tinkered with. But, poetics are a major concern of mine as well.  All too often expansive language comes from a well-intentioned place but produces bad liturgy. Effusive wordiness creating overly imaginative metaphors causes clunky sentences. Liturgy is not just poetry, it’s poetry that occurs out loud. Liturgy is inherently spoken. As it result, it must have the right rhythms for speaking it aloud and at volume.

Laurie took the Rite II services that we currently have and went through them, making gentle modifications to tone down both the male language and the dominion (kingdom/Lord) language that many in the church are finding problematic.

Here are my initial thoughts on a read through of the liturgy…

  • I don’t love the initial acclamation: “Blessed be God: holy, glorious, and undivided Trinity./And blessed be God’s reign, now and for ever. Amen.” I was initially unsure about “holy, glorious” thinking that it might be a little out of character from the styling of the rest of the service but was reassured when I realized it was riffing on “O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, one God,” from the Litany. The response is more the issue. I get that we have a shift from “kingdom” to “reign” but I’m not a fan of the homophone especially in the first line of the service (rain=water from the sky? rein=God’s kidney? rein=part of a bridle?). I don’t know what would be a better replacement, though.
  • I like that the option is given to use either “God” or “Lord” in the collect dialogue.
  • I like the three options for responses to the reading, and that the “The Word of the Lord” remains the top one. This is a theological affirmation of the content that grounds the others. Just the “Spirit” options on their own makes me wonder if the Spirit is only in the act of hearing and not in the source material itself. The Spirit can speak to me from the NY Times; retaining “Word of the Lord” liturgically affirms that the text is God’s revelation even if one of the other responses is chosen.
  • That both Gospel acclamations have “Lord Christ” is great. In other places, the “Lord” language is de-emphasized but I agree that this is a key spot where we ought to retain it. That’s key–knowing when to be expansive and where the traditional language really is essential.
  • I like the treatment of the Creed.
    • It retains the language of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These are non-negotiables for Christian liturgy. Get beyond them in the creed and you’re doing something else.
    • “became truly human” is a good change. Yes, the incarnate body of Jesus was a man—it had a penis. However, the creed’s statement on this account is not about the personal plumbing of Our Lord but his humanity which this change accomplishes.
    • The use of relative clauses beginning “who” regarding the Holy Spirit is a good strategic move. It removes the unnecessary “he”s and forestalls revisionist “she”s that I frequently hear around the church.
    • [Update: I’m not a fan of the removal of the filioque, so I’m not thrilled about that. I’m well aware it’s not in the ecumenical version, but the West has used it for centuries and too many Episcopalians have Arian tendencies already…]
  • In the opening dialogue for the Eucharist, while the initial “Lord” is optional, its use later is not. I think that is a good move. Again, there’s a difference between expanding and expunging. Too often the former becomes the latter. I’m less concerned than some about the shift to “our” in the last response because the priest’s line makes it clear that our thanks and praise are, in fact, directed to “the Lord our God.”
  • Prayer A
    • “Son” language makes appearances while “maker and preserver” tones down the male language.
  • The Lord’s Prayer is untouched with both traditional and contemporary options retained.
  • The rhythm is off in the dropping of “Son” from the second line of the first post-communion prayer. What about “of our Source and Savior Jesus Christ?” It expands while retaining both the alliteration and the rhythm.
  • The second post-communion prayer retains a “Son” and “kingdom” but I’m not sure about “we are living members of the Body of your Child.” My own (likely idiosyncratic) mental image is that I will become the arm of a baby or toddler. Sorry—that’s just my mental word association with “Body of your Child”…
  • I like that a blessing is called for in the rubrics but nothing is directly stated. I think that’s a wise move because it permits a classic “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” blessing if so desired, and does not legislate, recommend, or encourage a modalist option.
  • Prayer B
    • There’s something about the flow of “In Christ’s sacrifice, unite us that we may be acceptable…” that feels off to me. Not sure what it is exactly… (It maybe the pile-up of sibilants at the start.)
  • Prayer C
    • “your only Child, born of Mary” is a good change. Of course, to my way of thinking, more Mary in our prayers is always a good change!
    • “God of Abraham and Sarah” is the choice taken to deal with one of the infamous hiccups in this prayer. This is a good option, but not my favorite option. Abraham and Sarah were the parents of Isaac, the child of promise who both indirectly begets and typologically represents Christ. So—there’s nothing wrong with this and it doesn’t raise the question of why Hagar isn’t named. I still prefer to the retention of the ancient title for God, “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” but want to see it balanced with “, the God of Miriam, Deborah, and Ruth” or something like that which includes women but doesn’t get into elaborating wives/concubines/sex partners of the patriarchs which gets messy really quickly.
  • Prayer D
    • There was a pretty light touch on D which is wise given that one of our reasons for including it is ecumenical.

I have some anxieties about piecemeal revision of the prayer book. I don’t know if that’s a road we want to go down, and it worries me about the precedent it would set.

However, if General Convention is bound and determined to do something right now to make things more inclusive, this is something that I can get behind. I have yet to see anything in Laurie’s revision that is problematic. Yeah, a few minor term and rhythm things I’d do differently, but those are quibbles. This is way better than EOW, and miles beyond what could be foisted upon us!

It gets an up-vote from my side. That having been said, I’m a straight white guy: I don’t get triggered by male or dominion language. I imagine some who do might say that this is too conservative and has not gone far enough. For my perspective, though, Laurie has done a wonderful job with this and I hope it receives proper consideration.

Crowd-Sourced Bewilderment

I’m well aware there’s a range of opinions on things like Lent Madness. Some say it trivializes the saints, others argue that it’s a means for educating people. Entirely apart from that, I found the comments on Lent Madness posts to be an interesting channel for getting in touch with the ways that “ordinary” laypeople think about sanctity in the Episcopal Church.

Much of what I discovered was disheartening, mind you, but it was informative…

I’m having a similar experience being part of the Rubrics and BCP Revision Suggestion Facebook groups. (And huge thanks and shout-outs to Frs. Chris and Bob et al. who keep those running!)

They are both interesting channels for getting in touch with what people are thinking about a variety of things related to the prayer book.

Here are the three most interesting things I’ve discovered recently…

  1. [This actually comes from a widely distributed Scott Gunn post] There’s a lot more love expressed for Prayer D than I expected. I find this interesting because I hear Prayer D actually used so infrequently. As far as I know, Prayer D is chiefly used on Major Feasts, but not on “regular” Sundays. Am I off-base here? See—this is precisely why I think a bulletin collection project would be useful…
  2. One of the biggest fights I’ve seen recently was around the use of Latin titles for the Canticles. Such a relatively minor thing, especially given the general decline in public Morning Prayer since the ’79, but provoking so much passion! It was fascinating to me how quickly some wanted to turn this into a discussion of social class. Again—I truly believe that most liturgy/prayer book fights are proxy fights over identity.
  3. There’s a difference between being King Of The World and being beholden to a vast diverse community. Many of the suggestions on the Revision page come across as “King of the World” requests: here’s what I’d do to make the book the way I like it. And there’s definitely a place for that. We need to hear what people are thinking. But there’s a big difference between what individuals want and what communities need. I think I could come up with a pretty awesome King Of The World list of changes to the BCP—but I’m under no illusions that that book would be good, useful, or edifying for the Episcopal Church as a whole! The very concept of revision seems to bring out the innovator in all of us, and gets people excited for change that may or may not happen, change that should or should not happen…

What are your thoughts or questions or findings?


On Language for the Liturgy, II

One of the issues that’s on the table when it comes to liturgy is the balance between poetry and prose. These two are not discrete things that stand apart from one another but, rather, describe two points on a spectrum of language use. On the prose end, the language ought to be clear, direct, and unmistakable. On the poetic end, language should be allusive/elusive and multivalent. Neither option is “good” or “bad”; instead, they serve different functions for different purposes. As a result, every piece of writing can fall somewhere on the spectrum between poetry and prose, some being more on one side of the spectrum than another.

Placing things on the spectrum is a matter of analyzing a number of qualities in a composition. Poetry tends to use ornamented language, elevated diction, archaic or antiquated language or constructions, and figures of thought and speech. Figures of speech include the subcategory of aural figures that most people commonly associate with the purer forms of poetry: alliteration (matching initial sounds), assonance (matching internal sounds), rhyme (matching ending sounds), and cadence (if it has a regular and/or repetitive flow).  A chief function of poetry is to communicate mood, feeling, or expression. Prose at its most prosaic is simple, clear, and direct. A chief function of prose is the communication of data or information. Most forms of writing that modern Westerners encounter tend to be prose or to be on the prose side of the spectrum; we tend to read more for information. However, even basic prose usually has some ornaments to spice it up and make it a bit more interesting.

Out of all of these various characteristics of both prose and poetry, I want to focus us on one in particular: valence. That is, how wide is the range of meanings that a word/phrase/sentence/paragraph can contain without the interpretation becoming strained or overtly non-literal? Another way to say this could be, where does the interpretive work fall? Is it on the part of the author and the text to communicate meaning and to make it clear or is it more on the part of the reader to interpret and find the possibilities inherent in the text?

Valence becomes particularly important when we talk about things like genre (what kind of writing it is) or purpose. Generally speaking, I’m a guy who loves poetry—but I have absolutely no tolerance for it in things like recipes or route directions! I don’t want to have to interpret how much salt I should put in a recipe: I vastly prefer “a teaspoon” to “a moonbeam’s worth.”  However, when I’m reading something that is designed to make me think, to make me reconsider how and why I live, to make me see the possibility in the worlds around me, I crave multivalent language, language that can mean many different things at once. Part of the fun of reading good writing is playing within the act of interpretation and teasing out the possibilities that fill the words and grammar.

So—to approach more closely to the topic at hand, how do we like our religious writing? Because I’m a guy who likes to think in poetry, I want the sermons I hear to have a good amount of the poetic within them. I don’t want them to be too flowery to the point where I have to do all of the interpretive work, but I’d rather have it make me think and consider than be too heavily on the prose side. Other people I know are the opposite. They ask for something different from sermons: cut the crap, tell me what to do. I think my brother is much more this way. And, for that reason, I see this to be—at least in part—a matter of hard-wiring. Some people prefer the more poetic, some the more prosaic. It’s not a value judgement, it’s human difference.

So—what about the liturgy? Where should it fall on the spectrum?

I think that this is one of the arguments that we are having but don’t stop to realize it, consider it, or properly ponder the implications.

As I see it, hear it, and feel it, a hallmark of classical Anglican liturgy is a high degree of poetry. The sound of it is important, the cadences, the assonance, the way words and sounds play off one another, the way the liturgy plays hide-and-seek with the words, meanings, and intentions of Scripture (particularly King James Scripture—a version where the translators were also poets and read it aloud amongst themselves before approving it.) The choice of diction, the vocabulary used is elevated. The language of both the King James Version and the prayer book betrayed some archaic qualities even in the time when they were written. Certainly for the KJV, this is due in some measure to the Tyndale and Lollard versions of the English that the translators looked back upon as they went about their work. The ’79 prayer book’s Rite I feels inherently more poetic to my modern ears precisely because of its archaic character and intentionally elevated diction (paging “inestimable” and “bewail!”)

But it’s not just sound and grammar, either. Consider the kinds of figures of thought that appear: Surely it is no accident that the Morning Prayer confession mentions that “we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep” in a prayer that appears just before the invitatory psalm where we recall that “he is the Lord our God, and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand (Venite)” or “we are his people and the sheep of his pasture (Jubilate).”

Alright—so that’s my contention, that classical Anglican liturgy falls very much on the poetic end of the scale. So, what does that have to do with the present situation and discussion of revision and of the best kinds of language to use in the liturgy?

My own feeling is that one of the arguments that we’re not necessarily aware that we’re having is between those who want a more prosaic, didactic liturgy and between those who want a more poetic liturgy. Those who want to use the liturgy to convey information to be a teaching tool are going to want it more directly communicative and less multivalent. Those who want the liturgy to convey an elevated presence and experience of the mysteries of God are going to want it to be more ornamented and poetic. (This is not and probably shouldn’t be a strict either/or; like the poetic-prosaic spectrum there’s probably a spectrum here too…but I think there are definitely sides and preferences tending in these two directions.)

What should the liturgy be?

For my part, I’ll go back to Scripture to take my lead. Again, there’s a balance of poetry and prose in the pages of Scripture—Genesis and Acts, more prosey; Song of Songs and Revelation, more poetry. But I find our true paradigm in the Psalms. And I have in the past and will in the future make the argument that the Psalter is the first and truest language that the Church chose for Christian spirituality. The Psalms are poetry. The Psalms—given their central place in the Daily Office—have served as the guides for Anglican liturgy for centuries.

If revision happens, if the language of our liturgy changes, we must retain the poetic mode: this is the past, present, and future of Anglican liturgy and we risk altering the linguistic and spiritual balance at our peril.

On Language for the Liturgy, I

There has been a certain amount of discussion in various Facebook groups about revisions to the prayer book. I include here the obligatory reminder that the Episcopal Church is not currently in the process of revising the BCP, there is merely discussion over the possibility of revision…

That having been said, one of the issues that has popped up several times is about the issue of language, specifically, the use of the English language in the prayer book and what constitutes “language understood by the people.”

When these discussions break out, it seems to me that several arguments are going on and within some of these arguments some important distinctions are being either conflated or being ignored altogether.

One of the discussions involves levels of literacy. To what degree should the English used in the liturgy be intelligible to people of various degrees of literacy? What happens when a multisyllabic or difficult vocabulary word appears in a liturgical text? A fine example here would be one of my favorite words in the Rite I General Thanksgiving: “inestimable.” This is a long word that some people do not know and that people with limited English literacy (children, non-native speakers) might have trouble with. The framers of Rite II weighed in by altering it to “immeasurable.” It’s still just as long, but has a more common and easily understood root (measure). To clarify, what is at issue in this kind of argument is literal comprehensibility.

A second discussion involves technical terms. There is a distinct science of Christian theology. Like any other science, it uses technical terms in order to apply linguistic precision to its discussions. Words like “consubstantiation,” “perichoretic,” or “eschatological” or a phrase like “prevenient grace” are examples of technical terms. Generally speaking, these words are not largely used outside of Christian or religious discourse.

A third discussion involves “terms of art,” a phrase that can shade into the word “jargon” used in a technical rather than pejorative sense. A term of art is a word that is used within the wider language but that has a specific and more closely circumscribed meaning when used by a particular field, discipline, or community. An example would be the word “cult.” In standard English, a cult is a negative term to speak about a small religious movement characterized by manipulation and a leader who demands total obedience, often for nefarious ends. When used by scholars of religion, though, “cult” simply refers to the worship practices of a group or worship towards a particular deity; it has no negative meaning. Or, to come closer to the topic at hand, people in the church will refer to a wafer as a “host.” While this word has a given meaning in standard English, its church use differs from the standard usage.

Most of the discussions about language are imprecise arguments around whether Christian liturgy ought to use technical terms or terms of art. Often this is couched in the language of hospitality and inclusion: is it exclusive to use language that non-Christians will not understand?

A key problem here is how we define “standard” English and how we identify when a given term become unintelligible. For instance, I have heard arguments that words like “redemption,” “repentance,” “forgiveness,” “sin,” and “salvation” are insider words that the church needs to avoid. I’m constantly confused by this because I hear these words plenty in popular American music. Can you really make the argument that a word is not understood by regular speakers when it shows up frequently in pop music or mainstream rock? The only way this argument makes sense to me is if you posit—and can demonstrate—that the meaning between a “popular” use and “church” use has drifted so far that the one is unintelligible to the other.

Far more frequently, I think something else is at work here especially as it tends to pop up around works like “sin” and “sacrifice.” These words have a meaning, and it is flavored by centuries of use within the church. When church people suggest that they are unintelligible and exclusive to non-church people, I wonder if the meaning is not clear or if they don’t like the meaning that the term currently has. I wonder if a desire for new language is an attempt to make an aspect of the faith more palatable to the church people who take issue with a term.

Bottom line: if you take issue with the use of the word “sin” in the liturgy, your root problem may not be that visitors can’t understand it…

There’s more to be said about this topic, though, especially around what kind of language liturgies can or ought to be written in. I’ll get around to those shortly.


The First SCLM Meeting of the New Triennium

Just a brief note on why things have been so silent the last couple of days… We did indeed have the first meeting of the Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music for the new triennium. I won’t bore you with trying to list out details; the minutes should be up in the not too distant future. I am happy to say that I am no longer secretary!! This is good news for me as doing the minutes was always quite a chore as my way of doing them is very verbose and therefore time consuming.

What I will give you is a few quick impressions.

First, the SCLM is larger now than it was before. General Convention expanded the size of the group; we now have 5 bishops, 5 priests, and 10 laity. (I suppose deacons would have been in the clergy spot with the priests, but we have none.) With the increase we have a better representation of church musicians than we had last triennium. I’m happy to see that.

Second, due to the timing of the meeting, we were episco-poor; only one of our bishop members was present with us. It’s hard to have a full feel of the group with several important members missing.

Third, despite the absence of most of the bishops, I found this gathering to have a different spirit around the table than last triennium. There was some real positive energy and a sense of hope about our work together. Little “work” gets done at these initial meetings. Rather there is a lot of organization in order to move towards doing work and also getting a sense of the individuals around the table and how the group dynamics will flow.

Fourth, needless to say, there is a diversity of opinion around the table. I do think that we are starting with the right questions; we’ll see how the process develops.

Short and vague, I know, but I’m still processing and waiting to see how things shake out.

Prayer Book Revision Plan: The Three Essentials

The now infamous prayer book revision resolution from General Convention directs the Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music (SCLM) to : “prepare a plan for the comprehensive revision of the current Book of Common Prayer and present that plan to the 79th General Convention.”

Note that. We’re not directed to do any prayer book revision; we’re simply asked to prepare a plan that will be (no doubt) debated and acted upon at the next General Convention.

The second resolve is particularly interesting to me. It asks us to be informed by seven different forms of diversity found within the church: “That such a plan for revision utilize the riches of our Church’s liturgical, cultural, racial, generational, linguistic, gender and ethnic diversity in order to share common worship.”

This language neither prejudices us nor gives us a whole lot of direction. When I took up the “Holy Women, Holy Men” (HWHM) material, diversity was mandated but was not being tracked or quantified in any way leading to a more lopsided collection than had been intended. If diversity is a major component here, identifying and quantifying it is a central task in order to be thoroughly and properly inclusive.

The third resolve touches on the field I know from my day job as an IT professional (no, I’m not a priest, professor, full-time blogger or any number of other things that people often assume; I have a regular 9-5 corporate job…): “that the plan for revision take into consideration the use of current technologies which provide access to a broad range of liturgical resources.”

At the same time there is also a hymnal revision resolution that essentially asks a similar thing with fewer words: “That the 78th General Convention direct the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) to prepare a plan for the comprehensive revision of the Hymnal 1982.”

There are a whole bunch of things that need to be done. But as I read, review, and pray about these resolutions, there are three things that keep returning to my mind. These are what I consider the three essential tasks that we have to get right before we can do either plan right. These aren’t particuularly sexy, interesting, or fun. But they are necessary.

I’d go so far as to say that they are critical: If we fail on these, we will fail on the process as a whole.


We Must Have a Baseline

This section could equally be entitled “The Plural of Anecdote is not ‘Data.'”

Most people who care enough to even think about prayer book revision are likely to have strong opinions on the matter. Most of us—myself included—have an idea of What The Church Wants or, perhaps more important, What The Church Needs. No surprise, then, that What The Church Needs dovetails nicely with what we think and we even have some examples of parishes to back it up: “X parish did Y and their numbers and vitality went up Z% over a period from A to B! We all need to do that!” Or, barring useful examples, we like to appeal broadly to what is going on in the church based on our idea of what is going on: “Everybody is experimenting with liturgy these days—those old forms just don’t work/Nobody I know likes any of that experimental crap, we all just want the prayer book.”

If we intend to engage in something as important as this process, then guesses aren’t good enough. It’s not even good enough for people on the SCLM to have a general level of agreement about how things should go.

We don’t need anecdotes or general feelings: we need data. We need to know what is being done now.

Are we currently seeing a mass explosion of experimental liturgies as is claimed by some? Are we seeing churches forced to draw on resources outside of our tradition because our current resources are clearly inadequate? Do we see most churches quite happily using the authorized texts with a small body of experimental outliers? What consistent alterations are we seeing across the church? (I’m looking at you, list of patriarchs in Prayer C…) What languages are we seeing used in worship? Are we seeing a use of monolingual worship, bilingual worship, multilingual worship? How is culture showing up in how people are worshipping now?

My proposal would be to literally see what the church is doing now. The way we would do that is by requesting that every Episcopal parish across every one of our dioceses email (or snail mail in locations where email is not possible) the SCLM with seven actual bulletins. The SCLM will select a particular Sunday from every season of the church year and ask that the bulletins for all services for the selected Sundays be sent in as well as a bulletin from a Principal Feast. The results would then be tabulated in a publicly viewable database: type of service, source for readings, hymns, additional ceremonies, anthems, Eucharistic Prayers, any significant additions or omissions, how many people were in each service on those given days, etc. This would give us a place to start and a sense of what the church is actually up to.

This is the data we need to begin understanding the true shape of our diversity and to know what proper kinds of questions we need to be asking. If we actually take the time to do this right, we won’t have to guess or extrapolate wildly from anecdotes: we’ll have something hard to go back to.


We Must Give The People Their Voices

Now—a baseline is not enough.

We need to hear from everyone who cares enough to have an opinion on the matter. What works? What doesn’t work? What needs to be changed? What doesn’t need to change?

We need to crowd-source this thing.

Surveys may be helpful here—but surveys are not enough. Furthermore, surveys are rarely truly neutral instruments. If a given person or group of people are crafting questions and limiting possible answers, then they have a certain amount of control over the responses they receive. People passionate on issues may, knowingly or not, craft the questions to elicit the answer that they want to see. (And that goes for complaints I’ve heard about the hymnal survey…)

We need free-form opportunities for input. Let me give you a for-instance… The parish the girls and I have been attending uses Prayer C a fair amount. I now have some extended experience of praying with it. Based on that experience, I have a few constructive comments on how it could be made better. (I’ll leave aside the whole “dialogue” thing for the moment which I think is theologically problematic–that would take this post in a whole other direction I don’t want to go in now, so don’t start…)

  • The beginning part “fragile earth, island home…” does sound dated. I’d like to see the concept retained but perhaps with language having a more timeless feel.
  • The Patriarch Problem needs to be handled better. Inserting names of spouses/concubines/sex partners of the various patriarchs is not the best way to do this. I’d much rather see a parallel list of OT Matriarchs: “God of Deborah, Ruth, and Judith” perhaps.
  • I’ve come to really dislike “We celebrate his death and resurrection as we await the day of his coming.” Part of my Eucharistic theology is the idea that the reference to “…until he comes again” is fulfilled almost immediately when we experience and receive the sacrament. Jesus literally comes again to us in that moment in and through the bread and wine. The idea of “coming again” does relate to the great consummation at the end of the age when Jesus returns in power and great glory, but is not and should not be limited to that moment! The use of the temporal marker “day” here bothers me because it unnecessarily restricts and limits the kind of “coming” that we are referring to.

These are the kinds of thoughts that we need to capture. You can’t do this on a survey. These kinds of comments need to be publicly made and read and evaluated.

Furthermore, we need some crowd-based methods of indicating opinion on said opinions. I’m thinking of something like and up-vote/down-vote system that will allow responses that receive the most reactions to flow towards the top so they can be read and responded to by more people.

There are plenty of good web technologies out there designed to enable this kind of feedback. We need to pick one and then use it to actually listen to what the church is saying—not just the little circle of people who happen to be on the SCLM for a given triennium. No, everybody is not going to agree. But having watched the performance of Episcopal social media during General Convention and the web-casted TREC meeting leads me to believe that there is a synergy that erupts when we all start talking together. As far as I’m concerned, one of the great structure discoveries for me of last GC was the rise of the House of Twitter. We need to leverage that kind of excitement and energy.


We Must Show The People Accountability Through Transparency

One of the biggest complaints about recent SCLM work, and I’m thinking specifically about Enriching Our Worship (EOW) and HWHM here, is that something goes missing between the stated principles and the final products. As Matthew Olver has noted in his on-going pieces on EOW (part 1 and part 2 with a forthcoming part 3), the original documents leading up to EOW contained this passage:

In Christian liturgy, the truth of the Gospel which proclaims Jesus as the Son of God the Father and as Lord is essential. The terms “Father,” “Son,” and “Lord” are retained as expressive of that truth.

But, as we know, those terms were conspicuously absent from the final product.

Too, throughout the HWHM experiment there were issues regarding how completely the people included within the resource met the published criteria, particularly in terms of time limits, recognition across the church, and evidence of faith commitment (including baptismal status). Over time the criteria came to include escape clauses so that several of these could be dispensed with as desired.

I think that we as a commission have earned ourselves a credibility problem.

If we solicit feedback—particularly the two forms I’ve indicated above—then we need to bear fruit that demonstrates that we have taken it seriously and acted upon it.

When it came to to make revisions to the narratives going into Great Cloud of Witnesses, my committee and I read through the detailed comments left on the blog posts. I weighed them carefully as I made my own edits. I didn’t include all of them, but I certainly used the majority of them.

We need to demonstrate that this kind of engagement is happening and has happened.

Liturgies developed should be developed publicly. We, the church, need to be able to see them, reflect about them, use them (under proper parameters, of course), and comment about our experiences with them. We need to see that our thoughts and suggestions have at least been considered even if they are not accepted. (And if they are not, some clear appeal to the established principles and criteria would be meet and right!) We need to see that the liturgies being developed do, in fact, reflect any criteria and principles adopted to guide the process.

Something like Mediawiki, the engine that drives Wikipedia (free and open-source), is ideal for this. The liturgies can be seen, we can see the edits and version history, and the talk pages could provide space for reflection linked to but separate from the trial content.

Adam Wood has proposed something similar driven by similar concerns. (Here’s a Wired write-upon another of his projects if you don’t know him.) [I personally think that the ultimate end of our liturgical endeavors should be encoded in TEI XML for easy conversion into human-readable documents and web pages or machine-readable JSON for web and mobile apps, but that’s another debate.]

Using such a system offers transparent accountability. We know who did what when with what theology under which principles, and we will have an opportunity to make public comment about it.

So—those are the three essential things I think we need to incorporate into whatever plans for the prayer book and hymnal get offered to the next General Convention:

  • We need actual data on how the prayer book and hymnal are (or aren’t) being used right now
  • We need an effective vehicle for the church to communicate and deliberate on what we use now
  • We need an effective vehicle for the clear and accountable construction and dissemination of new liturgical experiments

These may not be the sexy topics like inclusive language or what to do with Confirmation, but they represent essential first steps to do the discussions right.

Prayer Book Revision and Identity

I’ve been trying to pull my thoughts together towards what I’d like to see out of the prayer book revision plan, but have had a hard time doing so. Yesterday, it finally clicked. A number of different things aligned in my head, and I caught a glimpse of the situation in a way that I hadn’t understood it before.

A key piece of the puzzle here is “identity” and the ways in which our liturgies are understood as a public enactment of who we are as a church, both as an ecclesial body that spans the United States and several other countries and as local embodied communities that make up the church in our neighborhoods.

Here are some of the things that I see connecting…:

  • The current argument around Communion without Baptism. In my latest sizeable piece on CWOB, I clarified further that I believe identity and anxiety are key drivers of this particular movement. The real question that we are wrestling with here is not the obvious one (what is the shape and nature of our sacramental theology?) but an identity-driven one (does the church affirm [at least verbally] that it—and I—am welcoming and inclusive?).
  • The bulletin for Sunday’s installation of Bishop Curry as Presiding Bishop.
  • The notion of “liturgical evangelism.” This can paraphrased loosely like this: If Sunday morning is the church’s cultural moment in the spotlight, then we need to have a service that is going to draw people in rather than turn them away. We need a service where visitors are going to feel comfortable and included, and maybe they’ll actually come back. There’s usually more than a hint of anxiety built into this one because the fear is, if a visitor doesn’t feel welcomed and included, they won’t come back and our church will continue to lose numbers and die…
  • And that fear connects to the sobering reality of how the numbers overall are looking for the Episcopal Church. Here is the latest research on the 5 year trends from 2009-2013 for the Episcopal Church as compiled by our Office of Research under Dr. C. Kirk Hadaway.  Here is his latest snapshot of the demographics of the church based on the 2014 data in both the short form and the long form.
  • Last but definitely not least, I’ve been spending a lot of time over the last week or so considering the second resolve of the prayer book revision plan resolution: “Resolved, That such a plan for revision utilize the riches of our Church’s liturgical, cultural, racial, generational, linguistic, gender and ethnic diversity in order to share common worship;”

So—what’s going on here? How do these things connect together?

One of my axioms is that liturgy is the kinetic expression of the gathered community’s theology. (Or, at least, it should be. I’ll touch on how and why that can break down a little further on…) As such, there is a direct relationship between the identity of the worshipping community and the liturgy through which it expresses who it is and what it believes. However, identity can be a very vague and slippery thing due to a whole bunch of overlapping scopes and aspects. Furthermore, identity is neither static nor something that can be easily nailed down. Certainly there are some aspects of identity that can be quantified by sets of numbers, but identity as a whole is more of a mental or ideological construct. When we start “acting out of our identity,” then, the questions must be asked: who is the “us/our” and which version of constructed identity are we working with? Furthermore, because identity isn’t static, I think a lot of effort around identity in the Episcopal Church is invested in what I call “aspirational identity”—who we wish we are, who we believe that we can eventually be, rather than who we may actually be now.

Let me break this down in a couple of different ways.

  • There is the actual identity of the local worshipping community. This refers to an identity based on the people are who are physically present in the nave during worship at your local congregation.  Notice that this is a little more precise than “local community.” That’s deliberate. For instance, at the church we recently left, the “local community” included children but the “actual local worshipping community” didn’t as the kids were hustled out of worship.
  • Then there is the aspirational identity of the local worshipping community. This would include all of the people who you really think ought to be in your local congregation and who certainly would be if they just realized how awesome you are. For instance, I know a church in an urban area whose congregants are mostly  older folks who commute in from the suburb they went to when White Flight transitioned the neighborhood from ethnic European immigrant to Black. The urban area has since gentrified and is now filled with young professionals and families with children.  The hope, the aspirational identity of this congregation, is well-stocked with these young folks even though very few (if any) actually darken a pew on Sunday morning. Typically, it is this aspect of identity that gets factored in when liturgical evangelism is on the table. What is it that we imagine “those people” might like? How should we change ourselves so that “those people” will want to come and join us so we won’t die and the bishop won’t close us down?
  • Identity doesn’t just manifest on a local level, though. Indeed, one of the key things that I think we are now and will continue to argue about and fight over is the aspirational identity of the whole church. What could/should the church look like? This is the point where I think the second resolve in the prayer book revision plan resolution is very telling. In the aspirational whole church the seven different aspects of diversity outlined there would be richly and thoroughly represented. As a result, when we think liturgical evangelism and prayer book revision, I see us working around the question of whether a given liturgy will attract and keep the wide diversity (and great numbers!) that will surely follow when we finally “get it right” with our liturgies, all kinds of people do flood in, and our aspirational vision is fulfilled.
  • But, there’s also an actual identity of the whole church to be reckoned with as well. That’s where the statistics come in. They show an actual church that is largely white, aging, and shrinking. And, despite our vaunted liberality—even after the departures of the last decade—only 29% of surveyed congregations identified themselves as “somewhat liberal or progressive” and only 8% as “very liberal or progressive.”


Who is the church that we are revising the prayer book for?


That’s not a rhetorical question or a “gotcha” but an honest question that we need to have clarity on. This is where all that CPE and therapy come in handy—so that we can assess what our true motives are so that we are not working out of our fears and anxieties but actually know what we’re dealing with, what situations we’re envisioning, and why.

It’s this confluence of aspirational and actual identities that I find interesting when I consider the liturgy for the installation of the Presiding Bishop.

Again: liturgy is a public expression of community identity. This event is a Big Deal for the Episcopal Church. It isn’t quite on the scope of a royal wedding, but it is a key point where a certain amount of attention will be focused on us and our church. In this moment we have an opportunity to introduce ourselves liturgically to people who may not know much about us and who we are. What kind of identity does this liturgy enact?

Here’s the thing—this liturgy is an embodiment of the actual worshipping community who will be gathered in the National Cathedral on Sunday. That is, we have Spanish-speaking people, clergy from Native American backgrounds who speak Lakota, gospel choirs from African-American congregations, and the like. We have progressive liturgies like Enriching Our Worship, Prayer 2 which will be the Eucharistic prayer for the service. In a real sense this liturgy will be an authentic expression of that gathered group.

But there is also a significant disconnect between what will occur in that liturgy and the average Episcopal Sunday services in the parts where there is overlap.

I said that liturgy is “the kinetic expression of the gathered community’s theology.” That’s what liturgy ought to be. In reality, liturgy is the kinetic expression of what the people with the control print on the papers that get handed out and what gets enacted in the chancel. Sometimes these two things are exactly the same—that’s what it ought to be. But I’ve certainly been in places where the clergy and/or worship leaders have different notions about theology and its liturgical expression than the majority of the congregation. There’s a paternalistic sense that the leadership knows better, and that they understand their role to lead the congregation up to their more enlightened level. Hence, I always get a little worried when I hear clergy tell me that they’re leading their congregations into a new kind of worship or liturgy; it seems to me their congregations ought to be leading them rather than the other way around… (I’ve ranted before about clergy inflicting their personal spiritual journeys on the congregation, I won’t go into it now…)

Clearly this installation liturgy is intended to be a celebration of the multicultural diversity of the Episcopal Church upon the installation of its first African-American Presiding Bishop. I completely understand that. Not only is the installation of a Presiding Bishop an occasional liturgy (occurring only once every three to nine years) but this particular installation is a unique one—you can only do “the first” once by definition…

But how do we “read” this event, or how will it be read by others?

This is our main public moment for years to come; this liturgy is portraying the Episcopal Church and its liturgy in a way that is dissimilar from what visitors would find in the majority of Episcopal churches they might visit. Do we read this as a unique liturgy celebrated once to mark an important event coupled with a significant milestone, or do we see it as a template for what the leadership thinks our liturgies ought to look like—setting the tone for the desires of the “incoming administration” as we look towards prayer book revision?

To what degree is criticism of the installation liturgy—and I have heard some—related to a gap between the theology of the planners of the liturgy and the theology held by the local communities from which the critics come? (And please note that I am making observations here, not criticisms. Trust me, I’ll make those clear if I decide to do so…)

The participants in the installation liturgy are, I believe, a microcosm of the aspirational identity of the whole church as constructed by those who wield power in the church currently. And why not? This is a vision of the church as diverse, welcoming, and inclusive. But does it necessarily follow that in order to make this aspiration the actual identity of the whole church that an installation-style liturgy must become the norm? We should resist the temptation to draw an easy line between the installation liturgy and the character of a future prayer book; that move is not self-evident. However, I’m sure that there are plenty on both sides who will quickly do so, either fearing that to be the case, or hoping that it will come to pass.

Let’s not forget, too, that this vision only represents one version of the aspirational identity of the whole church. Part of our conflict within the church is about who we are and who we wish to be going forward. Are we the church of the upper-crust, the church for those who have arrived in society? Or are we the church of the liturgical(ish) social justice warriors? Or are we whatever we were when we were back in the ’50s? Or the 70s?

The reality of our situation is that there is a disconnect between the (several competing) aspirational identities of the whole church and the actual identity of our local worshipping congregations.


Who is the church that we are revising the prayer book for?


Until we have some clarity around the answer to that question, we will be working in the dark.


Theology and Liturgy and History (Oh my!)

In writing up my thoughts and recommendations around prayer book revision, I was poking around in the back catalogue. In the course of that exploration, I ran across a post which neatly and succintly addresses a large set of issues that I had intended to bring up. Rather than writing it all de novo, I think it makes much more sense to reproduce that text, with a few words of context for the current situation. (The original is here.)

I wrote the post in 2010 upon receiving word of the American Sarum conference that I subsequently attended and blogged. For me, the central issue was this: When we identify a historical point as particularly paradigmatic for renewal of our liturgical practice, we are making a huge theological statement whether we know it or not and whether we intend it or not.

Five years ago, the conference raised the issue of “Sarum”: what does it mean for 21st centruy Episcopalians to claim “Sarum Use” which was itself, truthfully, an appropriation of a Victorian nationalistic reconstruction of a medieval tradition?

Today, we know have this issue before us again because of the “fourth-century fundamentalism” that characterized the Liturgical Renewal Movement that gave such a strong shape to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. (Note that one of the current arguments against the retention of the Nicene Creed is that it wasn’t used during the Eucharist in the fourth century.) If we really are going to do a “comprehensive revision”, then we must look at what we have gained and what we have lost through conducting liturgy through an appropriation of the the 1960’s reconstruction of the fourth century tradition…

Liturgies change. Indeed, liturgical and ceremonial tinkering is inevitable across any significant group of folks whether there’s a set standard liturgy or not. Sometimes it’s because the liturgy needs a change, sometimes it’s because the tinkerers want a change.

No matter which way it goes, there’s no such thing as a liturgical change; rather there are theological changes that have liturgical implications. When a worshiping community of baptized Christians gather, they incarnate in a particular way the eschatological reality of the Body of Christ.  (This is most especially the case when they gather for a Eucharist where the whole intention is the making tangible and consumable the literal Body of Christ to be shared amongst them all.) You cannot separate the liturgy, the ceremonial, and the theology of such a gathering—they are inextricably bound up in one another. When the liturgy or the ceremonial gets changed, therefore, a theological change has necessarily occurred. When we say and do something different liturgically and ceremonially, we are just as surely saying and doing something different theologically as well. Sometimes these changes are minor—and sometimes they’re not. Sometimes these theological changes are intentional and conscious—and sometimes they’re not. Sometimes the tinkerers are aware of what they’re doing—and sometimes they’re not.

When liturgies change, my sense is that the motivation for the change and the direction in which the change occurs relate to two different axes: contemporary culture and historical practice. That is, when liturgies change it tends to be because the tinkerers are trying to make a statement to the contemporary culture; history can be leveraged in a number of different ways:

  • Sometimes historical practices are jettisoned entirely because of a perceived disconnect with contemporary culture (this would be your praise & worship/Willow Creek type response).

  • Sometimes historical practices are resurrected because they represent a perceived correction to the current deplorable state of the contemporary culture—if the historical practice is maintained, the culture will be restored. (I see this as one of the motivations behind some who call for the ’28BCP & ’40 hymnal/Traditional Latin Mass: if we return to a pre-’60s liturgy, maybe we’ll return to a pre-’60s culture as well.)

  • Sometimes historical practices are resurrected because they represent a perceived connection to the contemporary culture–if the historical practice is maintained, this culture will be better able to hear, receive,  and embody the Gospel.

I’d suggest that this last approach has been behind most of the major shifts in liturgy within the Christian Church as a whole. Most of the major liturgical changes in Western Christendom have been attempts to re-engage/re-enliven contemporary practice based on historical precedents. This isnot a new thing. Most of the monastic renewal movements in the eleventh and twelfth centuries were rooted in attempts to return to the True Practice whether that be the Desert Fathers, John Cassian, Benedict or a combination of the three. The Protestant Reformers attempted to return to Early Church practice. The first liturgical revival driven by the monks of Solesmes was an attempt to return to proper medieval practice. The Ritualists attempted to return to a High Medieval practice. Blessed Percy and the English Use tried to return to a Sarum standard. The most recent Liturgical Renewal encompassing Vatican II and the ’79 BCP tried to return to fourth century practice. Picking up a theme from the previous post, isolating one movement as “museum religion” is a bit disingenuous becauseutilizing historical precedence for contemporary practice has been a consistent habit in the West for a very long time.

Furthermore, we need to note that the exercise of identifying and utilizing historical materials is always a process thoroughly invested with contemporary meanings and limitations. The Protestant Reformersthought that they were returning to Early Church patterns of worship. Their historical reconstructions of Early Church worship didn’t have a whole lot to go on and look little like how we reconstruct Early Church worship today. We have better sources and better scholarship. (Would Luther or Calvin have used the Eucharist of the Didache had they known it?) Likewise, the work of the Ritualists and the Blessed Percy are properly understood as part of a broader English Gothic Revival rooted in English Nationalism and a political and social appropriation of the peculiarly English/British heritage over and against Continental expressions of nationalism. The work of Vatican II and attendant movements cannot be separated from the cultural and social movements of the ’60s. Historical work and even its excess—antiquarianism—are events that are contemporary in nature despite their focus on the past.

Now we tie these two threads together. The appropriation of historical practices always signals theological changes to the contemporary liturgy. Some of the theological changes are because of what the historical practice itself is or does. On the other hand, the very act of incorporating a certain practice from a certain time and place is a theological statement entirely apart from the content of the practice; the very selection of any time and place as an “ideal” is a major theological statement. The selections of the Early Church for the Reformers and the Fourth Century for Vatican II were attempts to achieve a purity that had been lost. The return to the High Medieval or Sarum reflected attempts to recapture a fullness that had been lost. None of these choices are theologically neutral—they all had and have an impact.

So what, what is a Renewal vs. a Revival vs. Musem Religion? Is it purely subjective or are there objective measures? When is a Renewal/Revival/Museum Moment an imposition into a contemporary practice and when does it represent a true enlivenment and enrichment?

For me the issue goes back to theology. As I’ve said before, we’re not the Christian Historical Society—we don’t do things because they’re old, we do them because they proclaim the Gospel. But some times the old ways proclaim the Gospel in new ways or media or avenues that our contemporary society needs to hear. Whenever we try to bring back an old practice, rite or time, my questions are these:

  • Why—to what end? Is it for the sake of nostalgia or fantasizing that the contemporary culture will go away and reformulate itself accord to the ideal pattern if we can sufficiently recall this past time? Or is it because we see a way here that the Gospel can be better communicated in this time and place?
  • Is there a coherence and an integrity between this historical practice and what the contemporary community is doing now? How radical or organic is this change?
  • Are the theological messages and intentions of this change in coherent relation with the theological trajectory of the community into which it is being introduced?

These are the kinds of questions that I see and here us asking about the Vatican II changes and the changes of the ’79 BCP. They’re also the questions that I will take with me to the American Sarum conference. Why a Sarum Revival? Why here—why now? Into what deep currents, culturally and theologically, is it tapping—or do we want to revive it because it seems “cool”? Why Sarum over some other time and place? As I’ve said before, I think there’s a case to be made for infusing as bit of the English early medieval monastic spirit into contemporary American Episcopalianism. Why is Sarum a better choice?

I don’t want to focus narrowly on Sarum here, though. Instead let me just say that this movement is raising for me—for us—a number of questions that I think are important now and may become even more important in the near future. Society is shifting. Technology and the evolving world situation are bring us into new opportunities and conflicts. Where, amongst the contemporary world and the faithful works of the past, is the Gospel best found and proclaimed?

That, indeed, remains the central question that we must consider in prayer book revision. How do we best proclaim the Gospel in our own day and age?