Thinking about the SCLM

I received a fairly annoyed note today from a regular reader and correspondent; in a nutshell, the message expressed a deep concern about whether the Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music (SCLM) was actually listening to what the church wants or needs. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked something like this.

Indeed, M sometimes tells me that much of the work of the SCLM that I do seems like a waste of time as most people within the church ignore what it produces.

In a certain sense, this is generally not an issue. That is, in most triennia, it appears that we on the SCLM offer resolutions that create work for us to do, then we go and do that work that we have decided ought to be done and—as M points out—most of the church yawns and goes on with their usual business.

But things are changing.

Thanks to two resolutions, (A169-2015 and D060-2015) we are now considering both hymnal revision and prayer book revision at the same time.

As a result, the way that we listen to the church, hear the church, and seek to implement the will of the church becomes much more important with regard to these two areas than, say, when we decide that liturgies for creation need tweaking.

What are your thoughts? What is the best way for “the church” writ large to interact with the SCLM? What’s the best way for us to communicate with you? What would help you have an authentic voice in the process and to help us hear what the body of the church is asking for? The SCLM does have a blog—is that useful? Is it sufficient? Let me know. I can’t promise anything, of course, but I would like to hear your thoughts…

10 thoughts on “Thinking about the SCLM

  1. Adam Roberts

    I’d love to see a “customer satisfaction” survey on the BCP before revisions. It could be a one or two-page sheet distributed at local parishes. It’d be labor-intensive, but it would help everyone feel like they at least had the chance to participate.

  2. llurl

    It sounds like a wonderful idea. How many would respond? How many really care?
    The BCP is not a living document that needs change at every turn, every whim. We need to stop throwing out our precious traditions. We need to keep them, treasure them and perhaps expand them. Soon we wil have nothing left.
    As to change in the hymnal? As a long time church organist my hope is that we keep our hymns and our Liturgy. It is not just for the lack of want or need to change it is just another busy work. Take a look at our Liturgy it is wonderful and on its own presents us a true message of worship and that is what it is all about. Do you won’t hip hop in the church? I think not. Let us keep what we have. We can have options but let us remember our heritage.

  3. W. Charles Paul

    My parish was very involved in Prayer Book Studies trial usage back in the days leading up to BCP 79. Instructed Eucharist’s, Coffee Hours on the ‘Green Book’, ‘Zebra Book’, ‘Big Blue’, ‘Proposed’, and ‘Final’. Of course the success of this depends on the support of the Clergy. [Or a Layperson who is aggravating enough to get them to do it so to shut you up:-) ]

  4. Barbara S.

    Maybe a Facebook page directing people to the blog? Or something on the main Episcopal Church website?

    I don’t think many people know about your blog, and they should. It would be great to have discussions about all this, I think….

  5. Barbara S.

    It’s actually possible, BTW, that not very many people know about these resolutions, either. As far as I can tell in the parishes, almost nobody even knows that GC is happening when it’s on – and there are no discussions, no announcements, or much of anything in my diocese, either before or after.

    Rectors don’t pay much attention to it, either, so there’s no information disseminated at the parish level. GC is a little closed world, I’m afraid; to me it’s ironic that we call ourselves “self-governing,” when many people have no idea that General Convention is happening even while it’s on.

  6. Barbara S.

    (Of course, it apparently doesn’t matter what we the people think anyway, since GC ignored – for instance – the results from the Hymnal survey anyway, didn’t they?

    They are really out of control….)

  7. TW

    What Barbara S. says. Good communication with us “little people” in the pews would mean noticing or caring that we don’t want the prayer book to change. And if it is to change we hope somehow the “allergic to Christian tradition” faction of church leaders will be less ascendant.

  8. Barbara S.

    This comes from the “Hymnal Revision Feasibility Study” (2012? –

    “The creators of The Hymnal 1982 set a high bar for those contemplating revision. Our research suggests that The Hymnal 1982 has become a firmly established preference even among those who were only just born when it started to appear in the pews of Episcopal churches. While among clergy and music directors, a plurality favor hymnal revision, sentiment among congregation members runs 2-to-1 against revision and there is no demographic category that is in favor. Patterns of support and opposition are sociologically eclectic. Age is important, but not, as we have shown, in a unilinear relationship to the desire for a new Hymnal. Gender is strongly correlated to views on Hymnal revision among clergy, and with some relationship among music directors, but gender has no effect on the views of the laity. Region was statistically significant in terms of the views of music directors, but not in terms of the views of clergy and laity; a combination of urban location and congregation size was an important factor, but it was hard to determine exactly the role it was playing.

    Even for those who do favor revision, an examination of their comments fails to point to a consistent direction that a revision would take. Perhaps most significantly, there is no pattern in which youth correlates with a particular movement towards new forms of musical expression. To revise the Hymnal must in some way be a project that is a gift to the next generation. Gaining some clearer sense of what the worship music of that generation will look like will require a longer and more careful period of discernment.”

    So exactly HOW are we self-governing? Even evidence from a study isn’t enough for General Convention, apparently; what will it take to get them to listen to the people they’re supposed to represent?

  9. Derek Olsen Post author

    I must confess, I was rather annoyed at the hymnal revision resolution. We did a survey and received the feedback. A small but vocal group wants it changed; most respondents do not want it changed. The survey process concluded that a change was not a good idea. So the members of the vocal group do an end-around the process to get it moving despite the findings of the survey. I’m not sure why the deputies or the bishops allowed this to happen.

  10. Clay Calhoun

    Though I certainly think the SCLM should seek feedback and input in order to get as accurate a sense of the mind of the church as possible, I personally hope it will not be primarily popular sentiments that drive any potential revisions. I think the process should largely be driven by those members of our church who are truly called to such work: scholars, liturgists, theologians. People (like you, Derek) who truly are expert in these matters, who can articulate historically and theologically why we worship and pray the way we do, and why it matters (as opposed to a kind of populist approach: Ok, who still wants to call God ‘Father’? Who likes saying the Creeds?). I think having such a critically important process as Prayer Book and/or Hymnal revision delegated largely to the skills of our best and brightest just makes sense . That’s the voice from my pew.

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