FROM THE RECTOR: “CLARITY AND CONSENSUS”
The 2015 General Convention directed the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music “to prepare a plan for the comprehensive revision of the current Book of Common Prayer” and to present that plan to the 2018 General Convention. And if this were not enough for them to do, the convention also asked the Commission “to prepare a plan for the comprehensive revision of the Hymnal 1982.” So, I went to the web page of the Archives of the Episcopal Church to look at the records of the Reports to the General Conventions (the so-called “Blue Books”) and the Acts of General Convention.
When the 1994 General Convention asked for a plan to revise the Prayer Book, the Commission replied in 1997 that it was “premature . . . until the present and proposed provisions for trial and supplemental use have brought us to a place of greater clarity and consensus” (Blue Book, 253). This phrase “clarity and consensus” caught my attention.
When the question of a new hymnal was mandated to be reviewed in 2009, a large portion of the church was surveyed. The survey was conducted by the Church Pension Group. Forty-four percent of the congregations of the church were represented in the responses. You can read that report here. The Commission concluded, “While the data does not point towards revision at this time, it does indicate the need to begin an in-depth process of discernment as to what new music beyond the current set of authorized resources will inspire and revitalize our congregations” (Blue Book , 165).
But if I’ve read the report correctly, this conclusion about a “need to begin an in-depth process” depends on the assumption of the report’s editors that, “Nevertheless, to do nothing threatens the long-term viability of the denomination” (page 66). Count me among those who don’t think The Hymnal 1982 or The Book of Common Prayer (1979) contribute to the continuing decline of the size of our church or to “the long-term viability of the denomination.” However, I think the need to achieve theological “clarity and consensus” before we try to revise either the Prayer Book or the hymnal will have an impact on the future of the Episcopal Church.
There are two significant theological issues that increasingly divide the church today: (1) what is called, “communion without Baptism,” and (2) how we address the Trinity in our Eucharistic Prayers. Both issues have been around for quite a while now. But the theological and ecumenical ramifications of those issues have still not been adequately addressed.
The practice of inviting those who are not baptized to receive communion, now common in cathedrals and congregations in many dioceses, including our own, makes me very, very sad. What is most surprising to me about this development is that communion without Baptism diminishes the significance of what many of us think is the most significant accomplishment of the 1979 Prayer Book: a unified initiation rite. That is, Baptism now admits one to the reception of communion—and it is Baptism that does this, not Confirmation. We now have a couple of generations of Episcopalians who grew up as full members of Christ’s Body, the church, welcome to share in communion along with everyone else.
As a matter of discipline, when I attend a church service and the Eucharist is celebrated using authorized inclusive, or expansive, language materials, I participate in the service. Yet, I do not welcome Christian prayer that deliberately avoids Trinitarian language. Certainly, traditional Trinitarian language—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—doesn’t exhaust the possibilities for speaking about the Trinity, but it is the language of the New Testament. It’s the language of Christianity.
That said, those who have heard me preach over the years know I am increasingly careful about the way I quote Scripture, especially the New Testament, in the pulpit. I work to quote more accurately—and I simply did not realize how much of our most respected English translations continue to defer to the linguistic conventions of the English that was used in the King James’ version of the Bible, first published in 1611. Looking back, I regret my generation of clergy weren’t required to learn to read the New Testament in Greek when we were in seminary. I’d like to think I would have been a more careful preacher from the beginning.
I am very aware that liturgical scholarship since the 1970s has moved us in new directions, but that doesn’t mean the 1979 book has begun to need immediate revision. The church grew using its 1789 book for 103 years before it got a second one in 1892. The church actually made very few changes in 1892, and it continued to grow. In 1928 they made a few more, and it continued to grow. But in 1928 they also established the Standing Liturgical Commission to prepare for the next revision. Studies continued until the end of the 1960s when the church was finally ready to begin drafting a new book. As a result, those charged with drafting what would ultimately become the 1979 book actually used the 1928 book for thirty-nine years—not “authorized” or “trial services”—before they began praying with the first alternative service in 1967, “The Liturgy of the Lord’s Supper” (Prayer Book Studies 17 ).
The present Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music has been given neither the time nor the resources to prepare itself or the church for Prayer Book and hymnal revision. They’ve been allocated $30,000 for the next three years for planning for a new Prayer Book, $25,000 for planning for a new hymnal. It will be interesting to see if the present Commission takes the bait or if they have the wisdom to insist that we work first for “clarity and consensus.” —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Peggy, Bob, Dianne, Vicki, Maxine, Robert, Josephine, Tanya, Veronica, Jean, Priscilla, JoAnn, Quinn, Dick, Mala, Mark, Natasha, Gerry, Kenneth, Yves, Heidi, Nancy, Rasheed, Toussaint, Linda, Sam, Catherine, Babak, Mazdak, Trevor, David, Abalda, Takeem, Arpene, Pamela, religious, Sidney, deacon, Erika, priest, Paulette, priest, and Harry, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . September 6: 1893 Nellie G. Thompson; 1910 Edna Grace Rescousie; 1916 Robert Walker; 1917 Melissa McFall; 1989 Martha McElveen Jones.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Sunday, September 6, Brazilian Day. Vendors and others will be setting up booths on 46th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues . . . Monday, September 7, Labor Day, Federal Holiday Schedule. The church opens at 10:00 AM and closes at 2:00 PM. Only the noonday services are offered. The parish offices are closed . . . Tuesday, September 8, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Morning Prayer 8:30 AM, Noonday Office 12:00 PM, Mass 12:10 PM, Sung Mass 6:00 PM, sermon by the Reverend Mitties DeChamplain . . . Friday, September 11: Requiem Mass, 12:10 PM . . . On Saturday, September 5 and September 12, confessions will be heard by Father Jim Pace.
SEPTEMBER 11 REQUIEM . . . The 12:10 Eucharist on Friday, September 11, will be offered with thanksgiving for those who were killed here in the city, in Washington, D.C., and on United Airlines Flight 93, that crashed in Pennsylvania. Since 2001 our Masses on this day have been celebrated wearing purple vestments. This year, we will wear white. My thinking has been influenced not only by our church’s teaching that our burial rites are Easter liturgies. The formal recognition last year by the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church of the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide, commemorated on April 24, brought to our attention that within their tradition martyrs are remembered not as victims, but as victors. On September 11, nearly 3,000 people from 93 nations were killed. Like others, I will never forget that day and its aftermath. I will never forget that the fires burned for 99 days. The approach of the Armenian Church to martyrdom recalled me to our Easter faith. I think it’s time for us to be in white on this day. —S.G.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Father Matthew Mead, his wife Nicole Mead, and his sons Liam and Nicholas were in church last Sunday. It was wonderful to see them. Father Mead’s Institution as the fifteenth rector of the Parish of Christ the Redeemer in Pelham Manor, New York, will take place on Tuesday, September 29, at 6:30 PM. New Yorkers who do not wish to drive may travel to Pelham on the Metro North, Harlem Line . . . The Rector will be away from Friday, September 4, through Friday, September 11 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 146.
AROUND THE NEIGHBORHOOD . . . The American Italian Cancer Foundation will be holding a Mobile Care Clinic at 10 East 46th Street on Friday, September 4, from 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM. The clinic will provide no-cost, digital mammograms and clinical breast exams to women aged 40 and older, who currently reside in New York City, and who have not had a mammogram in the past twelve months. The clinic is hosted by the Consulate General of Colombia in the City of New York. Please call 1-877-628-9090 to make an appointment.
THE COMMUNITY OF SAINT JOHN BAPTIST . . . Sister Deborah Francis is getting settled in and re-accustomed to the rhythms of life at the convent in New Jersey. We trust that she is enjoying the silence in Mendham, though we hope that she will not forget Times Square entirely. . . Sister Monica Clare will be moving to Saint Mary’s on September 10. Sister writes, “I'm looking forward to being at Saint Mary’s so much! Before I came to the Convent, believe it or not, I worked for twenty-three years in movie advertising in Hollywood as a photo editor.” Sister apparently has a sense of humor. She continues, “One might say I have gone from hell to heaven!” . . . Sister Laura Katharine has been busy in the sacristy getting ready for the “fall season.” Starting next week, she will return to the Mendham convent on Monday evening, attend community meetings on Tuesday, and return to New York that evening. We are grateful to all the sisters for their ministry. Please keep them in your prayers.
FROM THE ORGANIST & MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The communion anthem at the Solemn Mass on Sunday, offered by cantor Gregg Carder, is by a nineteenth-century composer. It is a setting by Anton Bruckner of a text translated by the Lutheran scholar Walter E. Buszin (1899–1973), who taught for many years as professor of hymnology and liturgics at Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis, Missouri. Bruckner treats the text with a fervent and passionate expression that suggests the intensity of his Austrian catholicity. The sentiment of the hymns we sing on Sunday also reflects a fervor but articulated here in the manner of two leading eighteenth-century poets and theologians. “O for a thousand tongues to sing my dear Redeemer’s praise,” exclaims Charles Wesley in his 1739 verse marking the anniversary of his conversion, which we sing at the offertory. Isaac Watts wrote metrical versions of the complete psalter; “From all that dwell below the skies,” our postcommunion hymn, is his imitation of Psalm 117. While we enjoy the richness of thought that shines so often through Watts’s poetry we should also reflect upon that most venerable of tunes, The Old Hundredth, to which we sing it this week. This finely crafted and pleasingly harmonized tune is by Louis Bourgeois (1510?–1561?), one of the main contributors of hymn tunes to the Genevan Psalter. Throughout the histories of both metrical psalmody and modern hymnody, this is the only tune that has been preserved intact, and indeed celebrated by a number of composers, including Mendelssohn, Britten, Hindemith, and Vaughan Williams. This week, the music for the voluntary picks up on the Anglican spirit that is brought to mind in both our offertory and postcommunion hymns. The short Cornet Voluntary by English composer John Travers (1703–1758) has a grand opening that leads to a sprightly solo on the Cornet stop. —Simon Whalley
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We sent a donation this week to the diocese of New York’s “Rebuild the Churches Fund.” On July 2, Bishop Dietsche invited the people of the diocese to help rebuild a number of African-American churches that have been destroyed by fire. If you would like to make a donation, you may send a check to the Mission Office, Episcopal Diocese of New York, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10025. Put “Rebuild the Churches Fund” in the memo line . . . Need help finding food or know someone who does? Call 1-800-5-HUNGRY (Why Hunger Hotline, Monday–Friday 9:00 AM–6:00 PM EST) or 1-866-3-HUNGRY (USDA National Hunger Hotline, 8:00 AM–8:00 PM EST) . . . We continue to collect nonperishable food items for our outreach partner, the Food Pantry at Saint Clement’s Church, 423 West Forty-sixth Street.
ADULT EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class resumes on October 7, at 6:30 PM, in Saint Joseph’s Hall. We will continue our reading of the Book of Isaiah, beginning at chapter 40. In the Adult Forum on Sunday mornings we have offered a number of classes in recent years that explore the links between religion, spirituality, and the arts, thanks to our able corps of teachers, which have included Dr. Dennis Raverty, Mr. Zachary Roesemann, and Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins. This year, on Sundays during the month of October, Dr. Raverty (October 4 & 11) and Father Jay Smith (October 18 & 25), will discuss the work of “the two Michelangelos,” Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475–1564), famed painter and sculptor of the Italian Renaissance, and Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610), the great Italian painter of the early Baroque period, who was known for his use of light and dark as well as his naturalistic portrayals of the human figure. Both painters had strong views about the relationship between body and spirit, the portrayal of biblical themes and stories, and the proper way to depict Christian heroes and saints. The Adult Forum meets at 10:00 AM on Sunday mornings in the Arch Room on the second floor of the Mission House. All are welcome to attend all of our adult-education classes. No prior experience is necessary. Following the October series on these two great artists, the attention of the members of the Adult Forum will turn, once again, to the Bible. On November 1, 8, 15, and 22, Father Peter Powell will be teaching a class on the so-called “Succession Narrative” in 2 Samuel and 1 Kings. A fuller description of Father Powell’s class, and other fall and winter classes, will appear in an upcoming edition of the newsletter. —Jay Smith
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Monday, September 14, Holy Cross Day, Mass 12:10 PM and Sung Mass 6:00 PM. Sermon by the Reverend Dr. Mitties DeChamplain . . . Monday, September 21, Saint Matthew, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Tuesday, September 29, Saint Michael and All Angels, Mass 12:10 PM and Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Sunday, October 4, Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Summer worship schedule ends: Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 AM & 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass with full choir, 11:00 AM, Solemn Evensong and Benediction 5:00 PM.