Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Liturgical Curmudgeon Strikes Again

In the March 23 issue of The Living Church, editor David Kalvalage posted a column in which he asked "More and More Questions." I couldn't resist answering them for him, and have sent them off to him. Because David is a good and godly person, he might even print some of them. But because he is a good editor, he might throw them away.

But here they are, anyway:

Is a Christian shirking responsibility by not voting in a political election?
It depends. In the case of a local election in which no big issues seem to be at stake: probably not, though voting would be better. In the case of the upcoming presidential election: absolutely!

Why can’t we negotiate these property disputes instead of creating such ill will?
“What’s mine is mine; what’s yours is negotiable.” When people try to walk away with the church’s property, whose fault is the ill will?

Why do some people feel the necessity to hold hands during prayer, especially the Lord’s Prayer?
How do you know they “feel the necessity”? Maybe they just like to do it. If you don’t care for it, that’s quite okay, but why are you bothered by someone else’s innocent customs?

Whatever became of the Anglican Communion Network?
They’re still around, although they seem to be all caught up in the Common Cause Partnership. They are apparently trying to figure out a way to commit schism without having to pay a price for it.

Did your congregation take notice of “Environment Weekend?”
Yes, although it did not displace the regular liturgical calendar.

Why has it become standard practice to end a sermon with the preacher saying “Amen”?
Has this become a standard practice? I don’t do it, myself (I use the invocation of the Trinity at the beginning and the end, but I don’t argue for that as the only legitimate practice.) Saying “Amen” seems like a very clear way for the preacher to say, “I’m finished now.” The congregation often responds, “Amen,” which may mean “Thank you for a very good sermon,” or it may mean “Thank God you are finished now.”

Isn’t approval of same-gender blessings a “slam dunk” for next year’s General Convention?
Probably not. (Why are so many people’s religion dependent on how other people commit their lives to each other?)

Do you understand what’s happening in San Joaquin? Do you care?
Yes. Yes.

Are things any different in your congregation than they were five years ago? Ten years ago?
Yes, I think there has been a significant development in lay ministry, both within the parish and in the community.

Did the Executive Council really need to meet in Ecuador?
Yes. The Executive Council meets in all nine provinces in rotation. Unless you think that Province 9 doesn’t count. Reports from the last EC meeting seem to be that they had a very productive visit in Ecuador.

Can you imagine any more bishops remaining in office until age 72?
Any more than what? If a bishop is elected at an age when he or she still has a lot of energy and imagination, age 65 may well be an appropriate time to retire. If a bishop wants to hang in until age 72, God bless him or her. The example of our Roman cousins does not suggest that having a large gang of ancient bishops is particularly healthy for the church.

Whatever became of Wednesday night services during Lent?
What became of them in your parish? In our parish we have a Wednesday evening Eucharist every week, and during Lent it was followed by a light potluck supper and a variety of study groups. The turnout was very good.

Why is the word “Pit” capitalized twice in Psalm 88?
“The Pit” is not just any old hole in the ground, but is a place of destruction; Hebrew bor. Same general sense as “Sheol.”

Why aren’t advocates for prayer book revision clamoring for a revised book?
Aren’t they? Actually, there are some who would like some increased flexibility, but I’m not aware of anyone who really wants to change the present book at this time.

Does anyone like “blended” worship?
What do you mean by “blended” worship? Please tell me what it is, and I will tell you whether or not I like it.

Are same-sex blessings supposed to be listed in parochial reports? Under what category?
There was some discussion recently on the House of Bishops/Deputies e-mail list. The consensus at the moment from the folks at 815 seems to be that such blessings can be counted as “other services” but not as “marriages.” This raises (again) the issue of what the relationship should be between the Church’s Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage and the recording of a marriage by the state.

Will there be any more evangelicals left in The Episcopal Church by 2010?
What do you mean by “evangelicals”? If you mean people who are seriously committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then the Church is and will be full of them. If you mean neocalvinists who are more religious than God, I hope not.

Doesn’t anyone care about these bishops leaving for the Roman Catholic Church?
Yes, a lot of us care. We’re sorry about them, but we wish them Godspeed, and we appreciate the fact that they chose to follow their consciences without beating anyone else over the head with them.

Wouldn’t it have made sense to stay off the internet as a Lenten discipline?
Probably! And in fact some people did. (Alas, not me.) The internet is like many valuable things — easily abused, but abusus non tollit usus, as Thomas Aquinas (excuse me, St. Thomas Aquinas) said in De Interretio.

Whatever became of the Windsor bishops?
Yes, I was wondering that myself. Possibly they realized that the Windsor Report contains less than meets the eye. Except perhaps to +Rowan.

Aren’t more churches offering Stations of the Cross?
Compared to when? Compared to when I was young? Yes. And that’s good.

Why do so many people omit the word “St.” before the names of saints?
Who knows? It may depend on context. About which contexts are you asking?

Don’t you wonder what’s going on in our seminaries?
Yes, at times. I wonder about different things at different seminaries.

Did any of our clergy preach on the epistle for Lent 4?
I did. Well, actually it was as much about the gospel as about the epistle, but still…. It seems generally desirable to relate all the readings to the extent that it’s possible.

Did any parish observe “Rose Sunday”?
The parish where I was supplying did. My home parish did, I understand, but borrowed vestments from a neighboring parish that wasn’t using them this year. It’s my impression that there are more rose vestments around the Episcopal Church nowadays than there were forty or fifty years ago. The Dean’s Oratory at Nashotah House has (or had) a very lovely set of rose vestments. Most other rose vestments are pink.

Whatever became of those people who were pushing for lay presidency?
And what makes you think anything has “become of” them? This is a Sydney hobbyhorse. At the moment Archbishop Jensen is all caught up in being anti-Lambeth and trying to put together GAFCON, and I doubt that very many of his cronies have any interest in lay presidency (they are much too clericalist for that!). I don’t doubt that after Lambeth this issue will emerge from Sydney again.

Isn’t the church’s outreach ministry stronger than it’s ever been?

Wouldn’t some new sites for General Convention have been welcome instead of returning to Anaheim and Indianapolis?
Well, yes, but bear in mind that there aren’t very many venues in the United States that can handle a convention of the size and time of our General Convention. Is there a venue in Milwaukee that can handle the GC? Some might say, well, then, let’s cut drastically back on the number of deputies! But how many lay deputies are saying that? Sounds like a way of constricting lay participation in the governance of the Church, if you ask me.

Do you care whether an Anglican Covenant is put in place?
Depends on the Covenant. The St. Andrews draft is better but still has a long way to go. I remain unconvinced that a covenant — especially of the sort that some are advocating — would do more good than harm.

Which of the seminaries will be the next to make a major announcement?
I don’t know. I find it troubling. But it does suggest that we need to take a very thorough and probably radical look at theological education in general and the education of candidates for holy orders in particular.

Are you aware that the index to the latest edition (2006) of the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church (p. 260) lists one of the “Duties of the Rector” as “To distribute arms and offerings”?
I hadn’t noticed that, actually! But then, let the one who has never committed a typo cast the first stone.

Aren’t churches without websites missing a great opportunity to attract visitors and newcomers?

Do you sometimes have trouble understanding what the Archbishop of Canterbury is writing or saying?
Frequently. His theology, spirituality, and poetry are difficult but rewarding. The archbishoppy stuff, not so much.

Wasn’t it hard to get started in Lent with it falling so early in the year?
Not really. It was a welcome change from shoveling snow.

Shouldn’t the Southern Cone be called something else?
This is their decision, not ours. What do you want to call them? La Provincia Anglicana del Cono Sur is perfectly sensible in Spanish; if it sounds funny in English, that’s our problem. “El Cono Sur” is a standard geographical designation (not just Anglican or ecclesiastical) for the nations at the southern end of South America.

Why does the national Executive Council need to have all those closed sessions?
How many sessions are “all those closed”? I assume it’s because (1) some issues, like personnel, really are confidential; (2) they get tired of the press whining. As Jesus said, “Let anyone with shoes that fit wear them.”

Why do some clergy insist upon addressing a communicant by name when administering communion?
Why not, if they can? (I have a hard enough time remembering my own name, so I don’t try.)

What’s the harm in including those portions of the psalms bracketed by the prayer book lectionary?
No harm, generally, and I suspect most of us routinely include them in the Daily Office. Those who are bitter and vindictive, and assume that God is also bitter and vindictive, should certainly make a point of including them. On the other hand, if I were celebrating Morning Prayer with the parish Sunday School teachers before a meeting on the Saturday of week seven, I might choose to leave out 137:7-9.

Whatever became of the Great Litany?
The last I saw of it, it was still on page 148. A lot of parishes use it on Advent 1 and Lent 1. Easter 6 is also good. Granted, this isn’t quite what Cranmer directed (after Matins on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays), but we finally admitted in 1928 that we weren’t going to do that.

Who are Oreb and Zeeb? How about Zebah and Zalmunna?
My favorite Biblical characters. The two generals and the two kings of Midian, whom Gideon killed in battle. Judges 7-8. A charming story, that gives literalist biblical interpretation its pizzazz.

Aren’t these attachments by congregations to foreign Anglican provinces temporary arrangements?
We wish. And in the long run that’s probably how it will end up, but it won’t be neat and tidy.

Why do so many church mailings refer to “Easter Sunday” rather than “Easter Day”?
How many is “so many”? Ours didn’t.

Have a blessed Eastertide!