Category : Liturgy, Music, Worship

(NYT) Laura Turner–Internet Church Isn’t Really Church

In his letters to early Christian communities, the Apostle Paul describes the church as a body comprising different but equally necessary members. When the church at Corinth was bickering over the importance of different spiritual gifts, Paul wrote to remind them that “the body does not consist of one member but of many.” He writes, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” Later, he says, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”

Religious affiliation in America is down, according to a 2015 Pew survey. Religious institutions more and more reflect an insular community, and Churchome Global is the best distillation of where American Christianity is headed — your living room, your phone, your television. No longer will you have to leave your house to interact with fellow worshipers. You can do it all from the comfort, and isolation, of your own home.

But this individual, isolated experience of church is the poorer one for those of us who are able to go. (Live-streaming services are of course important for the homebound.) In an era when everything from dates to grocery delivery can be scheduled and near instant, church attendance shouldn’t be one more thing to get from an app. We can be members of a body best when we are all together — we can mourn when we observe and wipe away tears, just as we can rejoice when we can share smiles and have face-to-face conversations. Studies show that regular attendance at religious services correlates with better sleep, lower blood pressure in older adults and a reduced risk of suicide. I doubt these same phenomena occur when online church is substituted for the real thing, because the truth is that community is good for us. We need one another.

Read it all.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(AM) Andrew Symes–Transgender liturgies and the secular, postmodern re-shaping of church and society

I was alerted to a major new development in the Church of England: the publication of liturgies to mark ‘gender transition’. (Press release, and my comment here.) Well that wasn’t such a surprise, as this was accepted by General Synod last year, and then agreed again in February 2018. What is alarming is that the new services, which have been developed by clergy who are transgender activists, have been commended for use by a leading evangelical Bishop. No doubt he will argue that while he believes that God created us male and female, this is a way of offering welcome to those who don’t feel they fit into the traditional gender categories. But in speaking about ‘trans people’ and supporting the liturgies in this way, this Bishop has inevitably accepted the validity of the new ideology of gender, which is incompatible with Christian anthropology, colluding with a fiction which cannot ultimately be pastorally helpful, and based on propaganda and fake science rather than evidence.

Should faithful Christians just accept the decisions of their leaders in these matters, and keep quiet, perhaps focusing on evangelistic courses and foodbanks? Or can we counter this trend? If so, perhaps our challenge is to tell a “better story”. We know that heterosexual marriage and sexually abstinent singleness, living within the physical sex God gave us, are the most effective ways of living a flourishing life as individuals and communities, and for our future. Numerous studies prove that stable marriage and family life, and sexual self-control are beneficial for individuals and society; likewise it is clear that family breakdown is linked to crime and mental health issues, and immorality to sexually transmitted disease. The Judaeo-Christian ethic is commanded and explained in Scripture and has been taught by Christians and Jews for millennia. It makes sense. It is the truth. Surely, if the church demonstrates an attitude of love, and tells a positive and exciting counter-story, society will be convinced of the truth of the gospel and how we are supposed to live our lives?

In this paradigm, ‘truth’ is contained in God’s word, backed up by scientific research based on observation of an ordered world. Truth must be communicated clearly, imaginatively, winsomely with love, but it exists as an entity in itself, like a Platonic ideal, or indeed God himself. God exists and his word is true whether or not we communicate it effectively with love. One plus one equals two, regardless of how effectively and relationally it is taught, or how I feel about it and about myself.

But in the secular postmodern paradigm, things have changed. God, and truth, do not exist outside of the reality which is the interweaved matrix made up of millions of human beings’ individual consciousness and experience. The personal story, and the emotions it evokes, is not just a method of communicating truth. It is truth. If feelings of same sex attraction or gender dysphoria lead someone to embrace a gay or trans identity, this is a discovery of truth, and the church’s job is to affirm it through liturgies. To suggest that someone with these feelings might be able to explore a different direction is seen as hurtful, even abusive, and should be suppressed by law. 

Because of this tendency in us to be drawn to personal constructions of reality and reject Reality, the biblical writers insist that it’s not enough to simply repeat God’s true message, and to find better ways of communicating it, including demonstrating God’s nature through acts of love and mercy. It’s also necessary to enable the faithful community to reject the false messages they are being fed constantly in the world around them.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Music for Advent Sunday–Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending (with words by Charles Wesley)


The lyrics are:

Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favoured sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
God appears on earth to reign

Every eye shall now behold Him
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold Him,
Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.

The dear tokens of His passion
Still His dazzling body bears;
Cause of endless exultation
To His ransomed worshippers;
With what rapture, with what rapture
Gaze we on those glorious scars!

Yea, amen; let all adore thee,
High on thine eternal throne;
Saviour, take the power and glory;
Claim the kingdoms for thine own:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Thou shalt reign, and thou alone.

Posted in Advent, Church History, Liturgy, Music, Worship

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Isaac Watts

God of truth and grace, who didst give Isaac Watts singular gifts to present thy praise in verse, that he might write psalms, hymns and spiritual songs for thy Church: Give us grace joyfully to sing thy praises now and in the life to come; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.God of truth and grace, who didst give Isaac Watts singular gifts to present thy praise in verse, that he might write psalms, hymns and spiritual songs for thy Church: Give us grace joyfully to sing thy praises now and in the life to come; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Spirituality/Prayer

Thanksgiving Season 2018 Music: O Clap your hands, by Orlando Gibbons

The singers are Quire Cleveland under the direction of Peter Bennett. The words are from Psalm 47. Listen to it all–KSH.

Posted in Church History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Theology: Scripture

The Stunning True Story of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, Mercy, Memory, and Thanksgiving

 

About sunset, it happened every Friday evening on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast. You could see an old man walking, white-haired, bushy eye-browed, slightly bent.

One gnarled hand would be gripping the handle of a pail, a large bucket filled with shrimp. There on a broken pier, reddened by the setting sun, the weekly ritual would be re-enacted.

At once, the silent twilight sky would become a mass of dancing dots…growing larger. In the distance, screeching calls would become louder.

They were seagulls, come from nowhere on the same pilgrimage”¦ to meet an old man.
For half an hour or so, the gentleman would stand on the pier, surrounded by fluttering white, till his pail of shrimp was empty. But the gulls would linger for a while. Perhaps one would perch comfortably on the old man’s hat”¦and a certain day gone by would gently come to his mind.

Eventually, all the old man’s days were past. If the gulls still returned to that spot”¦ perhaps on a Friday evening at sunset, it is not for food”¦ but to pay homage to the secret they shared with a gentle stranger.

And that secret is THE REST OF THE STORY.

Anyone who remembers October of 1942 remembers the day it was reported that Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was lost at sea.

Captain Eddie’s mission had been to deliver a message of the utmost importance to General Douglas MacArthur.

But there was an unexpected detour which would hurl Captain Eddie into the most harrowing adventure of his life. . Somewhere over the South Pacific, the flying fortress became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran dangerously low, and the men ditched their plane in the ocean.

The B-17 stayed afloat just long enough for all aboard to get out. . Then, slowly, the tail of the flying fortress swung up and poised for a split second”¦ and the ship went down leaving eight men and three rafts”¦ and the horizon.

For nearly a month, Captain Eddie and his companions would fight the water, and the weather, and the scorching sun.

They spent many sleepless nights recoiling as giant sharks rammed their rafts. Their largest raft was nine by five”¦ the biggest shark ten feet long.

But of all their enemies at sea, one proved most formidable: starvation. Eight days out, their rations were long gone or destroyed by the salt water. It would take a miracle to sustain them. And a miracle occurred.

In Captain Eddie’s own words, “Cherry,” that was B-17 pilot, Captain William Cherry, “read the service that afternoon, and we finished with a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise. There was some talk, but it tapered off in the oppressive heat. With my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the glare, I dozed off.”
Now this is still Captain Rickenbacker talking”¦ Something landed on my head. I knew that it was a seagull. I don’t know how I knew; I just knew.
“Everyone else knew, too. No one said a word. But peering out from under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at the gull. The gull meant food”¦ if I could catch it.”
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten; its intestines were used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone sea gull, uncharacteristically hundreds of miles from land, offered itself as a sacrifice.

You know that Captain Eddie made it.

And now you also know…that he never forgot.
Because every Friday evening, about sunset…on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast…you could see an old man walking…white-haired, bushy-eyebrowed, slightly bent.

His bucket filled with shrimp was to feed the gulls…to remember that one which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle…like manna in the wilderness.

Paul Harvey’s the Rest of the Story (Bantam Books, 1997 Mass paperback ed. of the 1977 Doubleday original), pp. 170-172

Posted in --Book of Common Prayer, History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Military / Armed Forces

“Now Thank We All Our God”: the story behind the hymn

At the beginning of 1637, the year of the Great Pestilence, there were four ministers in Eilenburg. But one abandoned his post for healthier areas and could not be persuaded to return. Pastor Rinkhart officiated at the funerals of the other two.

As the only pastor left, he often conducted services for as many as 40 to 50 persons a day, some 4,480 in all. In May of that year, his own wife died. By the end of the year, the refugees had to be buried in trenches without services.

I think of Martin Rinkart every thanksgiving; his gift of this hymn is simply stunning given the circumstances in which it was written. Read it all–KSH.

Posted in Church History, Liturgy, Music, Worship

John Rutter – Nun danket alle Gott (Now Thank We All Our God)


Lyrics:Now thank we all our God,
with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done,
in whom this world rejoices;
who from our mothers’ arms
has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.
O may this bounteous God
through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts
and blessed peace to cheer us;
and keep us still in grace,
and guide us when perplexed;
and free us from all ills,
in this world and the next.

All praise and thanks to God
the Father now be given;
the Son, and him who reigns
with them in highest heaven;
the one eternal God,
whom earth and heaven adore;
for thus it was, is now,
and shall be evermore.

Posted in Liturgy, Music, Worship

Latest Developments in the TEC Diocese of Albany (III)–TLC finds a priest in the diocese told the publication he “intends not to abide by” Bishop Love’s directive

One priest in the diocese told TLC he “intends not to abide by” Love’s directive and will celebrate a same-sex marriage if the opportunity arises.

The Rev. Glen Michaels is an assistant attorney general for New York State. He serves as priest in charge of All Souls Memorial Chapel in St. Hubert’s in the Adirondacks, about 100 miles north of Albany. All Souls is open only in the summer, and Michaels said it frequently serves as a wedding venue.

Michaels said that as he reads the canons, Love’s prohibition of same-sex marriage is “not enforceable” because of the action of the General Convention.

“For better or worse I see myself as a good person to challenge this,” he said, because his livelihood does not depend on his work as a priest.

Read it all.

Posted in Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, Theology

William Temple on Worship for His Feast Day

Both for perplexity and for dulled conscience the remedy is the same; sincere and spiritual worship. For worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of the mind with His truth; the purifying of the imagination of His beauty; the opening of the heart to His love, the surrender of the will to his purpose and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin. Yes, worship in spirit and truth is the way to the solution of perplexity and to the liberation from sin.

–William Temple Readings in St. John’s Gospel (Wilton, Connecticut: Morehouse Barlow, 1985 reprint of the 1939 and 1940 original), p. 67

Posted in Church History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Dana Horn–American Jews Know How This Story Goes

“There are no words.”

This was what I heard most often last weekend from those who were stunned by the news: 11 people were murdered at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh — believed to be the largest massacre of Jews on American soil. But there are words for this, entire books full of words: the books the murdered people were reading at the hour of their deaths. News reports described these victims as praying, but Jewish prayer is not primarily personal or spontaneous. It is communal reading. Public recitations of ancient words, scripts compiled centuries ago and nearly identical in every synagogue in the world. A lot of those words are about exactly this.

When I told my children what had happened, they didn’t ask why; they knew. “Because some people hate Jews,” they said. How did these American children know that? They shrugged. “It’s like the Passover story,” my 9-year-old told me. “And the Hanukkah story. And the Purim story. And the Babylonians, and the Romans.” My children are descendants of Holocaust survivors, but they didn’t go that far forward in history. The words were already there.

The people murdered in Pittsburgh were mostly old, because the old are the pillars of Jewish life, full of days and memories. They are the ones who come to synagogue first, the ones who know the words by heart. The oldest victim was Rose Mallinger, 97….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Judaism, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Theology: Scripture, Violence

The Canticle of the Sun for Saint Francis of Assisi’s Feast Day

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.

To You, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

Posted in Church History, Liturgy, Music, Worship

A poem written by Archpriest Grigory Petrov (Gregory Petrov) shortly before his death in a Siberian prison camp

From there:

What is my praise before Thee?

I have not heard the cherubim singing,
that is the lot of souls sublime,
but I know how nature praises thee.

In winter I have thought about the whole earth praying quietly to Thee in the
silence of the moon,
wrapped around in a mantle of white,
sparkling with diamonds of snow.

I have seen how the rising sun rejoiced in Thee,
and choirs of birds sang forth glory.

I have heard how secretly the forest noises Thee abroad,
how the winds sing,
the waters gurgle,
how the choirs of stars preach of Thee
in serried motion through unending space.

Posted in Liturgy, Music, Worship, Poetry & Literature, Prison/Prison Ministry, Russia

(Advocate) ‘All you need is love’: Louisiana Episcopal pastor in Covington to lead ‘Beatles Mass’ featuring Fab Four’s songs

U2, whose lyrical themes often align with the philosophy of the Anglican church, has always been a favorite. The success of last year’s “U2charist” at Christ Church made an encore inevitable.

“I had so many people come up to me and very genuinely say, ‘That was the best worship service of my entire life, and it profoundly affected me,’ ” Miller said.

“What makes a profound or sacred religious moment an authentic service? It’s good music. It’s reflecting on readings from a tradition that centers us and reminds us of what matters. It’s prayer. And it’s love that motivates people to be there in the first place, their love for God or for one another or the world.

“And the fact that we, in our extended family at Christ Church, have these great musicians — we can do anything.”

Those musicians include keyboardist Matt Lemmler, vocalist Ashley Lemmler and Crispin Shroeder, a professional musician who is also the pastor of the north shore’s Vineyard Fellowship. The Christ Church choir will also lend their collective voice to the Beatles canon on Sunday.

The hardest part was selecting the songs and making sure all four Beatles were represented.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, TEC Parishes

(JE) More Questionable Liturgical practices from Grace Cathedral in San FranCisco

Fresh off publicity from their recent Beyoncé Mass, Grace Cathedral is back with more liturgically questionable performance art in a worship service. This time, the San Francisco Episcopal Cathedral hosted a multi-faith service “of wondering and commitment” as part of the September 12-14 Global Climate Action Summit featuring participants on stilts dressed as trees….

Read it all and follow the links.

Posted in Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, TEC Parishes, Theology