Archive for June 2012

Chalice Worship (1997)   7 comments

Above:  Logo of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Chalice Worship is one of my favorite volumes, one which functions for me as one of a set of prayer books.  It takes its place along side The Book of Common Prayer (1979), A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989), and a volume of novenas.  I, with my Episcopal Church-honed liturgical tastes, enjoy the fresh, reverent, and poetic language of Chalice Worship.  The resources in this book differ from those I have found elsewhere, so the volume is unique, adding welcome spice to a variety of well-written liturgical life.

Chalice Worship, a resource of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), is a companion to Chalice Hymnal, the denomination’s 1995 successor to Hymnbook for Christian Worship (1970), a joint project with the American Baptist Churches U.S.A., then called the American Baptist Convention.  CW (1997) is, in a way, a successor to that book, which contains worship resources (although mainly in older-style English) in the back.  CW (1997) is primarily the successor to Christian Worship:  A Service Book (1953),

The first and last complete book of worship resources…..It set a benchmark for any would come after him [editor G. Edwin Osborn] in similar labors.

Chalice Worship, page xii

CW (1997) complements Thankful Praise (1987), edited by Keith Watkins, and Chalice Hymnal (1995), not replicating material from them.

The scope of Chalice Worship is comprehensive.  There are the usual services, such as Holy Communion, baptism, confirmation, marriage, healing, and funerals, for example.  But one can also find a service to celebrate a wedding anniversary and another to bless a friendship.  And the funeral service comes with options for various occasions, such as a suicide, a sudden tragedy, and a stillbirth.  There are also daily morning and evening prayer services, which are beautiful.

There is also a section of three ecumenical services:  the Lord’s Supper, Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, and Thanksgiving.  These appeal to me because of my bad experiences with community worship services; they tend to be flavorless bastard stepchildren of liturgy, appealing to few or none while attempting to encompass all or as many as possible.  But these ecumenical rites have two parents who are glad to claim them as their own.

These parents are Colbert “Bert” S. Cartwright ( and O. I. Cricket Harrison.  They served on the committee which produced Chalice Hymnal (1995).  Cartwright, who died in 1996, was a Disciples of Christ minister and a witness for civil rights in the U.S. South when that was unpopular with many other white people.  Harrison composed hymn tunes and descants, translated a hymn from Spanish, and wrote a hymn one can find in that hymnal.  And she, with the help of Ann Cartwright, Colbert’s widow, and David P. Polk, editor of Chalice Press (as she wrote,

the unnamed third editor of this work

Chalice Worship, page xiii)

brought the volume to completion.  I thank God for all that they did toward that goal.

Back to my summary….

Chalice Worship also  provides services for the Christian Year and special Sundays.  So, for example, Advent, Christmas, Lenten, Holy Week, Easter Vigil, Easter Sunday, Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday resources are present.  The Feast of Christ the King (as I know and celebrate it each year) has become “The Festival of Christ the Cosmic Ruler.”  That is fine, for “king” is just a metaphor; I will not become upset about it.  And one can find rites for special Sundays ranging from Father’s Day to Mother’s Day to All Saints’ Day to Labor Day to AIDS Sunday.  There are also resources for the Week of Compassion (the third to fourth Sundays in February), when the Disciples of Christ collect funds to alleviate global suffering.  Compassion is a good thing.

One can also find resources for occasional events, such as installing church offices, honoring graduates, saying farewell to a retiring minister, opening a meeting or conference, blessing a home, or blessing a mother and a child after a difficult birth.  If a congregation has divided, it might avail itself of a prayer for that occasion.  Given recent headlines in ecclesiastical and collegiate settings, the Prayer for One Who Has Been Molested seems timely.

My favorite part of the book however, is its comprehensive selection of short prayers and litanies for various occasions.  I have found them quite helpful.  Once, a few years ago, when I needed the prayer “For the Brokenhearted” (page 364), I posted it online, giving credit to the source, of course.  Shortly later I received a comment from a complete stranger.  That person wrote,

Thank you.

My advice, O reader of this post, is to use this book at least for individual prayer, and corporate worship if possible.  Share it with others.  Such a wonderful resource, Colbert S. Cartwright’s final work, deserves no less.





The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992)   11 comments

Above:  Logo of The United Methodist Church


The United Methodist Church (1968-) descends immediately from The Methodist Church (1939-1968) and The Evangelical United Brethren Church (1946-1968), both products of mergers of older denominations with roots in the 1700s.  Methodism began as a revival movement within The Church of England, and so inherited part of the Prayer Book tradition.  John Wesley, a lifelong member of the See of Canterbury, abridged the 1662 Book of Common Prayer into the Sunday Service, which the first U.S. General Conference adopted in 1784.  Yet the General Conference of 1792 all but threw away the Sunday Service, under the pressures of revivalism and frontier realities.  And Holy Communion, which Wesley advised taking as often as possible, even daily, became in infrequent practice–perhaps once every three months.

The history of U.S. Methodism tells of increasing gentility during the Victorian Era, hence the proliferation of impressive church buildings in towns and cities.  (Presbyterians did much the same, by the way.)  And more formality in worship followed within such structures.  Yet the old ways persisted in many quarters.  Nevertheless, there was enough support for reclaiming a measure of Methodism’s Anglican heritage to warrant the beginning of the process of creating (in 1940-1944) The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1945).  Just in case one was especially livid and/or oblivious to disclaimers, the title page contained the phrase,


Meanwhile, the new Evangelical United Brethren Church published its first Book of Ritual in 1952.  Subsequent editions followed in 1955 and 1959.  And the church’s 1957 Hymnal contained prayers for various topics and occasions.  These special prayers did not replicate material from any edition of The Book of Ritual.  (I have copies of all four books, by the way.)

As the two denominations neared their 1968 merger The Methodist Church, with EUB input, prepared its 1965 Book of Worship for Church and Home (this time without any disclaimer on the title page) and Methodist Hymnal (later The Book of Hymns.)  [The United Methodist Church, by the way, had two official hymnals during its earliest years; the EUB Hymnal was only eleven years old in 1968.  And I have early 1970s official United Methodist magazines which refer to the two official hymnals.]  The 1965 Methodist Hymnal/Book of Hymns, like its 1905 and 1935 predecessors, contained communion rituals based on the one from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.  Any practicing Episcopalian of the time would have known, based on the 1928 Prayer Book in use at the time, what to do next.  I recall that, when I first encountered Holy Eucharist Rite I from the 1979 Prayer Book, I knew what to do next because of the old Methodist rituals.

All that said, I had the misfortune to grow up in United Methodist congregations which followed the old frontier pattern, including quarterly Holy Communion.  This did not satisfy me, for I was developing a form of piety centered on that sacrament.  By the time I had joined the See of Canterbury The United Methodist Church was trying to reclaim its

strong Wesleyan eucharistic tradition.

–Andy Langford, Blueprints for Worship:  A User’s Guide for United Methodist Congregations (Abingdon Press, 1993, page 42)

That word seems not to have reached the United Methodist congregations in the South Georgia Conference with which I had contact through late 2010, however.

The United Methodist Hymnal:  Book of United Methodist Worship (1989) and The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992) stress the centrality of Holy Communion, but the language of the modern rite is sadly uninspiring.  It has all the lack of appeal of too-old bread.  Although both volumes–companions, for the Book of Worship refers one to the Hymnal frequently–introduce forms for morning and evening prayer, the language there is likewise unsatisfactory.  And the less I write about the Compline analog in the Book of Worship, the better.  Modern English liturgies can be graceful; witness The Book of Common Prayer (1979) and A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989).  I also find the Irish Book of Common Prayer (2004) quite impressive and poetic.  So there is no excuse for the bad modern English of these United Methodist rituals.

On the other hand, the 1992 Book of Worship contains much that is useful.  One finds, for example, resources for Martin Luther King, Jr., Sunday and for a Quinceanara; the denomination has become more diverse and racially progressive since 1965.  The healing prayers seem as if they would be helpful in the presence of another person–such as a member of the clergy–or alone.  The topics of these prayers range from AIDS to divorce to addiction.  Of course, one would have to remove the Book of Worship from the church office for that to happen.

Therein lies the main problem:  the Book of Worship is not in the pews, except perhaps here and there.  Almost all United Methodists to whom I have mentioned the book learned of its existence from me.  Low Church inertia has been the rule in U.S. Methodism since the late 1700s, and I do not know that this fact will ever change.  When, in 1792, the General Conference all but threw away Wesley’s Sunday Service, it set a bad pattern into motion.  As Frederick A. Norwood wrote in The Story of American Methodism (Abingdon Press, 1974, page 229):

Although forms were later provided, the damage was done.

The editions of The Book of Worship and The Book of Ritual  have been noble attempts to do liturgy properly, but, if nobody follows one, one is not a leader; one is merely taking a walk.  And, if relatively few people follow….







Book of Common Worship (1993)   17 comments

Above:  Henry Van Dyke, 1920-1921

Image Source = Library of Congress


Now, as Ordinary Time, the “Long Green Season,” is upon us and I wait until closer to Advent 2012 to add more Advent material to this blog, I have pondered what to put here.  Film reviews have come to mind, and I have done some of that.  And, given my interest in liturgy, reviews of contemporary books of worship seem like a good idea.  So I have decided to review at least three such volumes, which I list in order of publication:

  1. The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992), of The United Methodist Church;
  2. Book of Common Worship (1993), of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church; and
  3. Chalice Worship (1997), of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Many active members of these denominations might not know that any of these books exists, although the clergy members do.  But I, an Episcopalian, have had a copy of each since its year of publication.  My ecumenical interests also come into my religious and spiritual life.

The Book of Common Worship (1993) is the fifth in a line of volumes dating back to 1906.  The Reverend Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933) was chiefly responsible for the 1906 and 1932 editions.  His hymn, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” proved more popular than his liturgical books in a denomination (the old Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, 1870-1958 incarnation) with a historical resistance to formality in worship yet an equally historical insistence on worshiping “decently and in order.”  The third BCW (1946), which drew heavily from The Book of Common Prayer (1928), was too Episcopalian for many Presbyterians.  Then came the fourth in the series, The Worshipbook–Services (1970), folded two years later into the new hymnal, The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns.  The 1970/1972 book was an unfortunate product of its time.

In my library I have copies of the 1906, 1932, 1946, 1972, and 1993 books.  I have studied them, and have the notecards to prove it.  I have two copies of the 1946 book; one belonged to my grandmother and grandfather, good Southern Presbyterians.  My grandmother, Nell Taylor, became a member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) when it formed via a merger in 1983, and served on the session of Summerville Presbyterian Church, Summerville, Georgia.  My grandfather (lived 1905-1976) was a lifelong Southern Presbyterian.  So I write from knowledge and family history.  Harold M. Daniels, editor of the 1993 BCW, has expanded my knowledge of this topic with his insider account in To God Alone Be the Glory (2003), which I have placed on a shelf next to the 1993 book.

To pick up a dangling thread, I first encountered The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972) in the Summer of 1992, at Valdosta, Georgia.  One day I read a night prayer service out of the book and found it lacking.  Actually, “clunky and uninspiring” is a more accurate description.  But the service came from a time of liturgical transitions.  The 1970/1972 book, unlike its 1946 predecessor, used modern English, which I like, but the committee had yet to find graceful modern English.  And the language was, as I wrote, “clunky and uninspiring.”  And, every time I read from that volume, I have an urge to pick up a soft drink, stand on a hill with many other people, and sing,

I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony….

So the 1993 Book of Common Worship is a welcome improvement.  Written in graceful modern English, it borrows heavily from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (1979), the New Zealand Anglican New Zealand Prayer Book (1989), and the Canadian Anglican Book of Alternative Services (1985), which owes much to the 1979 BCP.  The 1993 BCW also preserves the best of the 1970/1972 Worshipbook by bringing its language up to date.  The current volume is a wonderful resource for personal and corporate prayer and worship.  I know about the personal use of the book.  And, as a good Episcopalian who also uses A New Zealand Prayer Book, I recognize many of the services, sometimes in slightly altered forms.

I can tell that those who prepared the 1993 Book of Common Worship took their efforts seriously.  One measure of this is volume thickness.  Consider the following facts, O reader:

  1. The Book of Common Worship (1906)–263 pages
  2. The Book of Common Worship (Revised) (1932)–353 pages
  3. The Book of Common Worship (1946)–388 pages
  4. The Worshipbook–Services (1970)–the first 206 pages of The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972)
  5. Book of Common Worship (1993)–1,108 pages

By means of comparison, the 1970 Book of Common Prayer, a fine volume in its own right, weighs in at 1,101 pages in my late 1990s copy bound with The Hymnal 1982.  My 2007 copy (bound without the hymnal), which dates to after The Episcopal Church adopted the Revised Common Lectionary, includes the old 1979 lectionary as an appendix yet has 1,049 pages.  So the 1993 BCW is about the same size as the the 1979 BCP.

The 1993 Book of Common Worship, like the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and the 1970/1972 Worshipbook, emphasizes the centrality of the Holy Communion.  I like that.  Unfortunately, this does not seem to have become the normative pattern among Presbyterians in the United States of America.

My experience of the 1993 BCW has been mainly devotional.  Each psalm comes with an appropriate psalm prayer.  The prayer services appeal to my liturgical tastes, creating a proper atmosphere in which I can encounter God in beauty.  And I have used the wide selection of prayers–those for preparation for worship as well as those for a variety of topics–privately and mined them liberally for inclusion on my GATHERED PRAYERS blog–with credit given, of course.

As one who admires the 1979 Book of Common Prayer greatly, I praise the 1993 Book of Common Worship highly.  The latter is superior to the former in some ways, as in the wider selection of prayers for various topics.  I know that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has produced a great treasure.  It would be better, though, for more members of that denomination to know of the BCW‘s existence and to admire the volume at least as much as I do.







Some Related Posts:


The Man from Earth (2007)   2 comments

Above:  John Oldman

(A Screen Capture)



David Lee Smith as Dr. John Oldman (a historian)

Tony Todd as Dan (an anthropologist)

John Billingsley as Harry (a biologist)

Ellen Crawford as Edith (a historian)

Annika Peterson as Sandy (a secretary)

William Katt as Dr. Arthur “Art” M. Jenkins (an archaeologist)

Alexis Thorpe as Linda Murphy (an undergraduate student)

Richard Riehle as Dr. William Gruber (a psychologist)

Written by Jerome Bixby

Screenplay rewritten slightly  by Emerson Bixby

Directed by Richard Schenkman

1 hour, 27 minutes


Science fiction, when done properly, is a genre of ideas.  Rod Serling and Gene Roddenberry placed social commentary into the mouths of space aliens in 1960s television programs.  To have mere humans say such things would have been too controversial, but for extraterrestrials to utter them was somehow acceptable.  Yet, what passes too often for filmed science fiction consists of nothing more than explosions and plot hole-ridden stories designed for young men afflicted with ADHD.  The Man from Earth is not that kind of movie.

This movie, set a rustic cabin in southern California, is the tale of a farewell party some college faculty members and a secretary throw for a departing colleague, Dr. John Oldman.  People have begun to notice that he looks just as young as he did ten years ago.  So Oldman is moving along.  The faculty members are:

  1. Dan, an anthropologist and the guest most sympathetic to Oldman;
  2. Harry, a biologist and a generally annoying person;
  3. Edith, a historian and a devout Christian not a Biblical literalist;
  4. Arthur “Art” M. Jenkins, an archaeologist and the main protagonist; and
  5. William Gruber, a psychologist whom Art calls in to evaluate Oldman’s mental state.

Sandy, a secretary at the History Department of the unnamed college, also attends.  She has a platonic love relationship with Oldman.  And Art brings along his student and girlfriend, Linda Murphy, who is young enough to be his daughter.  Art clings to youth in other ways; he wears his hair long, in a ponytail, and rides a motorcycle.

Pressed by his colleagues, Oldman tells them that he is a Cro-Magnon and that he has lived at least 14,000 years, although he does not look a day over thirty-five.  He has had to move along many times because of his perpetually youthful condition, which people notice about every ten years, as they look older but he does not.  Oldman has loved many times, seen many friends and lovers die, and has had to leave some families behind.  Now he lives alone.  And he has had a variety of aliases (often puns, as in Oldman for “old man”), but usually calls himself John.

Oldman’s colleagues (except Dan) react with disbelief.  Oldman must be either lying or delusional, they say.  To claim that he knew Hammurabi, the Buddha, Christopher Columbus, and Vincent Van Gogh (who gave him a painting) is certainly odd.  Yet, when Oldman says that he was the historical Jesus, reactions become truly mixed.  Edith, labels it blasphemy while others take the opportunity to quote ancient comparative religion gleefully without claiming to accept Oldman’s claim.  Dan, an anthropologist, reserves judgment throughout the film, and Sandy, the secretary, accepts Oldman as he is.  So she believes his version of events.

The proof of Oldman’s claims comes from small details which only Gruber and Sandy hear after everybody else has left.  Gruber overhears Oldman reveal one of his previous aliases, Professor John T. Partee, a chemistry professor at Harvard University sixty years prior.  Then Gruber knows that Oldman is his father, who left the family behind when he (Gruber) was three years old.  It seems that Partee had a a beard, and Gruber never suspected previously that Oldman, who looked look a clean-shaven Partee with a different haircut, was his father.  But, sixty years ago, in Boston, people had begun to notice that Professor Partee looked just as he had ten years prior.

And what about Sandy?  Oldman drives off into the night with her.  She loves him, accepts him for who and what he is, and is willing to take all the time he can give her.

The Man from Earth, although the last script by Jerome Bixby (died 1998), grew from a concept he had been exploring for decades.  It is an intelligent script, one which calls for much talking and no special effects.  Characters discuss philosophy and religion at length.  And, even if some of them add 2 and 2 only to arrive at a sum of 5, that fact does not negate the validity of the facts they quote.

As a classic Star Trek fan I noticed a similarity to another Jerome Bixby script, Requiem for Methuselah (1968).  In that episode, one of the last of that series, Kirk and Spock meet Flint, a human over 6,000 years old.  Tissue regeneration has granted him extraordinary long life, as it has John Oldman.  Flint was Methuselah, Solomon, Alexander the Great, Lazarus (friend of Jesus), Merlin, Leonardo da Vinci, and Johannes Brahms.  And Flint knew Moses, Socrates, Jesus, and Galileo Galilei.  In The Man from Earth Oldman mentions having met another man like himself in the 1600s and seen him again from a distance in the 1800s.  This man was supposed to have been Flint, although I suppose they might have met in first century Judea.  But Oldman claims never to have raised anyone from the dead.  Of course, if Flint was Lazarus, he did not die.  And Oldman, in the movie, does forget certain details.

As for the central premise of The Man from Earth–that the historical Jesus was really a long-lived caveman who went on to earn ten doctorates in seventeen decades–it is only a story–a work of fiction, albeit a well-written and well-acted one.  There is no need to raise one’s hackles or to become angry, as some of the professors in the film did.








Dark City (1998)   1 comment



Rufus Sewell as John Murdoch

William Hurt as Inspector Frank Bumstead

Kiefer Sutherland as Dr. Daniel P. Schreber

Jennifer Connelly as Emma Murdoch

Colin Friels as Detective Eddie Walenski

Directed by Alex Proyas

Rated R

What makes us human?

That is the question which animates this imaginative movie rich with homages to Metropolis (1927), 1940s film noir classics, and German expressionistic silent films.  Watch The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) then Dark City, and notice certain stylistic similarities.

Let us begin.


Dark City is set in a perpetually sunless city replete with anachronisms.  People dress and speak like characters out of 1940s movies yet automotive and architectural styles span several decades.  Something is amiss here, and almost no human characters grasp this fact.  Instead they go their daily lives as if under outside control, which they are.

The puppet masters are the Strangers, parasitic aliens who inhabit human corpses, which look really creepy.  The Strangers have one goal in mind:  to discover what makes humans tick, and therefore to learn this lesson and save their dying species.  The Strangers have the power to “tune,” or alter physical reality with their minds, and to change the identities of the captive people by implanting memories whenever they want.  This plan depends on the humans remaining oblivious to reality, however.

Detective Eddie Walenski has discovered some of the truth.  He knows that there is no way out of the city, and that the woman everyone thinks is his wife no not really his wife; he does not know who she is, or, for that matter, who he is.  These facts cause him great emotional distress, and most other people consider him to be crazy.

Dr. Daniel P. Schreber, Psychiatrist, knows what is going on, for he is the Strangers’ accomplice.  Yet Schreber is uncomfortable with the aliens.  His character is pivotal in the movie.

Our hero, however, is John Murdoch.  He wakes up in a bathtub, uncertain about who he is or why there is a dead woman lying on the floor.  Yet Murdoch does not have the soul of a murderer, for he takes the time to save the life of a fish.  Murdoch has woken up before the Strangers could complete their reprogramming of him as a serial killer of prostitutes.  Schreber, who is somewhat on the side of the humans, calls Murdoch to tell him to flee while he can.  So Murdoch gets out just in time to evade the Strangers.

John Murdoch finds his wife, Emma, who recalls that she has not seen him since an argument three weeks ago.   She expresses regret over an extramarital affair.  None of this happened, of course, for these are fabricated memories.

Emma Murdoch, as a character, begins with little depth, for she exists (as a personality) only because the Strangers created her recently.  The same statement is true of Inspector Frank Bumstead, pictured below:

As Bumstead investigates the murders of prostitutes (Did the murders really happen?, the audience wonders.), he begins to notice the artificiality of the city and the superficiality of his memories.  So he teams up with Murdoch and Schreber to uncover the truth.

Murdoch has “childhood” memories of an idyllic, happy, and sunny place called Shell Beach.  But neither he nor anyone else can recall how to get there.  The search for Shell Beach propels the action of the movie.  Along the way, Murdoch and Bumstead learn far more than they thought possible.


John Murdoch has developed the power to tune, so he has become a rival to the Strangers.  So, of course, he is one of two humans (the other one being Dr. Schreber) who watches the daily retuning of the city, along with buildings arising out of the ground.

I do not want to reveal too much here, for a satisfactory first-time viewing of Dark City depends on not knowing everything.  So I leave much to the imagination.

Consider these questions:  What makes us human?  What makes who we are as individuals, if not our memories?  And if our memories change, do we become different people too?  In other words, what defines the human soul?  Dark City explores these issues intelligently.

Roger Ebert has heaped praise upon this movie and recorded commentary tracks for the original and director’s cut releases.  Watching Dark Citywithout a commentary track is a rewarding artistic experience, but viewing it while listening to Ebert (who no longer has that voice, of course) is informative.  He comments on camera angles, movie pacing, and other details only an expert film reviewer would notice.

To watch Dark City is to spend time well.  I invite you, O reader, to do this many times.





All images are screen captures I obtained via the Power DVD technology installed on my computer.


Adapted from this post:


Posted June 13, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Faith and Media 1990s

Tagged with

A Prayer for General Convention 2012   1 comment

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Image Source =


The General Convention of The Episcopal Church will meet from July 5 to 12, 2012.


O Lord of justice and mercy,

I pray for The Episcopal Church and its 2012 General Convention.

I know better than to expect unanimity,

but I ask for the following:

  1. May the delegates not be so focused on tradition or other concerns that they are blind or indifferent to the imperative of social justice.
  2. May those who advocate justice constitute the vast majority of delegates and speak for the vast majority of the denomination’s members.
  3. May those who are blind or indifferent to the imperative of social justice remain within our ranks and come around.
  4. May our witness to you and to your imperative of social justice bring many others to you and to this denomination.
  5. May every action of the General Convention be in accord with you will for this denomination, part of your One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, O God.
  6. May those who have parted company with us over social justice (for or against) or other issues and who feel called to return to us do so and find the warm embrace of fellowship.

Thank you for all that is right with The Episcopal Church.  Regarding all that is wrong with it, may we, with your guidance, repair it.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.





Adapted from this post:


Lyddie (1996)   1 comment

Tanya Allen as Lyddie Worthen

LYDDIE (1996)


Tanya Allen as Lyddie Worthen

Daniel Mulvihill as Charlie Worthen

Andrea Libman as Rachel Worthen

Patricia Worthen as Ma Worten

Simon James as Luke Stevens

Alan Bratt as Mr. Stevens

Nathaniel DeVeaux as Ezekial

Produced for BBC Children’s International by the BBC and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Distributed on DVD by Feature Films for Families and Bonneville Communications

Based on the novel Lyddie, by Kathereine Paterson

Directed by Stefan Scaini

The movie opens in Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada, in 1860.  Ontario looks amazingly like Lancashire, in England, and parts of Saskatchewan, however, for those were the filming locations.

Although Lyddie would quite easily be G-rated in the United States, scenes of child labor and unsafe working conditions in the textile mill render it better for older children than for younger ones.  This is my parental alert.

Now, for the beginning of the story:

Charlie and Lyddie

The purpose of this post is to peak interest in seeing the movie, not to divulge every important plot detail.

As the movie opens, the Worthen family (sans the father, who left a few months prior in search of mineral wealth) is barely holding out on their small farm.  The mother and four children–from a baby to a late adolescent–are in dire straits.  An aunt and uncle take the mother, the baby, and Rachel the daughter to live with them, leaving Lyddie and Charlie to fend for themselves–until their father returns, they hope.  But the father never returns.

Lyddie and Charlie manage fairly well until they receive word from their young neighbor,

Luke Stevens (pictured above), that their mother has hired them out–Lyddie to an innkeeper and Charlie to the owner of a livery stable.  So Lyddie and Charlie depart for the futures.  Lyddie’s job at the inn is rather short-lived, for the lady who runs the business is a harsh taskmistress.  Lyddie then runs away back to the farm, where she meets…

…Ezekial, an escaped slave preacher from Alabama.  (No, Michele Bachmann, the Founding Fathers of the United States did not work tirelessly until they abolished slavery.  As a teacher of U.S. history, I know my subject.)  Ezekial plans to bring his wife and two children to freedom in Canada.  In the meantime, Lyddie, who has little, gives him shelter, water, and some money she has earned from the sale of a calf.  Ezekial tells Lyddie that education is the key to freedom, prompting her to think about her direction in life.  Our heroine is barely literate, and she needs to earn money to reunite her family, for poverty has split it up.

Ezekial and Lyddie part ways, with Lyddie going to nearby Cornwall, to work in a textile mill, her best option for earning money.

Later, by the way, Lyddie learns that her gift to Ezekial accomplished far more than she could have imagined.


Lyddie gets a job at the textile mill in Cornwall.  The owner requires his employees to avoid “moral turpitude,” or to risk firing.  He has a narrow definition of moral turpitude, however, for he cares nothing about providing a safe working environment, does not respect the rights of workers to defend their basic rights, and hires children.

Diana, one of Lyddie’s coworkers, improves her literary, introduces her to the world of books, and prompts Lyddie to consider educational opportunities.  Alas, Diana succumbs to a fatal case of cotton lung.  The mill is quite hazardous to the health of employees.

Lyddie and Rachel

Charlie visits Lyddie from time to time, updating her regarding the family.  Ma Worthen, her mind broken by all the stress, enters an asylum.  And Lyddie must assume a parental role relative to Rachel, who gets a job at the mill, but whom Lyddie refuses to permit to reenter the mill after the younger sister becomes ill as a result of the conditions there.

Will Lyddie be able to save enough money to reunite as many members of her family as possible?  Will her path to security run through education or through marriage?  Watch the movie to discover the answer to these and other questions.

The movie’s packaging and special features come with four questions for parents to discuss with children.  Unfortunately, all of these questions concern individual matters, ignoring societal sins.  The movie does not shy away from addressing slavery, child labor, workers’ rights, and unsafe working conditions, but the four questions do.  My problem, then, is with whoever drafted and approved the questions, not with the movie itself.




All images are screen captures I took via PowerDVD.


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