Archive for the ‘Christ Episcopal Church Valdosta Georgia’ Tag

The Communion of Saints, Part III   1 comment

Above:  All Saints

Image in the Public Domain

THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS (NOVEMBER 1)

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Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in the mystical body of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord:

Give us grace to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living,

that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2006), 663; also Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 59

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Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18

Psalm 34:1-10, 22

1 John 3:1-3

Matthew 5:1-12

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The Episcopal Church has seven Principal Feasts:  Easter Day, Ascension Day, the Day of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, All Saints’ Day, Christmas Day, and the Epiphany.

The Feast of All Saints, with the date of November 1, seems to have originated in Ireland in the 700s, then spread to England, then to Europe proper.  November 1 became the date of the feast throughout Western Europe in 835.  There had been a competing date (May 13) in Rome starting in 609 or 610.  Anglican tradition retained the date of November 1, starting with The Book of Common Prayer (1549).  Many North American Lutherans first observed All Saints’ Day with the Common Service Book (1917).  The feast was already present in The Lutheran Hymnary (Norwegian-American, 1913).  The Lutheran Hymnal (Missouri Synod, et al, 1941) also included the feast.  O the less formal front, prayers for All Saints’ Day were present in the U.S. Presbyterian Book of Common Worship (Revised) (1932), the U.S. Methodist Book of Worship for Church and Home (1945), and their successors.

The Feast of All Saints reminds us that we, as Christians, belong to a large family stretching back to the time of Christ.  If one follows the Lutheran custom of commemorating certain key figures from the Hebrew Bible, the family faith lineage predates the conception of Jesus of Nazareth.

At Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, where I was a member from 1993 to 1996, I participated in a lectionary discussion group during the Sunday School hour.  Icons decorated the walls of the room in which we met.  The teacher of the class called the saints depicted “the family.”

“The family” surrounds us.  It is so numerous that it is “a great cloud of witnesses,” to quote Hebrews 12:1.  May we who follow Jesus do so consistently, by grace, and eventually join that great cloud.

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Gendered language does not bother me.  Gender is, after all, a reality of human life.  Besides, neutering language frequently blurs the divide between the singular and the plural, hence my objections to the singular “they,” “them,” “their” and “themselves.”  One can–and should–be inclusive linguistically in such a way as to respect the difference between the singular and the plural.  I do understand the issue of clarity, however.  I know that how members of one generation, in a particular cultural context, perceive a gendered term, such as “sons,” differs greatly from how others elsewhere, at another time, do.  Certain modern English translations of the Bible, in an admirable attempt to be inclusive, obscure subleties of gendered terms sometimes.  However, translating a text literally does not make those subtleties clear, either.  Commentaries are necessary for that.

Consider, for example, Romans 8:14-17, O reader.  In that passage the Greek for “sons of God” often comes across in modern English as “children of God.”  Likewise, we read “children” when the Greek word means “sons.”  The cultural context, in which sons, but not daughters, inherited, is vital to understanding that portion of scripture, in which Christians, whether they are biologically sons or daughters, inherit, via Jesus.  Thus “sons of God” includes daughters.  None of that is superficially evident, however.

In contrast, “children,” as in “children of God, as opposed to “children of Satan,” in 1 John 3:1 and 3:10 is a literal translation from the Greek; the Greek word is not gender-specific.  That fact is not superficially evident, however, given the recent tendency to gloss over gendered language.  A commentary is necessary to understand that aspect of 1 John 3:1 and 3:10.

Our societies condition us in ways that frequently do not apply to the cultural contexts that informed ancient texts.

In 1929 Lesbia Scott wrote:

They lived not only in ages past,

There are hundreds of thousands still,

The world is bright with the joyous saints

Who love to do Jesus’ will.

You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,

In church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea,

For the saints of God are just folk like me,

And I mean to be one too.

The apocalyptic hope present in Daniel 7, the community focus of Psalm 34, and the counter-cultural values of the Beatitudes should encourage us to persist is fidelity to God, to do so in faith community, and without resorting to serial contrariness, to lead lives that reject those cultural values contrary to the message of the Beatitudes.  We must do this for the glory of God and the benefit of people near, far away, and not yet born.  And, when our earthly pilgrimage ends, others will take up the cause we join what Hebrews 12:1 calls

a great cloud of witnesses.

Members of that great cloud of witnesses are sons and daughters of God–inheritors of the promise, by the grace of God.  Certain cultures restrict inheritance rights according to gender, but God does not.  Each of us, by grace and faith, can be among the sons of God and the children of the light.

And I mean to be one, too.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUTTA OF DISIBODENBERG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND HER STUDENT, SAINT HILDEGARD OF BINGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF GERARD MOULTRIE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZYGMUNT SZCESNY FELINSKI, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF WARSAW, TITULAR BISHOP OF TARSUS, AND FOUNDER OF RECOVERY FOR THE POOR AND THE CONGREGATION OF THE FRANCISCAN SISTERS OF THE FAMILY OF MARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZYGMUNT SAJNA, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1940

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/09/17/devotion-for-the-feast-of-all-saints-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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The Communion of Saints, Part II   1 comment

Above:  All Saints

Image in the Public Domain

THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS (NOVEMBER 1)

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The Episcopal Church has seven Principal Feasts:  Easter Day, Ascension Day, the Day of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, All Saints’ Day, Christmas Day, and the Epiphany.

The Feast of All Saints, with the date of November 1, seems to have originated in Ireland in the 700s, then spread to England, then to Europe proper.  November 1 became the date of the feast throughout Western Europe in 835.  There had been a competing date (May 13) in Rome starting in 609 or 610.  Anglican tradition retained the date of November 1, starting with The Book of Common Prayer (1549).  Many North American Lutherans first observed All Saints’ Day with the Common Service Book (1917).  The feast was already present in The Lutheran Hymnary (Norwegian-American, 1913).  The Lutheran Hymnal (Missouri Synod, et al, 1941) also included the feast.  O the less formal front, prayers for All Saints’ Day were present in the U.S. Presbyterian Book of Common Worship (Revised) (1932), the U.S. Methodist Book of Worship for Church and Home (1945), and their successors.

The Feast of All Saints reminds us that we, as Christians, belong to a large family stretching back to the time of Christ.  If one follows the Lutheran custom of commemorating certain key figures from the Hebrew Bible, the family faith lineage predates the conception of Jesus of Nazareth.

At Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, where I was a member from 1993 to 1996, I participated in a lectionary discussion group during the Sunday School hour.  Icons decorated the walls of the room in which we met.  The teacher of the class called the saints depicted “the family.”

“The family” surrounds us.  It is so numerous that it is “a great cloud of witnesses,” to quote Hebrews 12:1.  May we who follow Jesus do so consistently, by grace, and eventually join that great cloud.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PETER OF CHELCIC, BOHEMIAN HUSSITE REFORMER; AND GREGORY THE PATRIARCH, FOUNDER OF THE MORAVIAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF GODFREY THRING, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JANE CREWDSON, ENGLISH QUAKER POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NARAYAN SESHADRI OF JALNI, INDIAN PRESBYTERIAN EVANGELIST AND “APOSTLE TO THE MANGS”

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Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in the mystical body of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord:

Give us grace to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living,

that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Year A:

Revelation 7:9-17

1 John 3:1-3

Psalm 34:1-10, 22

Matthew 5:1-12

Year B:

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 24

Revelation 21:1-6a

John 11:32-44

Year B:

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18

Psalm 149

Ephesians 1:11-23

Luke 6:20-31

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2006), 663; also Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 59

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Revelation 7:(2-8), 9-17

1 John 3:1-3

Matthew 5:1-12

Lutheran Service Book (2006), xxiii

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Adapted from this post:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/09/13/devotion-for-the-feast-of-all-saints-november-1/

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Liturgies, Litanies, and Hymns: A Worship-Focused History of the Moravian Church Through 1734   12 comments

Herrnhut 1765

Above:  Herrnhut, Saxony, Germany, in 1765, by Gunter Rapp

Image in the Public Domain

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LITURGY IN THE MORAVIAN CHURCH IN AMERICA, PART I

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Faithful God, I pray again,

Give me patience in my pain,

For Christ’s sake grant soft release,

Let Thy servant pass in peace;

Then with all Thy saints above

Let me praise Thy boundless love.

–from Hymn #854, Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum) (1923); text (1661) by John Amos Comenius; translated (1903) by J. N. Libby

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I.  PREFACE AND INTRODUCTION

The Moravian missions to the mainland of North America started in 1735.  For that reason Part II of this series will commence with that year.  Before I arrive at that point in the narrative and analysis I must, if I am to cover the material properly, lay the foundation.  That is my task in this post.

You, O reader, might find my background germane.  My initial theological formation occurred in a series of United Methodist parsonages in the South Georgia Conference in the 1980s.  In 1991 I converted to The Episcopal Church, the natural denominational choice for me.  Since then my theology has gone through stages, becoming more Roman Catholic then less so then more so again then substantially Lutheran, but with Transubstantiation remaining in the mix.  To that theological stew I have added Single Predestination (a Lutheran influence), so could not, if I wanted to do so, return to The United Methodist Church and remain intellectually honest.  I left that denomination on amicable terms, not in protest against anything.  My departure was a matter of going toward my spiritual home.  At that home I intend to remain, for I was born to be an Episcopalian.

Moravianism is, as constitutional documents of that Church state, a religion of the heart.  Thus it has common ground with Evangelicalism (in the traditional American use of that word), especially the Pietistic side thereof.   Pietism originated as an alternative to overly theoretical and academic Lutheran theology.  Among the founders of Pietism was Phillip Jakob Spener (1635-1705), author of Pia Desideria (Pious Desires, 1675).  Pietism is neither all good nor bad, but I, not a Pietist, note that it, in its extreme manifestations, devolves into legalism quickly and easily.  Our Lord and Savior violated and rejected legalistic rules and got into much trouble for that fact, but many of his followers have, in his name, written new legalistic rules.  The irony of that reality astounds and dismays me.

August Hermann Franke (1663-1727), who studied under Spener, advocated turning to one’s heart for piety.  Martin Luther had contended simply:

I am baptized.  I am a Christian,

consistent with this theology of the spoken word and the faithfulness of God.  Franke, however, considered Luther’s theology on this subject inadequate and inaccurate.  He insisted on the crucial role of an experience of conversion.  Such an experience  lack, but my Christian faith is genuine.  So I, although regenerate in the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican theologies of baptismal regeneration, am “born from above” if not “”born again” (in the familiar Evangelical use of that term).

The emphasis on religion of the heart–that is, an emotional religion, leaves me quite cold, for I am more intellectual than emotional.  Thus the high level or rationalism in Anglicanism appeals to me.  And the overly individualistic nature of much of Evangelicalism (in the traditional American use of that term) –especially the Pietistic element thereof–contradicts the properly communitarian nature (inherited from Judaism) of Christianity.  Yet the Moravians, I am glad to report, have a history of a strong communal focus.  Their religion of the heart focuses not on their hearts but on the body of Jesus of Nazareth, as in the Liturgy of the Wounds.

Before I proceed I ought to define some terms, so I do so now.

  1. Unitas Fratrum, Latin for the “Unity of the Brethren,” is the official name of the worldwide Moravian Church.
  2. The Ancient Unity, or Bohemian Brethren, was the Moravian Church from its founding (officially March 1, 1457) to its disruption after the Battle of White Mountain (1620), during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).
  3. The Hidden Seed was the Moravian Church during its time in the political and cultural underground of Europe after the Battle of White Mountain.
  4. The Renewed Unitas Fratrum is the modern Moravian Church, from August 13, 1727, the Moravian Pentecost.
  5. A litany is a responsive, standardized church prayer.  Moravians have built church services around litanies, for one litany, with germane elements added, has provided the structure for many a service.
  6. Liturgy” is a trickier word to define.  This series of posts is Liturgy in the Moravian Church in America, with “liturgy” indicating a predictable pattern of worship, which is my standard definition of it, per Father Peter Ingeman, who retired recently from his position of Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia.  He insisted that even “non-liturgical churches,” which do not use a service book, are actually liturgical so long as they have a regular pattern of worship.  In narrow definitions, however, “liturgy,” in Moravian contexts, refers either to the entire worship service or to a long hymn which provides the structure for an entire service.

Now, without further ado….

II.  FROM JOHN WYCLIFFE TO THE AFTERMATH OF THE HUSSITE WARS

The Moravian Church is the oldest Protestant denomination, predating Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses (1517) by sixty years.  The Protestant movements did not spring from nothing.  No, they had deep roots.

The story begins in the late 1340s and early 1350s, when the Black Death (most likely a combination of agents, including the Bubonic Plague), devastated Europe.  Some estimates of the death toll exceed half of the population, but conservative educated guesses are closer to one-third or two-fifths.  Even the cautious estimate range (about 33-40%), within less than five years, speaks of economic and societal trauma.  Urban workers became more assertive, peasants rebelled, and traditional power structures felt threatened.  The Marxian Conflict Theory I learned in college tells me that those structures, given their exploitative and corrupt nature, deserved all the rebellion with which they had to contend.  Among the most powerful and scrutinized institutions was the Roman Catholic Church, which has had its ups and downs over nearly two thousand years.

John Wycliffe

John Wycliffe (circa 1330-1384) was an English Roman Catholic priest and professor of philosophy and theology at Oxford.  He espoused some then-radical positions, which included the following:

  1. Each Christian should have a direct and unmediated relationship with God.  Priests and the Church were not necessary as mediators; Christ is the only mediator.
  2. No national Church should have to endure or tolerate Papal interference.
  3. The Holy Scriptures should be available to the people in their vernacular language.  Thus Wycliffe began the project (1380-1397) of translating the Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome into English.  From Wycliffe came to the tradition of English-language Bibles.
  4. The doctrine of Transubstantiation of the bread and wine at the Mass lacks Scriptural support and is false.

Wycliffe, who condemned the corrupt Papacy (headquartered at Avignon, France,  not at Rome), under the influence of the French monarchy, had to retire from Oxford in 1381.  There was no Inquisition for him, but authorities had scapegoated him for the Peasants’ Revolt that year and forced him out of office.  In the next century, however, on Papal orders, officials exhumed his bones and burned them.  Wycliffe was officially a heretic.

Yet ecclesiastical authorities failed at killing Wycliffe’s ideas, which Jan Hus and Martin Luther credited as influences.  Then there were the Lollards, an English group which expanded upon Wycliffe’s theology.  They sounded very much like Protestants (a word which did not exist until 1539) for they rejected the entire Roman Catholic sacramental system and refuted the doctrine of Purgatory.  The Lollards, composed mostly of artisans and merchants, were a theological minority group.  They, like many other minorities over time, were quite unpopular.

Heretic Shirt July 29, 2014

Above:  My “Heretic” Shirt, Draped Over a Desk Chair

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Jan Hus

Jan (Anglicized as John) Hus (1372-1415), a Bohemian (Czech) priest and scholar of peasant origin, read and translated works of John Wycliffe and Lollards.  Hus, from 1401 the Dean of the philosophy faculty at the University of Prague, lived during the Great Schism of the Papacy (1378-1417), when more than one man claimed the Papal office simultaneously.  The Roman line was:

  1. Urban VI (r. 1378-1389),
  2. Boniface IX (r. 1389-1404),
  3. Innocent VII (r. 1404-1406), and
  4. Gregory XII (r. 1406-1417).

The Avignon line, officially Antipapal after the fact, consisted of:

  1. Clement VII (r. 1378-1394) and
  2. Benedict XIII (r. 1394-1417).

There was a third line, also officially Antipapal after the fact.  The Council of Pisa (1409) deposed (or claimed to depose) Gregory XII and Benedict XIII (both of whom remained in office anyway) and created the line of Council Popes:

  1. Alexander V (r. 1409-1410) and
  2. John XXIII (r. 1410-1415), whom I hope nobody will confuse with “Good Pope John” XXIII (r. 1958-1963), a great and holy man.

The Council of Constance deposed Gregory XII and Benedict XIII (for real this time) as well as the first John XXIII, replacing them with Martin V (r. 1423-1431).  There remained unfinished business from the Great Schism, however, for there was one Clement VIII (r. 1423-1429), who reconciled with Rome and spent his last years as the Bishop of Majorca.  And there was one Benedict XIV (r. 1425-?), who disappeared from history.  The Papacy was, however, back in Rome without serious question of that fact.

During the Great Schism of the Papacy the kingdoms, empires, and principalities of Europe lined up in support of one Papal claimant or another, creating a mess which did not cover the Roman Catholic Church in glory.  This was a theological question of the utmost importance for many people, for many people thought that following the wrong Pontiff might lead them to damnation.  Meanwhile, the list of Roman Catholic martyrs become longer and questions regarding ecclesiastical authority became more widespread.

Hus, who made the University of Prague a hotbed of Wycliffian and Lollard thought, ran afoul of the Council Popes.  Alexander V forbade Hus from preaching and ordered the Archbishop of Prague to burn copies of Wycliffe’s books.  Hus remained defiant.  The first John XXIII excommunicated Hus fully and an interdict on his followers.  Hus remained defiant.  The Church, on the authority of the Council of Constance, burned copies of his writings and the man himself on July 6, 1415.  Among the forty-seven charges of heresy were denying Papal infallibility, supporting the right of priests to marry, and condemning indulgences.

Jan Hus was dead, but his ideas and those he found and spread abroad remained alive.  They continue to live, of course.  And the Moravian and Episcopal Churches observe the feast of Jan Hus on July 6.

The Hussite Wars and Their Aftermath

Among the strengths of Roman Catholicism is centralized authority (except during the Great Schism of the Papacy, of course).  This facilitates abuses (such as the Inquisitions) sometimes, but does provide for order.  Such order was sorely lacking in the nascent Hussite movement immediately after the martyrdom of Jan Hus, hence the Hussite Wars (1420-1431) and subsequent violence.  Related to theological disputes was the politics of monarchy in Bohemia, a thicket in which I refuse to become lost in this post.  Another thicket I choose to avoid is the complexity of Hussite factionalism during those early decades.  The two major factions, however, were the Calixtines/Utraquists and the Taborites.

Terms such as “radical,” “revolutionary,” “liberal,” “conservative,” and “reactionary” are inherently relative to the center, wherever that is in any given context.  So I hope that you, O reader, will understand what I mean when I write that the Calixtines/Utraquists were revolutionaries and radicals, for they were Hussites in mostly Roman Catholic Europe, but they were, by the standards of other Hussites, conservatives.  They, based out of the University of Prague, considered partaking of the Holy Eucharist crucial to salvation.  The sacrament, they insisted, must be in both kinds–bread and wine–as opposed to the traditional practice of giving the laity bread alone.  The Calixtines/Utraquists also favored civil courts alone, meaning the abolition of special eccleasiastical courts for the clergy.  And they opposed political activity by members of the clergy.  The Calixtines/Utraquists, with aristocratic support, were the established Hussite faction.  Many of them, being relatively conservative in their political-religious milieu, returned to Holy Mother Church.

In contrast were the Taborites.  They borrowed a page from Acts of the Apostles 4:32-37 and lived communally, without private property.  They were closer to the Lollards than to the Calixtines/Utraquists, rejecting the Roman Catholic sacramental system, accepting only two sacraments, and embracing iconoclasm (in its original meaning).  The Taborites also rejected “worldly amusements” and called for violence against aristocrats, such as those who supported the Calixtines/Utraquists.  Many of the Taborites expected Jesus to return in 1420.  That prediction proved as inaccurate as did all other prognostications of dates for the Second Coming.

The Adamites split off from the Taborites.  The Adamites not only committed violence against people (such as Roman Catholics) who disagreed with them, but considered themselves the elect of God.  And they practiced nudism and considered marriage sinful.  One goal of the Adamites was to return to the pre-Fall Edenic state of human innocence.  They failed, and Taborites all but exterminated the sect in 1421.

Violence between the Calixtines/Utraquists and the Taborites continued for years, even after the official end of the Hussite Wars.  It was literally a bloody mess.

III.  THE ANCIENT UNITY/BOHEMIAN BRETHREN AND THE HIDDEN SEED (1457-1722)

Gregory the Patriarch

The official date of the founding of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum) from the ashes of the Hussite Wars is, according to official hymnals and calendars, March 1, 1457.  J. E. Hutton, in a footnote in his History of the Moravian Church (1909), argued that this date is arbitrary and “only a pious imagination.”  He continued:

We are not quite sure of he year, not to speak of the month.  If the Moravian Church must have a birthday, March 1st, 1457, will do as well as any other; but the truth is that on this point precise evidence has not yet been discovered.

Regardless of the state of discoveries in Moravian history since 1909, one does find a consensus regarding the identity of the founder of the Unitas Fratrum.  He was Gregory the Patriarch (circa 1420-1473), nephew of John Rockycana, the Calixtine/Ultaquist Archbishop-Elect of Prague since 1448.  Gregory, a former monk and the son of a knight, found Peter of Chelcic (circa 1390-circa 1460), a Taborite preacher, influential.  Thus the Unitas Fratrum emerged from the mixing of Calixtine/Ultaquist and Taborite influences.  Strong Wycliffian and communal strands came via the Taborite influences, but the initial settlement in the Kunwald Valley had support from King George Podiebrad and Rockycana, who interceded on behalf of the Moravians with the monarch.

Thus, O reader, we find an early example of the willingness to disagree on much while maintaining unity.  This is one of the best aspects of the Moravian Church.  As a traditional motto of the Unitas Fratrum older than that denomination says:

In essentials unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, love.

Moravians have disagreed about what is essential, but their denomination has traditionally been one of the more tolerant Christian bodies.  Thus they have been fine witnesses for Christ amid the notoriously fractious and schismatic branch of Christianity called Protestantism.  Many of these schisms have occurred for legalistic reasons.  Just over a century old, for example, is the Church of God (Guthrie, Oklahoma), which formed in protest against perceived liberalism in the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana).  That alleged liberalism consisted of deciding that men wearing neckties to church were not violating Biblical standards.  Neckties remained ungodly in the Guthrie denomination.

The Ancient Unity created its ministerial orders–the priesthood and the episcopate–in 1467.  The present Moravian bishops stand in succession with the earliest bishops of the Unitas Fratrum.

Luke of Prague

Among the most influential bishops of the Ancient Unity was Luke of Prague (circa 1458-1528), who joined the Bohemian Brethren in 1481.  He was the young Church’s most influential theologian and writer, especially of hymns.  And what else are hymns but sung theology, especially for a denomination for which congregational singing is a hallmark?  Luke might have been one of the editors of the Czech hymnal of 1501, the first Protestant hymnbook.  Information about this volume of eighty-nine hymns is sketchy, for no known copy of the book exists.  We do know, however, that Luke edited the Czech hymnal of 1505, the first proper Moravian hymnbook.  Again, no known copy survives, but sources indicate that it contained about 400 hymns.  And Luke edited the Czech hymnal of 1519, of which no known copies survive.  (I detect an unfortunate pattern regarding the lack of availability of primary sources.)  This volume contained Roman Catholic texts translated into Czech, indicating the editor’s receptiveness to the best of that tradition at the dawn of the Protestant Reformation.

Various Hymnals

The lineage of Moravian hymnals continued after Luke’s death:

  1. The first German-language hymnbook of the Brethren debuted in 1531.  Michael Weisse, the editor, provided a book of 157 hymns with tunes.  (In fact, all of the early Moravian hymnals, starting with that of 1505, contained words and music.)  Weisse, however, included hymns with a Eucharistic theology which rejected the real presence of Christ and favored the Zwinglian position of a purely symbolic act.  Thus, in 1544, Jan Roh (Anglicized as John Horn) (circa 1485/90-1547) revised this hymnal, replacing certain texts and changing the Eucharistic theology to indicate the real presence.  Three known copies of the 1544 hymnal remain.  Roh/Horn was qualified to evaluate theology, for he had worked on the official Moravian confession of faith in 1532 and 1535 and, like Luke of Prague before him, engaged in theological dialogue with Martin Luther.
  2. Roh/Horn had also edited the 1541 Czech hymnal, a revision of the 1501 hymnbook, of which no known copies exist.
  3. There were also Polish-language hymnals before the Polish Brethren merged with the Polish Lutherans in 1570.  The first hymnbook was that of 1554.  The second, revised and enlarged from the first, debuted in 1569.
  4. Jan Blahoslav (1523-1571), a bishop from 1557, wrote Musica (1558), a book about how to sing hymns properly.  Three years later he finished editing the Czech hymnal of 1561, which contained 761 texts and more than 450 melodies.
  5. Kirchengesang, the German-language Moravian hymnal of 1561, contained 348 hymns plus an appendix of 108 Lutheran hymns.  This volume was as much about politics as it was about theology in a setting in which the separation of church and state was a novel idea.  This book, reprinted in 1580, remained in print in the subsequent editions of 1606, 1639, 1661, and 1694.

Religious persecution had been a reality for the Moravian Church since 1461.  By the early 1600s, however, the situation had become dire.  Evidence of this comes via the Czech hymnal of 1618, some copies of which survive.  The annotator, whose job was to identify the authors of texts, stopped by the middle of the volume.  His fate remains a mystery, but one might surmise reasonably that it had something to do with the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).  After the Protestant defeat in the Battle of White Mountain (1620), Roman Catholic forces drove the Moravian Church underground, seized Moravian church buildings, and nearly extinguished the Brethren.  Yet a “hidden seed” survived for about a century.

John Amos Comenius

The Moravian Church weathered a severe storm for about a century.  One reason for its survival was Jan Amos Komensky (Anglicized as John Amos Comenius) (1592-1670), a bishop who wrote a history of the Unitas Fratrum, reprinted the catechism and the confession of faith, maintained the continuity of the episcopate, and spent two periods in exile.  His written legacy proved crucial to maintaining the Church.  Indeed, in the 1720s, when Moravian fortunes were brighter, the faithful depended greatly on the works of this great man.  And, at that time, there was still an episcopal line because had passed the torch before he died.

Comenius, whom contemporaries recognized as an expert and pioneer in the field of education, edited the last Czech hymnal (that of 1659) of the Brethren.  He did this in exile in Amsterdam and designed the volume accordingly, for it was sufficiently small to fit inside a pocket.

Comenius had done much to preserve the hidden seed of the Moravian Church.  The work of facilitating its renewal fell to another man.

IV.  HERRNHUT AND THE RENEWED UNITAS FRATRUM (1722-1734)

Count Zinzendorf and the Renewal

That man was Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760), who owned a large estate at Berthelsforf, inside the current borders of the Federal Republic of Germany.  Zinzendorf, a Lutheran, proved to be the most influential figure in the Unitas Fratrum in the 1700s.  Not only did he provide a safe haven for Moravians at his estate (starting in 1722), but he, a Lutheran minister from 1735 and a Moravian bishop from 1737, wrote sermons, Bible commentaries, and more than 2000 hymns.

Moravian exiles formed a village, Herrnhut (“the watch of the Lord”) on Zinzendorf’s estate in 1722.  For five years substantial differences among the Brethren remained, but the Count formulated the “Brotherly Agreement,” which the Moravians adopted on May 12, 1727, to settle these disagreements.  Three months later, at a Wednesday service in preparation for the Holy Communion at Herrnhut, the congregation found a sense of unity.  The date was August 13, 1727, the official date of the founding of the Renewed Unitas Fratrum.  The event, according to Zinzendorf, was the Moravian Pentecost.

Developments in Worship

Moravians developed liturgical practices in the safe environment of Herrnhut:

  1. Among the oldest Moravian forms is the Church Litany, based on a text which Martin Luther wrote, in turn based on a Roman Catholic litany.  The rather lengthy Church Litany constitutes the basis of a separate, non-preaching service.  Baptisms and ordinations are among the optional elements one might plug into it.
  2. Moravians have used the Daily Texts since 1728.  These function well as either congregational or individual devotions.  They draw from the Bible and hymns, for hymns function prominently in Moravian theology.  Lutherans emphasize their core doctrines in written confessions of faith, such as those in the Book of Concord.  But the Moravians, who have original and secondhand confessions of faith (even from the Lutherans), use hymns to emphasize core doctrines more than Lutherans do.  One may purchase each year’s copy of the Daily Texts from Moravian provincial publishing houses and read each day’s Daily Texts at official websites, such as this one.  Related to the Daily Texts are the watchwords, which also started in 1728.
  3. The now-traditional baptismal service dates to 1730.
  4. The now-traditional Communion service dates to 1731.
  5. The now-traditional Easter dawn service dates to 1732.
  6. The now-traditional Watchnight service for New Year’s Eve dates to 1733.

Other traditional Moravian services came later.

Early Missions

Moravian missions began in 1732.  (The Moravian Church Desk Calendar and Plan Book 2014 lists August 21 as the anniversary of that event.)  The mission to St. Thomas started in 1732.  The Greenland mission followed on January 19, 1733.  And the missions to the mainlands of South America (at Suriname) and North America (at Georgia) began in 1735.  Thus Part II of this series will begin with 1735.

V.  CONCLUSION

Ecumenism has long been one of my priorities.  Yes, I have staked out my ground (generally socially and theologically liberal yet somewhat liturgically conservative, consistent with much of early Anglican Catholicism), but I do not pretend or presume that everyone ought to be like me.  I have opinions, by which I stand, but Christian traditions other than my own enrich my spiritual life.  The best of Moravianism overlaps significantly with the best of my adopted Anglicanism; collegiality is a shared value.

I have, from time to time in this post, made some critical comments also.  I hope that my readers will have sufficiently thick skins to accept without offense the objective reality of shameful periods in church history (many of which the Roman Catholic Church and  other denominations have acknowledged frankly, to their credit) as well as the existence of differing opinions.  The truth is that I like both the Roman Catholic Church and the Moravian Church:

  1. Rome is Holy Mother Church; I respect her while admitting my disagreements with her.  And the Vatican has admitted and apologized for shameful periods of church history, such as the Crusades and the Inquisitions.  It has even rehabilitated Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), whose alleged heresy was stating that the Earth revolves around the Sun, thereby calling into question centuries of bad theology predicated upon an erroneous understanding of the solar system.  He also placed the words of the Pope in the mouth of a blathering idiot in the Dialogues, an impolitic action.  And, at the time, many Protestant leaders were as dubious of the Copernicus-Galileo hypothesis as Rome was.  Pope Francis has done much to bring glory to the name of Christ; may the Holy Father continue to succeed in that effort.  His Papacy is possibly the best thing to happen to the Roman Catholic Church and the rest of Christianity in a long time, despite much persistent anti-Roman Catholic bias in the right and left wings of Protestantism.
  2. The Moravians do not constitute an ecclesiastical presence in my vicinity, so geography is one factor which keeps me separate from them.  Certain theological differences would have the same effect if geography were not an issue, however.  Nevertheless, the Moravians, I am convinced, have contributed much that is positive to the Universal Church and continue to do so.  The world is a better place due to their presence.

During much of the researching and drafting of this post I played (again and again) a compact disc of early American Moravian music to get into the proper intellectual and cultural context.  It is lovely music with a distinctly European classical sound–just the kind of genre I like.  So, if you are interested, O reader, I encourage you to seek out by means both legal and ethical Lost Music of Early America:  Music of the Moravians (1998), by the Boston Baroque, Martin Pearlman, Director.  The number is Telarc CD-80482.

Until Part II, O reader….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 29, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARY AND MARTHA OF BETHANY, FRIENDS OF JESUS

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BIBLIOGRAPHY OF HARDCOPY SOURCES

Ackroyd, Peter.  Foundation:  A History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors.  New York, NY:  St. Martin’s Press, 2011.

Cantor, Norman F.  In the Wake of the Plague:  The Black Death and the World It Made.  New York:  The Free Press, 2001.  Reprint, paperback, 2002.

Cary, Phillip.  The History of Christian Theology Course Guidebook.  Chantilly, VA:  The Teaching Company, 2008.

Frank, Albert H.  Companion to the Moravian Book of Worship.  Winston-Salem, NC:  Moravian Music Foundation, 2004.

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints.  New York, NY:  Church Publishing, 2010.

Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church.  Bethlehem, PA:  Moravian Church in America, 1969.

Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum).  Bethlehem, PA:  Moravian Church in America, 1923.

Hutton, J. E.  A History of the Moravian Church.  London, England:  Moravian Publication Office, 1909.  Reprint.

Kelly, J. N. D.  The Oxford Dictionary of Popes.  New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1986.

Knouse, Nola Reed, ed.  The Music of the Moravian Church in America.  Rochester, NY:  University of Rochester Press, 2008.

Metzger, Bruce M., and Roland E. Murphy, eds.  The New Oxford English Bible with the Apocrypahal/Deuterocanonical Books–New Revised Standard Version.  College Edition.  New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1994.

Moravian Book of Worship.  Bethlehem, PA:  Moravian Church in America, 1995.

Moravian Church Desk Calendar and Plan Book 2014.  Bethlehem, PA:  Interprovincial Board of Communications, 2013.

Moynihan, Brian.  The Faith:  A History of Christianity.  New York, NY:  Doubleday, 2002.

Stearns, Peter N., ed.  The Encyclopedia of World History:  Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Chronologically Arranged.  New York, NY:  Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001.

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Joint Baptist-Disciples of Christ Hymnals   5 comments

Christian Worship

Above:  My Copies of Christian Worship:  A Hymnal (1941) and Hymnbook of Christian Worship (1970)

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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My knowledge of denominational hymnals beyond my own turf has expanded greatly over the years.  One day on which it expanded came during the Summer of 1992, during my time as a student at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton, Georgia.  My mother was nearing the end of her time as a student at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia.  I visited her one week that Summer, when she lived at the Presbyterian Student Center just off campus.  We spent part of days that week volunteering at an ecumenical Vacation Bible School hosted by First Christian Church.  The two Lutheran congregations (one Missouri Synod, the other Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), the three Episcopal churches, and the Disciples of Christ congregation cooperated on this effort.  There I found in an open room–yet not in any pew–a copy of Hymnbook for Christian Worship (1970).  (I recall that the hymnal in the pews was the Gaither Hymns for the Family of God, 1976).  I was intrigued with the hymnbook not in the pews.  Eventually I found my own copy in a thrift store.

From the 1930s to the early 1950s the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Northern Baptist Convention (from 1950 to 1972 the American Baptist Convention) pondered merging.  They had much in common, given the Disciples’ position between the Baptist and Presbyterian positions and the Disciples’ practice of baptizing by immersion.  The Christian Century, in its July 22, 1936, issue, editorialized regarding a possible organic union.  The editorial, which discussed baptismal theology, concluded:

What really keeps Baptists and Disciples apart and, in the main, keeps all Protestant denominations apart, is not actual present differences but hangover attitudes developed in the day when there were differences.  Though difficult to define, these are very real obstacles to union.  There are also institutional obstacles of a more substantial nature.  Organizations and agencies have been built up at a great cost of effort and money.  These vested interests are the objects of a kind of family or tribal pride on the part of each denomination.  This pride is fostered by the large and influential secretariat  which has charge of the sacred vessels of the Lord.  Unless there is a conscience on Christian unity, some vivid sense of the sin of being Baptists or Disciples, or anything else than Christians, there is no hope of overcoming the inertia of the status quo.

Union between Baptists and Disciples is both desirable and possible.  No one wishes to rush it, and it will doubtless be years before the natural processes that make for unification can work out their full effect.  Perhaps the most that can be done now is to realize that these processes are natural and that the end is both desirable and possible.

But if the ultimate merging of Baptists and Disciples were to be considered as creating an immersionist bloc, as giving renewed emphasis to a single ordinance, and as producing a deeper cleavage between immersionist and non-immersionist bodies, its injuries would far outweigh its benefits.  To make this one practice which the two denominational bodies have in common the bond of unity between them would be to make it afresh a divisive issue in the Christian world.  The attainment of a larger fellowship does not lie in that direction.  When Baptists and Disciples unite, they should do so upon the realization that they are both free peoples giving liberty within their ranks for a wide variety of individual opinion and local congregational practice.  Most of their congregations practice immersion, but not all of them insist upon it.  The fact that the practice is general among them and that it has been prominent in their history gives them a feeling of kinship, but it is not the true ground for union between them, as it is not the ground of their present denominational unity.

To unite immersionists against the world would be a calamity to the Christian cause.  To unite Baptists and Disciples on the ground of their common faith, purpose and liberty would be a step toward still wider union on the same basis.  For the essential things that Baptists and Disciples have in common are not their exclusive possession.

The two groups did not merge, obviously, but they did produce two joint hymnals.  The first was Christian Worship:  A Hymnal (1941).

Christian Worship A Hymnal

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

It was, like many hymnals of its generation, classy–emphasizing the quality of hymn texts and a degree of formality of worship.  As the Preface said in part:

It [the hymnal] will be adaptable to the more dignified and formal worship of the stately church and to the simple service of the less pretentious.

My experience with the book has been positive, for I have located some wonderful hymns here, having not found them in any other hymnal in my collection.  This has proven quite helpful to the pursuit of one of my hobbies.

Hymnbook for Christian Worship

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Less successful, my Internet research has indicated, was the 1970 follow-up, Hymnbook for Christian Worship (1970), which was more formal than many of its contemporaries in mainline Protestantism.  Whereas the 1941 hymnal had limited worship resources (just responsive readings, some invocations, a few Scriptural selections for baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and a page of benedictions), the 1970 volume offered Scriptural readings for Adoration and Praise, a collection of litanies, pages of Affirmations of Faith, Prayers of Worship, some Psalms, and Biblical excerpts arranged topically:  Offering, The Lord’s Supper, Baptism, and Benedictions.  Archaic language remained, for God was often “Thee.”  Hymnbook for Christian Worship was a volume which reflected a previous age in a time of rapid change.  Sometimes its stylistic conservatism was justified, especially given certain excesses of innovative worship in the 1960s and 1970s.  Yet it, like its Presbyterian contemporary, The Worshipbook, showed its age rapidly–yet in a different way.  The former was nouveau; the latter was ancien.

Subsequent denominational developments in worship have revealed that Hymnbook for Christian Worship was a dead end.  The American Baptists have not authorized a hymnal since 1970.  Their congregations use a range of hymnbooks.  The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) published Chalice Hymnal (1995) and Chalice Worship (1997).  The former, unfortunately, has been out of print for a few years.  Yesterday morning, while not even looking for it, I found a copy of Chalice Praise (2003) at a thrift store.  Editor David P. Polk, in A Word to Worshipers, wrote:

You hold in your hands not just another supplement to a recent hymnal.  This set of musical resources for the church’s worship is a different type of collection.  It specifically offers a gathering together of the best and often the freshest of songs that characterize contemporary Christian music.

–page vi

That last sentence is oxymoronic.

Christian Worship:  A Hymnal (1941) and Hymnbook for Christian Worship (1970) are volumes I am glad to have in my hymnal collection, for I consult them while conducting research into hymnody.  I am, with regard to hymnody, much like the archaeologist of a certain joke; the older his wife became, the more interesting he found her.  Chalice Praise (2003), however, reminds me of what Thomas Day, in the subtitle to his book, Why Catholics Can’t Sing (1990), called

the triumph of bad taste

Why is bad taste so ubiquitous?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 29, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LYDIA, DORCAS, AND PHOEBE, COWORKERS OF THE APOSTLE PAUL

THE FEAST OF ANDREI RUBLEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ICONOGRAPHER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GENESIUS I OF CLERMONT AND PRAEJECTUS OF CLERMONT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; AND SAINT AMARIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT GILDAS THE WISE, HISTORIAN AND ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

Ventures of Which We Cannot See the Ending: Reflections on U.S. Lutheran Liturgy   5 comments

Books about Worship

Above:  Six of My Books about Liturgy, July 27, 2013

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U.S. LUTHERAN LITURGY, PART XXI

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O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown.  Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 304

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Father Peter C. Ingeman, the recently-retired Rector of Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, has said that anyone who worships regularly at a church with predictable order of worship attends a liturgical church.  Some orders of worship are more intricate than others, but they are inherently liturgical, even if, as in some especially bad U.S. Lutheran services from the 1800s, the primary or only role for the congregation is to sing hymns.

I have had some unfortunate and unpleasant encounters with people who have mistaken the simplicity of worship for the purity thereof.  Most of these have been Southern Baptists, actually.  So I am glad to read in Christian Worship:  Its Theology and Practice, by Franklin M. Segler (1967), that the author, a Southern Baptist minister (deceased now) does not fall into the false dichotomy of simple worship vs. insincere ritualism.  Yet I recognize that he, especially in his last chapter, dismisses ritualism.

I am, however, an unapologetic ritualist.  Ritualism creates the worship environment in which I feel in my soul most deeply and ineffably the words of Psalm 84:

How lovely is your dwelling place,

O LORD of hosts!

My soul longs, yes, faints

for the courts of the LORD;

my heart and flesh sing for joy

to the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home,

and the swallow a nest for herself,

where she may lay her young,

at your altars, O LORD of hosts,

my King and my God.

Blessed are those who dwell in your house,

ever singing your praise!

Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

Good ritual–especially in the context of ritualism–is a lovely spiritual practice.  This is especially true when the congregation has much to do, as in most rewritten U.S. Lutheran liturgies from about 1860 forward.  So most U.S. Lutheran denominations deserve much credit for this reality of their service books.

Uniformity need not be a goal of service books, Henry Melchior Muhlenberg’s dream of one church and one book not withstanding.  The Common Service, in its variations, one far superior to most of what preceded it.  But there is also much worth in other Lutheran liturgies old and new.  Perhaps it is time for U.S. Lutheran scholars to begin to develop a Revised Common Service to take its place beside the 1888 liturgies and their variations.  There are certainly many meritorious rituals from which to draw inspiration and texts.

Liturgy is a product of theology, hence arguments about the contents of Creeds, for example.  Did Jesus descend into hell or merely to the dead?  Is the Church “Christian,” “Catholic,” or “catholic” in the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds?  And how often should the congregation take Communion?  Also germane to these matters are folkways, which influence opinions regarding the language of worship and order of its elements.

Thus much arguing over words and orders of worship ensues.  A tradition is neither inherently good nor bad because it is old, just as innovation is neither inherently good nor bad because it is new.  Elements of liturgy now quite old used to be new.  Faddish language in late 1960s and early 1970s liturgies did not age well, but addressing God with the familiar “you” instead of “Thee” is consistent with the spirit of the development of language.  In English, for example, everybody used to be “Thee,” so to address God as “you” these days constitutes a return to previous practice.  And, as Philip H. Pfatteicher writes:

The church needed by trial and occasional error to come to understand that the new is not always found in opposition to the old as its natural growth and development.  Stability and continuity are essential elements of catholic Christianity.

Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship:  Lutheran Liturgy in Its Ecumenical Context (1990), page 10

Thus U.S. Lutheran denominations have mixed the old with the new.  Even ultra-conservative Lutheran synods which make The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) look like a pack of wild-eyed liberals have published hymnals-service books in contemporary English, as have the LCMS and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which ultra conservative synods think is really a pack of wild-eyed liberals.

Unfortunately, one tendency which crosses liberal-conservative lines is bad contemporary worship.  Last year, during an ecumenical visit to an ELCA congregation, I noticed an announcement on a bulletin board.  The church was planning to add a praise band to one service.  And, about nine years ago, when I thought that I might attend the University of Florida, I looked up websites for Episcopal congregations in Gainesville.  I knew that I would never attend the one which, on its service roster, listed the person in charge of overhead transparencies.  The probability that people were posting the words to “I Bind Unto Myself Today the Strong Name of the Trinity,” which takes three pages in the Episcopal Hymnal 1982, were very low.  “Seven-eleven songs,” which, as the critique tells us, have seven words which people sing eleven times, are theological tide pools.  Karl Marx’s analysis of religion as the opiate of the masses is an overgeneralization, one which applies well to some aspects of religion, such as praise choruses, and not at all in many others.

The real meat and potatoes of good liturgy and worship is found in excellent history-based form and practice updated occasionally.  The best U.S. Lutheran liturgies of today strike and maintain that balance well.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 28, 2013 COMMON ERA

PROPER 12–THE TENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF THE PIONEERING FEMALE EPISCOPAL PRIESTS, 1974 AND 1975

THE FEAST OF ANTONIO VIVALDI, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, COMPOSER

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COMPREHENSIVE ACKNOWLEDGMENTS FOR THIS SERIES

Books:

Ambassador Hymnal for Lutheran Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, 1994.

Bible.  Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition.  2002.

Book of Common Prayer, The.  New York:  Oxford University Press, 1979.  Reprint, 2007.

Book of Common Worship.  Louisville, KY:  Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993.

Book of Common Worship, The.  Philadelphia, PA:  Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work, 1906.

Book of Common Worship, The.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Christian Education of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, 1946.

Book of Common Worship (Revised), The.  Philadelphia, PA:  Presbyterian Board of Christian Education, 1932.

Book of Hymns.  Milwaukee, WI:  Northwestern Publishing House, 1917.  Reprint, 1932.

Christian Worship:  A Lutheran Hymnal.  Milwaukee, WI:  Northwestern Publishing House, 1993.

Commission on the Liturgy and Hymnal, The.  Service Book and Hymnal.  Music Edition.  Philadelphia, PA:  United Lutheran Publication House, 1958.

Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church.  Philadelphia, PA:  The Board of Publication of The United Lutheran Church in America, 1917, 1918.

Concordia:  A Collection of Hymns and Spiritual Songs.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1917.

Concordia:  The Lutheran Confessions–A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord.  2d. Ed.  Paul Timothy McCain, General Editor.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 2006.

Concordia Hymnal, The:  A Hymnal for Church, School and Home.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1932.

Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), The.  Part I.  Book of Confessions.  Louisville, KY:  Office of the General Assembly, 1996.

Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary.  St. Louis, MO:  MorningStar Music Publishers, Inc., 1996.

Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America, The.  The Lutheran Hymnal.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1941.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 2006.

Fevold, Eugene L.  The Lutheran Free Church:  A Fellowship of American Lutheran Congregations, 1897-1963.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1969.

Hymnal and Order of Service, The.  Lectionary Edition.  Rock Island, IL:  Augustana Book Concern, 1925.

Hymnal for Church and Home.  3d. Ed.  Blair, NE:  Danish Lutheran Publishing House, 1938.

Hymnal Supplement 98.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1998.

Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship.  Lutheran Book of Worship.  Ministers Desk Edition.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Publication, Lutheran Church in America, 1978.

__________.  Lutheran Book of Worship.  Pew Edition.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Publication, Lutheran Church in America, 1978.

Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship for Provisional Use.  Contemporary Worship 2:  Services–The Holy Communion.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Education, Lutheran Church in America, 1970.

Jones, Cheslyn, et al, eds.  The Study of Liturgy.  Revised Edition.  New York:  Oxford University Press, 1992.

Lutheran Hymnary Including the Symbols of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, The.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1935.

Lutheran Intersynodical Hymnal Committee.  American Lutheran Hymnal.  Music Edition.  Columbus, OH:  The Lutheran Book Concern, 1930.

Lutheran Service Book.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 2006.

Lutheran Worship.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1982.

Melton, J. Gordon.  Encyclopedia of American Religions.  4h. Ed.  Washington, DC:  Gale Research, Inc., 1993.

Methodist Hymnal, The:  Official Hymnal of The Methodist Church.  Nashville, TN:  The Methodist Publishing House, 1966.

Pfatteicher, Philip H.  Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship:  Lutheran Liturgy in Its Ecumenical Context.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 1990.

Pfatteicher, Philip H., and Carlos R. Messerli.  Manual on the Liturgy:  Lutheran Book of Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1979.

Reed, Luther D.  The Lutheran Liturgy:  A Study in the Common Service of the Lutheran Church in America.  Philadelphia, PA:  Muhlenberg Press, 1947.

__________.  The Lutheran Liturgy:  A Study in the Common Liturgy of the Lutheran Church in America.  2d. Ed.  Philadelphia, PA:  Fortress Press, 1959.

Segler, Franklin M.  Christian Worship:  Its Theology and Practice.  Nashville, TN:  Broadman Press, 1967.

Stulken, Marilyn Kay.  Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship.  Philadelphia, PA:  Fortress Press, 1981.

United Methodist Hymnal, The:  Book of United Methodist Worship.  Nashville, TN:  The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989.

Wentz, Abdel Ross.  The Lutheran Church in American History.  2d. Ed.  Philadelphia, PA:  The United Lutheran Publication House, 1933.

With One Voice:  A Lutheran Resource for Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 1995.

Worship Supplement.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1969.

Worshipbook, The:  Services and Hymns.  Philadelphia, PA:  Westminster Press, 1972.

PDFs:

“Ambassador Hymnal for Lutheran Worship.”  Hymnal Sales, Minneapolis, MN.  This is a document designed to convince congregations to purchase the 1994 hymnal.

Association Free Lutheran Bible School, Plymouth, MN.  AFLBS Student Life Guidelines 2009-2010.

__________.  AFLBS Student Life Handbook 2012-2013.

Christian Worship:  Supplement Introductory Resources.  Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, 2008.

DeGarmeaux, Bruce.  ”O Come, Let Us Worship!  A Study of Lutheran Liturgy and Hymnody.”  1995.

Erickson, Anne.  ”God Wants to Help Parents Help Their Kids.”  Pages 8-9 in The Lutheran Ambassador (April 10, 2001).

Faugstad, Peter.  ”Centennial of The Lutheran Hymnary.”  In Lutheran Sentinel, May-June 2013, page 14.

Schalk, Carl.  ”A Brief History of LCMS Hymnals (before LSB).”  Based on a 1997 document; updated to 2006.  Copyrighted by The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.

Stuckwisch, D. Richard.  ”The Missouri Synod and the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship.”  Lutheran Forum, Volume 37, Number 3 (Fall 2003), pages 43-51.

Walker, Larry J., Ed.  ”Standing Fast in Freedom.”  2d.  Ed.  Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, 2000.

Zabell, Jon F.  ”The Formation of Function of WELS Hymnals:  Further Conversation.”  For the National Conference of Worship, Music, and the Arts, July 2008.

KRT

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A Brief History of U.S. Presbyterian Worship to 1905   10 comments

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Above:  First Presbyterian Church, Detroit, Michigan, Between 1889 and 1901

Image Published by the Detroit Publishing Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/det1994003327/PP/)

Reproduction Number = LC-D4-3750

Currently the home of Ecumenical Theological Seminary (http://www.etseminary.edu/)

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INTRODUCTION

As early as 1560 the Church of Scotland recognized in The First Book of Discipline that Word (the Bible) and Sacrament were essential elements of worship.  Yet much of the history of U.S. Presbyterian worship has been a tale of the missing Holy Communion.  John Knox, the Presbyterian founder in Scotland, insisted on the frequent celebration of the Holy Communion and provided a liturgy for the service (http://archive.org/details/liturgyofchurcho00cumm).  John Calvin favored weekly celebration of that sacrament.  Yet much of the history of U.S. Presbyterian worship is a story of hostility to written forms of worship.

The purpose of this post is, without pretending to be a comprehensive explanation of the topic, to provide historical background on U.S. Presbyterian worship, with an emphasis on liturgy, through 1905.  Why 1905?  I plan to research and write a series of reviews of now-superceded editions of The Book of Common Worship (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/book-of-common-worship-1993/), starting with 1906.  So this post can stand alone quite well or function as a prelude to that series.

Before I proceed I need to define a term.  A liturgy is an agreed-upon, predictable pattern of worship.  It means literally “the work of the people.”  As Father Peter Ingeman, the now-retired Rector of Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, said years ago, any church with an agreed-upon, predictable pattern of worship is liturgical.  There are degrees of being liturgical, for some liturgies are more elaborate than others.

One more matter requires attention now.  The Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (1869-1958) (PCUSA) was the alleged “Northern” church, just as the Presbyterian Church in the United States  (1861-1983) (PCUS) was the “Southern” Church.  The PCUS was mostly Southern, with congregations in the former Confederacy, border states, Oklahoma, and some New Mexico counties.  (It did organize in 1861 as the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America.)  The PCUSA, in contrast, was national–Northern, Western, Midwestern, Eastern, and Southern.

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BODY

Back in Great Britain, Puritanism influenced Presbyterianism.  During the English Civil Wars the Westminster Assembly of Divines outlawed the allegedly idolatrous Book of Common Prayer and introduced the Directory for the Worship of God in the 1640s.  The English Parliament imposed the Directory on England, Ireland, and Scotland in 1645.  The document established the Bible and a sermon as the center of worship.

I, as an Episcopalian in 2013, find certain religious opinions (especially some from the past) puzzling.  For example, why be hostile to the frequent celebration of the Holy Communion when the founder of one’s own tradition (John Knox, in this case) insisted upon the the practice one opposes?  And whey oppose instruments in church?  (The Church of Scotland lifted its ban on organs in the late 1800s.)  The sole use of psalms or paraphrases thereof for singing was long a Reformed characteristic.  In fact, some very conservative Reformed denominations retain that practice.  These days many Presbyterian congregations left, right, and center use psalms, psalm paraphrases, and hymns for singing.  In the 1750s the Presbyterian congregation in the City of New York replaced its psalter with an Isaac Watts hymnal.  Were human-composed hymns suitable for public worship?  This was a controversial topic.  The Synod of New York and Philadelphia ruled that the hymns of Isaac Watts, being theologically orthodox, were suitable for use in public worship.  The fact that this was even a controversy mystifies me.  I understand it academically, but not otherwise.

The mindset which opposed singing even theologically orthodox hymns because people wrote them was Jure Divino.  This point of view argued that one needed biblical permission to do anything in church.  There were–and remain–competing interpretations of Jure Divino.  The strictest one forbid even the celebration of Christmas and Easter.  One can find such arguments on the Internet today.  And one can find examples of it by examining Minutes of Presbyterian General Assemblies.  In 1899, for example, the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS), the former “Southern Presbyterian Church,” passed the following resolution, found on page 430 of the official record:

There is no warrant for the observance of Christmas and Easter as holy days, but rather contrary (see Galatians iv. 9-11; Colossians ii. 16-21), and such observance is contrary to the principles of the Reformed faith, conducive to will-worship, and not in harmony with the simplicity of the gospel in Jesus Christ.

Such simplicity manifested itself traditionally in plain church buildings, sermon-focused worship services, and quarterly Holy Communion.  The spoken word occupied the center of worship.

Yet there were Presbyterians who favored formality in worship.  Some ministers, influenced by Anglicanism, came to admire The Book of Common Prayer (1789).  And, in the 1850s and 1860s, support for formality grew among lay members.  Beginning in the 1840s congregations built Romanesque and Neo-Gothic structures.  Compatible with those new old-style buildings was an interest in Reformation-era Reformed liturgies.  One Charles W. Baird published Eutaxia:  or the Presbyterian Liturgies:  Historical Sketches, in 1855.  He made a case that written forms of worship were consistent with Reformed Christianity.  That same year St. Peter’s Presbyterian Church, Rochester, New York, opened in a new Romanesque building.  In the pews were copies of a manual of worship for the purpose for increasing congregation participation, restricted traditionally to singing (http://archive.org/details/musicws00stpe, http://archive.org/details/churchbookofstpe00roch, and http://archive.org/details/bookofworshipinu00stpe).  Ironically, the Presbyterian traditionalists who objected to all this formalism opposed a pattern of worship more traditional than the one they favored.  So were not the formalists really the traditionalists recovering a lost heritage?

The 1882 PCUSA General Assembly declined to prepare and publish an official book of worship yet authorized ministers to use any Reformed book of worship they desired.  Such books existed.  There was an anonymous Presbyterian Church Union Service, or Union Book of Worship, from the Liturgies of the Reformers (1868) (http://archive.org/details/presbyterianchur00newy).  In 1877 Alexander Archibald Hodge published the first edition of Manual of Forms (http://archive.org/details/manualofforms00hodg), used widely in upstate New York.  A second edition followed five years later.  The granddaddy of these books was The Book of Common Prayer as Amended by the Westminster Divines, A.D. 1661 (1864) (http://archive.org/details/bookofcommonpray00shie), by the Reverend Charles W. Shields, a Princeton College professor.  He had added Roman Catholic elements to worship at his congregation, Second Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and written rituals for weddings, baptisms, and Holy Communion.  In this volume Shields argued that the Presbyterians had as much a historical claim to The Book of Common Prayer as did the Episcopalians, for there was an attempt at an Anglican-Presbyterian union in England in 1661. His argument won few followers, his book did not become a bestseller, and he became an Episcopal priest in time. But Shields had laid the foundations for successor volumes.

Other unofficial volumes followed in the 1880s and 1890s.  Samuel M. Hopkins, a Professor at Auburn Theological Seminary, New York City, published A General Liturgy and Book of Common Prayer (http://archive.org/details/generalliturgybo00hopk) in 1883.  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, bank President Benjamin Comegys published three such books:

And Herrick Johnson, the 1882-1883 Moderator the the General Assembly, published Forms for Special Occasions (1889 and 1900).  (http://archive.org/details/formsforspecialo00john).

The 1778 U.S. Directory of Worship remained in effect in the PCUS into the 1890s and in the PCUSA into the twentieth century.  The 1788 Directory of Worship provided mostly general advice on worship and a few forms, which most Presbyterian ministers ignored for a long time.  The 1894 PCUS Directory for Worship contained forms for a wedding, a child’s funeral, and a general funeral as well as prayers adapted from John Knox and unofficial PCUSA worship manuals.  Nevertheless, there was less support for liturgical renewal in the PCUS than in the PCUSA.

This is a good time to add to support the previous statement while adding responsive readings to the list of formerly controversial topics.  PCUS traditionalists were reluctant to add responsive readings to worship services in the 1890s.  In the PCUSA, the 1874 General Assembly had declared responsive readings

without warrant in the New Testament

and

unwise and impolitic

in their

inevitable tendency to destroy uniformity in our mode of worship.

Furthermore, congregations were to

preserve, in act and spirit, the simplicity of service indicated in the [1788] Directory for Worship.

Yet the 1888 General Assembly affirmed the decisions of the Presbytery of Washington City and the Synod of Baltimore not to hear an official complaint against two ministers for introducing responsive readings at their churches.

Then there was the matter of the Apostles’ Creed.  The 1892 PCUSA General Assembly ruled that using the Creed was consistent with the 1788 Directory of Worship and useful for educating children in the Christian faith.  If a minister did not want say that Christ descended into hell or to the dead, he could substitute the following:

He continued in the state of the dead, and under the power of death, until the third day.

I wonder why serious students of the Scriptures would have difficulty with the original statement, for 1 Peter 3:19, 1 Peter 4:6, and Ephesians 4:9-10 point to it.  If one stands on Scriptural ground on the basis of Sola Scriptura, one ought to have no difficulty affirming the descent of Christ into Hell.  But, if one is perhaps especially opposed to Roman Catholicism, one might make room for theological hypocrisy in the name of defending one’s own Protestant identity.  I, as an Episcopalian, stand on Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, not Sola Scriptura, and I affirm our Lord and Savior’s descent into Hell.

The 1896 PCUSA General Assembly noted

the present freedom under the limits of our Directory for Worship,

calling such freedom

more reliable and edifying

than uniform rituals.  Seven years later the General Assembly appointed a committee to prepare what became The Book of Common Worship (1906) (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/the-book-of-common-worship-1906/), an authorized yet voluntary volume.  But, as we will see in the review of that book, even the existence of the volume proved offensive to many in the denomination.  As Harold M. Daniels wrote,

…in a church born in reactive Puritanism, fixed prayer was too easily dismissed as “canned prayer.”

To God Alone Be the Glory:  The Story and Sources of the Book of Common Worship (Louisville, KY:  Geneva Press, 2003, pages 31-32)

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CONCLUSION

Something which we today take for granted and find inoffensive probably offended someone greatly in a previous age.  In this post alone we have seen some examples of this generalization in public worship:  hymns, responsive readings, the Apostles’ Creed, and voluntary books of worship.  Some people needed to relax more.  Going through life that easily offended must have raised their stress levels.

Here ends this history lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 1, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAULI MURRAY, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE WINKWORTH, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEECHER STOWE, ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF JOHN CHANDLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST, SCHOLAR, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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Other Posts in This Series:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/the-book-of-common-worship-1906/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/the-book-of-common-worship-revised-1932/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/the-book-of-common-worship-1946/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/the-worshipbook-services-and-hymns-1972-services/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/an-incomplete-recovery-of-the-holy-eucharist/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/book-of-common-worship-1993/

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Chalice Hymnal (1995)–Worship Resources   6 comments

christian-church-disciples-of-christ-logo

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

Last Summer, I reviewed Chalice Worship (1997) (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/06/29/chalice-worship-1997/).  Now I turn my attention to the non-musical content at the back of Chalice Hymnal (1995).

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) does belong to the free church tradition, but it is still liturgical.  In fact, it has a venerable history of emphasizing Holy Communion.  As Father Peter Ingeman, now-retired Rector of Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, said at a Lay Ministries Conference in the Diocese of Georgia in Spring 2001, a liturgical church is one with a predictable pattern of worship.  Some liturgies are simpler or more complex than others, but they are, by definition, predictable.

The non-musical liturgical resources in Chalice Hymnal (1995) do not appear in Chalice Worship (1997), so I review them here for the first time.  The Worship Resources section of the hymnal contains the following:

  1. An Order for the Lord’s Supper with Those Confined;
  2. Basic Resources for Sunday Worship; and
  3. Daily Worship (A Three-Year Cycle of Daily Devotion).

I will deal with them in that order.

An Order for the Lord’s Supper with Those Confined draws the visited person(s) into the congregational gathering linguistically with the repeated use of the words “we” and “us.”  In the first paragraph–five sentences–alone, “we” appears three times, “us” twice, and “ourselves” once.  This is excellent, for those confined at home, in a hospital or nursing home, or elsewhere might feel isolated, understandably.  Yet they are part of the whole, the community of faith.

Basic Resources for Sunday Worship, six pages long, is an outline for worship.  It contains prayers, litanies, a communion ritual, and pastoral sentences.  The language is modern and graceful, focusing on the Christian community.  Plural pronouns abound; one notices “us,” “we,” and “our,” quite often.  And “you,” when it appears, is plural.  This is appropriate, for Jesus-and-meism is a heresy.

Daily Worship:  A Three-Year Cycle of Daily Devotion is the handiwork of the Reverend Colbert S. Cartwright (http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2012/06/29/feast-of-colbert-s-cartwright-august-5/), truly a great man. (I even canonized him last June!)  The three-page-long Introduction emphasizes the importance of praising God with a daily hymn, praying one psalm per week, and reading and meditating upon a passage of Scripture each day.  The Introduction is a nicely-written primer on prayer from which one may benefit, even if one does not use use the ensuing eighteen-page lectionary.  I have not used that lectionary yet, although I have kept the option open.  I do recognize a well-thought-out plan when I see one.

I am a practicing Episcopalian, therefore a person of The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  But I do not restrict myself to that volume for purposes of prayer and worship; the Prayer Book is simply my primary resource in those fields.  I like to sample the liturgical resources of other denominations and to utilize the best of them.  The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) offers much that appeals to my honed liturgical tastes.  One irony might be that I use them more than do many active members of that body.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD CASWALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD PERRONET, BRITISH METHODIST PREACHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENEVIEVE, PROPHET

THE FEAST OF GLADYS AYLWARD, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY TO CHINA

“Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled….”   1 comment

Above:  Jesus, the Bread of Life

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Acts 13:26-33 (Revised English Bible):

[Paul continued,]

My brothers, who came of Abraham’s stock, and others among you who worship God, we are the people to whom this message of salvation has been sent.  The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, or understand the words of the prophets which are read sabbath by sabbath; indeed, they fulfilled them by condemning him.  Though they failed to find grounds for the sentence of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed.  When they had carried out all that the scriptures said about him, they took him down from the gibbet and laid him in a tomb.  But God raised him from the dead; and over a period of many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, and they are now his witnesses before our people.

We are here to give you the good news that God, who made the promise to the fathers, has fulfilled it for the children by raising Jesus from the dead, as indeed it stands written in the second Psalm:  ‘You are my son, this day I have begotten you.’

Psalm 2 (Revised English Bible):

Why are the nations in turmoil?

Why do the peoples hatch their futile plots?

Kings of the earth stand ready,

and princes conspire together

against the LORD and his anointed king.

Let us break their fetters,

they cry,

let us throw off their chains!

He who sits enthroned in the heavens laughs,

the Lord derides them;

then angrily he rebukes them,

threatening them in his wrath.

I myself have enthroned my king,

he says,

on Zion, my holy mountain.

I shall announce the decree of the LORD:

You are my son,

he said to me;

this day I have become your father,

Ask of me what you will:

I shall give you nations as your domain,

the earth to its farthest ends as your possession.

You will break them with a rod of iron,

shatter them like an earthen pot.

Be mindful, then, you kings;

take warning, you earthly rulers:

worship the LORD with reverence;

tremble, and pay glad homage to the king,

for fear the LORD may become angry

and you may be struck down in mid-course;

for his anger flares up in a moment.

Happy are all who find refuge in him!

John 14:1-6 (Anchor Bible):

[On the evening the Last Supper Jesus spoke to this apostles, saying,]

Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God; have faith, then, in me.  There are many dwelling places in my father’s house; otherwise I would have warned you.  I am going off to prepare a place for you; and when I do go and prepare a place for you I am coming back to take you along with me, so that where I am, you may also be.  And you know the way to where I am going.

Thomas said,

Lord, we don’t know where you are going.  So how can we know the way?

Jesus told him,

I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to Father except through me.

The Collect:

Hear our prayers, O Lord, and, as we confess that Christ, the Savior of the world, lives with you in glory, grant that, as he himself has promised, we may perceive him present among us also, to the end of the ages; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The Authorized Version of the Bible translates “dwelling places” from John 14:2 as “mansions.”  This is a poor translation, for, depending on the scholar one consults, the reference in Greek can have three possible meanings:

1.  There are “many rooms” (as the New International Version renders the text).  The location of one’s room in the afterlife depends on one’s life:  good for good and evil for evil.  Some Jewish literature of the time contained this idea.

2.  There is a series of roadside rooms where a traveler sleeps overnight before rising the next morning and going on his or her way.  So there are stages of one’s spiritual journey, even in Heaven.

3.  There are many rooms in God’s house, with plenty of room for everybody.

I like #2.  But who knows, really?  The main idea we should remember that Jesus is central to this afterlife.

Let us remember, too, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”  Given the literary context within the Johannine Gospel, Jesus had many reasons to be troubled.  And yet he said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”  And Paul the Apostle endured his share of difficulties after become a Christian and evangelist.  Yet the epistles he wrote and dictated reflect a deep and abiding faith, great determination, and moments of frustration and pique, but not a greatly troubled heart.

I was a student at Valdosta State University and a member of Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, from 1993 to 1996.  One day I attended the funeral for Deacon Stella Clark’s son.  I arrived at the church just before the funeral, for I chose not to skip a class meeting.  The church was full, so I had to sit in the Parish Hall and listen to the service on a speaker.  I recall Stella reading the Gospel, which began “Do not let your hearts be troubled…,” her voice breaking.  That was great faith indeed.  During that service she administered communion, the bread of life, to me.

Life contains the good and the bad, the joyous and the excruciating, and all degrees in the middle.  Through it all we are not alone, no matter how much we feel that way.  Experience has taught me that grace is most noticeable when the need for it is greatest.  So I carry meaningful memories related to traumatic times.  I rejoice in the great joy during those troubled times and thank God for the spiritual growth which has flowed from them, but take no delight in those times themselves.  And I have learned more deeply the truth of “Do not let your hearts be troubled….”  This is a lesson one can learn only by living.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 6, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF ALBRECHT DURER, MATTHIAS GRUNEWALD, AND LUCAS CRANACH THE ELDER, ARTISTS

THE FEAST OF DANIEL G. C. WU, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO CHINESE AMERICANS

THE FEAST OF FREDERIC BARKER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF SYDNEY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twenty-seventh-day-of-easter/

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Rituals and Their Value   5 comments

Above:  A Chart of the Western Christian Year

Image Source = Patnac

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Galatians 4:1-5:1 (Revised English Bible):

This is what I mean:  so long as the heir is a minor, he is no better off than a slave, even though the whole estate is his; he is subject to guardians and trustees until the date set by his father.  So it is with us:  during our minority we were slaves, subject to the elemental spirits of the universe, but when the appointed time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to buy freedom for those who were under the law, in order that we might attain the status of sons.

To prove that you are sons, God has sent into our hearts the Spirit of his Son, crying,

Abba, Father!

You are therefore no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, an heir by God’s own act.

Formerly, when you did not now God, you were slaves to gods to gods who are not gods at all.  But now that you do acknowledge God–or rather, now that he has acknowledged you–how can you turn back to those feeble and bankrupt elemental spirits?  Why do you propose to enter their service all over again?  You keep special days and months and seasons and years.  I am afraid that all my hard work on you may have been wasted.

Put yourselves in my place, my friends, I beg you, as I put myself in yours.  You never did me any wrong:  it was bodily illness, as you will remember, that originally led to my bringing you the gospel, and you resisted any temptation to show scorn or disgust at my physical condition; on the contrary you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as you might have welcomed Christ Jesus himself.  What has become of the happiness you felt then?  I believe you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me, had that been possible!  Have I now made myself your enemy by being frank with you?

Others are lavishing attention on you, but without sincerity:  what they really want is to isolate you so that you may lavish attention on them.  To be the object of sincere attentions is always good, and not just when I am with you.  You are my own children, and I am in labour with you all over again until you come to have the form of Christ.  How I wish I could be with you now, for then I could modify my tone; as it is, I am at my wits’ end with you.

Tell me now, you that are so anxious to be under the law, will you not listen to what the law says?  It is written there that Abraham had two sons, the one by a slave, the other by a free-born woman.  The slave’s son was born in ordinary course of nature, but the free woman’s through God’s promise.  This is an allegory:  the two women stand for two covenants.  The one covenant comes from Mount Sinai; that is Hagar, and her children are born into slavery.  Sinai is a mountain in Arabia and represents the Jerusalem of today, for she and her children are in slavery.  But the heavenly Jerusalem is a free woman; she is our mother.  For scripture says,

Rejoice, O barren woman who never bore a child; break into a shout of joy, you who have never been in labour; for the deserted wife will have more children than she who lives with her husband.

Now you, my friends, like Isaac, are children of God’s promise, but just as in those days the natural-born son persecuted the spiritual son, so it is today.  Yet what does the scripture say?

Drive out the slave and her son, for the son of the slave shall not share the inheritance with the son of the free woman.

You see, then, my friends, we are no slave’s children; our mother is the free woman.  It is for freedom that Christ set us free.  Stand firm, therefore, and refuse to submit to the yoke of slavery.

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Christian liberty is a theme which runs through the Letter to the Galatians.  This liberty frees us to fulfill our spiritual potential as heirs, not servants, and as children of God.  That is the context for Paul’s words which follow:

Your religion is beginning to be a matter of observing special days and months and seasons and years.–Galatians 4:10, The New Testament in Modern English, J. B. Phillips, 1972

Paul referred to the legalistic observance of Jewish fasts and feasts, as well as to certain Gentile (Pagan) celebrations.  The key word in the previous sentence is “legalistic.”  Many rituals are inherently neutral; the good or bad of them comes from those who observe them.

I am an Episcopalian and an unrepentant ritualist.  I remember a conversation from the early 1990s.  Some students from the Baptist Student Union at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton, Georgia, criticized formal worship, saying that it consisted of merely going through the motions.  The wording they used suggested that they understood the most sincere worship to be the simplist worship.  They did not grasp that one can go through the motions regardless of whether one has two or thirty-two of them.  And, as Father Peter Ingeman, Rector of Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, has said correctly, a liturgy is simply an agreed-upon, regular, and predictable pattern of worship.  So anyone who attends a church with an agreed-upon, regular, and predictable pattern of worship goes to a liturgical church.

There is a story, which might be true.  The pastor of First Baptist Church in a county seat town in the U.S. South hosted a community Thanksgiving service.  The local Episcopal priest participated.  At the appointed time, the host pastor introduced the priest:

Now Father Jones from the Episcopal Church will say one of his…written prayers.

The priest walked to the pulpit and said,

Let us pray.  Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name….

Paul did not write that Christians should no longer observe festivals and keep the Sabbath, although an inaccurate reading of the passage can point in that direction.  Indeed, the interpretation of Galatians 4:9-11 has led to the condemnation of the religious observance of Christmas and Easter.  A textbook example of one variety of Calvinist Jure Divino theology is the following resolution, which the 1899 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, the old “Southern Presbyterian Church,” passed:

There is no warrant for the observance of Christmas and Easter as holy days, but rather contrary (see Galatians iv.9-11; Colossians ii.16-21), and such observance is contrary to the principles of the Reformed faith, conducive to will-worship, and not in harmony with the simplicity of the gospel in Jesus Christ.

The Journal of the General Assembly, 1899, page 430

Rituals mark time and transitions.  This time differs from that time, and a certain ritual divides them.  One can argue convincingly, for example, that a couple is (or ought to be) spiritually married prior to the marriage ceremony, but the ritual does define the moment they become married in the eyes of the church, the state, or both.  This is an important distinction in law and society.  And I had become a de facto Episcopalian prior to my confirmation, but now I have a date to observe every year.  (The anniversary of my confirmation is December 22.)  Rituals help with regard to social cohesion.  What separates boys from men, informal couples from married people, lay people from clergy, and students from graduates?  Rituals.  And what gives unique characters to the seasons of Advent, Christmas, the Season after Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and the Season after Pentecost?  Rituals.

Paul meant that one ought not observe certain days then think that one has fulfilled one’s duties.  Religion ought not to consist entirely of such occasions, but they can enrich it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 3, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD HOOKER, ANGLICAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF DANIEL PAYNE, AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE CHURCH OF PAKISTAN, 1970

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on November 3, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/week-of-proper-23-monday-year-2/

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Arguing with God   3 comments

Above: The Sacrifice of Isaac (1603 version), by Caravaggio

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Genesis 22:1-19 (An American Translation):

Some time after this [the covenant with Abimelech] God put Abraham to the test.

Abraham!

he said to him.

Here am I,

he said.

Take your son,

he said,

your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and there offer him as a burnt-offering on one of the hills which I shall designate to you.

So next morning Abraham rose early, and harnessing his ass, he took two of his servants with him and his son Isaac, and having cut wood for the burnt-offering, he started off for the sanctuary which God had designated to him.  On the third day, when Abraham raised his eyes, he saw the sanctuary in the distance.  So Abraham said to his servants,

Stay here with the ass, while I and the boy go yonder to perform our devotions, after which we shall return to you.

So Abraham took the wood for the burnt-offering and put on the back of his son Isaac, while he carried in his own hand the fire and the knife.  So the two of them went off together.

Father!

said Isaac to his father Abraham.

Yes, my son,

he responded.

Here are the fire and the wood,

he said,

but where is the sheep for a burnt-offering?

Abraham said,

God will provide himself with the sheep for a burnt-offering, my son.

Thereupon the two of them proceeded on their way together.

When they had arrived at the sanctuary which God had designated to him, Abraham built the altar there, arranged the wood, and binding his son Isaac, laid him on the altar on top of the wood.  But as Abraham put out his hand to grasp the knife to slay his son, the angel of the LORD called to him from the heavens,

Abraham, Abraham!

He replied,

Here I am.

He said,

Do not lay hands on the boy, do nothing of the sort to him; for I know now that you revere God, in that you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.

When Abraham raised his eyes, he saw behind him a ram caught in the brushwood by its horns!  So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up as a burnt-offering in place of his son.  Then Abraham called the name of that sanctuary Yahweh-jireh, which today is interpreted as

At the hill of the LORD provision is made.

A second time the angel of the LORD called to Abraham from the heavens,

I swear by myself

–that is the oracle of the LORD–

that since you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and will surely make your descendants as numerous as the stars of the sky, or the sands of that are on the seashore, so that your descendants shall take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your descendants all the nations of the earth shall invoke blessings on one another–just because you have heeded my injunction.

Abraham then returned to his servants, and together they started off for Beersheba; and in Beersheba Abraham made his home.

Psalm 116:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I love the LORD, because he has heard the voice of my supplication,

because he has inclined his ear to me whenever I called upon him.

2 The cords of death entangled me;

the grip of the grave took hold of me;

O came to grief and sorrow.

3 Then I called upon the Name of the LORD;

“O LORD, I pray you, save my life.”

Gracious is the LORD and righteous;

our God is full of compassion.

5 The LORD watches over the innocent;

I was brought very low, and he helped me.

Turn again to your rest, O my soul,

for the LORD has treated you well.

7 For you have rescued my life from death,

my eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling.

8 I will walk in the presence of the LORD

in the land of the living.

Matthew 9:1-8 (An American Translation):

So he [Jesus] got into the boat and crossed the sea, and returned to his own city.

Some people came bringing to him on a bed a man who was paralyzed.  Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic,

Courage, my son!  Your sins are forgiven.

Some of the scribes said to themselves,

This man is talking blasphemy!

Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said,

Why do you have such wicked thoughts in your hearts?  For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”?  But would you know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth.

Then he said to the paralytic,

Get up, pick up your bed, and go home!

And he got up and went home. And when the crowd saw it, they were filled with awe, and praised God for giving such power to men.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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I attended Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia, from 1993 to 1996.  During that time I belonged to and attended Christ Episcopal Church, across the street from the campus.  One year I attended the passion play at Park Avenue United Methodist Church.  The opening scene of “God Hath Provided the Lamb” was the near-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham.  The play reflected a traditional Christian interpretation of this horrible story, that of prefiguring the sacrifice of Jesus.  (The play also embraced Penal Substitutionary Atonement, another bad idea.)

Today, December 17, 2010, for the second time in a few days, I have typed out the entire text of Genesis 22:1-19.  The previous time I typed out the text according to the New Revised Standard Version for the Proper 8, Year A, Revised Common Lectionary post (http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/proper-8-year-a/).  This is one reading that rips out my heart every time.  How would you, O reader, feel if you were Isaac?  Abraham bargains with God for the lives of strangers in Genesis 18 yet never for that of his own flesh and blood.  The concept of obedience to God has that strong a hold over him.

Obviously, I reject the premise that God told Abraham to sacrifice his son.  Only a sadistic deity would do such a thing, and my image of God comes from Jesus, love incarnate.

Once I heard a brief comparison of Islam and Judaism.  The chief value in Islam is submitting to God, but people argue with God in Judaism.  I like arguing with God.  And what better time is there to argue with God than in defense of a family member?  If the argument does nothing else, it might clear up any confusion:  “Did you, O God, really command me to sacrifice my son?”  The best way to get an answer to ask a question.

In Matthew 9:1-8 Jesus is back home in Capernaum, where some friends bring a paralyzed man to be healed.  A common belief at the time and place held that physical ailments had their origin in sin, so perhaps the paralyzed man believed this.  His condition might have been psychosomatic.  Jesus addresses both sides–the spiritual/psychological and the physical–and receives criticism from religiously orthodox people of the time and place.  Was Jesus committing blasphemy by forgiving sins?

I note that these critics focused on their narrow theological concerns, not the well-being of the paralyzed man.  Therein resided their wickedness.  They needed to care about people more than abstract theology.  They failed to understand that the best theology finds expression not only in words but in compassionate deeds as well.

In Matthew 9:1-8 we have an example of when arguing with God was inappropriate.  Lest we content ourselves with praising Jesus and condemning his critics, we need to ask ourselves some difficult questions:  Who are we in this story?  Are we so bound to our own traditions that, if, were we of a different time, place, and culture, we would probably defend traditions and propositions we reject today?  These are questions of personality and spiritual type.

I answer for myself, and for myself alone.  I do not know where I would have stood in relation to Jesus under such hypothetical circumstances.  I like to think that I would have followed him, but this is just a hope.  I suspect that I would have been agnostic at best and critical at worst, for I prefer certain traditions.

Knowing when to argue with God can be difficult.  May we choose wisely.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARIA STEWART, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB, FOUNDER OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLYMPIAS, ORTHODOX DEACONESS

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/week-of-proper-8-thursday-year-1/

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