[Episcopal News Service] While much public attention focused on its work on same-gender blessings, the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music tackled multiple other issues during the 2010-2012 triennium.
“The work that is put into the lap of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music is breathtaking,” said the Rev. Jennifer Phillips, commission vice-chair and rector of St. Francis Episcopal Church, Rio Rancho, New Mexico.
The SCLM Blue Book report to General Convention offers new rites for honoring creation and the care of beloved animals as well as prayers to supplement the Daily Office. It contains resolutions to authorize continued trial use of Holy Women, Holy Men (successor to Lesser Feasts and Fasts) and to include new commemorations within it. And it proposes forming a congregational song task force and expanding the World Music Project’s work.
The commission’s report also recommends continued work toward revising the Book of Occasional Services, addressing Christian anti-Judaism and developing liturgies for the adoption of children.
The proposed rites honoring creation include materials for observing Rogation Days, the blessing of the animals on the feast of St. Francis or the nearest October Sunday and prayers for “civic occasions” such as Earth Day or Arbor Day or blessing a community garden. The commission developed the liturgical materials in response to 2009 General Convention resolutions to establish a “Creation Cycle of the Pentecost Season” but ultimately decided not to recommend creating an optional season.
The commission recognized that some denominations and some parts of the Anglican Communion have embraced the idea of a separate cycle, Phillips said. But members also discussed how “the Revised Common Lectionary is new to use in our church, still being understood and worked on and developed and introduced. … The SCLM thought it might be really ill-advised to suddenly encourage people to deviate from the Revised Common Lectionary.”
“When you’re in a time of a lot of ferment, which we are, and anxiety about sexuality and all of these kinds of questions about authority and the Bible and ordination and so forth, rocking the boat with other things is not always timely,” she said. “So basically we wanted to make materials available [and] to recommend their use on other than the main service on Sundays.”
The rogation rites weave together the English tradition of walking the boundaries of a parish and the wider church practice “of public processions and litanies in times of war and disease, in times of crisis,” she said. “For urban centers, there used to be processions in which there would be the public singing of a long litany, praying for defense.”
While Episcopal churches don’t have the same sort of geographic boundaries as the old English parishes, “what does make sense is being intentional about offering intercessions for the life of your local community,” she said. When an urban parish holds a procession, even if it’s just a walk through the neighborhood, “it makes the church visible to the surrounding culture.”
“In this time that we have such critical concerns for the earth,” she added, the rites allow everyone “to give thanks for the fruitfulness of the earth, to pray about its care and preservation and to do that in both urban and rural settings.”
“So it’s not just a pastoral liturgy, but it’s something you can pray in the midst of the city.”
In response to a 2009 resolution about rites for companion animals, the commission developed a Burial Office for a Beloved Animal and other prayers for use at the adoption, illness, loss or death of companion or service animals.
The creation and beloved-animal rites are not one-size-fits-all. Not all congregations do the blessing of the animals, for example, and those that do may bless them in a parking lot or process them down the main aisle of the church during a worship service, Phillips noted. “St. John the Divine [cathedral in New York] brings in the elephants. Every place kind of sets its own style, but this will enable some prayers, some litanies, a kind of form that people can draw on that we hope will create a good standard.”
The Daily Prayer for All Seasons is proposed “for experimental use by individuals and in congregations and other church groups wishing to pray or meditate throughout the day,” according to the Blue Book resolution. It is intended to complement the Daily Offices and Daily Devotions within the Book of Common Prayer.
“Those are really wonderfully rethought for a contemporary audience,” Phillips said. The idea is to offer “not a replacement, but an alternative to what’s in our prayer book to appeal differently, to fit into people’s complicated and post-modern lives.”
She believes they will be especially useful in places like college campuses or with retreat groups, “but especially for people to carry around in their car, maybe have an application on their mobile phone that they can pray an office … in 10 minutes.”
“We have a long tradition, precious tradition of daily offices, which was the gift of the great reformers of Anglicanism who desired to take the prayer of monasteries and to make it available to ordinary people in a form suitable for their real lives working in the world. That’s a huge gift, and so it is kind of a shame that the offices have fallen into such disuse.”
The hope is that the new prayers, which contain hymn texts, readings from various places and questions to meditate on, may draw new people into praying the offices. While “a little more free-form and contemporary in feel,” she noted, “they still contain some shadows of the ancient structure. They’re just really pared down.”
Holy Women, Holy Men
The commission recommended that Holy Women, Holy Men, which was presented at the 2009 General Convention and greatly expanded the number of commemorations on the church’s calendar, continue to be offered for trial use and that SCLM continue inviting responses to it and developing the volume. The commission would present a revised edition in 2015 for a first reading.
“It’s a huge compendium,” Phillips said. “There is controversy about some bits of it. There are people who are unhappy to have Calvinists included, including Calvin himself. There are people who wonder about the proper orthodoxy of some of the non-professional Christians like John Muir. … There are figures that are brand new to people, and folks haven’t quite had a chance to get accustomed to who they are and where they came from.”
“The feeling was [that] it needs more time and that if we act precipitously we might make decisions that later we would regret,” she said.
As directed by General Convention, the commission added Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to Holy Women, Holy Men, the commission report said.
SCLM also asks General Convention to direct it “to consult with the Executive Council Committee on the Status of Women, the Episcopal Women’s History Project and other organizations of women in the Episcopal Church to identify women suitable for inclusion.” And it proposes trial use commemorations for the next triennium for: James Solomon Russell, Emily Cooper, Junia and Andronicus, Pauli Murray, the first ordination of women to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church, Virginia Dare and Manteo, and Thecla.
Based on the results of a feasibility study, the commission did not recommend revising The Hymnal 1982.
“Really, there was no consensus within the denomination whether we should pursue the renovation of the hymnal,” said John Repulski, SCLM secretary and music director at Christ Episcopal Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
The exception was in Province 9, where clergy and musicians “expressed clearly to the research interviewers that the currently available authorized musical resources of the Episcopal Church do not meet their needs in terms of worship style, theological and cultural context, and affordability,” the SCLM report said.
“We Episcopalians, what we reiterated for ourselves in that survey is, we love our books,” Phillips said. “Even though there are some better and worse supplements available and authorized out there … the mainstream still loves the hymnal and wants to use the hymnal and wants to have a hymnal that they can hold in their hand. But Province 9 is feeling underserved, that the material does not fit their cultural needs.”
Consequently, the commission recommends forming a congregational song task force to “explore a variety of musical resources and foster musical leadership able to learn, perform and teach various musical styles,” the SCLM report said.
“While the data does not point towards revision at this time,” it said, “it does indicate the need to begin an in-depth process of discernment as to what new music beyond the current set of authorized resources will inspire and revitalize our congregations. A process of carefully observed and rigorously measured trial use of music that is currently beyond what is authorized would be at the heart of this discernment.”
Repulski said he hoped the task force would enable “really a lot of broad information gathering,” looking at questions including whether people would like musical resources in forms other than printed books.
The task force also would incorporate and expand the work of the World Music Project, according to the report.
To help provide resources for Province 9, where congregations typically learn music by rote listening rather than from books, a group of musicians recorded about 15 songs from El Himnario that will be released by the time of General Convention, Repulski said. SCLM is still discerning the best way to circulate the materials and in what format. Video as well as CD formats are planned, and versions will be available with instrumentation only, he said.
Repulski also is an administrator in a new Facebook page for Episcopal Church musicians that rapidly gathered 450 members. “There is definitely a need for us to talk,” he said. He hopes the outcome will be “just some more conversation between all the musicians in the Episcopal Church.”
Other SCLM resolutions propose:
- continuing revision of the Book of Occasional Services;
- authorizing continued use of Enriching our Worship 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5;
- continuing to “collect, review and disseminate materials to address Christian anti-Judaism expressed in and stirred by portions of Christian scriptures and liturgical texts”;
- revising prayer book Holy Week liturgies to conform with the Revised Common Lectionary;
- continuing to develop liturgies for the adoption of children;
- adding The Message and the Common English Bible as approved translations for use during worship;
- setting translation standards that include reflecting “the idiomatic style and cultural context” of the languages used;
- providing $105,000 for SCLM meetings and $202,000 for developing and reviewing liturgical resources as mandated by General Convention and church canons.
— Sharon Sheridan is an ENS correspondent.
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