Tuesday, May 24, 2005

No Adults Need Apply

Courtesy of titusonenine we have this report from the Telegraph about a church in England which is tearing apart because of the rector's replacement of the standard BCP service with what is being called "happy-clappy" liturgy. Anglicans and Catholics everywhere are familiar with this sort of story-- heck, Catholics in the USA have had to suffer through this for decades.

What's most interesting about this story, to me, is the emphasis placed on how the normal service is passing away, to be replaced forever by this new way of doing things. For instance, in the first sentence the vicar is attempting to "modernize" his services. Pews are contrasted with "flexible seating" (i.e., stacking or folding chairs). Then there's the statement from the diocesan spokesman: "Sometimes a church may believe it right to move in a particular direction, which may involve taking risks and perhaps unsettling or upsetting some."

That statement is, of course, vacuous nonsense, justifying anything at all. It matters entirely why people are unsettled or upset; chances are, some of them may have good reason for their reactions!

A glance at the parish's excessively well-concealed website does not give an age for the rector, but unless he is the victim of early balding and grey hair, I'd guess he's at least in his middle forties. (His curate looks older still.) Maybe England is behind us in the USA, but unless one wants to use "modern" in condescending contrast to "post-modern", there's nothing really very modern about this style of service. It's squarely in the evangelical (in the American sense) tradition.

"Condescending" is important here because the whole premise is that younger people want this sort of service style. It's an overgeneralization, of course, but there's that other problem: young people grow up. The happy-happy, "always Easter and never Lent" style is (a) a bit dated already (it can be traced straight back to evangelical/RC circles of thirty years ago) and (b) rather patronizing, as though young people aren't ready for any of the serious part of religion. What young people really want is to be treated as the adults that they think they are. Meanwhile, the people who are old enough to be their parents, which is to say, those running the parish, are tempted into indulging themselves in the fantasy that they are young again (no), with it (definitely not), and oh so sensitive to their childrens' needs (not too likely).

And while I'm at it, there's another juvenile problem here: this service style definitely doesn't "play well with others". I don't know what English hymnals look like these days, but the 1982 ECUSA hymnal has a huge range of material from practically every musical tradition on earth. Spirituals, plainsong, psalter tunes, sacred harp, Lutheran chorales, Russian hymns and English folksongs sit side by side in the pages and on the service sheet. The organ or the piano steps up and accomodates them all. But for some reason, "contemporary" music won't fit in.

Unfortunately the very beautiful African choral music wasn't well known enough in the 1970s to make it into the hymnal. This is indisputably contemporary stuff. But to fit into the "contemporary" service, it has to be dumbed down. The problem? It's a capella, and it's sung in parts. This is apparently too grown up, so the tyrannous guitar has to take over the song leading, and everyone has to sing the melody, like school children.

It's time for contemporary music to grow up. Have the courage to sing what generations of men and women sang for centuries before.

Richard Kew on the Mess We're In

Sometimes it seems impossible to find a blog where the positions are not dittohead dogmatic and extreme. Anglicans in particular seem to have to choose, all too often, between "when's the next bus to Rome?" Anglo-Catholics and "Robinson! Robinson! Rah, rah, rah!" liberals.

Thus, it's a pleasure to come upon Richard Kew's The Kew Continuum, and particularly this entry:

The Reclaiming of the Church

Thursday, May 19, 2005

A Sense of Betrayal

Word has come to me that Alvin F. Kimel, Jr. is leaving the the Episcopal Church and intends to seek ordination as a Roman Catholic priest. You can read his announcement of this here.

As a few of you may be aware, Al was my parish priest for something like a decade. He married us, and he baptized my eldest son, not to mention giving me communion nearly every Sunday for those ten-odd years. I've been watching his "progress" on his blog with increasing annoyance, to the point of exchanging a couple of e-mails when he started telling everyone to bail out of ECUSA.

I suppose I should have expected his abandonment of his church; everything in his blog pointed to this. But dammit, it still hurts; the more I think about it, the angrier I get. What are you going to tell me you were doing, Al, when you celebrated the eucharist, Sunday after Sunday?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Talking About Some Other Generation

Well, our rector is about to go off on a sabbatical to explore the emerging church. This has become the current hot thing, as attested to by Christianity Today; its proponents love a certain style of cultural-commentary jargon, and say "postmodern" a lot.

Now, I think talking about "generations" is a bunch of hooey. I'm looking at some of the websites of these places-- and they are "cutting-edge" in the annoying way of not using a normal name for anything and using a lot of Flash animations-- and I'm noticing a consistent pattern about the leaders of these places: they're all about my age or a little older. I'm guessing that their kids are all middle-to-high school age because, like me, they waited until they were almost thirty to have them. And I'll bet their kids don't think their parents are cool, because there is nothing less "cool" than parents who try to be their children.

Me? When I came home from high school, I called up the local Episcopal parish to find out what time services were. (I went to the 11:15 service-- the only time fit for old ladies and college students.) By the time the founders of Cedar Ridge Community Church were getting organized, I was singing in the choir. Not too long after, I was going to a different parish which was shortly packed with young families. Cool? No! It was a by-the-book Rite II BCP sung eucharist sort of place, with standard hymns which we sang in parts.

One thing one sees around the net is that everyone has a program for saving The Church by changing how we do church. There are plenty of arch-traditionalists out there, for example, who want to pick some ideal liturgical praxis and stay there. This can work in a limited fashion but it inevitably runs up against the problem that, being reactionary, it is too much dictated by what it believes the current culture to be.

It's the progressive movements, though, that age worse. The leaders of the emerging churches are going to grow old, and they are going to lose touch with the "current". Another ten years, and their churches are going to be the churches of the old fuddy-duddies. Indeed, I'm looking at the emerging church materials and seeing merely the latest reinvention of the American evangelical style-- a style that is based in amnesis, not anamnesis, and which to me seems of the world, not in it.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Stipites Mundi

Bishop Bennison, Episcopal ordinary of Pennsylvania (i.e., Philadelphia), has put forth another rather perverse discourse, as recorded in titusonenine. This piece has been analyzed all over the traditionalist Anglican world, but I particularly like the epithet from RatherNot blog: stipites mundi, the "blockheads of the world".

His entry is rather long, but worth reading in full. My reaction to Bennison's tornado-strength spin of "Catholic" is to roll my eyes, but it's nice to know that someone else out there sees how stupid this stuff is.

Mind you, there are traditionalist blockheads out there too-- perhaps later I will point out some. But the Latinate phrase was too good to pass by.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Scent of Religious Discussion

We're not making this up:

Try the new scent: Polemic

Note that the bottle is apple-shaped; I think it signifies Eris, goddess of discord.