"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Reflections on Worship

One of the interesting aspects of attending the Chant Institute during the last week and a half was attending eight daily Roman Catholic Masses at St. Joseph’s College. Most of them were in the Gaspar Center (named for the founder of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood), which is essentially a classroom for choral music that happens to have an altar right in the middle of it, but one Mass was in what once was the college’s beautiful 1905-built chapel. While it was delightful to be in the presence of the precious Body and Blood of the Lord every day during my time away, these Masses also served as a sad reminder of the divisions in Christendom. I had to be satisfied with a blessing while my RC friends there (90 % of the Institutes students) received the Sacrament. As a result, my longing for a healing of the breach between Rome and orthodox Anglicanism is stronger now than ever.

But based upon my observation of these RC Masses, there is an area where I now feel Anglo-Catholicism has been positively served by our separation from Rome—liturgical ceremony and devotional piety. Please don’t misunderstand me. The overwhelming majority of the RC participants in the Institute struck me as devout and serious-minded about their faith, and by choosing to participate in an intensive course on Gregorian chant they had already shown themselves to have an above-average interest in traditional worship practices. And I have no reason to doubt that the priests who celebrated these Masses were godly men. (I never detected even the faintest whiff of heresy during the eleven days I was at St. Joe’s—can you imagine that if they were ECUSA priests?!) I have a high personal regard for all these fine folks. Rather, despite the fact that these classmates of mine were among the best informed and personally devout of RC laymen in the United States, I cannot help but conclude that the beauty of the Mass that the Roman Catholic Church inherited from the Middle Ages has largely been squandered in this country.

It was as if beauty had been systematically stripped from their worship (except for the chanting we were doing, which seemed almost an alien intrusion into the contemporary setting—I gather that it is rare to hear Latin Gregorian chant in American RC Masses at the parish level today). The vestments worn by the priests looked as if they had been made from polyester curtains and were tailored by the costumer for a sixties era Sci-Fi show (though I believe one of the priests celebrated in only a white cassock-alb and stole, which at least had a classical simplicity in its favor). The chalice most commonly used also looked like something out of the original Star Trek, while on other days they used a glass one that was a bit more attractive. Only a minority of the congregation kneeled at the prayer of consecration (and they were predominantly conservative college students from the Univ. of Chicago), and only a few of the RC’s present specially reverenced the elements at the elevation. During the course of the entire Mass most of the congregation crossed themselves only once or twice, typically at the very beginning and end of the liturgy. It seems clear to me that bodily displays of reverence, which are all but universal among Anglo-Catholics, have essentially disappeared among contemporary Roman Catholics in the U.S.

And it is rare to find an Anglican church building that has as little concern for beauty as the worship spaces we used last week. Most of our Masses were celebrated on an altar in the middle of a sixties-era classroom (there was a fire alarm where the crucifix should have been), which hardly assisted me in lifting up my heart to the Lord. But it is down right heart breaking to see what was done to the formerly lovely, century-old chapel at St. Joseph’s. At one time it had a dozen altars, but in the seventies they ripped them all out, leaving only vacant space in place of the high altar. Above the side area where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a simple wooden tabernacle there is now a green and yellow mural of an abstract chalice and stalk of wheat. One can only imagine the majestic environment in which worshippers there once praised the Living God.

As one former Anglo-Catholic who has recently decided to swim the Tiber told me recently, on aesthetic grounds today’s RC worship is “a vast waste land.” Based upon my experiences last week, I understand where he is coming from. So while I fervently pray for a reconciliation of the separated portions of the Western Church (and look forward to a day in the not too distant future when Rome and the East are reunited), I also pray that we Anglo-Catholics are able to retain the beautiful, prayerful traditions of worship God has entrusted to us. It looks like the Roman Catholic Church may need us around as faithful stewards of the Tradition when they finally wake up and discover what they have done to their worship practices and spaces.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Home Again, Home Again

Father Larry Heiman, CPPS (pictured above), leads the Gregorian Chant Institute at Saint Joseph's College in Indiana. He has been on the faculty of St. Joe's since 1940. Fr. Larry is one of the world's leading authorities on the paleography of early chant manuscripts and the performace of Gregorian chant in its earliest idiom.

This was my second year to participate in the Institute. It proved to be a wonderful experience for me. After the Institute concluded I remained on campus for a few extra days as a spiritual retreat. Thanks be to God for a safe return home last night. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Where I am now -- St. Joe's "Chant Camp"

Sorry for the lack of recent posts, my friends. I am presently attending the Gregorian Chant Institute at Saint Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Indiana. We are working through the Graduale Triplex for Advent and Christmas this year. It is a fine experience, proving to be as much a retreat for me as an academic course. The director, Fr Larry Heiman, is a leading authority on chant after the traditions of the earliest manuscripts. (Fr Heiman has been teaching at St. Joseph's since 1940, and is now a spry 88 years old!) We are working primarily from late ninth and early tenth century Messine and St. Gall manuscript traditions. Marvelous. I will return home to Texas next Tuesday, and resume regular posts at that time. God bless.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Ugandan-born Bishop Named Archbishop of York

An African evangelical has been named the new Archbishop of York. According to the BBC, "The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Rev John Sentamu, has become the Church of England's first black archbishop. The Ugandan-born cleric takes over as Archbishop of York from Dr David Hope who quit in February to become a parish priest in Ilkley, West Yorkshire. Bishop Sentamu said his appointment to the second-highest post in the Church of England was "an exciting prospect."The BBC's Profile of the Rt Rev John Sentamu is worth having a look at. The full BBC account may be found here.Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

UCC to Consider Lordship of Christ

The national delegates to the general synod of the United Church of Christ will soon be asked to vote on a resolution stating the general synod of the UCC:

“declares the United Church of Christ to be a decidedly Christian denomination where Jesus is Lord. … Be it further resolved that this is not an optional doctrine for our pastors or churches, and that all ordained, commissioned, and licensed ministers and all Students in Care and all members must adhere to this most basic of all Christian teachings.” The full text of the resolution can be found here.

Many observers feel it is unlikely to pass. Read a news story here.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

The New Paganism at Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver

Having just completed a course on "Christianity and Eastern Religions" at St. Vincent's, I couldn't help but notice what Mr. Fox is up to now (thanks to titusonenine). He will help the good people of Canada "dance their divine sparks into Flames" and "revive their Earth Spirit Connection." (Would that be more Taoism or Shinto?) His Cosmic Mass seems a perfect manifestion of what Peter Kreeft has called "the new paganism." Of course, the fact that it is happening at an Anglican cathedral will surprise no one. Posted by Hello

The Campanile Has A Roof Now

Yesterday afternoon they finished installing the metal roof on the bell tower. Another step toward completion accomplished. At least they are working on the tower again! Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Vacation Bible School at St. Vincent's Cathedral

Tonight's class on "Christianity and Buddhism" was well attended (the vacant chairs are those of the dean, who had to leave for a hospital visitation, and my father--the photographer here). Discussion was lively. This year I am teaching the adult class at St. Vincent's Vacation Bible School, where we are studying "Christianity and Eastern Religions." Last night we covered Hinduism. Tomorrow we move on to Taoism. Posted by Hello

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Matthew Fox's 95 Theses

Matthew Fox, one time Roman Catholic priest and now Episcopalian, travelled to Wittenburg, Germany in May and published his own "95 Theses" there. They may be found on his web site here. And don't forget to check out the rest of his blog, which includes information about his "New Reformation" and Wisdom University (which he founded) in Oakland, California. Does anyone know, has Mr. Fox been received as a priest in the ECUSA diocese of California? Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 02, 2005

A Quiet Day at the Campanile

It has been quiet around the bell tower this week. This is how things looked on June 2 ,2005. It will be beautiful when it is done. I hope they get back to work soon! Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ

The full text of the recently published Marian document of the Angican-Roman Catholic International Commission, "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ," is now available on-line here. I have found several elements of this document to be quite helpful. I will post more later, once I have further opportunity to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest it!

The image above is the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and our infant Lord in the side-aisle of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church (Anglican), Bedford, Texas.Posted by Hello

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