Friday, 8 June 2012

Rules for Choosing "Traditional" Liturgy

There's been a lot of debate regarding the use of what people are calling "Traditional" liturgy. Drayton Parslow has even got involved, coming round to tell me that Independent Baptists reject all tradition, and have been doing so since 1609.

So I thought it was best I laid down some ground rules, to help those organising our daily "Happening" to get the best out of their slot.

Basically, if it sounds old it's probably OK. As long as it doesn't sound like it's part of the English tradition. Unlike other nations and races, whose traditions sound exotic and other, English liturgy all sounds a bit same-y, don't you think?

The ancient Celts and Beaker Folk left nothing in writing. Rather than being a cause for despair, we should see this as a great opportunity to make money. The Beaker Common Prayer -Everything in Threes Supplement being a great example. By endlessly invoking triads (sun/mooon/stars: girl/matron/crone; rose/lily/daffodowndilly; uphill/flat/downhill) we give a sense of great completeness - of coming at things from all angles. The lack of any genuine clue as to what people were like should not dissuade us from trying to get to the essence of their cultures. Instead, lighting a tea light and wearing an ethnic stole will give suitable clues. If in doubt, use a traditional drum.

Anything you don't understand must be deep. So a Syriac Morning Prayer, being in the language Jesus spoke (although after spending so long in England's Green 'n' Pleasant Land he probably had a Somerset burr), gives great depth. Singing songs in Swahili, particularly when dressed in floral prints, is terribly ethnic and therefore rooted in the earth. Though not our earth, obviously. But Book of Common Prayer Evensong, being in 16th Century English, just doesn't mean anything. You might as well dress up as John Major or a Morris Dancer, cycle to Mass through the mist with your maiden uncle and be done with it.

I"m pleased to say that this morning's Pouring Out of Beakers will be in the Easter Island tradition. Lacking the facilities to build those giant statues, we've buried Marston up to his neck in the Orchard. Though there was a moment of panic when we remembered that he should have been feet-down. We will be singing song-settings of the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez in the ancient Aztec language, and then afterwards, in keeping with tradition, a massive war will break out between those with long ears and those with short.

Ah, I love a bit of tradition. As long as it's someone else's.

12 comments :

  1. "Independent Baptists reject all tradition, and have been doing so since 1609."

    I feel deflated. The Uniting Church in Australia has only been doing it since 1977.

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    1. Well that's hardly a tradition of rejecting tradition, is it?

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  2. I have a horrible suspicion that reading the above first thing before my brain's been suitably caffienated has subliminally affected my own blog material, which has taken on a very trad Anglican tone.

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    1. You mean you're seeing both sides?

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  3. This approach works well even when you don't know the language or tradition - for example, when someone says dubiously that it doesn't really seem that likely that the song attributed to 'South Africa' on the song sheet is really in Swahili. Might it not be in, oh, Zulu or Xhosa perhaps?

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    1. And most people can't dissent from that, can they?

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  4. I just can't understand the need for new liturgy. The Book of Common Prayer has been going for Donkey's years, and remains fit for purpose. All you need is an interpreter at the front of the congregation, signing it into contemporary language. We use this often to impress Visiting Arch Deacon's, who anticipating Common Worship, are all to young to remember that the BCP is the official prayer book of the Church, despite Common Worship.

    Than there is the Original Roman Missal. In Latin, it's mystery can confuse any self-respecting Catholic Priest, not schooled in the ancient language. This is used in Ecumenical services with the Baptists to confuse them.

    And the Original Hymns Ancient and Modern of 1870 suffices for music. We use this when we have joint services with our Evangelical brethren from our neighbouring parish - it's quite amusing as they scratch around looking for the powerpoint projection and realise that their worship songs are not in our Hymnal and they may actually have to find a Hymn Number.

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  5. You don't need much Latin to confuse some people. I remember a chaplain - I didn't ask her religious background, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't Traditional Anglican, and probably not Roman Catholic either - who asked if we would like a prayer or reading, and was baffled by the request for the Nunc dimittis. We all arrived at a compromise from her handbook of prayers and readings for all occasions - I think it was something recommended for sick Roman Catholics, which I guess was close enough.

    Oh, and you HAVE to have the Hymns A&M, plus the volume known in Canada as 'The Old Blue Book'. They are essential when a visiting choir director or organist starts playing the wrong (red book) music for a hymn. Just because a hymnbook has been in use since 1971 and was replaced in 1998 doesn't mean that WE sing certain hymns to those unfamiliar tunes.

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  6. A recent large scale survey undertaken by the Episcopal church in America found that the vast majority of young people did NOT want a new hymnal replacement for the 1982 version we currently use which confused and confounded everyone. The young folk also wanted traditional Anglican hymns over the newer music found in the supplements - which, by the way, no one apparently uses. The whole thing shocked the older survey makers, so they did what every self-respecting Episcopal does in the face of uncertainty...they formed a new committee. The survey results and the new committee will be presented at the General Convention in July.

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  7. I'm a lover of traditional hymns. But our Yoof group seem to want to do worship songs? Why? But to humour them we tried a service of Hymns alternating with Worship Songs.

    The service was well attended and the Yoof element were surprised to discover that us 'oldies' actually were familiar with their worship songs and sung them rather well.

    Crestfallen, the new ploy is to have their own services that they can design and run for themselves, without adults about. As a wise Church Warden pointed out, they needed to have supervision for services for insurance purposes. And, in addition, any change to service patterns needed to be voted through the Church Council and since anyone under 18 may belong to the Church Council, their vote is not eligible to be counted until age 18.

    Back to the drawing board.

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  8. We actually do worship songs too. This was one of the results of a rather lengthy and fraught parish debate about Music in Church. So we do both, and we have a schedule for robe-wearing and also mostly sit in the choir stalls but sometimes descend to the nave...well, it's working a lot better than when we were all trying to convince each other of our personal views on all these maters.

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  9. St. Marks Seattle has a Sunday 9pm weekly Evensong that draws 300+ young people who come with sleeping bags, blankets, books, Bibles etc. they''re strewn all over the cathedral alone or in small prayer groups. The adult choir sings chants and other super-old music and the kids can't get enough...they love the "quiet" in their otherwise insane lives.

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