Easter 2024

30 June 2018
Resolution B006 at General Convention: Regulations Respecting the Laity #GC79
In 2017 the board of the Association of Anglican Musicians appointed a task force to craft a resolution for General Convention that would support the ministry of lay employees of the Episcopal Church.  The task force membership includes Dr. Paul Ellison, Marty Wheeler Burnett, the Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Linda Patterson, and Ellen Johnston. 

The duties and requirements for the ministries of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons are outlined in multiple canons giving the requirements and duties of those in holy orders. No canon is provided, however, outlining the duties and responsibilities of Lay Employees.  This resolution will not just affect church musicians (both full time and part time) but will also cover all lay employees – Christian education directors, parish secretaries, parish administrators, bookkeepers.  It calls for letters of agreement to be executed by the church and her employees, which includes a job description, details of salary, a provision for an annual review, and a dissolution clause.  These are issues of fairness, justice, and equity.  There has been concern expressed by some as to how this affects “at will” employment states.  Of course, this canonical change, if approved, cannot override state laws; however, the Church should do better by her employees than relying on the lowest common denominator. 

The resolution, which has been proposed by the Rt. Rev. Shannon Johnston and endorsed by the Rt. Rev. Keith Whitmore and the Rt. Rev. Neil Alexander reads:

Resolution B006 to Amend Canon 1.17

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That Canon 1.17: Of Regulations Respecting the Laity is hereby amended to include the following addition:

Sec. 9. Any Lay Person accepting employment within the Church in any capacity is entitled to a letter of agreement describing the duties and responsibilities of the position, including details of salary and any benefits. The letter will include provisions for an annual performance evaluation, procedures for the reconciliation of disagreements, and contain a clearly articulated dissolution clause. Employees are to be circumspect in their conduct avoiding any moral or pastoral conduct of a nature to bring material discredit upon the Church.

The task force urges you to contact your bishops and your General Convention deputation and ask them to vote for Resolution B006.  This is a matter of justice for all of the lay employees of the Episcopal Church. 

This post was written by the Employment Task Force of the Association of Anglican Musicians

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28 June 2018
Some further thoughts and observations about the worship at the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church

General Convention starts in less than a week, and the service bulletins still contain errors that will hinder the participation of the people.

I'm not going to go into full detail the way I did in my first post on this subject, but here, briefly, are the remaining services for General Convention.

July 7 - General Convention Revival at Palmer Center

I think this service sounds really interesting. If you're unaware of the word "revival" in Episcopal parlance, you can find information on the recent and upcoming Episcopal Revivals here.

I'm fascinated by the compelling blend of evangelical and liturgical. I'll be honest: the first time I read the versicle and response "Lord, send a revival. / And let it begin in me!" I got chills.

For me, this is some of the most compelling of the liturgy that will be offered at General Convention. This seems like exactly the time and the place for this kind of service, and it builds on the present Episcopal Revival movement.

What I don't like so much is that the printing of the Acclamation Hymn is woefully incomplete. The last three lines are missing. This is the kind of error that hinders the participation of the people gathered for this service, most of whom will not know this hymn at all.

I also question the choice of having the hymn "I have decided to follow Jesus" twice in this short service, albeit to different tunes. But who knows. Maybe it works.

But the second iteration of this hymn includes what appears to be English words engraved under the notes, and Spanish words printed below the hymn. A closer inspection reveals that the "English" words actually contain stanzas two and three in Spanish, but they don't correspond to the Spanish "translation". (Did you follow that?)

Another example of a significant error that will, in this case, prevent people from singing in unison.

UPDATE: the plot thickens. The music listing that was made available quite recently (Music of the Liturgy) indicates that the final hymn is to be "This little light of mine". If the music has been changed, it's very possible that there is now yet a third set of service bulletins that we do not yet have access to.

July 8 - Holy Eucharist

The sources of this service appear to be Enriching Our Worship 1 and Eucharistic Prayer A.

One also notes at this service the repetition of Siyahamba, which was sung on July 7. Why all the repeated hymnody at this Convention?

July 9 - Eucharist of Reconciliation

This service is Rite II beginning with the Penitential Order, and has a Eucharistic Prayer called "Mass of the Immigrant". It does live up to its name: "Your Son Jesus Christ, our brother, the immigrant from heaven and a model of immigrants…".

July 10 - Eucharist for the Care of God’s Creation

I can't identify the source of the first part of the service, but the Eucharistic Prayer is Prayer C.

It is puzzling that the Song of Praise "Sing of the raven, bird of creation" is printed in the time signature of six-four and not nine-four as the Hymnal has BUNESSAN. The result is that half of the strong beats arrive on weak parts of the bar, and vice versa.

Is Canticle 12 (Song of Creation) truly to be recited? Another wasted opportunity. And if so, why make people stand for it?

Even in the newly published Music of the Liturgy document there is no attribution for "God of the galaxies", a hymn which really gives "Earth and all stars" a run for its money. I suppose it is simply mistitled in the service leaflet, and that the attribution for "Honor the earth" by "Douglas Mews/ Shirley Murray, lyrics" applies here.

July 11 - Benedict of Nursia, Abbot of Monte Cassino, c. 540

This "Silent Song of Praise" has been the most-discussed element of these services so far, at least among Episcopal Musicians. It is preceded by the Taizé "Veni Sancte Spiritus", so I suppose the intent is to have a bit of Taizé-style silence to follow. But silence in Taizé is not meant as a "hymn", it is meant as silence. Even on paper, this just doesn't appear to work in the context of a Rite I Eucharist.

Oh yeah, this service is Rite I. Kind of.

The Acclamation is. The Collect for Purity is. And then [*record scratch*] the salutation to the Collect of the Day is not ("And also with you").

But then we're right back to Rite I with the Collect of the Day.

And then [*record scratch again*] the Gospel Acclamation is back in Rite II ("Glory to you, Lord Christ").

Why the back and forth with the two Rites? It is perplexing, and I can think of no justification for it. This is the only appearance of Rite I at the Convention, and it's not even permitted to be itself.

Finally, we settle with Eucharistic Prayer II (which is found in Rite I).

July 12 - Closing Holy Eucharist

The Sequence Hymn is "In Christ alone", which I find lamentable. The phrase "...the wrath of God was satisfied" is there in black and white for all in attendance to sing. I'm sure that will go over well.

Maybe the Presiding Bishop is preparing to shift his focus from the "loving, liberating, life-giving" God to the "reverent, redeeming, wrath-filled" one.

Who knows.

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24 June 2018
Note - Deep

It comes as no surprise to us that the THX "Deep Note", the sound created by Andy Moorer that accompanies the THX logo, was inspired in part, by organ music.

... I wanted to start with something that would thoroughly bewilder everyone. They wouldn't be sure that the sound was being played properly, or whatever. That is, to start with chaos and then evolve into the big chord, like a great organ chord. I'd always been impressed by the huge pipe organs and the sounds it could produce, so that was sort of the idea I had in the back of my mind.

listen: #43 | THX Deep Note, Part 1 from Twenty Thousand Hertz

The good stuff starts about nine minutes in, but really the whole thing is worth hearing.

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18 June 2018
Some thoughts and observations about the worship at the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church

“Wasted opportunity”. That's the phrase that comes to mind when I consider the “Silent Song of Praise” that will occur at the worship service on July 11 at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas.

There are, it occurs to me, many opportunities for silence in the liturgy. Silence may be kept after the lessons. Silence may be kept during the prayers. Silence may be kept after the bidding to Confession. Silence may be kept (and rarely is in most churches!!) at the Breaking of the Bread.

But music is another matter. Music is rarely silent.

It is sometimes, of course. The famous 4'33" by John Cage is silent. That's the whole point. It has even recently been used as congregational song. But note that this was a congregational "performance" of 4'33" relating to a theme of confession.

It's not that I'm unsympathetic to the idea. General Convention must be (I imagine) a busy, noisy, stressful place. And who doesn't want some silence in the midst of that? But again, Song + Praise ≠ Silence (unless you are in outer space, in which case, please reach for Hymn 431).

But perhaps the “Silent Song of Praise” is just a symptom of a larger mix-and-match, kitchen sink approach to the liturgical planning that we see for General Convention.

Don't get me wrong, I know that planning liturgy and music for General Convention is very hard work. I once sat down with the Rev. Charlie Dupree and we discussed this very topic.

It is a very tall order to plan worship for a body as large and diverse as the Episcopal Church's Triennial Family Reunion, but an examination of the available service leaflets for this year's General Convention reveal a litany of errors and confusing choices.

The service leaflets themselves are marred by technical and typographical strangeness and inconsistencies. But more than this, the concept of these eight services seem to relish in a kind of "liturgical restlessness". It's more innovation than is really necessary, even at a gathering of this type, I would think. And it seems to me that by trying to please everyone, few people would walk away with a sense that this is the kind of worship that they could find in their home diocese. It brings to mind those words of C. S. Lews, “Jesus said to Peter, ‘feed my sheep,’ not, ‘experiment on my rats’”.

When I began examining these services I expected to find one or two mistakes. As I discovered more and more, however, some of which are somewhat ludicrous (Absolution before Confession, being one example), I became vaguely angry about the whole thing. If the national Episcopal Church cannot correctly juggle the limited amount of options without serious error, perhaps we have introduced too many already. Truly, we need to have “deep engagement with the structure, content, language and theological thrust of The Book of Common Prayer (1979), with a view to increasing the Church’s familiarity with the book in its entirety” as resolution A069 so aptly puts it.

July 5 - 79th General Convention Opening Holy Eucharist - Rite II, Eucharistic Prayer A

July 6 - Holy Eucharist Festival [sic?] - Rite II, Eucharistic Prayer B

I will continue examining a few more of these services (possibly all of them) in the coming days. I at least have more to say about the use of a Rite I Eucharistic Prayer on July 11. But for now, I have just one final observation.

When hymns in these service leaflets come from published resources of the Episcopal Church, there is no indication of this. There are no hymn numbers for hymns from the Hymnal 1982 or hymnal supplements.

But let alone any reference to published resources, there is no attribution of authors or composers of sacred music. The copyright permissions will be available online, each leaflet tells us, but what of material in the public domain? Will Henry Francis Lyte be credited as the author to “Praise, my soul, the King of heaven”?

There is a way in which creative input, both of the musicians in the room and the composers and authors of the sacred music being sung at these services, seems deeply undervalued. To not print anyone's name – living or dead – in these leaflets is a mistake, I believe.

As a church musician, I hope that my contribution to the life of the Episcopal Church is valued. If I wrote music and saw it used at an occasion like this, only to find no reference to my name in the printed material, I would be very disappointed.

These are not anonymous contributions. All of this music, all of this poetry, was born out of the ongoing creation of our loving, liberating, life-giving God (to borrow a phrase). Let's properly acknowledge the contributions of church musicians and artists at all gatherings of the Episcopal Church, please, and especially at General Convention.

My mother is here for the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), and she showed me their printed worship orders. Even they can get this right in their worship services.

At a time when Prayer Book revision (and by extension Hymnal revision too) is at least up for discussion, all of this warrants some deeper reflection.

19 June, 12:30 p.m.: An astute reader points out that the Offertory Music listed for July 5 also likely contains an error. "¡Recesito Alleluia!" is probably meant to be "¡Resucito Alleluia!"

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