Thursday, August 16, 2012


I remember sitting on my grandmother's lap, curled up, as she sang quietly to me, "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey. You'll never know, dear, how much I love you, please don't take my sunshine away."

There is something powerful, almost primal, in the practice of singing to a child, rocking them back and forth as they somehow find solace and peace in the lilt of a familiar song.

My grandmother singing voice is one of the most beautiful sounds in the world. You can feel the love that rests in each and every word. When I was a child, I remember my siblings and I trying to stump her on songs, believing that she seemed to have a song for almost everything.

I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses, and the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses...

When I first started attending the Episcopal Church, I absolutely loved the hymns and anthems but found them rather difficult to sing. I was raised on Gospel hymns, a very different style of music than Ralph Vaughan Williams melodies and plainsong. Over these past several years though, I've developed a lot of love for the Anglican musical tradition. Old Gospel hymns still run through my head. Someday, when I have a child, I'll hold that child close and sing Gospel music to her or him. But I'll also sing other music, other songs I've learned.

The day thou gavest Lord is ended, the darkness falls at thy behest. To thee our morning hymns ascended, thy praise shall sanctify our rest...

This summer, our parish has been trying Morning Prayer with Communion one Sunday a month, experimenting with what it's like to pray Morning Prayer as a community. Since this has largely gone out of fashion these days, the difficulty is that we don't know the canticles anymore. We've been working at it though and each month when that first Sunday rolls around, I feel like the singing gets stronger.

Come let us sing to the Lord, let us shout for joy to the rock of our salvation, let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and raise a loud shout to him with psalms...

I went to visit my grandmother a few weeks ago. She's in assisted living now. She's having trouble remembering things and gets confused. I sat there on the small bed with her, my head nuzzled against her shoulder with my younger sister sitting on her other side doing the same. I didn't know what much to say, except over and over again, "I love you grandma, I love you grandma, I love you grandma."

Perhaps one of the reasons music affects us so is because it is such a relational thing. We hear songs sung to us by those we love. We sing them in response to our own children. I know when I sing the Venite (the one that begins, "Come let us sing to the Lord,"), to this day I think of sitting next to Robert Partin in the choir pews at Heavenly Rest in Abilene, TX. To this day it makes me smile.

I think probably the worst thing in the world is watching relationships slip away and change. I want everyone to be around forever. This has been, for me, one of the hardest parts of parish ministry, the realization that, in the end, I cannot force a relationship someone does not want with me. Even harder, as the years at my parish go by, is the knowledge that inevitably, year by year, funerals will become more and more difficult as I grow to love people more and more.

It hurts to feel a relationship slip away, whether through death, the slow fade of a mind, moving, anger, frustration, fear, or just the continuance of life. It hurts something awful.

I remember, when I was a child, sitting attentively on a church pew next to my grandmother at the M-21 Church of Christ. I remember the preacher telling us that heaven was going to be filled with singing, for all eternity we could just sing and sing and sing. I remember smiling at that as I held my grandmother's hand.

And someday, I hope with all my heart, on the other side of eternity, when all the anger and fear and loss of this world has been healed, when we are able to love one another fully for who we truly are—not who we want people to be, I hope that on that day, I'll be able to dip my toe into the glassy sea. And I hope that as I peer into that singing crowd I'll see some faces that have disappeared over time, faces that may even be surprised at seeing an tired fallible guy like me.

And I hope that we'll find each other in that crowd—no matter what happened in the ages in between this day and that. I hope we'll find each other.

And I hope we'll smile.

And I hope we'll sing.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior...

D.Min, Year Two: Percy Dearmer and the Teaching of Addai

Well, one more year of my Doctor of Ministry program is behind me. Last night I turned in my last paper for "Types of Anglican Theology." This puts me halfway through my coursework. I'm rather pleased with both final papers I wrote for this summer and hope they're worthwhile. The Dearmer paper, in particular, represents the beginning of my research on what will likely be my Doctor of Ministry project: a critical analysis of Percy Dearmer's work followed by a complete re-write of The Parson's Handbook for twenty-first century, post-Liturgical Movement, ecumenical, Anglican Christianity.

Sounds like fun, eh?

Aware that some strange souls out there might be interested in one or the other of these papers, I'm posting them both here for download.

Types of Anglican Theology, class taught by the Rev. Dr. Mark Chapman, Vice-Principal of Ripon College, Cuddesdon, Oxford (and man with an excellent English professor beard, exactly what one might expect)
Prayer Book Catholic: The Work of Percy Dearmer in Context and Contemporary Liturgical Renewal

From the introduction...
Of all the figures of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Anglicanism, perhaps the most ignored and misunderstood is Percy Dearmer. Over the course of several decades, he entered a time of confusion and upheaval and argued for a particular approach to Anglican worship founded upon sound principles. His influence is far greater than has often been acknowledged. His ideals shaped the way generations of clergy and lay people think about worship.
Furthermore, Dearmer’s approach to the church is one that still bears insights for today’s practice of Anglican Christianity. At times, when reading him describe the state of the church in his day one hears surprisingly similar echoes to struggles of our own times. A careful exploration of Dearmer’s context and approach should yield important insights for contemporary clergy and lay people who seek today to worship God in the beauty of holiness.

An Introduction to Ancient Eastern Christianity, class taught by Dr. Charles M. Stang, Associate Professor of Early Christian Thought at Harvard Divinity School in Harvard University (and prof that will absolutely rock J. Crew fancy shorts and shirts while teaching—otherwise known as the opposite of what one might expect)
The "Teaching of Addai" and a Fourth-Century Eastern Theology of Ministry

From the introduction...
Everyone loves a good apocryphal miracle story. Well, perhaps not everyone. But oftentimes apocryphal and pseudepigraphical literature from the first few centuries of the church is explored primarily for its fantastic accounts of miracles and legends relating to the supernatural power of Christ or the early apostles.
A case in point is the Teaching of Addai. The two most fantastic aspects of this story are the healing of King Abgar by Addai (as a result of the former’s written request to Christ himself) and a legend relating the discovery of the true cross by someone named Protonike. Most who study this text do so for the Abgar legend. Those who aren’t interested in that section explore this text for the Protonike legend.
I would argue that neither of these stories are central to the Teaching of Addai. Rather, this text is precisely what its title suggests, an account of the teaching of the apostle Addai. More specifically, it is an account of the shape and order of Christian ministry, as brought to Edessa by Addai and continued by Addai’s disciples. The author of the final version of the text we have today took a pre-existing Edessene legend in the Abgar narrative, combined it with a rewritten story of the discovery of the true cross, and then wove around them a theology of ministry that seeks to find its grounding in apostolic authority, catholicity, and a warm relationship with the state and empire. An exploration of the Teaching of Addai will display a robust theology of ministry that seeks to refute the competing visions of the day and to legitimate and secure Edessene Christianity (as described by the author) as the authentic expression of Christianity.