Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Turning on the Gloria

At dinner with some seminary professors, I asked about the history of the ceremonial practice of the choir "turning on the Gloria." I was currently the Rector of a parish that had this habit and was curious about its origin and unsure of its theological significance.  To my surprise, none of the professors were aware of this practice, but another parish minister did indicate that he once had been the priest of a parish that had the same habit.  And, he assured the professors gathered that it was a widespread practice.  With that, the conversation moved in another direction.

A few months later, at yet another seminary, I tried again.  But, still, none of the professors knew the answer to my question and like before had not even heard of the practice.  I informed them that I had served in two congregations in different parts of the country that had this habit and in both there had been consternation as to whether or not the choristers were to "turn on the Gloria."

From informally interviewing those who had this habit, I already knew that they had no idea why the did it, or they had a variety of views and thus no consensus opinion.  Some believed they were facing the cross, others thought they were facing the altar, many believed they were facing God when directly addressing God in prayer, and most said they did it because everyone else was doing it and not to do it would be odd.  Others spoke of reverence, and still, others spoke of the enjoyment of "doing it right" and beauty of the liturgy and being part of a "dance with God."

Various priests had given them multiple answers when they had asked the question over the years, and I was sure that the priests (as priests are prone to do when they don't know the answer) just made stuff up. 

So, doing what any sensible person would do, I went to the library.  I spent a day “in the stacks,” sometimes laying the floor and pulling one book off the shelf after another, dipping into and out of numerous tomes.  And, it turns out…

In the mid-nineteenth century, a renewed appreciation for catholic ceremonial practice appeared in the English church. The “Oxford Movement” (or “Tractarianism”) gained a faithful following in the Church of England.  (If you are fuzzy on the history, see J. R. H. Moorman’s chapter on the subject in his “A History of the Church in England).  Supporting this movement was a group of architects, the Cambridge Camden Society, which promoted the construction of places of worship that were congruent with the ceremonial practices of the Tractarians.

John Purchas’ “Directorium Anglicanum” (1858) is an example of the interest in reclaiming a more catholic theology and practice.  Interestingly, Purchas was charged with breaking ecclesiastical law in 1869 for (among other things) facing east at the altar.  

The definitive guide for clergy who desired to adopt these practices was Percy Dearmer’s “The Parson’ Handbook” (1899 with many subsequent editions).

While the Tractarians were attempting to recapture a lost past, innovations were nonetheless introduced.  The Cambridge Camden Society’s preference for chancels with facing stalls was soon populated by choristers in surplices.  For instance, in Leeds in 1841, a worship space built in the spirit of the Cambridge Camden Society saw the west gallery disappear, and a vested choir appear in facing stalls between the nave and the sanctuary. 

The style became very popular and Dearmer, via many editions of his handbook, helped shape how the space was used.  

The Oxford Movement coincided with a revival in choral church music.  (There is an excellent doctoral dissertation written on the subject by Bernarr Rainbow, “The Choral Revival in the Anglican Church 1839-1872”).  So, in parishes experiencing both the choral revival and the Oxford Movement, accommodations had to be made.  Since the choristers were vested, they mimicked the movements of the clergy.  When the clergy knelt, they knelt.  When the clergy stood, they stood.  When the clergy turned to face east, so did the choristers. 

Cranmer’s rubrics called for the priest to officiate from the North side of the altar, which was why Purchas’ could be charged with breaking ecclesiastical law for facing East (he also placed candles on the altar and formed processions!)

Facing east during certain portions of the liturgy, was one of the many ritual practices of the Tractarians.  And, when the ministers would turn, the choristers would also turn.  With everyone vested and seated in the chancel correctly performing the choreography, it  is was, no doubt, an aesthetically pleasing sight. 

Of course, not all clergy were Anglo-Catholics. So, when a more evangelical, Protestant, or “broad church” priest would follow an Anglo-Catholic priest in a parish, ceremonial practice was apt to change.  Or, at the very least, the interpretation (explanation) of the practice was apt to change.  For instance, rather than “facing east” the turning might be described as “facing the cross.”  Even Anglo-Catholics would become confused in time and begin describing the practice as “facing the altar.”  That is, the practice continued, but a new understanding emerged.

The Cambridge Camden Society was enormously successful, and many parishes were built according to it’s specifications, and others were retrofitted accordingly.  But, much to the dismay of its members, many congregations refused to alter their buildings or when building new structures conform to the dictates of the Cambridge Camden Society.

And, as priests began pulling altars away from the wall and facing west to celebrant Holy Eucharist, some consternation arose amongst choristers sitting in stalls facing each other in the chancels as to what to do.  Thus, a period of experimentation ensued in local parishes, depending on the sensibilities of the priest in charge.

By 1979, when the prayer book allowed a song of praise other than the Gloria to be said at the opening of Holy Eucharist, confusion arose as to when and if to turn.  Did one always turn on the “song of praise” or only if the song of praise was the “Gloria.”  Some would not turn if it was the “Kyrie” or the “Trisagion” but would only turn if the song of praise was the “Gloria.”

Followers of the Oxford Movement were often passionate about “doing it right.”  Parishioners often absorbed the passion of the Anglo-Catholic priest, but often never knew or soon forgot the theology that drove the practice.  So, once  such a priest departed the parish, parishioners were often left unsure as to what to do, but very concerned about “doing it right.”

This insistence on "doing it right" was not confined to the Anglo-Catholics.  Evangelically minded protestants were also very concerned about ceremonial practices, and for them "doing it right" often meant doing what they had been doing before the Oxford Movement began mudding the waters. 

Broad Churchmen were not exempt from these ceremonial woes.  Temperamentally and theologically comfortable with many of the practices of the Anglo-Catholics on the one hand and the Evangelicals on the other, practice in many parishes became not one or the other but some combination of the two.  But, what combination could vary widely from parish to parish. 

Further, as parishioners moved from one parish to another, they would take with them the practices of their former congregation.  For many parishes' a ceremonial stew was thus served with a sprinkle of this and a dash of that.  Such is the nature of the history of institutions as they evolve, develop, and change over time.

So, to answer the question:  "Why do we do that?"  In sum, the choral revival of the mid-nineteenth century in England, the Oxford Movement of Anglicanism, and the work of the Cambridge Camden Society mark the beginning of the current practice (in some parishes) of "turning on the Gloria."

Friday, April 6, 2018


“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23.

I’m a preacher.   I don’t know anything about politics.  But, I do know a few things about sin (most from personal experience).

I’ve sinned.  You’ve sinned.  We have all sinned.  We have all fallen short of the glory God intends for us.

As for me, my sins are many.  One of my sins is that I am a racist.

I’m not proud of my sin.  I am ashamed of my sin.  I ask God to forgive me of things I’ve done and things I’ve left undone.  After confessing my sin, I repent of it:  I pledge not to continue doing it.  Often I fail.

With regard to racism, I have in the past referred to myself as a “recovering racist.”  Both words “recovering” and “racist” are important.  I am both.   I am a sinner, and I am, by the grace of God, called to change.

One of the modes of the manifestation of sin can be the “blindspot.”  The analogy is to driving on I-10 and beginning to change lanes.  You check your mirrors.  You turn your head and look.  You begin to change lanes, when suddenly into your line of sight you see that you are soon to collide with a car in the other lane.  You had a blindspot.

Note that you looked to see if there was anyone driving in the other lane.  You checked your mirrors.  You turned your head.  You did not intend to collide with another vehicle.  You are a good person.  Your intentions are good.  But, nonetheless, you had a blindspot and sometimes collisions happen because of blindspots.

I have friends who tell me when I’ve spilled lunch on my shirt.  They know I haven’t noticed it, maybe because of its location, I can’t see it without looking in a mirror.  Friends do that for each other.  It is embarrassing when I spill something on my shirt.  I am embarrassed when I am told that I have spilled something on my shirt.  But, friends don’t let you go around all day with a food stain on your shirt.

These two different analogies are important to the current nature of my own sin of racism.

My friends who have skin that is darker than mine, tell me I am a good person.  I would never use a racial or ethnic slur.  It upsets me when others do so.  I am not conscious of any racist thoughts or feelings.  Quite the contrary, I am appalled when I see someone engaging in racist behavior or speaking in racist language.  I can even imagine people who know me protesting:  “You are no racist.”  And, I certainly do not want to think of myself as a racist.  But, at this point in my life, I am a racist because I have blindspots.

The thing about a blindspot—you don’t see it.  By its nature, you do not see it.  It is a “spot” of blindness.  You are “blind” to that  “spot.”  You have a blindspot.  And, with regard to race, I have blindspots.

I am continually learning the many ways in which I am enmeshed in the sin of racism.  Sometimes my blindspots cause collisions.  Sometimes I narrowly escape a wreck.

Which brings me back to my second analogy:  My friends sometimes tell me when I’ve spilled lunch on my shirt.  And, my friends sometimes tell me when I am engaging in racist behavior or using racist language.

Things I had never thought about before are brought to my attention.  Note that it does not matter that I did not intend to spill lunch on my shirt.  Nor, does it matter that I don’t often spill lunch on my shirt.  Perhaps, I have a long history of being very good at not spilling lunch on my shirt.  But, in this case, despite my exemplary history and best intentions, I have, in fact, spilled lunch on my shirt.  Likewise, it does not matter that I did not intend a particular action to be racist.  It does not matter that I have a history of not being overtly racist.  It does not matter than people think of me as a generally good person and I like to think of myself as a well-intentioned generally good person.  Because, I discover, much to my surprise, that I have, in this case, despite my exemplary history and best intentions, engaged in racist behavior or used racist language.

Sometimes sin can be related to “blindspots” and “food stains.”  The sin of racism is no different.

I saw the mayor of Ocean Springs, the Honorable Shae Dobson, on T.V. today.  He asked that we give the aldermen of Ocean Springs and himself, the benefit of the doubt, that they are good people who are well-intentioned.  All citizens of Ocean
Springs should have no problem believing their good intentions.  Even those unknown to you personally, you should have no problem believing that if you did know them, that you would find them to be genuinely good people.  We should give each other the benefit of the doubt.

I know it is a blind spot for many, but the current design of the state flag of Mississippi is, in fact, a racist symbol.  Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it is not the case.  Such is the nature of a “blind spot.” 

Like a friend, you tells you you’ve spilled something on your shirt, fellow citizens of Ocean Springs have pointed out the “stain” on our civic “shirt.”

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory God.  I’ve sinned.  You’ve sinned.  We’ve all sinned.  One of my current struggles with sin (I have several), is with the sin of racism.  I beg my friends whose skin is darker than my own, to bear with me, giving me the benefit of the doubt with regard to my good intentions, but, nonetheless, never failing to tell me when I have fallen into the sin of racism.

We’ve been told we have erred and gone astray.  I suspect it is a civic blindspot for many.   Like a friend, telling you that you have spilled something on your shirt; in the love of Christ and as a friend, I need to tell Ocean Springs that we are flying a symbol of racism over our city hall.  However, unintentional it may be, it is nonetheless sinful.  We need to confess our sin and repent of our sin.  Until the state legislature removes the battle flag of the confederacy from the state flag, we should not fly the state flag over our city hall.  We need to confess our sin and then we need to stop flying the state flag in its current design.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

My thoughts today on hearing that the Board of Alderman of the City of Ocean Springs, Mississippi voted last night to fly the current state flag of Mississippi over city hall

Symbols are powerful.  And, symbols are particularly important to the life and practice of people of faith.  Symbols are important to us, because we know the power of symbols.

The Baptismal Covenant of the Book of Common Prayer calls Episcopalians to “respect the dignity of every human being.”  Further, we Episcopalians have been called to “transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.”

The Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi considers "the continued inclusion of the Confederate Battle Flag in the state flag of Mississippi to be at odds with a faithful witness to the reconciling love of Jesus Christ." 

In 2016, the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi called upon the legislature of the state of Mississippi to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from the state flag.

I will be sad to see such a divisive emblem flying over the City Hall of Ocean Springs.

Friday, July 29, 2016

My working thesis of the moment:

Pollsters mislabel and thus misunderstand an important segment of the electorate.  What they often call “Evangelical” in polls about American politics, should more properly be labeled “Jacksonian.”  It puzzles outsiders that “Evangelicals” would give their political support to Trump, but if you change that label to “Jacksonians,” then no puzzlement is necessary.  See Walter Russel Mead’s, “The Jacksonian Tradition.”

Thursday, June 30, 2016

In prepping for this week's sermon I ran across a sermon I preached for Proper 9 Year C in 2010.

Homily for Proper 9 Year C 2010 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Louisville

The Episcopal Church has set aside July 4 of each year as a day of prayer for our nation.  Proper Psalms, Lessons, and Prayers were first appointed for this observance in the Proposed Prayer Book of 1786. They were deleted, however, by the General Convention of 1789, primarily as a result of the intervention of Bishop William White. Though himself a supporter of the American Revolution, he felt that the required observance was inappropriate, since the majority of the Church’s clergy had, in fact, been loyal to the British crown.
Writing about the Convention which had called for the observance of the day throughout “this Church, on the fourth of July, for ever,” White said, “The members of the convention seem to have thought themselves so established in their station of ecclesiastical legislators, that they might expect of the many clergy who had been averse to the American revolution the adoption of this service; although, by the use of it, they must make an implied acknowledgment of their error, in an address to Almighty God. . . . The greater stress is laid on this matter because of the notorious fact, that the majority of the clergy could not have used the service, without subjecting themselves to ridicule and censure. For the author’s part, having no hindrance of this sort, he contented himself with having opposed the measure, and kept the day from respect to the requisition of the convention; but could never hear of its being kept, in above two or three places beside Philadelphia.”
It was not until the revision of 1928 that provision was again made for the liturgical observance of the day.  Since 1928, however, this observance has been an official day on the Church calendar.  For the last decade, we have held a special service on the fourth day of July, here at St. Mark’s, in observance of this special day.  At these services, we have sung hymns--musical prayers--asking for God’s blessing upon our country and giving thanks to God for the many benefits we enjoy as citizens of this country.  We have offered up prayers to God for ourselves as citizens, and for those who serve us in the government--Administrative, Judicial, and Legislative.
The service has become part of the community’s celebration of this day.  We have had nearly as many persons from the neighborhood as we have had members of this parish in attendance.
This year, however, we will have no special observance.  I figured since the day of the observance this year, did not fall on the fourth of July, that no one would attend.  This year, the observance of Independence Day, falls on the fifth day of July.  So, I canceled the service.  It is hard enough to get people to come to a special service for our nation when it falls on the fourth of July.  I knew it was pointless to attempt it on any other day.  Next year, however, when the fourth day of July falls on a Monday, we will once again liturgically observe Independence Day.
As for today, our nation and its founding, rest heavily upon our hearts and minds.  We will, therefore, include in our prayers (both sung and said) particular petitions for our country and its citizens.  I am particularly aware of those members of our parish who cannot be with us today, because their service to this nation has taken them to Afghanistan or Iraq.  While they are continually in my prayers, on this day, I am very aware of the burden upon my heart that concern for their welfare has created.
We have many prayers to make, as we contemplate the state of our union.  Environmental disaster on our southern coast, an economic crisis in its third year, two wars that are proving very difficult to end.  While our petitions are many, so are our thanksgivings.  Even in economic crisis, we enjoy a prosperity others can hardly imagine.  We enjoy liberty and freedom few in the history of the world have ever known.  
All of this, however, is but prologue to my sermon--a sermon for when “Proper 9 of Year C” happens to fall on the fourth of July.  In fact, the sermon is not on the “propers”--as is typical.  The sermon is, rather, a meditation on the annomoly of it being Proper 9 of Year C on the fourth of July, 2010.
As many of you know, all Feast Days appointed on fixed days in the Calendar, when they occur on a Sunday, are
transferred to the first convenient open day within the week.  There are some exceptions to this rule.  Easter and Christmas are such exceptions.  Given the importance of the observance of the Lord’s Day, few other observances are to take precedence.  
Now I know that this rather strict adherence to the rules of the Church calendar sometimes annoys you.  I remember being chastized a few years ago when Holy Week fell during March Madness.  I was asked, “Can’t you plan Good Friday on another day?”
I had to explain that I lacked the authority to do so.  To change the Church calendar is “above my pay grade.”  But we can learn a great deal about ourselves when such conflicts arise.  What are our priorities?  What are our values?  Is the object of our worship the creator, or merely some part of the creation?
Today is an object lesson.  Is today the Lord’s Day or is it Independence Day?  What we learn from the Church calendar is that the observance of Independence Day does not take precedence.  We enflesh that rule by the choice of readings and collects for today.  But, I ask myself--how do I enflesh that rule in my life--not just my liturgical observance?  Maybe the answer is easy for you, but it is not for me.  Historically, it has not been easy for persons of conscience.
As I indicated earlier, most clergy of the Episcopal Church were loyal to the English throne during the Revolutionary War.  At their ordinations, they had taken a vow of loyalty to the King and they took their vows seriously.
Those who take their faith and their allegience to any earthly realm seriously must always struggle with the tensions such convictions bring.  Its why Rome fed Christians to the lions two thousand years ago.  Christians said their ultimate loyalty could never be to the state.  Its why Bonhoffer was imprisoned and killed.  He said his ultimately loyalty was to God, not his country.  Even today, in too many places, governments continue to persecute Christians precisely because we refuse to give our ultimate loyalty to any earthly power.

I suppose their are persons who worship America.  Some of them may even think of themselves as Christians.  We can’t forget that the vast majority of the citizens of Nazi Germany were church-going Christians.  Most clergy, both Catholic and Protestant, supported Hitler and his government.  But I don’t know any personally who worship America (at least not of which I am aware).  But what we say and what we do are not always in sync.  So, I wonder, in the living of my life, when the Lord’s Day conflicts with Independence Day (as it were)--what will I do?

Friday, January 29, 2016

When an animal companion dies

For we who live closely with animals, the death of these companions is a time of grief.  From time to time, I am asked to "say a few words" over the burial of a beloved pet.

Below I have posted a service created by the Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary for the Diocese of Georgia.

A Liturgy for the Burial of a Pet

A Liturgy for the Burial of a Pet

The service which follows is for use with the burial service of a pet. Please adapt the service as needed to fit the needs of the particular service you are conducting. The N. marks the places where you will need to insert either the pet's name or the owner's name as is appropriate.

A Liturgy in Remembrance of N.

Blessed be the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
a gentle Father,
and the God of all consolation,
who comforts us in our sorrows,
so that we can offer others, in their sorrows,
the consolation that we ourselves received from God.
 -2 Corinthians 1:3-4

God is with us;
God's love unites us,
God's purpose steadies us,
God's Spirit comforts us.
Blessed be God forever.

Merciful and compassionate God, we come to you with N. in grief and ask for her the strength to bear the loss of their companion N.. We bring you our thanks for all you give us through our pets; and we bring you our prayers for peace of heart in the knowledge of your mercy and love, in Christ Jesus.  Amen. 

Psalm 121


I lift up my eyes to the hills:
but where shall I look for help?
 My help comes from the Lord:
who made heaven and earth.
 The Lord will not let your foot stumble:
the one who guards you will not sleep.
 The one who keeps watch over this people:
shall neither doze nor sleep.
 The Lord is the one who will guard you:
the Lord at your right hand will be your defense,
 so that the sun shall not strike you by day:
nor yet the moon by night.
 The Lord shall preserve you from all evil:
yes it is the Lord who will keep you safe.
 The Lord shall take care of your going out,
and your coming in:
from this time forth and forever.  


And if thy heart be straight with God, then ever creature shall be to thee a mirror of life and a book of doctrine, for there is no creature so little or so vile, but that sheweth and representeth the goodness of God. 
~Thomas à Kempis 


The reason why God's servants love his creatures so deeply is that they realize how deeply Christ loves them. And this is the very character of love to love what is loved by those we love. 
~Catherine of Siena

All Creatures Great and Small

All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small.
all things wise and wonderful, the lord God made them all. 

Each little flower that opens, each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours, He made their tiny wings. 


The purple headed mountain, the rivers running by,
the sunset, and the morning that brightens up the sky. 


The cold wind in the winter, the pleasant summer sun,
the ripe fruits in the garden, he made them every one. 


He gave us eyes to see them, and lips that we might tell
how great is God Almighty, who has made all things well.


Almighty God, your Son taught us that though five sparrows could be bought for two pennies, they are not forgotten before you. We thank you for N., and  for the companionship N. offered to N.. And  we thank you for all the pets who share our homes and our lives.  We ask for comfort for this family in their loss, knowing that you grieve with them for you care for all of your creation as you care for us. May we live more peacefully because of today, and come at last, in the fellowship of all your people, to the haven where we long to be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Lord's Prayer  

May Christ the Good Shepherd enfold us with love. Fill us with peace, and lead us in hope, this day and all our days.  Amen.

Service created by the Rev. Frank Logue.