31 December 2007

2007 in review: a meme

Here's a look back, a year-end meme consisting of the first sentence of the first post from each month in 2007.
February: Nothing like a new blogging tool to make me post again.
April: A lot of my editing job involves creating, proofing, and fiddling with PowerPoint presentations.
May: This week's 10 random tracks with the Shuffle Songs setting switched on
June: Last full-choir Sunday until Michaelmas.
July: I'd have to say that the little book that introduced me to Benedictine values lived "in the world" was Fr. Brian C. Taylor's book Spirituality for Everyday Living: An Adaptation of the Rule of St.Benedict.
August: I've been meeting with a spiritual director for the better part of a year, every six weeks, and have been looking for some new directions or something to get passionate about in terms of ministry, growth in spirituality, and the like.
September: Here's the all-important, historic response of the bishops of The Episcopal Church to the Anglican primates' Dar es Salaam communiqué.
October: Almost a month since my last post; sorry about that.
November: Can I get an Amen to The Postulant's post about the importance of preaching doctrine?
December: Mark provides a very good basic introduction to the concept of the Daily Office, aka Liturgy of the Hours, and gives some good advice for getting started in the Roman Catholic editions.
Well, that could have been interesting, but wasn't so much. Worth the effort, I suppose. Here's to a more-interesting, higher-traffic 2008. Happy and blessed New Year to all.

18 December 2007

Happy happy versus joy joy

Something a dear friend once said has encouraged me many times when I've remembered it. It went something like, "It's not always possible to be happy, but it is always possible to be joyful," and by joyful he meant deeply trusting that God is in charge, has triumphed in Christ, and, in words that I like from a priest, "has already given us everything." Our culture prefers happiness, a fragile and fleeting and immediate thing, and that's why there's so much anxiety about doing everything necessary to have "happy" holidays. What makes me seem like a Scrooge sometimes (maybe, to some people) is that I don't want the happy, I want the joy--especially because the joy is already there, deep within, and we have only to let it well up, and we'll know what the Incarnation means...God is with us. We need not act like Christmas will be a failure if we don't do it right. It's been done right already! To me, one of the main messages of Advent is that it doesn't really end with Christmas, but the bigger and better Advent continues, and it's what we get to live through while knowing well how truly joyful the outcome will be. Great to know it doesn't depend on us.

16 December 2007

My problem with Christmas

Duncan Maclaren puts apt words to how I generally feel about this time of year, now a sprawling "holiday season" full of expectations that just become annoyances, especially when all I want to do is focus on some things that aren't related to all these things we're supposed to do for four months every year.

11 December 2007

Check out my new bookshop

Visit The Bookshop at Glenwood Place. It carries books I like, and if you're a frequent reader of this blog, you might like them as well. It's got four categories of books so far: Daily Office, Monasticism, Gregorian Chant, and Anglicanism. Feel free, of course, to suggest other categories you'd like to see here. I may add music related to these categories as well. Happy shopping!

08 December 2007

Another winner from The Topmost Apple

From one of my favorite blogs:

I think the Church is in an identity crisis, actually; it doesn't really know what it's for anymore. I think that since it is the only institution that specifically concerns itself with the spiritual life of human beings - we can do politics, and have a social life, elsewhere, after all - that it might want to get back to prayer and worship and the mysterium tremendum of God as its main focus.

04 December 2007

Daily Office 101

Seminarian Matthew Mark provides a very good basic introduction to the concept of the Daily Office, aka Liturgy of the Hours, and gives some good advice for getting started in the Roman Catholic editions. I like his personal comments and those of the commenters to the thread as to why one would want to pray in this way.

20 November 2007

A new Advent resource

Do check out A Little Office for the Advent Wreath, just published (by someone I know) and available in hard copy or eBook. From the Lulu.com description: "A prayer service for daily use when lighting the candles of an Advent wreath. Includes verses and responses, a hymn, a complete set of psalms for each day of Advent, short biblical passages, and collects. Based on prayer offices of The Episcopal Church."

10 November 2007

Follow the Chicago election here...

Here's the link to live blogging of the election of the 12th bishop of Chicago, now in its first ballot. Results should be along about 15 minutes after this post.

The site A Bishop for Chicago is doing a good job on this. I'm grateful, as it counteracts my whingeing about the diocesan Web site having gone bust.

Being Church

I have to agree with First Apostle's post, which links to the first news I've been able to find online out of this weekend's Chicago diocesan convention. There's a classic false dichotomy out there that constantly asks us, "How can you focus on worship and spirituality when there's war and poverty out there?" And indeed, most episcopal sermons during visitations to our known-for-its-high-liturgy parish challenge us not to focus on "liturgy for its own sake," as though that's what we were doing, and to make liturgy a starting-point for mission.

Now, I don't disagree with those challenges, but some assumptions behind them are faulty, in my opinion. I'm not completely settled on a point of view on all this, but in these challenges I often hear an undertone of "stop being so churchy and get out and fix problems in the world." If anything, a parish church is intensely local, and I do think parishioners need to focus on meeting people's (and therefore God's) needs in the local community, alongside others engaged in the same work. Our parish, like most, could do more in local mission, and like most, is doing something. Some parishioners run a monthly program to meet, partially, a direct need: food.

But the other assumption I detect is that liturgy, Christian education, spirituality, and pastoral care are safe, inward-looking things that parishes do to busy themselves so they can avoid the harder work of mission in the world. If that's what's being said, we've got very divergent views on what it is to be Church. First of all, liturgy is to God, for God's glory, and secondarily for the edification and inspiration of its participants to go into the world and work alongside God in creating and loving. What the Church is best at is this worship, and the support services of education and pastoral care. I cannot fault a parish for focusing on these things, because that's what it's there for! The parish itself as an institution is not the best agency to go and do all that needs doing in the world: it's meant to equip its members to do that. If parishioners set up an effective referral service to help homeless people know and receive help that is available to them from government and charitable agencies, fantastic. But the parish isn't always the best agency to run such a service: perhaps a better work would be to join with other community agencies to press the city council for a permanent citywide agency to do this, if that's the most effective solution.

False dichotomies and "thinking in halves," as Frederick Schmidt puts it (What God Wants for Your Life: Finding Answers to the Deepest Questions), often make us lose sight of important parts of our mission as Church. It's not either-or, but it's not everything either. What Church needs to do better is not drop all the churchy stuff but help us see better where we need to go into the world, and where mission needs to be done, in very specific terms (indeed, I often cringe at speeches and sermons in which "mission" as a term is thrown around but never defined: the speaker assumes we know what is meant). One thing Church can help us do is realize that we do God's will by meeting others' needs: that realization ought to clarify instantly what we need to do locally. If we can't see any needs out there, we've got bigger problems to solve. But just pointing to "mission" doesn't create any compelling images in our minds about what our next steps need to be. A secondary effect of the churchy business is to show us where God is working in the world, waiting for us to show up and pitch in, with the assurance that what we do in the world is also holy business.

08 November 2007

Diocesan site busts on convention eve

There's a new look at the Diocese of Chicago's Web site: snappy new layout and well-organized links that lead to...pages filled with lorem ipsum placeholder text. Even on the Diocesan Convention pages, which one might need to consult on the eve of the Convention. Now there's nothing: no schedule, no e-mail addresses of diocesan contacts, no nothing.

I suppose live video and election scoreboard are not to be expected this year? Or maybe this is like the eve of a format change on a commercial radio station, where the station plays 24 commercial-free hours of "Seasons in the Sun," confusing and annoying all listeners, until the new format emerges sparkling in the morning sun. Yeah, that's it! I'll check tomorrow morning as the convention opens.
Anyone planning to live-blog from convention? Please?

07 November 2007

For the election of a bishop

Almighty God, giver of every good gift: Look graciously on your Church, and so guide the minds of those who shall choose a bishop for the Diocese of Chicago, that we may receive a faithful pastor, who will care for your people and equip us for our ministries; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

01 November 2007

Preach it, Postulant!

Can I get an Amen to The Postulant's post about the importance of preaching doctrine?

30 October 2007

Eucharistic theology quiz results

Eucharistic theology created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as Catholic

You are a Catholic. You believe that the bread and wine are transformed by the priest and become the Body and Blood of Christ. Though the accidents, or appearance, of bread and wine remain, the substance has been changed. The Eucharist remains the Body and Blood of Christ after the celebration, and is reserved in the Tabernacle; Eucharistic devotions are proper. As the whole Christ is present under either species, you partake fully of the Eucharist even if you receive only one.













26 October 2007

What we can learn from Byzantine liturgy

Christopher points to some apt Robert Taft comments about the Byzantine versus western approaches to liturgy, echoing my own less-articulate thoughts about the subject.

24 October 2007

Fr. Chris blogs the Office

Almost a month since my last post; sorry about that. Fr. Chris has inspired me to pop in and at least link to his latest entry with thoughts on the various forms of the Daily Office and Liturgy of the Hours that he's been using. Mother Laura has a good comment, too. My experience with the Anglican Breviary has been similar to his: love it, but once you've prayed Matins and Lauds, the day gets away from you swiftly.

25 September 2007

Our bishops speak

Here's the all-important, historic response of the bishops of The Episcopal Church to the Anglican primates' Dar es Salaam communiqué. I'd like to know what you think. Will it float? Is this anything?

30 August 2007

My oblate story

The concept of being a Benedictine oblate was new to me when I first heard that the choir director of our Episcopal parish was an oblate of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania. I did not know much about monasticism at the time but was intrigued by the idea that lay people outside monasteries could take on a Benedictine identity of some sort and that this arrangement could happen across denominational boundaries.

Some years later, in 1998, another choirmaster gathered a group of parishioners interested in studying Gregorian chant notation and practice, at a two-week course taught by Fr. Columba Kelly, OSB, at Saint Meinrad Archabbey. I had heard that Saint Meinrad was a center of liturgy and especially chant, and the opportunity to experience a monastery was very appealing.

The two weeks were life-changing, both in newly opened doors to the world of chant and in a fairly lengthy (compared to typical retreats) experience of the monastic rhythm of each day and the week. Particularly compelling were the orderly progress of each day--with enough time for everything and no need to worry whether everything would get done--and the immersion in the beauty of sung prayer, bells, architecture, devotional art, and the daily round of praise as we chanted the psalms.

Another participant in that two-week session was a Lutheran woman from California who said she was an oblate of Saint Meinrad Archabbey. I explored what this meant both by speaking with her and by consulting the archabbey's printed materials about oblates, and I resolved to pray about whether I was called to be an oblate. I felt that many factors had come together to bring me to this decision.

It took some time and a couple of private retreats at the archabbey to decide to apply to become an oblate novice, and then I took a bit of extra time as a novice before making my final oblation. I still feel I was led to oblation and to Saint Meinrad, and at my final oblation I took the oblate name Gregory, for the saint traditionally associated with chant, which had brought me to the archabbey in the first place.

For me, being a Benedictine oblate means having a formal connection with a community and way of life that give a helpful structure to Christian living. Like many people, when it comes to something like losing weight or deepening one's spiritual life, I find specifics helpful: How do I start? What should I do, and when? What happens if...? On a diet, simply thinking I'll eat half of what I normally would eat isn't enough to make the diet successful. I need a daily structure. It's the same way with spiritual things: just deciding to pray more will not bring an effective improvement in the end. Becoming a Benedictine oblate meant that I was signing on to a proven structure, with a supportive community, and with real promises behind the good intentions I had. I have promised to pray in a certain way, daily; I have promised to pray for the Saint Meinrad community; I have promised to read the Rule, practice lectio divina, reach out in specific ways to those around me in the world, and be faithful in my parish's liturgical discipline.

But far beyond self-improvement is the benefit of having St. Benedict pointing the way to Christ at every turn. I often cringe when I hear phrases like "Benedictine living," or "yours in St. Benedict," because Benedict points always to Christ, not himself. It's Christian living with a particular kind of support structure and a tangible cloud of witnesses cheering us on. I stumble daily, many times, on this road, but being an oblate is the way I have found to have friends nearby to help me get up again when I fall. Thanks be to God. As Featured On Ezine Articles

28 August 2007

Chicago bishop nominees

Here they are, a minute late! I haven't even read the names yet. Just copying and pasting. Details here if the site has been fixed. It shattered shortly after the announcement, throwing sharp bits of Web-ola everywhere.

Five nominees for the 12th Bishop of Chicago were received from the Bishop Search Committee and announced Aug. 28, 2007 by the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago's governing body, the Standing Committee, subject to completion of background checks:

The Rev. Jane S. Gould, Priest-in-Charge / Rector,St. Stephen's Memorial Episcopal Church, Lynn, Mass.

The Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee, Rector, St. Thomas Church, Medina, Wash.

The Very Rev. Tracey Lind, Dean, Trinity Cathedral, Cleveland, Ohio

The Rev. Margaret R. Rose, Director of Women's Ministries, The Episcopal Church

The Rev. Timothy B. Safford, Rector, Christ Church, Philadelphia

The praying man

The reflection linked below is by Kate, whom I met a couple of years ago when I attended the Church of Jesus Christ Reconciler for a while. What a wonderful piece of writing...and uplifting. I think I may have seen this man once but didn't have the open eyes and heart that Kate had.

16 August 2007

Derek on the daily office

I'd be crazy not to call attention to another excellent post from Derek on my favorite subject. Excerpt: The Daily Office is one of the things that drew me into the Episcopal Church. Benedictine in spirit, evangelical in nature, the rhythm of psalmody, the constancy of the Scriptures and the experience of the ebb and flow of the liturgical year guided me into a deeper understanding of the Word of God and the way of the cross revealed therein. I can’t pretend I pray the Office every day and every night—but I know I miss it when I don’t or can’t pray it. It has slowly become a part of me, and a central part of what it means for me to be an Anglican, an Episcopalian. The rhythm of the Office punctuated by the Mass on Sundays and feast-days—this is the pattern of Episcopal life as I know it.

02 August 2007

Spiritual direction progress

I've been meeting with a spiritual director for the better part of a year, every six weeks, and have been looking for some new directions or something to get passionate about in terms of ministry, growth in spirituality, and the like. Each session has been rich and helpful, except perhaps the one during which I was hopelessly scattered, throwing in items from hither and yon, but my SD was able to make something of that as well.

Anyway, today he really opened some new doors of possibility and helped put words to what I seemed to him to be yearning for:

"You want to gather people into the interior experience of faith."

This rang like a bell as I heard him say it. And it helped me see why I've been sort of halfheartedly inquiring into theology classes at nearby Loyola U Chicago, looking at their Theology M.A. program, looking at other programs that in my mind could be a sort of substitute for seminary, as I'm not thinking I'm called to ordained ministry. He pointed out that no academic program, even in a church-run university or a seminary, is going to teach me how to do what I'm wanting to do: gather people into the interior experience of faith.

That statement gives rich food for thought and needs some careful unpacking in my mind, but my SD also gave me several new avenues to explore besides theology M.A. programs. I'm quite excited and am starting to explore those. I think there may be some courses out there, independent of a full program, that do explore these things. And I'm reminded of a diocesan course in spirituality that introduced me to friends like Julian of Norwich, Egyptian hermits, John of the Cross, and Teresa de Avila, whose lives and examples are well worth reviewing.

Not a complete picture (will it ever be?), but it's thrilling to get more pieces of it. Food for prayer indeed. And TBTG for my wonderful SD.

21 July 2007

Harry Potter and the hordes of tourists

I'm afraid Harry Potter is another cultural phenomenon that has passed me by, although I did catch up on Twin Peaks after the series ended, so perhaps the final Harry Potter book is my cue to get on board.

I was in both Borders bookshops in central Chicago today, and both were playing intense, sweeping, epic-sounding orchestral music over their sound systems. Barber, I wondered? Or who was that other guy who wrote the big epic film scores? Bennett? It took me far too long to figure out that the music had to be a Harry Potter soundtrack. Every so often an "associate" would announce that another box of the new books was being opened for sale to those who hadn't reserved one, in addition to the books set aside for those who had. Long lines formed immediately.

Gorgeous day to be walking out there among the happy tourists. I love doing that. I enjoy helping people who ask for directions, provided they ask for something I've heard of or are not hopelessly positioned to get where they intend to go. Feels nice to live in a place that has many, many tourists. Helps me re-appreciate everything that's available here and not take it for granted.

19 July 2007

A kindred spirit

For a moment I thought this was a photo of one of my bookshelves. I seriously have all of these but two. It can be an addiction. And unlike Confessing Evangelical, I've delved into the whole world of monastic daily prayer. But that's another shelf.

I'm interested in one of Confessing Evangelical's commenters who quotes George Guiver on the Office being mainly psalmody and intercession. Leaving out extensive Scripture readings would certainly make my imagined breviary project more manageable. Hmm. The idea of a one-book breviary isn't so far-fetched if that's the case.

16 July 2007

Rescuing broken records

I'm finding this very exciting: the prospect of rescuing sounds off deteriorating, even broken, records:
At the Library of Congress, in a small, white room with bright red carpet, physicist Carl Haber sits down to play a record from 1930. It's a recording of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Iolanthe." But here's the strange thing: This record is broken.
Here's the full story. Check the audio samples.
I guess it makes sense that there would eventually be a visual or photographic way to play old records.

15 July 2007

Benedictine books of note

I'd have to say that the little book that introduced me to Benedictine values lived "in the world" was Fr. Brian C. Taylor's book Spirituality for Everyday Living: An Adaptation of the Rule of St.Benedict.

Here's one reviewer's quote from the Amazon site: "I just finished this book last night, and I found it to be very inspiring, and insightful. The author is an episcopalian priest, married with family. He really brings an interesting insight to the Rule of Benedict coming from someone who is a pastor by profession and a parent. I found the book to be a concise quick read, and the page layout was just fine. For Oblates or those wishing to become Oblates add this book to your reading list. The author being someone who is married with children lays out simple ways for the laity to incorporate the Rule of Benedict in everyday life. I am Catholic and I did appreciate the neutrality of this book. I believe this book serves well as an excellent read for Benedictines of the Catholic or Anglican tradition."

Others I favor:

Abbot Parry's translation of the Rule, with intro by Esther deWaal and with reading dates.

Preferring Christ: A Devotional Commentary and Workbook on the Rule of St Benedict, by Norvene Vest (with Fr Luke Dysinger's Rule translation)

The Path of Life: Benedictine Spirituality for Monks and Lay People by Fr Cyprian Smith OSB

19 June 2007


Here I am subdeaconing for the first time yesterday...Chanting the epistle; holding the Gospel book for the deacon; here's our sanctuary; here's my favorite station of the Cross (the whole set will be refurbished by next Ash Wednesday thanks to a generous donor); here's a Baptism rite in progress (font is behind the celebrant; itscarved gothic cover has retracted into the ceiling); the Scotts and friends; wish I had a jacket with me, but I needed to cool down. Photos by David M. Smith, Loves Park, Illinois.

23 May 2007

A non-hateful post about Jerry Falwell

Jerry Falwell Originally uploaded by etchasketchist.
I believe Jerry Falwell will get an earful from our Merciful Judge (and so will I when the day arrives) about many things and will then indeed be at peace. Transformed, even. And yes, may he rise in glory. So may it be for us all. I had the thought yesterday that when we get to the hereafter, "We will know the truth, and the truth will make us laugh." And then make us free. We'll laugh at how partial and tentative our understanding of it was and gasp at how intensely full and rich the fully revealed Truth is. And the freedom of that new understanding will be beyond anything we can now conceive as "free." And we'll know what it means to be "free indeed." And we'll laugh again.

15 May 2007

Great new blog posts on the Daily Office

vespers Originally uploaded by Fr. Pat Mulcahy.

Here's Chris with an important post on the Office as missing link. Here's Derek with an equally weighty one on the Office in the Roman Catholic Church, and pointing out a highly informative article on the Office.

Both very much worth reading. I resonate strongly with the idea of the Office, with its common thread of the praying of the psalms, as a much-underappreciated ecumenical link. True, non-Roman Catholics can't receive Communion in an RC church, but we can certainly pray the Office together if we're willing even to think of that option.

14 May 2007

Must-view video on chant

Commentary is in French, but of course the music is universal.

09 May 2007

Roll of Worshipping Communities

Tripp lists his history of worshipping communities and asks for ours. I'll list mine here and link this to a comment over there. Fascinating to have a glimpse at these places again via the Web.

04 May 2007

Friday iPod Shuffling

iPod photo Originally uploaded by vanou.
This week's 10 random tracks with the Shuffle Songs setting switched on: 1. "Antifona: Speciosa" Capilla Penaflorida, Salazar: Complete Vespers of Our Lady 2. "Justorum animae" Lassus. John Rutter, The Cambridge Singers, Lighten Our Darkness: Music for the Close of Day 3. "You Are My Love" Jamiroquai, Travelling Without Moving 4. "Bless the Broken Road" Rascal Flatts, Feels Like Today 5. "Mass for Pentecost: Benedictus" Palestrina. Christ Church Cathedral Choir, Oxford, European Choral Music 6. "Rhythm of the Night" El Debarge, Awesome 80's Disk 1 7. "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ" Martin Luther. Deutsche Liedmesse 8. "For All of Us" Closer to Heaven - Original Cast Album 9. "North & Clybourn" DJ Creme Brulee, Red Line 10. "Missa Dum complerentur: Gloria" Tomas Luis de Victoria. Christ Church Cathedral Choir, Oxford, European Choral Music

30 April 2007

I'm a phone-phobe

I'm phone-phobic, and if you take the anger and the word "hate" out of this guy's account of what phone-phobia is like, he's talking about me. I guess I'm a notch lower on the phone-phobia index, but definitely up there. Oh, another difference is that I love voice mail and would rather carry on a conversation by trading voice mails than by talking live on the phone, mostly.

But e-mail is a good and perfect gift from above, from the Father of Lights. :)

04 April 2007

How's that again, Lord? Or bird?

I was planning one of my Lenten adult-ed classes in our dining room, and I heard a bird with a complex call, part of which sounded distinctly like "Scott." I tried to hear a meaning in the rest of the call, and then I seriously said, aloud, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." The call didn't get any clearer, even though I tried to clear my mind and be open to what I heard, but the word "Scott" was always in there, at the end of the call. Then I said, aloud, "Speak clearly, Lord, for your servant is listening." I think the bird flew off at that point.

Urban coyote prefers Quizno's

A small coyote was trotting around Chicago's Loop district yesterday afternoon and tried to cool off in a fridge. What's cute here is how quietly the story plays out and ends. It's almost not even news (although that didn't keep it from being covered extensively by ABC News' Good Morning America), just an odd hour in a fairly typical downtown afternoon.

What a beautiful animal...love the eyes and coat.

PowerPoint and reading in church get slammed

A lot of my editing job involves creating, proofing, and fiddling with PowerPoint presentations. And at church we can read along with the Bible readings in a booklet. So there are two reasons why this article is interesting to me. A third reason is that I'm fascinated with theories of learning and instructional design. So do I think this theory - cognitive load theory - is right? Well, it certainly seems to make sense, even the bit about how giving students answered problems to study is a good thing. I can struggle with a problem that's supposed to help me learn a concept, and if I solve it, that may be an effective learning experience. But I'll learn the concept faster if I can see the problem solved and then get to work on one like it.

06 February 2007

Want a DVD of Into Great Silence?

The blog New Liturgical Movement is offering a way to get a DVD of the amazing film about the Carthusians, Into Great Silence (original title: Die große Stille).

02 February 2007

Back with new tools

Nothing like a new blogging tool to make me post again. This time I'm trying out Microsoft Office 2007, and I've discovered the blogging tool in Word. Makes a lot of sense to me. Blog posts are documents; Word is for making documents. It's great that I can create a post in Word and send it up to Glenwood Place with one click.