Convention’s liturgy and music committee to consider saints, songs, prayers

June 18, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] The General Convention’s Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music Committee faces a full docket of liturgical resolutions at the 78th meeting of convention, even with the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music’s resolutions and others concerning marriage-related resources and rites now referred to a separate legislative committee.

The SCLM is one of the church’s interim bodies that works throughout the triennium and reports to General Convention with recommendations on the church’s priorities and policies.

This year’s General Convention, which begins June 25 in Salt Lake City, will consider SCLM resolutions addressing changes to the church’s calendar of commemorations, a plan for revising the Book of Occasional Services, ways to expand musical resources, development of a liturgical resource on Christian initiation, criteria for authorizing biblical translations for use in public worship, and liturgical materials for honoring God in creation.

Calendar commemorations
Several resolutions propose changes to commemorations on the church calendar and how the calendar is organized.

The commission proposes in Resolution A056 replacing “Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints,” the church’s commemoration of various saints and occasions not included as major holy days on the calendar of the Book of Common Prayer, with two new resources for trial use: “A Great Cloud of Witnesses: A Calendar of Commemorations” and “Weekday Eucharistic Propers 2015.”

Holy Women, Holy Men” was first presented to the 2009 General Convention as a major revision of “Lesser Feasts and Fasts.” It has been in trial use during the last two triennia.

“A Great Cloud of Witnesses” would contain all commemorations General Convention approved through 2006 and most of those added in “Holy Women, Holy Men.” It includes devotional collects in Rite I and Rite II language and a biographical narrative for each entry.

“The primary change would be to having this calendar with suggested ‘tags’ that would identify various Commons of Saints to give people a lot more flexibility in the Scripture that would be read for these commemorations,” said the Rev. Ruth Meyers, SCLM chair. Commemorated individuals could be “tagged” with multiple emphases – as a pastor, bishop and martyr, for example – “to try to give a broader sense of the contributions of an individual,” she explained.

“Weekday Eucharistic Propers 2015” would consist of all the seasonal collects and lessons previously contained in “Lesser Feasts and Fasts” and “Holy Women, Holy Men.” Since these propers, unlike calendar commemorations, do not change, “this would be a book that would last a lot longer,” Meyers said.

Dividing the material into two volumes also “creates books of a more manageable size for liturgical use,” the SCLM “Blue Book” report notes.

The commission also recommends specific calendar changes in A055. It proposes adding six commemorations for trial use: Charles Raymond Barnes, Artemisia Bowden, Albert Schweitzer, Dag Hammarskjöld, Anna Ellison Butler Alexander and Hiram Hisanori Kano.

SCLM recommends deleting these commemorations that had been included in “Holy Women, Holy Men”: Adoniram Judson, John Muir, Hudson Stuck, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Nathan Soderblom, Conrad Weiser, Toribio de Mogrovejo, Prudence Crandall, Nikolai Grundtvig, Søren Kierkegaard, William Carey, Karl Barth, John Horden, Robert McDonald, William Lloyd Garrison, Lillian Trasher and Charlotte Diggs (Lottie) Moon.

“Those names essentially weren’t considered of enough significance or were sufficiently controversial that the commission thought it best not to continue with those,” Myers said.

The commission also recommends affirming several criteria for adding commemorations. And, in response to General Convention resolutions asking for more women to be added to the church calendar, SCLM asks in Resolution A057 for authorization to create collects and biographies for more than 50 women to be presented to the 2018 convention for consideration for inclusion in “A Great Cloud of Witnesses.

“What the commission is doing and has done over the years … is attending to the needs and desires of the church and the way in which people actually pray, and then making sure that what the church officially authorizes is also rooted in Christian tradition, particularly in Anglicanism,” Meyers said.

“It’s also important to remember that these are optional commemorations, and so no community has to commemorate them,” Meyers said. “Anecdotally, I hear from people who have been thrilled at the expansion of the calendar because it’s opened new horizons for them. It’s invited them to understand their connection to the wider communion of saints in new ways. … This really enriches people in their prayer life, in their Christian faith, and gives them exemplars to celebrate and even perhaps inspire them in their own particular kind of living.”

Both “A Great Cloud of Witnesses” and “Weekday Eucharistic Propers 2015” can be found here.

Christian initiation resource
The commission asks the convention to direct it to develop a liturgical resource on Christian initiation and allocate $24,800 for this work in Resolution A065. “It’s important to consider both the church’s understanding and practice of confirmation and its understanding of admission to Communion, all in light of the theology of baptism,” Meyers said.

“During the past decade,” the commission’s Blue Book report says, “the General Convention has considered resolutions on both confirmation and admission to Communion, and the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops has produced essays on both topics. Yet these matters have not been considered in relation to each other. … A liturgical resource would provide the groundwork for future revision of the Book of Common Prayer.”

The proposal is for a liturgical resource, similar to the materials SCLM developed for blessing same-sex relations that contained essays and pastoral as well as liturgical materials, Meyers said.

Two diocesan resolutions address the issue of having an “open table,” with all people, baptized and unbaptized, invited to receive Communion. C010 from the Diocese of Indianapolis would acknowledge that the practice already occurs unofficially and establish a task force for a churchwide dialogue concerning the practice. The Diocese of El Camino Real’s C023 would amend Canon I.17.7 to allow unbaptized people to receive Communion if they do so “with the intent of beginning or strengthening a relationship with Christ and eventually being baptized.” The amendment would stipulate that congregations inviting unbaptized people to the table do so “as part of an evangelistic plan.”

Based on what she saw at the 2012 convention, Meyers said she did not foresee General Convention changing the criteria for admission to Communion to included unbaptized people. “I think there would have to be some significant movement in the House of Bishops to be more accepting of some change in what has been the church’s discipline for many centuries,” she said.

Creation liturgy
The commission asks the convention to authorize new “Liturgical Materials Honoring God in Creation” and that they may be “made freely available” and considered for inclusion in a revised “Book of Occasional Services” as part of Resolution A058. SCLM has been developing the materials over the last two triennia, following requests in 2009 to establish a season of creation. The current version can be found here beginning on page 231.

“The commission felt that we wanted to retain the Sunday lectionary and didn’t want to have a season that would replace a part of that lectionary,” Meyers said. Instead, the commission developed materials to allow communities to address issues of creation – “concerns which are very real for us in our current state of awareness of climate change and the heightened ecological and environmental consciousness that is so much more developed than it was when the ’79 prayer book was prepared,” she said.

If approved by the convention, the liturgical materials likely will be made available online, she said.

Creation-related Resolution C015 from the Diocese of Connecticut asks the convention to approve, for trial use, adding a question to the Baptismal Covenant: “Will you cherish the wondrous works of God, and protect the beauty and integrity of all creation?”

Book of Occasional Services
In the Blue Book, the commission lays out a framework for revising “The Book of Occasional Services” and provides a draft of a potential of contents in Resolution A059. SCLM asks the convention to authorize its continued work on a major revision of the book and requests $94,200 to fund the work.

Music resolutions
The commission proposes two resolutions – A060 and A061 – supporting church music and musicians:

  • To empower SCLM’s Congregational Song Task Force to further the church’s mission “by enlivening and invigorating congregational song through the development of a variety of musical resources” and to develop and expand the work begun in the World Music Project,” with a budget allocation of $72,600.
  • To endorse continuing the Leadership Program for Musicians Serving Small Congregations – a joint program of The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – and allocating $18,000 to fund it.

Completing the World Music Project to provide affordable musical resources for Province IX and non-European-American clergy and musicians is a top priority, said Ana Hernandez, task force chair. The task force hopes to have three face-to-face meetings to collect and edit materials, secure copyrights and make the resources available for sharing via a website that can continue to grow.

“What we would like to do is actually work with people in Province IX to gather things that they’re using and get them typeset and printed so that people here can see them,” Hernandez said. “There’s stuff all over the place that’s out there. It just needs to be collected and curated so that we can spread it around.”

The task force also has identified about three dozen congregations to work with it and provide feedback through a survey, now being developed, on “how music actually works in their individual parishes,” she said.

The 2012 General Convention directed SCLM to create the task force but did not fund it.

Funding also is a concern with the leadership program. As described in the Blue Book report, the joint program began in the mid-1990s and received General Convention triennial funding allocations varying from $27,000 to $99,000 but has not been funded by The Episcopal Church since 2009.

“Amazing things happened because of it. Then they stopped funding it,” Hernandez said. “The Lutherans have been keeping it going,” providing $5,000 annually, she said.

The program is moving to online courses from a model in which musicians at small churches travel to attend training sessions. About six courses have been developed, and the goal is to begin putting courses online during the triennium, Hernandez said.

Bible translations
The commission proposes criteria for recommending new biblical translations for use in public worship, and to amend Canon II.2 to require translations to conform to the criteria and have been reviewed by SCLM in A063. The resolution notes several “guiding assumptions,” including that “there is no perfect translation” and that “all translations make interpretive choices.” Proposed criteria are that translations be:

  • Based on academically or historically accepted editions of the Hebrew and Greek texts;
  • Technically competent in approximating the meaning of the base text;
  • Comprehensible to the target audience;
  • Fluid when spoken aloud;
  • Stylistically suitable to approved services.

The last General Convention included significant debate on the house floor about which translations to approve, Meyers recalled. “The commission really did its work to respond to what happened at the last General Convention and to have clearer criteria.” This process included consulting with scholars “to make sure that what we’re proposing was coherent with the best biblical scholarship today.”

A complete list of all resolutions currently assigned to the Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music Committee is here.

— Sharon Sheridan is an Episcopal News Service correspondent.