Monday, December 31, 2018

A New Year, Time, Academics, and me

2018 was an auspicious one for me, particularly for my studies.  I finally converted my efforts into a post-graduate piece of paper, a Certificate of Anglican Studies from Cranmer House – a demanding program I highly recommend. And I spent the Michaelmas Term independently studying in Oxford, using Pusey House as a base – and what an excellent base it was.  Being a part of the life of Pusey House really made my time in Oxford.  (And, yes, preaching a sermon there was a highlight of my year.)  I cannot recommend Pusey House enough as community of faith, fellowship, and scholarship.
Now I have embarked on applying my studies, not that I have not applied them already and not that my studies won’t continue.  But I am not seeking further certificates or degrees.  While at Pusey House, conversing with different students and their plans, I inwardly regretted not getting a handle on what I wanted to do academically sooner.  I heard a plan or two that sounded like a good fit for me years ago.  But now I am at an age where I realize my earthly time and energy is very limited.  And I think spending further years earning degrees would be unwise – how much time and energy would I have left once I spent years earning another degree or two?
Thus 2019 will more or less be the first full year of applying my studies.  I will venture to see if this man of some learning can make good use of his learning without prestigious degrees to back it up.  Many have done just that, particularly in the 19thcentury and before, but how well can it done now?

If there is a bright side to the decline of most universities today, it is that their pieces of paper are not as well regarded, not as credible as in the recent past.  Therefore, I expect what one actually produces with one’s learning will become more examined.  Men and women of learning will be judged more by that.  I am going to find out anyway.
Not that I will necessarily write for an academic audience although I might.  I intend to speak and write to a broader audience, particularly to further the education and edification of the church.  On a small scale, I have a few sermons and lectures coming up along those lines already.
Yes, given that I do not have the usual degrees (although I have studied more than many who do have them), my ambition is a bit bold.  But even if you think me slightly foolish, do pray for wisdom, creativity, and energy in putting my past and continuing studies to good use to the glory of God and for the good of His Holy Church.

Thank you.

P. S. Although I am not a New Year’s Resolution kind of guy, I do have one – to post legitimate comments faster.  Sorry for my recent negligence.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

A New Year’s Word for Evangelical Anglicans

I never have been much into New Year’s resolutions.  I tend to make my resolutions scattered throughout the year, especially at Lent and Advent as the Lord intends.  But I just came across a word that resonates so and that I think a number of Anglican jurisdictions (I will restrain myself and not name names here.) need to take to heart that I have to publish it myself as a suggested resolution.
It comes from Gerald McDermott via Duane W H Arnold, who prefaces it as “a word to my Anglican friends who wish to be missional and contextual at the expense of the Tradition...”
Anglicanism without the beauty and power of liturgy and sacraments would become just another evangelical alternative. It might continue to use the "Anglican" moniker, but it will be indistinguishable from many nondenominational networks that are now denominations by another name. It will not be able to compete with its flashy competitors on the other side of town with more exciting youth programs, and sermons tied more directly to the latest cultural trends. People will wonder why they should be Anglican when they can get pretty much the same thing elsewhere without the name. But if Anglicans retrieve their ancient heritage of liturgy and sacrament they will have something unique to offer this new century when the beauty of holiness (Ps 96:9) is resonant in ways it has not been for centuries.
Amen!  And Happy New Year.

Friday, December 28, 2018

About that Mary Queen of Scots Movie…

I’ve noticed – it is hard not to notice thanks to bombardment of silly social media ads – that there is a new Mary Queen of Scots movie that portrays Queen Elizabeth I as a very mean and naughty villain who scowls a lot at Mary the heroine.  Never mind that in actual history Mary was a fool caught plotting against Elizabeth and thereby gave her little choice but to lop off Mary’s regicidal head.  And even then Elizabeth was reluctant to do so.
But during this Christmas season I wish to be full of peace and good will.  So I recommend the following presentation which I find to be more enlightening and historically accurate.  You’re welcome.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Christmas in England 100 Years Ago

One of my alter egos gave an informal talk this week on Christmas in England 100 years ago just after the end of World War I.
Those interested in the Great War, in J. R. Tolkien, or in the Nine Lessons and Carols Christmas Eve service at King’s College Cambridge may want to listen. 
By the way the Tolkien books recommended in the talk are Tolkien: Maker of Middle Earthby Catherine McIlwaine, which is the book for the exhibition in Oxford this year and Tolkien and the Great Warby John Garth.  Both are excellent and reasonably priced.  Much pricier is King’s College Chapel 1515-2015, but it is close to a must have for those interested in that august institution. 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

100 Years of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College

A reminder that this Christmas Eve will be the 100thanniversary of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College Cambridge.  It will also be the last one directed by Stephen Cleobury.

It is hard to imagine anything good coming out of World War I, but the Nine Lessons service was in large part a response to that bittersweet Christmas of 1918 being just six weeks after the Armistice.  The Dean of King’s, Eric Milner-White, was convinced the usual Christmas Eve service would not do, and his response was Nine Lessons and Carols.
Readers know what I normally think of liturgical innovations, but this was a godly innovation indeed, and one I listen to every year.
More information may be found here, including this year’s program, and a more detailed history of this service. An even more detailed history of the service may be found in a chapter of King’s College Chapel 1515-2015.  And the program of the 1918 Nine Lessons service may be viewed here.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

About the A. M. E. N. Minority Leaders Conference

The Anglican Multi-Ethnic Network (AMEN) plans to hold a Minority Leaders Conference in Plano, Texas this summer just before the ACNA Provincial Assembly.  It will be “a gathering of Anglican clergy and laypersons of color.”  But “there is also some space for people who are not ethnic minorities, but minister to them.”
Well, that's nice.  I certainly minister to “ethnic minorities” so maybe I should crash this.  But I probably will not because I question whether this is an appropriate conference at all.  To define a conference around ethnic identities, to make it specifically for people “of color” belongs more on a “woke” college campus than it does in the church in which we are supposed to be one body.  To flip it, what if someone held an Anglican conference specifically for people of non-color, for people of paleness? 
Their justification – “Because ethnic minorities in the ACNA may feel isolated in their dioceses or churches” – is ironic. Does not such a conference increase separation and isolation from the church as a whole?  Does it not divide us by ethnic identity?  I thought we were supposed to be “neither Jew nor Greek” for we “are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
I also wonder about one of the stated purposes of this conference – “equip attendees in their mission to assist the Church in embodying the universal saving power of the gospel through multi-ethnic ministry.” 
On its face, that sounds great.  And I do not want to read minds or assume motives or agendas.  But from their own website, it appears that their “multi-ethnic ministry” includes browbeating about white privilege and about not being concerned enough about race. Does AMEN intend to use this conference as a staging ground to obsess so about race at the ACNA Provincial Assembly?
For the sake of Anglican unity, I hope not. The Anglican Church in North American has enough problems sticking together without identity politics being injected into our gatherings.  And we desperately need the Provincial Assembly next year to unite us across varieties of churchmanship, politics, and ethnicity, not divide us.  May the Minority Leaders Conference further such unity, not division.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Understanding Scripture and Righteous Living – a Two-Way Street

With this being the week of Bible Sunday in Advent, I think it a good time to mention something of import I noticed while studying in Oxford this past Michaelmas Term.  Dr. George Westhaver, Principal of Pusey House, in his thesis on Pusey’s lectures on “Types and Prophecies of the Old Testament,” notes at length that Pusey considered righteous living and right interpretation of scripture to be inseparable.  And not just that faithfully studying scripture aids righteousness, but that righteousness is necessary to the study and interpretation of scripture.
Yes, Pusey clearly thought this applied to the scholarly sphere.  He was at times frank in attributing immorality as one of the causes of the rise of rationalism in the scholarly study of the Bible.  He would even name names as he did in the case of Johann David Michaelis: “Deep insight into religion were indeed inconsistent with the intemperate habits and low moral character of Michaelis.”
I had not thought much about unrighteousness clouding one’s ability to understand scripture.  But now that Dr. Westhaver has brought Pusey’s contentions to my attention, I am now seeing that scripture contends that time and again.  Of course, a classic passage is Romans 1:18ff.  Right of the beginning of St. Paul’s withering indictment of mankind he states men “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”  And because they reject God and his righteousness, they become “futile in their thinking” as God gives “them up to a debased mind.”
If my mind were not debased by jetlag at the moment, I could surely post any number of other scriptures along these lines.  I know I keep coming across them in my Bible study now that I am more alert to them.  But to those who wish to study and even teach scripture and its interpretation, this is all the more incentive to live right, is it not?  Even if only God knows our unrighteous thoughts and dealings, others will be affected as our study and teaching become a cloudy and polluted stream.
I have not seen this for some years, but some Bibles, particularly King James Bibles, used to state at the front, “This Book will keep you from sin, and sin will keep you from this Book.” I used to laugh at that as old fashioned, but I now see there is a lot of truth in that. Dr. Pusey and scripture itself contend that prevalent sin can keep us from rightly understanding that Book as well.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

The Prayer of King Henry VI

During this stay in England, I was not expecting to attend a service remembering King Henry VI as I have on previous trips.  (And Henry VI is a saint and martyr whether the Bishop of Rome thinks so or not, and don’t you forget it!) But I had let it sneak up on me that tomorrow, St. Nicholas Day, is also the day Henry was born in Windsor Castle in 1421 . . . right across the street from me.
So at the choral obit service I attended last night in St. George’s Chapel, white roses and lilies were laid on his tomb by representatives of Eton and King’s Colleges.  And the service ended with the moving singing of the Prayer of King Henry VI by Henry Ley. Here is the Choir of King’s College Cambridge singing that composition:
Eton College has helpfully posted the Latin and English texts of this prayer of its founder:

Domine, Jesu Christe, qui me creasti, redemisti, et preordinasti ad hoc quod sum; tu scis quæ de me facere vis; fac de me secundum voluntatem tuam cum misericordia. Amen.
[O Lord Jesus Christ, who hast created and redeemed me and hast foreordained me unto that which now I am; thou knowest what thou wouldst do with me; do with me according to thy will, in thy mercy. Amen.]
What a beautiful, meet, and humble prayer of deep trust in God.  I have prayed it before, but now intend to increase its use in my personal times at least.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Front Porch Ministries at Pusey House

At the Reformed Episcopal Church’s past General Council, our Presiding Bishop Ray Sutton encouraged us to do “front porch ministries” – ministries, low pressure events, groups, and just good fun that attracts people through the church doors that normally would not come.  The hope, of course, is that people, once in and making new friends, would feel more comfortable coming to church and that some would end up getting more involved.  (At the same time, one should provide ministries and opportunities to people for the love of God and of them. Invitations to get more involved should be timely and low pressure, not suffocating.)
In my term here, now coming to an end, at Oxford, I’ve seen front porch ministries work very well at Pusey House.  Just one example is their Scriptorium.
Begun earlier this year, the Scriptorium is very simple.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays (now expanding to Wednesdays as well by popular demand), people may come to the Pusey House library for a structured time of study and work.  We begin at 9:25am with a very brief time of prayer and reflection, then for as much of the day as they like until 5:15 or so, students may write or study quietly together at tables or separately elsewhere in the library. There are tea breaks at 11pm and 3pm and a (free) sandwich lunch break at 1pm.
And that is pretty much it. I know that may not sound terribly exciting.  But many like the combination of structure, quiet company, and social breaks in studying.  The numbers coming have grown markedly - which pleases the Librarian.  And some of those end up getting involved in other ways at Pusey House.
We had a notable example of that last night.  David Bennett first came to Pusey House through Scriptorium.  He ended up liking the place so much that he asked if he could do the book release at Pusey House for his book A War of Loves: The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus.  To their credit, the House chapter decided to take the risk of controversy and said yes; and the release event last night went very well bringing in around eighty people.  That included some who disagreed with Bennett’s thinking during the Q and A, but all disagreement was civil and respectful and contributed to the discussion.
And that is just one example and far from the only time this term that Pusey House has been darn right crowded.  Movie nights with discussion following have brought in people, including two young women that came back a week later for our Advent service.  Lectures have brought in an interesting variety. And there’s more.  (And it does not hurt that Pusey House is often generous in serving food and sometimes serves a drink or two as well.)
By the way, if you are in or will be in or near Oxford, I recommend getting on the Sacristan’s e-mail list to be informed of events.  For that, e-mail pusey dot sacristan at stx dot ox dot ac dot uk .
So I’ve been impressed beyond expectations during my term at Pusey House.  One reason is the variety of events that the house has going on and all the different people that attracts.  I’ve long loved Pusey House, but now it has become a very busy and often crowded place, even noisy at times.  Good! I suspect the Lord is using that to make His Kingdom just a bit more crowded, too.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

On Christ the King Morning

After eleven years, I again find myself in Oxford on Christ the King Sunday.  And, yes, I will celebrate it again at Pusey House.
As I woke up, I thought of how Christ is King and is high and lifted up.  Yet he is very present, a very present help by His Holy Spirit and by the Sacrament among any number of other gracious ways.
I can never get over how wonderful that is.  It is too wonderful for me.   

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Dante in Paradise – Sublime . . . and Petty

Just a brief note that in my study of Dante’s Divine Comedy, I am struck by how sublime and profound he was . . . and by how petty he could be at the same time, particularly in how he just could not let go of factional politics in his home city of Florence. Of course, he was exiled from Florence so one can hardly blame him.
But just one example from Paradiso, Canto XXXI.  Dante writes of how amazed he was to see Heaven, and he makes a profound statement about time, or the lack of it, there:

I, who had come to things divine from man’s estate,
to eternity from time . . .
This is a brilliant observation on a topic I have begun thinking about: God and the eternal state in which He lives and into which He brings His people is not bound by time, but is instead timeless.  Thus eternity is not so much a very long time or infinite time as it is a departure “from time” and from its bounds.
But then look at the very next line:

...from Florence to a people just and sane,…
The man just could not let go of Florence and its politics that had driven him out!  Even in his magnum opus, as soon as he expounds something so deep and profound as the timelessness of the eternity of God’s kingdom, he just could not resist immediately taking one of his many pot shots at Florence.  It is funny really.
But such humanity is part of the fun, if you will, of Dante and part of why I keep returning to him.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

A Hat Tip to Oxford Orthodox and St. Theosevia House

Today, I attended an excellent Study Day at St. Theosevia House here in Oxford.  The topic was Non-Jurors and their discussions about communion with the Eastern Orthodox (discussions which ended in failure in 1725). By the way, Theosevia House does not advertise it much on their site, but after attending, it is clear it is run mainly by Orthodox, and it is next door to an Orthodox church.  So hats off to them.
The three lectures, including the final one by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware himself, were all very interesting and informative.  That they held my attention well is saying something as my attention span rarely can handle that many talks in one day.  (Now there were two questioners in the audience that did test my patience, but I can’t blame St. Theosevia House for that.)  I notice the lectures were being filmed, so perhaps they may be posted online later, but I am unsure.
So if you do find yourself in the Oxford area, checking out what the St. Theosevia Centre for Christian Sprituality has going on may be worth your while.  It certainly was mine and more.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A Sermon from Pusey House Oxford

This evening, I had the responsibility and privilege to preach the sermon at Pusey House for Evensong.
Psalm 73, 74
Ecclesiasticus 22:6-22
Acts 11:19-end

So foolish was I, and ignorant: even as it were a beast before thee.Nevertheless, I am alway by thee : for thou hast holden me by my right hand.Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel : and after that receive me with glory. Ps. 73: 21-23 BCP
Let us pray.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable unto Thee, oh Lord, our strength and Redeemer. Amen

When I first studied in Oxford in 2007, the phenomenon of Fifth Week Blues was mentioned to me.  I thought that malady a bit odd . . . until I got a case of it myself.  And I got my Fifth Week Blues around Third Week! The decreasing light and increasing cold, rain, and academic pressure dragged me down. And I caught myself having a sort of tunnel vision that focused on my unhappiness instead of on the excellent opportunities all around me.  Fortunately, I had enough perspective to realize that wasn’t right and that my blues were not entirely rational; I did make a point to enjoy the good of my Oxford opportunity; and I got through that Michaelmas Term well enough – with good grades even.  But it was nonetheless a trying time.
In our first Psalm tonight, Psalm 73, the Psalmist, too, was not happy.  What had him down was a version of the Problem of Evil, that bad men seemed to be doing very well while good people, including himself, were not.  And God did not seem to be in much of a hurry to make things right!
And, the Psalmist, too, got a sort of tunnel vision.  His frustration distracted him from the goodness of God and even had him thinking, “What’s the point?”  What’s the point of following the Lord and seeking to walk in his ways?  Why even bother?
Now he was smart enough to sense that probably was not the best way to look at things. And that was an important first step out of his rut, not unlike my realizing back in 2007 that my blues were not very rational.  But that was a first step only.  For as he put it:
Then thought I to understand this : but it was too hard for me.
But then a very important second step helped him snap out of it further.  He went into the sanctuary of God.  And it was then and there that he saw the bigger picture of God’s goodness, justice, mercy and, yes, beauty.
Again back in 2007, frequently attending Mass here at Pusey House and Evensong at the excellent choral foundations in Oxford were a great help in getting me through that dark cold Michaelmas Term. One of the many benefits of experiencing and participating in worship that is “in the beauty of holiness” is that it helps one to glimpse the big picture of God and of hisbeauty and goodness.  Even more important is the principle repeated any number of times and ways in Scripture: if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.
I think there is also a third step to see the big picture of the goodness of God.  Who do we hope to meet in the place of worship?  Well, of course, we should go there to meet God. But who else do we meet there?  The people of God.
Very early in Genesis, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  And, as he tends to be, God was right!  Now, yes, there are times when it is good to be alone with the Lord. But God created us as relational creatures.  We need God, and we need each other.  And if we get too alone, it can be hard to maintain joy and a healthy attitude. It can become that much harder to see the goodness of God.
So each of us has a role to play in helping each other to see the big picture of the goodness of God when it is too easy to get distracted and dragged down by the darkness, hardship and loneliness of this world.  St. Barnabas provides us a good example of that in our second lesson from Acts.
Now it is easy to overlook the very beginning of that lesson.  Acts 11:19 reminds us that after the martyrdom of St. Stephen, there arose a persecution that compelled most of the Christians in Jerusalem to flee and to get out of the city. Many felt it necessary to leave Judea as well. That was a significant hardship.
That may be hard to understand here in Oxford where it seems everyone is from everywhere and is going everywhere. But to move suddenly like that back then was hard and with lasting consequences.  There were no cars or buses or trains; so to move oneself any distance, not to mention move one’s possessions, was laborious.  There was no internet and no phones.  And mail back then made the Royal Mail seem fast.  So to move largely cut one off from friends and family you may be leaving.
To people who had undergone such persecution and hardship for the Lord, St. Barnabas was a son of consolation – which happens to be what the name “Barnabas” means.  He not only greatly encouraged the faithful; the love of God he taught and reflected attracted others so that “a great many people were added to the Lord.”
And note that Barnabas encouraged not with mere happy talk.  He taught God’s truth and exhorted the people to be faithful to the Word.
At the risk of getting a bit spooky, may I say that during times of darkness and discouragement, that is the very time Satan likes to whisper gloomy lies in our ears to drag us down.  We must be ready with God’s truth to rebut those lies.  One of the many reasons we must read, learn, and, yes, memorize Scripture is to remind ourselves of the big picture of the goodness of God when immediate difficult circumstances distract us and tempt us to forget or even to believe something else. To put it another way, we must remember the Good News, the Gospel, to contradict the Bad Fake News of Satan and of this world.
To give one example, Romans 8:28 has been especially helpful to me.  When I get frustrated or discouraged, sooner or later, I remember that God causes all things, even very difficult things, “to work together for goodfor those who are called according to his purpose.”  That gives me something reliable to hold on to when the gales of life would blow me about.  And I cannot count the many times the Lord has been faithful to keep that promise to me.
So I don’t know about you.  But, not only in November in Oxford but always, I need worship “in the beauty of holiness.”  I need the real presence of the Lord andthe real presence of his people also.  And I need God’s truth to debunk and defeat the dark lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
I suspect I am not alone in that. And you know well that there are many around us who are struggling, with academic pressure being a particular problem this time of year.  Frankly I was shocked by the recent Oxford Student front page article about the pressure many Classics students are under.  But that probably was not news to many of you.  And perhaps some of you are experiencing more than your share of academic pressure among other pressures of life.  Behind all the brave faces we pass every day are a great many who desperately need a haven from the pressures of the world, who need to see the goodness and beauty of the Lord, who need to experience the love of Christ.
The people of God have a vital role in meeting those needs.  Pusey House has a vital role in meeting those needs.  And that all the more as the days grow darker not only in this time of year, but in this time of history.
Pusey House and all Christians are called to be a real human presence of God’s truth and love to people who need that so. We are called to be light in the darkness.  I know Pusey House has been a light to me.
May God help us all to see the light of Christ . . . and to be the light of Christ.
Let us pray.
Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, Oh Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Armistice Centenary: Tolkien and the Great War

With the 100thanniversary of the end of World War I this Sunday, there are so many heartrending stories about the Great War I’ve come across the past few weeks – mothers who lost all their sons, battalions that lost so many men they were disbanded, soldiers who died just weeks or days before the Armistice, and more – too much more.
But the story that has most drawn my attention is the war experience of J. R. Tolkien.
Orphaned at 12, Tolkien had experienced deep loss years before.  The War would pile loss upon loss.  The recent Tolkien exhibition here in Oxford and John Garth’s book, Tolkien and the Great War, brought that home to me.  Both quoted this from his preface to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings:
By 1918, all but one of my close friends were dead.
When I first read that at the exhibition, I had to stand aside for a moment to regain my composure.
A theme of Tolkien and the Great War is how the war tore apart what was an inseparable society of four friends at King Edward’s School, one of which was Tolkien.  Two died.  The other two drifted apart.  Tolkien survived because he came down with trench fever after combat on the Western Front in 1916.  As a result, he had chronic bad health the rest of the war and served on the British coast instead of being sent back to the front.
Having just finished that book, I highly recommend Tolkien and the Great War to anyone interested in Tolkien’s experience of the war, including his literary output and evolution during those years. I also highly recommend the Oxford exhibition book, Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth, part of which deals with the war years and is very reasonably priced given how lavishly it is illustrated.
We can be thankful that God somehow got J. R. Tolkien, along with his future friend and Inkling, C. S. Lewis, through the Great War.  Yet one can hardly imagine what great minds and writers we lost in that cataclysm.  That is all the more reason to remember them this Armistice Centenary.  We shall remember them.  We shall remember them all.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Being on Speaking Terms with All Saints in Oxford

As you may have noticed this All Saints in Oxford has had me reflecting in a number of ways. One way is thinking back on how I have progressed in my relationship with departed saints.
When I was a new Anglican and went to my first Easter Vigil (a glorious one at Smokey Matt’s), it included a Litany of the Saints.  I could not conscientiously participate in that but was just respectfully quiet. To me, it sounded like praying to saints.
But somewhere down the line, I figured that asking a saint to pray for you, as is done in the Litany of the Saints, is different than praying to a saint.  I never have studied the matter deeply; but just I would have no problem asking you good readers to pray for me, I got to the point where I had no problem asking saints to pray for me.  Besides, the triumphant saints are better at prayer than you.
And one of the endearing traits of traditional catholic Anglicanism is we do not put a great gulf between living and departed saints.  “We forever more are one” in Christ.  And, as I’ve mentioned, here in Oxford you can hardly escape the saints!
So where am I now, for better or for worse (but better I think) in practice?  I will use some of my experience here at Pusey House this term to illustrate.  About the only thing I cannot do here is sing the Salve Regina.  Now I can say or sing the Angelus, but not the Salve Regina.  Why? – as both are very Marian.  Whereas the Angelus uses Biblical language and asks Mary to pray for us, the Salve addresses Mary in a way that I think only God should be addressed.

But I am not just respectfully quiet during the Salve Regina.  I quietly say a personal litany of the Saints, which includes Mary but mainly consists of favorite saints, such as Ignatius, King Edward the Confessor, and King Henry VI (Yes, I know the latter is not canonized, but he should be.). And I often incorporate such a litany of the Saints into my personal prayer times.  Hey, I need all the prayer I can get!  And the saints are good at prayer.  In fact, I am convinced the prayers of King Henry VI brought me a very good answer about five years ago. And I will thank him and God once again when I visit St. George's Windsor soon.
This visit to Pusey House, I even kissed an icon for the first time on my initiative.  An icon of St. Nicholas given to the Principal has been on the altar (for forty days I think) in accordance with Orthodox practice. This morning the blessing of it was completed during morning Mass.  As I love Nicholas, I asked to kiss it afterwards.  (I guess now we are getting into the subject of images, but that is a whole ‘nother topic.)
So to sum up, when I was a very new Anglican, I saw the departed saints as a subject of historical study and as examples along with some inspiration, but not much more for me personally.  But now I see them as joining us in worship and prayer and in the fellowship of God’s Holy Church right now.
This loner has learned more and more through the years as a Christian not to be alone.  And because of God and all his holy saints, I am that much less alone.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

All Saints Eve and Death in Oxford

With All Saints and All Souls – and my demise (No, I do not intend to die on those days.  But my say on that is limited.) – nearing, I have been thinking about death. 
“Well, that’s cheerful. Let’s dwell on something else,” you may understandably say and I may have said in years past.  But the Lord would apparently have us dwell on just that.
It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.  Eccles. 7:2
Now I have to confess that was not one of my memory verses when I was younger.  I never was a party boy, so I understood “the house of feasting” is overrated.  But I was not particularly interested in dwelling “in the house of mourning.” Besides, the time of my death was sooo far in the future, it practically was never to happen, don’t you know.  So why go there?
But now death no longer seems so far way.  And knowing that not just in my head but in my heart is not pleasant.  But it is good for me.  Knowing that I will soon have to answer to the Lord for what I have done and not done in this life does motivate me to wiser and better living. Just thinking that one day I myself will have to look back on my life and evaluate it is motivation enough.
Still, the nearing of death can be more frightening than just about anything concocted to scare on Halloween. But when I sense fear of death creeping in, I remember Christ has defeated death for me so that I might really live and that now and forever.
When I was younger I did not fear death.  I know that because I had a near death experience in my twenties; a skid and a tire blow-out nearly sent me into a deep ravine in Tasmania.  A lot of things went through my mind including clinically thinking, “I am about to die.” But I did not fear at all. (Now whether I cussed the car to damnation is another question.)  
Now I do fear death a bit, but I have a bigger fear both now and back then.  Far more than death, I have long feared a wasted life.  In my twenties, I was struggling to make something of my life and hated that feeling I had at the end of at least one or two years, that the years were wasted, lost.  Now I fear that when I run out of time and energy, I will look back and see too many years wasted, lost.
Considering that I am going “to the house of mourning” before long goads me not to waste any more years, to make the most of my life with God’s help.  May God indeed help me.  May God help us all that as we rejoice in the new life He gives us, we at the same time make the most of the earthly life He gives us.

Monday, October 29, 2018

On the Feast of Ss. Simon and Jude in Oxford

Yesterday at Pusey House, we observed the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude.  With it falling on a Sunday this year, some are observing it today the day following.
I have to be honest, I’ve not thought much about this holy day much before.  But as the Principal, George Westhaver, pointed out in his sermon, it is the last major saint’s day before and a harbinger of the near Feast of All Saints.
It is hard to ignore the saints in Oxford although one can certainly take them for granted.  They are everywhere here, even in Broad Street where the place of the burning of the Oxford Martyrs is marked with a cross in the street.  (Yes, there were never canonized, and, yes, they were Cambridge men.) So much here and in England is named after saints.  Saints’ days are more remembered here with that of Frideswide being particularly noted in Oxford.  Before I first came here some dozen years ago I had never heard of her!
And before I became Anglican I did not pay much attention to saints at all, other than everyday non-canonized saints still alive.  Such inattention is hard to pull off in Oxford.  And Hebrews chapters 11 and 12 would not have that at all. We should be well aware that “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.”
When I study in the reading rooms of the Old Bodleian Library, I am reminded of that.  I look up at the wall above the book shelves and see portraits of old worthies supervising my reading*.  I used to find that amusing.  But now they almost speak and ask, “Are you doing your part to pass on the torch of learning?  We played our role and now are dead, but our legacy lives on and you are benefiting from it now.  What are you doing with that?  Are you well playing your role before you, too, must soon leave the stage of earthly life?”
In Oxford, old worthies may supervise even your meals.  Those who have visited the Hall of Christ Church know what I mean. They just won’t leave you alone here.
They serve as a reminder that we are obligated to more than ourselves.  Of course, our first obligation is to God.  But what are we doing with the legacy that old worthies, living and dead, have passed down to us?  What are we doing with The Faith the saints have passed down to us? And are we in turn doing right by the young and those to come?  Are we passing on the legacy and The Faith well to them?  Or are we, out of selfishness and laziness, dropping the ball?
The church through the ages is all connected – or should be connected.  If we just do our own thing, if we just become the Church of Me or the Church of What’s Happening Now, the connections become frayed.
Yes, the approach of All Saints Day has me reflecting.  This time of year with its colder rapidly shortening days reminding us the time is short to play our role can do that.  Oxford can do that.
*P. S. Oliver Cromwell of all people supervised my studies this morning.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

A Glorious Night at New College Oxford

Tonight, I went to Evensong at New College for their College Commemoration.  I thought it might be at least interesting; it was far more than I expected.  It began with a candlelit procession led by the choir around the main quadrangle.  Once in the chapel, the service included a poignant anthem by Parry and an excellent sermon by the Warden on the effect of World War I on New College and on how the way that war was remembered affected later history. I hope to post more on both the anthem and the sermon.  And the choir and the selection of music was excellent, but that is to be expected at New College, of course.
New College is rightly choosing to focus on the 100thanniversary of the end of the Great War. And that includes an interesting exhibition in the antechapel that I will have to revisit.
As if all that wasn’t good enough, when I went to the Turf Tavern afterward for physical nourishment, I listened to celebratory change-ringing from the bells of the tower of New College right next to the tavern as I finished my pint.  
By the way, this evening is contributing to my reflecting on our role in the company of the saints as we approach All Saints Day.  I hope to post on that as well.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Where to (and where not to) hear an organ recital in Oxford

One of my weaknesses is I love good church organ music.  But I can be picky about both the composition and the organ.  As far as the compositions, one cannot go wrong with Bach; he’s my favorite by far.  But little after 1800 impresses me except in a negative fashion.
As for organs, I’ve discovered I can be picky about that, too.  But now you can benefit from that as I will now tell you where and where not to hear an organ recital during term in Oxford.  I will start with the worst first.
Queen’s College, 1:10 on Wednesdays
I don’t know if they did something to their organ since I was last here but I was shocked two weeks ago to hear it sound like a carousel organ.  I will not be going again.
New College, Saturdays after Evensong
A bit better, but it is clearly a very new organ by outward appearances, which is not necessary bad (See Merton below.).  But it just sounds too electronic.  Go to New College for the choir, not the organ.
Keble College, 8:30pm on Thursdays
I have not yet decided on this one as I’ve only heard it once and I wasn’t thrilled with the selection of music that night.  But the huge chapel is an excellent space for an organ, and I can’t find anything wrong with the organ . . . yet.
A bonus is right after the organ recital comes Compline. Students were quietly lighting up a zillion candles during the recital.  (I didn’t stay as I was too tired, but I will sometime.)
Merton College, 1:15pm on Thursdays
This, too is a new organ. But it does sound like a real church organ.  If I were nitpicking, I would like it to sound older, but I thoroughly enjoy this one.  And it is huge and loud.
Perhaps because of its size it is placed in an odd spot, on the floor by the center back wall of the ante-chapel.  So if you sit in a center aisle or get permission to sit in the ante-chapel (I cannot guarantee said permission would be given.), you really get to see the organist do his work.  I highly recommend this to any aspiring organists.
Exeter College, 1:10 on Tuesday
THIS sounds like a cranky old European church organ, even though it is not that old. I love it. The first recital of term was all Bach.  After hearing so much Bach on this wonderful organ, I practically floated out of the chapel.  I was certainly energized and had a smile on my face.
So Exeter is my favorite place to hear an organ recital. (I intend to be there today for sure.)  I also highly recommend Merton to any trying to improve their organ playing or who just want to watch an organist at work.
If I am missing a good place to hear an organ, feel free to post in the comments.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Sanctus with the Benedictus is meet and right.

It is funny how long it can take one, namely me, to notice something both obvious and important.  But at Mass last Sunday at Pusey House I noticed how well the Benedictus fits with the Sanctus even if it was appended about a thousand years ago or more.
I therefore consider it an innovation . . . but a good one.
Perhaps the good fit of the Benedictus eluded me because my parish does not use it.  The Reformed Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer is traditional low church (even as we have become slightly higher church) and follows the 1662 BCP in not having the Benedictus with the Sanctus.  My memory is fuzzy on whether REC parishes are allowed to use the Benedictus, but my parish does not.
Back to this past Sunday’s Mass, the musical setting was Herbert Howells’ Collegium Regale.  That, sung by the very good Pusey House choir, drew my mind well to the holiness of God expressed in the Sanctus.
But then as the Benedictus was sung, I remembered that Christ is our holy King, yet he comes to us “lowly and riding on a donkey” and he comes to us in the Holy Communion.  And I finally but immediately saw what an excellent summation the Sanctus with the Benedictus is of the Eucharist – God is “holy, holy, holy”; yet he graciously and humbly comes to us in the incarnation and in the Holy Communion.
Yes, as wonderful as this is, it should be obvious to the catholic Christian.  But it is no less good for me to see it this past Sunday at Pusey House.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Hillary: “You cannot be civil” to Republicans

You never know who you are going to run into at Evensong . . . or after Evensong.  There was quite a commotion during and after Evensong at Magdalen Oxford this past Sunday.  Afterward I found out why when I saw Hillary Clinton herself enjoying the adulation of students.  She looked well and happy by the way.
 But look what she said while in Oxford.  Her response to the recent uncivil, abusive, threatening, and, yes, violent tactics of Leftists?
 You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about…
 She thereby justifies the Brown Shirt tactics of the Leftist mob.  She endorses the tactics of totalitarians.  And face it, the way the Leftist base of the Democrat Party has been acting, with the blessing of Hillary, of Eric Holder among others – that is the way totalitarians act.
 I’ve said before the Democrat Party has a totalitarian streak.  Its tactics against Kavanaugh, trying to turn his confirmation into a show trial, its attacks against the free speech of opponents and even against the peace and persons of opponents, reveal it is becoming a totalitarian party if it is not there already.
 And that is further indicated by even the uber-establishment Hillary Clinton being okay with that.
 With the way the Democrats are going, I expect to revisit this subject.  But it suffices for now to say that if they are not politically punished for their totalitarian tactics and soon, namely November, it will be a disaster for the United States. 

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Christ Church Oxford has issues with time

Christ Church Oxford has long had issues with time.  Because they apparently don’t believe in time zones, official Christ Church time is 5 minutes slower than Greenwich Mean Time.
But this evening they really did it.  Their music list had Evensong starting today at 5pm (Christ Church time).  But that was in error; it started at 6pm.  People who came for the non-existent 5pm service were turned away at the gate (although invited to come back in an hour), and my schedule was thrown off for sure.  I adapted but could not make Evensong.
I hope the choir is being run better than that.  Perhaps the Dean, Martyn Percy, should pay more attention to his knitting rather than blackballing the orthodox.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Latin BCP Holy Communion at St. Mary’s Oxford

Yes, a Latin Book of Common Prayer service may seem a bit of a contradiction, an oxymoron even. Wasn’t the BCP written in English precisely so that it would be “understanded of the people”? Wasn’t it a pointed break from the Latin Sarum Rite?
But remember that in times past, Latin was very well “understanded” by Oxford scholars.  You really could not even get into the place, much less flourish within, without knowing Latin well.  So in 1560, just one year after the Elizabethan Prayer Book of 1559 was approved, a Latin BCP was promulgated for the use in the universities.
A survivor of those times – because tradition! – is a Latin BCP Holy Communion service at the University Church of St. Mary’s in Oxford at 8am the Thursday before the beginning of the academic year, which service I attended this morning.
I attended (among only about 15 so to do) because . . . tradition! and because Oxford could use all the Latin prayer it can get.  But I have to admit it was more stirring than I expected.  As I walked down the High about ten minutes early, St. Mary’s main bell was calling scholars to the service. Of course, most of even Oxford students on High Street were probably clueless as to why all the gonging.
The service itself was quiet and said, only about 35 minutes.  I found hearing and saying (tolerably well) the Latin moving.  There is something about Latin.  And when I crossed my arms for a blessing only (Oddly, the sacrament was brought around to the stalls instead of the congregation going forward.), being quietly blessed in Latin moved me indeed.
I attended this in 2007, missed it in 2011.  I am glad I didn’t miss it this time and recommend it to all visitors to Oxford, at least those not allergic to Latin.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Arriving in Oxford

I arrived in Oxford today.   I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Oxford in the past.  But right now it’s love!  It’s funny how excited I was at arriving here and walking around like when I arrived for my past stays.  You’d think that would not happen so much now given my past two Michaelmas Terms here (in 2007 and 2011) were a bit of a struggle.
Oh well.  Oxford does bring out peculiar responses in people as I’ve experienced first hand.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Michaelmas Eve in Cambridge

It is Michaelmas Eve in Cambridge, and I am resting more than usual because I am fighting off a small cold. But that’s okay, especially because, like in 2007, I get to experience Michaelmas in Cambridge!
Tomorrow morning is High Mass for Michaelmas at Little St. Mary’s.  Then late afternoon is the first public Evensong at King’s.  This being the beginning of the last academic year of Stephen Cleobury directing the King’s College Choir is a big reason I am here. Once again, I get to have an auspicious Michaelmas.
But first to defeat this cold….

Thursday, September 27, 2018

A church-aided Syrian “refugee,” murder, and an object lesson for ACNA

Out of Vancouver comes a heart-rending and perhaps enraging story.  The oh-so progressive and inclusive St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church to their credit (or discredit) contributed not a little money to import a lovely refugee family.  But that did not have a happy ending:
The 30K/ 30Day project on Bowen Island through St. Andrews- Wesley set out to raise $30,000 to bring Syrian refugee families to Vancouver. They succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. The money they raised paid for Ali’s brother and his family to come to Canada. 
And an extra $15,000 was raised to bring Ibrahim Ali and another brother.
“It would mean they could have a family reunion along with family that is in Burnaby,” was the pitch.
At 1 in the morning, last summer, the body of 13-year-old Marrisa Shen was found in Burnaby’s Central Park. The last sight of her was on the security camera of a Tim Horton’s. After over a year of searching, as her photo in a sailor suit looked out from the TV news, posters and flyers, after hundreds of interviews and tips, the case broke wide open.
St. Andrews- Wesley’s gift to Canada was arrested for her murder. That extra $15,000 had paid for a little girl’s life.

Read more here.  My point in bringing this up is not to address the politics of refugees and immigration, but to present an object lesson the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) must consider.  I do not think ACNA has any churches as sold out to the social justice gospel as St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church.  But there are a few parishes, organizations, and at least a diocese or two in ACNA that are very committed to refugee and immigrant ministry.
Now certainly we should minister to refugees who are refugees indeed and to other immigrants.  But we should not enable wrong behavior such as illegal immigration, deceptive refugee claims, or otherwise taking wrongful advantage of host countries or even preying on them.  If that seems harsh, remember that St. Paul wrote that assistance for widows should go to those who “are widows indeed” and that assistance to the poor should not go to those who are able-bodied but unwilling to work.  Part of his reasoning was to avoid enabling sinful behaviors.
Likewise, we should not enable the sinful conduct of illegals and of faux refugees.  But I fear some ACNA parishes and organizations are not being as careful as they should be.  Someday the result could be as awful as in Vancouver.  And then ACNA would be found to have enabled awful crime.  ACNA could even be found with blood on its hands.
I do not have easy answers to prevent this.  But perhaps the College of Bishops could give firmly worded guidelines and instructions in line with St. Paul’s above instructions about church charity. Some in ACNA may still chose to disregard wise guidelines, but that would then be on them, not on ACNA as a whole.  And any wise steps to avoid enabling can only do good.
But for now, the attitude of much of ACNA towards immigrants and refugees seems not that much different that that of St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church.  If that continues, it will only be a matter of time before a similar awful result.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Remembering the East Yorkshire Regiment in World War I

In the past when I visited English churches, I’ve rarely paid much attention to war memorials. My focus has been much more on older, especially medieval aspects of church buildings.  But with this year being the 100thanniversary of the end of World War I, I am making a point to pay more attention.
So two days ago, I noticed a cenotaph style memorial in a small chapel of Beverly Minster.  Around all sides are the names of those who died in “The Great War” from the East Yorkshire Regiment.  I walked around it and saw all. the. names.  From just one regiment. 
It was overwhelming.  I had to sit down for a few moments to regain my composure.
Us Americans came in late to World War I.  And today we frankly suck at history.  So most of us do not get how devastating WWI was.  But I am at least beginning to get it in recent years.  Being in England certainly assists with that.  I was chatting with some gentlemen in York, and they told me a big reason the term “Lost Generation” came about.  When the English went off to war, they wanted to be together with their buddies and brothers, of course, (And I’ve noticed this desire reflected in some of C. S. Lewis’ letters.) and to a large extent this desire was accommodated. So during some of the worst battles and/or in some of the worst hit regiments, the male youth of whole towns were decimated.
And some of that decimation is documented, name by name, in that memorial in Beverly Minster.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Anglo-Catholics Are That Much More Important Now.

I hope it goes without saying for my good readers that traditional Anglo-Catholics are a vital part of Anglicanism and of the whole church.  With the current crisis in the Roman Catholic Church, they are now that much more important.
(And this is such a weighty subject that I apologize ahead of time that I will be glossing over it.  I also apologize if what I am about to say seems a bit obvious.  Sometimes, however, we need to remind ourselves of the obvious.) 
Anglo-Catholic parishes and jurisdictions have long been havens for those who love traditional catholic worship and orthodox teaching but who for various reasons cannot conscientiously join the Roman Catholic Church.  I count myself among these.  Pusey House, especially, has been a haven for me when in Oxford.  And when anywhere near North Dallas on a Sunday, I can hardly keep myself from visiting Smokey Matt’s.
Without rehashing the sordid details, matters have gotten so awful in the Roman Church that those of a traditional catholic mindset who can no longer abide the Church of Rome will surely increase – and surely are increasing now.  And where will they go except to Anglo-Catholic parishes? Jurisdictions outside of both the Church of Rome and Anglicanism that have traditional catholic worship with which Anglicans and Roman Catholics are familiar are few and far between. Without desiring it to be so and in spite of their ecumenical mindset, Anglo-Catholics have close to a monopoly on non-Roman traditional catholic worship.  (By the way, has anyone addressed why this is so? Perhaps this question would make for a good thesis.)
So traditional Anglo-Catholics who hold to the orthodox catholic faith should know that they are that much more important now.  They should not attempt to poach from the Romans, but they should be that much more committed to letting people know you are there and to being a welcoming haven to those who thirst for catholic faith and worship.
And, frankly, the rest of Anglicanism should know this, too, and be more committed to the genuine flourishing of Anglo-Catholic parishes and jurisdictions.   Anglo-Catholicism is a great gift of Anglicanism to the world and to the church.  Anglo-Catholics live out that one can be a robust catholic outside the Church of Rome and all her enormities.  And now more than ever for the health of the whole church, there needs to be a place for traditional catholics to flourish outside the Roman Catholic Church – especially since the days may be numbered for traditional catholics to flourish inside the Roman Catholic Church.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Francis and Cupich Transcend Satire

With my warped sense of humor, I should have noticed this earlier, but Weird Dave of Ace of Spades, being weird, has noticed it. (There’s handy screenshots at the link.  Scroll down to “Satire is dead.”)
Pope Francis and Cardinal Cupich have transcended satire . . . or killed it.
First, on August 16th, the Babylon Bee posted “Pope Says He Will Address Sex Abuse Scandal Once He’s Finished Talking About Climate Change.”  It began:

In his first public statement on the horrifying, devastating report on sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, Pope Francis stated he would address the controversy in detail once he’s done talking about climate change for a few more weeks.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church claimed he is deeply concerned with the tragic report, but is “just too swamped” with work fighting climate change, criticizing capitalism, and advocating for other issues of social justice to talk about the repulsive report at the moment.
Now that is satire, just to be clear. . . . Or it was satire.
For ten days later, after the Vigano statement, Cardinal Cupich made this statement as I’ve noted:

The pope knows we have a bigger agenda. We have to speak about the environment, about the poor, we have to reach out to people who are marginalized in society. We cannot be distracted at this moment,” Cupich said.
Elsewhere, Cupich was quoted, “The Pope has a bigger agenda. … He’s got to get on with other things, of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on with the work of the church. We’re not going to go down a rabbit hole on this.”
That is not satire. . . .  Really.  I’m dead serious.  It is not satire.
Beyond that, I’ve got nothing.  How can satire survive that?
Perhaps we need a new feast day?  The Feast of the Translation of Holy Satire?