Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy Leap Second!

Happy New Year to everyone! (Well, almost everyone.)

And don’t forget to count down the extra Leap Second tonight! Do what I will do, and simply count “one” twice.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Reviews: Nativitas and Agnus Dei from The Choir of New College, Oxford

It’s been too long since I’ve done some reviews. And I bought a lot of books and CDs in England. So here goes. Today I review two CDs from The Choir of New College that I bought in Oxford.

Nativitas (1997) is a good recording of 23 Christmas classics, such as “Adam Lay Ybounden” and “O Magnum Mysterium”. I say “good” because interspersed among some of the pieces is this cloying New Age flute. It really gets annoying when the flute plays over the choir on the last song, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”. I bought the CD to hear the choir, not a flute that doesn’t know its place.

If you aren’t annoyed by the flute, then you can mark the CD up to excellent. It is more ethereal than happy, so take that into consideration before buying. (I like “ethereal” better myself.) And a poor choice was made in including “Once in Royal David’s City” without a solo for the first verse. King’s College does that one so much better, New College should have tried something else.

With those caveats, I recommend the CD. I noticed the cover on Amazon is different than the cover I got in Oxford at Blackwell’s Music. The one I have has a photo of the New College Chapel on the cover. But I assume the music is identical.

But if there is only one CD from New College that you buy, then you must buy . . .

Agnus Dei (also 1997 – quite a year for the choir) is the most incredible choral CD I have yet heard. It is even more other worldly than Nativitas and unspeakably beautiful.

As soon as you hear the first piece, Barber’s “Agnus Dei”, you will know this CD is a world apart. The atmosphere is so ethereal without overproduction (although the production is clearly excellent). Individual voices are very clear, which I like, while perfectly fitting together. And the 12 pieces, while from different ages and composers are also made to fit together very well, making the CD almost seamless.

I’m at a loss to describe it further. Such music as this makes words inadequate. This is a wonderful CD to either listen to carefully, or to use as background or go-to-sleep music.

And the only cloying New Age element is the subtitle on the cover: “Music of Inner Harmony”. No annoying flutes or such in the recording, thanks be to God.

There is a second CD from 1998, Agnus Dei II. But I did not find it quite as excellent as the first CD. If you see a two-for-one special, then get it as I did. But if not, then perhaps stick with the first one.

In any case, I can’t recommend Agnus Dei strongly enough, even for those who aren’t (yet) fans of English choral music.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Corporate Mega-churches

As noted and much commented upon over at titusonenine, The Economist has a feature article on megachurches that use corporate business models -- “Jesus, CEO”.

This is nothing new to me. Back around 1990, before much attention was given to this phenomenon, I noticed my church at the time, Big Dallas Bible Church (name changed), was run more and more like a corporation. There was even a pyramid chart of the staff in the church directory. I’m not kidding. And that staff was large and growing.

And I saw negative qualities often associated with large corporations. Staff were often overworked with long hours. And I saw negative effects on individual staff members. I saw one staff member transform from a friend who was easy and fun with work with to an arrogant adversary. High up staff were overly concerned with their position and authority to the point of at times seeing threats to their authority that didn’t exist. There were power plays against faithful people.

And I saw that power was focused in the staff away from rank and file church people.

So now corporate churches scare me.

Yet I’m not one of those who see all megachurches as of the devil. (And not all megachurches are corporate churches.) The body of Christ should be diverse. And I think there should be variety in how different churches “do church.” And my ten years at my previous church, which can be said to have attained megachurch status, were very positive.

But I just can’t see that running a church like a corporation is how Jesus would lead his church. Obviously, the larger a church gets, the more organization is necessary. But churches that become religious corporations invite the same diseases as secular corporations – as I saw at Big Dallas Bible. I’m convinced even megachurches should avoid buying into a corporate model based much more on secular business practices than on scripture and tradition.

Also, the idea that megachurches, with their variety of affinity groups and with all their available activities, can better meet people’s needs ain’t necessarily so. My current church is just a bit smaller than I was looking for. And it’s by far the smallest church I’ve been a part of. Yet it’s safe to say it is meeting my needs better than any previous church. Part of that is that my needs (and my perception of them) have changed with the years. But still, the effectiveness of a church has a lot more to do with qualities than quantities.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Holy Innocents and the priority of children

A timely follow-up to my post two days ago:

Today, Holy Innocents Day, and its assigned lessons remind us of the exalted position the Lord gives children. In a very real way, children were the first martyrs to give their lives for Christ.

And there are lessons such as the second lesson from my Morning Prayer, Matthew 18:1-14, which begins:

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Good King Wenceslas

Remember, it’s still Christmas.

And in that spirit, here’s an interesting piece on the origins of the carol Good King Wenceslas.

This history is new to me and perhaps is to you. Heck, until recent years I didn’t even know what the Feast of Stephen bit was about.

Good King Wenceslas has been one of my favorite carols since I was small. But I haven’t heard it even once this Christmas for some reason.

Monday, December 26, 2005

And a child shall lead them.

A glory of Anglicanism that’s easy to take for granted is how the whole congregation takes a role in worship. You can be passive in the seats. But you might feel out of place as the congregation, stands, kneels, responds, bows, goes forward, etc. And, if you so like and are active in a parish, you will probably get to lead a portion of worship through reading a scripture lesson or, say, playing a role in the procession or offering.

This Christmas has particularly brought home to me how Anglicanism enriches worship through the participation of laity. I wrote yesterday what an experience it was for this layman to read two of the Nine Lessons, particularly the last one.

In my last two churches before becoming Anglican, both very non-liturgical Bible churches, I can’t recall leading any part of corporate worship during those 16 years. And I was quite active in both. Liturgical traditions such as Anglicanism or Catholicism are oft criticized for clericalism and/or diminishing the laity. But in my experience, laity are given much more leadership in worship in liturgical traditions.

And that includes children. I might say that especially includes children. Acolytes, for example, are usually children and youth in most parishes.

Children played a big role in leading our Nine Lessons and Carols service. Meredith, about 11, began the service by singing the first verse of Once in Royal David’s City solo. Later, Sebastian, 9, read the first lesson. He doesn’t have a naturally loud voice, but he read the long lesson clearly and perfectly. And I think it was his first time to read a lesson. He did better his first time than I did!

Meredith and Sebastian’s leadership enhanced the worship in a way an adult or clergyman could not.

And to me, one of the most electric moments in the church year is when a sole boy begins the Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College by singing the first verse of Once in Royal City before a full chapel and a world wide audience of millions. For many, including me, that tingling place in time is the beginning of Christmas.

Giving such weighty leadership in worship to a boy was a foreign thing to me before I began to be lured by Anglicanism. And, especially at Christmas, it is indeed one of the glories of Anglicanism.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Christmas First

This has been a special Christmas for me. Among other things, this was my first time to participate in a Nine Lessons and Carols service on Christmas Eve.

Since we are a small church, I did two readings as Lector. Doing the last reading, John 1:1-14, is an experience I won’t forget. To read such a powerful passage as the final lesson on Christmas Eve . . . wow. I’d practically have to be as inspired as St. John to describe what that’s like. I almost floated back to my seat afterward. And I think I read it close to perfectly, too.

(I’ll probably make another post relevant to that service the next day or two.)

I hope you all have had an excellent Christmas, too. And, remember, the Christmas season doesn’t end until Epiphany. My lights are defiantly staying up!

Friday, December 23, 2005

A big lump of coal for the ACLU

I’ve been in a Christmasy mood lately, really ever since I got back from England. But reading about an excellent ruling from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has made my mood even better.

A long time annoyance to me is the myth that the Constitution requires “a wall of separation between church and state.” Well, the court put that myth and its propagators in their place:

Writing for the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Richard Suhrheinrich said the ACLU's "repeated reference 'to the separation of church and state' ... has grown tiresome. The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state."

Yessss! A high court finally has the guts and knowledge of history to come out and tell the truth.

By the way, the ACLU lost the Ten Commandments case 3-0.

I could gloat some more and call for the ACLU lawyers to be publicly flogged. But they have gotten a pretty good flogging already . . . and it’s Christmas.

And on that note, Merry Christmas to all my kind readers!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

About those Megachurches closing for Christmas Day

While in England, I noted with interest the controversy over several megachurches not holding any services this Sunday Christmas Day. (I’m glad to see my former church with megachurch tendencies is not among them. They will have services both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Kudos to Denton Bible Church.)

There’s a number of things I could say, but I see over at titusonenine that my favorite evangelical ECUSA rector has just about said it all with very few words.

Said Fr. David Roseberry, “`Closed for Sunday' is the sign that hangs in a business, not a church.”


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I saw the Narnia movie yesterday. . . .

Some friends invited me to come see the Chronicles of Narnia with them, so I went.

I enjoyed it, at least the last half. The first half dragged a bit.

I’m glad I went. And the acting and most (but not all) of the special effects were good. But overall the movie is not in the same league as, say, The Lord of the Rings.

I can see why people’s reactions to the movie are often colored by their reaction to the Gospel. If the Gospel moves you, so will the last half of the movie, because the Gospel is there and presented well. I know I was quite moved at times.

And that goes for those who are moved by the Gospel in a negative way, too. I can see that if someone is offended by the Gospel, he may well be offended by the movie as well.

Keep that in mind as you read reviews both pro and con.

By the way, there was more than a little publicity about the movie over in England. I guess that’s to be expected, particularly with the C. S. Lewis connection.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Free hotel internet . . . or not

Reading a National Geographic Traveler article (Sorry. I don’t think it’s online.) on hotel internet and how some hotels abuse or even lie to guests expecting free internet reminds me of past hotel experiences.

One particular hotel in England shall remain nameless because they resolved the situation to my satisfaction after I made my displeasure known (and provided an otherwise excellent stay). I had researched this hotel and expected free internet with my pricey room. But when I arrived I discovered that not only was it not free, but that the access charges were exorbitant.

As I told them when I left, this is the 21st century and many travelers expect and require free internet with their rooms, especially if room charges are high already. Hotels that don’t provide that will and already do lose business. Such hotels are sooo last millennium.

My policy is that if a hotel does not have free internet, it greatly decreases my chances of staying there. When on the road, looking to turn in for the night, I’ve more than once skipped hotels that don’t provide free internet . . . even if I was tired and eager to get off the road.

But some hotels are less than forthcoming on just what kind of internet access they provide or whether it’s free or not. I’ve seen more than one web site that makes it appear it’s free when it’s not. Interestingly, I’ve found the more expensive hotels to be bad about that.

So in the future, I’ll double check whether internet access is free or not before making any reservations. And I recommend you do likewise if you are an online kind of guy like myself.

And, hotels, get with it. The 20th Century is over.
Conflict in Church of England about to get hotter

Conflict in the Church of England between traditionalists and revisionists is about to get hotter and soon. For now that the new UK Civil Partnership law has come into effect, there will be CofE clergy who will, um, “marry” their gay partners. One Darlington vicar has announced his intention to do just that this week. How Christmasy.

Such public actions present the powers that be in the Church of England with an unhappy choice: force such marrying kinds among gay clergy (And I’m referring to those who have no intention to practice celibacy.) to stand down and make the revisionists explode in anger or do little or nothing and anger the orthodox and increase divisions with them. You can guess what actions I think should be taken, but whatever church authorities do, divisions in the Church of England will deepen and become more heated.

As far as the Anglican Communion is concerned, you can toss any hope of it remaining together if the CofE tolerates sexually active gay marriages/partnerships/whateveryouwanttocallthem among the clergy.

Now, the announced policy is that same-sex civil partnerships among the clergy are o.k., but that they must not be sexually active. Well, we’ll see if that’s a wink and a nudge or not.

When the CofE announced their policy about clergy civil partnerships, I posted that they were asking for trouble. We’re about to find out how much trouble.

More links and comments over at titusonenine.

Monday, December 19, 2005

England photos

I am not even close to getting all my best England photos up, but I got to work and posted some at my new Photobucket site. I do have all my better Cambridge pics up. Enjoy.

I’ll try to post more photos in the next few days.

Oh, they are in reverse chronological order. So you might want to start at the end of the last page.

Note that King’s College Chapel was the first stop. Yes, it was a magnet to me. Stopping there when was I barely off the bus was quite a thrill.
From the Santa is Satan Dept.

New Zealand Santas go on drunken rampage.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bach Rocks.

When I travel I always discover things about myself. Well, over in England, I discovered I really like Bach, especially his organ pieces which are a staple of church organ recitals over there.

If you like Bach, you might want to know that BBC Radio 3 is now doing a Bach marathon all the way up to Christmas.

Guess what I’m listening to.
My, how I have changed.

Something that may amuse you in light of yesterday’s post:
I distinctly remember seeing traditional Episcopal church signs in the 80’s -- before I even heard the word “Anglican” -- emphasizing that they were 1928 BCP parishes. And I thought it strange to get so worked up over a prayer book.

Yes, I have changed.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Tossing the Prayer Book in the Church of England

You may remember that when I visited Canterbury Cathedral, I was repelled by the liturgy there – Advent collects omitted, the Lord’s Prayer so tampered with I couldn’t recite it even while looking at the words in front of me, and more.

Well, as noted over on titusonenine, I’m not the only one appalled by the state of the liturgy in England. I unfortunately missed it while I was there, but the Telegraph ran a column denouncing the Church of England’s wholesale tossing of the Book of Common Prayer.

May I remind the reader that the 1662 BCP is still the official prayer book of the Church of England. Well, Canterbury sure doesn’t act like it. And it’s far from alone.

Now I’ll try to be charitable and say replacing the BCP with Common Worship is probably well meaning. One motive is surely to be more inclusive and make the liturgy more accessible to people.

But the effect is the opposite. It’s divisive. It divides the generations. Older folks used to the real BCP (and traditionalists like myself) fumble along in modern liturgy services. And even once they get used to modern liturgy, a lot of them flat don’t like it. They sure don’t get included much. It divides us further from our spiritual ancestors, taking our prayers further and further away from the prayers they prayed.

And it risks dividing us from the truth. Think about that old childhood game of whispering a message around a circle. By the time the message comes back around, it’s mangled. Excessive tampering with the liturgy risks the same thing. That’s the nature of language. Certainly, in omitting wonderful collects, the Canterbury priests were omitting at least a portion of their truth. (I noticed sloppiness about collects elsewhere in England, but Canterbury was the worst.)

And remember I attended more prominent places of worship. If they played fast and loose with the liturgy, what does that say about the Church of England as a whole?

An aside: there is a strong force in the Church of England that preserves traditional liturgy to some extent – choral music. All the great choral church pieces use the good old BCP.* So if you go to Choral Evensong in England, you are guaranteed to get good traditional liturgy . . . at least while the choir is singing.

*Later, it occurred to me that's not quite correct. But the point remains that choral music encourages sticking to the BCP.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I like Christmas lights.

This is the first Christmas at home for me since I was a kid. So I decided to put up some Christmas lights for the first time. I like them. For some reason, they give me a warm feeling. I even kept them on all night, so I’d see them when I woke up from time to time.

I’ve always liked Christmas lights. I remember my mom driving us around to look at them. And she gave me my own Christmas tree with lights for my room. She even let me have the tacky red flocking on it that was big in the 60’s and that I liked (maybe so our big tree could be normal).

That’s probably part of the reason I like lights. They make me recapture that childhood feeling of Christmas awe. Plus they are just pretty.

But I’m not ever going to be one of those who get into Christmas light competitions with neighbors. ;^)
A ruling that warms this anti-smoking heart

This morning, the Illinois Supreme Court threw out a ridiculous $10 billion verdict against Philip Morris. And I am rejoicing (in spite of feeling a bit cruddy from lingering jet lag).

Now, you may be puzzled. For, as you may have noticed, I have anti-smoking tendencies. No, let’s put it plainly. I can be an anti-smoking Nazi. I’ve walked out of restaurants with inadequate non-smoking seats. I’ve voted with enthusiasm to ban smoking in said restaurants. I’ve (mostly politely) told inconsiderate people to get their cigarettes out of my face. I consider habitually subjecting children to second-hand smoke to be child abuse. I do often flex about smoking friends if I wish, but you get the picture. If people want to smoke, fine, that’s their decision . . . as long as unwilling others don’t have to breathe their smoke or pay their medical bills.

I rant mention this rather unsympathetic side of me so you know my rejoicing in today’s ruling has nothing to do with a love for Philip Morris’ products. Why I rejoice is that people who don’t take responsibility for their own actions, but instead sue for millions when their actions have logical consequences should be put in their place.

Heck, for at least 40 years, the government has been warning people that smoking can kill you. I know because that was drummed into me in elementary school. And prominent warning labels have been on cigs longer than that. If people continued to smoke during that time and ended up killing themselves, IT’S THEIR OWN @#$% FAULT! Yes, their death is still sad, and lung cancer and emphysema and the like is a terrible way to go, but it’s still their fault.

But for people (or their families) to then sue as if it’s not their fault, and for courts to actually give such suits the time of day is outrageous. That $10 billion verdict was beyond outrageous. Rewarding a total lack of personal responsibility like that . . . don’t get me started.

That’s the bottom line for me in such cases – personal responsibility. If you do something stupid and pay the consequences, then at the very least accept that it’s your fault and don’t try to win the litigation lottery from it.

To be fair, most smokers have that much character and try not to inflict their smoke on the unwilling and certainly don’t whine to the courts. But those who don’t have that much common decency get me smoking. I’m glad to see one such set of smokers and their money-grubbing lawyers get put in their place. May it happen again and again and again.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


I'm back home now. Wow, I forgot just how nice Corpus air is. That freshness, warmth, and humidity perked me right up when I got off the plane.

I don't trust my brain enough at this time to write more than that. So that will have to do for now. Thanks again for all the guidance and kind words.
Day 22: Waiting for the flight to Texas

I might as well fill in some random stuff while I’m waiting for my gate to be announced.

Remember that New College chorister next to me who sang so well? He was one of the three soloists at the concert last night. I guess I do have a good ear. I think he had a rough night though. He nailed, and I mean nailed his first solo during Britten’s Ceremony of Carols. It was great. But he seemed to have a little trouble with his second solo, and he seemed unhappy the rest of the concert. Poor guy.

I heard King’s College last year do the Ceremony of Carols in Dallas. Sorry, my Oxford friends. King’s is better. Purer voices, more precise singing, and the boys sound more like trebles instead of like sopranos.

The British Library was great. To see the Codex Sinaiticus, among other treasures . . . wow. The 4th century Codex is the earliest complete copy of the New Testament. And it looks to be in great shape.

Ah, they announced the gate. I’m off.
Day 21: Ready to go home

posted the next morning at Gatwick Airport

I’ve had a good final day. The British Library, Evensong at St. Paul’s, and a concert from the choir of New College, Oxford are the highlights. (I might comment on those later.) And I’m thankful that I’ve gotten to come to England.

At the same, I’m ready to go home. And isn’t returning home one of the better parts of a trip? I think this trip was about the right length.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Day 20 and I’m tired!

Yes, I’m a bit tired from having full days and walking around London. But I’ll try to post a bit. (This may be my last post before I fly home, btw.)

I went to St. Mary’s Bourne Street. The worship was indeed excellent. (And I could wholeheartedly participate in everything but the Angellus at the end, and I’m not even sure I can spell that.) And they actually wore reddish Rose vestments on Gaudette Sunday (3rd Sunday in Advent), not the pink ones you see many places.

But you know what? I like the worship and the friendliness better at Smokey Matt’s back in Dallas. (And it’s the rector there that recommended St. Mary’s.)

From there, I walked through a district of oh-so-exclusive shops, Gucci, Armani, etc., to Hyde Park. It’s big. Then I got some very reasonable Chinese food and went to the Abbey’s Evensong again, then to an organ recital at Westminster Cathedral, then back to the Abbey for another organ recital. I told you about the walking.

I took a good last look at the Abbey and Big Ben at night before walking back to the hotel.

Philippians 4:4 and following was the introit at St. Mary’s, the second lesson at the Abbey, one of the few passages I’ve read as Lector and I think will be the epistle lesson this next Sunday at home. I wonder if God is trying to tell me something.

I’m also wondering if my ears make me like boys’ voices and church organs more than most people. I’m serious. People who know me know my ears are weird. I have good hearing, but it’s too good. I can’t filter out background noise and understand conversation in noisy places, and certain high-pitched noises are beyond my endurance. Yet when boy choristers hit a note just so and when a big cathedral organ really cranks, it literally gives me a rush. Maybe my hypersensitivity to certain sounds makes those good sounds affect me more.

If anyone wants to medically test me on this, they are welcome to . . . as long as I get to listen to the best choirs and organs. Financing another trip to England will do.

I stood on Darwin’s grave as I waited to enter Evensong at the Abbey. Heh, heh. Later, I noticed David Livingstone is buried in the middle of the Nave.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Day 19: Piccadilly Circus and a wonderful Westminster Evensong

The weather has turned nice in London. I still overhear people complaining about the cold. But 45 degrees, no wind, and a little sun is about as good as it’s been on my trip. So I did another walkabout, up to the Piazza, then over to Piccadilly Circus, and back though St. James Park to my hotel again. (Yes, I have a nice hotel in a good location. I decided to splurge for my last stop in London.)

By Buckingham Palace towards the beginning of my walk, I saw what seemed to be some random flummery with some uniformed horsemen riding up the Mall. I found out it’s the Changing of the Horse Guard (not to be confused with the more famous Changing of the Guard). Near the Changing, I ran into this very friendly Australian of Scottish extraction. Doesn’t that sound scary? He must drive the more reserved English nuts. We had a fun conversation on political history until I told him I had to go. (And I did. I needed to finish my walk by 2pm so I could get to Evensong early.)

On Charring Cross Road, I was impressed by the bookshops, but didn’t find any particular book I wanted. With my full suitcases and the cost of shipping books to the U. S., that might be a good thing.

Piccadilly Circus lived up to its name. Among other things, a Muslim anti-anti-Terrorism march went by. The two antis aren’t a typo. They were protesting against the war on terrorism. And anyone who has negative suspicions towards Muslims would have had those confirmed by looking at the banners, which equated war on terror with war on Islam. That they were inadvertently (or not) equating Islam with terror didn’t seem to bother them. They were also protesting against discrimination against the color orange as that was the color of all their banners.

Remember all those lefties of the 80’s who insisted that they weren’t pro-Communist, but always opposed anti-Communists? Who were anti-anti-Communists? Well, there were a lot of anti-anti-Terrorists marching today.

After enjoying the crazy birds in St. James Park and resting not as much as I wanted, I went to Evensong at Westminster Abbey. It was wonderful. I was thinking beforehand that I haven’t been to a service that really got a hold on me since Oxford. Well, this one got a big hold on me.

The choir sounded great, and their pieces were well chosen. I got to sit next to the choir again (I think most are shy about that. There were about 20 or more people before me.), and I noticed the chorister across the aisle from me had a good voice. Well, lo and beyond, when they sang Dyson’s Magnificat, he was the soloist. To be right by the soloist for such an excellent canticle was special. And he did well. After he finished, his chorister friends gave him quiet affirmation. And when he, smiling, turned in my direction, I gave him a nod, too.

An anthem from Isaiah 35 by Samuel Wesley moved me as well. Really, I can’t think of anything that wasn’t well chosen and done well. The service and its content gave me so much joy, I had to control my emotions at times, seeing I was sitting right next to the choir.

The second lesson was the passage from St. Paul where he says “the dead in Christ will rise first.” I thought with the over 3,000 buried in the Abbey, that might make quite a mess of the place.

I’m so glad I went. I’ll be back tomorrow for Evensong. For Sunday morning, I think I’m still going to St. Mary’s on Bourne St. on the recommendation of the rector of Smokey Matt’s.

An amusing part of Anglican culture is how much we like to sit in the back. In my home parish, the front quarter of the church is almost abandoned most services. And here in England, the places on honor are on the back rows. At the colleges, members and fellows sit on the back row. In Westminster Abbey, the Queen’s seat is in back right by the screen. (You must remember this is quire seating with the congregation facing each other. And the back row is three rows up. We’re not talking about seats way back in the nave of the cathedrals and chapels. But still.)

If you’re uncouth like me, this is great because you arrive just a little early, you get to sit right next to some of the best choirs in the world. This is one part of me that ain’t Anglican, and I’m glad!

Yesterday, when I was near Downing Street, I think history passed me by, and I didn’t even know it at the time. All these photographers were taking pictures of traffic. I thought maybe they were taking pictures of somebody Frightfully Important going to see the Prime Minister, but nothing seemed odd in the traffic to me. Later, I discovered the Routemaster, a historic double-decker bus was doing its last regular London bus route that day. It’s been quite a big deal. (There are still a lot of double-decker buses, but they are much more modern.) I wish I knew what was going on. I would have taken a photo or two myself.
Day 18: Westminster Abbey and more

I had good reason not to post yesterday. I barely had a free moment, I was having so much fun. And I’ll have to condense this one, too.

I started by going to Westminster Abbey. On good advice, I took the verger tour. I recommend it as well. You get to be right by the shrine of St. Edward the Confessor for one thing. Other visitors can’t do that.

Some of many graves in the Abbey were the highlights for me: Elizabeth I and Bloody Mary buried in the same tomb; the spot where Oliver Cromwell was buried before he was dug up and treated rather nastily. I was most moved by the places where Edward VI and Handel are buried. Edward VI’s place is very easy to miss and without the verger tour I probably would have missed it – beneath the altar in the lady chapel.

Charles Darwin is buried in the Abbey, too, by the way.

When I left about 1pm, the line to get in was long. I’d hate to see what it’s like during peak tourist season.

I then walked up to Downing Street. While I was there, someone Terribly Important was ushered through the iron gates. I could tell he/she was Terribly Important because they had a press conference before #10 and were driven in with three cars. More cars and it would be Frightfully Important.

I continued to Trafalgar Square where I caught the end of one of the famous lunchtime concerts in St. Martin-in-the-Fields church. After gawking at a silly new unisex statue in the Square, I walked through St. James Park back to the hotel. Quite a nice walk. Then I rested a bit and did more, but I want to get this day started. So that’s enough posting for now.
Day 17: Tower of London Plus

posted later

This has been a full and fun day. I could make a very long post, so I’ll stick to comments most relevant to Anglicans. (I will say my nerves have been fine since the first day. I’ve been relaxed and having fun since. Thanks to those who have expressed concern.)

I went to the Tower of London in the morning. At 9:30am, it was close to disserted, which was nice. I took some good advice (You know who you are. ;^) and went to the Crown Jewels first and gawked at them to my hearts delight without having to dodge other gawkers.

Something I’ve noticed in a number of places I’ve been is the excellent craftsmanship of centuries ago. Those who think those were “The Dark Ages” or uncivilized need to think again. Often the workmanship of long ago is much better than that of the 20th Century.

It got more crowded later, especially with school kids, which is cool, too. I think they visit sites during times of year when the tourists aren’t around. So I’ve seen a lot of English school kids.

The Chapel of St. Johns in the Tower is simple but beautiful with its two layers of Romanesque arches. I was moved by the Chapel Royal, mainly by the presence of Lady Jane Grey. She was executed by Bloody Mary in front of the chapel then buried under the altar. Thinking her body was there . . . it’s hard to describe how that affected me.

It’s strange how the bodies of royal executees were treated. They were buried in the most desirable place underneath the altar. But they were given no plaque or pavement stone. And their families could not visit them if they were buried anywhere in the Tower.

After the lunch in the Tower (Not very good.), I visited All Hallows by the Tower. It’s green copper spire is hard to miss. Inside, it combines elements all the way from its ancient Saxon beginnings to today. Yet it works, and it’s interesting.

Later on, I attended Solemn Mass for the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Westminster Cathedral. Yes, it was a bit Marian, just a little. And much of it was in Latin, which I like. I thought Latin Catholics were getting in trouble for that a few years back. Anyway, a bishop presided over it. I think it was the Catholic Archbishop around here. And yes, the choir was quite good, even though they were wayyyyy up there behind the altar. No sitting by the choir here.

Further, the worship lacked the intimacy of the Anglican worship I’ve experienced, especially here in England. Even in Anglican cathedrals, you can easily sit close to the choir and the celebrants. But not at Westminster Cathedral. I like intimate worship better.

Oh, and when people went up to take the sacrament, there wasn’t much order, you just got up when you wanted, not the row by row thing us Anglicans do. (I didn’t go up.) And it was in one kind (Bread only.). I really don’t like that. This sinner wants and needs both kinds.

The music and ceremony were excellent. Yet, the very Marian aspects turned me into a spectator for much of the time. But that’s fine. They’re Roman Catholick, and I’m not. And I’m still glad I went. I might go back on Sunday afternoon to hear the organ. It cranks!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Day 16: First afternoon in London

Well, I’m off to a good start in London, though a bit shakey . . . literally. I’ve been nervous at times since I got here, and I’m not sure why. Probably a combination of things.

I walked over to Westminster (Catholic) Cathedral to get a music list. But once there, I walked about. I was very impressed. Especially considering it was built in the late 19th century (not a good century in my opinion), it was done very creatively, with a lot of taste, and without a lot of Victorianism or obnoxious Modernism, thanks be to God . . . or whatever the Catholics say.

Then I just walked around, mainly in St. James Park. It was relaxing. And it was fun to see all the birds and animals expect to be fed. I even saw a squirrel eat out of someone’s hands. If London gets on your nerves, St. James Park is a good place to go. And take some food if you like to feed birds. (I just told them, “What? You expect ME to feed YOU?”)

Well, I’m about to meet some online acquaintances at a pub. It will be a bittersweet (and maybe awkward) occasion because one of their friends just suddenly died at only 27. If you see this in the next hour or two, pray for us and our time.

Tidbit: I just found out it’s supposed to be colder in Corpus Christi than here the next couple days.
In the interests of time, I’m combining posts.

Day 14: Not a good start in Canterbury

Written 12-5-05, late afternoon

Canterbury and I are not off to a good start.

As soon as settled in my room, I went to the Cathedral West Gate. And I was disappointed to see that the Evening Prayer this evening is not sung, but said. I soon noticed the reason why – The BBC was doing a special Christmas Concert in the Cathedral. And soon after that I found out it was sold out.

Now I have checked in on the Cathedral website for months. And I also had an exchange of e-mails. From that, I was confident I would get to go to two Evensongs sung by the choir in the two nights I am here. I very carefully planned my itinerary that way. At no time, including yesterday, did the website mention this concert or the said evening prayer. No, they didn’t even have up the service sheets for this week.

I visited the offices and politely but firmly let them know what I thought of this, as is right for me to do. This is no way to treat visitors who have literally crossed oceans to visit this place, and they should be confronted on it. They apologized, and now I get to practice forgiveness. But there is no excuse for this.

What if I was here for only one night? Wow. And to make things worse, the BBC’s sound check preparations inside the Cathedral got obnoxiously earsplitting.

If you think I’m a whiner, think again. If the choir all got the flu or there was some other unfortunate unforeseen event that changed the schedule on little notice, I would understand.

But for there to be a planned event, and for visitors to have little way to find out from the website in time to change their plans . . . . Like I said, that’s no way to treat visitors.

(To belabor the point and to give an example of the right way to handle things: I would like to go back to King’s College on Friday to look at and research their stained glass. But I see from their site that their opening times that day are not the usual ones and don’t make that very easy for me to do. That’s fine. And I appreciate them giving good prior notice.)

Now the hot water is out as I try to take a bath (no shower). I’m not liking Canterbury right now.

Later: Said Evening Prayer in the crypt where St. Thomas Becket’s tomb used to be, followed by a generous helping of fish and chips calmed me down a bit.

But as I later walked around the Cathedral precincts, in a slightly mischievous mood, debating whether to try to sneak into the Holy BBC service, something occurred to me: they are celebrating the One for whom there was no room in the inn by having a “service” which has no room in all of Canterbury Cathedral for pilgrims without connections.

And I decided I didn’t want to be in there anyway.

Just before 9pm, the Cathedral bell rang. And as it rang, it began raining. It was haunting.

Day 15: Cacophony in the Cathedral and a Memorable Time of Prayer

It’s a week until I leave England. Though I’m still looking forward to doings here, I’m looking forward to home, especially my church friends.

O. K. Let’s get this over with. I’m beginning to wonder if Canterbury Cathedral is capable of doing a service right. 8am Holy Communion was a Common Worship mish-mash. You’d think they’d know that people who would show up for an 8am service are probably pretty traditional. Maybe they just want to cram modern liturgy down our throats. Oh, and the priest left out the two Advent collects. Will he forget Christmas Day, too?

But surely Choral Evensong would be excellent, right? Wrong. The choir just did not sound very good. The boys’ voices in particular sounded weak or off in a number of places. (That’s not their fault, of course. Maybe the conductor had them too busy working for the BBC.) And the organ. . . . It’s hard to displease me with a cathedral organ. But both the organ and the organist sounded like crap. Up to now, I’ve taken in just about every organ postlude in the services here in England. And usually it sent me out with a spring in my step. Tonight, it just sent me out. I was out the door before it was finished. It was that awful.

I certainly hope my experience in the Cathedral these two days is not typical. If it is, the Dean should be sacked.

I’m going to venture to 7:30 Matins next to the Martyrdom in the morning. It would be hard to mess that up in such a special location. But if I walk over there and find out it’s going to be Common Worship or the like, I’m walking right back.

In any case, I’m out of here tomorrow morning, and not a moment too soon.

Other than the services, it was a good day. I spent most of the morning studying the wealth of circa 1200 stained glass in the Cathedral. It’s wonderful, and sometimes funny, too. The Becket Miracle Windows have some fun stories. The healing of Mad Matilda is my favorite. And I must have spent a good half hour gazing at the Bible Windows. The stained glass, like many of my experiences in England, reminded me of my links with saints of the past.

Yes, I’ve had to remind myself not to let the present problems at the Cathedral keep me from enjoying its past. And its past is glorious.

I had lunch with an online Scottish acquaintance. It was a fun time.

Then I walked over to St. Martin’s Church, the oldest church in continuous use in Britain. It even predates St. Augustine. It’s in a beautiful setting that was haunting on this grey day, surrounded by trees and gravestones.

Inside, the attendant was very helpful. And I had two times of prayer there that meant a lot to me. I thanked God for His grace in sending the Gospel to Britain and on to America. And I prayed for some friends to come to faith.

Like I said, to pray in such a place meant a lot to me. I didn’t expect this to be the highlight of my two days in Canterbury, but it certainly was.

As I left, I noticed the little church is only open three days a week. I was thankful I happened to come on one of those days.

You late night coffeehouse cool cats . . . you are out of luck in England. All the coffeehouses close at dinner time, even in the college cities. I was craving for a decaf mocha after dinner tonight, but no such luck. Even the Starbucks below me was closed. (Yes, there is a Starbucks next to the Cathedral.)

Did I mention I wanna go home? Nah, I do want to make the most of my last stop in London. But I’m glad I’m home in a week.

Day 16: To London, thanks be to God.

Sure enough, they used Common Worship for Matins. They didn’t even say the proper collects. No, I didn’t walk out or say anything. I’m considering a letter to the Dean later about their disregard for pilgrims and traditional Anglican worship.

Time to eat breakfast, pack, and get out of Canterbury.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Day 13: A Four Service Day

Today, my last day in Oxford, is a four service day, which has to be a record for me.

First, I went to a quiet 8am Holy Communion 1662 BCP service at St. Michael’s at the North Gate. I was the youngest there, of course. I wanted to take communion in a traditional way, in part so I wouldn’t have to make a decision in case I felt uncomfortable with the goings-on at Christ Church later.

After the service we had a breakfast of tea and toast – very English – and fun conversation. They were amused to hear there are places in Texas where you can’t buy liquor.

Then was 10am Mattins at Christ Church Cathedral. A nice service, proclaimed by much bell ringing outside. You can tell I like that, don’t you. And I was quite impressed with the choir. The boys were a bit exuberant. They seemed very happy to be there to worship the Lord at the beginning of the service. They also surreptitiously conversed and threw bits of paper at each other during the sermon.

Oh. I sang “Lo, He comes” all the way through. First time.

I stayed for the 11:15am Sung Eucharist. Their services are by Christ Church time, by the way, which is five minutes slower than normal time. (Imagine the fun if it were the other way around.) This service wasn’t so nice. Crap modern liturgy, not overtly obnoxious, but wearisome. They even modernized the Lord’s Prayer. And the only male I can remember saying anything (other than the choir) was the lector for the first lesson.

The choir again was excellent though with some making faces at each other. So I’m about to go back for Evensong.

This afternoon was actually sunny. So I just walked around for a bit. I think I’ve discovered one reason Americans are fat – their dependence on the automobile. In Oxford and Cambridge and in most of the world, people actually walk to get where they want to go, even if they are walking to a train or bus. Other than running to Westminster Abbey, my only exercise has been walking to get around. And in spite of my increased beer intake, I don’t think I’ve gained a pound.

Evensong was excellent with good liturgy. One chorister began it by flicking the ear of the one next to him. I don’t know which of the three choral foundations in Oxford is the best. All three are quite good, to put it mildly. But I know which one is the most entertaining.

And go to Evensong early, and you might catch the end of their practice. You can’t do that with the other big choirs.

I have to put in a word for the organist as well. I want to say his name is Clive-Smith, but I can’t swear to it. His preludes and postludes were top notch. He can play very calming and peaceful pieces well . . . and he can rock!

Tomorrow morning, I attempt to get to Canterbury. Don’t be alarmed if I don’t post for a couple days, however. I might wait until London to bother to get online. (And forgive any typos in this post. I want to eat, pack, and get to bed.)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Days 11 and 12: King’s College Choir Concert in London

Yesterday morning, I saw the door of the prison cell where Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley were held. It’s in the tower of St. Michael’s at the North Gate, just down Ship Street, the oldest building in Oxford.

I had an excellent ticket to the King’s College Choir concert at St. John’s Smith Square in London. So I walked over to the Oxford train station, getting there about 2:20. Plenty of time to go to Evensong at Westminster Abbey with probably a visit to St. Margaret’s first, right?

Wrong! My opinion of the train system in London is not high right now. Let’s leave it at that. I’m not looking forward to using it to get to Canterbury, carrying my luggage.

So my first view of the Abbey was while I was running to it to try to get to the 5pm service as it started. Fortunately, I only missed the introit.

As I walked outside afterwards, I got my first view ever of Big Ben. It was a surprise, because I thought it was further north. To see it for the first time at night is spectacular!

The concert was excellent, of course. But some of the organ compositions were weird and not well chosen in my opinion. Oh, I met another composer, Judith Bingham. She was sitting next to me and is quite pleasant. (It’s probably good we didn’t talk about organ compositions.)

Taking the train back was a bit more tolerable. I actually got back to my Oxford room before midnight. There were plenty of end of term student revelers about.

I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do today other than go to Magdalen for Evensong and an organ recital. I’m a bit tired of going around gawking at old buildings.

Later: I started by going to the Ashmolean Museum. I’m glad I went. But I didn’t stay long. The Fitzwilliam in Cambridge is much more interesting.

I’ve noticed students moving their worldly goods out. And with the end of term, many of the colleges are closed. But, on the Good Professor’s suggestion, I wanted to see the chapels of Lincoln and Wadham Colleges. And both places, the gentleman in front kindly waved me through providing I’d not go elsewhere.

Both chapels are very nice. I didn’t mind gawking at them at all. The early 17th century stained glass in both is wonderful. The themes in both chapels are similar: prophets on the left, apostles on the right, with the Apostle’s Creed in Latin beneath them. Since the apostles have the light of the Gospel, the sunlight shines through their windows. And both chapels have outstanding east windows full of Old Testament types and New Testament fulfillments.

Kids (and me) would appreciate the wonderful great fish shown with Jonah in both chapels.

One of the pluses of performing modern church music is most of the audience can’t tell if a harsh note is the performer messing up . . . or just part of the composition.

Perhaps the best sandwich place I’ve found anywhere in the world is Harvey’s on High Street just above Magdalen. And each time I go there, they give me free stuff. Be aware, though, that they barely speak English and usually have loud (but good) dance music playing.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Day 10: The Bodleian Library.

posted the following day

Today, I visited Oxford University’s famous Bodleian Library. I started at the old Divinity School room where Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley were examined. (Read “show trial.”)

While waiting for a tour, I walked across Radcliffe Square to the University Church and again contemplated and touched where Cranmer confessed the Faith before being led off to be burned. I was deeply moved again. But then I remembered he was cheerful as he was led to his martyrdom, so I thought, “Enough of that.”

Incidentally, the spire of the University Church is big and scary. Oh, and the crowned statue of Mary over the High Street door was used against Archbishop Laud in his trial. It seems all sorts of Anglicans get in trouble there. Maybe I should steer clear of the place.

Back at the Divinity School, I spent a lot of time looking at the amazing 15th century fan vaulted ceiling. It’s a design that is close to unique. (By the way, after I get back, I think I’m going to break down and create a picture site and show you some of these things.)

And I bought this excellent book on illuminated Bibles in the store there. A few weeks ago, I’m not sure I could tell anyone what an illuminated book was. But prompted by the Cambridge Illuminations exhibition, I now find the subject fascinating, especially with Christian books.

The tour itself was a treat. Of course, we saw shelves upon shelves of oldddd books. I don’t know why that makes my jaw drop, but it does. Annnd we went into the Radcliffe Camera, which most of the public doesn’t get to do. It’s a spectacular building, but sure doesn’t use space efficiently. Those Victorians!

The way my schedule and the chapels’ schedule has worked out, I’ve gone to the evening service at Magdalen every night but one. But that may be providential. Tonight, I was blown away. Their services really put the awe and peace and joy of God into me.

I used to think it a waste of time and very Cafflick to go to services everyday. I still think that can become a trap of substituting services for other things God would have us do. But my visit to England is very much reinforcing my understanding of those who do like to go to services everyday. For at least three weeks, I’m one of them.


If you ever visit Oxford and manage to avoid 1. stepping on a burial site and 2. walking into a bicycle, let me know. Graves and bicycles are everywhere here.

Here, I’ve used an umbrella for the first time in many years. . . . And I’ve used it quite a bit.

England is the only place I’ve been where it regularly gets colder in the afternoon.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Day 9: St. Andrews Day in Oxford

posted the following day

I’ve had an excellent St. Andrews Day here in Oxford. In the morning, I visited the Cathedral and College of Christ Church, and it was well worth the price of admission.

The dining Hall is huge and lined with portraits. You can easily see how it inspired the dining hall in the Harry Potter films (parts of which were filmed at Christ Church).

In the Cathedral, a gentleman offered a tour, and I took him up on it. He pointed out details I would have missed, such as the anachronistic flush toilet in one stained glass window. And he was impressed that I knew more of Anglicanism and English history than the average tourist.

I could say more and would advise Christ Church as a priority stop for anyone visiting Oxford.

In the evening, I went to Magdalen again for Sung Eucharist. Yes, they broke out the incense, which seemed to be blowing in my direction at one point.

It was an impressive service in a number of ways. The highlight for me was the choir singing the Sanctus. A chorister started it as a solo, then the rest of the choir joined in and it slowly built to a crescendo. I don’t think I’ve ever so fervently worshiped during a Sanctus before.

And it was fun earlier exchanging the peace with a cheerful chorister.

But what most impressed me about the service was that it was full and unrushed, at a worshipful pace, yet only took about 45 minutes. And I’ve mentioned that their also meditatively paced Evening Prayer service the other night took only 30 minutes. I don’t know how they do it. But with students’ rushed schedules, that’s very smart to have services that are unrushed, yet brief.

Then I had dinner and a pint at The Eagle and the Child and saw where C. S. Lewis, Tolkien, and friends held forth.

Then I walked over to a violin concerto at the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. They played Beethoven’s only complete violin concerto. Both it and its history are very interesting and somewhat complex. There’s a teenager at my church who is something of a violin prodigy. I’ll have to tell him about it when I get back.

Have I mentioned this is quite a musical place? Often I hear rehearsals when I walk through a college or into a church.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Random tidbits from England

I’ve come across two churches that have stained glass of Madonna and Child front and center over the altar. One was St. Mary the Less in Cambridge. The other was some medieval glass here in Oxford, I forget where. (Yes, I’ve been seeing that many chapels and churches.)

Although, I don’t want to be an iconoclast and smash some glass, especially if it’s pre-19th century, I feel very uncomfortable with putting Mary front and center. Christ and Christ alone should be front and center. Statues of or shines to Mary on the side don’t bother me although that’s not my inclination. But putting her front and center is going too far.

And I’m very confident she would agree.

The quality of the vocals from the best choristers at the college chapels is amazing. At some services this trip, I’ve sat close enough that I can pick out individual voices, and . . . wow. Last night, I sat across the aisle from a New College chorister. His voice was amazing, with great range. And I don’t think he was one of the older ones, either. If there were a CD of just him singing, I’d buy it in a second.

Speaking of which, I’ve been buying more CDs than books. And as heavy as my suitcases are getting, that’s probably a good thing.

The iconoclasts in English history would go nuts here in Oxford. Not just Magdalen, but also New College literally have walls of statues for their east walls. You can tell that was done after the 17th century!

I’m really missing not having wireless in the hotel room. And I won’t have any until I stay in London beginning Wednesday next week. Among other things, that isolates me more than I like.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Day 7: First Day in Oxford

(posted the following day)

I’ve hit the ground running in Oxford. I was afraid I wouldn’t like the place with its reputation of being more urban, secular, and, yes, snooty than Oxford. And perhaps it is more snooty. The colleges, at least, seem to be more restrictive about entry than at Cambridge.

But I already see there is a lot here I want to explore, certainly enough to take up a week. And two kindly ladies on the bus suggested an excellent walk to Iffley to me . . . if it gets a little warmer and I want a walk in the country.

As for urban,, the bus fumes got my attention. Yet Magdalen College has huge pastures with numerous deer. Two of the racks on them were awesome. More on Magdalen in a moment.

Among my first orders of business was to visit key sites pertaining to the martyrdom of the Oxford Martyrs, Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley. First, I managed to find the cross on the pavement where they were burnt. I say “managed” because it was not easy to find. There’s not much of a memorial there, which doesn’t reflect well on Oxford, does it not? Oh well, they were Cambridge men.

(To be fair, I think there is a more appropriate monument around the corner which I have yet to visit. It’s located next to St. Mary Magdalen Church, an Anglo-Catholic hotbed. The irony.)

Later, I stood on the very spot in St. Mary the Virgin University Church where Cranmer repudiated his recantations, and I touched the groove cut in the pillar to support his platform.

Moved, I nearly lit a candle in the chapel for him and Latimer and Ridley. But then I remembered such a popish act probably would have annoyed them, so in honor of them, I desisted.

I hope they don’t mind that I later went to the rather popish Magdalen College. The chapel literally has an east wall of statues and faintly smells of incense.

Theirs was a wonderful time of worship and a bit different than I’ve experienced, even in Cambridge. The service is introduced with much outside bell ringing and has its share of pregnant pauses, both practices I immediately like. Yet, it’s quite brief, about 30 minutes. It even omitted two key collects which is a no-no in my prayer book. But it was still excellent – yes, particularly the singing of the choristers. (The men did not sing tonight.) And they are even more disciplined than those of King’s and St. John’s in Cambridge, although the ones on my side were passing something down the line. In any case, the service greatly helped me to worship.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Day 6: Advent Sunday in Cambridge (and the hymn I can’t sing)

Today was a very special Advent Sunday for me. It was simple, but wonderful. First, I went to St. Mary’s the Less (or “Little St. Mary’s”) for Solemn Mass. Yep, incense and bells, including ringing the outside bells at key points in the service, which is a touch I like. The worship was excellent.

And it’s a very lively parish with a good mix of people. Lots of old folks but lots of students and families with young children, too. The custom is for the children to leave before the Liturgy of the Word then return for communion. And when they return with the parents, they sit up front. I walked by a fun cacophony when I went up to take the sacrament.

I was invited to stay for Advent lunch, and that was nice, complete with nice wines and excellent apple pudding. Now in the States, we call it apple cobbler or apple crumble, but if they want to call it pudding, that’s fine. They’ve been eating it longer than we have.

After a rest, I did a quick run through the Cambridge Illuminations exhibit again. Yes, I had to see that pope get it again among other things.

Then I went to the St. John’s special Advent service, which really was special. Not all the songs were my speed, but still. And this one chorister soloist was excellent. They worked him out, too, giving him two solos.

And the generous organ music before and after was excellent as well. I’ve discovered I really dig Le monde dans l’attente du sauveur (from Symphonie-Passion (Op. 23)) even if it is French.

The walk back in the night was special, too. At one spot, I heard O Come, O Come Emmanuel from King’s College and the bells of Great St. Mary’s ring joyously for Advent.

There is something I wasn’t able to do today, however, and I had two chances. Both the Little St. Mary’s and St. John’s services had Charles Wesley’s great Advent hymn Lo! He Comes. . . . And I couldn’t sing it all the way through either time.

At LSM, I barely made it through the first verse, if even that, when my emotions made me take a break from singing for a bit.

At St. Johns, I was doing really well and thought I’d make it through easy. But then the last verse got me and got me good. I was able to sing little of it. So I took in instead how beautiful it sounded in the full chapel with all the voices sounding great together and with the choristers singing a ringing descant. But then though my tears, I did whisper the last word:


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Day 5: A dream comes true at lunch

I’ve been thinking the coolest thing would be to eat in a really old Cambridge (or Oxford) college dining hall. And visiting the circa 1250 Peterhouse hall the other day confirmed that with its stained glass and high ceilings and portraits of worthies glaring down on the tables.

Well, in meeting some online friends, my dream came true. One is a doctorate student at Peterhouse. She said, “It’s just student fare, but we can eat at Peterhouse if you like.” My eyes widened, and I said, “You don’t have to ask me twice.” It was a very special lunch indeed. (The food wasn't that bad, either.)

Earlier, we looked over the Cambridge Illuminations exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum. It displays old illuminated books, some dating back to the 12th century. The workmanship of the old illuminated texts is amazing.

The content of the illuminations is wonderful as well. You have to have a sharp eye to notice, but one illumination had a pope getting it during the Last Judgement. And there was a facsimile of the Trinity Apocalypse you could leaf through. It beats Left Behind by a mile!

Random tidbit: I’ve learned that in visiting buildings in Cambridge, you must remember to look at the ceilings. Many of them are quite wonderful, such as the 80 foot high fan vaulted ceiling at King’s College Chapel.

My favorite ceiling so far is that of the Chapel of St. John’s College. It beautifully portrays Christ and various saints in a big oval around the chapel. Looking up at it makes me feel like I am indeed “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.”

Friday, November 25, 2005

Day 4 – A New Anthem at St. John’s

I’m going to skip that it was a good day with lots of wandering about and another nice Evensong at King’s. I did pray before King’s that I would worship well. I noticed I was focusing so much on choirs, music, art, and architecture that I wasn’t experiencing this trip as a pilgrimage as much as I intended.

Well God answered that prayer rather quickly. Evensong at King’s meant a lot to me. It was interesting that there was no organ tonight. But I think that actually helped add an even more reverent atmosphere.

But then I ran over to St. John’s for their Evensong. Maybe that’s cheating, but oh well. They had a change in the program. Instead of There is no Rose, which I was looking forward to, they did a new anthem commissioned for the special Advent services this weekend, The Cry of Elisha After Elijah.

Now, I’m not a big fan of modern church music, but this piece is excellent. And the last verse had me silently crying afterwards during prayer (Words by R.S. Thomas after the Welsh of Thomas William):

The friends that we loved well,
Though they vanished far from our sight,
In a new country were found
Beyond this vale of night;
O blest are they, without pain or fretting
In the sun’s light that knows no setting.

After the service, I shook hands with the Music Director, Dr. David Hill and said the new anthem was an excellent choice and that I looked forward to hearing it again Sunday. He cheerfully responded, “Well, here’s the composer!” And Geraint Lewis shook hands and I thanked him, saying it brought tears to my eyes.

What wonderful worship I experienced tonight! I could have floated out of the chapel. I was so joyful and thankful.

I’m even more glad I have a ticket to Sunday’s special service at St. John’s. And you can listen with me! BBC Radio 3 will broadcast it, including on the internet, this Sunday on a half-hour delay I think. Here’s the details (You’ll have to scroll down a bit.). 18:30 should be 12:30 noon Dallas time. And it should be available online for a while afterward.

Something you won’t be able to experience is seeing a chorister pick his nose and look like he was about to fall asleep while singing the responses. ;^)

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Day 3 – Cambridge

I had a full day and the first one spent completely in Cambridge. It seems I’ve already been here a long time by the way.

My first stop was Jesus College. I wanted to visit there since I read that’s where Cranmer was a fellow. Really nice campus . . . and quiet. There weren’t many people on the quads. The chapel there is very impressive, really striking to the eye, especially when you first walk in.

I noticed on the bulletin board just outside the chapel, that after a special service in December, “whiskey will be served.”

I got real low on energy not long after Jesus College. Maybe the full days are catching up with me a bit. But I visited the Round Church and bought a couple books there. The church there is a hotbed of evangelicalism.

Then I visited Trinity College, and that place got my energy back up. Henry VIII holding a stool leg on the gate was a good start. (That’s a hallowed undergraduate prank.) The main court (quad) is breathtaking and the largest in either Cambridge or Oxford.

But the highlight of Trinity and of the day was visiting the Wren Library. All the old, and I mean really, really old books! And an 8th century copy of the Epistles of Paul on display -- I felt like getting down on my knees when I saw that. My jaw nearly fell out of my head.

By the way, Trinity College is a great place to visit if you’re on a budget – no admission charges for anything. And you can get into more things than at other colleges. Most here won’t let you into their library at all.

Later on, I saw the King’s College choristers walk into their chapel in their top hats. And I went to the Sung Eucharist there. It was a nice service. And walking between the two lines of the choir as I walked back to my seat after taking communion was an experience. (The fellows take the sacrament, then the college members, then the normal people, then the choir.)

But if you want a lot of singing, go to Evensong instead. I’m still glad I went, though.

Oh, for those who are interested in such things – they use white wine.

The sun finally came out today by the way. But even at 1pm, it was so low it seemed like it was setting. Then the wind kicked up and it got cccold. There’s been a lot of talk about a possible snow. But Weather Underground says it’s unlikely here. Some English seemed to get as freaked out by snow as Texans.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A day at Ely

I took the train and my legs over to Ely Cathedral today. It was a full day.

When I got there, a couple guys were putting in extra chairs. I asked them why, and they said there was going to be a Thanksgiving service there tonight, mainly for the U. S. military in the area.

I joked with friends back home that I would miss Thanksgiving this year because the English don’t celebrate people fleeing from them. Looks like I was wrong!

The cathedral is amazing and very, very old. Some of it dates to before 1100, most of it before 1400. The history and art of it had me poking around it (and gawking) for hours.

I also visited the tiny Prior Crauden’s Chapel and the Lady Chapel there, and also St. Mary’s parish church. On it is the following plaque:

Here lye interred in one grave the Bodies of

William Beamiss
George Crow
John Dennis
Isaac Hurley
Thomas South
Who were all executed at Ely on the 28th Day of June 1816, having been convicted at the Special Assizes holden there of divers Robberies during the Riots at Ely & Littleport in the Month of May in that Year.

May their awful Fate be a warning to others.

How would you like that plastered about you on the side of a church? Maybe that’s a good way to discourage looting.

Back at the cathedral, about 100 kids from a school came for the day, in uniform, of course. I got a lot of amusement from them. There’s nothing like English school kids (and stern English adults hectoring them).

Two things that saddened me, though. A priest there asked a group of about twenty of the kids how many of them went to church. I saw only one raise a hand.

And the Lady Chapel – it is a barren place. The iconoclasts destroyed all the statues and stained glass. It seems very big (And I was told it’s the biggest Lady Chapel in England.) and empty. And to make things worse, above the altar there’s a year 2000 statue of Mary that looks more like a screaming harlot than the Blessed Virgin. It’s a bad joke. I forget who it was, but someone I know that said the Lady Chapel is one of the saddest places he has ever been. I understand why.

Back in Cambridge, I was one of four at evening prayer at Little St. Mary’s. I’ll probably worship there Sunday.

And I discovered the English actually can make a hamburger. I had an excellent cheeseburger and half-pint at a pub next to the hotel.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

First Day in England

I’m in Cambridge now. And it has an air of unreality about it.

My feelings have been strange on the way here, from fear (I don’t know why.) to giddiness to feeling a bit overwhelmed.

When I got here after some blessed sleep on the bus, I could hardly wait to walk about. And, yes -- you guessed it – I couldn’t keep myself from plucking down my four and a half pounds and exploring King’s College Chapel. That was overwhelming (the chapel, not the admission). It is so awesome, and there is so much to take in. Just the wonderful pre-reformation windows (which are quite rare in England thanks to iconoclasts) are more than I can take in.

Now, I’m about to walk back down the road and attend Evensong at King’s College Chapel. Just writing that brings a mix of emotions. And it finally seems very real.

One thing that I noticed -- the choir (and here I mean the main part of the chapel), as soaring as it is, is not big at all on the floor. I suspect evensong will be quite intimate.

Time to get my shoes on and get there early.


Evensong at King’s was excellent. And I sat seat only two seats and an aisle away from the choir! That’s intimate, I’d say.

A highlight was a chorister reading the first lesson of Isaiah 53. And he read that moving and pivotal chapter quite well, with a good boyish English accent, of course.

If there was a disappointment, it was that the choristers didn’t sing the canticles (Magnificat and Nunc Dimittus) at all. Only the men sang those. But that’s understandable because the boys had a lot of challenging parts to sing tonight, particularly in the Hymn to St. Cecilia. And when they were singing . . . wow -- and I couldn't help but say that under my breath after one piece.

But I was probably most moved by the Collects. To hear these ancient prayers in such a place . . . well, like I said I was moved.

I was surprised that King’s ended with enough time for me to rush over to Evensong at St. Johns. As I made a good guess and opened the correct chapel door, the choir was already gathering. They quickly prayed and began the service. I could have moved into the main chapel after they processed in. But I didn’t know what was proper, so I stayed in the antechapel.

But hearing it from back there was a pleasant surprise on several counts. First, the choir sounded just fine even from that far away. I could hear them perfectly well. Second, not only did the screen between the chapel and antechapel not mess up the sound at all, but I could also see the chapel quite well. (The screen in King’s blocks the view much more.)

And third, I frankly haven’t been impressed by what I’ve heard from St. Johns in the recent past. But live, they are perfectly good. Maybe they need better sound guys for their broadcasts and recordings, I don’t know.

But I was pleasantly surprised to have a ticket waiting for me when I arrived at my hotel today – one to St. John’s special Advent service on Sunday. I think I will use it.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

A happy day and a sad day

As expected, the ECUSA diocese of Rochester in New York voted to dissolve All Saint’s Church because they wouldn’t fork over the Holy Apportionment. Sad and shameful.

I’m confident God will bless the parishioners of All Saint’s for refusing to fund apostasy and for suffering for their resolute stand.

This somewhat tempers the joy of this day. Tomorrow, I take off for England.

As I’ve said, my posting will be sporadic, but I will save some thoughts and experiences for you.

Yes, I’m excited. Yes, do pray for me.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Nigeria/REC/APA Covenant Union background

Reformed Episcopal Bishop Ray Sutton has communicated with REC parishes and provided some interesting background on the Covenant Union with the Church of Nigeria announced this week. He has some exhortations for us as well in his missive.

+Sutton was the bishop who confirmed me, by the way.
Posting while in England

I intend to share with you, kind readers, my impressions during my impending (and first) pilgrimage to England. However, be aware of two things:

1. I don’t know how well I’ll be able to convey those impressions. For example, when the King’s College Choir is at their best, how in the world do you put that into words?

2. Maintaining an online presence will not be a high priority as I’m sure you understand. And, especially while in Oxford and Canterbury, I don’t know how convenient internet access will be. So if I seem to disappear for a week or more, don’t be alarmed.

Thanks for your good wishes and prayers. Yes, I’m excited.
Devovi Sanctum Pecunium

You better genuflect when you hear that, buster. It’s (my attempt at) Latin for “Fork over the Holy Money.”

In the Diocese of Rochester, one parish may be shut down because they can’t consciously fork over the money to a heterodox bishop. Tomorrow the diocese votes on a resolution to do just that.

One of the bitter ironies of the conflict in the Episcopal Church is that any number of traditional church teachings have been torn apart and tossed aside. And the denomination has become so darn “inclusive” that just about anything is tolerated. BUT if a congregation can’t conscientiously participate in the heterodoxy, at least several dioceses will come down on them like a ton of bricks. “Tolerance” isn’t very tolerant then.

And there are a number of presbyteries in my old Presbyterian Church USA where things are that ugly as well. Skimming The Presbyterian Layman should provide some sordid details.

“Tolerance” and “inclusiveness” in the Episcopal and Presbyterian Churches is a sham – especially if money or property is involved.

Now excuse me while I listen to Griswoldian Chant.

Devovi Sanctum Pecunium . . .

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Last night at Evening Prayer . . .

Last night at Evening Prayer at my parish, during the Prayer for the Clergy and People, ++Peter Akinola was prayed for by name along with our REC bishops.

Yes, we already greatly value our new relationship with the Church of Nigeria.

I’ve noticed you can tell a lot about a parish by which church leaders they choose to pray for during their liturgy. Perhaps more on that sometime.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Boycott Sony.

I know this is a bit off the beaten track for this blog, but I’m outraged by what Sony has been doing to their own customers.

It’s bad enough that they have been rigging their cds so you can’t copy songs you have bought to your own computer. Now, they’ve been caught red-handed jamming their spyware on costumers’ computers!

I’ve already been boycotting Sony cds. Now I’m boycotting the rest of that evil company and urge you to join me.
Church of Nigeria, REC, and APA agree to “Covenant Union”

This Reformed Episcopalian got a nice wake-up this morning when I found out that in Pittsburgh, the Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola, Primate of the Church of Nigeria, the Most Rev. Leonard W. Riches, Presiding Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church, and the Most Rev. Walter H. Grundorf, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Province of America agreed on a “Covenant Union” between the three churches.

This does not bring us into official full communion, but certainly brings us closer. And it certainly strengthens our links with the orthodox in the Anglican Communion. It is welcome news indeed.

I told ya to watch the REC.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

One week from tonight . . .

One week from tonight, God willing, I will be in the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, taking in my first Evensong there. It will be in celebration of Saint Cecilia’s Day. St. Cecilia is the patroness of church music.

How appropriate.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Book group sale offer you can’t refuse . . .

As you can probably tell by the top link on the right, I’m the author of God Knows What It's Like to be a Teenager. It has sold reasonably well and has received a number of good reviews, BUT it turns out the first printing was a bit ambitious. So unless I want boxes of books to line a wall of my garage, I need to move them. And that issue gives you quite the opportunity if you lead or help out at a church, school, youth ministry, etc.

To get to the point, if you’d like to buy 10 or more copies of God Knows What It's Like to be a Teenager and you live in the U. S., I’ll sell copies to you for a buck a book. I’ll even pay shipping. (Outside the U. S., we might be able to work something out.) Yes, that’s an incredible deal and quite handy for teen birthdays, jr. high graduations, confirmations, etc. You can find out a lot more about God Knows at

But I don’t know how long I’ll let this offer last, so if you’re interested, e-mail me: mark at godknows99 dot com.
Someone in ECUSA gets it!

Well, maybe I underestimated ECUSA stalwarts on Friday. For here are a few who seem to get that ++Rowan’s statement the other day might not bode well for their future in the Anglican Communion.

And they are not happy.

By the way, can you spot all the logical fallacies and private interpretations in that link? It must be nice to know the mind of Christ so well that one can ignore the whole catholic church through the centuries.

Here’s a critique gentler and slightly more comprehensive than mine.

UPDATE: And now the Pontificator has weighed in. God help the revisionists!
In one week . . .

One week from today, God willing, I take off for England. First stop: Cambridge.

UPDATE: I just found out I'll get to see the Cambridge Illuminations exhibition.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Q+A session with the Archbishop of Canterbury

I recommend reading the Q+A session with the Archbishop of Canterbury at the recent South-South Encounter in Egypt.

You may have noticed I’ve been . . . perplexed by some of the Archbishop’s actions (or lack thereof) in the past. But I found these answers reassuring.

What I find most reassuring is he comes across as seeking to be a truly catholic archbishop. He doesn’t see forcing controversial innovations on the church as his role at all, regardless of his personal views.

And he doesn’t seem to look fondly on any other bishop who takes on that kind of divisive role.

(I would say ECUSA take note, but I’m sure that would fall on deaf ears.)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Common Cause convention begins today.

My thoughts and prayers are with the Common Cause convention that begins in Pittsburgh today. The past two mornings I’ve prayed this slightly altered prayer from the Reformed Episcopal Prayer Book (also found in the 1928 BCP):

A Prayer to be used at the Meetings of Convention.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who by thy Holy Spirit didst preside in the Council of the blessed Apostles, and hast promised, through thy Son Jesus Christ, to be with thy Church to the end of the world; We beseech thee to be with the Council of thy Church in Pittsburgh assembled in thy Name and Presence. Save them from all error, ignorance, pride, and prejudice; and of thy great mercy vouchsafe, we beseech thee, so to direct, sanctify, and govern us in our work, by the mighty power of the Holy Ghost, that the comfortable Gospel of Christ may be truly preached, truly received, and truly followed, in all places, to the breaking down the kingdom of sin, Satan, and death; till at length the whole of thy dispersed sheep, being gathered into one fold, shall become partakers of everlasting life; through the merits and death of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Andrew Goddard’s Oxford Union speech on practicing gay bishops

Recently the Oxford Union debated the motion “This House believes that a homosexual lifestyle is no bar to becoming a Bishop.” Andrew Goddard of Wycliffe Hall spoke in opposition to the motion and spoke very well. I commend his speech to you.

The most interesting part of the speech to me was his quote from a gay atheist of all people, Matthew Parris:

Knowingly to appoint gay bishops robs Christianity of meaning. It is time that convinced Christians stopped trying to reconcile their spiritual beliefs with the modern age and understood that if one thing comes clearly through every account we have of Jesus’s teaching, it is that His followers are not urged to accommodate themselves to their age, but to the mind of God. When the row over the appointment of gay bishops first blew up I expected, being gay, to join the side of the Christian modernisers. But try as I do to summon up enthusiasm for my natural allies…passion fails me.

Why do so many church leaders not have that much sense?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Al Mohler and Touchstone, am I a second-class adult?

In the past on this blog, I’ve told of my encounters with churches that treat singles as second-class adults. In my last two church searches, it was a priority to find churches that do not do that.

Obviously, I don’t think it wise to encourage churches to treat singles as lesser members. So imagine my reaction when I was reading the latest Touchstone and saw this from Albert Mohler:

The church should insist that the biblical formula is: Adulthood means marriage, and marriage means children.

Well. I guess Jesus wasn’t a full adult then. Nor was Paul. And let’s keep ignoring that weird un-American chapter in I Corinthians that talks about remaining single to focus on devotion to the things of the Lord. No, no. “Adulthood means marriage.”

I guess all those offending churches through the years were right – I’m a second-class adult.

Now to be fair, Dr. Mohler was primarily writing about married couples who refuse to have children. And although I don’t share his conviction that willfully childless couples are all mean and selfish and Unbiblical™?, he makes some good points about sorry attitudes towards children. And I would hope what he meant was generally adulthood means marriage. I would probably agree.

But that’s not what he wrote. Through recklessness (I hope), he wrote that the church should “insist” that “adulthood means marriage.”

No, it doesn’t. That is not “biblical.” It’s just the opposite. It ignores scripture itself. And it’s a smear (though inadvertent I’m sure) on Jesus and all His saints through the ages who have served God without getting married. Putting a “biblical” mantle on such prejudice is flat wrong and offensive.

And it’s a prejudice against singles too many churches exhibit already. They don’t need any encouragement from Albert Mohler or Touchstone.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Achtung! You VILL be inclusive!

I try not to be too cynical and bitter and generally mean. I really do. But when I see the oh-so-inclusive and tolerant crowd prove themselves again and again to be about the most exclusive and intolerant totalitarians on the face of the earth, I just give up my feeble efforts.

And I’m not using the word “totalitarian” idly. Totalitarians tolerate no action, associations, or even thinking that is opposed to the direction of the Benevolent Dictators in charge of their movements. And that describes all too well the most fervent of the “inclusive” libchurch crowd.

Take the People’s Democratic Bishop of the Shiny Happy Gulag of New Westminster, Michael Ingham. This man who is supposed to be a shepherd brooks no Wrong Thinking among the sheep. He was publicly angry when Canada did not enact laws making it illegal for clergy to refuse to conduct same-sex marriages.

And Freedom of Association is just a Capitalist Running Yankee Dog concept to him and his comrades. His diocese just passed a resolution asking the Maximum Bishop to

take such actions as he may consider necessary with respect to any licensed Clergy or any Parish of the Diocese who should choose to declare themselves to be a Member of the Anglican Network in Canada or the Essentials Network or the Anglican Communion in Canada, whether by formal resolution or by other public actions or declarations…

So they’ve asked for Ingham to come down on clergy members of the Network as hard as he wants. And these are among the groups that the Archbishop of Canterbury has publicly recognized as good Anglicans, saying, “There is no doubt in my mind that these networks are full members of the Anglican Communion: that is to say, their bishops, their clergy, and their people are involved with the Communion which I share with them, which we all share with them.”

Think about that again. If you are clergy in the Diocese of Westminster and you become a member of the Network, the official diocese policy, though the Network is recognized by ++Rowan, is for Bishop Ingham to come down on you as hard as “he may consider necessary.” And this bishop is a man who would have the state act against those who refuse to conduct same-sex marriages.

Welcome to the lefty totalitarian “inclusive” “church.”

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Liberal Bigots

While driving this week, my head nearly hit the ceiling of my pick-up when I heard the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel had opined thus on the Supreme Court:

In losing a woman, the court with Alito would feature seven white men, one white woman and a black man, who deserves an asterisk because he arguably does not represent the views of mainstream black America.

Oh. So Clarence Thomas isn’t a true black man because he’s a conservative.

Yes, suhh. That boy Clarence left the Liberal Plantation before he joined the Supreme Court. So he’s an upitty n____r, not a Good Negro. Darkies need to remember their place and support liberal Democrats. So we need to put that boy in his place.

I am sorely tempted to suggest what the editorial writers of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal can do to themselves. But on second thought, maybe I should thank them for unveiling the depths of their vile bigotry for all to see.

And, as Michelle Malkin well points out, such blatant racism is by no means an isolated case among liberals.

Monday, October 31, 2005

A note I have to post

I can’t put off posting on this any longer. No, I’m not talking about the new Supreme Court nominee (whom I wholeheartedly support) or ++Rowan’s public recognition of the Network or ++Frank’s putting the Koran right beside the Bible.

Last night at Irving Bible Church, I saw they had this big door where people posted notes of encouragement or prayer. This one note by a guy named Shawn blew me away. Judging from the handwriting I would guess he’s a young teenager. Here’s what he wrote (The underlining was his.):

Dear Lord, my name is Shawn ________ and I want to declare that I do not understand you!

And nothing in my life pleases me more than that. I truly feel closest to you when I contemplate my lack of understanding. I will never in my life fully know or see or hear you. And to this I vow to never stop trying to know-see-hear-understand you. I love that you are so much greater than I, that I have not the tools or capability to figure it all out. My futile attempts to solve your mystery are the warmest embrace on a winter’s day. I love every countless snowflake that give me the opportunity to contemplate your magesty.

Always Your humble vessel, Shawn

I think Shawn understands more than he knows.
A post from the Undead…

Actually, I’m not dead yet. And I’m feeling much better. But I have been a bit under the weather and busy at the same time. That’s why I haven’t posted.

Yet there’s so much I could post on! Arg!

But be patient. November should be interesting . . . especially when I travel to England for Advent.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Frank Griswold’s Korean Outrage

Before I wrote this, I had to calm down after reading this.

In South Korea, Frank Griswold has called on the U. S. to stop “demonizing” North Korea and to “make every effort to invite the DPRK into the international community as a full member.”

In light of North Korea’s horrific and systematic human rights abuses, Griswold’s statements are an outrage on the level of those who defend Nazi Germany. He is a “useful idiot” at the very least.

One of the things that drove me away from the mainline denominations is their propensity for using the name of Christ to defend pure evil. There’s a word for that: blasphemy. And it’s blasphemy of the worst sort.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

a request

I expect to be in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area on Tuesday, All Saints Day. Does anyone have recommendations for All Saint's Day services for DFW?
Sung Prayers

Some time back, I posted that in prayer I’ve sometimes found myself slipping into a mode where my mouth is saying the words, but my heart and mind are somewhere else. In other words, my prayers were at times too much like “Oh Lord, we beseech Thee, etcetera etcetera etcetera. Amen.”

I’ve found a good remedy for that in sung prayers.

The first time I can remember coming across sung prayers was listening to BBC3’s Choral Evensong. I found myself moved by the singing of the collects even before I knew that they were collects or that collects were not times to take an offering.

Reasons I like sung prayers:

1. They bring out that these are carefully chosen words addressed to a holy God.

2. They emphasize the serious nature of the church at prayer.

3. They slow the prayer down, so one can dwell on the words more.

4. If sung well, they add to the sacred atmosphere of a service and to the emotion of the prayer. (One pitfall is that poor chanting or singing can instead be hard on the ear and distracting.)

5. They help the listener (certainly, this listener) get into the prayers with the heart and emotions.

And this weekend, God willing, I will get to visit a favorite church of mine that sings the prayers, the Gospel, and Lord knows what else, Smokey Matt’s!.