Friday, November 30, 2007

A Weather Forecast (and random pining)

Next week, I go HOME.

The weather forecast for home the day after I get back: sunny and 76 degrees.

I can hardly remember what that feels like.

I’ve been really tired today. But in part that’s because I’ve had fun the past couple days. I’ve been busy being a tourist, along with doing some more exploring in the libraries.

I still haven’t gotten into Corpus Christi College though. They aren’t as friendly as the town of the same name or as the Cambridge version.

Anyway, I’m very much looking forward to home as you can tell.

Well, I better go. Christ Church has a good Evensong on tap. And I’m glad, since with heavy rain outside and my being a bit tired, I don’t want to walk around much tonight.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Forthcoming Advent Letter from Rowan Williams

It hasn’t been much noticed – or at least I haven’t noticed it much – but Rowan Williams apparently plans to offer his views on the Episcopal Church and its response to Dar es Salaam in a forthcoming Advent letter to the Primates, as noted here.

I suspect this letter will be huge. He has precious few chances left to do the right thing and discipline the Episcopal Church. Should the Archbishop (again) whitewash TEC’s response to Dar es Salaam – and I suspect he will – then the disintegration of the Anglican Communion may well accelerate.

I, for one, intend to watch for that letter as my schedule permits.

Hat tip to Stand Firm.
Now That’s Discipline!

In the best English choirs, the choristers are renowned for being highly disciplined. I experienced an example of that last night . . . or didn’t as the case may be.

I was at New College for Evensong. It was a good service by the usual high New College standards, nothing remarkable, or so I thought.

When I left the chapel, I noticed a mess on the floor. Puzzled, I asked someone else leaving what happened.

It turns out that during the service a chorister threw up and left! He did it so quietly and the service went on with so little, if any, interruption that I didn’t know anything was amiss!

Maybe it was during the Magnificat. I noticed the choristers lost a little of their volume during it. And Mr. Higginbottom was pointing to his temple, motioning for them to stay focused perhaps. But that’s just a guess. The service was seamless.

For 17 boys to ignore quite a substantial barf like that is discipline!

Monday, November 26, 2007

More on Rowan Williams and Yesterday

Yesterday did indeed turn out to be a special day. But first about my little letter to Rowan.

If it seemed impertinent, be thankful I waited a few hours after first being alerted to the story when I read the Sunday Times. (It was on the front page, by the way.) I was steaming to the point I didn’t trust myself to write a blog post.

Now that I’ve slept on it, I’m convinced I and many others were right to be steamed about Rowan’s interview. What makes it worse is that it was with a Muslim publication. It is really “helpful” for the Archbishop of Canterbury to tell Muslims that their “Great Satan”, the U. S., is indeed the Great Satan? Rowan gave Muslim extremists a propaganda coup.

Still worse are his criticisms of Israel and its efforts to protect itself. Again the interview was with a Muslim publication -- what Rowan did is on the same moral level as complaining about Nigeria to a white supremacist publication.

It’s indefensible. Rowan Williams deserves every counterattack he’s getting for it.


On more pleasant subjects, Pusey House did indeed do up Christ the King, including my first ever Solemn Te Deum, complete with a very impressive full 360 degree thurible swing.

I like the idea of ending the church year in a big way like that.

Later, Magdalen’s Advent service was excellent, even if it seemed a bit short at one hour. The highlight was the choir singing John Sheppard’s Christi virgo dilectissima from the Antechapel near the end of the service. The trebles soared and just about transported me up into heaven.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dear Rowan . . .

Dear Rowan,

I can’t help but notice you’d rather bash us eeeevil imperialistic Americans than fulfill the responsibilities of your office to defend the faith and the church from apostasies and heresies. Now, don’t deny it. The Bishop of New Hampshire might as well deny he’s gay. It’s kind of hard to miss -- imperialistic Americans are bad; heretic Episcopalian Americans . . . get invited to tea at Lambeth. Yeah, it’s that obvious.

But hey, I don’t blame you. Bashing eeeevil imperialistic Americans is more fun than dealing with heresy and apostasy.

So I have a friendly suggestion.

Why not leave the Archbishopric of Canterbury and join The Guardian as an op-ed writer? There, bashing eeeevil imperialistic Americans is part of the job description.

You’ll be a lot happier. And you’ll improve both institutions, too.

You’re welcome. Always glad to help.

Very sincerely,

Christ the King!

The bells at Christ Church are ringing away as I type this, getting me in the mood for an awesome day ahead. It’s Christ the King Sunday here in Oxford, and for me it’s a special one indeed. This morning I go to Pusey House. They do up Christ the King there and bring in an orchestra.

Then comes a pleasant afternoon of lunch at my favorite Oxford restaurant, then rest, some packing, etc. Then I have a ticket to Magdalen College’s special service of Music and Readings for Advent. I’ve been wanting to go to this for a long time.

I hope the last Sunday of the church year is a red letter one indeed for you as well.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Another Reason Not to Trust the NRSV

At an otherwise excellent service of Choral Evensong at Christ Church Friday night, the first reading set off alarm bells. Part of it, Daniel 7:13 went like this:

As I watched in the night visions,
I saw one like a human being
coming with the clouds of heaven.
And he came to the Ancient One
and was presented before him.

I thought, That’s not right. And almost immediately I remembered that “like a human being” should be “like a Son of man” or “like the Son of man.” And sure enough I was right. Yes, I’m good sometimes.

The New Revised Standard Version is all the rage here in the U. K. It’s the default translation in much of the Church of England. And sure enough, the NRSV uses the “human being” rendering. Check it out if you like.

What we have here is a case of putting inclusive language over honestly presenting important messianic Biblical language. You don’t have to have a theology degree to know that “Son of Man” is an important term denoting the Messiah in both Old and New Testaments.

But “inclusiveness” ran roughshod right over that in the NRSV.

Hey, but inclusiveness is more important than faithfulness, honesty, and accuracy in translating scripture, right?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Hugh of Lincoln

Today, the Church of England celebrates the Feast of St. Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln. I intend to celebrate at Magdalen tonight (and with dinner and a pint at a pub afterward, of course). The choir there has really hit their stride, by the way, and is sounding even better than earlier in the term.

What I don’t expect to hear in praise of St. Hugh, however, is his well-earned reputation as a notorious collector of relics. He even went so far as to take a bite out of the arm of Mary Magdalen to collect a relic of her . . . which makes remembering him at Magdalen College this evening all the more appropriate, does it not?

Friday, November 16, 2007


Today is a red letter day. I finished a pretty good draft of my last tutorial essay. I still have some mopping up work to do on this and that. But now I go into the phase I’ve been yearning for – I can read, explore, and downright flourish without academic work hanging over my head.

And I am determined to make the most of the remaining days here in Oxford. And in spite of all the stress and ccccold, I’ve got the health and spirit to do it.

By the way, I expect to blog more in these final weeks, too.
The Smoking Gun

What we have long suspected is now a matter of record in open court: it was indeed Presiding Heretic Schori who turned what was going to be an amicable separation among Anglicans in Virginia into an ugly persecution of the faithful.

I just don’t get vindictiveness like that. What Bishop Peter Lee and the departing congregations were working out would have been good for all concerned under the circumstances. But no, she wanted to punish those congregations for daring to want to remain Anglican but not Episcopalian.

And as for her being upset that CANA "violates the ancient principle of the church that two bishops do not have jurisdiction in the same area," she’s proven doesn’t give a flip about ancient principles except when they can be twisted to help out her agenda.

I could say more, but I’m trying to foam at the mouth less get more into the practice of letting the facts speak for themselves.

Wait, I will say one more thing. If I were a betting man, I bet the Episcopal Church will get much less than if they had continued to negotiate in good faith with the departing congregations.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Crazy Providential Day at St. Paul’s

Monday, I took a much needed day off to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. On the pleasantly crisp sunny day, I was first eating lunch in Pater Noster Square when I noticed an ominous dark cloud between the buildings. I knew that wasn’t weather; something had happened. I wondered if people would soon be running by in a panic.

But I finished my lunch, then walked over to the cathedral. I was just inside, about to pay for a ticket, when we were informed that a bomb had gone off, that no one could go in or out of the cathedral, and that we were to go into the crypt.

So I looked around in the crypt a while, then noticed it was getting less crowded. So I went back up and found out that it was a warehouse fire near the 2012 Olympic site, not a terrorist bomb.

A little later on, I was on a tour when the fire alarm went off, and the cathedral was evacuated. Outside, three fire trucks drove up, but there was no fire. But they couldn’t get the fricking alarm to turn off either. So the cathedral was shut down for the afternoon.

That wasn’t too bad though. I walked around and saw things I might not have otherwise, like the Millennium Bridge and two small churches. It’s something how many smaller old churches are near St. Paul’s.

The alarm was such a problem, though, that at one point, staff thought Choral Evensong that evening was going to be cancelled. Now that would have been a serious bummer. That’s a big reason I chose that day to come. But while I was talking with staff, word came that Evensong was on.

And it was a glorious service. The boys (It was only the choristers singing that night.) were a bit off and seemed not to know some of their parts very well. Perhaps their practice was cancelled because of the alarm. But they still sounded wonderful in the amazing acoustics of St. Paul’s. And hearing Revelation 5 read while looking up at the apse which so well portrays Christ in glory was . . . well, glorious.

So it was an excellent day after all in spite of the false alarms.

There was one other way in which the day was providential. On Mondays, I normally go to Magdalen for Evening Prayer. It’s the one choristers-only service among the three Oxford foundations, so I automatically go there then. Well, Tuesday morning, I noticed that Magdalen didn’t have its usual Monday Evening Prayer but a Eucharist for Affirming Catholicism instead. If I hadn’t gone to London, I likely would have unknowingly walked right into that.

Now that scares me more than any bomb or fire alarm!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

“Vomit Alley” or One Reason I’m Glad I’m Not a Night Crawler

The Daily Mail had an interesting article on binge drinking, in Oxford in particular.

Now the Daily Mail has a reputation for sensationalizing things a bit and blaming all of Britain’s problems on immigrants and youth. So I asked a room full of college students if the article was a fair picture of Oxford’s George Street.

They pretty much all agreed it was. Further, they volunteered it wasn’t just George Street that’s vomit alley.

Heck, a pint with dinner, and I’m happy. I leave that other stuff to tarts and louts, thank you.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Learning the Hard Way

I learned two things the hard way last night:

1. The Sheldonian Theatre is an awful music venue. There’s not a comfortable seat in the house for less then 20 pounds.

2. I really, really don’t like Mahler. Before last night, I didn’t know that composer from what. But a friend was in the orchestra performing Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, so I wanted to go to the performance.

Friend or not, between the seat and the symphony, it was torture. I slipped out of there between movements. It sounded to me like overwrought, overly sentimental movie soundtrack music. And I later found out I’m not alone. From wikipedia:

…little common ground can be found between those who revere Mahler for his 'emotional frankness' and 'spiritual honesty', and his equally vociferous detractors for whom the same music displays 'mawkishness', 'tastelessness' and 'sentimentality' (Franz Schmidt clearly spoke for the latter camp when he described Mahler's symphonies as "cheap novels").

Guess what camp I’m now in?

The walk home was quite enjoyable though. A homeless guy who does chalk painting was with his dog by his work on the sidewalk on Cornmarket Street. I really liked it, so I told him so and put a pound in his box.

Then a little later as I walked past Christ Church, this girl yelled out of a long white limo at me, “Heyyy, Sexxyyy!” Yes, she indeed was yelling at me; there was no one else around.

And, yes, she seemed quite inebriated.

But I do admire her taste more than Mahler’s.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ass Elected TEC “Bishop” of Chicago

Jeffrey Lee was elected Bishop of Chicago today. And after reading the following from his profile, I frankly wish Tracey Lind got the golden mitre instead. Says Mr. Lee:

For instance, in the parish I try hard to listen deeply to people who are concerned or troubled by developments in the church around sexuality and what I discover over and over again is that the issue is rarely the real issue. Someone may be deeply troubled about the liberalization of the church’s practice around the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the church, but what lies at the root of their misgivings is some hurt or brokenness in their family. Once you uncover that pain in a safe way you can begin to move through it to a place of deeper understanding.

So if people disagree with him on “full inclusion” of homosexuals, it’s because they have family problems. What an ass!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Are the Global South Primates Taking Over?

I’m so chronically tired I’m having trouble putting two coherent thoughts together. Oxford is too close to exhausting me. So do take the following with a grain of salt.

But when I read ++Peter Akinola’s call to the other primates for a primates meeting, regardless of noises from Lambeth that there won’t be one, combined with word that ++Gregory Venables will take under his wing those dioceses that split from the Episcopal Church, I wonder if we’re entering a new phase of the current troubles.

With it being clear that the Archbishop of Canterbury won’t lift a finger to provide for distressed North American Anglicans or to discipline the Episcopal Church, perhaps the core of Global South primates have decided it’s time to take over the reins and lead, bypassing ++Rowan. I think it’s possible (though not likely) that we may be witnessing the reduction of the Archbishop of Canterbury to a figurehead, not unlike the Queen of England. More likely is a hastened split of the Communion.

Whether this tact by the two primates and allies saves the Anglican Communion or hastens its split is to be seen. In either case, I fully support it. When bishops don’t do their duty, and ++Rowan has not and will not, then it’s right for other bishops to do theirs.

I think what is being said in an indirect though firm manner to ++Rowan Williams by ++Akinola and ++Venables is “It’s clear you won’t lead, Rowan. So we will.”


By the way, I more or less predicted ++Venables would take on breakaway dioceses six months ago. I’m good sometimes.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

It’s Official: King’s College Choir in U. S. April ‘08

About a month ago, I informed you straight from the lips of Stephen Cleobury himself that the Choir of King’s College was coming to the U. S. in April, including a stop in Dallas.

Now, it’s official (Scroll down.) And Dallas is the first stop on April 3rd.

It’s very likely I’ll be there.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Remember, remember the Fifth of November!

Yes, today is the Fifth of November: Guy Fawkes Day.

I thought us Texans like to blow stuff up. But -- wow! -- Oxford sounded like a war zone the past two nights. The laws about fireworks within city limits are certainly different here. I’ve heard a number of the colleges set off fireworks. I wonder in what danger that puts the old buildings.

But what’s even stranger is that the fireworks ceased around 10pm. I’ve definitely noticed people are good about letting you sleep around here, much better than Americans.

If you wish in a proper manner to give thanks to the Lord for delivering England from “Popish treachery,” you may find the correct liturgy here. Well, at least it used to be correct.

Sadly, I have yet to hear of any commemoration services in Oxford today.

You may find an interesting discussion thread here.


Almost as important is that today is exactly one month until I fly home.

I’m determined to make the most of the time. But I also very much look forward to home -- to the point that I have to remind myself to make the most of the time here instead of just counting the days.

One thing I’ve learned here is that my home is where I belong.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Bishop Duncan is my hero.

His response to Presiding Heretic Schori’s not-so veiled threat is masterful:

The Most Revd Katharine Jefferts Schori
Episcopal Church Center
New York, New York

Dear Katharine,

Here I stand. I can do no other. I will neither compromise the Faith once delivered to the saints, nor will I abandon the sheep who elected me to protect them.

Pax et bonum in Christ Jesus our Lord,

+Bob Pittsburgh
Oxford is Mad or I hate tutorial essays.

I’m coming to some conclusions about the Oxford style of education. I think it’s utterly mad.

Typically, the student takes two tutorials. In each tutorial, the student writes an essay a week. That’s sixteen essays in an eight week term. That’s in addition to other academic commitments. At CMRS, a full load also includes a seminar with a major research paper.

I’m beginning to think that is utterly mad.

Right now, my tutorial is focusing on the relationship between church architecture and liturgy. That’s an area I find very interesting. Yet I am loathing the task of writing yet another tutorial essay.

And I’m only taking a half-load, if even that! The only thing I’m taking for credit for the term is my medieval church history tutorial. (I took a broad-base medieval studies course with the rest of the program before the Oxford term began.)

I swore to myself before I came here that I wouldn’t become an academic grind. I did that in high school and at Duke; I wasn't going there again. That’s why I’m taking a half load. Oh, I would study and explore in the libraries. I would certainly take in a glorious opportunity to learn. I certainly wouldn’t be lazy.

Yet these frigging weekly tutorial essays have turned me into an academic grind for the moment at least. And I so hate them, I’m even becoming lazy in a way. I have to force myself to write, and the writing doesn’t come easy. Already this morning, my brain feels like a brick.

I don’t have any easy solutions. I’m a very self-motivated student. But I suspect most are not. And back long ago when Oxford relied on oral exams and the like, it became a joke how students could skate through without any work. Without some measuring stick, be it essays or exams, how do you ensure students are learning?

But the Oxford system encourages grinding out essays at the expense of learning I think. Sixteen essays in eight weeks is too much. It’s madness. How one can do that and actually find time to live and learn is beyond me.

Part of the problem is me as well. I suspected I wasn’t well suited for academic life. I was right.