Saturday, November 28, 2009
This coming Monday, November 30th (the Feast of St. Andrew), we will be founding the Sewanee Society of Our Lady of Walsingham here at The School of Theology. We are proposing an inclusive devotional group which aims to promote and sustain conversations in our community about the proper role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the life of the Church.
We have no formal connection to the Shrine in Walsingham, because we are including women priests and seminarians in our membership and leadership. My own personal goal for this, is to help undo the baggage that has been heaped upon Walsingham by various factions in the Church.
I am amazed at the response from our student body and our alumni, many are very interested in this endeavor and want to be apart of it! Thanks be to God! While the idea had been generated last school year, it simply took some time before the seeds could sprout roots. Hopefully, this new group will be here to stay as a positive symbol of Our Lady in the life of faith for The Episcopal Church.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
All Saints' Chapel stands in the very heart of the University of the South, a.k.a. "Sewanee." Located high atop the Cumberland Plateau in Sewanee, Tennessee, the University of the South is home to The School of Theology, a seminary of The Episcopal Church. It's also been home to me for the past two years. The University claims ownership by the Episcopal Church, and its board is comprised of twenty-eight southern dioceses of the Episcopal Church, with each bishop serving along with clergy and laity.
All Saints' is the University Chapel, where all our major festivities take place, complete with all the pomp and circumstance. It's a great place to attend a well executed Rite II service.
All Saints' is something of a "royal peculiar" of sorts, an ecclesiological phenomenon. The University sits in the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee and in the bounds of Otey Parish--the local Episcopal parish in Sewanee. Yet, the Chancellor of the University is a bishop of one of the owning dioceses. The newly elected Chancellor is the Bishop of Atlanta (formerly the liturgy professor at The School of Theology). The Chaplain of All Saints' is thus canonically resident in the Diocese of Tennessee and is answerable to the bishop of said diocese, but also has the Chancellor of the University as a boss! Moreover, all sacramental acts of baptism and confirmation are recorded at Otey Parish because the University Chapel is not a regular worshipping parish. To add more confusion, the Dean of the School of Theology acts as the Ordinary of the seminary chapel, but is somewhat under the Chaplain of the University. Sadly, there are too many restrictions in order to have a child baptized in the seminary chapel and weddings in either chapel are even more complicated.
The University Choir hosts monthly services of Evensong and sing at the main 11:00 a.m. Sunday liturgy. During the first weekend in December, the Chapel celebrates a locally famous Advent service of Lessons and Carols which can sometimes be standing room only (an Advent service because all the students have gone home during the Christmas break).
The font in the Chapel is amazing. Complete with eight sides, carved statues of saints, and "living" water flowing, it harkens any liturgist back to the early days of Hippolytus. My son was baptized here during the Easter Vigil in 2008 by the retired Episcopal Bishop of Mississippi. Around the ambulatories, banners with the seals of the twenty-eight owning dioceses hang.
The High Altar is equally stunning. Only used for Rite I services, sadly, the altar boasts statues of both historically Anglican saints as well as some peculiar to Sewanee, such as William Porcher DuBose. The windows surrounding the Chapel can keep your eyes busy for hours. I plan to take some photos of those windows soon. The window above the High Altar depicts Christ the King, in all his kingly and imperial splendor. Flanking the altar in this space are carved stalls for each owning bishop of the University, with carved seals of those dioceses atop each chair.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
my brothers and sisters, you did it to me....”
Her name was Sara, and this is her story. I met Sara while working during Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Saint Matt’s, a homeless shelter specializing in recovery programs for drug addiction and alcoholism. St. Matt’s was founded on this very text from our Gospel this evening. Now Sara was about 49 years old and she was recently released from prison. She was homeless, in recovery for her crack addiction, and she was a prostitute. Her face was rough, worn down by years of smoking and falling upon the hard knocks of street life. In order to get money for her addiction, she would steal her mother’s jewelry and pawn it for crack. One day she came to visit with me and told me that she still had some of her mother’s jewelry and did not know what to do with it, for she did not want it as it just lingered as a constant reminder of her past. She had virtually no money to her name and each client of St. Matt’s was required to pay $25 a week to the shelter, demonstrating their commitment towards recovery. I asked her what she thought would a good act of charity. We then discovered that the ideal thing to do would be to sell the jewelry and anonymously pay the weekly fees for some families in the shelter that were struggling mightily.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I made my way on pilgrimage to Lincoln Cathedral this summer so that I may venerate Hugh's relics housed there at the cathedral. The cathedral itself is massive, plainly understating its historic beauty which towers above the city of Lincoln. I think, I cannot recall, that I had to pay to get inside the cathedral. Against my own aversion to such practices, I was willing to pay whatever, since the trip down to Lincoln from Mirfield was already costing me more than I had imagined for such an expedition. Plus, with two small children in tow, I was going to see the inside of this cathedral!
Hugh met my expectations. The shrine is housed in the far eastern end of the cathedral, behind the high altar and surrounded by several small chapels. I was simply humbled to be in the midst of this great saint, bishop, and confessor of the catholic faith.
I first learned about Hugh early in my seminary formation and my interest grew even more thanks to a BBC series on the cathedrals of England which devoted an entire episode to Lincoln Cathedral.
Double-click on the photos to enlarge them if you want to see more detail.
O God, who didst wonderously adorn blessed Hugh, thy Confessor and Bishop, with pre-eminent merits and glorious miracles: mercifully grant; that we may be stirred up by his example and enlightened by his virtues. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
But, I may add that it does not even hold a candle to Hugh's Collect found in The Episcopal Church's Lesser Feasts and Fasts:
O holy God, you endowed your servant and bishop Hugh of Lincoln with wise and cheerful boldness, and taught him to commend the discipline of holy life to kings and princes: Grant that we also, rejoicing in the Good News of your mercy, and fearing nothing but the loss of you, may be bold to speak the truth in love, in the name of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. AmenMay we all be inspired by Hugh's example and so be led to work with cheerfulness and boldness for the Kingdom of God. Remember and keep St. Hugh in your prayers today.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
It must be said that our Subdean is firmly planted in the reforms of the Liturgical Movement, clear symbolism rooted in simplicity. He did, however, pull out his own copy of Ritual Notes, 9th Edition (trumping my own edition) in our planning meeting! Moreover, he allowed us to move the altar and re-orient the worship space for the ad orientum mass. He even showed up for the liturgy. He's come a long way!!!
It took some careful planning and loads of practice, but we were able to have a full on Solemn High Mass, Rite I. The ceremonial was directed by Ritual Notes, as our celebrant was sometime associate of Church of the Advent, Boston. Yours truly was the subdeacon!
Since our Seminary does not own a full high mass set of vestments, I was able to borrow the set from my field ed. parish, St. Paul's in Chattanooga. We even vested the thurifer in a tunicle! Our Lady of Walsingham made two appearances: one in the icon that I wrote and in the statue from Walsingham placed on the offering table! Spikery at its highest level!
Two observations that struck me. Whilst I've been worshipping in this space for the past two years, I've never felt the kind of excitement that I felt this past Thursday night. First, I was struck by the fact that over 90 people from our community attended--with lots of kids in tow. Getting 90 people to voluntary come out for anything in our community can be a challenge. Many of the juniors came wearing their cassocks, hinting that there is a groundswell of support for this liturgical style. Secondly, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of compliments that came from the congregation that was present. Many "thanked" us for doing this. I was relived that everything went smoothly. Many remarked as though it appeared that we have been doing this for a while! Thanks be to God.
Nehemiah 12:27-31a, 42b-47
Thomas Merton once wrote that perhaps the best view of the world is experienced from standing on its fringes, on the margins outside of the city. The readings in the Office this morning, I think, help restore the tension found in the midst of the Kingdom of God. On one side we have the restoration or rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem in Nehemiah, with great fanfare and processions. In the Revelation to John, we have the utter destruction of the city with dead bodies laying waste in the streets, earthquakes, peals of thunder, and so forth. If we take Brother Merton’s perspective, then, what do we see in the city? Celebration? Devastation?
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Feasting with the Saints. I can just imagine that now. My grandparents, cousins, and other friends whom have died and risen in glory with Christ above, eating their fill, celebrating the goodness of God and God's creation. I wonder, especially today, what they are saying to themselves about me. "Oh Lord, there goes Chad again..."
One thing that I miss with newer parish churches is the lack of a parish cemetery. In most parish churches in England, you cannot take one step without coming in contact with a memorial stone or engraving of some kind. There's even something commemorating whenever the Sovereign comes inside! You cannot help but notice the great cloud of witnesses in those bastions of stone and glass. And yet in the States, we tend to want to keep our dead as far away from us as possible. "Why would you want to clutter up a nice church yard with grave stones?" Now to be fair, there are plenty of churches here that have cemeteries--most tend to be historic though. Many have adopted columbaria as a method of depositing the ashes of loved ones into hermetically sealed containers in a church wall somewhere. But I wonder why we fear the dead so much? We don't even like to say the word "death" or "dying." Instead, many opt for the politeness found in "passing away," and the like. Our culture fears death, the one certain thing that we can count on that never requires its software to be updated.
For me, I've decided, I want to be cremated and scattered. No need for a marker or stone anywhere. "Why clutter up the earth with something that has passed away?" I had to get that one in there. But seriously, I'm a firm believer in being "green" on this issue. I just see it as a waste to go through the expense and hassle of it all. Death is certain, and yet death is not the end. Resurrection in Christ is our hope and it is what I look forward to follow. Nothing will be left behind, all of creation is moving towards its fulfillment in the Trinity. You can count on that.