BOOK REVIEWS OCTOBER 1997

EXCITING HOLINESS, Collects and Readings for the Festivals and Lesser Festivals of the Church of England, ed. Bro Tristam SSF, Canterbury Press, Norwich, 560pp, ISBN 1-85311-174-0, £17.99

FROM THE quill of the friar who gave us Celebrating Common Prayer comes the logical successor to Cloud of Witnesses. If you bought and used Draper and Timms’ Cloud, you will want to buy and use Exciting Holiness, another version of the Sanctorale. It is a bigger and better collection than Cloud: the C of E Calendar is larger nowadays, as is the thesaurus of collects, so more of this material is official stuff. The reading scheme is devised by the editor: he uses the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, the ECUSA psalm translation ‘inclusivized in reference to human beings' (a somewhat inelegant phrase, that) and collects and post-communion prayers from Calendar, Lectionary and Collects. Though he buys in extensively from an impressive body of authors, Bro. Tristam has very commendably written over 150 of the hagiographies himself, sojourning at Trinity College, Cambridge, last Lent Term to give himself time to write.

Every commemoration has a hagiographical introduction. Lesser festivals and festivals also have a collect, two readings separated by a responsorial psalm, a gospel reading and a post-communion prayer. The editor defends the extensive provision of readings:

Two readings are normally the requirement for Lesser Festivals, but a three-readings provision is made for those places where they are celebrated locally as Festivals, such as on a feast of title or of patronage. (p 3)

I cannot find in Calendar, Lectionary and Collects any indication that ‘two readings are normally the requirement for Lesser Festivals’ though, on page 36 of that publication, there are some rules about what you can miss out if you only have two readings.

No doubt Bro. Tristam has in mind Roman Catholic practice, in which case for ‘festivals’ (i.e. RC feasts, which usually have two readings) he might have written ‘principal feasts’ (i.e. RC solemnities which indeed like Sundays have three readings).

Those who do not naturally look to Rome for liturgical guidance, and also miss Bro. Tristam’s gentle steer, may find themselves reading three readings rather often. Perhaps the weekday lectionary, when it eventually appears, will sort this muddle out (Exciting Holiness reflects the muddle rather than creates it), as also the other muddle, the rather inaccessible way ‘proper’ and ‘common’ readings are matched up with lesser festivals in the Common of the Saints of the Lectionary. Exciting Holiness has begun to sort that out for us but I should have liked Tristam to tell us in each case which of the two readings before the Gospel he would prefer us to use. Perhaps the usually redundant reading for lesser festivals could have been indicated by way of a scripture reference without full text and similarly references could have been given for ‘proper’ readings for commemorations for those of us who will inevitably promote Vincent, John Bosco, the Cyrils not coupled with Methodius, Philip Neri &c. to lesser festival rank.

Though there are eight sets of sentences for the common of the saints, I was disappointed to see no alleluia verses in the propers. Just as the provision of three readings will encourage people to use three readings, whatever the small print says, so the juxtaposition of second reading and gospel in the text will encourage people to proceed from one to the other without a break. In Roman Catholic practice (General Instruction of the Roman Missal 39), ‘the alleluia or the verse before the gospel may be omitted if not sung’ and the new Sacramentary is likely to require that alleluia verses are omitted if not sung. Yet presumably Exciting Holiness will be the resource for material for many a saint’s day sung mass and a few ‘proper’ alleluia verses therefore would have been an enrichment.

A collection such as this, excellent though it is, will be less useful in places where there is a daily eucharist. When ‘proper’ readings are allocated to every lesser festival as well as to every festival (for instance when Cloud was in use), I have known cathedrals and churches simply repeat the readings of the previous Sunday on ferias. Occasionally there will be nearly a week of ferias and everybody is driven to distraction: prayers, readings and colour all stay the same. To avoid all that, and for the edification of the clergy and regular mass attenders, the normal convention seems to be to use a full weekday ferial cycle and stay with the ferial readings on memorias (i.e. lesser festivals) as well as on ferias.

Another thing I miss in this collection (which was particularly valuable in Cloud of Witnesses) is the non-scriptural reading. As a parish priest I often used the non-scriptural reading in Cloud as a homily at a said mass on minor saints’ days. Indeed, in a daily mass parish, it was all that I used Cloud for. In Celebrating the Christian Story p 99 (reviewed below) Michael Perham tells us that Exciting Holiness, as well as a short hagiography, has ‘a collection of writings about those named in the calendar or by them’. If it has I can’t find them and it’s a pity.

£18 may seem steep but it is not an excessive price for such a worthwhile collection, particularly since most parishes will buy only two or three copies. Even if the lesser festival readings are not going to be used, it is worth buying a copy, I think, for the hagiographies. Canterbury Press and Bro. Tristam are to be congratulated on this production. In the new competitive market for semi-official Church of England liturgical publications, a book which looks and feels like a sturdy liturgical book should is a welcome contribution, despite the few disappointments I personally feel.

Andrew Burnham teaches liturgy at St Stephen’s House and is a member of the Church of England Liturgical Commission.

CELEBRATE THE CHRISTIAN STORY, An Introduction to the New Lectionary and Calendar, Michael Perham, SPCK, London 1997, 118pp, pbk, ISBN 0-281-05107-0, £7.99

MICHAEL PERHAM enjoyably and informatively leads us through the Calendar, Lectionary and Collects (CCC) provision which is authorised for use indefinitely from Advent 1997. We catch some of the behind-the-scenes discussions of the Liturgical Commission, the Revision Committee and the inter-provincial group of Anglican liturgists and discover why one or two of the decisions were made. It is at least a revision for us if not sometimes a discovery. I, for one, had not realised how little of the Apocalypse is used in the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) nor did I know that John’s story of the woman taken in adultery was also missing until the Church of England customized the lectionary for its own use.

There is a valuable chapter on the RCL which gives us a gentle critique of its details and an account of how the Principal Service Lectionary in CCC has adapted RCL to meet such criticisms. A rationale is given also for the Second and Third Service Lectionaries, neither of which - have people realised this? - forms part of the RCL provision.

Unlike the Roman Catholics, and, my spies tell me, soon the British Methodists, the Church of England eschews the phrase ‘in Ordinary Time’ as a Sunday-by-Sunday description. Here then the new CCC scheme is at its most complicated as collects and Sunday titles, on the one hand, are detached from, on the other hand, Sunday propers. Sunday titles in the larger green season are numbered after Trinity and there are then as many Sundays after Trinity as you need to arrive at the Sunday between 23 and 29 October, which is called not surprisingly ‘the Last Sunday after Trinity’. In other words, Easter falling earlier or later there are more or less Sundays after Trinity and the collapsing down is at the end of the series. Sunday propers, by contrast, are counted back from Christ the King (the Sunday before Advent) and the juggling takes place at the beginning of the series (Propers 1 to 7). This in turn is different from Roman Catholic usage where, because Ordinary Time starts almost at the beginning of January, the day after the Baptism of Christ (as opposed to after 2 February, Candlemas), the juggling is about a quarter of the way through the series, between Sundays 6 and 9.

There are many possibilities of confusion in all this and one or two unofficial publications have already shown great confusion. (One year-plan calendar actually described Sundays after Trinity as ‘RCL’ and Sundays after Pentecost as ‘ASB’. Did its publishers not realise not only that there are no Sundays after Trinity in RCL but that Sundays after Trinity is a permissible, and not all that unusual description of Sundays in the ASB scheme?)

Perham helps us through this labyrinth cleverly and not only do we learn that the CCC labels its green Sundays differently from Rome but we learn why. The white Epiphany season and its culmination in the new principal feast of the Purification on 2 February is the reason for the later start of the CCC Propers in Ordinary Time and this is well explained. There is a similarly helpful explanation of how November is treated, that is as a kingdom season in all but name (complete with red vestments if you insist) but with Sundays labelled ‘before Advent’, a usage permitted by and occasionally found in the ASB autumn series.

Another area of complexity is the categorisation of feasts. It becomes clear that ‘principal feast’, ‘festival’ and ‘lesser festival’ correspond to Church of England precedents (and approximate also to the Roman Catholic scala of ‘solemnity’, ‘feast’ and ‘memoria’) and that the apparently new device of ‘commemoration’ is not entirely without parallel. The keeping of commemorations will prove quite tricky, I forecast. I argued at the CCC Revision Committee, apparently unsuccessfully, for the list of commemorations at the bottom of the page of each month of the Calendar to be integrated with other celebrations and I am pleased that the publishing group came to the same conclusion.

It remains far from clear how commemorations will work in practice. Some churches, I suppose, will pray for the repose of the soul of Wilson Carlile. I can’t imagine anyone asking for the prayers of William Booth or Florence Nightingale, neither of whom was an orthodox Christian, let alone a believer in the intercession of the saints. Those with flair and imagination will produce intercessions for commemorations and the commemoration of Allen Gardiner, say, would be the starting point for intercessions about missionary work, inculturization, international debt, Latin America. Perhaps Exciting Holiness (see above) could develop intercessions for commemorations in a future edition.

Michael Perham also gives us a good essay on collects. (Despite the sub-title of the book, ‘An Introduction to the new Lectionary and Calendar’ he does deal with collects as well). We are reminded again of the integrative value of synchronising BCP and CCC collects, of the devotional value of allowing a Sunday collect to feed us at mass and at the office throughout the span of a week (if the readings at least change!) and of the liturgical value of seeing the collect as preparatory to, yet often separate from the Liturgy of the Word and its lectionary themes.

Do buy this book and do not be put off by its rather naff cover (a cartoon church swelling and swaying with, presumably, robust hymn singing). It is an easy read and, whilst it would be an exaggeration to claim that ‘I couldn’t put it down’, I did read it, as it happens, in one sitting. More important, the whole business is much more complicated than Church of England service books have allowed things to be hitherto and it is necessary, then, for clergy to grasp how it works.

Andrew Burnham teaches liturgy at St Stephen’s House and is a member of the Church of England Liturgical Commission.

HEART OF THE WORLD, Center of the Church, David L Schindler, T & T Clark, 1996, 322pp, hbk, ISBN 0-567-08541-4.

THIS BOOK with its overloaded and rather cluttered title is not the product of a cluttered mind. David Schindler is one of the foremost English-speaking Balthasar scholars today - although the claim of the jacket that he is ‘the American Balthasar’ is at best a bit steep and at worst down right silly. Schindler is a commentator (99% of us are) but he is a more than able commentator and one setting out to do a very important job, perhaps the most important job a commentator can do: translate between cultures. Schindler is convinced that Balthasar and more so the communio ecclesiology of John Paul II (which is in several aspects indebted to Balthasar’s work) is crucial to the North American context and more especially to debates concerning the destiny of Catholic Liberalism in Anglo-American culture today. In this he writes with all the verve and enthusiasm of a herald. He has good news to bring and at bottom this has to do with the renewal of a catholic vision, dynamic, universal, engaged and critical. To quote:

Such, then, properly qualified, is what we propose to argue: the Church is the archetypal ‘figure’ for the cosmos in its entirety; the world - with all of its political, economic, and cultural orders - reaches its full natural integrity as world only as it is formed in and into communio. The mission of the Christian lies in bodying forth the communio-Church into all areas of worldly existence - that is, here and now, even as he or she recognizes that the communio will be complete only in the eschaton.

Heady stuff indeed, but to turn to the argument itself, Schindler, relying heavily on Balthasar, seeks to overcome a disabling dualism in theological thinking that has collapsed the options of thinking the relationship of Church and world into either an ‘integralist’ or ‘liberationist’ perspective. In the first of these the church remains walled up behind its barricades, secure in its embodiment of a heavenly order on earth; while in the second it forgets that it has proper limits to the world. It imports everything from the criss-crossing currents of the age and discerns nothing. Schindler’s aim in running the concept of communio plain through the traditional topoi of the faith is to show how in all the dualisms in which the Church is set it can hope in, moreover live in the union of God with creation in the person of Jesus Christ, and this precisely for the sake of the world. This is, must be, the task of any theology worth its salt, but it is a task always to be renewed, always to be performed again and this not for the pleasure it brings - the childish pleasure of seeing the jigsaw fit together again - but because unless the unstinting, relentless and joyful task is undertaken there will be no true spiritual fidelity. There will be no message that speaks of ‘delectable eternity’ in the deserts of our contemporary situation.

This situation is very much Schindler’s concern in this book. Divided into two parts, in the first section Schindler sets out to analyze and diagnose ‘Catholic Liberalism’ in Anglo- American Culture. Leading off from John Courtney Murray’s famous defence of religious freedom, Schindler runs quickly across neo- conservative economics and the liberal academy. His conviction (which is now becoming de rigeur) is that liberalism is (definitely!) not ideology-free. Much is installed in its values, practices, and unthought gestures which is downright inimical to Christian discipleship to say nothing of human flourishing. But still with the eye of a thinker who clearly practises from his own approach nor is liberalism to be dismissed out of hand. There are gains to be secured here but these will only be so secured through the discernment of the Church at the heart of the world. Thus, the second part of the book reads liberal culture within a communio ecclesiology which traverses a series of topics that anyone familiar with Balthasar’s work will immediately recognise. In particular questions of sanctity, gender and receptivity are given chapter-long attention.

A couple of concluding comments. The project of this book has, to my mind, much to commend it. However, its promise somewhat outruns its achievement, and this probably, along the lines of all disciples who would bring a message from the master. Hesitation, difficulties and complexities are too easily forgotten: translation is no easy matter. Schindler’s preparedness to think through the complexity and aporias of Anglo-American culture, with a view to discerning God’s work in it, is critical to the good health of theological thinking and it is good to read, for once, someone handling the word liberalism who has some feel for political history and cultural context. Schindler does theological work with the category. However, this labour to my mind needs redoubling when he turns to his second ‘constructive’ section of the project. The argumentation is smooth, too smooth, and concepts like ‘passivity’ or ‘feminine’ too often and too easily go into service under-stairs.

This is I believe an important book - not at times an easy read (although Schindler is an elegant stylist) and sections of it may appear distant from concerns on this side of the Atlantic. It is, though, a book which engages theologically and more so ecclesiologically, however much one may agree or disagree with the discernment of spirits practised here.

David Moss is Director of Studies at St Stephen’s House, Oxford.

ONE FOLD, ONE SHEPHERD: The Challenge to the post-Reformation Church, George Bennett, Geoffrey Chapman, London 1996, 146pp, pbk, ISBN 0-225-86821-1, £9.99

THIS IS a positive and remarkable book written by a man who discovered that he was in the wrong Church. Therefore, he decided to leave the Church of England, in which he had served as priest for twenty five years, and joined the Roman Catholic fold. Nothing remarkable about that you might think, but you would be wrong. The fact is, that George Bennett was on the protestant side of the Church of England, and journeyed to Rome whilst holding on to his identity as a self-styled ‘evangelical protestant’ and claims that Roman Catholicism represents the fulfilment of his evangelical faith. In One Fold, One Shepherd Bennett sets out to prove that the Roman Catholic Church now embraces all the positive teachings of the Reformation, and echoes much protestant theology that was familiar to him in his previous life as an Anglican priest.

The tone of the book is neither recriminatory nor polemical; this is because its purpose is a missionary one. It seeks to raise and answer the questions: How do we move forward? How is the gospel to be served in this land today? What is to provide its cutting edge in a divided and pluralist society?

Bennett’s fundamental answer to these questions is to be found in his central thesis: that the Church will need both the faithfulness to scripture and conscience of evangelicalism, and the faithfulness to history and tradition of Catholicism if it is to do its job properly. This renewed Catholicism will have to be centred on the authority and overall pastoral care of the Bishop of Rome, who offers a service of unity and truth for the whole Church, and thereby confirms the catholicity of the Church.

Without even a hint of unpleasantness, Bennett argues that the Church of England is ill-equipped to serve the gospel in this kind of way. Its dynamic has failed. ‘Mere Englishness is no foundation on which to build the Church of God’ (p 136). It needs to face up to some hard truths: Whatever its claim to be ‘the Catholic Church in this land’ it is in fact in schism; also, it is hampered in its mission to our nation by following a pattern of behaviour which responds more to English social needs than to the eternal truths revealed in Christ. However, Bennett tries to be even-handed in his critique of English church life. He warns Catholics against triumphalism and self-congratulation. They need to embrace fully and happily the positive teachings of the Reformation.

What this book calls for (urgently) is a coming-together of minds and hearts. A dialogue between Catholic and evangelical which finds answers to the questions: What is it to be fully Catholic? What is it to be fully evangelical? Whatever their particular tradition or ecclesial status, English Christians (and that’s how we all need to see ourselves for the purpose of mission to our nation - and not in denominational terms) need to face and answer these questions.

George Bennett challenges both Catholics (Anglican and Roman) and evangelical Protestants to review their current position in the light of history, and to consider that God might be offering them a unique opportunity to move forward in mission together and ‘save our people from the secular morass into which they are sinking’ (p 146).

Tony Roake is Vicar of St Andrew’s, Bennett Road, Bournemouth.

WORSHIP IN SONG, ed. William Llewellyn, The Royal School of Church Music, Dorking, 1997, 144 pp, ISBN 0-854-02098-5.

HARRY BRAMMA, Director of the Royal School of Church Music, has for several years written in Church Music Quarterly in support of the integration of classical and popular, old and new, in church music. He has often sounded more like the wise vicar who knows that his congregation includes Radio 2, Radio 3 and Radio 4 types (and would like to attract Radio 1 listeners too) than the church organist who, typically, has little time for junk music and is a natural member of the Campaign for Real Hymns (see New Directions July 1997, page 19 and August 1997, page 29). Bramma’s campaign has been well-argued, pastorally sensitive and, in view of the decline in traditional church music in some dioceses, strategically sensible as a policy for the Royal School of Church Music, which has sought and gained recognition as the Church of England’s official body for church music (cf In Tune with Heaven [1992] recommendation 48, page 257).

Four years ago, Sing with all my soul came out. (The title, I imagine, was a play on the RSCM motto psallam spiritu et mente). As chairman of the RSCM in Southwell and Nottinghamshire, I arranged for this collection of modern worship songs, arranged with the skill and discipline of classical musicians, to be performed for an annual choir festival. It was a great success: you could almost hear church choristers changing their minds and loving what they had previously despised. They were discovering that some of the better tunes of the charismatic revival could be harmonised properly and phrased and performed musically.

Missing from the festival were those for whom these songs were already bread and butter but who had yet to learn that this music was not incompatible with the traditional culture of church music and its incomparable ability to evangelise children and their families and give them a role in church life. In other words, Sing with all my soul will not have entirely succeeded in bridging the cultural chasm but it has certainly helped the attempt. Since it came out, churches have begun to go on a Wild Goose chase, as Iona and all things Celtic have seized their imaginations. Not surprisingly, therefore, Worship in Song, the sequel to Sing with all my soul, has some John L. Bell to go with its Graham Kendrick. The arrangements are usually easy and good: I could kick myself for not having noticed before that John Barnard and Jubilate Hymns, in the best Vaughan Williams tradition of turning folk tunes into hymns, have made ‘Blow the wind southerly’ into an effective hymn to the Holy Spirit.

Hymns have not always been high-minded: evangelicals often forget that their forebears thought the hymn to be an unscriptural, Catholic invention; Catholics often forget that much of their missionary activity has been conducted via hymns of rather a poor, ‘Tell me the old, old story’ quality. Much of the stuffiness about modern worship songs implies that the traditional hymn repertoire is more homogeneously good than it in fact is. Even if some of the modern tunes and words in the RSCM collections are in themselves of indifferent quality, they are sometimes redeemed by good settings and good performance. This is not a new or philistine idea. Think of the early Renaissance parody masses: an indifferent tune (often worldly and trivial) is transformed into a good piece. Nor has a good libretto ever been a sine qua non of good music.

Many of the songs in Sing with all my soul had already been around for several years. The same is true of Worship in Song: many of the songs are from the ‘80s and some are from the ‘70s. This ought to mean that a high proportion of the songs have already proved to be of lasting value. Like other follow-up collections, however, the selection is not so effortlessly worthwhile and I find that more of the songs are new to me than in the first anthology.

Andrew Burnham teaches music at St Stephen’s House, Oxford.

BBC SONGS OF PRAISE, ed Elloway and others, Oxford University Press and BBC Books, 1997, ISBN 0-19-147325-1 (Music Edition), £15, and ISBN 0-19-147333-2 (Words Edition), £3.99

‘TIME MAKES ancient good uncouth’, said the preface to the 1931 enlarged edition of Songs of Praise, and that, I suppose, is as good a way as any of indicating how ephemeral much hymnody is. Numbers of hymns and worship songs must once again be rising towards late nineteenth century levels (400,000 hymns) and there is, once again, a need to prune and throw into the furnace much recent growth.

Oxford University Press is to be congratulated on devising a very good marketing concept. BBC Songs of Praise sounds to those who have grown up in a church culture like a cross between a new BBC Hymn Book and a new edition of the Percy Dearmer, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Martin Shaw Songs of Praise that was such a success earlier this century. Songs of Praise had words of a very high standard, thanks not least to Robert Bridges, Poet Laureate in the 1920s, and it had the musical standard you would expect from Vaughan Williams. It was the Low Church hymnbook, specially aimed at and suitable for schools (‘Daisies are our silver’ sung to ‘Glenfinlas’). Yet, to those outside or new to the church culture, BBC Songs of Praise sounds like the ‘book of the programme’, which to some extent it is. The five editors claim that this is ‘a totally new book’, which is indeed true, but it is indebted to the programme not least because the editors themselves, having been associated with the programme, have thereby developed an instinct for what works and what does not work, particularly in an ecumenical sing-song context where ceremonial context and doctrinal meaning are of less significance than they are in the liturgy of the Church.

There are immediate improvements on much else that is around. For instance worship songs are provided with organ accompaniments. We shall less and less often hear church organists struggling with arpeggiated left hand parts and the lack of a sustaining pedal. Not only that but the musical accompaniments obey classical rules of harmony, apart from the occasional, and unexceptionable, consecutive fifths and octave.

It has always been difficult to hear music, as conventional as most worship songs are, break conventional rules of harmony.

Songs of Praise was notorious for its emptying of hymns of catholic content. ‘Alleluya sing to Jesus’ had neither ‘priest’ nor ‘victim’, nor even a ‘eucharistic feast’. It was not at all obvious why it was in the Communion section. ‘Wherefore, O Father’ was entirely rewritten so that we could ‘offer our praises, with our glad thanksgiving’ and ‘offer ourselves’.

Here there was indeed eucharistic doctrine but it was not catholic. BBC Songs of Praise gives us the words of ‘Alleluya, sing to Jesus’ unbowdlerised and does not give us ‘Wherefore, O Father’ (whose main purpose, after all, was to give voice to the catholic doctrine of oblation at the end of the 1662 Prayer of Consecration, whilst the celebrant muttered something similar under his breath).

Though BBC Songs of Praise gives us catholic words, it does not give us many of them. The Communion section has nine hymns in it. Our Lady is virtually invisible. The policy of limiting the number of hymns to 400 plus ‘God save the Queen’ means that there will be an unusually large proportion of the hymnbook used but it means also that the selection of hymns feels safe and middle of the road. Yet, with items from Iona and Taize included, this is a good selection of hymns. With a catholic supplement of another 50 hymns, this collection would be hard to beat.

Andrew Burnham teaches music at St Stephen’s House, Oxford.

 

Return to Home Page of This Issue

Return to Trushare Opening Page