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Thursday, December 21, 2006

That'll LarnYa!

It seems my "Christmas Trumpets" posting has garnered much praise and merriment so in response I am compelled to present you with Beulah singing "Santa Kissed Me," an apparently original composition. While the vocal stylings of Beulah are nonpareil, it is the scintillating accompaniment on the mighty spinet that makes this audio file so very special for me and, I pray, for you too.

By the way, let me hasten to add, the message at the end of Miss Beulah's song is one that speaks to us all, whatever our origins or background (but still, hoo-boy, that pianer!).

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas Trumpets

Every year at this time a music industry colleague of mine sends to a select group of aficionados a daily sound file of some of the more unusual examples of Christmas music he's found on the Internet over the year. This one found particular favor with me and it gives me great pleasure to be able to share it with you (link is to a free file sharer--click "Download File"). Those of you who studied music formally and know, or actually happen to be, a brass player will be especially appreciative. You might want to turn the volume down a notch or two before listening, however.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

"A Huge Amount of Mess"

. . . to quote the excellent Rev'd Canon Kendall Harmon of titusonenine in today's New York Times, in a piece about the ongoing disintegration of the Episcopal Church: Slanted toward the reappraisers (it is the New York Times, of course) but not unduely so, it is well worth a read.

ECUSA is in deep trouble.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Who You Calling Uncivil?

There's a bit of row among the commentators at titusonenine (so what else is new?) over the efforts of an Anglo-Catholic parish in the Diocese of Newark, a liberal one (pardon the redundancy), Grace Church, to persuade "disaffected" Romans to swim the Stour, cross Hadrian's Wall or whatever the metaphor when Romans become Anglicans. Those Grace Church defines as disaffected would be

Roman Catholics whose spiritual lives are grounded in the Mass and in the sacraments [yet] nevertheless, unable to concur with the Vatican’s position on issues such as the role of women in the church, contraception, remarriage of divorced person (sic), homosexual relationships, or abortion. They have become increasingly disaffected as the hierarchy’s response to dissent has grown more strident and authoritarian +%)))))))))*&^!!!!!!!!!!%$((((((90^&*Rs848A7Q0A0 500v#)%*#%(#)($*)#(*ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Oops! Sorry, I dozed off and my head smashed into the keyboard (what is it about progressive prose that makes for such a splendid soporific? The text, I suppose). Well, in any event, I wish Grace Church lots of luck, she certainly could use increased numbers in her pews (a stagnant 125--not too good for a church in the largest city in New Jersey) but I'm afraid the well of disaffected Romans is nearly dry; the ones who might actually have come over did so way, way back when they realized to their dismay Paul VI wasn't as cuddly as John XXIII. But I digress.

On Canon Harmon's blog, some are accusing others of taking pot shots at poor old Grace Church and deploring the lack of civility. And you know what? They're right. The present and widening divisions in the Episcopal Church are the cause of increasing nastiness among the disputants and that is indeed something to deplore. I think, however, the reappraisers need to understand something: that however angry the reasserters may seem, most of them are experiencing an emotion far more intense, sorrow; the sorrow of witnessing the usurpation of a beloved institution by a driven band of baby boomers whose religion and mores were informed during the Summer of "Love" in 1967. Through a skillful admixture of sneering, patronizing and bullying they have taken over the Episcopal Church and not only have they made it clear the party line must be followed but there will be hell to pay for those who try to get out. The only sorrow I can sense coming from 815 Second Avenue is, regardless of the threats, increasing numbers are refusing to buy the product and are leaving anyway. So what exquisite irony that Grace Church accuses the Roman Church's "response to dissent" as growing "more strident and authoritarian!" Really? Rome's views on the issues so dear to the New Religionists have seemed remarkably consistent over the years and I haven't detected any increase in the volume coming that way. Might that stridency and authoritarianism Grace Church complains of be coming from another source?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

If I Had More Money . . .

Cartoon by Dave Walker, a drole Englishman whose cartoons are of a generally "churchy" nature. He makes his stuff available free to bloggers in the hope it will garner him a larger readership and I am only too pleased to aid and abet.


"All of Episcopal Church's Problems Helpfully Summarized on Back of Hybrid Vehicle"
Read it all, it's very funny.
UPDATE: I took down the picture, people have expressed concern about showing the license plate number. However, Messrs. Nasty, Brutish & Short don't seem concerned and they're lawyers so you can look at it there.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Magnum Mysterium

Last night, at the Church of the Resurrection in New York City, a mass celebrating the Feast of the Immaculate Conception was celebrated as it would have been in the 14th century, i.e. candlelight only, no organ, no hymns, no sermon and no chalice (except for the priest, of course). Further, it was conducted entirely in Latin and much of that was inaudible, as in the canon. Think that might have made for a long evening? Think again, it was a hugely moving experience.

As the rector Fr. Barry Swaine pointed out in notes, there was little participation by the people during the mass in the Middle Ages, they were expected just to take it all in and meditate on the mystery and beauty of it all. To that end, the Church provided stimuli for all five senses thus candles by the hundreds, vestments, statuary, glass, incense and, of course, the host. Also, there was music: Last night we heard Messe de Nostre Dame by Guillaume de Machaut, a stupendous work and the oldest surviving complete polyphonic mass setting by a single composer. With but a single voice per part, this long and difficult setting was done expertly and exquisitely, led from the stalls by Mr. Enlow, the music director.

It may seem trite to say but it was not hard at all to imagine oneself taken back 700 years. And while much has changed in worship since the 14th century, much of it praiseworthy, it still was a godly treat for this writer to experience how the mass was celebrated so long ago. Deo Gratias!

UPDATE: Thanks to Adam for his one-word acclamation in the comments and there is good news to report: The rector announced this morning, owing to the turnout Friday night (the church was filled) and the favorable commentary, he is seriously considering doing it again. Let us hope so, it was an awesome (to use the word properly) event. The congregation was interesting: aside from us laymen there were much clergy present, Anglican, Roman, Eastern and others; many seminarians too. It was heartening and encouraging to see in putatively sophisticated and jaded New York, N.Y. such an eager interest in how our forebears of old worshiped.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Why I Love the New York Post

They don't pull any punches. Neither does the excellent John Podhoretz in his column today. Here's a sampling.

THE profound quality of the suggestions offered by the Iraq Study Group - the panel headed by former Secretary of State James Baker that presented its report with such fanfare to the president yesterday morning - can be inferred from the following passage on page 60:

"RECOMMENDATION 19: The President and the leadership of his national security team should remain in close and frequent contact with the Iraqi leadership."

Truly, a grateful nation should fall on its knees and thank the benevolent Creator that the nine wise men and one woman who comprise the Iraq Study Group were willing to sacrifice themselves and come together so that such a recommendation could be placed before our leaders and
the world.

The nation's capital hasn't seen such concentrated wisdom in one place since Paris Hilton dined alone at the Hooters on Connecticut Avenue.

The rest of it's just as good.
UPDATE: Some people are delighted with the Iraq Study Group's recommendations! (h/t Riehl World View)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Beautiful Blithering Idiots

And now, on a different tack, it seems famed thespian Miss Gwyneth Paltrow has caused a bit of a lather with a comment she made to a Portuguese newspaper where she explained why she preferred living in England to the United States:

I love the English lifestyle, it's not as capitalistic as America. People don't talk about work and money, they talk about interesting things at dinner.

Well isn't that ducky and while it is oh so tempting to speak to that little gem of a comment, I will instead address a far larger and weightier matter: The appalling attention given to the political opinions of movie stars (particularly if they lean to the left, of course). I am not much of a movie goer but my understanding of Miss Paltrow is she enjoys stupendous looks and is able to memorize sufficient lines to enable her to film scenes from a script in order to make a movie. These two assets have afforded Ms. Paltrow fabulous riches and she, like so many of her peers, feels that entitles her to have her political opinions taken seriously. It does not, of course.

Imagine, if you will, a fellow who achieves his life long dream of becoming an accountant (I said imagine). Not only does he achieve that dream, he is really, really good at accounting, people from around the world flock to his office daily for his famed accounting acumen. He becomes rich and successful. Now imagine this fellow starts feeling pretty gosh darned important and starts thinking people might be interested in his political opinions. In an interview with The Modern Accountant (or whatever their journal is called) instead of blathering away on accruals, tax shelters and the like, he instead attacks, say, the foreign policy of the United States. Would anybody, anybody, in this wonderful country give a rat's ass what this star accountant's political views were? No, you say? Then why the downright obsessive attention in this country to the political thought of Gwenyth Paltrow, Sean Penn, Ben Affleck, Barbra Streisand and the rest of the sorry cavalcade of overpaid movie stars, people who earn their huge pay envelopes for looking or sounding pretty and memorizing lines; people whose intellectual prowess is vastly inferior to that of our pal the accountant?

It is a mystery I have never been able to solve.

This is Unpleasant News . . .

Comes word, via the New York Sun, of a scandal breaking at St. Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, NY, involving its rector, the Rev'd Andrew Mead. A complaint about him has been lodged with the New York Diocese alleging 16 counts of unseemly behaviour, including "sexually inappropriate misconduct." You can read the salacious details in the Sun article.

Personally, I don't think the accusations past the smell test: filed by "[E]leven current and former parishioners and a former priest," they read like a grab-bag assortment of complaints and all in all, seem like pretty small beer. I think there is a lot more to this story than reported thus far.

The good news is the St. Thomas vestry is standing behind Fr. Mead with the senior warden describing the charges as "malicious and unfounded." Let us hope so. St. Thomas Fifth Avenue is one the jewels in the fading crown of the Episcopal Church and is one the few bastions of orthodox worship in Manhattan. I don't know Fr. Mead personally but have attended many masses at St. Thomas as well as some of the many religious instruction classes they offer, some of them led by the good rector himself. He strikes me as thorough professional, theologically sound, a fine preacher and a fine man in general. I pray to our Lord the charges lodged against him are false. St. Thomas' and Fr. Mead play a vital role in orthodox worship in New York City and it would be a shame to have them sullied.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Priest in Charge Doth Not a PB Make

The Presiding Bishop has issued her response to San Joaquin. Nothing terribly surprising is found it, however one sentence caused my eyebrows to shoot up.

I deeply lament the pain, confusion, and suffering visited on loyal members of the Episcopal Church within the Diocese of San Joaquin, and want them to know of my prayers and the prayers of many, many others.

In other words, that small minority in San Joaquin that remains "loyal" (sic) to the Episcopal Church commands KJS's sympathy and prayers; the others, we presume, can go to hell.

I'm beginning to think PB Schori is way out of her league. As the titular head of the Episcopal Church you think she might have made some sort of friendly gesture to the vast majority of diocesans of San Joaquin; that while expressing regret at their decision, at the same time hoping a way might yet be found to reconcile the differences between them and TEC, blah, blah, blah. Yes, it would be boilerplate, yes most of us wouldn't believe it but for all that, a few kind words would have shown a modicum of class. I wonder if she has any. Either that or she's so persuaded of the utter rightness of her New Religion that opposing views are not to be entertained in any way.

Whichever it is, this attitude of KJS may well get her into trouble. Even among her co-religionists there are bound to be differences of opinion (e.g. should reasserters be thrown off a building or crushed to death--that sort of thing) and her apparent inability to see other points of view is bound to piss people off, even, or especially, at 815 Second Avenue. Her limited pastoral experience may explain this boorish behaviour; that having been pushed up the ladder so fast and so far she never honed the diplomatic skills of the experienced rector who has to deal with difficult parishioners. I wonder if KJS's supporters at the GC '06 failed to take this lack of experience into account in their enthusiasm to elect her to to the top. They may rue that oversight. They may have already started to do so.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The San Joaquin Vote

The diocese of San Joaquin voted yesterday, in essence, to begin the process of removing itself from the The Episcopal Church and re-aligning itself with the Anglican Communion outside of her. This, as you might expect, is the cause of much anguished commentary, a good sampling of which may be found on titusonenine (scroll down). A great deal of the verbiage of both those supporting the decision of San Joaquin and those opposed concerns itself with how this may effect the unity and future of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

Who cares? I speak as a cradle Episcopalian (and a cradle Anglo-Catholic to boot, a pretty small subset, I suspect) and one who truly loves her prayer book, rituals, traditions and music (oh, our music!). Just the same, countless repetitions of the creeds has taught me there is One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, not one One Holy Catholic Apostolic Episcopal, Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Eastern or Whatever church. I'll even be so bold as to posit the creeds don't even make reference to one Holy Roman Catholic Apostolic Church.

So if the decision of the Diocese of San Joaquin is actually the harbinger of the break up of the Episcopal Church, that's just fine. If it somehow leads to the break up of the Anglican Communion, so much the better, so long as it pushes us along toward One Church. Those who truly believe the words of our creeds should welcome this development; it is a small but significant step toward the elimination of adjectives other than One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Ben Stein on Christmas

Had it up to here with "Happy Holidays?" Here's help from Ben Stein, a Jew, and one of America's national treasures.

Herewith at this happy time of year, a few confessions from my beating heart:

I have no freaking clue who Nick and Jessica are. I see them on the cover of People and Us constantly when I am buying my dog biscuits and kitty litter. I often ask the checkers at the grocery stores. They never know who Nick and Jessica are either. Who are they? Will it change my life if I know who they are and why they have broken up? Why are they so important? I don't know who Lindsay Lohan is, either, and I do not care at all about Tom Cruise's wife.

Am I going to be called before a Senate committee and asked if I am a subversive? Maybe, but I just have no clue who Nick and Jessica are. Is this what it means to be no longer young. It's not so bad.

Next confession: I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees. It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him?

I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to