Everything old is new again

Latin Mass has fallen out of use since the 1960s. But some traditionalists have been calling for its revival, and according to the New York Times, Pope Benedict XIV has signed a document that would allow churches to adopt the liturgy, known as the Tridentine Mass. While it's not in high demand, some parishes are attracted to the liturgy, which previously required a priest to get his bishop's permission before using the rite.

Now, priests no longer need to get that permission, and it's stirring up a bit of controversy among Catholics. Some feel that this action may be a sign that Pope Benedict is not wholly committed to Vatican II reforms. Others are pleased that they can participate in a liturgy that brings about a feeling of connection to church history which they find "more moving, contemplative and historically authentic than the modern Mass."

Read the whole story here.

Reggae Anglicana

St. Gregory the Great told his missionary to the English people, St. Augustine of Canterbury, to "purify rather than destroy pagan temples and customs; let pagan rites and festivals be taken over into Christian feasts; retain local customs as far as possible." [1]

The Anglican Church in Jamaica is following in this tradition according to an article in the Jamaica Observer:

The Anglican church in Jamaica will include the lyrics of songs rendered by two of the country's most famed reggae artistes - Bob Marley and Peter Tosh - in the next publication of its church hymnal due by the end of the year.

Rector of the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Rev Canon Ernle Gordon, made the announcement yesterday at the 2007 Michael Manley awards function for community self-reliance at the Little Theatre in Kingston.

Gordon, speaking with the Observer after the awards, said the songs will be Tosh's version of Psalm 27 and Marley's internationally acclaimed One Love, but he said the use of reggae rhythms in the Anglican Church was nothing new.'We've been having reggae and mento masses for 25 years,' he said, noting that One Love was used in an ordination service at the St Andrew Parish Church two years ago.

The reason behind incorporating what is generally referred to in Christendom as secular music into the church book of hymns, said Rev Gordon, was the need to establish a Caribbean interpretation of theology.

'I don't live in England; I live here, so my theology and how I think must reflect my cultural morals. The theology has to be Caribbean-oriented. You have to interpret the Bible according to where you are,' he said. 'The church in Jamaica is out of date,' he added.

At the same time, Gordon said the use of the reggae rhythms was not secular, since Anglican theology does not separate the sacred and the secular.

Read the rest here.

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Crumbly bread and open communion

Writing in the August 5 edition of The Living Church, The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean and president of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary writes of the role of seminaries and responds to a Guest Column, "Careless Communion" [The Living Church, July 8], by the Rev. Ian Montgomery who described a commencement he attended at "one of our seminaries” where, from his point of view, everything seemed to go wrong. The eucharistic bread crumbled and fell to the floor, the presider made an open invitation to communion, and the preacher seemed to endorse what the article called the “new Episcopal religion." In his response, Hall writes:

Nobody who knows Seabury and its liturgical traditions well could seriously think that we are intentionally lax in our treatment of the sacrament. What Fr. Montgomery experienced was the unfortunate consequence of our new policy of using gluten-free bread at all celebrations of the Eucharist. The Seabury community now has several members with Celiac disease (gluten intolerance), and so we have started using only gluten-free bread as an expression of our inclusive hospitality. If you have ever tried to bake gluten-free bread, you know how tricky it can be. I regret that the recipe used at commencement produced friable bread, and we will work to make sure that the experience is not repeated.

While crumbly bread might seem an apt metaphor for Anglicanism, in reality it’s an expression of a community trying to react pastorally to a new situation — which, in a sense, is what so much of the current conflicts over sexuality, open communion, and inclusive language is about in the first place.

On the second point of the open invitation to receive communion, the dean writes:
As ordinary of the chapel, I have articulated this policy in full awareness that it does not comply with the canonical provision about communion and baptism. One reason seminary chapels are traditionally “ecclesiastical peculiars” is so that they will have the freedom to push the edges of liturgical practice in the direction of the church’s emerging theology. There is a serious theological argument abroad these days about the relationship of baptism and Eucharist. To characterize the open invitation as “liturgical universalism” misconstrues the state of the argument. Those of us who favor open communion do so knowing that the church has historically seen one sacrament as a precondition for the other. We simply question, in the present pastoral situation, the propriety of following that practice.

Dean Hall discusses the Presiding Bishop's sermon against Montgomery's interpretation and expresses his thoughts on "new Episcopal religion."

Read it all at The Living Church

Episcopal Cafe has essays on the issue of Communion Without Baptism here and here.

End times?

Anglicans Online has noticed a trend on church notice boards of not only listing when services begin but a new phenomenum of listing the time when services end. They wonder why this is happening:

It is understandable that people should like to know when they'll be able to breakfast after communion or join friends for brunch. Others are keen to use what remains of Sunday to get on with some form of recreation: walking in the park or on the beach, finishing or starting a livre du jour, helping children with an essay due soon, or taking part in one of that most hallowed Sunday custom, the early afternoon post-church-and-paper nap. A clue about when a service will finish, as well as when it will start, can be undeniably helpful.

And yet we prefer to see just the starting times of services on signboards and websites. The time we give to Divine Worship is too important to be circumscribed by calculations after the manner of railway departures and arrivals. In this all-too-human world, a sermon inevitably goes longer or shorter than planned; a hymn takes longer to sing than one thought; a baby wails to the point of delaying a baptism for several minutes.

Read it all here.

Add your thoughts on time and worship.

New prayer book for Reform Judaism

Laurie Goodstein reports on Reform Judaism's new prayer book. The article in The New York Times says that the nation’s largest Jewish movement, Reform Judaism, is preparing to adopt a new prayer book that was intended to offer something for everyone — traditionalists, progressives and everyone else — even those who do not believe in God.

"The changes reveal a movement that is growing in different directions simultaneously, absorbing non-Jewish spouses and Jews with little formal religious education while also trying to appeal to Jews seeking a return to tradition."

Traditional touches coexist with a text that sometimes departs from tradition by omitting or modifying some prayers and by using language that is gender-neutral. References to God as “He” have been removed, and whenever Jewish patriarchs are named — like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so are the matriarchs — like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. The prayer book took more than 20 years to develop and was tested in about 300 congregations. Its release has been delayed for a year because the initial printed product was shoddy, said people involved with the project. But the book is expected to be released in about a month — too late, however, for the High Holy Days, which begin Sept. 13.

“It reflects a recognition of diversity within our community,” said Rabbi Elyse D. Frishman, the editor of the prayer book. “We have interfaith families. We have so many visitors at b’nai mitzvah ceremonies that I could have a service on Shabbat morning where a majority of people there aren’t Jewish,” she said, referring to bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies on Saturday mornings.

Read it here

More on welcoming liturgy

Our earlier item on "Welcoming Liturgy" has occasioned a passionate response both on the Café and elsewhere. Some of you have argued that a church should be extremely careful in altering its Sunday morning Eucharist to make it more seeker/stranger-friendly. Sunday morning, the argument goes, is not prime time for evangelism. Maybe not. But eventually newcomers need to feel comfortable participating in common worship, or else they won't join our gradually dwindling numbers. So how do we make worship appealing without watering it down?


(Hat tip for the Last Protestant Dinosaur and Derek at Haligweorc.)

Stations of the MDGs

Controversy over a liturgy to bring the Millennium Development Goals into focus during this Lenten season has caught the attention of Christianity Today. The liturgy, which was developed in 2007 by Mike Angell for a young adult conference; Angell notes in the piece that he did not intend it to replace the traditional stations of the cross.

Angell, who initially wrote the liturgy, agrees that it should not replace traditional Lenten worship. "Unless we see [the MDGs] as a way to participate in God's saving action, they don't accomplish anything," he said. "That's why the idea of them being a substitute for the Stations of the Cross would be beyond heretical and idolatrous."

"The real point of this liturgy was to allow people to prayerfully enter into the MDGs," said Angell, campus missioner at the University of California , San Diego. "Lent is a good time to explore the poverty in our world and the way in which our actions can either prolong that suffering or — through repentance and following the Jesus who calls us to be mindful of the poor — alleviate that suffering."

The article notes the critical (and, at times, condemnatory) response from Anglican blogs:

Several critics at Anglican blogs, including [Kendall] Harmon's TitusOneNine, have accused the liturgy of conflating Jesus' death on the Cross and human suffering. That's not a problem for Mike Kinman, executive director of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, an independent organization that is promoting the Stations service.

"I look at the 30,000 children who die every day of preventable, treatable causes. If every one of those children is in the image of God, then there's a level at which those are 30,000 crucifixions," Kinman said. "That is not to cheapen what Christ did on the Cross — in some ways it makes it more meaningful."

The whole thing is here.

Music of the season on the Web

Saint Thomas' Church on Fifth Avenue in New York City is Web casting audio files of its Holy Week services.

Hat tip to bls at Topmost Apple, who also found some other wonderful music.

The Naked Liturgist

The redoubtable Bosco Peters has launched a new feature on his blog that deserves attention for both its name and its flinty sense of humor.

Evangelicals and liturgy

Mak Galli has a very interesting essay in Christianity Today about the increasing relevance of traditional liturgy to many evangelicals:

We've recently featured in CT's pages a story about evangelicals who are attracted to liturgical worship, but in the context of American youth culture, many wonder why. The worship leaders wear medieval robes and guide the congregation through a ritual that is anything but spontaneous; they lead music that is hundreds of years old; they say prayers that are scripted and formal; the homily is based on a 2,000-year-old book; and the high point of the service is taken up with eating the flesh and drinking the blood of a Rabbi executed in Israel when it was under Roman occupation. It doesn't sound relevant.

Yet many evangelicals are attracted to liturgical worship, and as one of those evangelicals, I'd like to explain what the attraction is for me, and perhaps for many others. A closer look suggests that something more profound and paradoxical is going on in liturgy than the search for contemporary relevance. "The liturgy begins … as a real separation from the world," writes Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann. He continues by saying that in the attempt to "make Christianity understandable to this mythical 'modern' man on the street," we have forgotten this necessary separation.

It is precisely the point of the liturgy to take people out of their worlds and usher them into a strange, new world—to show them that, despite appearances, the last thing in the world they need is more of the world out of which they've come. The world the liturgy reveals does not seem relevant at first glance, but it turns out that the world it reveals is more real than the one we inhabit day by day.

. . .

I thank God for the liturgy. The liturgy does not target any age or cultural subgroup. It does not even target this century. (It does not imagine, as we moderns and postmoderns are tempted to do, that this is the best of all possible ages, the most significant era of history.) Instead, the liturgy draws us into worship that transcends our time and place. Its earliest forms took shape in ancient Israel, and its subsequent development occurred in a variety of cultures and subcultures—Greco-Roman, North African, German, Frankish, Anglo-Saxon, and so on. It has been prayed meaningfully by bakers, housewives, tailors, teachers, philosophers, priests, monks, kings, and slaves. As such, it has not been shaped to meet a particular group's needs. It seeks only to enable people—people in general—to see God.

Read it all here.

Rest in green

According to the Telluride, CO Watch you can now have a "green" burial.

Thanks to Telluride-based EcoffinsUSA, eco-friendly caskets, coffins and urns are now available nationwide to funeral directors and funeral homes for an all-natural, green burial.

Ecoffins are hand woven from organic sustainable materials, available in six unique casket styles, four coffin patterns and six ashes urns. Standard sizes accommodate adults up to 325 pounds; smaller sizes are also available.

Ecoffins biodegrade naturally, leaving nothing behind but human remains within six months to one year from the time of burial. The product also works well for cremation, releasing dramatically fewer toxins than conventional coffins during the cremation process.

More information here and here.

... willow coffins are the ultimate consideration towards environmental recycling. This is because willow grows up to 8ft in height in one year and because it grows from the same crown annually, it doesn’t need to be replanted each time it is harvested. Willow requires little mechanical processing, making it one of the few truly environmentally renewable resources. In addition, willow when buried under the ground decomposes far more quickly compared to hard woods.

CT diocese implores bishop to allow same sex marriages

The clergy and lay delegates of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut voted Saturday to ask the bishop to allow same-sex weddings, as the state Supreme Court's decision to legalize gay marriage in the state becomes official today.

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Music helps your heart

Science Daily reports that listening to your favorite music may be good for your cardiovascular system.

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Whole lotta liturgy goin' on...

It is a creative time in churches around the Anglican Communion. From Bethlehem, PA to Seattle, WA to Coventry UK, a variety of liturgical experiences are being offered. Some come from emergent churches others from churches looking to expand the message of the Gospel to various groups. U2 Eucharists and Beatles Masses have been around for awhile but here are some new ideas:

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Holy chaos and hearty response

Allow us to recommend the lively, insightful conversation sparked by Holy Chaos, or : What Episcopalians can learn from Baptists, Emily M. D. Scott's essay on liturgy on the Daily Episcopalian blog.

Railway stations of the cross

The Church Times says that a narrow gauge railway museum in northwest Wales is planning a round-trip excursion on Good Friday evening retracing by rail the fourteen Stations of the Cross.

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Is the HoB Theology Committee stalling?

The 2009 Blue Book online, has a report from the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops:

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A cyber service of remembrance

Friday evening, April 3, friends of Lee Davenport gathered online to celebrate his life in our midst. Most of us only knew him through his insightful and sometimes humorous comments on our blogs, on Facebook and other places in the 'net. We felt somewhat adrift with our grief as we could not go to where his service was being held in Emmanuel Church, Bristol, Virginia.

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Capturing the castle through the back door

The most recent draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant, which we wrote about yesterday, speaks at some length about the powers that will be exercised by the various Instruments of Unity or Instruments of Communion. Indeed, almost every recent document dealing with Anglican governance speaks of the instruments as though they are at least as old and as well-established, as say, the three branches of the United States government. Yet the attempt to invest these instruments with ecclesiastical authority is barely a decade old, has never been examined in any formal way by the member Churches of the Communion and has never even been approved by the so-called instruments themselves.

However, by speaking as though the system that they wish to create already exists, proponents of a more top-down form of governance may succeed in wearing down resistance to a system of ecclesiastic arrangements in which individual churches are gradually forced to cede power to the global Communion.

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The Way of the Cross

We invite you to enter into meditation on the Way of the Cross. Episcopal Café Speaking to the Soul offers four versions of the Stations of the Cross at Multimedia Meditations.

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Holy Ground: flash mob worship

Flash mob guerilla worship is featured at The Times, UK in an article by Ruth Gledhill.

This is thought to be the first time 'flash mob' has been used to generate a 'random' act of Christian worship. It took place [April 4], Saturday, at Liverpool One Shopping Centre.

On the dream - re-imagining worship website, some of those involved have posted an explanation:

'We began scattered among the shoppers. At the signal, we all stopped and took off our shoes ... an ancient sign that this is "holy ground". God lives in shopping malls as well as churches! We then made out way to the park at the centre of the mall where we sat together to form a cross ... and prayed silently for a few minutes. We remembered Easter and the cross. We prayed for the current economic situation ... for those who have lost jobs ... and for God's blessing on our city ... we prayed for hope.'

See the video of the worship below. Is this something you would try?

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Blessings of Easter


The Rev. Peter Pearson

The Rev. Pearson has worked on many projects as a liturgical artist and consultant by designing worship spaces, furnishings, vesture, and seasonal decorations. In every aspect of his work, he seeks to combine sound liturgical practice with quality artistic design. He is a priest of the Diocese of Bethlehem, PA and presently serves as the pastor of a small parish in New Hope, PA.

Easter Meditation

From Episcopal Cafe´ Speaking to the Soul, watch and listen, Easter Meditation.


Paintings by He Qi.

Twittering the Passion

Trinity Church, Wall Street tried an interesting experiment this past Good Friday; twittering the Passion narrative. Twitter, a rapidly growing social microblogging service allowed the story to be posted in small chunks throughout the traditional three hour observance.

Religion Dispatches has an excellent account of the reporter's own reactions to the service:

"It all got going around 12:10 p.m. on Friday, ten minutes late, after some technical troubles. The first post: ‘via @ServingGirl: is so tired. Caiaphas and the priests have been up all night questioning a man who claims to be the Messiah. And I wait on them.’ Yes, the text itself was under 140 chars, but with the ‘via @ServingGirl:’ part it went a bit over. By 1:27, a few such posts prompted ‘@jgderuvo’ to shout out, for all watching twspassionplay’s Twitter page to see, ‘Guys, stay within the 140 character limit… it’s truncating, ruining the effect!’ It’s basically the equivalent of someone standing up in the theater and shouting that the script wasn’t in perfect iambic pentameter.

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Preaching from beyond the grave

Christianity Today reports that pastors' messages continue through TV, radio, and the Internet, even as some listeners probably don't even know they're gone.

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First Communion on the Moon

Bosco Peters remembers the 40th anniversary of the first communion on the Moon.

He writes on his blog Liturgy:

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Liturgical factoids

The Rev. Bosco Peters, New Zealand blogging at Liturgy: worship that works - spirituality that connects notes:

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200+ mourn K-9 officer

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports on a community memorial service for a member of the K-9 Corps led by the Rev. Dr. James B. Simons, of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

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Old liturgy, young worshippers

In a growing trend, people are noticing that one of the reliable ways to attract a younger congregation of folks in college and their mid twenties is to return to Solemn High Mass rather than making existing forms more contemporary feeling.

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Connecting digitally during the Eucharist

From The Houston Chronicle:

While some preachers may frown upon the use of cell phones and laptops in church on Sundays, one Katy-area pastor is encouraging people to keep their wireless devises on so they connect through the Internet and social networking sites during a new service.

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Blessing of animals

September and October have become traditional months for blessing of animals services. The proximity to the Feast Day for St. Francis of Assisi, October 4, is often the impetus for holding these liturgies in the Fall. The Episcopal Church is providing bulletin inserts for Sunday, October 4 and some congregations have made the blessing an all day event.

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As historic practice, the common cup subtly confronts racism

Lauren Winner, Assistant Professor of Christian Spirituality at Duke Divinity School and the author of Girl Meets God, wrote on H1N1 and the common cup for this week's Wall Street Journal. The effect, she contends, is broad, and based, perhaps, more on fear than on available logic.

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Celebration in 4 languages

Entangled States blog reports on a joyfilled Advent 4 service held in 4 languages in Phoenix:

Members of the Sudanese congregation lead the processional with singing and dancing accompanied by the sound of pounding drums. They also offered music during the offertory and the recessional. Mariachis provided most of the additional service music.

see video below

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Liturgy of light for Epiphany

Deep in the midst of a bleak winter, churches are finding ways to illuminate people's spirits. In Durham, North Carolina, St. Luke's Episcopal Church is planning to usher in the season of Epiphany with 400 lights:

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Epiphany celebrations

Churches across the land have incorporated Feast of the Epiphany celebrations into their calendars to mark the time when the Magi (wise men) visited Jesus and also to mark the end of Christmas and the beginning of the season of Epiphany:

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Going to church even when you can't go

Snow, ice, fog, and freezing rain are certainly all hallmarks of this time of year - just things we've learned to live with and drive on - but major sections of the U.S. have recently been shut down by bad weather. How do you exercise your faith when the weather keeps you at home?

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Same sex blessing held in Kentucky

The Louisville Courier Journal reports on the first same-sex blessing held late last year at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church.

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Does trite music block us from God?

Australian priest John Shepherd reflects on the way that trite music may, in fact, block our ability to experience the divine...what do you think?

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Serving a local Hmong crowd, translators serve the world

Holy Apostles Episcopal Church in St. Paul, Minn., is home to a congregation of Hmong - by now, second-generation American Hmong, who fled Communist takeover of the Kingdom of Laos in 1975.

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Beyond filling slots: Planning worship

The Alban Institute's focus this week is worship planning and going beyond the linear 'who does what when' model to a more expansive and spacious planning process.

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Task force on same sex blessings announced

From the Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs:

The Episcopal Church Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) is addressing its duties to collect and develop theological and liturgical resources for same-sex blessings, as charged in General Convention Resolution C056, through three main task forces and by establishing communication tools to solicit responses from the wider Episcopal Church.

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Why worship must change to be effective

N. Graham Standish writing for the Alban Institute:

For most of my life I have really disliked worship. My wife tells me that if I weren't a pastor, I would never go to worship. Fifteen years ago she was right about that, although I have managed to change over time. I am a constant tinkerer when it comes to designing worship, always working with our staff and members to figure out how to tweak our worship in a way that will touch people and open them to what I think is paramount in a worship service: encountering and experiencing God in a way that transforms us, even if just a little bit.

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Seminary receives major grant to support General Convention work

The Arcus Foundation has granted external funding to help support the work of Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music over the next three years as it responds to the charge assigned it by General Convention and resolution C056. That resolution, passed last year in Anaheim, directed the Episcopal Church to begin gathering liturgical resources used in blessing same-gender relationships.

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Going to the dogs?

The dog days of summer have produced a flap over a priest who in a moment of outreach gave a communion wafer to a dog. Toronto Star reports that the incident has been resolved and the priest has apologized for her enthusiasm:

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Taizé community marks 70th year

Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Taizé community, an ecumenical monastic order and spiritual-pilgrimage destination center in Saône-et-Loire, France, by Brother Roger Schutz.

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Baptisms not by the book

The Rev. Dan Scheid, rector of St. Augustine's Episcopal Church in Benton Harbor, MI, wrote today's Insights column for the Herald Palladium in southwestern Michigan:

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Ruth Meyers talks same-sex blessings on "State of Belief"

The Rev. Ruth Meyers, chair of the Episcopal Church's Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, was a guest on The Interfaith Alliance's weekly radio program State of Belief on Saturday. She spoke with host Welton Gaddy about the commission's work on collecting and developing resources for blessing same-sex relationships. The broadcast is available here, and Dr. Meyers segment begins at the 28 minute mark.

Eucharist as 'the supreme instrument of inclusion'

Buckingham's bishop and frequent blogger Alan Wilson continues his Guardian series on the Book of Common Prayer with a few thoughts on the historical power of communion to invite and incorporate the other.

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Expanding our understanding of vocation

Writing for the Alban Institute, Craig Satterlee says that many Christians do not grasp the vocational nature of the work that they do every day, and wonders whether our weekly worship has something to do with that:

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Commission on liturgy hears calls for equality for same-sex couples

The Episcopal Church's Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music holds hearing and hears calls for openness for same-gender couples.

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Wither traditions?

N. Graham Standish writing for the Alban Institute says:

I believe that a passion to help people experience the Holy, however it is defined, is at the root of every form of worship. Every liturgy developed by every movement at one point was designed to help people experience the Holy. Many congregations today, in all denominations, consistently ask themselves how they can connect people with an experience of God through their worship. And whenever they stop asking that question, others emerge to ask it and to provide new opportunities to encounter the Holy in a way that modifies tradition.

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Day of the Dead celebrated in old and new ways

Techno and traditional celebrations of the Day of the Dead can be found across the country from Trinity Wall Street in New York City to Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix, Arizona.

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Commission asks help in research on rites for same-sex blessings

From the Rev. Ruth Meyers, chair of The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music:


We are inviting members of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion to help us know what resources are or have already been used in a congregational discernment process to welcome same-gender blessings and to prepare couples for a Christian life together and for a blessing ceremony.

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The gospel according to Harry Potter

Episcopal Café newsteam member, the Rev. Torey LIghtcap, is making his own news in Sioux City, IA. According to the Sioux City Journal:

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Roman Catholics launch missal attack; liturgical shrapnel reported

The news of what exactly would be in the new Roman Catholic missal preceded the initiation of its use. That news arrived in something that should sound quite familiar to anyone listening to political news in the U.S. lately: through a wiki, in this case Wikispooks, a web site hosting files said to be from the new missal.

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"Suddenly, we felt young,”

"Suddenly, we felt young"...91 year-old groom marries 87 year-old bride at Christ Church Episcopal in Lake Oswego, Oregon

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New language for baptismal rites requested

Thinking Anglicans reports on the papers and resolutons to be presented at General Synod of the Church of England in February. One that is drawing attention is a report GS 1816A:

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Two thumbs down for new Roman missal

America Magazine reports that attendees at conferences of the North American Academy of Liturgy and the Catholic Academy of Liturgy in San Francisco were frustrated with the way the new missal is being introduced and are displeased with the quality of the translation. In Ireland, the Association of Catholic Priests calls the missal coming online next November is sexist, archaic, elitist and obscure, and want their Bishops to send it back to Rome.

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Same sex blessings consultation to be webcast

From The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs

Office of Communication to live webcast churchwide consultation
of Episcopal Church Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music

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Ash Wednesday videos

Who would have thought that so many folks would be making Ash Wednesday videos?

Not this news editor.

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A litany for Japan

With news that grows increasingly dire by the hour from Japan, here's a litany of prayer for use privately or publicly:

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Bosco on lay presidency

Bosco Peters writes on his blog Liturgy about the proposal to institute lay presidency of the eucharist in the Diocese of Sydney of the Anglican Church in Australia.

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The song of Jesus

When Barbara Brown Taylor was recently asked to preach on "Word and Music" for a special service, she began to search out what Jesus had to say about music in the Gospels. She found very little, and what little was there was not very complimentary. But then she looked up the use of the word "hymn" in the Gospels.

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How to make a palm cross

It's the Saturday before Palm Sunday. In many congregations (mine included) this is the day people gather to make small crosses out of the palms that will be distributed in the liturgy tomorrow. Want to improve your technique? Want in on the fun? Here's how to make a cross of your own:

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Historic Chrism mass celebrated in Bethlehem PA

This past Thursday the fruits of the trilateral full communion agreement between Episcopalians, Moravians and Lutherans were on display at the annual service of the Renewal of Ordination Vows and blessing of the Chrism held at Nativity Cathedral in Bethlehem.

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Fixing the date of Easter

An academic is saying that the date of Easter can become a fixed date according to his calculations:

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Stripped Altar


10 minute rule: if the church is on fire

From Episcopal Church Foundation Vital Practices Forum:

If the church is on fire, tell the rector.

Otherwise, in the final 10 minutes before a service starts, try to resist peppering your priest with questions or reports about some failure of performance – people or facilities (or both).

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A love of detail - vestment edition

It's warming to read of the precision in Sandy Lowery's work. As a memorial to her brother Norm, who died in 2011 of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma after eight years, Lowery decided to create a set of vestments for St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Albany, New York.

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Same-sex blessing resources now online

The resources that the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music have gathered in fulfillment of Resolution C056, are now available online. It includes Diocesan resources, resources for liturgy and worship, and others.

Nova Scotia/PEI Anglicans okay same sex blessings

CBC News reports on the approval of blessings in Anglican churches for same sex couples who marry. Though clergy cannot perform the marriage they can offer blessings for the marriage.

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Illinois civil union law takes effect Wednesday

stltoday.com reports that Illinois' civil union law takes effect on Wednesday, June 1:

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Pentecost: Put on your red dress baby

Christ Church, Episcopal, Winnetka, Illinois encourages everyone to wear red for Pentecost with a catchy ad on their web site.

San Joaquin authorizes blessing of sacred unions

Received via email from the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin:

The Rt. Rev. Chester Talton, Bishop of San Joaquin, has authorized, "blessings of same gender civil marriages, domestic partnerships, and relationships which are lifelong committed relationships characterized by `fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.' "

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Anglican liturgy group offers views on same-gender blessings

The communique from the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation, held August 1-6 in Canterbury features this nugget:

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9/11 sermon reflections

UPDATED 9/15: 9/11 sermons from bloggers Nick Knisley and Kurt Wiesner are now available online.


Monday morning often brings new light to yesterday's sermon, both for the preacher and the listener. Then, for the preacher, inevitable wonderment about the coming week's lessons begins, and the cycle starts over, while the listener-participant can keep chewing on a substantial homily.

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Liturgy, "the work of the people"? or not?

Theologian and writer, Maggie Dawn, reflects on the often quoted translation of "liturgy" as "the work of the people," and argues that we may not be understanding this in the correct way.

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When Jesus is almost practically your boyfriend

Riffing on the odd durability of the "That's what she said" phenomenon, Lisa Colón DeLay writes that some contemporary worship music treads a thin, hazy line between the love of God and the, er, love of God.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

A Litany of Thanksgiving (BCP p.836)

Let us give thanks to God for all the gifts so freely bestowed upon us.

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SCLM offers new resources on proposed blessing rites


The Episcopal Church Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) has released educational materials and other information surrounding its plan to ask General Convention to authorize a three-year trial use of its proposed rite for blessing same-gender unions.

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Where should the bread of heaven be made?

Most Episcopalians open their hands and receive the "body of Christ, the bread of heaven" on a weekly basis. But not many of us know much about the actual bread pressed into our palm. It turns out, the for congregations that purchase their wafers rather than make them, the majority of the wafers say something interesting about the Church as a business.

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SCLM asks for more feedback

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) has been tasked by General Convention with creating resources to be submitted to General Convention for approval for trial use for same-gender blessings in the church. They've been collecting resources, studying them and are now asking us for feedback on where they are in the work.

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"The prayer book is the first thing that can and must be negotiated."

Once again, a provocative comment by one of our readers leads to its own post.

Josh Magda commented on Derek Olsen's Daily Episcopalian piece on what's "Non-negotiable."

Josh wrote:

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On gobbling up the leftovers at God's table

A video from 2006 has gone into recirculation. It shows Gordon Atkinson, who was then a Baptist minister in San Antonio and (is still) affiliated with the Real Live Preacher blog, trying out different kinds of communion wafers and being disgusted by each and every one of them. (Even after rating one kind of wafer as being better than the others, Atkinson dismisses it by saying, “Don’t get me wrong, it’s still bad.”)

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Ash Wednesday: Want to share?

If the Prayer Book is a carrier of The Episcopal Church's theology, today's/tonight's rite marking Ash Wednesday and the entry into Lent 2012 should have been a liturgical doozy.

What did you hear, see, read, say, touch, or sing that caught your eye or brought you close to God? Where were the "thin places"?

Lectors and faith

The Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, Bishop in Charge of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, interviews Olivia de Haviland about how she reads scriptures as a lector for the Cathedral in Paris.:

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BCP and church growth?

A commenter raised the question on the Café about there relationship between The Episcopal Church's current decline and the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. Was the change from Morning Prayer to a more Eucharistic centered worship a cause. Ever curious about statistics we asked Kirk Hadaway, Program Officer: Congregational Research, Evangelism & Congregational Life Center, the church's keeper and collator of all things statistical. His response (shared with permission):

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Sacristy signage saves on electrical bill

lights.jpgThe members, clergy, Altar Guild, and even the sexton of St. Thomas Aquinas Episcopal Church in Jackson Bend, Oklahoma, all agree that a cost-conscious measure has really done its part.

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"Put women back into Holy Week"

Episcopal priest, writer and "modern mystic" Cynthia Bourgeault had an epiphany last year on Palm Sunday. She noticed that nowhere in the gospel account of Passion read that day did the word "love" appear. And that Mary Magdalene remained voiceless throughout the entire reading in spite of the fact that she and other women remained with Jesus throughout his ordeal.

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The restoration of all things

Many Episcopal Church congregations are in the process of starting their Easter Vigils, or have just finished them. The graphic below was used by Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis on their Facebook page to invite people to their vigil service.

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Sermon as proposal: preaching and the self-identified 'spiritual, but not religious'

Among its many merits, an article by Adam J. Copeland in the Lent 2012 issue of Journal for Preaching contains this poignant idea of how preachers might expand their thinking in consideration of those calling themselves "spiritual, but not religious" (SBNR).

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The young resist hymnal revision

One of the reports submitted to General Convention this year analyzes the interest in the Episcopal Church in revising the 1982 Hymnal. The task of doing the research was passed to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, and they've posted their long report on the Church Pension Group website. (See update below for more information regarding the report itself.)

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Is 'open table' the next big controversy?

It's befuddling - to me, at least - that The Christian Post, in having had the same amount of time to look over resolutions proposed for Indianapolis this summer as everyone else, has decided to highlight resolution C040, which promotes "open table" by eliminating Canon I.17.7, the requirement of baptism as necessary for reception of Holy Communion.

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Rites at the end of life

Increasingly people are designing their own funeral ceremonies, choosing methods of burial and ways of saying good bye to loved ones. From Funeral Rights in the UK:

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Bon Appétit: celebrating Julia Child

August 15 is the 100th anniversary of Julia Child's birth:

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Church of England: prayers of thanksgiving for cows

The Telegraph reports on a new Church of England liturgy that gives thanks for cows:

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Liturgical conversion and The Episcopal Church

On the Laity Lodge blog, Pilgrim movingly describes a liturgical conversion to The Episcopal Church from the Baptist tradition - a transition I myself underwent 19 years ago - after ending up with a dry but cerebral connection to Christ.

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Book of Common Prayer at 350

The New Yorker Magazine notes the 350th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer and reflects on its influence on the English language and literature:

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I will bless you, and you will be a blessing

The liturgy for blessing same-sex relationships that was approved for provisional use at the discretion of diocesan bishops by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church is now online.

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Liturgy for blessing of same sex couples begins use

Episcopal News Service has the news on the first days of use of the liturgy for blessing same-sex couples' relationships:

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Blue Christmas

Maggie Dawn, chaplain and professor at Yale Divinity School reflects on Christmas and the feelings it sometimes evokes:

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Experience, community and evangelism

Harriet Baber makes a couple of provocative claims in a comment on yesterday's item about why people don't go to church. She notes:

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Preaching Newtown

As we mentioned yesterday, bishops, clergy and lay leaders from around the Episcopal Church have been attempting to make sense of and otherwise respond to the horrific shootings in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday. Here are a few links to some of the sermons and statements that have come to our attention.

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Worshiping on Facebook in the aftermath of Nemo

The Rev. Alex Dyer will hold Sunday worship on Facebook for the church he serves according to The New Haven Register:

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Under what circumstances does one cancel Sunday worship

The Rev. Scott Gunn touched off some lively conversation this weekend with an essay suggesting to his clergy colleagues to clergy colleagues in the snow-shrouded northeast and elsewhere that there were almost no circumstances in which a priest should cancel Sunday services:

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Serve Christ Maybe: acolytes

An invitation to the 2013 Episcopal Diocese of West Texas Acolyte Festival, hosted by the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Corpus Christi, Texas, April 19-20, 2013. All youth acolytes, acolyte masters/directors are invited.

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Holy Week readings: Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music commentary

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music offers commentary and suggestions for readings for Holy Week. The cycle of readings of RCL are recommended and commentary is offered on those lessons that are often seen as anti-Jewish:

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Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

The Anglican Church of Canada is producing videos of the Stations of the Cross. Below, the Rev. Scott McLeod reflects on the eighth Station of the Cross: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem. He shares a story of how God worked through a chance encounter with a suffering woman.

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Jesus is nailed to the cross

Way of the Cross Station #11 from the Anglican Church of Canada. These videos were produced by the Rev. Scott McLeod on behalf of the Anglican Church of Canada. To learn more about the series, visit here.

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Mother's Day and church

The high holy day of Hallmark™ is nearly upon us. Amy Young, writing at the Messy Middle, offers so advice for clergy negotiating these dangerous waters:

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Worship without walls

Worship Without Walls offers evening worship in public spaces throughout the summer. Episcopal News Service reports:

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Baptists embracing "high church"

A new book encourages Baptists to become more liturgical as they tire of contemporary worship writes ABPnews:

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Have you used Church resources for same-sex blessings? Weigh in.

From the Office of Public Affairs:

The Episcopal Church Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) is seeking information about people’s experiences with the resources that were prepared for the blessing of same-sex relationships.

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ABC to baptize Prince George on Wednesday

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will baptize Prince George on Wednesday this week. Here he talks about the gift and promise of baptism:

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Why go to church?

Ben Myers explains why he goes to church at Faith and Theology:

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Free downloads: Enriching our Worship and translations of Same Sex Blessings

Church Publishing is making the Enriching our Worship materials available for free download according to Scott Gunn at Seven Whole Days:

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At home funerals and death doulas

A common practice in many parts of the world and among Native Americans, WBUR's Common Health reports on a new trend among United States "boomers" at home rites during dying and death:

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Rude or helpful?

The Rev. Laura Everett, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, who visits many churches tweets:

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"The church service alone probably won’t convert anyone"

The Rev. Gary Manning called my attention to an essay by Sarah Wilson on Lutheran Forum. It is about attending church in a strange congregation. Much of the article will be familiar to folks who have read previous items on The Lead about the importance of welcoming strangers who appear at our church on Sunday mornings, but this passage was new to me:

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Do we need to rethink Sunday morning?

Do liturgical churches need to rethink their approach to Sunday morning worship?

I'm asking this question in part because of an essay by Lutheran pastor I wrote about on Saturday, in part because of a comment on that essay from the Rev Gary Manning (which is reprinted below) and in part because if people stop buying what you are selling, so to speak, it is sometimes helpful to reconsider the way you are selling it--and the decades' long decline in church attendance suggest that a reconsideration might be beneficial.

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Arguing about church music - deja vu?

Only a short distance from the National Cathedral (DC) a 150 year old fight over music in church is revealed in a recently discovered pamphlet. John Kelly discovered a pamphlet in which a man was going nuts about church music. "What had inflamed him?

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Changes in the works for Holy Women, Holy Men

Over the weekend, the Standing Committee for Liturgy and Music posted an essay on their blog proposing a new approach to the calendar of saints in The Episcopal Church.  

Their proposal would separate the still-under-trial-use Holy Women, Holy Men into its constituent parts, creating one book of weekday and seasonal Eucharistic readings, and a separate book of commemorations, tentatively entitled "A Great Cloud of Witnesses". 

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Learning to pray again

New York Times

I want to speak in a way that used to be easy for me as a child: silently, intensely, embracing the mysteries. I want to pray. It is a matter of remembering, after so long, just how.

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Rituals of sincerety

When Chris Haw, now a Roman Catholic, looks back on his days as a worship leader at one branch of a famous mega-church, he learns that there is ritual implicit in pious non-ritualism. More important, done well liturgy works in a way that does not need to be forced.


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Doubts about the concept of Ashes to Go

Are Ashes To Go really such a great idea? The Rev.Michael Sniffen of The Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Brooklyn is not sold:

Before you put on your gear and head out with the Lenten swat team, can we be real for a moment? I know you are chomping at the bit to "meet people where they are" at your local commuter hub, but please pause with me in the sacristy for just a second.

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Ash Wednesday: taking it to the streets

As churches are preparing for Lent with the last parties of Shrove Tuesday pancakes, Mardi Gras beads, Carnival masks, Taco Tuesday, and Fat Tuesday, they are also burning the palms from last year's Palm Sunday processions, smashing the ashes with mortar and pestle and sieving out the larger bits. All to get ready to offer the news that we remember we are dust and to dust we shall return. Here is a round up of activities and thoughts about the season of Lent and why it is more than just giving up chocolate:

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Taking compline to the streets

Two seminarians took compline to the streets on Monday night during Lent in Berkeley. Maggie Foster and Spencer Hatcher, both first-year students at Church Divinity School of the Pacific were discussing ways to attract people to local churches when they decided instead to bring one of the church's ancient liturgies out to the people.

From the CDSP website:

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Put on your red dress, baby- tomorrow is Pentecost

Thanks to Christ Church, Winnetka, IL - revised for 2014

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To kiss or not to kiss - a stole

Christian Century has an essay by Benjamin J. Dueholm: "Why I kiss my stole" on liturgical habits and why they linger:

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Putting the "fun" in funeral

A new trend in funerals is to make them more fun: magicians, death cafés, chocolate caskets, and much more are obtained for non-traditional events upon the death of a loved one. Huffington Post reports:

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Whatever happened to inclusive language in liturgy?

Why is the US Episcopal church afraid of innovation and inclusive language in liturgy when The Church of England is responding creatively and expansively? The Rev. Winnie Varghese asks in her essay at Huffington Post:

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Vatican urges faithful to cool it during passing of the peace

From Religion News Service:

In an effort to insure a more sober ritual, the Vatican has urged bishops to clamp down on singing, moving around and other casual expressions of affection when the sign of peace is exchanged during Mass.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments led by Spanish Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, has sent a letter to bishops around the world expressing concern about what it considers to be ritual abuses.

Among them, he said, were turning the sign of peace into a “song of peace,” the priest leaving the altar during the interlude, or use of the ritual to offer congratulations at weddings or condolences at funerals.

Read more here. Pope Francis has reportedly approved this letter. Exchanging the peace can range from reserved to raucous in Episcopal churches. Seeing how close we are liturgically to our Roman brothers and sisters, what do you think of this effort to create a more "sober ritual?"

The invitation of Taize

Bishop Mark Beckwith has returned from a visit to Taize and written about the experience on his blog:

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Did your church 'do' Halloween?

Most Episcopal Churches will likely be marking All Saints either today or during Sunday services tomorrow. But what about All Hallow's Eve?

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