Different ways to “sing” the psalm

Each evening, for vespers, I “sing” the Bonum Est Confiteri, Prasm 92:1-4 as it read in the rubrics, and included in the Coverdale version:

¶ Then shall be sang the following Psalm:

Bonum Est Confiteri.

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord: and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most Highest;
To tell of thy loving-kindness early in the morning: and of thy truth in the night-season;
Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the lute: upon a loud instrument, and upon the harp.
For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy works: and I will rejoice in giving praise for the operations of thy hands.

Do I sing it? No. But there a different ways congregations can use this (and other psalms and canticles):

  1. Read in in unison.
  2. Read in by alternating verses or half verses; alternating between a worship leader and congregation, or between halves of the congregation.
  3. Read in unison, but book-ended with a sung antiphon. More often seen in newer hymnals.
  4. Chanted: plainsong or Anglican chant being two options.
  5. A metrical version sung to a psalm tune — “Old 100th” was the tune for an early metrical version of Psalm 100.
  6. A hymn based closely on the psalm.

The Sternhold and Hopkins metrical psalter is the likely choice for option 5, giving us, in common meter:

It is a thing both good and meet
to praise the highest Lord,
And to thy Name, O thou most High,
to sing with one accord:

To shew the kindness of the Lord,
before the day be light,
And to declare his truth abroad,
when it doth draw to night;

On a ten-string’ed instrument,
on lute and harp so sweet,
With all the mirth you can invent
of instruments most meet.

An assortment of hymns evoking Psalm 92 may be found here.

The point: a rubric and a text may be used in more than the literal way.

The secret lesson of the vegetarians

I’m a vegetarian, and have been for (what?) a year or two. Not for health reasons, or ecological ones, but for ethical and religious reasons. More about that later, maybe.

And when you read personal  narratives of vegetarianism, there comes that assumption that there must be a reason, other than simply not liking to eat meat. There has to be some higher purpose, as if the cuisine isn’t enough. It’s not just a diet, but a diet that calls for an apologia and even a meta-narrative. Others do this — oh, ye paleo or raw food people — but most people don’t, and probably wonder why. And as someone who used to make wicked jokes about vegetarianism, I know that “eating on purpose” can be annoying.

But here’s the thing. All else being true,  it’s cheaper (overall) to be a vegetarian, and especially about a century or more ago when vegetarians were organizing into groups. Meat was expensive — heck! food was expensive. So for some diners — this is where proper history helps — simple vegetarian fare was (first and foremost) affordable, served with a side of moral uplift and resolve.

So what?

Think about churches. There are true believers and people who are in vested in the institutions. The “churchiness” of it. The theology. But  many will care about the stained glass or the organ. A kind word over coffee. Or learning in a class with other oddballs. “Unchurchy” reasons. One reason that you can find non-Christians in all kinds of Christian churches; a liberal approach to participation.

The secret lesson of the vegetarians is that the high — no, not high, but particular, formal and sacrificial — commitment approach to church life, which works for “churchy” people like me, is a turn-off for people who want to make their own experience in our shared setting. There’s room for all kinds of people, including those who are “churched” for their own needs and own convenience.

Signs of life at UUCF-MIN

[Later. Title fixed.]

One of the oldest Internet communities for Unitarian Universalist Christians is the UUCF-MIN list. But as email has lost some of its cachet, and Facebook and Twitter have taken over some of its utility, the list has had less and less traffic, and now is more often quiet than not.

I sent an email to check in: to see if the mailing list is live, and to see if its former participants were still present and interested. They are. Some people, after all, just don’t like Facebook or Twitter or any other social network.

If you are interested, and are a Unitarian Universalist and kindred Christian ministers or seminarians,in the United States or anywhere in the world, you are welcome to ask the moderators to join. (I think there was a provision for non-fellowshipped ministers who served denominational churches, but I cannot find any note of that now.) But don’t ask me: I’m not one of them now!

A summertime analogy for ministerial formation

Summer is at its peak. It’s hot. And for reasons outside your control, the otherwise-reliable power supply has been cut. No air conditioning, and since you don’t know when it’s going to come back (it will come back, right?) you don’t dare pillage the fridge, so to preserve the chilled food you have left.

What do you do to stay feeling cool? These make my list

  • keep the curtains closed when the sun is up
  • try to draw a breeze by opening two or more windows
  • keep meals light and cold, or at least uncooked
  • keep the lights out, even if modern lights don’t produce much heat any more
  • take frequent, light showers (or at least make good use of a damp wash cloth)
  • drink as much cold water as possible
  • air the bedclothes before sleeping
  • wear modern fibers, which wick sweat, dry quickly and minimize feeling sticky

Of these, all but the last was common in my grandparents’ day, and perhaps their grandparents’.

When we read about — heck, know — about highly educated (and deeply indebted) ministers who are unemployed or under-employed in church work, it’s not hard to sense that times are changing, and are very unlikely to return to the go-go days of postwar Protestantism. The power is going out: short stoppages now, but there may be a day when the grid fails completely. We need to prepare for this risk, and be grateful that we still have choices (if not always happy one) and that these are not fundamentally life and death issues.

And, looking back on that hot weather solutions list, I’d like us to consider the wisdom of an earlier time that faced some of the same problems and had to cope. Relying on a practical ministerial education more, say, than an academic model. Forming more parish yokes. Making ministerial fellowship more flexible for dip in and out of (better paying, one would hope) secular work. Revisiting credentialed lay ministry, an inheritance from the Universalists, was only formally laid down a few years ago. Not to mention making conference attendance and professional development less of a financial burden.

There is surely room for modern technology, but I bet we already know and have known the essential steps to making necessary changes. The will is another matter. Until then, the heat is on.

 

 

 

 

Evening prayer alterations: Prayer for the President

Twice a day now, I pray for the President of the United States and others “in civil authority” as part of my morning and evening prayer practice. It is not only a hallowed practice, but one that gets its warrant in the same breath as a testimony made for universal salvation, namely 1 Timothy 2:1-4:

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

(Reading on in the same chapter, I’m not so fond about the part about women teaching; the author of this letter makes a hash out of his Genesis prooftext, too. I digress.)

But the prayer appointed in the evening is increasingly problematic. I’ve given a good try, but I need to find a replacement. It reads:

Almighty God, whose kingdom is everlasting and power infinite; Have mercy upon this whole land; and so rule the hearts of thy servants, The President of the United States, The Governor of this State, and all others in authority, that they, knowing whose ministers they are, may above all things seek thine honor and glory; and that we and all the people, duly considering whose authority they bear, may faithfully and obediently honor them, in thee and for thee, according to thy blessed Word and Ordinance; through Jesus Christ our Lord who, with thee and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, world without end. Amen.

Close versions of this prayer have been in use in the United States in a number of different prayer books for two hundred years. Also, if you were saying Evening Prayer among traditionalists in the Church of England, you would note it is in the place of the state prayers (particularly “Prayer for the Queen’s Majesty”). Which is by way of saying this prayer bears more of the markings of a prayer for a Christian ruler than a prayer Christians would make for their elected leaders in a secular democracy. And while the author to Timothy had no imagining of our modern democracy, neither were the powers prayed-for either Christian or particularly sympathetic, so the tone of this prayer seems unnecessarily deferential.

We can do better.

Silver Line opens; new way to Dulles Airport

Photo, courtesy, Jonathan Padget.

Photo, courtesy, Jonathan Padget.

So, my husband and I rode to the eastern terminus of the Washington Metro Silver Line on opening day yesterday. This is the first new subway — really, an elevated line — since 1991, and it goes through and past Tysons Corner, a local byword for big shopping malls, wide highways and mammoth office blocks. And until now, access by car or difficult bus connections. The plans for the future include more residents, and replacing an old-style suburban built environment with one more urban. But that’ll take many years.

As, indeed the rest of the planned, but not yet built, Phase 2 of the Silver Line. At least that’s scheduled for 2018, and not decades away. But the reason I suspect most in-town Washingtonians want to ride the Silver Line is to reach Dulles Airport, but that station is in Phase 2.

But the options to Dulles have improved.

The old “medium cheap” brown Washington Flyer bus — that only came in as far as East Falls Church Metro station — has been replaced by a blue Silver Line Express, to the Wiehle-Reston East station, the current terminus. It’s a shorter run, and also cheaper at $5.

2014-07-26 14.20.24

The Silver Line Express waiting at Wiehle-Reston East

Here are some notes:

When you arrive at Wiehle-Rest East, well, you’re really in a parking and bus transfer center. The station is in the median of the major arterial Dulles Toll Road, and so there’s no direct access.  Go up the adjacent escalator, turn right out the enclosed vestibule. You’re now in an open-air plaza; turn right again. About thirty feet or so ahead is a path; look left. You will see a covered foot bridge over the Dulles Toll Road to the station ticketing area. There you can buy your fare; I’d recommend getting a SmarTrip card from one of the sales machine. You’ll save the cost of the card almost immediately, and spare yourself the trouble of fiddling with a paper fare card (for which there’s a $1 surcharge) and money. And there are discounts for using one.

Footbridge to the Metro station

Footbridge to the Metro station

Proceed though the gates, and down to the platform. and take any train.

Stand behind the bumpy edge on the platform.

When using escalators, stand on the right and walk on the left, unless it’s just packed solid.

On the return trip, just get on the bus. You’ll pay at the airport.

 

R&E Newsweekly: Expulsion of Iraqi Christians

It’s been a hard week in the news. Central American children in the borderlands. The deaths in Gaza. The Malaysian flight downing. Frightening news — let’s hope not all true — from ISIS/ISIL. You’d be forgiven for being overwhelmed.

But please spare a prayer for the Christian minority of Iraq, and particularly of Mosul
, an ancient community that’s been extirpated. Remember them, as they take refuge, mainly in Iraqi Kurdistan.

This interview on Religion and Ethics Newsweekly is of Syrian Catholic (that is, in union with Rome) Patriarch Ignatius Youssef III Younan.

Universalist Register 1912: Cross and Crown!

Selection_007Another advertisement from the 1912 Universalist Register was for the “Cross and Crown” system of pins and accessories, to award Sunday School participation. You still see these for sale in old-fashioned church supply stores, but while there used to be named versions for all major denominations, you hardly see any other than Baptists today; the generic “attendance” variety prevail today. And they’re not nearly so refined as the one I saw some years ago: the treasured possessions of elder Universalists, kept from childhood. bitb_cross-and-crown

Back in 2002, I bought up the last of the Universalist “Cross and Crown” pins from Whittemore’s, a much loved but now defunct New England church supply house.

An unexpected source of Universalist prayers

Selection_004The Optimist’s Good Morning is a book of prayers and written selections, published by Little, Brown in 1907 but it’s also a Universalist Publishing House title, and so not-surprisingly full of Universalist authors (and a few who aren’t, like Confucius.)

Florence Hobart Perin, the compiler, was herself a Universalist leader, and presumably the same Florence Hobart who was the clerk of the old Boston Association in the late 1890s.

George L. Perin
(link to picture), is the most cited author, was something of a denominational celebrity and former missionaries to Japan. (I’ve had a devilish time connecting Florence and George.) You might recognize some of the other names in it, like Quillen Shinn, Henry Nehemiah Dodge, Mary Livermore, Charles R. Tenney, Edwin C. Sweetser, Frederick A. Bisbee, Frederic Perkins and Wilburn D. Potter.

It speaks to an upbeat kind of Universalism that I’ve seen little written about, but for which each of these Perins were long-time proponents, if the print record is correct.

The New Testament and Psalter is in

I wrote about a New Testament with psalter I ordered; it arrived last Wednesday.

It could be worse. I can imagine furtive looks about the “faith sharing” helps, and I might agree with you. But they’re moderate evangelical and are easy enough to ignore, in part because they assume a particular insider’s attitude to scripture and the Christian faith. Nothing offensive (if you accept that Christianity is an evangelizing religion) but I may use those pages to paste my prayers.

The bigger problem is the combination of a soft (non-leather) cover and thin India paper, typical for Bibles. The binding slumps in my day bag, and the thin corners dog-ear.

The translation in NRSV, which is a decently middle-of-the-road. The type is slightly larger and more legible than I feared, so that’s good and the price was good. It weighs 165 grams — less than 6 ounces — and fits easily in the hand.

A modest endorsement.