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A Prayer For This Web Site
Almighty God, you proclaim your truth in every age by many voices; Direct, in our time, we pray, those who speak where many listen and write what many read; that they may do their part in making the heart of this people wise, its mind sound, and its will righteous; to the honor of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
"For those who Influence Public Opinion,"
Book of Common Prayer, page 827

In our church, neither a person's gender nor their sexual orientation matter; what does matter is how they serve Jesus Christ as Lord.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

So They Want Something to Complain About, Eh?

Is anyone here old enough -- other than me -- to remember back in the 1950-60's when _our_ priests faced the altar and largely chanted the BCP (1928 edition, but of course)? About the time the Roman Catholics decided to revise things and have _their_ priests begin facing the congregation and doing such other 'strange' things as inviting congregational participation in the mass (such as singing hymns) _our_ priests began facing the congregation also.

Until that point in time, early 1960's, when the RC Church made that major overhaul, Catholic congregations had absolutely _no idea_ what singing hymns was all about,(and we Episcopalians were not a lot better); RC had no experience in doing so, no examples, etc. When the Vatican decided all should sing -- and the Pope got that idea from the Protestants, in an effort to make their services 'more relevant to the common man' -- their Bishops had no idea how this would be implemented, but a Commission was established by the Catholic Bishops who formed a non-profit entity to compile hymns and publish a book of them. That Commission or committee was known as FEL, or Friends of the English Liturgy.

Although mostly Catholic musicians, choir directors, etc were on the committee, a few of us who were there as 'token Protestants' were also on board to assist with the editing, the choice of hymn tunes, etc, otherwise the Catholic Bishops would still be scratching their head wondering about it.

Now as you probably know, hymns are a sort of 'religion unto themselves'; that is, most hymns appear in _everyone's hymnal_. Our Hymnal 1982 (actually it was published and distributed in 1984) contains many of the same hymns which appear in the Baptist or Methodist hymnals. Our hymnal (and the ones used by Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and whoever) contain poems and matched-up hymn tunes written by whomever. No one in the hymn book business cares about anyone's _religion_, just if their poem touches the heart, and the tune is lively enough. Go through our hymn book or anyone else's: a mishmash of tunes and poems from God-only-knows who and what formal religious beliefs the author had. It is very rare than a tune and poem were written by the same person or at the same time.

With that in mind, that compilers sit down and pick lots of poems, 'meter them out' and then match up lots of well known tunes, the Roman Catholic Bishops asked the Protestant church musicians to help them compile their own. The Catholic bishops sort of gave imprimateur to the whole thing, oversaw the process to make sure none of the poem lyrics were that much away from accepted Roman Church theology, etc.

A dozen or so of us worked in an office in Chicago, down the street but in the complex of the Archdiocese of Chicago; an office on the back side of the Cathedral of the Holy Name, the archdiocese church there. For about a year and a half, early 1960's -- we met in the cathedral with an organist and a choir; we went through at least two dozen protestant hymnals; the choir sang the hymns one after another; the committee members would listen to the singing, note the words, decide which ones to include and what to drop, etc. The committee even decided to include the well known "A Mighty Fortress is Our God", with the tune of J.S. Bach and the poem attributed to a monk named Martin Luther; the monk who started the rebellion against the R.C. church as it was modeled in the middle ages.

Finally we had narrowed it down to about 200-250 hymns for the 'new' (really first time) Catholic Hymnal from Friends of the English Liturgy. Off we went, back to our office to begin editing and proof-reading our selections. Each of us had a 'signature' (a collection of several pages) which was our personal responsibility. Make certain all the musical notes were correct; all the words were correct, etc

Then we had to 'sign off' on our work and pass it to the person next to us, who rechecked all our work. Then they signed off on it and passed it around again, sort of round-robin style. Each of us had to proof-read the poetry and the musical notes for everyone else's 'signature' or part of the book. The theory was a set of fresh eyes would catch further errors, etc.

Finally we got it all finished after another year or so and off it went to the printers and the bindery. As it began coming back from the printer, the proof reading process began all over: each of us took a section of the finished book looking for errors, initialed it and passed it around the room. Finally it appeared all was finished, our product was ready for the final printing, binding, and distribution, etc. We were so proud of our work! And the Catholic Bishops all liked it as well ...

The first print run started in distribution to Catholic parishes ... about a week afterward, the FEL office got a rather strange note from a Catholic nun -- a sister -- at a small parish in Iowa. Her letter said,

Dear Hymnbook Editor,
I know that as a result of the Vatican Council, our church has become a lot more liberal than in the past ... but did you really mean what you said in Hymn 93?
Yours sincerely,

(signed by the nun).

Assuming that the nun was merely lodging a complaint about the theology presented, and not liking the new format, we sat her letter aside saying, "What is the old biddy complaining about? This is the new church, and a new era." Just as casually, and with a straight face I walked over to the bookshelf and took down a copy of the new hymnal and flipped to that page. I read it over and over, checked out the tune, the meter, etc. I could find nothing wrong at all. I casually asked a co-worker to look at it and he read it over for five minutes or so then suddenly he let out a gasp and said "My God, take a look at verse 3!" I looked at it again and still saw nothing wrong.

It was the hymn "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee, God of Glory, God of Love" by Henry Van Dyke. And sure enough, in the line which proclaims "Jesus Giver of Life Immortal" the /T/ in immortal had been dropped by accident, so the nun was complaining about 'life immoral' . We very quickly got the proof-reading plates and somehow managed to squeeze a 't' in the proper place when the next batch of books was going out.

And just imagine: some of the more conservative Episcopalians (the ones who are grumbling now and threatening to leave -- or have left the church) are not merely complaining about Vickie Gene Robinson -- although he is the icing on their cake -- but they also complain about the newer BCP and in some instances the 1982 Hymnal. I sure am glad we got that 'Jesus Giver of Life Immoral' caught before another set of books was printed for the Roman Catholic people!



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