altMark Schweizer's Liturgical Mysteries (St. James Music Press)

The Alto Wore Tweed (2002), The Baritone Wore Chiffon (2004), The Tenor Wore Tapshoes (2005), The Soprano Wore Falsettos (2006), The Bass Wore Scales (2006), The Mezzo Wore Mink (2008), The Diva Wore Diamonds (2010), The Organist Wore Pumps (2010), The Countertenor Wore Garlic (2011), The Christmas Cantata (2011), The Treble Wore Trouble (2012), The Cantor Wore Crinolines (2013), The Maestro Wore Mohair (2015), The Choir Director Wore Out (2018)

Back in 2000, I read and reviewed the first book in this series, The Alto Wore Tweed. I don't know what took me so long to get to the rest of it, but once I restarted, I couldn't stop. Four years ago, I said, "This book is just for fun. If there is something of redeeming social value about it, I didn't notice, but I laughed longer and harder than I have over a book in a long time." Our choir director introduced me to the series—we get some of our anthems from St. James Press, and are currently singing one by Mark Schweizer himself. Yes, he knows whereof he speaks when he writes about being a church musician!

Hayden Konig is the chief of police in St. Germaine, a small town in the mountains of North Carolina. He's also the organist and choir director of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, across the street from the police station, and a would-be writer of "hard-boiled" detective fiction. St. Germaine could be Jan Karon's Mitford....except for all the murders.

The stories could stand by themselves as delightful "cozy" mysteries, but what really makes them so amusing to me is Schweizer's highly accurate view of life in the Episcopal church, from a musician's point of view. Allowing for literary license, and concomitant exaggeration and hyperbole, there is so much about the Episcopal Church (and choirs, and other denominations, and small town life) that he just nails. There's plenty of wordplay of the kind I dearly love, and for those in the know, lots of what are known in the computing world as "Easter eggs"—here in Central Florida we call them "Hidden Mickeys." For example, here's one of my favorites:

[Speaking of a tent-revival preacher] The good reverend had an assistant who would be choosing the Gospel passages on which Hogmanay McTavish would preach each and every evening. This assistant was what many politically correct folks might call "Poultry-American." Other folks might call her "dinner." Her name was Binny Hen. Binny Hen the Scripture Chicken.

I'm certain many of Schweizer's gems have gone over my head, but having lived within five miles of Benny Hinn's ministry in Central Florida, I couldn't miss that one.

I said that there was nothing of redeeming social importance in these tales, but the truth is that they contain a good deal of accurate information about both Episcopal Church services and classical choral music. Granted, even in our heyday our thurifer was unable to draw Biblical scenes in smoke; I've never had a choir director who was independently wealthy (that's some wishful thinking on the part of the author, I suspect); and I doubt Tim keeps a pistol in the organ bench (though I've never checked). Thankfully, the rates of crime and moral turpitude among the choir, congregation, and clergy are greatly exaggerated, but for general misbehavior—such as persistent chatting during rehearsal, and whining about the music—it is spot on.

If the "crimes and moral turpitude" are all too human, the language is quite mild for modern writing, the worst I could find being the following passage, in which cleverness covereth a multitude of sins.

Her name was Barbara—Barbara Seville—and she was a mezzo. Some said she slid to the top of the opera world on her husband’s money: that before she married Aristotle bin Laden, she’d been demoted to seamstress and spent most of her time in the wings tucking up the frills instead of on the stage doing the opposite.

Here are some brief passages I particularly enjoyed. Expect further excerpts in subsequent posts. Some are from the mystery itself, and some from the detective fiction Konig writes in his spare time and copies onto the backs of the Psalm copies for the choir to read during the sermon.

"I thought you had given up beer for Lent," Meg said.

"I started to, but then I decided to give up meddling in church politics. In order to do that, I'm going to need the beer."

The following is unfortunately an accurate discription of our own church's sound system.

Our sound system in the church was minimal—just a little amplification for the readers and the priest. Trying to send music through it was akin to listening to a symphony over a CB radio.

I began to suspect that the alto section was trying to forestall the rehearsal of the Harris piece. The alto line had been giving them fits for the last two rehearsals. The soprano section, on the other hand, was sitting quietly and smiling demurely, having already mastered most of the notes in the upcoming anthem. Basses and tenors were, by all indications, asleep.

“You know there’s a handgun in the organ bench?”

“Yeah. That’s mine. It’s a Glock 9mm. Tends to keep the tenors in tune.”

“A new dive just opened up across from St. Gertrude’s. It sounds like our kind of place. Good looking beer-fräuleins in tight shirts, lots of German brews, and Baroque organ music from a three-manual Flentrop with a sixteen-foot heckelphone you can really hang your hat on.”

“Sounds sweet,” I agreed, suddenly interested. “What’s this place called?”

“Buxtehooters.”

"Nancy's off today, Dave's in at noon," I said, and sipped my coffee. "I'm hoping there's no crime wave till tomorrow."

"You're probably okay," said Cynthia. "We've had two murders in two weeks and I heard that yesterday someone tried to bludgeon the bishop to death with his own stick. That should do us for a while."

I sighed. "We've had two unrelated deaths and the bishop just happened to be standing in the way when Humphrey Brownlow decided to attack the video drone with the crozier during a naked baptism."

"Video drone?" said Pete. "Naked baptism? I've got to start going back to church."

"You know," said Cynthia, giggling, "I've heard of other churches that get together to sing hymns of faith, hear a sermon, pray for each other, and then go out to lunch afterward."

"Where's the fun in that?" I said.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, June 9, 2024 at 6:00 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 157 times | Comments (0)
Category Reviews: [first] [previous] Music: [first] [previous]

I was wondering how I'd get a post out today, in which there is no time for actual writing. Then my grandson handed me this on a platter, which he dubbed, "The real reason I decided not to go to college." (This from one of the most learning-obsessed people I know.) Porter, you will love what he says about Economics.

Also, this is for all of my fellow Gilbert & Sullivan enthusiasts.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, May 9, 2024 at 5:32 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 115 times | Comments (0)
Category Education: [first] [previous] Just for Fun: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Music: [first] [previous] [newest]

You like Pirates of the Caribbean? You especially like the music? I think you'll enjoy this 13-minute story of the soundtrack.


Having shared that, I can't resist reprising my personal favorite version of the Pirates themes. For all of our Grace fans, this is her primary support group; Grace is in the backpack, contributing to the percussion by dropping a French horn mouthpiece, twice. (Summer 2023)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 3, 2024 at 8:34 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 276 times | Comments (0)
Category Just for Fun: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Music: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Pray for Grace: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

I'm the kind of person who sees standardized, multiple-choice tests as fun puzzles. I always did well on them—but only because I learned to shut down that part of my brain that delighted in finding alternative answers, in favor of that part that could discern which answer was probably in the minds of the test-makers.

My gut wanted this t-shirt.

Sadly, the other part of my brain overruled it, insisting that there is a valid and important place for politics in our lives. What I need is a shirt that says,

Turning 
Everything
into
Politics
Ruins
Everything

A case in point:

Back in 2014, I was introduced to the hymn, Lift Every Voice and Sing. Here's what I had to say about it 10 years ago.

We arrived early at church, and having discovered that the processional hymn was a new one to us, I plunked it out on the piano several times before the director arrived. It may sound easy, but it is decidedly not if you've never heard it before. Mercifully, he took it down a whole third from what is written in our hymnal.

I would never have guessed that Lift Every Voice and Sing was an African-American song, much less the "Black National Anthem" as it is sometimes called. Not knowing the tempo at which it is apparently usually sung (judging by the YouTube recordings I listened to), I took it at a faster clip, and would have guessed it to be a World War I era song, or maybe something from the Salvation Army. If you listen to it and note that the middle part sounds like the more militant parts of Les Miserables, be assured that this was written 'way back in 1899/1900 by James Weldon Johnson and his brother John Rosamond Johnson.

Our church usually sings that hymn on a Sunday near to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and I love it, despite the fact that I'm not really comfortable with singing it in a worship service. I get uncomfortable when we sing music in worship that honors secular occasions, such as Independence Day, Veterans Day, Mothers Day, etc. I can't really say it's wrong, but it makes me uncomfortable.

Nonetheless, Lift Up Your Voice and Sing is a powerful song, and I was excited a few weeks ago when I learned that it is going to be performed during this year's Super Bowl. I made a comment to that effect, and was shocked at the can of worms I opened. First of all, I revealed my complete ignorance of football games in general and the Super Bowl in particular, by stating that I sure hoped they would sing all the verses, because the words are very important for our time. How was I supposed to know that the attention spans of football fans are so small they wouldn't tolerate more than one verse? (There are only three.)

There are some songs in which some verses can be removed without doing damage to the meaning—and other songs where that is decidedly not true. You'd be amazed at how often a church will sing only the first verse of A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, which leaves off at a most unfortunate place.

A mighty Fortress is our God,
A Bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He amid the flood,
Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
His craft and power are great,
And armed with cruel and hate,
On earth is not his equal.

I mean, really?  You want to stop there?

Our own Star Spangled Banner, when sung, almost never includes my favorite verse:

Oh! thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Lift Every Voice and Sing deserves (and needs) all of its verses.

But worse was yet to come. I then learned that the singing of this song had become a football of the political variety. I don't know what all was said; I'm deliberately avoiding it, and I certainly will be avoiding the Super Bowl for other reasons. But it's a shame, because this is a marvellous anthem full of faith, hope, caution, history, and patriotism, suitable for anyone who has struggled through difficulties and still faces challenges.

So here, since you are highly unlikely to hear them performed at the upcoming game, are all the verses of Lift Up Your Voice and Sing.

Lift every voice and sing,
’Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea. Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on ’til victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed.
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
’Til now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, February 10, 2024 at 1:17 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 465 times | Comments (0)
Category Politics: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Music: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

As we prepared for our annual Lessons & Carols service a weekago, a fellow chorister shared this reminder from Allan Sherman, one of my favorite commedians from the past.

Because it's sometimes hard to understand the words, here's a visual aid.

We would now like to salute all of the beautiful singing groups all over the world.

When the Norman Luboff Chorus
Sings a song like this (like this, like this, like this),
Every single note is gorgeous,
But they sometimes miss.

No one's perfect, no one's perfect, no one's perfect, and
That includes Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians, and The Ray Charles Singers who were made famous by their frequent appearances on The Perry Como Show, and The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and The Robert Shaw Chorale.

When the chorus sings behind you,
All they do is hum (hum).
Every hum is like an angel,
Then one hum goes bumm!

Far above the other singers,
In the treble clef,
A soprano sings in B flat,
But the key is F.

No one's perfect, no one's perfect,
We have learned tonight.
So you'll be astounded
When we hit this last note right.

For the record, it's not easy to sing so beautifully discordantly.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, December 15, 2023 at 3:18 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 380 times | Comments (0)
Category Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Just for Fun: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Music: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

One of my favorite priests believes strongly that it's important to be physically in church for worship, with one's own congregation if at all possible.  He delights in encouraging people to come to Ash Wednesday services by admonishing, "Get your ash in church!" It's not that time of year, but I thought of him last night at our Lessons & Carols service at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Longwood. I've linked to the church but not the service. I will explain.

The evening went really well, I think. We have a talented and inspiring music director; a guest orchestra representing the best students from two local high schools plus a few professionals; some excellent and enthusiastic young choristers; a choir from a senior living center, one of whose members just celebrated her 102nd birthday; our adult choir supplemented by a few guests who don't have the ability to commit to every Sunday but like to join us for special occasions; and many volunteer hands making light(er) the work.

What we don't have is a sound system that works well for music, which is why you don't get a link to the video. (Well, okay, if you really want it. Don't say I didn't warn you.) They've been working for years on improving the sound, and I had high hopes when they decided to livestream the service. But whatever the gremlin is, it's still there. One of our choir members always takes his own private video and that has good sound; I don't know why the official recording never works.

Maybe the point is: You have to be there. Ours is still an amateur production. No one is going to feature us on a Christmas television special. (However, we will be singing at Carnegie Hall this summer. Ahem.) But I love amateur music; it has a special kind of heart, from the tiniest Suzuki "Twinklers" to high school marching bands to enthusiastic Irish seisiúns (about the only time you'll see me in a bar). And as far as I was concerned, last night was just glorious. And as far as I can tell, the congregation agreed.

Speaking of Irish music, part of what made last night's Lessons & Carols so much fun to sing was that we did not one but three compositions by Dan Forrest. Gloria in Excelsis, Joy to the World!, and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. Dan Forrest is an American composer, but if you've ever wondered what the offspring of a Christmas carol and an Irish jig might be....

You'll note that on the recording of Joy to the World I linked to above, the performance includes dancers. Ours did not. Well, not officially. A couple of very young members of the congregation apparently decided that was an omission they needed to remedy and danced happily in the aisle.

It was that kind of fun. Not only for us, but—so they said—for the congregation as well.

You had to be there. Maybe next year some of you will!

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, December 10, 2023 at 7:08 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 365 times | Comments (0)
Category Music: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

'Tis the season for festivities and music!

Well, sort of. For those who observe the traditional Church Year, it's actually Advent, the more reflective and anticipatory season before Christmas. But life being the way it is—with so many of our choir, congregation, and guests out of town for Christmas itself—our Christmas Lessons & Carols celebration takes place early.

This year it will be Saturday, December 9, at 5:30 p.m. There is no charge, and there will be lots of good food afterwards.

Come join us at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, 251 East Lake Brantley Drive in Longwood. This is one of our choir's biggest events of the year. (The other, of course, is Easter. Check back later for that.)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, December 7, 2023 at 12:27 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 325 times | Comments (1)
Category Music: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

It is refreshing when someone whose eyes are wide open to "the hosts of evil 'round us," and has suffered much in exposing them, finds evidence that all is not lost. Heather Heying writes about this in Natural Selections: "The Flame of the West Is Alive." The post, as usual, is long, and for quite a while is more dark than hopeful. But near the end, Heather tells the following story:

My sign-off for DarkHorse, which seems more apt than ever, is this:

  • Be good to the ones you love;
  • Eat good food;
  • And get outside.

To which I would add two things: music and dogs.

When in Prague two weeks ago, after the launch of the Czech publication of Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide by Institut H21, several of us went to a pub and stayed late. Two Czech men with opposite politics sat across from me, disagreeing, laughing, drinking. I only met them that night, but I feel confident in saying that they are both good men. In part I have that confidence because I watched them describe positions of almost polar opposition—on Trump, on what is being taught in schools, on guns—and they listened to one another, and to others at the table who disagreed or agreed, and they did not dissolve into puddles or erupt in fury. How many places would that be possible in America now?

The director of Institut H21, the amazing Adam Ruzicka, had brought a guitar that evening, in the hopes that we could sing around an actual campfire after the book launch. Weather did not permit, but he broke out his guitar in the pub instead, and began to play Czech folk songs, of which there are many. I heard estimates that all Czech people know the words to at least thirty folk songs, which they can and will sing along to, given the opportunity.  [Editor's note:  That is not exactly how Adam's surname is spelled, but my platform's editor curled up in a ball and died when trying to swallow all the diacritical marks.]

Adam pulled out his guitar and began playing, and in short order a young man at the next table pulled out a violin and joined. The joy grew, and the singing got louder. A few women from a neighboring room came in and began to dance. And at the third table in the room, a man pulled out an accordion and joined in as well. I know—I must be making this up. Exaggerating. But I am not.

Everyone but us two Americans were singing along, including the men who had been arguing amicably just moments before. When one song ended, another began. The guitar was handed around and played by others before being returned to Adam’s capable hands.

It was late though, well after 1am. The pub was on the bottom floor of a residential building, and it was a Tuesday. The bartender came in from the other room and asked Adam to keep it down. The noble subversion of the Czech spirit kicked in then, inspiring Adam to raise the decibel level considerably, encouraging even more raucous singing, before finishing with a flourish.

Later, the bartender would tell Adam that in his position, he would have done the same thing.

I dare not quote a larger section than this, so to find out what she has to say about dogs, you'll have to go to the original post.

I'll close with the comment I wrote there:

A hearty YES! to the civilization-saving importance of music, by which I mean above all homemade music, such as you experienced in Prague. That sounds like an impromptu Czech version of the Irish seisiún, also found in pubs. Or the regular Friday-night pizza dinner/hymn sings at our daughter's house.

The difference between making music yourself, especially with other people, and what plays omnipresently in our homes, our stores, our doctor's offices, and our earbuds, is like the difference between raw milk, unpasteurized apple cider, or homemade sourdough bread, and what goes by the names milk, cider, and bread on the shelves of our grocery stores.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, November 14, 2023 at 8:00 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 354 times | Comments (0)
Category Hurricanes and Such: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Politics: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Music: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Why haven't I left the Episcopal Church? I know many who have, from individuals, to churches, to in one case an entire diocese. Certainly I have no loyalty to its national organization, which I'm afraid I find heretical in many ways—as well as narrow-minded and unkind. Besides, I've always had more attachment to the Church as the Body of Christ as a whole than to any particular denomination. Still, I'm most at home in the Anglican form of worship, and have been part of Episcopal churches for over a quarter of a century.

Why stay in what I believe to be an openly heretical denomination? For one thing, no denomination I've ever experienced has not suffered from errors, often egregious ones. Not even "non-denominational" or independent churches. What matters much more is the particular, local church, of which there are many in the Episcopal Church, and especially in the larger Anglican Communion worldwide, that remain faithful.

For another, the nature of an Anglican service makes it more difficult—though not impossible—for a church to go too far off the rails. Even when the sermons are openly heretical—we've been there—the Scripture readings, prayers, creeds, and rubrics tend keep the worship itself in line.

Nonetheless, the policies and struggles of our denomination are painful and discouraging at times. So it was with enthusiasm and hope that I learned about the Episcopal Fellowship for Renewal, a grassroots movement of young people working within the Episcopal Church for restoration and renewal.

Where I encountered them was through their Ninety-five Theses to the Episcopal Church—a deliberate nod to Martin Luther—which I reproduce below. I can't say I completely support (or even understand) all 95 of them, but for almost all I can say an enthusiastic AMEN! They pretty much nail where the Episcopal Church has gone off track.

On a personal note, it may be the "least of these," but being an enthusiastic hymn singer, I'm particularly enamored of #57 (emphasis mine): The words of Scripture, the Creeds, the liturgies of the Book of Common Prayer, AND THE HYMNS are not to be changed to insert "gender-inclusive"  or "gender-neutral" language. To be clear: when a woman sings "Thou my great Father, I Thy true son," she is not committing gender dysphoria. I speak as a woman, an Episcopalian, and a prescriptivist.

All hope is ultimately in God, but I'm also feeling especially hopeful because of these young people who are determined not leave their church, even though the church has left them. I love their quote from C. S. Lewis:

We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.

The following statements are coming from parishioners and priests of the Episcopal Church who are committed to its flourishing and faithfulness. In true Protestant fashion, and in honor of our faith tradition, they will be framed as ninety-five theses in hopes that, unlike the Roman leaders during the Reformation, the Episcopal Church will honor the call to return to the traditional values of the English Reformers, the Doctors of the Anglican Church, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer, the Book of Homilies, the Church Fathers, and the Creeds–Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian. Additionally, the three Anglican authorities: Scripture, Tradition, and Reason.

  1. Christian bishops, priests, deacons, and other ministers must not be permitted to deny that Jesus is truly God and truly man.
  2. Christian ministers must not be permitted to deny that Jesus physically and bodily rose from the dead.
  3. Christian ministers must not be permitted to deny that Jesus was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
  4. Christian ministers must not be permitted to deny the Second Coming of Christ.
  5. Christian ministers must not be permitted to deny the reality of Eternal Life.
  6. That since the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds affirm all the above doctrines, Christian ministers who publicly recite them in their churches, while privately or subtly denying them, are liars.
  7. Christian ministers must affirm the authority of Scripture as the Word of God. Any denial of Scripture’s authority in the determination of doctrine and administration of discipline shall not be tolerated.
  8. Christian ministers must affirm the authority and divine inspiration of Holy Scripture and avoid questioning it on the basis that it is a culturally relative or historically unreliable text.
  9. Christian ministers must readily affirm the promise of Eternal Life after death in the New Creation, so that the faithful may be given true hope in Christ.
  10. Christian ministers who attack the authority of Christ, the Apostles, the Church Fathers, the English Reformers, or the Doctors of the Church attack the very ground they stand on.
  11. Christian ministers must affirm the existence of miracles, as Scripture testifies.
  12. The Church must affirm the reality of original sin.
  13. The Church must affirm the reality of God’s judgment upon sin.
  14. The Church has no authority to explicitly deny the existence of eternal damnation, given that Jesus Christ spoke so plainly of it. 
  15. The Church must affirm that God is all-powerful, or omnipotent.
  16. The Church must affirm that God is all-knowing, or omniscient.
  17. The Church must affirm that God is all-good, or omnibenevolent.
  18. The Church must affirm that there is only one true God, eternally existing in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as described in the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds.
  19. The Church must affirm that Christ is the only way to God.
  20. The Church must affirm that Christianity is absolutely true and the only way to salvation.
  21. Given that the foundational documents of the Anglican Church, principally the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571, uphold all of the above doctrines, the Church does not have the authority to deny said doctrines.
  22. While liberation theology and the social gospel contain elements of truth, they cannot take the place of the Biblical Gospel, as they change its message from redemption of sin and eternal life into belief in an earthly utopia.
  23. Pantheism is heretical as it denies the true nature of God. All those who teach the doctrine of God as all-encompassing spiritual oneness are heretics and should be condemned as such.
  24. Process Theology denies God’s absolute, eternal nature and replaces it with pantheism; therefore, it should not be taught in Christ’s church.
  25. While we can unite with other religions in earthly matters, such as promoting understanding and the common good, we cannot unite with them in spiritual matters.
  26. Agnostic, Atheistic, Hindu, Buddhist, Pagan, Wiccan, Satanist, or otherwise occultic religious beliefs, practices, symbols, rituals, and idols are to be utterly rejected and should never be allowed in Christ’s Church.
  27. There is only one God in the Old and New Testaments and to deny that is to make God relative, changeable, and not absolute.
  28. The purpose of studying theology is to approach the absolute truth about God and reflect on what he has revealed to us.
  29. Our theology should not relativize absolute truths about God that have been revealed to us in Jesus Christ our Lord.
  30. Ministers whose theology is essentially Unitarian Universalist should stop calling themselves “Episcopalian” or “Anglican” and recuse themselves from positions in the Church.
  31. The Church should be much quicker to discipline ministers who deny the divinity of Christ than to discipline ministers who will not bless same-sex “unions” or who decline to ordain women to the priesthood.
  32. Everyone should be held to the same standard of Christian sexual ethics regardless of orientation or personal situation. Hypocritically condemning some sin while ignoring others is not righteous.
  33. Churches should spend more time talking about Eternal Life in Christ than about contemporary political issues.
  34. The aim of priests should be to teach their congregations Christian doctrines, rather than casting doubts about such doctrines into the minds of the faithful.
  35. The Church should be more dogmatic about theological doctrine than about political and social ideologies.
  36. The Church should be united in essential theological beliefs and grant individual Christian liberty in non-essential beliefs, rather than the inverse.
  37. Preaching about God’s love without preaching about God’s holiness and wrath toward sin is just as bad as the inverse.
  38. To make sin merely about systemic injustices reduces the Gospel to an ineffective political message with no spiritually redemptive power.
  39. Social justice is an important part of the Gospel but not the whole of the Gospel, and it too often has become a euphemism for a partisan political agenda.
  40. Priests should never give their congregations the impression that God makes no moral demands of them.
  41. Parishes should hold their members to high personal moral standards.
  42. Priests should not hesitate to preach against personal sin.
  43. Incumbents should not be denied the tenure of the office of Rector. Bishops should abolish the office of Priest-in-Charge for all but interim situations.
  44. All parishes should present a clear theological message consistent with Scripture, the doctrines of historic Anglicanism, and the example of the Early Church.
  45. Homilists should not hesitate to preach theological dogma from the pulpit.
  46. It is crucial for every parish member to be directed toward having a vibrant, living faith in Jesus Christ. We need to get to know Him for who He truly is, as was taught in Scripture.
  47. There should be limits on theological diversity within the Church, especially when it reaches the point of denying the essentials of the faith as defined by our historic creeds.
  48. Children are to be taught the Scriptures, theology, and Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer so that they know why they come to church, what to do whilst in church, and how to live their faith outside of church.
  49. Parish leaders should teach Christian apologetics to children and adults so that they know how to defend the Christian faith before others.
  50. Confirmands are not to be confirmed if they do not profess belief in the essentials of Christianity.
  51. People with Agnostic, Atheistic, Hindu, Buddhist, Pagan, Wiccan, Satanist, or otherwise non-Christian beliefs must not be admitted to or allowed to remain in positions of leadership, teaching, or authority in the Church.
  52. Priests should not invite non-believers to receive the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist "lest they bring judgment upon themselves."
  53. The Church does not have the authority to prevent the Eucharist from being offered to believers in its churches on any grounds other than excommunication or lack of Trinitarian baptism.
  54. Churches and their congregations should regularly engage in evangelism.
  55. The point of missionary work should be to address people’s spiritual needs by telling them about Christ and the Good News of his Resurrection, in addition to attending to their physical needs.
  56. The Church must do social justice work on its own terms, not on the terms of any secular political factions. Christ and His true Gospel are to be the primary motivations for the charity and social justice work done by the Church.
  57. The words of Scripture, the Creeds, the liturgies of the Book of Common Prayer, and the Hymns are not to be changed to insert “gender-inclusive” or “gender-neutral” language. Nor should the rites of Holy Matrimony be rewritten to insert “marriage” between two men, two women, or anything else outside the union of one man and one woman into one flesh.
  58. All are to be baptized in the name of the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit [or Holy Ghost],” not in any alternatives such as “Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer;” nor should feminine pronouns be applied to God in these texts, as that renders their baptism invalid and ineffective.
  59. While the divine essence of the Lord has no gender, God has revealed Himself as “He,” so He is to be referred to as such. Jesus Christ was, is, and forever shall be a man; thus, He should always be referred to in the masculine, as doing otherwise denies his historicity and humanity.
  60. We should be more concerned about our worship language being offensive to God than it being offensive to our worldly culture.
  61. The Church must not make alliances with any secular political factions.
  62. Scripture, reason, tradition, and natural law–not contemporary culture and politics–should be the sole authorities for the Church’s stances on issues of sexuality and gender.
  63. The Church must strongly condemn adultery, extramarital sex or fornication, polygamy, sexual activity involving minors, incest, rape, and bestiality.
  64. The Church must strongly condemn pornography.
  65. There must never be risqué or sexually-themed displays in the Church.
  66. Due to not only the teaching of Holy Scripture, but also scientific advancements such as ultrasound technology, it is obvious that abortion is the direct taking of a human life.
  67. The Church must support societal efforts to protect the safety of innocents, including the unborn, as well as encourage the upholding and following of secular laws consistent with Scripture and Christian righteousness.
  68. Christian ministers are to model Biblical morals for their congregations and dioceses and to be held to a high standard of holiness.
  69. Bishops should not wield episcopal authority to discipline churches, priests, bishops, or parishioners who have not explicitly rejected the doctrines and practices of Anglican Christianity or who have otherwise done nothing wrong according to Biblical morality.
  70. Bishops should use episcopal authority to discipline ministers who misuse the sacraments, perform un-Christian ceremonies, teach heretical beliefs, or lead notoriously sinful lives.
  71. The use of legal action to seize the property of dissident parishes is petty and poor conduct by Church ministers.
  72. The Church should continue to condemn drunkenness, drug abuse, excessive gambling, and all self-destructive vices whilst providing support to those struggling with them.
  73. The Church must not ignore the voices of those who call the Church to repentance, as the Prophets did in the Holy Scriptures and the Reformers did during the Protestant Reformation.
  74. The Church should allow itself to be corrected by evangelical churches and thinkers in certain aspects, as when John Wesley inspired Anglicans to correct some of their errors.
  75. In order to revive itself, the Church should adopt a more evangelical mindset and elevate the role of personal conversion, evangelism, discipleship, and confession.
  76. The Church will likely die out if it continues to drift away from the historic faith.
  77. The Church has a commitment to diversity yet is not itself diverse, due to its lack of evangelism and its de-emphasis of Biblical theology.
  78. Despite its progressive ideals and desire to “dismantle and heal white supremacy,” the Church remains one of the least diverse religious groups in the United States.
  79. Progressive Anglicans claim to want to elevate non-white voices, yet ignore the cries for repentance and calls to obedience to God's law from overwhelmingly non-white Anglicans from the Global South.
  80. The Church claims to uphold the traditions, beliefs, and practices of Anglicanism, yet tolerates countless theological errors that the foundational Anglican texts such as the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion and the Book of Homilies explicitly declare to be heretical.
  81. The Church bears the name of “church,” yet tolerates theological errors that the Church Fathers explicitly declare to be heretical.
  82. The Church speaks constantly of inclusivity, yet largely fails to create an environment inclusive of those who hold orthodox Biblical views.
  83. The Church usually calls for justice only in ways that are acceptable to the political left and theological liberals.
  84. The Church’s rhetoric on social issues and current events is frequently indistinguishable from that of progressive political commentators.
  85. The Church is quick to criticize evangelicals for conflating faith and politics, yet dedicates a far greater share of its rhetoric to political issues than do evangelicals.
  86. In offering solely a progressive political message, the Church offers people nothing they cannot get from secular culture, which is one reason why it gains so few new members.
  87. The progressive faction of the Church is seldom self-critical, except to repent of not being progressive enough.
  88. The Church keeps pushing for more and more alterations to Christian doctrine, despite the risk that they will further divide the body of Christ and cause more schism.
  89. Convicting people of sin and showing them their need for a Savior, as opposed to making people feel affirmed, should be our focus; convicting people of sin, when done in a spirit of love and charity, is healthy and will help us to grow in our faith in God.
  90. Bishops, priests, deacons, and other ministers who claim the title of Christian while rejecting the essentials of the faith risk facing God’s judgment.
  91. Bishops, priests, deacons, and other ministers who lead their congregations astray risk facing God’s judgment.
  92. Seminary professors who make it their goal to replace the godly values of seminarians with heretical beliefs and political ideology risk facing God’s judgment.
  93. Seminaries must not make affiliations with any group that affirms heretical beliefs or practices lest they risk facing God’s judgment.
  94. Bishops, priests, deacons, and other ministers who not only tolerate but affirm and encourage what they know to be sin according to Scripture for the sake of not offending people risk facing God’s judgment.
  95. Bishops, priests, deacons, and other ministers who lie to the public and claim to represent Christ while denying His humanity, divinity, commandments, and teachings are using the Lord’s name in vain and risk facing God’s judgment.

We would like these concerns addressed at the next General Convention. This is part of our commitment of being God’s servants to restore the Church we revere. This document will be sent to as many congregations and leaders in the Episcopal Church as possible, and posted on the doors of as many Episcopal churches as possible. We follow the philosophy that retreatism only leads the Church to falter more, thus we are not trying to form a new Anglican denomination, we are calling for reform within the Episcopal Church.

Let us return to the Lord and long live the Episcopal Church!

Having now posted their Theses on my own "door," I will also say that I like their sense of humor, since they preface their list with, "Signed and composed by the Episcopal Fellowship for Renewal, under the patronage of St. Jude."

St. Jude, as you might know, is the patron saint of lost causes.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 28, 2023 at 9:21 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 948 times | Comments (2)
Category Politics: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Music: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

There's an Episcopal/Anglican magazine called The Living Church, which I'll admit I've never read and am therefore not endorsing nor repudiating. And the article I would point you to is behind a pay wall.

However, I here present to you the most important part of September's issue.

That's our church, our choir director, and one of our most important ministries. Resurrection Players draws children (and their families) from all over the area. Tim has an amazing talent for making children, from preschool through high school, comfortable with public speaking, singing, and dancing. (He's pretty good with adults, too.) If you ever want to meet a future Broadway star in his very beginnings, getting to know the kids in Tim's plays would be a good bet.

I wish this had been available for our children; at least one of them would have absolutely eaten it up. I'll bet several of our grandchildren would love it, too. But none of the grandkids is closer than 1300 miles away, and the program did not exist when our children were young.

However, that doesn't mean I don't appreciate this opportunity for those who can take advantage of it. It's not just about theatre and performing. It's about developing skills and confidence, and getting the whole family connected with a good community.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, September 12, 2023 at 5:49 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 517 times | Comments (1)
Category Education: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Children & Family Issues: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Music: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

There's a place for professionals, and a time to enjoy the excellence that can only be attained by those who have dedicated most of their lives to a skill, a craft, or a subject. But be it music or sport or cooking or thinking, there's a special place in my heart for amateurs, where the roots are.

Take music. From church choirs to Irish seisiúns, from singing in the shower to singing your baby to sleep, amateur music has heart.

Our New Hampshire family, all nine of them, recently performed at a camp they were attending. Two French horns, two clarinets, two trumpets, a trombone, and a home-made cajón with multiple percussion sounds.  (The baby has a French horn mouthpiece.)  The eldest French horn player arranged a medley of music from The Pirates of the Caribbean for the group.

Last year they created, for the same camp, a moving video of a Lord of the Rings medley. This time they were confident enough to tackle a live performance. (And to share both with the world via YouTube, which takes a different kind of confidence.)

Decidedly amateur (root: "one who loves"). And decidedly fun. As I hear it, the months of preparation for this event provided a great opportunity for both musical and character growth. I can imagine.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, July 9, 2023 at 4:20 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 452 times | Comments (0)
Category Education: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Children & Family Issues: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Music: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

That will be our opening hymn this morning, and it's one of my favorites.

Happy Easter to all!

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, April 9, 2023 at 7:49 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 268 times | Comments (0)
Category Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Music: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Inspiration: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

WARNING: If you have a particular fondness for President Biden's policies, or for the Christmas song, "Mary, Did You Know?" — then skip this post. It's impossible to write a blog, let alone comedy, without offending people, so I have to trust my readers to take what works for them and ignore the rest.

But if you like song paradies, this Babylon Bee offering is a great one. Especially if, like me, you are a fan of neither the song nor the policies. As with most paradies, you'll appreciate it more if you know the original song.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, December 30, 2022 at 8:23 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 415 times | Comments (0)
Category Politics: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Just for Fun: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Music: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Having overheard someone questioning why Coventry Carol was included in our church's Lessons and Carols service earlier this month, I knew it was time to reprise our story of why this song of immeasurable grief belongs in this season of festive joy.

Coventry Carol is an ancient song that tells a story almost as old as Christmas. The events take place sometime after the birth of Christ—after the arrival of the Wise Men, from whom King Herod learns of the birth of a potential rival, and decides to do what kings were wont to do to rivals: kill him. Don't know which baby boy is the threat? No problem, just kill them all.

This song is a lament, a lullaby of the mothers of Bethlehem, whose baby boys would be killed in what came to be called the Massacre of the Innocents. (Jesus escaped, Joseph having been warned in a dream to get out of Dodge; the others are considered the first Christian martyrs—people whose association with Jesus led to their deaths.)

Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Lullay, thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

O sisters two, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we do sing
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.

That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever mourn and may,
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay

Why sing such a gloomy song at Christmas?

Several reasons, maybe. Chief of which is that the Christian Christmas is not like the secular Christmas. It is, indeed, "tidings of great joy," but it is complicated, messy, profound, anything but simplistic and lighthearted. It breaks into the midst of a broken world, and even Jesus' escape from death here is only a short reprieve. There's more to Christmas than the joy of new birth, or even "peace on earth, good will to men." We have to tell the whole story.


Twenty years ago, as the world was beginning in earnest to "ring out the tidings of good cheer," our firstborn daughter gave birth to our first grandchild.

Isaac lived two days.

It was in that season of unspeakable grief that the haunting Coventry Carol touched me as none other could. Frankly, I could not handle all the happy songs about a newborn baby boy; with Coventry Carol I felt merged into an ancient and universal grief, the grief that made Christmas necessary

Until the Day when all is set right, there will be pain and grief that won't go away just because the calendar says it's December. The last few years, especially, have wounded us all and broken not a few. This reminder that the First Christmas was not a facile Peace on Earth and Joy to the World, and that the first Christian martyrs were Jewish children, is for all whose pain threatens to overwhelm them.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, December 23, 2022 at 8:30 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 421 times | Comments (4)
Category Children & Family Issues: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Music: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Inspiration: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

YouTube is not exactly reliable when it comes to recommending videos for me to watch, but look what showed up in my sidebar tonight:

As most of my readers know, I'm a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books, but not of the movies for a number of reasons. Even though I feel the film story line and characterization are a betrayal of the spirit Tolkien put into his world, I can't deny that there are parts of the movies that are excellent, from the New Zealand setting to the music, and of course I adore this version.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, November 12, 2022 at 8:05 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 355 times | Comments (1)
Category Children & Family Issues: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Just for Fun: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Music: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Inspiration: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
Go to page:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8  Next»