True confessions: Some weeks, I have to hunt a little harder to find motivation to write this blog. This was one of those weeks. I think I’ve mentioned that after 13 years of being the Residence Director in a women’s dorm, the college decided to switch my residence to a men’s dorm. I’m working on getting to know my new residents and trying to establish a good working relationship with the Resident Advisors I was assigned (yes, this year I had no input in the selection process). So far, it’s been a pretty good transition but I am exhausted from adjusting my expectations, working with different Deans, and trying to determine which battles to fight. So…I feel as though I have little creative energy for blog-writing. And then, on my drive to church this morning, that changed!
I have a 40 minute drive to church and generally use that time to listen to the “Sunday Weekend Edition” on my local NPR station. This morning the host, Lulu Garcia-Navarro interviewed a high school junior from New Jersey whose blog is attracting national attention from law school journals to the clerks of some Supreme Court justices. Anna Salvatore, with a small team of like-minded high school students from all around the country, covers SCOTUS news and analysis of important cases. You can check out her blog here if you’re interested – and you can read what the Columbia Journalism Review has to say about Anna and her blog here – and you can find this morning’s interview on NPR right here. Well, if a 16 year old can faithfully contribute to her blog, I can take care of mine, too. And this week, I do have a little help!
At this year’s diocesan convention, your deputies from the 79th General Convention that took place in Austin last July will have an opportunity to share some of our stories. Because we don’t have unlimited time and because there were 10 of us that might have something to say, I thought it might be helpful and interesting to invite some of the deputies to give an overview of their experience for our reading audience. This week, clergy deputy, the Rev. Susan Anslow Williams, tells us a bit about her time at Convention and the work she did as chair of the Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music Committee:
GC79 (2018) was my sixth time serving as a Deputy, and one of the most interesting! It was my privilege to chair a Legislative Committee for the first time, at the request of The Rev. Gay Jennings, president of the House of Deputies (HoD). Most of the work on Resolutions – more than 400 at this Convention! – happens in 21 joint Legislative Committees, comprised of both Bishops and Deputies for the purpose of making sure whatever reaches our respective Houses is in good form, usefully arranged and won’t require much editing “from the floor,” which can become a real nightmare if the Committees haven’t done their job!
[Officers of the General Convention assign each proposed Resolution to a Committee for “perfection” and a recommendation as to whether we think the Church would benefit from this right away, send it to a Standing Committee or Task Force to do what is recommended, or defeat the idea entirely. The Houses can take the Committee’s advice or not, by debating and then voting on it. ]
My Committee and primary concern in Austin, and for several months leading to the Convention, was Committee #12: Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music. I served on this Committee in previous Conventions so I was familiar with the type of material we received – this time, major improvements that had been done since 2015 on the Book of Occasional Services (BOS) and the commemorations in Lesser Feasts and Fasts (LFF) which is the only fully authorized calendar of saints (feasts) for the whole Episcopal Church. LFF was last approved by General Convention in 2009 so it’s been quite a while; the later compilations of commemorations Holy Women and Holy Men (2012) and A Great Cloud of Witnesses (2015) were only “made available for optional use.”
Our Committee received 24 separate resolutions to prepare and recommend number of requests for additional saints/commemorations to be added to the calendar in the future, and we quickly referred these to the Standing Commission for Liturgy and Music (SCLM) which handles all such matters between Convention. The bulk of our work was on the two huge volumes mentioned above, and so I divided our members into two subcommittees. They did admirable and extensive work preparing what eventually came to the HoB and HoD, and I’m pleased at what was passed by the Convention. As chair, I had to stand up on the platform and present each of our major proposals to the whole HoD, quite a nerve-wracking experience. I tried to lighten the mood by presenting a “Failed Hymn Verse” each time I came up to the mic. For instance, the afternoon that the HoD discussed our LFF proposal, I began:
For all the saints, who from our labors rest,
And now rejoice, for none were dispossessed.
Choose whom you wish to celebrate the fest! A-Alleluia, a-a-alleluia.
(Well, it made me feel better at least!}
I’ve been asked about “Prayer Book revision” many times before and since GC79, and I happily refer you to my fellow Deputy, The Rev. Phil Dinwiddie, who served on the Committee (13) which received all Resolutions pertaining to that work, and also any pertaining to Marriage Rites. They had the largest numbers attending their open hearings, as you might imagine. Will the BCP be revised? Eventually. Not quickly. The process will be deliberately open to the whole diversity of the Episcopal Church, I’m pleased to summarize. Phil can tell you a lot more.
As this “Nuts-n-Bolts Blog” attempts to convey, the whole Church has much to be grateful for in the work of our dedicated Deputies (laity, priests and deacons) and Bishops who strive to move our Church into the future according to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Every Committee and plenary meeting began with prayer and often music. The wisdom of our eldest members, and the fresh perspectives of our youngest, were shared and received as equals. Our bicameral democracy at General Convention is puzzling to the Anglicans who visit us from overseas, where Bishops and Archbishops solely can enact – or more often, prevent – changes to their Church’s modern expressions of faithful leadership, worship, stewardship, relationships, social justice efforts and more. Episcopalians prefer to enter the conversation en masse, knowing from our experience that the Holy Spirit loves a good gathering. That’s why I love being a Deputy – but first and foremost, a baptized member of the Jesus Movement, as practiced by the Episcopal Church.
Peace and blessings!
The Rev. Susan Anslow Williams – firstname.lastname@example.org
The Rev. Williams was kind to share with us some brief summaries of the resolutions that will impact our Episcopal worship:
Episcopal Worship after General Convention #79 (Austin, TX, July 2018)
A065 Authorize Lesser Feasts and Fast 2018 – Proposed new Lesser Feasts and Fasts, 2018, offered two tiers of commemorations – a main calendar and a “supplemental” calendar. This confused many people. Instead, General Convention authorized for use any/all of the commemorations in this volume, plus those from LFF 2006 and “A Great Cloud of Witnesses” (2015). It also asks the Standing Commission for Liturgy and Music (SCLM) to prepare a unified calendar for 2021, not in tiers but allowing multiple saints per day. Congregations and individuals are free to use whichever commemorations they prefer.
A068 Plan for the Revision of the Book of Common Prayer – This was the only “Prayerbook Revision” resolution that passed. It calls on work to begin (actually to continue) collecting liturgies to supplement the 1979 BCP – in ways that better reflect our Episcopal Church today with many cultures; and to include the stewardship of creation more overtly. Also the resolution mandates translating current and future liturgies into idiomatic Spanish, French and Haitian Creole. The resolution asks for a 30-member task force of 10 lay, 10 clergy, 10 bishops to work on this. The original A068 suggested almost $2 million for the work. Only $200,000 was in the final A068. Plus another $201K for the translation project. What can actually be accomplished at 1/10th the cost? We shall see.
A086 Authorize Rites to Bless Relationships + B012 Marriage Rites for the Whole Church — Using the original proposal and an alternative provided by several bishops, General Convention authorized the use of the new (2012) liturgies for all couples in all dioceses. No bishops may prevent same-sex marriages in their jurisdiction. Priests do not have to marry any couple who asks, which has always been the case. Should a bishop’s permission be needed for remarriage of a same-sex couple in a diocese where the bishop opposes, another bishop would be contacted.
A218 The Proposed Book of Occasional services 2018, A219 Refer Portions of the Book of Occasional Services, and A283 Multicultural Liturgies for Occasional Services – An entire volume was presented (available in PDF) but the work had not reached every liturgy in the collection. Legislative Committee sifted through each, and recommended about 3/4 with minor or no edits; sending the other 1/4 back to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) to work on for 2021, at which time the full collection would get the stamp of approval to publish a new volume. For practical purposes: digital (online, PDF) versions will be made available of all the approved texts. Three of these are specifically crafted for Latino congregations, a new liturgical feat. More culturally-focused resources have been requested. All the approved texts will need to be translated, also.
D078 authorize Holy Eucharist, Rite II (with Expansive Language) for Trial Use – A test of inclusive/expansive language in everyday Rite 2 Eucharist, this grassroots effort (ie. not requested by a previous GC nor done by the SCLM) provides most parts of the liturgy exchanging many instances of masculine Lord, Father, king, kingdom, etc. with gender-neutral images. Basics like the Lord’s Prayer are not changed.
Eucharistic Prayers A, B and D were tackled. The SCLM was asked to work on Prayer C next. Since it’s not strictly the BCP, get permission from your bishop if you’d like to use this version of the Eucharist at your church on a Sunday.
As an example of the proposed changes for trial use, here’s Eucharistic Prayer B with the changes from Resolution D078:
Celebrant God be with you.
People And also with you.
Celebrant Lift up your hearts.
People We lift them to the Lord.
Celebrant Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People It is right to give our thanks and praise.
It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth.
Here a Proper Preface is sung or said on all Sundays, and on other occasions as appointed.
Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who for ever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your Name:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
We give thanks to you, O God, for the goodness and love which you have made known to us in creation; in the calling of Israel to be your people; in your Word spoken through the prophets; and above all in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. For in these last days you sent Jesus to be incarnate from the Virgin Mary, to be the Savior and Redeemer of the world. In Christ, you have delivered us from evil, and made us worthy to stand before you. In Christ, you have brought us out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life.
On the night before he died for us, our Savior Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”
After supper Jesus took the cup of wine; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.”
Therefore, according to his command, O Father,
We remember Christ’s death,
We proclaim Christ’s resurrection,
We await Christ’s coming in glory;
And we offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to you, O Savior of all; presenting to you, from your creation, this bread and this wine. We pray you, gracious God, to send your Holy Spirit upon these gifts that they may be the Sacrament of the Body of Christ and his Blood of the new Covenant. Unite us in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, through whom we are acceptable to you, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In the fullness of time, put all things in subjection under your Christ, and bring us to that heavenly country where, with [ _______and] all your saints, we may enter the everlasting heritage of your children; through Jesus Christ our Savior, the firstborn of all creation, the head of the Church, and the author of our salvation.
By Christ, and with Christ, and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory is yours, Almighty God, now and for ever. AMEN.
Full text of the resolutions are still viewable at www.vbinder.net/resolutions
Thank you, Rev. Williams, for sharing some of your experiences at General Convention – and for all the hard work you put in chairing your committee for the benefit of all of us!
Do I have an action item for you? Yes, indeed, I do! Friday is the 21st of September and time to remember to #PrayFastAct once again. As of this writing the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) hasn’t posted the theme for this month’s action so I ask that you check it out on their website as we get closer to Friday. Join us supporting For Such a Time as This, share it on social media, tell your friends and, most of all, participate with us in supporting the most vulnerable among us.
Let us pray –
Almighty and All-loving God, we thank you for those who have served your church at our General Convention last July. We are grateful for the hard work and attention each deputy, bishop, committee member and volunteer gave that we might accomplish our best work for the furthering of your kingdom among us. Grant each of us now the strength and commitment we need to bring all that was done to the people in our congregations and communities that we share in one common purpose: the spread of the Good News of Jesus. We bring our thanksgiving and requests before you because we know you love it when we pray. Amen.
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council