Good Friday and Easter Reflections

With the central event of the Christian calendar coming up, I’d like to link to some of my past pieces for the occasion.  If you’re looking for something different for this, I can recommend the following:

Pax Quartet: Merveilles

SM 30 423 (1970?)

This French contribution to the “Jesus Music” era is different in many ways.  Given its reference to the liturgy on the back cover, it’s probably Roman Catholic in at least its target audience.  As opposed to the “garage band” origin and feel of much of the work of the era, or the cavernous acoustics of traditional churches, this album is very professionally orchestrated and arranged in a good 1960’s French pop style.  Finally it actually has the same songs on the back and front of the album: the front with lyrics, the back strictly instrumental.  In a country where there isn’t a Christian bookstore selling tracks on every corner, that’s a good way of overcoming churches or parishes lacking musical talent.

It’s an album that grows on you; I find myself putting it on more often than I care to admit.

The songs:

  • Lumière et Paix
  • Donne-Moi La Main
  • Tu Vois Ma Solitude
  • Merveilles

Instrumental Versions:

  • Lumière et Paix
  • Donne-Moi La Main
  • Tu Vois Ma Solitude
  • Merveilles

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Inri Ezel: Aunque La Tierra Tiemble Debemos De Cantar

Roka LP-7316 (1973)

If the previous Puerto Rican album was a conservative throwback for its day, this one is anything but: it’s a hard-driving rocker, some of which isn’t particularly Hispanic in flavour.  And it varies in style too, from very fast pieces to very slow ones.  If the goal was to reach into the heads of all kinds of rock fans, it succeeds very well.  Those of you with “Mi Orgullo” stickers on your car may want to turn this one up going down the street (local ordinances permitting), it’s something to be proud of.

The songs:

  1. Jesus el Nazareno Mi Dios
  2. Como Estas Picador
  3. Dios Es Spiritu
  4. Ven a Jesus
  5. Con Cristo Voy
  6. Dios es Nuestro Amparo
  7. Cristo te ama a ta
  8. Padre Nuestro
  9. La Corona de la Vida
  10. Solo Dios
  11. Gracias Papa

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Ecos Celestiales: Escuchame Señor

EC-101 (1971)

For a departure from the recent postings, this one and the next feature albums from Puerto Rico.  The recent election of a Latin American Pope has put the spotlight on this largely Roman Catholic world, but Latin America also has a strong Evangelical and Pentecostal presence, one that is changing both Latin America and the non-Catholic world at the same time.  This didn’t happen all at once, and these albums are a fun testament to that.

Although the date on the album puts it in the early 1970’s, the style is a throwback even for that date, to the early or mid-1960’s.  Nevertheless, this album is good “Jesus Music” era stuff in that it’s simple and authentic, and its power lies in both.  In an era when too much of our Christian music, to say nothing of our praise and worship, smacks too much of a commercial production, this is a breath of fresh air.

The songs:

  1. Escuchame Señor
  2. Haz Como Zaqueo
  3. Cristo Perdona
  4. Amigo Eterno
  5. Ahora Tenemos A Cristo
  6. Cristo Te Dara La Felicidad
  7. Atrevete A Ser Libre
  8. Cristo Ven A Mi
  9. Gloria Al Salvador
  10. Soy De Cristo

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Ending Well (Hopefully) for Truro Anglican

Seeing this was heartening: Truro Anglican’s bishop, +John Guernsey, finally pulls the plug on Truro’s rector Tory Baucum’s “reconciliation” with Episcopal bishop Shannon Johnston.  This was doubtless a hard pill for Baucum to swallow (as one could feel in his response) but that’s what happens in situations like this.

It’s good to note that the breaking point came over Johnston’s endorsement of another loose cannon of the left: John Dominic Crossan, one of Roman Catholicism’s career deniers.  In some ways Crossan lives in a time warp, and perhaps that’s one reason Johnston felt it was uncontroversial to bring him in.

I mentioned in my last piece on the subject that there have been two rounds of major Episcopal decline: Round I in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and Round II from 2003 onwards.  Almost all the Round II disputes have centred around sexuality.  Although that topic was certainly a big deal during Round I, the core contention (which for Episcopalians was masked by the Prayer Book controversy) was about basic issues of doctrine and belief.  The left’s point of attack were the basics of the faith; when the Episcopal church blinked over James Pike’s challenge of same, things went downhill.

Since that time we’ve had a shift from the “modern” approach, where the Bible’s truth content was denigrated and the basic beliefs were challenged, to a “post-modern” approach, where we say that the Bible is all good but means something entirely different from what it says.  That shift changed the character of the debate, which is why the current acrimony centres around behaviour and not belief.  To a large extent Crossan is a relic of the old pattern, still dangerous but not necessarily the current way of pursuing liberal religion.

But belief drives behaviour.  Had the Episcopal Church or any church stuck to its guns on the essentials of the faith and the truth content of its Scriptures we wouldn’t be where we’re at now, i.e., having to fight the war over human sexuality within the borders of the church, with split following.  (I hope that Evangelicals will take note of this).

Evidently Johnston, like in the movie The Sting, figured that bringing in an old con that everyone had forgotten about would work.  To the credit of Bishop Guernsey and many others, it didn’t.  It’s good that the tipping point came over this and not the usual subject, although that too is present.  My prayer is that the ACNA, Guernsey, Baucum and Truro Anglican will hold fast and not repeat the mistakes of the past.

Scientific Pope, Unscientific President

Amidst all the adulation surrounding the elevation of Jorge Bergoglio to become Pope Francis I, there is one thing that many overlook: that he started out his academic career as a chemist.

New Atheists would have us believe that scientific education will make us like them.  But this is only true when we make science a religion, in which case it won’t be science.

More immediate is this: we have an Occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who has been hailed as the “scientific President”.  But this cannot be so; he is just another Harvard lawyer.  If the See of Rome and the old realm of the Son of Heaven (i.e., China) can prefer scientifically trained people to lead them, what are we waiting for?

I’m not holding my breath.  Our elites are either complete hypocrites or basically insane.

Sebastian Temple: Sing! People of God, Sing!

St. Francis SFPS-2 (1967)

Up to now the early post-Vatican II albums have come from the U.S.  But there was activity in this field in the U.K. also, and probably the best known artist/song writer to get things started was Sebastian Temple.

Born in South Africa, he emigrated to the UK, where he spent many years active in Catholic work and writing.  A secular Franciscan, he’s best known for his song “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace”, based on the Prayer of St. Francis, which was a favourite in the 1960’s and 1970’s and sung at Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997.  That was also the year that Temple passed away himself.

His music is simple and upbeat; his wish was for people to be happy while singing his songs, and he certainly succeeds in that regard.  This album is a good example of his work but, like so much of the era, it has been forgotten, even with the fame its composer and performer achieved in his lifetime.

Personal note: it was my intention to post this album soon after Sister Germaine’s, but I ended up in a Catholic hospital for a couple of days were I was able to view the election of Francis I as Pope.  Temple was a Franciscan whose most popular song is based on St. Francis’ prayer. Now we have a Pope (and a Jesuit no less!) who takes Francis’ name as his own.  Divine providence?  I’d like to think so…

The songs:

  1. Sing! People of God, Sing! (Sing! Sing! Sing!)
  2. Follow Christ (And Love The World As He Did)
  3. Your Will Be Done (If You would have me…)
  4. The Blessed Sacrament (Come, Let’s Share In The Banquet Of The Lord)
  5. Thank You Jesus
  6. All That I Am (All That I Do)
  7. Glorious God (King Of Creation)
  8. (Sing Praises To) The Living God (Glory Hallelujah)
  9. Take My Hands (And Make Them As Your Own)
  10. If We Eat Of The Lord (And We Drink Of The Lord)
  11. We Are One (In Jesus, All Of Us Are One)
  12. Prayer For Peace (Lord We Pray For Golden Peace, Peace All Over The Land)
  13. How Great Is Your Name
  14. The Mass Is Ended (All Go In Peace)

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Sister Germaine: Songs of Salvation

FEL 810F-6242 (1966)

One of the early “sensations” of the post-Vatican II Catholic music world was the young nun Sister Germaine Habjan, who produced this album of songs and narrative (Episcopal ministers Ian Mitchell and Frederick Gere also included narrative) based on Scripture and other sources.  By later standards it’s a plain album, but it’s well performed.

Sister Germaine’s later history is, in some ways, more interesting than the album.  She and her fellow religious, moving rapidly in a changing church, were too progressive for their bishop.  She eventually left her order and married.  Her daughter’s account of how the posting of the album proved very useful is one of the most heartwarming things to ever appear on this blog.

The songs:

  1. All Of My Life
  2. Osee
  3. You Are My People
  4. The Father Had But One Son
  5. From Among The Branches
  6. Song Of Trust
  7. Jerusalem, How Often Would I Gather You
  8. Love One Another
  9. Resurrection
  10. The Wind Is Blowin’
  11. Who Is This Man?
  12. Come, Lord Jesus
  13. Fear Not
  14. My Lord Is Long A-Comin’
  15. I’ll Never Contented Be
  16. Sing Out

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Truro, Baucum, Johnston and the Occupational Hazard of Anglicanism

As we march through this Lenten season, complete with the silliness over the sequester and the post-modern version of the Great Refusal, we come to yet another saga in the Anglican/Episcopal world–the volte-face that has taken place by the Truro Anglican Church and its rector, Tory Baucum, vis-à-vis the Episcopal Bishop of Virginia, Shannon Johnston. It’s amazing, after the public acrimony, cost and litigation that has taken place, that we have so soon an attempt at “reconciliation”, but we’ve got one. It’s even inspiring the new occupant of Lambeth Palace in his quest for same reconciliation on a broader scale. The obvious dumb question is why.

Let me begin by stipulating that, as is usually the case with politics of any kind, there are untransparent complexities at work here.  There are always things going on behind the scenes that move situations in one direction or another that really don’t have much to do with the principle issues at hand, but are the product of the organisational situation on the ground.  In a metropolitan area like Washington with three state/district jurisdictions and Episcopal dioceses to match, both secular and ecclesiastical politics get murky quickly.

The fact that it’s in the capital region, however, is a good place to start in our attempt to pinpoint the underlying problem.  It’s as old as the Episcopal Church itself in this country, but now driven by the change in our country’s power structure and the values held by that power structure.

If we go back to colonial times, the Church of England was the official state church in the colonies south of the Potomac, and thus the preferred church of people of property.  The ones without it, or the ones with property in remote areas, often preferred to go somewhere else.  That, of course, was illegal, and those on the wrong end of things helped to fuel the disestablishment of same Church of England after the American Revolution.

When the remnants of the old Church of England picked themselves off of the floor and pulled themselves together to form the Protestant Episcopal Church, the intent was not to be the people of property at prayer, but that’s how it turned out.  The effect was mutual: the Episcopal Church both shaped the ethic of the upper reaches of society and in turn was shaped by those reaches.  After World War II it became part of the church’s marketing strategy for an upwardly obsessed society, which produced a spectacular roller coaster ride in terms of membership numbers: straight up through the 1950’s and 1960’s, straight down in the 1970’s.

The left lurch of the Episcopal Church is well documented, although many in Round II (in the 2000’s) weren’t around for Round I (in the 1960’s and 1970’s).  The big difference between I and II was that the latter actually resulted in a meaningful secession.  That secession has left some loose ends, and evidently they’re no looser than in the shadow of our nation’s capital.  I suspect that it’s not an accident that this first serious threat to the unity of the ACNA is coming from there.

To start with, a church which appeals to the upper reaches best does so with an appeal to tradition, an appeal that needs to be more aesthetic than one of conviction.  That’s at the core of the property disputes: both sides know that much of the pastiche of Episcopal religion is tied up in its historic properties.  Although the left has grossly overplayed (and overpayed) their hand on this one, they know that the appearance of continuity can mask the lack of real continuance of belief.  The other side, believing they have both, struggle to get the property so that they may present the appeal to the truth through the appeal of tradition.  Losing that advantage is the key setback of losing the property litigation.

Turning to the issue that detonated Round II, the LGBT has become to the American élite left what the Communist Party was to the proletariat: its vanguard.  A church which is started in opposition to same is bound to put itself in the crosshairs of the toughest, most tenacious force in the American political and social scene today.  It’s not a formula for popularity, especially with those who are at the heights.

And being in the capital region makes an élite appeal unavoidable, especially for a church somewhere in the Anglican/Episcopal world.  Beyond their bouncing from one moral crusade for “justice” to another, our elites’ dream is to make the U.S. like Europe, where the wealth of the nation is sucked into the capital, which takes a generous cut of the proceeds and redistributes the rest back out as it sees fit.  Under these conditions, we really don’t have a left-right divide: we have an us-them divide, which explains, among other things, why our media is so deep in the tank for Barack Obama.  Under these circumstances, presenting the Gospel to “us” is challenging: “us” takes one look at it and sees a competitor to “our” control, which is the underlying reason “us” are going secular.

My guess is that Baucum and his parishioners are beaten down on the one side by an Episcopal Church which manages one property victory after another (whether they can replicate this in SC is a whole different subject) and on the other by a mission field which has turned blue.  They’re looking for relief, and coming from a tradition where the emphasis is on comity, the idea of burying the hatchet with the likes of Shannon Johnston is a major temptation.

Baucum–and indeed the ACNA in general–must realise, however, that seeking such accommodation defeats the reason for the ACNA and the Anglican revolt.  What was the point of secession, of the cost of litigation and for most of the losers relocation, when you’re just going to throw in the towel?  And, to get back to the key issue, what’s the purpose of a church whose beliefs are little different from the world around it?

In such a hostile environment, presenting and living the life that Jesus Christ offers us will need an entirely different way of doing things than conventional, open-society church.  First, however, we must, like the song from India, decide to follow Jesus and not turn back.  We must understand that such a choice is not going to be popular, especially in a place where Our Lord’s proclamation that all power is given to him and not to the mission field’s paymaster.

The higher one goes in society, the greater the temptation for Christianity to attempt to strike a nice accommodation with the world around it.  That’s the occupational hazard of churches in general, but of the Anglican/Episcopal world in particular, given its “target demographic” on this continent.  The price to live for Our Lord is high, but the price of caving has been even higher.  What makes anyone believe that the latter will get any lower?

Peter Scholtes: They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love

FEL S-252 (1968)

Anyone who has rummaged (physically or virtually) through the discography of the “Jesus Music” era usually has strong ideas about which albums and artists affected them personally, and which ones changed the course of the life of the church.  For Evangelicals, artists such as Larry Norman, Phil Keaggy or the Second Chapter of Acts come to mind.  In the Roman Catholic world, there are candidates, but for lasting influence this album is in a league of its own.

In many ways it’s an unlikely candidate.  It has a homemade sound to it.  It’s more of a collage of songs and Masses than a well thought out work of art or liturgy.  It’s an inner city production with mostly black artists in a church that was becoming very middle class.  But few who lived through the era will forget the title track or the “Missa Bossa Nova”.  And it’s a testament to the power of music to inspire both the people who make it and those who take part in it.  One can feel the fun the performers were having recording it.

Peter Scholtes was a South Side Chicago priest when he put together this album.  That evokes a long radical tradition that is very much a part of our lives these days.  But Scholtes preferred to leave much of the political activity to others, as he explained in this interview.  Ultimately Scholtes and his parishioners were making more than music with this album: they were making history.

The songs:

  1. They’ll Know We Are Christians
  2. Take My Hand
  3. Choose Life
  4. There Once Was A Man
  5. Lord Have Mercy – Missa Bossa Nova
  6. Glory To God – Missa Bossa Nova
  7. Holy, Holy – Missa Bossa Nova
  8. Our Father – Missa Bossa Nova
  9. Lamb Of God – Missa Bossa Nova
  10. Open Up The Boxes
  11. The Lord Bless You
  12. Glory Be To Israel
  13. Shout And Clap Your Hands
  14. We Gather Together
  15. Lord Have Mercy – Mass of 67th Street
  16. Holy, Holy – Mass of 67th Street
  17. Lamb Of God – Mass Of 67th Street

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