Thursday, January 2, 2014

Roger Maris, Hobbits, and Set 2: Of Asterisks and Axios!*

Asterisks are often used as a kind of non-numerical punctuation footnote.  Ford Frick, Major League Baseball Commissioner, is the purveyor of one of the most infamous asterisks of all time, when he decided that Roger Maris' 61 home runs in 1961 should have one appended to it.  Frick's reasoning was that Maris needed 162 games to hit 61 home runs, whereas Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs in a shorter, 154-game season.  The idiocy of ignoring any other differences between eras -- such as the fact Ruth never had to face Satchel Paige, since some of the best pitchers were Africans American pitchers and thus excluded from the major leagues; that the screwball hadn't been invented in 1927; and a west coast road trip meant a
On the plus side, good to see Kate from Lost getting work.
train ride to Chicago, among others -- resulted in the asterisk being dropped.  Crusty, however, would love nothing more than to be able to dispense asterisks as he sees fit, to punctuationally record disapproval.  For instance, COD would have titled the recent movie The Hobbit* : Desolation of Smaug, since it only bears a passing resemblance to the book of the same name, all of Bilbo's contributions are downplayed (such as defeating the Spiders by himself, the difficult of freeing the dwarves from the Elf King, and discovering Smaug's weakness), and he is a tangential character in a film largely devoted to an elf-dwarf-elf love triangle and some bald orc dude with a blender attachment for a hand.  Other things worthy of asterisks:  almost anything labeled organic, anything on the internet labeled free, and anything in the church labeled missional (where the asterisks would indicate "note: word is used but nobody knows what it means").

All of this is prologue to Set 2 of the General Ordination exams, and Crusty's first rating with an asterisk attached.  First off, Crusty Old Dean must give credit where credit is due:  He presents Set 2 with the ranking of Axios!*  Worthy!*  Here is the question for the canonical area of Liturgy and Church Music, with explanation for the asterisk to follow below.

Set 2: Liturgy and Church Music 

LIMITED RESOURCES: A printed one-volume annotated Bible; a printed 1979 Book of Common Prayer; a printed Book of Occasional Services; a printed Lesser Feasts and Fasts; printed Enriching Our Worship volumes; and other printed authorized supplemental or provisional material; a printed Hymnal 1982, a printed Wonder, Love and Praise; and authorized supplemental musical material. NO electronic or Internet resources.

In a lecture, the Episcopal liturgist Thomas Talley, speaking of Easter, said:
By virtue of the resurrection, Christ is now trans-historical and is available to every moment. We may never speak of the Risen Christ in the historical past. The event of his passion is historical, but the Christ who is risen does not exist back there, but here, and as we live on this moving division line between memory and hope, between the memory of his passion and the hope of his coming again, we stand always in the presence of Christ, who is always present to everyone.

In his theological commentary on the American Prayer Book, Leonel Mitchell shows how this applies in a particular instance, the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord. Reflecting on the second collect for the feast (BCP 1979, p. 212), he writes:

It identifies this night [this very night in our time] with the breaking forth into this world of the true Light which is Christ, and it identifies the celebration of the festival with the shining of the Christ Light in our lives. To celebrate Christmas, then, is in a real sense to participate in the event which it celebrates.

Robert Taft, another prominent liturgist, writes, echoing the previous quotations:
The actuality, the presentness of it all, is because we are celebrating not something from the past, but a permanent present reality, an ongoing call and response, a new life, which we call salvation, that was called into being by saving events that are past only in their historicity.

 1)             In an essay of 750 words, comment upon how the quotations inform a coherent theology of the liturgical year, addressing both the once-for-all nature of the events in the life of Christ and the here-and-now active presence of Christ.

 2)             Building upon the previous answer in a further 750-word narrative essay - not a list or an outline - give representative examples of how you would plan the Eucharist for a Principal Feast as designated by the BCP 1979 in view of this theology, describing what you would do, your rationale, and what you would avoid doing. Please consider, for example, hymnody, choreography, spatial arrangement, iconography, imagery and homiletics, including at least three of these in your response.

Lots to love about this question.  Unlike last year's WTF liturgy question, it really cuts to the heart of what liturgy is all about:  how is liturgy both a commemoration and re-creation?  How does liturgy link the Christian church across space and time?  

Maybe we can get the band KCTM to play the annual KCTM Mass.
It asks the student to do two things:  reflect theologically, and do some applied practice.  First, write an essay on how these quotations inform a theology of the liturgical year, and even gets specific (see, the GOE question writers can do this when they want and be specific).  It asks the students to address  "both the once-for-all nature of the events in the life of Christ and the here-and-now active presence of Christ."  Note it didn't just say "liturgical year," it provided some direction to shape the essay.  Just saying "liturgical year" may have allowed someone to opine about how the Commemoration of King Charles the Martyr is a perfect example of the kind of theology articulated by the quotations from Mitchell, Talley, and Taft (wonder if they ever had a band?).  

In the second essay, it requests several things. First of all, that it be an essay (not a list or an outline!).  When doing GOE prep, Crusty always tells students to write an actual essay with paragraphs and topic sentences and supporting statements and concluding sentences.  Part of the atomization of communication brought about by the emailification and twitterification of how we write is the increasing inability of many folks to write anything at all that isn't some bullet pointed, slide-showed kind of list.  It also narrows the focus to "principal feast" in the worship planning from "events in the life of Christ" from Section 1.  Well done!  One of Crusty's issues with last year's question (read all about it here) was that students were being asked to demonstrate competency in a canonical area based on planning a liturgy that was not one that clergy would be expected to plan with great frequency.  This is different.  If you can't plan a Christmas service, you probably shouldn't have made it this far, let alone demonstrate competency in this area.  COD did wish, however, they had kept the theme of "events in the life of Christ," from section 1 and asked to plan a worship service for a Principal Feast or "Other Feasts of our Lord."  Wouldn't you have loved to see what students could have done with "iconography" and "imagery" for Feast of the Holy Name of Feast of the Presentation.  Holy Prepuce, Batman (COD dares you to google that)!  Or, on a more serious note, Holy Cross Day, with the imagery of the Cross? Or Transfiguration or Annunciation, which have some of the most stunning representations in art, music, and iconography?

"What you would avoid doing?" Please explain why the dog did not bark.
However, the second essay is the reason the * is awarded.  Students are asked to give "representative examples" of how you would plan a Eucharist, describing "what would you do, your rationale, and what you would avoid doing" and to "consider hymnody, choreography, spatial arrangement, iconography, imagery and homiletics, including at least three of these in your response."  What's up with those directions?  Since one
thing clergy do a lot of after ordination is plan liturgies, can't you just ask them to plan a liturgy, explain the choices they made in planning that liturgy, and maybe give a 100--word summary of what some main themes in a sermon/homily might be?  COD really isn't clear on the difference between "Plan a liturgy for a Principal Feast as designated by the BCP 1979, using authorized worship resources, including selecting hymns and describing the spatial arrangement or setup of the worship space and choreographed flow of the service, and briefly discuss what themes in your homily might reflect the theology outlined in Section 1" and providing "representative examples" including choosing three from a list of options that includes "imagery and homiletics" and "iconography" as options.

Two other bones to pick from Crusty, which don't pertain to the * but which he also wants on the record.

1)  COD thinks the GBEC needs to come up with a solution to their "no electronic resources" for liturgy questions.  Granted, nobody wants people downloading their answer from Rite Stuff, but come on.  It's not 1985 and not everyone taking the exam is sitting in their dorm room at Sewanee, General, or VTS, surrounded by their own books.  Many students taking the GOE are commuters, and so must lug piles of books around on a snowy day just to flip through them for one afternoon.  Apart from the lugging factor, Crusty honestly can't remember the last time he planned a liturgy solely using print resources.  Why ask students to do something only for the GOEs they probably haven't done, and won't do again?  Is there really no in between?  Maybe the GBEC could collect links to electronic resources and websites that are permissible, and tell students they may only use those resources?  There's probably some concern about throwing open the floodgates to internet or electronic resources, but again, there's the honor code and trust aspect to this:  if we can't trust students only to use the limited electronic resources identified, the reality is they're ALREADY all taking this exam ONLINE and thus we're trusting them not to cheat already and use internet resources.  Plus, if someone can't be trusted only to use certain designated websites, we probably shouldn't trust them to have discretionary accounts, church credit cards, and to keep pastoral confidences.  It inconveniences students to have to collect all these resources in print (one student said to Crusty, "I don't have some of these in print form, I've downloaded them but apparently can't use those PDFs") and doesn't reflect the reality that almost all liturgical planning involves some online component.  Come on, GBEC.  Figure out some middle ground here.

2)  What's up with the dead white dudes from the 1970s and 1980s? (With apologies if some of these people aren't dead yet, as someone with a PhD in Early Church History it's hard enough to keep up with whose dead and who isn't.)  COD had a similar issue two years ago year, when, in a question on theology and environmental stewardship, the quote was from 45 years ago (when great work has been done in ecotheology in recent years).  The issues outlined here are not just ones these three people invented or thought up themselves; rather, they are reflecting and rephrasing what Christians have understood about liturgy for thousands of years.  Maybe we could have had a quote from someone from the ancient church?  Or maybe a woman (Ruth Meyers immediately comes to mind) or a liturgical scholar from a non-Western context?   

Overall, a good first day.  Seeing a pattern balancing articulation and application (exegete a text, apply it to a situation; explain a theology of the church year, plan a liturgy) which is exactly what a competency based examination system should be doing.  Axios!*


  1. I agree. This is a great question. It is one that I think every clergy person should look at before they sit down to lay out the upcoming liturgy, whatever day it is. This kind of intentionality is what makes liturgy engaging and attractive to long time members of a congregation and to people who are there for the first time. I too wonder about the electronic resources limitation. There are incredibly rich resources in cyberspace for good liturgy from around the Anglican Communion and our partners in full communion, the ELCA and the Moravians that are very appropriate.

  2. COD! I'm taking the GOEs in Claremont, California and dang I wish I had found your blog a lot early. You are funny and brilliant! Thanks for your insights! Can't wait to read your critique of today and Monday! And may the peace of Jesus be always with you!

  3. Oh! Loved the liturgy question. I did mine on Pentecost and I just plain had fun telling the story about what my celebration of Pentecost would look like!

  4. Crusty is thankful for the shout-out from Claremont, where I taught Anglican Studies at Bloy House from 2003-2006. Please do keep in mind you shouldn't comment anything specific about any answers since the GOE reading process is double-blind anonymity.


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