Easter Sunday, 1954

A couple of weeks ago, I found the online archive of the Unitarian Universalist Church, in Muncie, Indiana, and found the summary order of service from April 18, 1954: Easter Sunday.

Here it is:

April 18, 1954 service

This was First Universalist Church, as it was know then, and just renamed from St. John’s Universalist Church. Let’s decode the service.

The “tell” is from the first line. The service is the Easter service from Services of Religion, prepended to the “red hymnal,” The Hymns of the Spirit.

This makes the hymns (483) “Fairest Lord Jesus” and (192) Charles Wesley’s famous “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.” The doxology (500) begins “Praise God the love we all may share.”

Responsive Reading 72, entitled “Easter,” is mainly drawn from the third and fourth chapter apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon (the citations in the index should read verses 1-9, not verse 19; it’s a mix of KJV and RV, with some heavy edits) and reads:

The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
And there shall no torment touch them.

In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die,
And their departure is taken for misery,
And their going from us to be utter destruction:

But they are in peace: and their hope full of immortality.
And having borne a little chastening, they shall receive great good:

For God proved them, and found them worthy for himself.

And in the time of their visitation they shall shine forth,
And the Lord shall reign over them for ever.

The faithful shall abide with him in love:
Because grace and mercy are to his chosen.

For in the memory of virtue is immortality:
Because it is recognized both before God and before men.

When it is present men take example at it:
And when it is gone they desire it:
And throughout all time it marcheth crowned in triumph,
Victorious in the strife for the prizes that are undefiled.

But a righteous man, though he die before his time, shall be at rest.

For honorable old age is not that which standeth in length of time,
Nor is its measure given by length of years:

But understanding is gray hairs unto men,
And an unspotted life is ripe old age.

Being made perfect in a little while,
he fulfilled long years;
For his soul was pleasing unto the Lord:

And they that be wise shall shine
As the brightness of the firmament,

And they that turn many to righteousness
As the stars for ever and ever.

For the path of the just is as a shining light
That shineth more and more unto the perfect day.


It’s interesting that the anthems proceed thematically from Thursday to Sunday. I tried to track down the organ music and anthems, but none of the titles are distinct enough to shake anything useful out of Google.

And the preacher? The Rev. Sidney Esten (1892-1965) was not the church’s pastor. (That was the famous Russell Lockwood, would be installed that fall; perhaps he hadn’t arrived yet?) After studying at St. Lawrence, Esten was ordained and served at the long-gone Anderson, Indiana Universalist church; he also taught school. Money was tight, and — per his obituary from the Indiana Academy of Science (PDF) — it seems Anderson was his only pastorate. But he married people and supplies pulpits for years. (Sounds familiar.) He later got a graduate degree and taught science in an Indianapolis high school. He was a  “noted authority on birds” — indeed, feeding birds when he died suddenly.

I would have been happy to have been there. Can you image the flowers? Happy Easter to you, when it comes!

The Parson’s Handbook found online

From time to time, I consult Percy Dearmer‘s The Parson’s Handbook to test the standards of liturgical norms. I don’t always agree with him — little wonder as we come from very different places within Christianity — but you can’t fault him for his thoroughness and style. (To tell you the truth, I read it for pleasure, as I do travel guides and cookbooks.)

The book went through twelve editions in his lifetime, with a thirteenth (heavily altered, I gather) thereafter. Some are in the public domain, and I’m making a list below as a directory.

Sunday-only calendar for 2017

Back in 2008, I knocked together a Sunday-only calendar as a planning tool for church worship leaders. It has been evergreen at by old blog, Boy in the Bands. And so when I got a request to update it, I couldn’t do other than bring it up to date.

And so I’m crossposting it here. Enjoy.

You can also edit the OSD file in LibreOffice and (so it seems) newer versions of Microsoft Office. I included December 2016 and January 2018.

The unboxing

Phone, still boxedMy mobile phone of three years showed signs of instability after General Assembly, so rather than waiting for it to fail, I decided to get a new one. It arrived today.

There’s a custom of photographing the unwrapping — “unboxing” — esteemed electronics and then sharing the photos and thus the experience. This is considered normal behavior among Apple goods owners (I am not one) but it still strikes me as a bit precious, even ostentatious.  After all, what does it show, other than the ability to buy things?

Phone and gear in open boxI suppose it shows this: how lovely the thing is in itself, and more, how lovely it comes to the new owner. It is worth having, and cherishing. Since, I’ve seen beautifully packaged clothes, snack foods and charitable solicitation appeals that have the same attention to presentation. And, to be honest, they do seem better than the alternative, and so make me feel better about myself. I look forward to the moment of acquiring something, and not just the having (and so take pains to not shop for this thrill, but that another story.)

Phone in handSo, we turn to churches. In this culture where even a knockoff laptop battery (bought before GA) is carefully wrapped, how do we change how we prepare our churches for worship? Or present certificates and awards (when we do so) or arrange candles or implements of worship? Or share refreshments, or post signs?

Or any of a thousand ways we can say, “this house of worship is special, and beautiful, and you are welcome” — or not.

Examining the Universalist theory of worship

So, what makes Universalist worship Universalist? What keys do we have, if we want to build on a tradition?

It turns out that it’s harder to say than in other denominational traditions, including the Unitarian. The problem may date to the beginning, by which I mean the 1790 Philadelphia Convention, where the assembled delegates claimed, “as we have no rules laid down in the word of God to direct us in our choice of a mode or form of public worship, it is recommended to each Church to use such modes and forms of prayer, and to sing such psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, as to them shall appear most agreeable to the word of God, or best suited to promote order, and spiritual edification.” Not a sense shared by many of their contemporaries! Whether this was an act of liberality, or a politic act of evasion, I will leave for you to decide.

Universalism was made up of different streams, united by a common hope in a common salvation. Other doctrines were a matter of liberty — one reason theological unitarianism had a place — and so much for liturgy, too. As such, the various hymnals and worship books had denominational sponsorship and could be widely adopted and still be entirely optional.

After the Civil War, institutional Universalism congealed around a common program and denominational governance. The theologial schools and denomintational press were growing in influence, and yet there was little discussion about how this new structure applied to worship. Prayerbooks could go out without a preface; liturgists, like Charles Hall Leonard, could write the works, but scarcely say what they intended.

So, where to look for clues? Private papers? Articles in the weekly papers, as yet little digitized? But it may be as subtle as examining the more popular texts themselves, and see what was used, discern what the source documents were — the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer and the prayerbooks of James Martineau, surely — and see what they thought to change…

What I’m reading: history and theory of liturgy

I’m working on some Universalist liturgy projects and have been keenly feeling both the generations of lost ecumenical interchange, and the lost reasoning that lead to the texts we do have. So I decided to read some older works to fill in the missing pieces with the goal of working towards the present.

I happened across “The Reform of Liturgical Worship Perspectives and Prospects” (The Bohlen Lectures 1959) by Massey Hamilton Shepherd, Jr.

This gave me a sense of the development of American Episcopalian liturgical development from the Ritualists to his own time, halfway between the prayer book revisions of 1928 and 1979.

And it it, I found a reference to the 1867 The Book of Common Prayer: as amended by the Westminster Divines, A.D. 1661, also known as the Presbyterian Book of Common Prayer by Charles W. Shields, but particularly the appended essay Liturgia Expurgata which fills in for that work a lineage that I wished the contemporary (1866) Universalist A Book of Prayer for the Church and the Home had. Indeed, I wonder if it was on the desks of those Universalists, especially Charles Hall Leonard, who developed the longer-lasting tradition of Universalist prayer books that ran in successive editions and abridgments through the 1950s.

He Is Risen!

Christ is risen!
Khristós anésti!
Kristo leviĝis!

I would love it if we adopted the Paschal troparion, but we can, of course, hear it in another voice…

And sing, chant or recite an anthem found in our traditionEaster.

Rom. vi. 9, and 1 Cor. xv. 20.

Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more : death hath no more dominion over him.

For in that he died, he died unto sin once : but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin : but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Christ is risen from the dead: and become the first-fruits of them that slept.

For since by man came death : by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

For as in Adam all die: even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Now unto the God of grace : for the might of his Spirit and the love of Christ;

Be glory in the Church throughout all ages: worid without end. Amen.

Happy Easter!
Alleluia!

Holy days after Christmas, lessons and propers

Continuing the long-dormant transcription project of lessons and propers from A Free Church Book of Common Prayer (1929). The Universalist A book of prayer for the church and the home (1866) does not have these occasions.

Saint Stephen.

December 26th.

Collect.

GRANT, O Lord, that, in all our suffering here upon the earth for the testimony of the truth, we make steadfastly look up to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and, being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our persecutors by the example of thy first martyr Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers, O blessed Jesus, standest at the right hand of God to succour all those that suffer for thee, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.

¶ One or more of the collects for Christmas Day maybe may also be said.

For Epistle: Acts vii, 55-60 (end).
Gospel: Matt. xxiii, 34-39 (end).

Saint John the Evangelist

December 27th.

Collect.

MERCIFUL LORD, we beseech thee to cast thy bright beams of light upon thy Church, that it being enlightened by the doctrine of thy blessed apostle and evangelist Saint John may so walk in the light of thy truth, that it may at length attain to the light of the everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

¶ One or more of the collects for Christmas Day maybe may also be said.

Epistle: 1 John i, 1-10 (end), or, Ecclus, xv, 1-6.
Gospel: John xxi, 20-25 (end).

The Holy Innocents.

December 28th.

Collect.

O ALMIGHTY GOD, who out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast ordained strength, and madest infants to glorify thee by their deaths; mortify and kill all the vices in us, and so strengthen us by thy grace, that by the innocency of our lives, and constancy of our faith even after death, we make glorify thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

¶ One or more of the collects for Christmas Day maybe may also be said.

For Epistle: Rev. xiv, 1-5.
Gospel: Matt. ii, 13-21.

Restored link to readings and propers page

About three years ago, I started a project where I compared the one-year lectionaries, with accompanying collects (prayers), of a nineteenth-century Universalist prayerbook and an English twentieth-century work that tried to restore liturgial worship to historic dissenter churches, project that reminds me of the work of James Martineau.

And here’s a direct link to that.

It is largely complete, but I realized that in moving the content from Boy in the Bands to this domain, I let the links to this and other liturgical resources vanish. I’ve fixed that, and this week will fill in the missing propers for the days after Christmas.

Church shopping: wire plate holders

Cleaning up on a Sunday afternoon. I found one of a number of coated wire plate holders that I bought years ago at an icon shop, now gone. And while they are not a religious good per se, they are terribly useful in doing church. bitb_wire-stand_20151108

The GH marks on the hinge identifies it as a Gibson Holders product, and they are still in business.

They’re good for displaying icons, framed pictures, books and the like. Think: special services, funeral. And they’re inexpensive. And they fold up nicely for easy storage.

Put a few of these on your shopping list.