How the wartime Daily Service might have sounded, first notes

It’s been more than a month since I order my copy of the BBC’s wartime supplement prayer book, Each Returning Day: A Book of Prayers for Use in Time of War and I’ve not gotten it, so let’s move ahead with a few notes on New Every Morning I’ve picked up while we wait. This helps us understand how the book was used. I started this series here.

  • The New SCM Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship described the Daily Service as “a simple daily office comprising a sentence of scripture, a hymn, a prayer, a Bible reading, psalmody, intercessions and thanksgivings, a closing hymn and blessing.” With descriptions in the Radio Times it should be possible to figure out how the service was set out.
  • The New SCM Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship also notes that “[w]omen as well as men led the service.” Notes elsewhere about BBC staff leading the prayers suggests that it was a lay office. (Ordained women ministers from Dissenting churches did lead the fuller broadcast Sunday service in this period.)
  • Winter’s Tale describes how tight the service was timed. For example, the Lord’s Prayer might be read at “anything between a brisk 24 seconds and a reverent 36” with blessings timed to choose one to fit the remaining time. It was 15 minutes long.
  • In the article “Hymns on the Air” by Cyril Taylor (Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland bulletin, October 1947), we learn that the Daily Service “contains two hymns, the first being linked with the opening prayers of worship, thanksgiving, or confession, the second with the closing prayers of intercession.”
  • The hymns came from Hymns Ancient and Modern and Songs of Praise (and didn’t vary as listeners followed along in their own books at home) plus metrical psalms and paraphrases “which we know will be particularly appreciated by listeners in Scotland.” Hymns were often shortened for time, and the tune was selected for its suitability for an octet, so none of the grand ones like “NUN DANKET or EIN’ FESTE BURG, or even OLD HUNDREDTH.”
  • Not so relevant to our concern, but interesting all the same: the BBC had a studio specially consecrated, looking something halfway between a period office and a chapel, used until destroyed by German bombs. It was lovely and must have made religious broadcasting seem that much more special.

“New Every Morning” for radio worshipers

I’ve neglected my public writing far too long, but neither have I had much to say. About a month ago, I started reading documents related to World War Two. This is not a new interest, but the occasion was accidental: I found a set of official bulletins from the Office for Emergency Management — entitled Victory — and that prompted a search for more. Turns out there’s a BBC history project, where years of the magazine Radio Times were scanned and the schedules digitized. All of 1939 are available to read, and with them the opening months of the war for the British. Add other documents and you get an amazing story that I’ve just begun to investigate.

The BBC had a basic problem: German bombing could knock out a part of the pre-war regionalized service. The solution was to consolidate the various radio programs into a single Home Service with transmitters blanketing the country. At first, the whole country’s broadcast service was reduced to news bulletins, recorded music and exceptional amounts of theater organ. This was during Hitler’s Phony War, and the BBC developed a other entertainment, documentary and informative programs, plus regional segments, including news and notices in Welsh. Religious broadcasting was a conspicuous part of the programming, including the Daily Service, which marked its ninetieth anniversary earlier this year. Naturally, I’m interested in what they came up with, not the least because they were responsible for a pan-Christian audience. (I’ve yet to find reference to Jewish or other religious programming during this period.)

Since 1936, and through the war and post-war period, the BBC Daily Service used a service book, New Every Morning, with a supplemental book Each Returning Day published during the war. How were they used? Did they appeal to an ecumenical audience? What limitations were put on the service to perfectly hit the fifteen minute broadcast window? I ordered copies of each book from British booksellers, and New Every Morning has since been delivered.

I think there are probably lessons for worship services with wide appeal, worship services for dispersed groups, and brevity. (Brevity being one of my ongoing beefs with Protestant liturgy.)

I’ll let you know what I find.

“Ancient History of Universalism” is ready

Later: I’ve already made one fix to a note, and created a pretty hacky PDF of the book — ignore the title page and how the chapters are numbered at the top — by request. Again, better asthetics later.

Download the PDF at http://universalistchristian.org/books/ancient-history/ancient-history.pdf.

I’ve also created an ePub — to download at http://universalistchristian.org/books/ancient-history/ancient-history.epub — and I’d appreciate feedback on its readability.


Two days ago, I mentioned how I was processing the Ancient History of Universalism for the web. I’ve gotten to a good stopping place and would like to share the work with you.

It’s on the site I use for my Universalist Christian Initiative, at http://universalistchristian.org/books/ancient-history/.

A fascinating read, but a slow start so you may want to jump into the middle. Chapter nine is a story of intrigue with a vivid mental picture of what is now the West Bank. I imagine it would have been thrilling to those who would have had no other way to “see” it.

And be sure to dig into the footnotes, which in several places show the progress of scholarship in the generations after Hosea Ballou, II, particularly this note on whether Theodoret was a Universalist and whether Universalism was condemned at the Fifth Ecumenical Council. Other notes, apologies from Ballou, for works he could not afford to buy or borrow to consult leave a twinge, particularly since they can be looked up online in scanned reproduction today.

Like this … A Latin and Greek text condemning Origenism. (extract)

As you may note, it’s a very basic design; the whole book with notes and index (no internal links, I’m afraid) is a mere 162 kb. My goal is to make bulky resources like these easy to download on the fly, with aesthetic improvements later. If you see typos — I couldn’t have gotten them all — send me a note and I’ll make periodic fixes.

Some process notes. I got the messy text from https://archive.org/details/ancienthistoryof1872ball, I edited the text with the Atom editor, in Markdown, and processed it with pandoc. (If you’re comfortable with the command line.)

pandoc -s -S --toc -c basic.css inputtext.md -o output.html

I was inspired by a set of very vulgarly-named and written websites promoting simple web design, the names of which are outside the standards of this blog. Search for the most vulgar words you know, plus “website” and you’ll surely find one, but there’s a competition of imitators. I also consulted Practical Typography’s section on websites for confirmation.

I’ve worked up the outline of a style guide for this book, which I learned years ago helps maintain consistancy and easy for modern readers. I really should type that up.

Unfamiliar tools for shared church work

I really was thinking about unfamiliar tools for shared church work; that is, tools where people can work collaboratively without having to all be in the same place. This is normal and increasingly common in business, but well all know that church is slow to change and underfunded. Or slow to change because it is underfunded.

About the time I had this thought, the news cane out the Metro will be shutting down at midnight tonight and all through Wednesday until Thursday morning. I’m just grateful my workplace has some systems — developed before blizzards — to cope, and most of my officemates will work from home. Of course, we will use Google Docs and Dropbox, and I bet many my readers do too.

But can you imagine the possible uses of something like Github, a software development tool used to manage the versions of documents. For churches, perhaps reports and resources, and to keep repositories of documents and graphics files? And webpages (Github Pages) easily stood up to share and promote those products. The humanities has a small presence of Github, but the Open Siddur Project (on Github) is objectively religious and liturgical, and makes me wonder about other possibilities. My sleepy Github account is here.

The other tool I want to point out now is Overleaf, an easy-to-use frontend for the very-powerful LaTeX typesetting software that’s widely used in academia, especially mathematics. Indeed, Overleaf’s market seems to be universitites, and if I were writing a thesis now, I’d be all over it. And if I were to get some people together to make a book or serious journal, I’d start there.

Are there unlikely tools you use that might be used in collaborative church work?

Test site for the new UUA WordPress template

So, in order to try out the new UUA WordPress theme, I installed it onto one of the domains I’m not currently using. I’m sticking to defaults mainly, because that (to my mind) is one of the benefits of a template.

I’ll critique the experience of installing and configuring it later, and UU minister and blogger Cynthia Landrum (Rev. Cyn) has already reviewed the features.

But so far, I’m not sold and suspect the value of the theme will be the lessons shared in the theme’s documentation; that really sets it apart.

My two sources for weather information

I rely on two indicators for weather: my sinuses and Forecast.io.

When I’m already congested, a strong weather front will give me a blinding headache. (Like today.) But that’s not helpful for you, or Daisy, our bichon frise, who hates having a potty walk in the rain.

I recommend Forecast.io for amazingly accurate hyper-local, minute-by-minute weather forecasts, which sometimes (alas, not quite, today) gives the dog enough time outside to do what she must.

The Unitarian van mission

I usually write about Universalist polity, but some chat a few weeks ago about “Beyond Congregations” reminded me about the English “Unitarian van mission” of more than a century ago, and interest that stirred up here in the United States.

http://www.unitarianhistory.org.uk/hsalbBUH4.html
Courtesy, Unitarian Historical Society

 

Courtesy, Unitarian Historical Society
Courtesy, Unitarian Historical Society

 

I’ve found references as far back as 1908, with its evident zenith in the 1910s. According to Georges Salim Kukhi, himself a London Unitarian preacher in 1919, there was more than one van, indeed, four that roved Britain. The vans have not only a pulpit, but sleeping quarters and room for print material. They were fitted with technically-advanced acetylene lamps!

Preachers, sometimes lay preachers, would address the crowds from the van; sometimes they’d be harangued. But it seems there was also a desire for information:

The Unitarian Van Mission in England allows its out of doors audiences to ask questions and finds frequent anxiety for information concerning the talking serpent in the Garden of Eden the veracity of Balaam’s ass the truth of the whale and Jonah incident and other Old Testament marvels.

They would also distribute publications.

I’ve not been able to find evidence of a Unitarian van in the United States, though there was a stated desire and a bit of embarrassment that that the gung-ho Americans didn’t do it first! (In fact, there was something called a van mission in Kansas in 1896. That’s something to research.)

But there is this charming report about an initial, and similar measure, in Massachusetts around 1903 that relied on camping in outpost towns, with audiovisual equipment (a stereopticon).

 

Things to try out

Now, with the preaching done for the day, I’m trying out three technology fixes:

  • to find the best (that is, most appropriate and quickest to learn) tool for modifying images for a website, social media and the like.
  • to see which of the static web development tool would work best for something like a church website, particularly reviewing Jekyll, Middleman and Pelican. Even better if I can use the super-cheap Amazon S3 service with it.
  • to try out the lightweight Midori browser, so we’ll see how that goes.

You might note a theme of lightening up.

Tool to search news broadcasts

Internet Archive has a tool that searches news broadcasts back to 2009, but since it’s fairly new, you may not have heard about it. Lots of uses, but I’m thinking particularly of those preachers who heard of, or were told of, a news segment but then don’t have access to it.

I thought a demonstration was in order, but so many of the searches were old or sad (funerals, vigils) that when I came across this 2014 Fox News segment with a Unitarian Universalist named John “Mac” McNichol, who is a living kidney donor, I knew I had to share it.

Universalistchurch.net down

It’s a long story (involving old contact emails) but I’ve temporarily lost control of the universalistchurch.net domain. Probably not the end of the world, but I hope to get it back.

If not, I have other domains that will suit, and will move the universalistchurch.net content over, probably in January.