Archive for October, 2008

Yesterday, tomorrow, and beyond (with a little bit about today)

Local coffeehouse The Pourhouse Cafe is a ministry of Sherwood Oaks Christian Church, one of the bigger (if not the biggest) evangelical megachurches in Bloomington. They don’t have “owners, but donors,” it’s staffed by volunteers, it’s part of their college ministry, and all of the profits go to charities in Third World countries. I’ll also note that what it cost to get it up and running is more than All Saints’ entire annual budget, which gives you an idea a) of how big and how rich Sherwood Oaks is, b) the converse truth with respect to All Saints, and c) why All Saints is not in the coffeehouse ministry business (although it’s something Fr. Peter has said he’d like to get into eventually).

Anyway, they have live music every so often, and last night my friend Lacey Brown was playing (with husband Phil Woodward on guitar and all-around personification of awesomeness John Berry on drums), so I dropped in. I also got to hear Brooks Ritter (who reminded me a lot of Glen Hansard) and Jamie Barnes (maybe somebody can tell me — any relation to Paul Barnes? They sure look alike). I enjoyed the music and the musicians a lot, and while I was very much aware that this wasn’t exactly my scene (for reasons of age, at least — it scares me that that at not-quite-32, there’s already at least a narrow generation gap between me and people in their 20s), I was also scratching my head thinking, “How do we get some Orthodox Christian musicians/musicans who are Orthodox Christians exposed in this venue?”

Well, to some extent, it’s already happened; The SmallTown Heroes played here a couple of weeks ago. Still, I kinda wonder — what if, say, a men’s sextet did a set of Byzantine chant in English? No context, no preparation, just did it? What would the pomo crowd get out of something like that? Would it just turn them off? Would they connect with it, instinctively sensing something genuine, and want to know more? Maybe it’s worth a try… maybe not.

What does seem to be worth a try is NaNoWriMo, which starts tomorrow. I can easily write 50,000 words in a month; I’m pretty sure I’ve done at least that some months with this blog (hard to say for certain, since WordPress.com blogs don’t provide you with a way of checking), so it will be just a matter of redirecting some of the effort. As a result, there may be light blogging in the coming month, but I’ve got something I’ve been picking at in one form or another for four years, and it’d be really nice to actually finish a draft of something. This little story of Matthias and Isaac is really kind of peripheral to that of Petros’, and its Petros’ story I started out telling (back when I was still calling him Peter Lewis), but this way I can write something a bit more bite-sized, something that serves as a “test reel,” if you like, or “proof of concept,” and go back later if it turns out anybody cares. It’s somewhat as if C. S. Lewis first wrote a novella within the timeframe of Prince Caspian, about a side story happening to Reepicheep in which Caspian and the Pevensies were sort of side characters who were mostly there as background color. (Not that anything I’m doing will be anything remotely near to the Narnia books in terms of quality; I’m just using that to try to explain something without explaining much of anything.)

Anway, in fits and starts over the last several months, I’ve spat out about 5,000 words already, and I saw guidelines that said while it’s “discouraged” to use NaNoWriMo to finish something you’ve already started, as long as you write at least 50,000 words, it’s fair game. I don’t know that this story is 55,000 words long, but I’ll find out. I need to just make myself do it and finish a draft, see how it holds together. So, November could be interesting.

Finally — I’d just like to note that as of today, October represented, in terms of total traffic for the month, a spike of 296% from the previous month and 244% from my previous best month. So, now that I have five regular readers, I hope y’all stick around!

Holy Trinity Church in Piraeus, Greece

Another place to add the list of places I want to go before I die… (Hat tip: Solomon, I Have Surpassed Thee)

…and as long as we’re on the topic of food…

Oh, man. Why do I feel like I need to go to confession just having read the recipe?

How sweet the Saveur

My stepmother-in-law (gotta love the twenty-first century) got us a gift subscription to Saveur about a year ago. It’s really only been in the last few months that I’ve really started to appreciate it. The recipes are great, reasonably “cookable,” and the way they do theme issues means there will be at least one or two keepers among the recipes one way or the other.

Recent successes:

Stretch’s Chicken Savoy

Sausages with French Green Lentils

Eggs Benedict (with lots of great variations in the actual issue, although not online)

Man. I’m suddenly acutely aware that the Nativity Fast is all of two weeks away.

Can anyone tell me…

…if there’s a way to do a word count of an entire blog hosted on WordPress.com? Officially the answer seems to be “no,” because one typically does such things by means of plug-ins or other such things that aren’t allowed even for paying customers like me, but surely some clever person out there has figured out a way to do via the meager tools we do have available to us (short of going back and checking the word count of every individual post for the life of the blog).

Many thanks in advance!

Vernacular American Byzantine architecture?

I’d like to express some appreciation for Orthodox architect Andrew Gould. Christ J. Kamages is the primary name I’ve been hearing for a few years (and not without very good reason), so Gould seems to me to be new on the scene, but having been running in Orthodox circles for all of five years I lack proper perspective on the matter. I certainly think we can only benefit from more architects who specialize in Orthodox church design, and I very much like what Gould brings to the table in terms of figuring out how churches might look at once authentically Byzantine and authentically American (a question I’ve written about in relation to another liturgical craft, too). I assume Gould would be deeply unappreciative of anybody reposting his images, so I encourage you to check out his (as well as Kamages’) website.

You can also listen to an interview with him here.

Perspective

Just because these are the kinds of things which occur to me every so often, particularly when I’m 23 days from a birthday…

Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” came out in 1971. I first heard it in 1990 (eighth grade for me), nineteen years later. From my perspective, it seemed like that song was ancient, from a totally different world. However, this would analogous to a current eighth grader today hearing one of these songs for the first time today, none of which I think of as “ancient.”

Man. That’s not grey in my beard, is it?

By the way, as long as we’re on the topic, supposedly Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones want to restart Led Zeppelin without Robert Plant. All I can say is, Led Zeppelin itself came out of Page’s need to keep The Yardbirds going without, well, The Yardbirds, and that worked out okay, so maybe this will to. Loyal Soundgarden fan that I am, I cast my vote for Chris Cornell as Plant’s replacement (and, to bring it back to the original subject, I’ll note that Soundgarden’s “Hands All Over” is one of the songs on the 1989 list).

Things you think about when you’re trying not to fall

This morning was the first frost in Bloomington, Indiana — or, at the very least, the first at our house. This is a relatively early first frost; I’m more accustomed to it staying hot until sometime in November, at some point during which God hits a switch and the temperature drops fifty degrees in a week. Given that my ancestors, centuries ago, were roaming the frozen wastes of Scandinavia wearing fur loincloths and swinging battleaxes, and that I’ve inherited their programming to stay perfectly comfortable in cold temperatures while wearing shorts and a t-shirt, as well as having to face the unpleasant corollary that above 75 degrees Fahrenheit I tend to be very uncomfortable no matter how little I’m wearing, I am very, very, very much okay with an early frost. The nice thing about cold weather is that you can always put more on. Hot weather… well, not so much. There’s only so much you can take off. (And trust me, you’re thankful for that — very very very thankful.)

What I emphatically don’t like is getting to the top step of my front porch on my way out to the car and realizing, in rapid succession, a) the first frost has arrived very much unannounced and b) I need to grab onto something very quickly. I am not one normally given to quoting John Mayer, but gravity, stay the hell away from me. Otherwise, I will be in repair (again).

For those who have asked — I do not, as of yet, have any information on the outcome of Fr. John Peck’s 16 October meeting with Metropolitan Gerasimos. All I know is that Fr. John is still listed here on the Prescott Orthodox Church website as the priest. Once I hear something I will post it (if I can).

A couple of links to pass along — Anna passed along the article “Keeping the End in View” by James R. Payton, Jr., over at Christianity Today. Prof. Payton, a Protestant, is also the author of Light From the Christian East: An Introduction to the Orthodox Tradition, a book which I have not yet read myself, but I have heard Orthodox say that it is a better introduction to Orthodoxy than some books by Orthodox authors. (One hopes that he has less in common with Daniel Clendenin than with, say, Met. Kallistos Ware.) The article is an examination of the Orthodox Christian understanding of “theosis,” comparing it to how Protestants understand conversion, justification, and sanctification as “phases” of salvation. In general, Prof. Payton treats the Orthodox position quite favorably, but there are two points I’d like to mention.

In Orthodox teaching, “image” and “likeness” are not the same: the first is gift, the second, goal.

This is a matter of some imprecision; it’s not called “Orthodox teaching,” it’s called “the Greek language.” εἰκών and ὁμοίωσις are the words in question, and as even a cursory examination of their entries in either Liddell-Scott or BDAG shows pretty quickly, these are different words with related-but-different meanings, and authors do not use them interchangeably. This has nothing to do with “Orthodox teaching” except insofar as Orthodox teaching reflects how the Greek Fathers use the words. “Policy” and “law” are English words which have related but ultimately different meanings, for example. If a German author wrote that “In American politics, ‘law’ and ‘policy’ are not the same…” it would be a similar situation. It’s an issue of what the words mean, not an issue of how they’re treated by a particular group of people.

While evangelicals can learn from the Orthodox, it is fair to note that Orthodox believers can learn from us, too. The Eastern presentation of salvation can smudge the distinct steps of salvation. Justification and sanctification often get folded into the broader concept of theosis, and they become so blurred that Orthodox believers often don’t know what to make of the terms. They would be well served by an explanation of how the steps of salvation as presented in apostolic teaching fit into the larger package of divinization.

While appreciating Prof. Payton’s open-minded, open-armed approach and thus being willing to lay aside concerns about how patronizing this paragraph might be, I will suggest that he fails to mention that the issues he brings up are addressed by the participation of the Orthodox Christian in the sacramental life of the Church. I assume he knows this, and that this is a concept which probably will sail right over the heads of most CT readers, so I can understand why he doesn’t go there, but ultimately the picture he paints is misleading.

I would also direct your attention to the paper, “Approaching the Educated Person in the Post-Christian Era” by Abp. Lazar Puhalo (ret., OCA). I don’t necessarily agree with every point, but I think it’s worth reading and discussing. I might have more to say about it later.

Current reading: The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945, by George H. Nash. Whether one agrees with everybody he describes or not, the story he tells is fascinating. I may have more to say about this later.

By the way, I’m considering participating in NaNoWriMo for purposes of finishing a first draft of a particular writing project of mine. I’m not sure I’d quite hit 50,000 words, but I’d have a draft finished finally, after four years of picking away at something.

I’ll wrap this up for now by saying that my application for West European Studies has been submitted, and that now it’s just a matter of my letters of recommendation rolling in. Hopefully I’ll know something soon. In the meantime, another option has come up in terms of a departmental home, and the person who suggested it did so unprompted. I don’t want to say much more about it for the time being. For right now I’ll just say that I’m flipping two coins, West European Studies and this other possibility, and we’ll see what comes up. Maybe both will come up heads, in which case I’m decidedly not opposed to leaving IU with more rather than less. Maybe both will come up tails, and I really will have to leave here with 30+ worthless graduate credits. We’ll see. Meanwhile, a near-annual conversation with a particular faculty member about said options has led to this person dubbing me a “professional applicant.” I suppose he/she isn’t wrong.

Tomorrow morning I’ll be prepared for the frost.

tmatt on what converts want

I’d like to call your attention to an essay by Terry Mattingly which also appears in the current issue of AGAIN, entitled “What Do The Converts Want?” The Conciliar Press website, you will notice, still contains no reference to the new issue, but happily the piece has been posted online before — look for it here. It is very much worth reading, and I don’t wish to repost it here. That said, there are a few points I wish to engage — not disagree with, exactly, but which I think are worth further discussion, particularly in light of Fr. John Peck’s article and the spirited discussion surrounding it.

For example:

If you attend the Sunday night service at a typical Baptist church and look around at the 40 people there in comparison to the 200 or 300 in attendance on Sunday morning, you will find that about 80 percent of the church’s giving is accounted for in that group.

[…] The Sunday night experience in a Baptist church is very similar to that in Saturday evening Vespers services in an Orthodox church. As Bishop Antoun told me once, if you look at who attends Great Vespers and comes to confession, you are looking at about 80 percent of the service, the giving, and the energy in most parishes.

Who comes to Vespers? Who comes to confession? Who comes to the feasts, and why do they come?

I understand what Prof. Mattingly is getting at, but All Saints is the counterexample. The people who come to Vespers (both on Saturday night and during the week) represent a chunk of the service and the energy, to be sure, but on the whole, a very small portion of the giving. For the most part, the Vespers crowd, as well as the non-Sunday festal crowd, is made up of people who are some combination of college students, young married couples (some with kids, some without), and inquirers — all of that is to say, people who are on the whole very much willing to serve and are excited to do so, but who aren’t in a position to be substantial donors. There is, in fact, a very small number of parishioners who are long-term-to-permanent residents who come when it isn’t Sunday. Some of that is simple geography; we are the only Orthodox church for at least an hour in any direction (more like four depending on the direction), and we have a number of people who have at least a half hour drive to get to church. These are not folks who are going to make it more than once a week, at least not terribly often. In addition, a plurality of our parishioners are working-class people who work irregular hours; nurses, maintenance workers, restaurant managers, and so on. These are not people who are always going to be able to make it on Sunday, let alone Saturday or Wednesday or any other day. Finally, we’re in unincorporated Monroe county, not in the municipality of Bloomington, meaning we’re at a very inconvenient distance from the city center, and bus service does not come within two miles of us. This makes us hard to get to for a lot of the college students; if you want to come to Vespers but don’t have a ride, you’re out of luck. Again, the realities of what this particular college town are like make the situation at All Saints a significant variance from the model described here. We’ve talked any number of times about how best to solve this problem, but short of petitioning the city to redraw the boundaries so that we get bus service, operating a private bus ourselves, moving the church into city limits, planting new missions, or telling everybody to move closer, all of which carry some kind of a dealbreaker (invariably having to do with money), there’s just not a great solution.

That said —

I believe that most of these converts are coming out of that core 20 percent of their former churches. They are active, highly motivated people. They read, they think, they sing, and they serve.

Yes, indeed. Let me just offer a caveat, however:

That’s the approach of the converts. They are not looking for “Orthodoxy Lite.” They want more.

This is the approach of some converts, yes. Don’t, however, discount the converts who may have converted for basic theological, ecclesiological, or historical reasons who, a few years later, have to admit that they still find the Byzantine rite foreign and strange, or still are having trouble with some of the Marian doctrines or not ordaining women or this or that. These are converts who probably can be fairly described as wanting “Orthodoxy Lite,” because the “more” is ultimately more than they can take. These are generally not people who actively want to be “Eastern Rite Protestants,” but they might have thought that it would be okay, at least at first, if that’s what they were, and they’ve just never quite grown beyond it.

The American converts are not looking for some kind of post-Vatican II, carved-down liturgical experience. They have that all around them. They are not trying to cut the service down another 15 to 20 minutes so that more young people will hang around — as if that would work. […] You see, the people who want to worship, want to worship.

Again, I have to hold up All Saints as the counterexample. Because of the various factors mentioned earlier, our parishioners tend to be very sensitive to the clock. My standing instructions as the cantor for Matins: no matter where you are or how much you have left, at 10am, call it good and start the Great Doxology. Matins just happens to be the service where length is going to be most variable, depending on the length of the Gospel reading or how many stichera we have at Lauds or which canon we’re singing and so on — but I’m told, “If Matins runs to 10:02, we get asked, ‘Does Liturgy start at 10:00 or 10:05?'” Another piece of the puzzle here is that because Sunday is the only day when attendance can be counted on, the time following Liturgy is highly prized by the various ministries — including my own, the choir — and a Liturgy ending at 11:30 rather than 11:20 means that’s either 10 minutes less a particular group will have or 10 minutes later they’ll have to stay. For people who may have to work at 2pm (which used to be the case for me when I first got here), that makes a big difference. Keeping services on the shorter end is the practical reality for this community for right now, for better or for worse.

Many Orthodox churches are having trouble retaining their young people, so they are seeking ways to stop the bleeding. But there’s the rub. If you are not creating new faith, you will not retain the children of those who had the faith in the first place.

Here’s where All Saints is a happier counterexample. We’ve got a lot of kids up through high school and a lot of college students.

I remember something that happened when my family was part of an ethnic parish that had installed pews in the sanctuary. During Great Lent, the number of people who came to church on Wednesday nights — for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts — was small, so we could stand in the front of the church. Freed from the pews, all sorts of Orthodox things started happening again. Prostrations returned. People were bowing, people were worshiping with their whole bodies. It was a very moving experience.

I am fully in agreement with Prof. Mattingly on this point; the first several Orthodox churches I visited had no pews, and the experience was something very different from what I was used to as a Protestant. I’m always overjoyed and heartened to walk into a church and not see chairs or pews littering the floor. How can you even do a metania without bonking your head on the pew in front of you? How do you do prostrations during Lent? How do you even successfully have everybody gather around the priest during the Great Entrance, touching his vestments as he goes by with the Gifts?

The trouble with this particular example, however, is that he connects, intentionally or not, the issue of pews with “ethnic parishes.” It is true that a number of ethnic parishes, particularly Greek and Arab parishes, have pews, and they ain’t goin’ nowhere. Here in the Midwest, however, I’ve seen nice, neat rows of seating being the rule more often than not, even in the parishes where there are mostly converts, and it’s just not up for discussion whether or not they belong there, whether or not they’re actually a part of our tradition, etc. “This is America and Americans expect comfortable seating,” is what even the convert clergy say, some acknowledging in private that yes, it’s a concession, but it would otherwise be a losing battle and that those who prefer an open floor need to forget it. I’m familiar with one case where the priest one day said to his parish, “We’re going to take out the pews. Now. You will get used to it.” They did, and they got used to it — but as another priest pointed out, “He’s a monkpriest. He can do that.”

Americans who visit an Orthodox church will judge the vitality of that congregation based on how many people sing and take part in their worship. That is really unfair to many Orthodox who were raised to stand in quiet holiness, but it’s the truth.

Americans will want to take part in the service. If they have mustered up the courage to walk through the door of an Orthodox church in the first place, they’re not going to want to just sit or stand once they’re in there. They will feel left out, if there is no way for them to sing, if there is no way for them to take part in the service. The church will have just sent them back out the door. Let me repeat: Americans will judge the spiritual vitality of an Orthodox parish on whether or not the congregation is reverently and enthusiastically singing, praying, and participating in worship.

This is a point which is frequently asserted by all kinds of people. “Participation” seems to be defined as “everybody sings everything.” I really struggle with this.

Reality: there are so many moving parts in a Divine Liturgy, let alone most other services, that there is no way to keep everything you might sing in a compact little hymnal which lives in the pew in front of you. Even us cantors and choir directors don’t have everything readily available at any given moment. The refrain of the Second Antiphon, the various troparia and kontakia, the entrance hymn, the possible replacements of the Trisagion, the communion hymns which change throughout the year — it is just not reasonable for everybody to be able to sing everything. Even if you could have everything in a wieldy hymnal, at my parish, for example, just about everybody who could read the notes is in the choir anyway.

I’m familiar with one parish that solved this problem by saying, “Okay, then we don’t change any of the moving parts. We just sing the Liturgy congregationally with the parts we know, week in, week out, regardless of what’s actually appointed for the day.” That’s an extremely comprehensive solution (to say nothing of extremely, well, extreme), but it’s a very real problem, because our various liturgical texts are our theology.

Can we do a better job of coming up with congregational service books which actually correspond, at least by and large, to what a parish actually does? Yes, absolutely, and in this age of Microsoft Word, Sibelius, and cheap laser printers, there’s no reason we shouldn’t — it just takes time and a little know-how. I came up with congregational service books for the Divine Liturgy of St. James which contained every note sung and every word said (at least that wasn’t marked as one of the priest’s private prayers). However, only the readings, and the portions of the service connected to the readings (the prokeimenon and Alleluia), change in a St. James Liturgy, so it’s a lot more feasible. I can also tell you that while the visitors may have been following along with the books, I’m not sure the parishioners were (given instances such as a part clearly being marked as the deacon’s in the service book, and the entire congregation coming in for it because it’s something they’re used to saying on a Sunday Liturgy).

Participation is not necessarily singing along — it might very well be, but there is also the possibility that it might not be. Liturgical singing is a craft, one that has historically been very much valued as such, even as early as the fourth century, when the Council of Laodicea outright forbade singing in church except by those formally appointed to do so. I’m not advocating that by any means, don’t get me wrong, but I guess what I am saying is that we need to be clear on what we mean by “congregational singing” and “participation.” Do we mean “everybody sings everything”? Do we mean people sing the responses at various appropriate points? These are things we have to figure out. We also have to avoid the false dichotomy of “worship” and “performance.” “I’d rather hear the Liturgy sung badly and prayerfully than by the Metropolitan Opera Chorus,” somebody once told me. I’d never want to hear a Divine Liturgy sung by that particular ensemble, I guarantee you, but that doesn’t mean we should hold up some kind of aesthetic minimalism as a good thing. We don’t put up ugly icons, we don’t use bad-smelling incense, and by the same token it shouldn’t be acceptable that liturgical singing be an area where mediocrity is not only okay, it’s preferred, just because it means people are “participating.” To (almost) end this with an extreme example, if my participation is causing the person standing next to me to cover their ears, then I’m not worshipping — I’m calling attention to myself. By the same token, if my participation is causing people to gush and applaud, that’s equally problematic, because it is once again calling attention to itself rather than to the actual intended focus of the worship.

I recognize this is a topic where emotions tend to run hot and everybody’s opinion is strong. As a musician, somebody who has had years of training to do what I do, this is how I see it (which, some might argue, is exactly why we shouldn’t listen to musicians, because they think they know better than everybody else want to keep everything for themselves). My final thought here is that I’m not convinced that we Americans do “reverently and enthusiastically” well, at the very least not at the same time.

As threatening as it sounds, our goal — if there is to be a united Orthodoxy — is to be united in worship and sacramental practice. This unity will blend gifts from across our great ethnic traditions. However, it will be a vital, growing Orthodoxy that at the congregational level can welcome Americans with open arms. It will make them feel strange, but it will be a place they can become a part of and even help change over time. This Orthodoxy will assimilate on the level of culture and language, but it will not assimilate to America at the level of practice, sacrament, and doctrine. It will not compromise on the essentials. It will not compromise on what unites Orthodoxy around the world and through the millennia. It will create a worthy expression of Orthodoxy that will, over time, be unique to this culture.

Once again, I understand what Prof. Mattingly means (I think), but I very much struggle with how he puts it. When he says, “It will not compromise on the essentials,” what are the non-essentials on which he believes we will compromise? What does he mean that American unity “will blend gifts from across our great ethnic traditions”? Does he mean that churches might give out palms and pussy willows on Palm Sunday? Well, okay. Does he mean this liturgically, that we’ll pick and choose from various typika to create some kind of “blended” American typikon? If so, is that really a good idea? I keep coming back to the Greek parish in Krefeld, Germany that I visited last summer — the Liturgy was “of a piece.” It was a unified, centuries old knowledge of Tradition which guided how they celebrated the Liturgy, rather than a hodge-podge of this bit from the Russians and that bit from the Arabs and this other bit from the Greeks, and if you’ve got any special requests please see our liturgical committee. And yes, the Greeks were pretty much standing there in holy silence, and it was no less glorious than if they had all been singing along. Yes, Prof. Mattingly, meaning absolutely no disrespect, but what you say is quite unfair to those who have been raised to be that way. Their way is absolutely no less legitimate than our American tendency to want to have a hand in everything lest we feel excluded, take our ball and go home.

The reality is, all of these bits from various national traditions which developed with particular variations did so for a reason. The way the Russians do, say, the Beatitudes, isn’t meant to follow a Byzantine setting of the Entrance Hymn.

It seems to me that if we’re serious about wanting to be unified in worship and sacramental practice, the first step is to come up with a definitive English language version of the Liturgy and the Offices. I find it to be a terribly distracting problem that I can’t even visit another Antiochian parish, to say nothing of an OCA or GOArch parish, and count on being able to say the Creed with them without needing a cheat sheet. Once we have that, then perhaps we can put our minds to re-setting the hymns using these texts. Then we let a few generations just receive the Tradition and — as I have suggested before — let it change us for awhile before we start trying to change it.

The worship in these churches will be in English, and the people — all the people — will be singing.

Here is this point again. Again, I don’t know that I can completely go there without defining terms more particularly.

Some of these churches will have tight budgets, but they will be tight because they are struggling to cope with growth, not decline.

Amin, amin, lego imin. Here All Saints is the example, not the counterexample. “Strugging to cope with growth” is it exactly.

Yet, at the high point of that service, as a small choir entered the sanctuary singing, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death,” the members of the congregation stood in silence — watching.

My friend saw this and, trust me, this was not what he was looking for. He wanted Orthodoxy, for himself and for his family. He wanted more, not less. He still does.

I have suggested before that, granted that it is the parish’s joyful responsibility to welcome the stranger, people who are new arrivals to a parish, particularly inquirers, might be well-served by a little humility and try to accept the parish for who they are, rather than judging them against what the inquirer might like them to be. When I first came to All Saints as a young inquirer, having spent a wonderful group of Sundays with a particular Seattle-area parish, I had a checklist of what I thought it should be like based on that other parish. Guess what? All Saints failed on virtually every count, and I wanted absolutely nothing more than to never darken their door again. Guess what? That checklist had a lot more to do with me and my not-inconsiderable baggage than anything All Saints was doing wrong. Each parish has its own ethos, its own set of strengths, and we’re going to be wasting our time — particularly as inquirers — if we take the attitude that somehow we’re getting “less” Orthodoxy because our laundry list isn’t getting ticked off the way we’d like it to be.

While I very much agree with the overall point and tone of Prof. Mattingly’s piece, I feel like I have to bring up the fact that we need not count our American pride as a Christian essential, much less an Orthodox Christian essential. We will ultimately be frustrated if we do so, and we will get, in fact, less Orthodoxy, not more. We’ve also got to be careful that we don’t overgeneralize the experience of the local parish (and Prof. Mattingly’s is an extraordinary and unusual one), or our own individual experience, and call that “what American Orthodoxy will be.” I would count myself among those whom he describes as wanting “more Orthodoxy, not less,” but I’ve seen a wide enough variety of converts and inquirers to know that this isn’t precisely the case with everybody, and certainly not to the same extent. Surely there are those who might see me as being at the “lukewarm” end of the spectrum, for various reasons. (I, of course, see myself as being perfectly in the middle, but I at least am aware that I am deluding myself in thinking that.)

Prof. Mattingly gets a lot of things right in this essay, and there are other things which I believe are worth discussing further. I’m glad he got the conversation going; let’s keep talking about it, by all means. It’s going to be centuries before the last word is had, more than likely.

Coming soon: Cappella Romana’s Greatest Hits, Vol. I (330-1453)

Well, sort of. Mark Powell tells me that to some extent, Music of Byzantium was the first “greatest hits” collection, but to me that’s the live album with some bonus tracks. This is a compilation of selections from their studio recordings of the late antique/medieval Byzantine repertoire, released as a companion to the Byzantium: 330-1453 exhibit now running at London’s Royal Academy of Arts. I don’t know that this is the kind of thing that will really scream for a full-on review since it’s all previously-released material, but we’ll see. It certainly looks like a disc that will be a terrific introduction to medieval Byzantine chant as well as to Cappella Romana, and worth recommending on that basis at least. This will only be available in the UK for a bit yet, but it will eventually be out here, I’m told. You can order it online here, but shipping from the UK will double the cost. I’d just wait for the US release (or, if you’re going to the exhibit anyway, buy it from the gift shop in person).

Here’s the press release. I have taken the liberty of linking the recording titles to the pages where they may be purchased. I have them all and can recommend them all; I will say that The Fall of Constantinople and Byzantium in Rome tend to have higher production values than the other two in my opinion, and Music of Byzantium contains live versions of much of the same repertoire as The Fall of Constantinople, sometimes with interesting differences (and sometimes with a door slamming right in the middle of a number — ah, live music). Don’t let the price for Epiphany scare you; it’s out of print at the moment, but Mark says that it will be re-released at some point.

CAPPELLA ROMANA
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Mark Powell, mobile 503-927-9027; msg line 503.236.8202; E-mail mark@cappellaromana.org

London’s Royal Academy of Arts
Releases New CD Recording by Cappella Romana
for its Mega-Exhibition “Byzantium 330-1453”

25 October 2008 — PORTLAND, Ore, USA; London, United Kingdom — Cappella Romana announces the release of its 11th recording, the official companion CD commissioned for the exhibition, BYZANTIUM: 330-1452, at London’s Royal Academy of Arts (25 October ’08 to 22 March ’08. http://www.royalacademy.org.uk)

The Royal Academy calls this new CD “A glorious collection of choral music which traces the rise and fall of the Byzantine Empire, all sung by the world’s leading performers of Byzantine chant, Cappella Romana.” The ensemble’s first museum exhibition CD, Music of Byzantium, commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2004, sold 12,000 copies.

The new CD, Cappella Romana’s third release in 2008, is a compilation of earlier recordings. It features tracks from Epiphany, Cappella Romana’s first full-length recording of Medieval Byzantine chant, as well as from the CD titles The Fall of Constantinople, Byzantium in Rome, and Music of Byzantium.

The disc will initially be available in the UK and Europe exclusively through the Royal Academy. Beginning in November 2008, the title will be distributed and sold in North America through Cappella Romana (www.cappellaromana.org) by special arrangement with the Royal Academy.

The Royal Academy of Arts in London is the fourth major world museum to have engaged Cappella Romana for its expertise in Medieval Byzantine Chant, joining these three institutions:

* The Metropolitan Museum in New York (Byzantium: Faith and Power, 2004; with CD selling 12,000 copies)
* The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles (Byzantium and the West, 2004 and Icons from Sinai, 2006)
* The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. (In the Beginning: Bibles before the Year 1000, 2006)

The first evening lecture of “Byzantium: 300-1453” will be given by Dr. Alexander Lingas, Cappella Romana’s founder and artistic director, on 7 November. Titled “The Heavenly Liturgy: Byzantine Psalmody to 1453, ” it will be enhanced by sung demonstrations by Dr. Lingas, Cappella singer John Michael Boyer, and three cantors from Hagia Sophia Cathedral, London.

The Royal Academy’s exhibition has received major press coverage in the UK and throughout the world, including a review and photo essay in Time magazine (Fri., 24 Oct. 2008).


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