Posts Tagged 'academic conferences'

Shout-out to Chicago for this weekend

I will be in Chicago this Thursday through Sunday for the North American Patristics Society 2012 Conference at the Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza. I am presenting my paper “Civic Marian Devotions in Late Antique Rome and Constantinople” at 10:15am Friday in the Steamboat Hotel room. If you’re going to be at the conference and want to grab a beer or coffee or dinner etc. please by all means find me. Tall stocky guy with very short hair, beard, glasses.

…and as of next Saturday, 2 June, I will be in Washington, D.C. until 30 June or when my wife goes into labor, whichever comes first. If that’s your neck of the woods and want to hang out, let me know.

An itinerary and a couple of labors of love

I’ve got three things to pass along, and I suppose I should relate them in order of interest from least to greatest. Otherwise, you’ll just read the first item and skip the rest.

First — I’m going to be mildly peripatetic in the coming months. 9-12 February I will be in New Jersey to participate in the Georges Florovsky Patristic Symposium, and then 12-15 February I will be in Boston to spend a few days at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. 2-4 March I will be in Emmaus, PA to give a presentation on church music as part of a Lenten retreat at St. Paul Orthodox Church. Then, looking ahead a bit farther, 24-26 May I will be participating in the North American Patristics Society (NAPS) annual meeting in Chicago. I realize that maybe I’m up to three regular readers (counting my parakeet), but if you happen to be anywhere near any of those places when I’m there, by all means let me know. I had the odd experience at the Antiochian Sacred Music Institute last summer of meeting a couple of people who said upon meeting me, “Oh! I read your blog,” and then I also met this gentleman at the Byzantine Studies conference this last October (although neither of us realized whom the other was until after we were both back home). Anyway, I won’t look at you funny or hiss at you if you introduce yourself, promise.

Second — my first peer-reviewed article, “Sensory Experience and the Women Martyrs of Najran”, has been accepted by The Journal of Early Christian Studies. It’s been an interesting road with this project; five years ago, during my initial year of being a non-matriculated continuing student, I took my first graduate seminar, a course on the Middle East in late antiquity, taught by the professor who would later become my advisor. It was my first exposure to scholars like Peter Brown and Susan Ashbrook Harvey and so on, and was a significant broadening of my horizons. The student makeup of the class was very telling; it was a History course that had no History students in it but rather three Religious Studies kids and me.

Anyway, among other things, we read Sebastian Brock and Susan Ashbrook Harvey’s translation of the section of the Second Letter of Simeon of Beth-Arsham that deals with the martyrdoms of the women during the Himyarites’ sack of Najran, and the in-class discussion sparked something for me. Other students were focused on the gory nature of the martyrdom details for their own sake — I specifically remember one person commenting, “I never understood the connection people draw between martyrdom and sadomasochism before now” — but it was clear to me that there was something else governing how those details were conveyed, namely shared liturgical experience. I raised this point, and I still remember the look that I got as clear as day. Needless to say, it didn’t get a lot of traction in class, but when paper topics had to be proposed, I mentioned it to the professor as a possibility. “I can almost guarantee you I won’t buy your argument,” he said. “You’ll have to go a long way for me to see it as at all legitimate.” Well, that’s a challenge, now isn’t it? I wrote the paper, making what I saw as explicit as I could and relating it to known liturgical practices as clearly as I was able. I presented an overview in class, and the professor was quiet for a moment. “You know,” he said, “not only am I convinced, but now I can’t see it any other way. Good for you.”

Later, as I was applying for IU’s Religious Studies graduate program, the paper was used as my writing sample. At the same time, I was alerted to one of the big religious studies journals doing a themed issue on religious violence; I figured, hey, what the heck, if it gets in it can only help the application, and I sent them the paper. I also submitted it to Dorushe, a graduate conference on Syriac studies that was being held at Notre Dame. Well, the outcome of the Religious Studies application was detailed, if somewhat obscurely, here; as far as the paper went, it got into Dorushe, but the response from the journal was a little more ambivalent. The answer was ultimately no, but they included the reviewers’ comments, and said that if I were to revise it they would be willing to look at it again (while making it clear that this was not a “revise and resubmit”). Since at that point I didn’t think I was going to have the chance to go to grad school, publication didn’t really matter anymore, and I shoved the paper and the comments sheet in a drawer. The Dorushe experience was a little weird in some ways (maybe due more to some heightened self-consciousness on my part than anything), but I met some interesting people, and Sidney Griffith, at least, liked the paper, saying, “The way you lay it out, it’s obvious.”

After actually getting in to grad school, I thought to myself a number of times, I should go back and look at those reviewers’ comments, and finally last June I spent a few days thoroughly reworking the paper. I transferred it from Word to Scrivener, I restructured it following the reviewers’ suggestions, and did what was nearly a page one-rewrite so that it reflected better what my scholarly voice (to the extent that I might pretentiously assert the existence of such a thing) actually sounds like these days. Part of this involved reducing block quotes of secondary literature (a bad habit of which I was cured by the wonderful Prof. Sarah Bassett over in Art History, who in the three years that she’s been here has really proven herself to be one of the great, if somewhat unsung, reasons to study Late Antiquity at Indiana University) down to footnotes and paraphrases, and it also involved an overall refinement of the writing style. Don’t worry, I’m still wordy as hell, but I’ve tried to make the wordiness a little more elegant. Also, there’s some additional literature on the Najran incident that’s come out in the intervening five years, and I had to make sure that all got referenced properly. Anyway, once it was done, I opted to not go back to the original publication, instead sending it off to The Journal of Early Christian Studies. In September, I got a note back from the editor telling me that the reviewers’ recommendation was “revise and resubmit”, saying that this was good news and if I took the feedback seriously, there was no reason I couldn’t have a publishable article. By November the revision was re-submitted, and I got word back this last Tuesday that it was in. Now, I have some style adjustments to make before it’s totally done, but at this stage of the game it looks like it will be appearing in the Spring 2013 issue.

So, that first seminar five years ago got me my advisor, my overall area of interest (the interaction of liturgy and history), and my first published article. (Although, while the Najran paper is related conceptually and methodologically to where I think my dissertation is going, it looks like a paper I wrote for a class I took the previous semester, fall of 2006, served as a first stab at the actual dissertation topic. I’ll have more to say after NAPS, I think.) It’s been the gift that’s kept on giving, to say the least.

Okay, on to the final, and most interesting, bit of news.

Third — on or around 26 June 2012, assuming all goes well and without incident, there will be another Barrett on the earth. Yes, be afraid, my genes are propagating, insanity, puns, tendencies towards a prolix approach of oversharing, and all. Thankfully, this child will also be carrying the genes of Flesh of My Flesh, and those characteristics involve practicality, common sense, order, and normality. (To say nothing of great beauty and brilliance.)

We had intended for the last couple of years that we would start trying once Megan got back from Germany, and we were told to prepare for it taking awhile. Well, apparently not. By the beginning of November we at least knew informally, and then our first OB appointment was Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, which confirmed matters and indicated we were nine weeks along. We spent most of the drive to our Thanksgiving destination on the phone with my mother and then Megan’s mother and stepmother; my mom got the first call, since she’s the one parent who doesn’t have any grandchildren already, and she burst into tears immediately.

We’ve been telling friends and family ever since, but a couple of things made it desirable that we wait a bit before making it “Facebook public”, as it were. Anyway, here we are, and I suppose it will be a source of reflection in the coming months/years/etc. If you’re on Facebook and want to be kept more or less up-to-date, you can join the group “Fans of Baby Barrett“; there’s not a lot to tell at this point except that we’re choosing to not find out whether it’s a boy or a girl. We’ve got some name ideas, yes, but it’s hardly practical to openly discuss those when you don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl, so I’m not going to go there except to say that there are some “legacy names”, as it were, that might make sense, and you know that we’re going to be getting one of these. We’ll see.

By the way, if you happen to be having a baby in or around Bloomington, Indiana, I really can’t recommend Bloomington Area Birth Services (AKA “BABS”) enough. We’re doing their eight-week birthing class (cue Bill Cosby: “Natural childbirth… intellectuals go to class to study how to do this”), and while, I must admit, it’s a little more of the NPR-listening “educated class” culture than I really expected, it’s a lot of excellent information that’s provided very sensitively and accessibly. I kind of surprise myself with my own reactions to some things; it should really be no surprise that “birth culture” a) exists b) is hyper-feminized, but I find a certain kind of stereotypical “maleness” emerging in how I’m processing some of the information, and it is very much out of character for me. It’s probably mostly a reflexive reaction to the explicit hyper-feminization of what’s being presented, which probably has everything to do with me and nothing to do with them, because they really are terrific at what they do. I’m just really not used to what they do. Anyway, I’ll have more to say about this as time goes on, I think.

So, there’s the news. Two different kinds of babies, I guess. There’s a third kind of baby on the way that I hope to be able to talk about more in depth soon, but it’s an outgrowth of some of the musical efforts I’ve had going here the last couple of years. For now, follow this, and I’ll be able to tell all in the next month or so, I think.

Prayers for all of these babies, please, and prayers most of all for Flesh of My Flesh. She’s got to carry our child in her womb and write a dissertation.

My first grown-up conference

This last fall, my PhD advisor’s PhD advisor paid a visit to the IU campus and met with some of us. After chatting with me a bit, he said, “You should think about going to the Oxford Patristics Conference next summer.” Oh, I said, I don’t know that I would have anything worth presenting. “Go just to go,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to meet people and hear what other people are doing.”

When I next met with my advisor, I told him the suggestion I had been given. “Yeah, that’s a good idea,” he said. “Let’s plan on you doing that.” So, I sort of tentatively planned to go, along with a list of other things that would be really cool to do over the summer.

In January, I met a Fordham doctoral student in theology at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Champaign, Illinois. (Long story.) We chatted a bit, and the Oxford Patristics Conference came up. “Yeah,” she said, “I’ll probably go, but there’s no way I’ll make the first deadline, and if you don’t make that batch, there’s almost no point in submitting anything.” I nodded in agreement, saying that I was being encouraged to go, but that I certainly didn’t have anything that was going to be ready by 31 January, and really, I probably wasn’t going to have anything appropriate this year anyway.

This semester, I took a Religious Studies seminar on early Christian mysticism — a lot of pagan neo-Platonic stuff, ironically, enough, but also Origen, Evagrius Pontus, Augustine, and (Ps.-)Dionysius. Plus, I was going to have to write a review of von Balthasar’s book on Maximus the Confessor. I realized that it was about as close to a course on patristics as I was going to get to take during my time here, and so I asked the professor, “Hey, do you think it would be worth my time to submit an abstract for the paper I’m writing for your class to Oxford?” “Oh, yes, definitely,” he said.

Well, okay, then. I thought of a topic, and I started researching it. In the meantime, I found out that some of the other cool things I thought I might do over the summer weren’t going to work out. On 25 March, I submitted an abstract for a “short communication” titled “Let us put away all earthly care: Mysticism and the Cherubikon of the Byzantine Rite in Late Antiquity”. I Tweeted, “RichardRBarrett just submitted an abstract. Yay.” This prompted Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick to ask me on Facebook, “Could you get any more vague?” Not willing to be outdone on the snark, I then Tweeted, “RichardRBarrett just did something that involved doing some things with other things. (Let me know if that’s sufficient, Fr. Andrew.)”


I turned the final paper in for the class this last Tuesday, got a very positive assessment of it back this morning, and I was inspired to drop the conference folks a line to see just what form our notification would take — we were supposed to hear by 15 May, but did we need to be checking the website, would we get an e-mail, or…?

We received over 675 abstracts, the organizer said, so what’s your reference number?

I told her. Five minutes later, I got an answer back: Yes, you were accepted.

So, there it is. I’ve presented at six graduate student conferences over the last five years, but this is my first big-boy pants conference, and it’s in my favorite place in the universe.

If I may — I’m getting a good chunk of support for this trip from a couple of sources, but it’s not quite the same thing as being a professor with a research account. If either of my regular readers have ever thought about clicking on that link up there that says “Tip Jar” and then thought, oh, well, he probably doesn’t need it, please let me assure you that this is an occasion where it would be most appreciated.

All this, and Thor rocked. It was a good day. Now I’ve got about 65 final exams on ancient Greek history to grade.

CFP: American Society of Byzantine Music and Hymnology, Second International Conference, Athens, June 10-14, 2009

This is a little late, I realize, but the submission deadline still isn’t for another ten days. Conference details and CFP here. That’s actually going on the first few days I’ll be in Greece, so perhaps when I’m not fighting jetlag I’ll get the chance to drop in a couple of times. I look forward to seeing what the final program looks like.

Fellowship of Ss. Alban & Sergius, Day 4

Saturday began with a Eucharist at the Church of St. James the Less in Scarsdale. Paul picked me up at St. Vlad’s, and we followed the MapQuest directions provided to drive there.

Except that they were wrong, as we found out. We made the last right turn the directions called for, and within a minute or two of driving through a neighborhood that certainly looked like a place where Northeastern Episcopalians might live, there was no church. We backtracked and tried again; no luck. We also started to see faces we recognized in other cars clearly having the same dilemma. “We are meandering ecumenists, literally in search of a church,” Paul chuckled. Finally we figured out where the directions went wrong, and we arrived.

The Eucharist was Rite I, celebrated by Bp. Ackerman, with the choir singing a Byrd Mass in Latin for the ordinary. This was as high church as I’ve ever seen an ECUSA service be; if there ever was a time that this was representative, I can understand a little better where certain classical stereotypes of Episcopalians come. It certainly was never representative during my sojourn through ECUSA (and certainly no Episcopal church choir of which I was ever a part would have been capable of doing justice to the Byrd). All that was missing was a pointed psalm.

A couple of observations I might make about some practical contrasts between the Anglican Eucharist and the various Orthodox services which occurred during the conference: we Orthodox did a rather poor job of preparing the Anglican participants for our services — as in, we didn’t do any. By contrast, a well-arranged and easy-to-read service order was provided for us at St. James the Less.

And, frankly, as much as I think the St. Vladimir’s choir is good at what it does, the singing at St. James really put into stark relief what I think some of the problems are with a lot of Orthodox singing in this country. That’s somewhat out of the scope of this write-up, however, so I won’t deal with that now.

Following the service was a very, very ritzy reception — again, not exactly representative of my time as an Episcopalian. We were lucky to have coffee at St. Margaret’s. Paul and Jeremy Bergstrom, the aforementioned Episcopalian student at St. Vladimir’s, hit it off famously; they’re both Purdue alumni separated by a year, they’re both from roughly the same part of Indiana, and it turned out that Jeremy’s uncle was one of Paul’s elementary school teachers.

Canon Jonathan GoodallAfter the reception was an introduction by Fr. Stephen Platt, pastor of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Oxford and General Secretary of the Fellowship, and a greeting from the Archbishop of Canterbury read by Canon Goodall. (I am told that this will eventually be posted on the Anglican Communion website, but I do not yet see it.)

Finally, Bp. Hilarion introduced Met. Kallistos. I encourage you to listen to the entirety of his lecture, “Primacy and the Pope,” for there is no way I will be able to do it sufficient justice here, but here are a few points I wish to highlight:

  • He found the removal of the title “Patriarch of the West” from the papacy to be disturbing; he is concerned that this represents a further expansion of Rome’s understanding of herself.
  • He nonetheless found a couple of points of hope within the Ravenna statement, saying that while it clearly accepts the fact of universal primacy, it also accepts that there is a question of how it is to be exercised and how it manifests. In addition, the Ravenna statement applies the language of the 34th Apostolic Canon (“The bishops of all peoples should know the first among them and recognize him as the head, and do nothing that exceeds their authority without his consideration. Each should carry out only that which relates to his own diocese and to areas belonging to it. But the first among them should also do nothing without the consideration of all”) at the universal level: the bishops are to do nothing, outside of their own dioceses, without the head, the pope; but the head is likewise to do nothing without consultation of the bishops.
  • As such, he suggested that there might be a form of universal primacy, perhaps a certain power of initiative, which would be acceptable to the Orthodox.

The final lecture session was Igumen Jonah (Paffhausen), and I missed a very large portion of what he had to say, alas. What I did hear I had some issues with until it became clear that his talk on the nature of the episcopate was very much in the context of the recent leadership crises in the OCA, and his own impending elevation to the episcopate. I feel I must largely confine my comments, therefore, to the observation that there were many in the room who were visibly moved, some to tears, by the picture he presented of what the episcopate should look like (or the icon that he wrote of the episcopate, to use Fr. Peter Jacobsen’s words). As a seminary under the OCA and therefore with a front seat to the controversies, I can only imagine how healing his words might have been — I have said before that I count myself lucky to be under Bp. MARK; my hope is that the OCA Diocese of the South is at least as blessed with Fr. Jonah.

The afternoon concluded with a group discussion of where to go from here. The Fellowship would very much like to revive its presence in North America, and would like a conference on this side of the Atlantic to be a recurring event. Based on the discussion, it seems likely that it will alternate between St. Vladimir’s and Nashotah House; Nashotah House certainly seems like a focal point for the kind of Anglican(s) who would be interested in participating, and there is definitely a relationship between many Orthodox and Nashotah House, it being the alma mater of certain clergy (such with Fr. Chad Hatfield) or a sometime employer (as with Fr. Patrick).

This raises an issue, however, which presented itself most visibly at this particular session but would appear to have been bubbling under the surface throughout. One thing that Fr. Stephen Platt mentioned as a regret was that certain Anglicans whom they invited to be at this conference took one look at the list of speakers and said, “All you’ve done is invite the Orthodox and the most conservative Anglo-Catholics in this country. No thanks.” It would seem that conservative Anglicans do not agree amongst themselves what they wish to be; some, perhaps, wish only to be conservative Protestants — “mere Christians,” if you will. Others, on the other hand, want to be Anglo-Catholics — and still others “Catholic Anglicans,” who would be indistinguishable from a Roman Catholic save for the accident of history preventing communion. This division also manifested itself in some of the responses I heard after the morning’s Eucharist, particularly regarding the use of the Byrd Mass. “Too many people fought and died for the use of the vernacular and the right to participate in the liturgy for us to hold a concert in Latin and call it representative,” was the grumbling I heard from more than one person.

What is also clear for many of these people is that they feel like they have no place else to go, and I wonder if that isn’t part of what’s the heart of this kind of disagreement. At least one person said this explicitly to Paul and me; they rattled off various very frightening things within the ECUSA to us, but then shrugged and said, “Where else can I go?”

Regardless, I very much hope that a renewed North American presence becomes a reality; perhaps, at the very least, it can function as some kind of a safe haven for those Anglicans in this country who do not otherwise have one. Met. Kallistos (as I recall) admonished the attendees that the purpose of the conference needed to be something other than nostalgia; if the only aim was to go home at the end and say, “What a nice time with great speakers,” then the whole exercise was pointless. I do think that to some extent the future of the group will depend on its younger membership; the median hair color of the attendees, if you take my meaning, was on the grey side, but there were a couple of younger Orthodox there and certainly a decent-sized handful of younger Anglicans. This is hopeful, but only if we keep in touch with each other and try to keep the momentum going — if we don’t think it’s important enough to continue, it will die. I’ve attended conferences, such as the PSALM gathering a couple of years ago, where there are a lot of ideas and a lot of big things said, but ultimately just pulling everybody together for the event takes all the resources the organization has and there’s nothing left for any follow-through. (PSALM, as I understand it, is still recovering from what it took to stage the Chicago conference.) Hopefully that doesn’t happen here.

An important point which was raised was that wherever we do it in the future, common meals are a vital element of the fellowship enjoyed, and need to be retained. I agree with this; it’s such a simple thing, but it accomplishes very much, and there’s part of me that wonders if it so important and accomplishes so much because of the Meal which we cannot share as part of such a gathering.

That, really, was that; Great Vespers followed, and then there was a wine-and-cheese reception for the participants, but all of that was after-party stuff. I don’t have a ton to say about it, except that there was something that seemed apt about the Vespers service being for the Fathers of the First Council of Nicaea. The next morning I attended Divine Liturgy elsewhere (a separate, but good, story which I will relate in a separate post) and flew home.

If I may, if you’ve found these write-ups at all intriguing or useful, I would ask that you join the Fellowship of Ss. Alban and Sergius. The American presence, as demonstrated at this conference, certainly exists, but it is definitely on the small side (although not as small as I would have thought!). You do not have to be Anglican or Orthodox to join; there was, for example, an ELCA pastor there as an attendee. I would say that the Fellowship, being an “officially unofficial” group, exemplifies what I’ve said before — issues of dialogue and concelebration are out of the pay grade of most of us, but conversation and cooperation, preferably over wine and vodka, are very doable and perhaps more useful for us anyway. Membership really costs very little, and the journal, Sobornost, is definitely worth it. So, please, I encourage you to join if my account has at all piqued your interest.

(You are also still welcome to give to the tip jar, of course.)

There is much yet to process regarding the conference, so I may still have things to post as time goes on, but I’ve done my best, for now, to present what I experienced. The synthesis will occur over time. I will say that I left Crestwood infatuated with the place and with an aching desire to go back; more importantly, I left with a number of new friends with whom I very much hope to keep in contact, and to pray for. Given that the official mission of the Fellowship is that “it exists to pray and work for Christian unity, and provides opportunities for Orthodox Christians and Christians of Western traditions to meet and get to know one another, and so to deepen their understanding of each other’s spirituality, theology and worship”, I’d say that the mission was very much carried out at this conference.

Fellowship of Ss. Alban and Sergius, Days 2 & 3

Just to give a sense of the general character of this event — there are two gentlemen regularly attired in black and purple robes and purple skullcaps; neither are Roman Catholic. One is an ECUSA bishop; the other is an Orthodox Western Rite archimandrite. By the same token, somebody in a cassock is just as likely to be an Anglican participant as they are an Orthodox participant. It gets a little confusing sometimes, particularly when one sees somebody dressed in typical Roman garb receiving Holy Communion.

I’m really tired. Sleep is always at a premium at things like this, and the last couple of nights have lent themselves poorly to sleeping much in particular, with the added issue of 7:30am Liturgies Divine. As noted earlier, the good news is that the commute is short. The North Dorm of St. Vladimir’s is on the opposite end of campus from the chapel, to be sure, but what that actually means is that it’s a four minute walk rather than a one minute walk. Nevertheless, I will try to highlight some points. (You can listen to all the talks online, as one of my commenters noted.)

Thursday morning began with a hierarchical Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Ascension celebrated by Met. Kallistos. He delivered a wonderful homily tying together diverse topics such as the observations of the pilgrim Egeria on her visit to Jerusalem, stained glass windows at the chapel of Queens College in Oxford, and the hymn texts of Richard Hooker. In essence, he told us that the Ascension signifies the elevation of our humanity with Christ, and that from a liturgical point of view, it completes the cycle, begun with the Nativity, commemorating Christ’s time on earth. He is a wonderfully engaging homilist, and one thing that the recordings do not capture is how animated he is when he speaks.

(Another fun part: During the Trisagion, he proclaimed the bishop’s prayer — “O Lord, look down from heaven and behold and visit this vineyard which Thou hast planted with Thy right hand” — once in Greek, once in Slavonic, and once in Latin. Good times.)

Metropolitan PHILIP’s lecture (delivered, appropriately enough, in the Metropolitan PHILIP Room) was powerful. I understand that there are those who take issue with many of his pastoral decisions, and perhaps how he does things in general. I even think there might be good reasons to take issue with him. Regardless, I am inclined to view him with as much charity as possible, particularly when I hear him saying what he said here. This is a man who is obviously very frustrated by the inability of Orthodoxy to have any kind of a visible impact on American life. The heartbreak he felt at Madeleine Albright’s refusal to meet regarding the bombing of Serbia during Holy Week was palpable. The apparent unwillingness of many within “the diaspora” to be more than “the diaspora” clearly causes him very real pain. It is also clear that to an extent, he is limited to what he can do within his own archdiocese (and to quote Bp. Hilarion, “I will not elaborate on that point”). When he said, “My generation is slowly but surely fading away. It is up to you,” it was a genuine, heartfelt, and emotional moment — at least because Metropolitan PHILIP is noticeably frail. He mentioned his dry macular degeneration, but in general he appears to be slowing down.

He was good enough to inscribe my copy of Feed My Sheep, but it also took a moment or two for it to register what I was asking. It has been roughly two and a half years since the last time I heard him in person, and the decline in his health was very stark. It would not surprise me at all if this were to be the last opportunity I had to hear him speak before his repose.

(By the way, I believe this is the parish he mentioned which started with the Jordanians he met at Nathan’s.)

I have much else to say, but frankly, it is 12:45am and there’s a lot more tomorrow. A few things I can mention as a preview (and hopefully I can write more tomorrow night):

  • For those who go back to the .Mac days — the gentleman to whom I spoke in Oxford is here, and much to my surprise, he remembered exactly who I was. He’s also an old friend of my roommate’s. Good heavens, it’s a small world.
  • I had a very fruitful chat with Fr. John Behr this morning, and I am encouraged. (There is also something of a funny story attached to how this came about.)
  • Bp. Keith Ackerman, ECUSA bishop of Quincy (Illinois), is an Anglo-Catholic (and I have emphasized the word Catholic for reasons that are hopefully clear from the picture I posted). Fr. Warren Tanghe of the Society of the Holy Cross, on the other hand, is a Catholic Anglican. Confused? So am I, but I’m pretty sure they’re not. I disagree with where they are, but I think it would be fair to say that so do they, and that it is with a lot of difficulty that they remain. I’ll talk more about this tomorrow.
  • Bp. Hilarion is an excellent homilist, but of a very different character from his Doktorvater. He is also the speaker who probably will be remembered as the most, shall we say, problematic of this conference. Thing is, I think what he had to say will doubtless be misunderstood by many. Based on what I heard, he says what he says, not to be a jerk or an anti-Roman polemicist; far be it! In fact, I think he desperately wants to avoid anti-Roman polemics. Rather, I think he wants everybody to be honest about what our starting point actually is, not what we (or anybody else) would like it to be for the sake of convenience. I firmly believe that he is one of the bright lights of Orthodox Christianity in the Western world, for all kinds of reasons that I’ll go into later, but I think he’s going to stick in the craw of a lot of folks for awhile. Let me suggest that we need to hear his words prophetically, rather than jumping to the conclusion that he’s just being an arrogant stick in the mud for the sake of Muscovite power.
  • Fr. Warren Tanghe’s lecture on the Society of the Holy Cross was at once very moving and very depressing.
  • The panel discussion was, I thought, very illuminating in terms of what we should be trying to take home from this conference (besides a suitcase full of books from the St. Vlad’s bookstore).
  • I met the new full-time, tenure track liturgical music professor at St. Vlad’s, and I’m heartened.

Okay, I’m wrapping this up for now. Tomorrow is an Anglican Eucharist; I think it’s only fair that we Orthodox go to this — after all, the poor Episcopalians here have sat patiently through roughly seven hours of our services so far, including a Vigil (I doubt very much that the vast majority of Episcopalians here had any idea what we meant by a Vigil, and from the conversations I’ve had, I’d say most of them still don’t) and two hierarchical Liturgies. An hour and fifteen minutes at one of theirs isn’t going to kill us.

Fellowship of Ss. Alban and Sergius: Day One

Well, I’m here.

We were up at 3am and on the road by 3:45am so I could catch a 6am flight, which was delayed half an hour by torrential downpours. (The other bummer here was that Megan leaves for Germany tomorrow, so this was goodbye for six weeks.)

The delay in Indianapolis meant that I had to basically sprint from one end of the Atlanta airport to another to catch my connection to LaGuardia, and they had already seated standbys and closed up the plane when I (and two others from the same flight) arrived. Because of a delay at LaGuardia, they were able to let us on, but I’m not sure they didn’t bump off people who had been seated on standby in order to do it.

My friend (and editor, groomsman, personal reference, and now tour guide) Matthew Murray met me at the airport to navigate me through the combination of bus-and-subway rides I needed to take to get to Grand Central Station. No big deal, really, but it was an excuse to see Matt for the first time since my college graduation in 2005. The subway, by the way, is basically identical to the London Underground, except that I didn’t hear the friendly “Please mind the gap between train and the platform” warning.

Grand Central, by the way, truly is a marvel. You want it, you can find it — except wireless access, it seems. For some reason the T-Mobile pay service wasn’t available, but then the real tease was an item showing up in my networks list called “Free Public Wireless,” only to have it not work.

...for a day or a lifetimeFrom Grand Central, it was fairly straightforward to catch the commuter rail train I needed to Crestwood, making five means of transportation to get my from my house to the conference: car, plane, bus, subway, and commuter rail. (It was on the last of these, just for the sake of you transit geeks, that I heard the American version of “Please mind the gap…”) Then I had the short-ish walk to St. Vlad’s from the train station. (By the way, St. Vlad’s website folks: your online directions miss a very important stop sign.)

(Just as a point of reference: I left my house at 3:45am, and arrived at St. Vlad’s at roughly 1:30pm. This was with no particular idle time, too, meaning all told it took nine hours and forty-five minutes to get from my front door to the seminary. When I drove to St. Vlad’s two and a half years ago, it was about a fourteen hour trip.)

Check-in was painless; they finally processed the refund of my registration fee (half of which was reclaimed at the bookstore, but never mind that now), and I met the other volunteers. Interestingly enough, they’re all from Nashotah House, the ECUSA seminary for the Anglo-Catholic-minded (and where a particular individual teaches when he isn’t busy studying at the Pontifical Gregorian Institute). According to Chancellor Fr. Chad Hatfield (himself a Nashotah House alumnus), this is the largest gathering of Nashotah House folks ever at St. Vladimir’s, and it evidently represents an initial step with regard to establishing something of a formal relationship between the seminaries.

We\'re smiling because we didn\'t pay the $500 registration feeFr. Chad was very nice to the volunteers, giving us a tour of the campus and stopping for a photo op. He’s a bit of a crack-up; I’m not sure how many of his comments were intended to be repeated to the general public, so I won’t reproduce them here (nothing ill-fitting a priest, mind you, just some things about some possible future directions at the seminary), but I’ll just say he’s not afraid to speak his mind. According to one of the seminarians with whom I was talking, this is A Good Thing.

I’m meeting some very interesting people, and there are really several different kinds of folks here — it’s far more diverse than I thought it might have been. Fr. Peter Jacobsen, whom I met four years ago at the Antiochian Sacred Music Institute (and who spent a good chunk of time walking me through the Missale Anglicanum, AKA the Knott Missal), is here. My roommate is an Episcopal priest, and he’s been fascinating to get to know, even in the short time we’ve talked. The Nashotah crew are great. There’s an ELCA pastor, an Annapolis Naval Academy professor, and so on. One of the seminarians here to whom I’ve spoken is an Episcopalian himself who’s here specifically to study patristics with Fr. John Behr. And so on.

Vigil for the Ascension was a very peaceful end to the day, and as it happened, Met. Kallistos was at the altar (even though he wasn’t celebrating). His primarily liturgical contribution was to perform the anointings during the litia and artoklasia — but I believe he is celebrating the Divine Liturgy tomorrow morning.

Speaking of which, the bad news is that Liturgy is at 7:30am; the good news is that the commute is very short. Still, I’ve been up now for nearly 21 hours, and tomorrow is when the real fun begins, so I believe I will close this for the time being. Less exposition and more actual thoughts once, y’know, I can actually form some.

More later.

Evangelism the old-fashioned way

As long as we’re talking about Western saints, here’s this item from Aaron D. Wolf (what a great name) by way of Ben at the Wittenberg Trail (to whom I’d love to link, but I can’t, because the Wittenberg Trail is evidently a private forum) by way of Alden Swan:

Here’s what I can’t figure out: How in the world did Saint Patrick evangelize all of those Druid priests and clan chieftains without a mission statement? After all, history and tradition tell us that he walked around preaching and performed an occasional miracle. But how did he know what his mission was? Aaron D. Wolf, The Mission of Souls: When Experts Attack

[…] Mr. Wolf raises some interesting questions and challenges to modern Evangelical concepts of evangelization and mission, contrasting the wisdom of being “pupose driven” to the pre-marketing (pre-modern) habit of simply proclaiming the Gospel.

Wow. What a concept.

This gets me thinking about something which has occurred to me before — I have to believe that liturgy is one of our better and more underappreciated evangelism tools. I guarantee you that St. Patrick wasn’t just walking around preaching and “performing occasional miracles” — he would also have been celebrating the Mass, with the Eucharist as his “mission statement.”

small country churchThe model of evangelism that would be wonderful, if cost-prohibitive, would be to go places where there aren’t churches and start by building simple, but identifiable, churches (such as Trinity Church in Antarctica of all places, pictured at right) where they would be visible and accessible, start publicly holding services so that people can tell that’s what you’re doing, and equip them so that they can host a soup kitchen or something similar. The problem with so many missions is that they can ill-afford being in a place where they would actually be visible and it would be clear what they are doing, so they wind up evangelizing only the people who are already there. Right now, at least in the Antiochian Archdiocese, you have to have some number of pledging families (25?) before you can have a priest assigned to you; that’s good business and fiscally responsible, no question about it, but who’s doing the evangelism in that case but people who aren’t necessarily equipped to do it? I’m not saying that any Orthodox jurisdiction in this country has the money to spend, say, a half million to a million dollars planting missions so that they have buildings, priests, and services for the poor at the outset, but I sometimes wonder if that wouldn’t be a better witness all around.

I’m still waiting. Actually, I’m waiting on a couple of things — one fairly big thing, and one thing that is big-ish, but not on the same level as the other thing. (Confused yet?) In the meantime, however, I can reveal that I’m presenting a paper at Indiana University’s Medieval Graduate Symposium on 29 March. I can also give a heads-up that my church choir will be publicly presenting music from Holy Week as part of  IU’s Middle Eastern Arts Festival on 29 March. (Yes, the same 29 March. It’s gonna be a busy day.) Details for the whole ongoing program are here, but here’s the blurb for this particular event (I’m not going to use the word “concert,” for several reasons):

Concert: Choral Music of the Middle East
Behold, the Bridegroom cometh: chants from Holy Week in the Lebanese and Syrian tradition

March 29, 2008, 8 pm
St. Paul’s Catholic Center

The All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Christian Choir under the direction of Richard Barrett will present an evening concert of liturgical music from the Middle East. The program will highlight music from the Syrian and Lebanese traditions. Meditative and celebratory selections drawn from Holy Week and Easter services exemplify how this music became an integral and functionally practical part of Orthodox ritual. While the traditional liturgical languages for the Orthodox in the Middle East are Greek and Arabic, selections will also be performed English.

I didn’t write that, by the way. I will be writing a set of program notes, however, which I will post here. I can say that this is exactly the kind of thing I hoped we’d eventually be able to do, and I’m really encouraged by how the rehearsals have gone — it’s stretching them beyond what their comfort level has been, but in a very doable fashion, and it will be a good thing for us to participate in this kind of outreach. Hopefully I can post a snippet or two from the evening itself afterwards.

Richard’s Twitter

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