Posts Tagged 'all saints orthodox church'



My opening remarks for John Michael Boyer in Bloomington: “…it is my fondest hope that this is not just the completion of one thing, but perhaps the beginning of a number of other things”

I’m still writing the applicable blog post, but this seemed long enough to justify breaking out separately. More to come.

Good evening, everybody. I am very keenly aware that none of you came to hear me speak, so I will do my absolute best to keep my opening remarks as short as possible.

A few informal orders of business before I launch into my introduction – first of all, let me welcome you to All Saints Orthodox Church. Just to get it out of the way, let me emphasize that we are in a church, and we ask that you be respectful of the space. If you are unsure about what that means, by all means please ask me or Fr. Peter.

[…]

A word about the card and the envelope [in your packets]: this weekend represents, in virtually every respect, an experiment for All Saints. We have never done anything like this before, and there has been a lot of figuring things out as we go. We would really like to be able to do it or something like it again, maybe even on a somewhat regular basis if it works out. So, with respect to the card, we’d like to hear from you all what you thought. Whatever you have to say – this worked, that didn’t, maybe this could be covered next time, you need a jacket with elbow pads – we’re all ears so that we can do better next time.

Now, as for the envelope – as I said, this has been an experiment, and it’s the kind of thing of which we’d love to be able to do more. We’ve been very fortunate to be able to put this together with some very generous help from the Indiana University Center for West European Studies and a private donor. That said, there are always costs one wasn’t anticipating, but more importantly, it would be terrific to have some seed money for the next event like this. All of that is to say, the envelope is there not because this weekend isn’t paid for; it is there because the next one isn’t… yet. If you decide you want to do something in that regard, please make checks out to All Saints Orthodox Church, and put in the notes “chant workshop” or something like that. The point is, if you come away from this weekend having felt it was of value to you, both the card and the envelope represent a couple of formal ways you can express that. By all means talk to me if you have any questions; you can leave cards and envelopes on your chair or give them to me, or to Fr. Peter.

There is also a retail means by which you may support these kinds of events at All Saints. There is a table in the parish hall where you can buy recordings of the kind of music we’re here talking about tonight; a lot of these can be reasonably difficult to get in the States, and we encourage browsing – and buying! – at the breaks. All of these are recordings John told me to have around for this weekend, so perhaps he’ll be able to say more about them.

All right, enough of the administrative chatter.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all very much for coming tonight. The road to this weekend has been a long one; if I wanted to, I could trace it back to approximately 1996 or 1997 when I first met and became friendly with Mark Powell, the executive director of Cappella Romana and then a colleague of mine in its sister ensemble, the Tudor Choir. It is the network of relationships that seems to hover around Mark that in the end brought this weekend about, after all. That, however, would be far too long of a story for our purposes, so I will fast forward to the fall of 2006. Having traveled reasonably significant distances three summers in a row to various workshops and conferences for Orthodox Christian liturgical music, and subsequently lamenting the impossibility of being able to bring my entire choir to such an event, I began to consider how an effort might be launched to bring the event to my choir. Initial ideas were floated about trying to stage something in Indianapolis, but these conversations didn’t go anywhere, and to be truthful, it ultimately seemed worthwhile, particularly if I wanted to maximize the participation of the All Saints choristers, to try to put something together right here. If I played my cards right, it might even get some people in Indianapolis to come down to Bloomington – imagine that!

A number of objectives intersected in the planning for this weekend. First of all, it was very important for the All Saints choir to have the opportunity to work with an expert with a strong link to the received tradition, to experience an intensive kind of master class situation with the kind of person we hadn’t had the opportunity to work with before, somebody who could give us water from the well rather than artificially synthesized hydrogen and oxygen. As mentioned, it would also be nice to have an event that would make All Saints in Bloomington the destination for interested parties.

An additional goal was to find a way of reaching out to and engaging the local community through music. In the last few years we have looked for opportunities to do this; we have hosted a youth music festival on the grounds here two summers in a row, and a couple of years ago we contributed a concert of Holy Week music to a Middle Eastern arts festival put on by IU’s Program for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies. A person who would be of interest to the Orthodox Christians who worship here, of musical interest to the local community, and of academic interest to the university community, would represent a huge step forward in that effort.

The first goal has this entire weekend to be accomplished. With respect to the second goal, however, as I look around the room, as well as glance at my list of registrants, I see my choir, I see All Saints parishioners, I see people from Bloomington, I see faculty and students from IU’s Early Music Institute, the Department of Choral Conducting, the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, and the Center for West European Studies. I see people who have come from Indianapolis, Greenwood, Evansville, and Louisville.  I see faculty from, besides IU, Wabash College and Butler University. It is a very real blessing to have you all here, I can truly say that the interest in John’s visit has exceeded my wildest expectations, and it is my fondest hope that this is not just the completion of one thing, but perhaps the beginning of a number of other things.

I will tell you that the planning of John’s visit originally moved ahead with private money. In the course of events, however, Dr. Lois Wise, the Director of the Indiana University Center for West European Studies approached me out of the blue one day and said, “Richard, are there any music events coming up at All Saints that we can help support?” Through WEST’s support and partnership, much more has been possible than would have been otherwise, and I am truly grateful for their sponsorship. WEST is represented this evening by Dr. Franklin Hess, the instructor of Modern Greek at IU – also my own Greek teacher, and a good friend. Frank, please accept on behalf of WEST this token of our appreciation.

There are a number of other people to thank as well for helping to make tonight possible, either through promotion, logistics, or other support; the Archives of Traditional Music, the Medieval Studies Institute, the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Robin Freeman, Dr. Carmen-Hellena Tellez, Dr. Daniel Reed, WFIU, the program Harmonia and their staff, especially LuAnn Johnson, the Bloomington Herald-Times, the Indiana Daily Student, Stansifer Radio for installing this wonderful sound system on Wednesday, Liturgica.com, all of my choir for their support, and of course Fr. Peter and the people and parish council of All Saints for taking me seriously when I said, “This may sound crazy, but what if we could make something like this work?” Above all, a special thank you to my wife Megan for all of her last-minute help with errands, assembly of materials, and being just all around some of whom I am undeserving.

Finally, this brings me to our honored guest himself. John Michael Boyer, it has been said, sang before he spoke. At the age of 7 John was singing as the then-youngest member ever of the Portland Opera Association. Over the years he has gone from singing for a papal audience as a boy as part of the liturgical choir Cantores in Ecclesia, to being the Protopsaltis, or first cantor, of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco and one of the principal singers of the professional vocal ensemble Cappella Romana. He is also the Protopsaltis and director of liturgy at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation in Sacramento. He has studied for a number of years with Greek master cantors Lycourgos Angelopoulos and Ioannis Arvanitis. In addition, he coached the vocal ensemble Chanticleer in their Grammy-winning recording of John Tavener’s Byzantine-influenced Lamentations and Praises. He is very active as a composer and adapter of traditional Byzantine liturgical music in the English language, and many of his efforts in this area culminated in Cappella Romana’s recent release, The Divine Liturgy in English – which, I am told, has just gone into a second pressing. He is one of the main movers and shakers in the United States in the movement to reincorporate traditional music in American Orthodox churches, and to this end he lectures and conducts workshops in Eastern Orthodox liturgical music at churches across the country. John has spoken at the conferences of the American Society for Byzantine Music and Hymnology as well as the Axion Estin Foundation, and he is also the director of the Koukouzelis Institute for Liturgical Arts, an outgrowth of the educational aims of his role as Protopsaltis of San Francisco.

It truly is a pleasure and a blessing to have him here – please join me in welcoming John Michael Boyer.

John Michael Boyer at All Saints Orthodox Church, 22-24 January 2010

This has been in the works for a little over a year, but the time approaches quickly and with the new semester upon us, I am kicking the publicity into high gear (at least as high as I can working on my own).

John Michael Boyer, protopsaltis of the Metropolis of San Francisco (GOArch), protopsaltis and Director of Liturgy at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Sacramento, and one of the principal singers of Cappella Romana, will be coming to Bloomington to conduct a series of lectures and workshops at All Saints Orthodox Church from 22-24 January 2010.

The schedule is as follows:

Friday, 22 January 2010
6-9pm: Lecture, Practicum, and Q&A – A Historical and Theoretical Overview of Issues in Byzantine Chant

Saturday, 23 January 2010
9am-12:30pm: Byzantine Chant Practicum, Pt. I
12:30-1:30: Lunch (on-site)
1:30-5:30pm: Byzantine Chant Practicum, Pt. II
6pm: Great Vespers
7-9pm: Conclusion of Chant Practicum

Sunday, 24 January 2010
8:30am: Resurrectional Orthros (Matins)
10am: The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom

Lecture, practica and services are free and open to the public; donations will be accepted, but just to clarify what’s happening here — between a private donor and very generous support from Indiana University’s Center for West European Studies, this is pretty much covered, but there are always last-minute expenditures one wasn’t expecting, and it is one of my goals to establish some seed money to be able to do something like this again. It’s good for All Saints to be able to do things like this that can draw the interest of the local and university communities, and musical events have a unique ability to attract a lot of different kinds of people. So, anyway, the point is, we’re not taking donations because this isn’t paid for; we’re taking donations because the next one (whatever it may turn out to be) isn’t.

If you want to come, there are two ways to register: You can either e-mail me at rrbarret (AT) indiana.edu and let me know that you’re coming, or you can RSVP on the Facebook event I’ve created. Either way, please let me know if you plan on bringing somebody besides yourself; it’s totally fine if you are, but I just need to know how many sets of materials to prepare.

If you want a press kit for this event to help get the word out, you can download a headshot here, get a press release here, and find a color flyer here.

(Side story about the press kits: on Monday, as I was starting to assemble a mailing of press kits to several different department chairs, newspapers, and neighboring parishes, I realized in horror that all of the materials listed the dates as 22-24 January 2009. This was, of course, after I had already spent money on color prints of the flyers, and naturally five different proofreaders had failed to notice it entirely. Twenty-four hours later, I had corrected versions of everything ready to go, and it was one of those weird quirks of fate that in putting together the 2010 version, I came up with an idea that made everything look far better than would have otherwise been the case. Of course, when I arrived at the post office with 27 individual manila envelopes to be individually weighed and stamped, the line to the counter was out the door and the line for the automated kiosk was about seven people long. Two or three of the people in line for the kiosk took a good ten minutes apiece; I felt rather self-conscious and guilty with my stack of things that was going to take a long time, and let several people go ahead of me who only had one thing to send off or who only wanted to buy stamps. When it was finally my turn, however, within about three minutes I had people hovering over my shoulders, until I finally turned to them and said, “With all respect, I let about eight people go ahead of me before you showed up.” They backed off, but I still got to be “that guy” for about 20 minutes or so. I at least waited to actually put the postage on the envelopes until I was out of line, but nonetheless, as Larry Miller said, “I was makin’ friends all over the place.”)

Anyway — more to come.

Update, 11 January 2010: A bit ran in the Bloomington Herald-Times about this on Sunday (won’t bother linking to it since it won’t do non-subscribers any good) and gave the church’s website as the only source of follow-up information. Thus, I have posted everything here.

In which the author has to pick his jaw up from the floor

Every year at the All Saints festival, there’s a group of “Meet the Author” tables; my godfather has written a book, and a few other people have published some things as well. This year, presumably because of a shortage of participants, having heard that I’d written some magazine articles, the organizer of the tables asked if I wanted to be involved. My initial impulse was to say no; since all I’ve published have been magazine articles, and to the best of my knowledge nobody outside of my immediate circle of friends at the parish has read any of them (or at least mentioned to me that they’ve read any of them), it seemed as though it would be rather pretentious on my part to lay claim to the title of “author”. Yes, fine, I’ve written a book, but it isn’t published yet, and I’m still waiting for John to finish his sketches before I start trying to market it…

Oh, right. I’m still waiting for John to finish his sketches.

I dropped John an e-mail, asking if there would be any possibility of any of the images being done by the day of the Festival. If so, let’s have them up at the table — it might potentially be a good way to generate interest.

Good idea, John replied. I’ll have some done by then.

So, this last Saturday, I showed up at All Saints, an hour and a half before the start of the Festival, with my portfolio of contributor’s copies of magazine articles and a fresh copy of the typescript of Pascha at the Singing School. A small crowd was gathered around my table.

Here’s why:

To describe this as far above and beyond any expectation I may have had doesn’t even really begin to cover it. Among other things, there’s a bit of an Edward Gorey vibe, which reminded me that The House With a Clock In Its Walls was a huge influence on me which I had all but forgotten. I mentioned that to John in the midst of my inarticulate slobbering over his works of beauty, who instantly nodded and said, “Yes, actually, you’re right, come to think of it. That’s definitely there.”

Anyway, the trick was definitely done of stirring up some interest. Once John has his illustrations done, there will be another pass on the text itself while I make sure that it lives up to the artwork (and I can already tell you that these two examples alone have sparked some thoughts about things I should tweak), and then we’ll go from there. I’m not certain exactly what that will mean, since I haven’t done this before; I don’t want to go the route of vanity presses or self-publishing; that seems to be a one-way path to making sure nobody ever, anywhere sees the book. On the other hand, I don’t know that there’s a “real” publisher out there that’s just falling all over itself to publish a short book with black and white illustrations, text and pictures by total unknowns, set at a choir school at the very end of Holy Week. We’ll see what happens.

(By the way — illustrations are copyright 2009 John Berry, and Pascha at the Singing School is copyright 2009 Richard Barrett. Come to think of it, the whole contents of this blog are copyright Richard Barrett except where otherwise indicated.)

Talking turkey and talking Turkey

I would like to note that All Saints’ annual Festival is this Saturday, from 11am until 5pm. Most importantly, this is a chance to eat Johnny Ioannides’ gyroi, which are the absolute best in Bloomington. That said, the planners asked if I’d participate in the “Meet the Author” activity since they’d heard that I write magazine articles sometimes. I decided it might be a good opportunity to try to drum up a bit of interest in Pascha at the Singing School, and as it works out, John will have some of the illustrations done to display along with the manuscript.

I’ve got an exam on Monday in my Ancient Greek Oratory class. Between now and 2:30pm on Monday I’ve got approximately 91 paragraphs of Antiphon’s Greek to make sure I’ve got down cold. I figure that the utility of a course like this is that it really makes you feel like you know what you’re doing when you go back to reading Greek in saints’ lives and so on.

Last night I attended a talk entitled “Turkey Today,” given by Mr. Kenan Ipek, the Consul General of the Republic of Turkey. I had been warned that it would likely be mostly diplomatic hot air, and for the most part that’s what it was, but there were some notable bits. First of all, he said that the two pillars of Turkish foreign policy are their relations with the European Union and their relations with the United States. He affirmed a couple of times Turkey’s intention to become part of the EU, saying that it will demonstrate that the EU is “not a Christian club”. (At the same time, he also repeatedly emphasized that Turkey is a secular state.) Curiously, he also said that the support of Turkey’s own population regarding their application to the EU has seen a sharp drop in the last few years.

He spent some time talking about Turkey’s neighbors — Iran, Iraq, and Russia being those about whom he chose to speak. Greece only got a passing mention; an audience member asked about Turkey’s policy with respect to the Balkans, and in that context, Mr. Ipek said that they support Macedonia’s independence “as long as it does not contradict Greece.” I’m still not sure what that means.

The Halki seminary came up (I was going to ask about it but got beaten to the punch), and he gave a very predictable answer about how they expect it will be reopened, but only if the Patriarchate agrees to operate it according to Turkish law. “We respect that it is a Christian seminary,” he said, “but as a seminary it has to function the same way Jewish and Muslim schools are expected to function in Turkey.”

A fascinating moment came up when an audience member asked about the possibility of Turkey opening their Armenian border. At this point, Mr. Ipek said that they are open to the idea but that Armenia’s “allegations regarding certain historical facts” have to be dealt with first. They have suggested a joint historical commission between Turkey and Armenia to research the truth of the matter, he said, and that Turkey will abide by whatever this hypothetical commission finds to be true. “We are willing to do that because we know the allegations are false,” he said, and added that Armenia has not responded to this suggestion. At this point, another woman from the audience identified herself as a member of a family of Armenian survivors from the events of 1915, and she asked why the Turkish government has not followed the lead of many Turkish intellectuals and simply apologized pre-emptively for the genocide (her word). At this point, the consul general began to backpedal; suddenly the events of 1915 were a “tragedy for all concerned,” the result of “wartime,” with “Armenians and Turks” being killed, and so on. But, he insisted, no matter what archive somebody might go into, “You will not find any piece of paper anywhere that says, ‘The Turkish government decrees to all of its people that they are to kill every Armenian they see.’ That doesn’t exist.” Therefore, he maintained, there was no Armenian genocide. There were a few audience members who went up to that woman afterward and thanked her for her courage.

I will have a lengthy post or two coming up regarding my initial thoughts upon reading Foucault for the first time. I hope to have that within the next couple of days. What will probably happen is that the response paper I wrote for class will be one post, and then a second post will contain all of the stuff that couldn’t really be said in class.

Dix and Ober are still what I’m reading. Probably will be for another couple of weeks yet.

All Saints gets a facelift

Before:

And after, or at least in progress — this was as of this last Saturday evening:

All of my pictures can be found here. All of the lampadas and icons still needed to be hung as of Sunday, the moveable wall is going to be painted to fit this overall scheme, the flourescent lights are going to go away, and there is still some lettering yet to go on the walls — but we’re getting there.

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!

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.

The Divine Liturgy of St. James: A recap

To answer the first question everybody asks: No, it wasn’t five hours long. Truth be told, we didn’t cut a blessed thing from Fr. Ephrem’s text and rubrics (perhaps the only service where we haven’t), and it was…

…drumroll please…

all of an hour and thirty-five minutes. I’m guessing the issue regarding length is a function of two things — 1) it is a recension which is itself abridged (Fr. Ephrem does note that there is an “extremely long commemoration of the Saints” that is missing), and 2) many of the priest’s “silent” prayers would have at one time been said aloud. At any rate, with the materials we have, it’s not really any longer than a Divine Liturgy of St. Basil; we may very well wind up doing it again for the Sunday after Christmas (the other traditional day for it, evidently).

Alas, nobody was there to take pictures. There are a couple of people in the parish who would normally function as “event photographers,” and neither of them could be there. If we do it again in a couple of months, we can rectify that then.

I will note that I made an earlier comment in error: the Liturgy does not begin with the entrance into the nave with the Gifts, but rather with the Gospel (roughly corresponding to the Little Entrance in St. Basil/St. John Chrysostom). This is the only “Entrance” in Fr. Ephrem’s rubrics, hence my confusion; “Let all mortal flesh keep silence” does accompany the deacon while he processes, by himself, into the sanctuary with the Gifts (presumably the idea is that this is the time when he would get them from the skevophylakion), but it’s not quite the same big to-do that it is in St. Basil’s or St. John Chrysostom’s Liturgy.

For a Liturgy perhaps one person there (Fr. Nabil from St. George) had seen before, everything hung together remarkably well; the choir kept it together very well on the music, there were no train wrecks, and everything proceeded smoothly in general for clergy, choir, and congregation alike. The makeshift ambo was quite a nice touch; the proclamation of the Word from the center of the people seemed to have an impact on some. When it was over, after we returned the church to normal and replaced the platforms in the choir area, there were a couple of people who expressed the sentiment, “Now that it’s gone, I sort of miss it.” Fr. Peter even suggested that it might not be out of the question to include a central ambo in the design of the permanent All Saints temple, hinting that it’s starting to be revived in other places.

We had a nice group of visitors; one inquirer brought his whole family, plus a contingent of folks from St. George, and a handful of people from the Bloomington Chamber Singers (who consulted us a bit regarding their upcoming performance of the Rachmaninoff Vigil).

I’m looking forward to the next time we do this. It’s a wonderful, prayerful Liturgy, and it would be nice for it to have a regular spot in the liturgical life of our parish.

Kickin’ it oldschool, ambo-style

“You say amvon, I say ambo…”

So, in going over the Divine Liturgy of St. James with our clergy Monday evening, something which became clear is that the rubrics assume that there’s something in the middle of the nave on which one may place things, from which one may read things, etc. — that is, an ambo in it’s original location.

Initial discussions had us placing the memorial table in the middle of the center aisle, but then Fr. Peter thought it would be nice to put it on a raised platform of some kind. There is a rank of platforms back in the choir area of All Saints on which the women stand, and we moved one of those out and placed the table on it. Realizing the platform segments were of staggered lengths, however, it hit me that we could place them on top of each other, giving us two steps leading up to the memorial table, making something of a makeshift ambo. The prokeimenon, epistle, and alleluia could be sung from the first step — remember that the prokeimenon corresponds to the “gradual” in Western practice, known as such because it was sung from the steps of the ambo — and the Gospel from the second step. (No steps leading down on the other side, but oh well.)

The only problem was that, since the church ran out of carpet while covering the tops of these platforms, there was a decent amount of bare plywood showing, and setting them up this way only exposed it. Really, Fr. Peter said, the only thing we could do to make it something other than a horrible eyesore would be to paint over the exposed plywood with something like a gunmetal grey. Lucas and I looked at each other — “What are you doing tomorrow evening after work?” I asked him. “I think I’m painting these platforms with you,” he said.

So, following a quick trip to the hardware store for a quart of paint and brushes, we headed to All Saints yesterday to do what was necessary. “How good of an idea is this,” I asked Lucas, “letting guys like you and me into the nave by ourselves with paint and brushes?”

“I’m just hoping nobody notices that we’ve had to take out chairs to make everything fit in the space,” he replied.

It didn’t take more than 45 minutes or so to actually do the painting; we then had to move the choir up to the front of the church in order to answer some other logistical concerns the ambo created. After doing that, and destroying taking all of the displaced chairs into the fellowship hall, the paint was dry, and we set it up as it will be for tonight.

Hagia Sophia it ain’t, and I’m not going to argue that it’s gorgeous (particularly with the power outlets on the sides), but it at least looks more or less intentional. (Alas, Fr. Peter is just going to use the prothesis table behind the iconostasis rather than use one of our outdoor shrines as a skevophylakion.) We’ll see how it goes tonight — it sounds like we will have some number of visiting clergy and interested people from the community and around the area, including a contingent of folks from St. George, the big Antiochian parish in Indianapolis. Hopefully somebody will be around who can take pictures. A colleague of my wife’s is coming tonight out of curiosity, and he has never been to an Orthodox service before. Given its length and the fact that this is the first time any of us have ever attempted to celebrate this particular Liturgy, I’m pretty sure that all I can tell him is, “God be with you.”

God be with us all — St. James, pray for us!

Festival on Fairfax 2008

Something resembling a Greek or Middle Eastern festival is a staple of Orthodox parish life, it seems, and All Saints is no different — although we don’t call it a Greek or Middle Eastern festival, we just call it “The Festival on Fairfax” (Fairfax Road being where All Saints is located). Once a year, the community pulls together, throws open its doors to the world, and busts out the tsatsiki. Not to belabor a previously expressed point, but we legitimately have the best gyros in Bloomington, thanks to Johnny Ioannides (whose name I will continue to shout from the rooftops, since they’re just that good) — it’s just too bad it’s the only regularly scheduled day of the year they are publicly available.

Johnny Ioannides, the man who brings us the best gyros in Bloomington. Can we open this man a restaurant, please?

Johnny Ioannides, the man who brings us the best gyros in Bloomington. Can we open this man a restaurant, please?

(But it is not, emphatically not, a Greek festival. Or a Middle Eastern festival. Really. We also sell hot dogs. But no borscht.)

It’s always a good time, and in many respects, shows off the best sides of Bloomington’s little Orthodox church that could.

There are, truthfully, many things which differentiate what we do from the typical Greek festival. It’s not the mammoth fundraiser that many are; it’s not like Holy Trinity, where we charge admission in addition to food and merchandise, go all weekend and raise three quarters of the annual parish budget in the course of three days. Nope, we let you in free, we run one day only, and it pays for itself with a chunk left over but it’s hardly make-or-break for our day-to-day operations. More than one day, and we really hit a point of diminishing returns — particularly if we start having to pay staff rather than use volunteers. Getting bigger every year the way we do, we might have already hit this. Besides, Holy Trinity has the whole city of Indianapolis; we… uh, we don’t.

At any rate, the hope has been that eventually it would be more of a way of evangelizing, of being Christ to our community, rather than fundraising, but exactly how that will crystallize, precisely, remains to be seen. As with many things surrounding All Saints’ transition from being a small church community, only one or two steps removed from a mission, to being a mature parish, identity and defining characteristics are somewhat in flux for the moment. For one thing, much of Bloomington doesn’t even know (or care) we exist; in time, we hope to be more of a presence in the community. For the moment, the Festival on Fairfax is a fun way of at least holding an open house for our neighbors.

(Hey, there’s a thought. What about doing something that’s explicitly labeled and structured as an open house for the community?)

Anyway, here are some of the pictures I took throughout the day. Church tours are, of course, something we do, and there’s an information board we post relating the interior of an Orthodox church building to the interior of the Jewish temple. The big colorful image (blown up below) is, shall we say, a rather idealized digital model of a traditional Byzantine structure. I agree with my godson Lucas (who put the board together, and conducted the tours) that it would be nice if there were formal diocesan guidelines for building churches something along the lines of “come as close to this as you possibly can”; alas, much of Byzantine church architecture seems to assume the existence of an Emperor and his treasury, and the readiness of same to pay for things. Very tough for a smallish working class community to be able to come anywhere near this (as you can see from the acoustic tiles filling in for the dome).

The only Orthodox cemetery in Indiana

The only Orthodox cemetery in Indiana

On the other hand, we are making good use of the property we have (some 24 acres), and slowly but surely we are building something which we hope will still be there in a couple of centuries. For example, we’ve got the only Orthodox cemetery in the whole state (so far as we know, the next nearest is at Holy Dormition Monastery in Rives Junction, Michigan).

A hayride in the Grove

A hayride in the Grove

We’ve also got a large section of the property called the Grove which is intended to be a common area for public events once it’s finally done. It’s close to being done; flooding over the summer, as well as a few other issues, set us back a bit, but there’s a stage built, electricity wired, a pond dug, and other access points and landscaping are being worked on. Fish and a water pump will be added to the pond (both apparently in an attempt to help deal with mosquitoes), as well. Hopefully by next summer’s music festival it’ll be completely ready to go; I believe the plan is also to hold at least a good chunk of next year’s Festival down there. In the meantime, the hayrides conducted during the Festival go through there, at least.

The Big Tent

The Big Tent

The center of the action for this year’s Festival was the Big Tent — this was the eating area, it was where the music was performed (we never seem to quite pull of dancing, alas), and it was where the food was served.

The SmallTown Heroes

The SmallTown Heroes

I have to say, I enjoyed the SmallTown Heroes immensely — enough to buy their CD, which I’ve also really liked (enough to review here eventually, I think).

Fr. Athanasius Wilson, Fr. Peter Jon Gillquist’s predecessor, paid a visit to the Festival — always a joy to see him and Kh. Loretta. We don’t get to see him much anymore with his mission up in Greenwood. This community will always love him to pieces, and for very good reason. Without Fr. Athanasius, there would be no All Saints Orthodox Church right now, period. He was the right priest for the time, just as Fr. Peter is now (and hopefully will be for some time).

Fr. Athanasius Wilson and Fr. Peter Jon Gillquist

Fr. Athanasius Wilson and Fr. Peter Jon Gillquist

Besides tours of the nave, we also had the bake shop and silent auction inside the church. You want baklava? We’ve got baklava. Or, well, at least we did. You snooze, you lose. The parish bookstore was also open for business, and we had copies of Cappella Romana‘s The Divine Liturgy in English for sale and displayed prominently, natch.

Eric Leveque (left) trying to work off the freshman fifteen with Charles Coats

Eric Leveque (left) trying to work off the freshman fifteen with Charles Coats

Speaking of baklava, evidently a couple of folks ate a bit too much and found a novel way to try to work it off.

The Festival closed with Vespers. This is something for which we’re still figuring out the best approach — before last year, we just cancelled Saturday Vespers, but it occurred to us that it didn’t make any sense, if we wanted the Festival to be more about outreach and evangelism rather than fundraising, to not include a service. Reaction has been mixed — last year it worked very well, and this year… Well, the trouble is, many of the parishioners are still having to work the food booths and whatnot while Vespers is in progress, and there’s still very clearly Festival activity going on come 5pm, so there jisn’t really a compelling reason for people to go inside (particularly on a gorgeous day like last Saturday was), and there’s no large-scale movement of the parishioners to generate momentum, either. So, I’d say that this year, we had fewer people than we would have for a regular Saturday Vespers, with many of the people we’d normally see at that service being outside selling gyros, and almost none of the Festival visitors. Maybe one or two, if that.

And just like that, it’s six o’clock and it’s over until next year — 10 October 2009. Mark it on your calendar now. Best gyros in Bloomington, I tell you.


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