Posts Tagged 'fellowship of ss. alban and sergius'

Nice ways to spend Valentine’s Day or, things I’ll probably only ever be able to pull off once, part VI

oxford-ticket-2Back to happier things.

My initial thought had been that we could go to Hagia Sophia Cathedral in London for Liturgy on Sunday; I had only been able to quickly walk through there back in ’07, and thought it would be awesome to actually go for a service and perhaps see the folks I had met who attended there.

Turned out that the Sunday we were going to be in England was the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, however, and given the role of that day in preparing for Great Lent, it seemed preferable to attend a service in English. The Cathedral does a Divine Liturgy in English on the first and third Saturdays of the month; otherwise, they do everything in Greek. (“We’re the patriarchal cathedral for the Greeks in London,” the choir director there told me when I met him. “Our services are in Greek or else.”) Alas, we were there for the second Saturday.

Plus, as Dr. Lingas had told us on Friday, it was a Sunday for Byzantine chant in English up in Oxford.

Liturgy started at 10:30; the earliest train to Oxford we could catch was at approximately 8:30am, and that got us up there around 9:50. It was about a twenty minute walk from the Oxford train station to the Holy Octagon, and I remembered where it was easily enough.

This was the first time I had seen the interior of the Oxford church; while humble in a lot of respects — it is a very simple brick building — they have done a lot with what they have. Also, while somewhat smaller than All Saints, I’d say they packed in about 30-40 more people than we typically do — it was filled to the gills. On the other hand, it was 2 February on the Old Calendar (the Meeting of the Lord, or Candlemas as doubtless some of the English converts might call it), so it being a major feast might well have accounted for the attendance.

The celebrant was Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware); the homilist Fr. Ian Graham; the cantor Dr. Lingas. Talk about a delightful treat of a morning. Metropolitan Kallistos served with a great deal of enthusiasm and verve; I’ve said before that recordings really do not capture how animated he is, and I would like to reiterate that point. Fr. Ian’s homiletics are very different from what we were used to, but not in a bad way, and it was very valuable to hear on this particular Sunday. Dr. Lingas — with one other person — sang essentially a stripped down version of The Divine Liturgy in English; what was interesting was that many of the same, shall we say, pastoral realities were present as I run into at All Saints. For example, the “Dynamis” of the Trisagion was, as is the case for us, merely a repeat of the first iteration rather than a separate, longer, melismatic comp0sition. Also, as with Bloomington, as soon as the Liturgy was over — time to start chatting! In all fairness, they actually have to go to a separate building entirely for their coffee hour, so there’s no hallway into which they may just quietly slip. It was nonetheless comforting to see that such issues are not geographically limited, shall we say. One fascinating difference is that at All Saints, more or less everybody in the congregation tries to sing everything; in Oxford, the people were largely silent.

The Oxford church is on the property of something called Ss. Gregory and Macrina House; it’s a house that exists as a center for non-liturgical Orthodox activity at Oxford, including some accommodations for students and the occasional visitor. It also appears to be where the offices for the Fellowship of Ss. Alban and Sergius are presently located, and is also where the coffee hour occurs. I hope to have some occasion to spend more time there in the future.

Following Liturgy, we ate lunch at the Eagle and Child; alas, it was full enough that the Rabbit Room was inaccessible, but the bangers and mash — and the fish and chips, and the beer — were still quite tasty regardless.

The rest of the day was spent strolling around the town and the campus, and it was a gorgeous, if chilly, day for it. In some respects, it was good we were there on a Sunday — most places where we might have been tempted to spend lots of money were closed. That said, Blackwell’s is an exceedingly pleasant place to spend several hours (and perhaps hundreds of pounds). They have shelves and shelves of things which have to be special ordered here — Greek New Testaments and Septuagints, English-Norwegian dictionaries, and so on. On the other hand, Oxford is certainly a place where people with those kinds of interests are concentrated, so that shouldn’t be a surprise. One more reason to contrive a reason to move there someday. Alternately, it’s a great reason to have a little notebook in which one can write down ISBN numbers and look online for better deals in US dollars.

We attended Evensong at Queen’s College; it was almost entirely at the other end of the spectrum of liturgical practice and singing from Metropolitan Kallistos and Dr. Lingas, but it was a nice reminder of what good liturgical singing can sound like in the Western tradition. I forget how much I like a pointed psalm sung antiphonally.

Finally, it was time to go back into the city. We got good sausage rolls from a bakery called La Croissanterie, and boarded the train.

Tips: It is reasonably common to encounter cash-only locations in Oxford. The bakery was cash-only, a coffee chain called Caffè Nero, and admission to the Saxon tower of St. Michael’s at the North Gate (“the oldest building in Oxford”) was cash only. (Megan went up; I didn’t. Again, something about paying to see part of a church just doesn’t sit well.)

Evidently, if the Orthodox visitor to Oxford were to contact the Ss. Gregory and Macrina House well enough in advance, they might find that they would be able to stay there. I don’t have any other details, and they don’t have a website or an e-mail address I am able to find, so the easiest way to contact them appears to be by phone — 01865 513117.

Yeah, Oxford is still my favorite place in the universe. What can I say?

Coming soon: how we actually got to bum around, y’know, London for day, and why the Sherlock Holmes Pub and Restaurant should be avoided at all costs.

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14 NaNoWriMo 2008 et cetera

I find it rather unlikely that I will complete 50,000 words within the next sixteen days. Nonetheless, I find it entirely possible that I will finish the first draft of what I’m working on — which, as I said before, I’m doubtful is 50,000 words long in the first place. Maybe more like 25,000 to 30,000; possibly even more like 15-20,000. We’ll see. It’s intended to be more of a shorter children’s book anyway.

Word count notwithstanding, I have been able to work on this at least a bit every day, and it’s taken me down some interesting paths. I realized that Petros and Matthias share a dorm, and that there’s a good reason for it — but I’m only going to be able to allude to that reason. I’ll have to save the full story for… well, later. I also had one of those experiences where the characters just up and decided to leave the room, leaving me behind sputtering, “Wait! Where are you going? Come back!” Unfortunately, they didn’t listen — typical 10 and 11 year-olds — meaning I had to run outside after them, only to find out that they were playing something called campyon, and now I had to learn the rules (such as they are) in order to keep up. (And, who knew, turns out campyon actually exists.) Not altogether certain about the propriety of “playing at ball” on the Feast of Feasts, but nobody asked me. Maybe once they’re done with their game, these kids can be bothered to, y’know, actually start following my outline again.

In other writing news, one of essays I put up here while lamenting a lack of a publisher seems to have found a publisher. Again, this was not a case of anybody stumbling across it online and saying, “I’ve got to have this!” Rather, I sent a revised (and ultimately, better) version of the piece to the editor saying, “I understand your theme for an upcoming issue is such-and-such. What would you think about this for that issue?” The editor wrote back saying yes, I like it, let’s do it. As before, I’d rather not say anything concrete about what or where until the issue is out, just because I know that nothing’s a done deal until the printed matter is actually in your hands, but this looks hopeful.

I urge you to listen to the final address to the OCA’s All-American Council of the newly-elected Metropolitan Jonah. (For that matter, just go here and listen to everything.) You may recall that I heard him, back when he was still Abbot Jonah (Paffhausen), at the Fellowship of Ss. Alban and Sergius Conference back in June; missing a good chunk of his talk and being in the Antiochian Archdiocese, I lacked some of the necessary context to understand what he was saying, but the reaction of those who were in the OCA and who got to hear him from the beginning was palpable. His manner is, to me anyway, rather reminiscent of that of Bishop MARK; I will be interested to see if they ever have cause to work together on anything. The address linked to above is prophetic and visionary at the very least; now, as he himself says, they’ve got a lot of work to do. He, and all of the OCA, have my fervent prayers.

Graduate Application Tip of the Day: Turns out, at least at IU, a formal IU transcript doesn’t need to be ordered (read “paid for”) for an internal application. They can just access your record electronically. If your GRE scores are already part of your record, you don’t need to pay to have those sent, either. It would have been nice to know this the last, oh, three times I applied for grad programs here, but at this stage of the game, I’ll take what I can get. If you’re in a similar situation someplace, know that it doesn’t hurt to ask.

I will wrap this up for the moment by noting two news items. First, I’m wondering, in response to this story, if perhaps somebody posted a sign saying “Free Orthodox Church.” Certainly, every time I see a sign for a “Free Methodist Church,” I think to myself, “Great, but where would I put it?”

Secondly — well, all I can say is that sometimes you can’t make this stuff up. I should go back and re-read William Gibson’s Neuromancer to see just how much stranger today’s reality of media and computers networks has become than the fantasy of twenty-some years ago.

Okay, back to waiting for these kids to finish their silly game of campyon.

Finally, the announcement I announced earlier

There’s nothing on the website yet to which I can link, but the Fall 2008 issue of AGAIN finally arrived in my mailbox today, containing my article about the Fellowship of Ss. Alban and Sergius conference, as well as my review of Cappella Romana’s The Divine Liturgy in English. None of the material will be new to either of my regular readers, although the format, length and structure of the pieces themselves are unique to the print publication — the Fellowship writeup is ~2,500 words (as opposed to the ~6,000 words my blog entries contained), and the review is 750 words, vs. 2,500 here.

As I said earlier, nobody stumbled across the blog and said, “Hey! We should run this!” I thought that I could tailor both pieces to suit AGAIN’s format, and wrote a query note to the managing editor, Fr. Michael Gillis. He liked the ideas, gave me word counts to shoot for, and I set to work getting what I put up here into a form manageable for a magazine. He liked what I turned in, made some suggestions and some editorial decisions, and then ran them. It’s worked out well enough that I wouldn’t be surprised to see some other things come of this, but I know darn well that until you have the issue in hand nothing’s a done deal, so I don’t want to say any more than that for the time being. I have other ideas that might perhaps make a good working relationship with Conciliar Press advantageous down the road a piece; we’ll just see. It’s a beginning.

I’ll put up links once they’re available.

The Fellowship of Ss. Alban & Sergius: Archbishop Rowan Williams’ greeting

The message from Abp. Rowan which was read at the Fellowship conference is finally online — or maybe it has been for awhile and I’ve just missed it. Anyway, worth a read.

Fellowship of Ss. Alban & Sergius: More pictures

Just a note: pictures which are much better than what I was able to get of the Conference may be found here. The problem I consistently had was taking pictures while trying to not make a nuisance of myself, which usually meant trying to take them from a fair distance off using the zoom, but which also made the pictures fairly susceptible to the slightest shake of my hand. Anyway, most of these pictures were, I believe, taken by Sofia Lopoukhine, the St. Vlad’s staffer who really made the whole thing happen (at least from a participant’s perspective). I encourage you to take a look.

Qu’est-ce que je fais?

Brief check-in —

Many thanks to all of you who visited because of Eirenikon‘s links to my Fellowship of Ss. Alban and Sergius write-ups; I hope you stay for awhile.

My French reading class started last Friday. I’m finding that the Latin and the Greek I’ve had in the four years since the last time I set foot in a French classroom is helping immensely; I’ve likely forgotten far more than I realize, but so far so good regardless. (I doubt very sincerely that Syriac is helping my French in the least.) We have two translation projects in the class; one which will be a text the instructor provides, and the other which will be a text of our own choosing — the idea is that we read a piece of scholarship (or a piece of a piece — three pages maximum) in our own fields. As it works out, there’s an article Fr. John Meyendorff wrote called “Byzance: l’image du Christ d’après Théodore Studite,” and it’s exactly three pages long. Sounds like a winner to me.

Reading-wise — well, there’s a pile of books on my wife’s side of the bed (and yes, I mean on her side of the bed; it keeps me from getting used to taking up the whole mattress in her absence), and it contains some of the following:

  • The Spiritual World of St. Isaac the Syrian, Bp. Hilarion Alfeyev. Yes, still.
  • Sunday Matins in the Byzantine Cathedral Rite, Alexander Lingas. Yes, still (and I have, alas, confirmation from the publisher that this will not be released on 28 June, as I suspected, and they frankly have no idea when it will be published, characterizing it only as “severely delayed”).
  • The Glory of the Lord, Vol. 1: Seeing the Form, Hans Urs von Balthasar. I will note the following fun statistics about this particular book: it is volume one of seven, this volume alone is six hundred pages plus, and the “introduction” is over a hundred pages. I’m reading this because somebody made the professional suggestion that my interests in particular will ultimately be a lot more marketable if I can tie Balthasar in somehow. What I will say for now is that I really hope that I’m not someday told that I can’t claim to have read this unless I’ve done so in German; it’s going slowly enough in English.
  • The Church of the Triune God: The Cyprus Agreed Statement of the International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue.
  • An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, St. John of Damascus (as found in the Schaff-edited Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers series).
  • A Patristic Greek Reader, Rodney Whitacre.
  • Hands of the Saddlemaker, Fr. Nicholas Samaras. I wound up at Fr. Samaras’ (as he prefers to be called) parish for Divine Liturgy the last day I was in New York for the Fellowship conference; this is a good story which I will tell later.

I also have various and sundry writing projects happening, scholarly and otherwise, some of which I might actually complete before the entropic cessation of the universe’s existence. My notes and answer key for Hansen & Quinn unit 3 I might even have done more quickly than that.

I hope to be able to distill the Fellowship experience into a magazine aricle; Prof. William Tighe is already doing the write-up for Touchstone, but we’ll see.

…and that’s the news from Lake Wifebegone, where the air conditioner is always on, the kitchen table is always messy, and the house always feels empty.

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.


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