Richard Giles+ former dean of the Episcopal Cathedral in Philadelphia and a recent contributor to Pray Tell Blog got some interesting comments after his January 7th post "Institutionalizing Dissent." Here is a sample from Fr. Giles' post:
The attractions of the 8 o’clock are predictable. Its archaic language perpetuates the notion that God is one step removed from everyday life, kept safely in his antique Tudor box; you can sit where you like, at a guaranteed safe distance from your neighbour; you can kneel (or more accurately crouch) with no fear of being asked to stand to pray, or to form a circle; there is no danger of having to acknowledge the presence of other Christians, let alone touch them; there is a very good chance that you will avoid a homily (even though Cranmer mandated this); there is no requirement to sing or look cheerful; and there is no danger at all of being required to socialize after the service, or being asked to do anything – to sign up, to volunteer, to take part.
What a sweeping condemnation.
"The persistence of the phenomenon of the 8 o’clock is indicative of a mindset which has not just rejected modern liturgical language or form, but has decided to step aside from that journey. The love of archaic language is a small sign of a bigger picture – of an attitude of heart and mind that wants no truck with today, either in the Church or in the world. It seeks reassurance not adventure."
I wonder what he thinks about Eucharistic Prayer C?
Whatever our strategies for keeping on board, however loosely, those who stand aside from the mainstream, the question remains; do such measures represent a permissible freedom, a generous sign of comprehensiveness, or an avoidance of the holy task of wrestling with our differences and coming to a common mind? Is allowing two kinds of rite – one traditional one contemporary in language – to continue side by side in the same book, in the same parish, a justifiable and honourable path of unity-in-diversity, or a cop-out, an exercise in self indulgence?
Perhaps it is not too late for others to learn from our mistakes?
Should 8 o'clockers be insulted at being stereotyped in this way? As an occasional early bird, I am.
He followed up with a response to his critics on Jan 12th where he ends by writing,
I am sorry to sound such an old grouch about the 8 o’clock, and F.C.Bauershmidt is quite right to caution me about judging others’ souls, and yet ‘by their fruits you shall know them.’ Sadly, 44 years experience as a parish priest has left me with a consistent picture of the attitude of those who choose always an early Mass separate from the main body. Those who do so may claim that such a stance is about language, but it is in fact almost always and everywhere about taking part in worship one step removed from the life of the local faith community. This should not be so in theory, but invariably is, and a cause for deep sadness.
Among the 1979 BCP compromises were the various liturgical options. Is Fr. Giles saying that Rite I is "looking back," and keeping it in the BCP was a mistake, or does he have a problem with a church that has separate Rite I and Rite II services back to back? If I am reading both posts right, he has issues with both as sources of division, but the true source of his problem is a problem with people who differ from him. As Supreme Dalek, he could fix the problem of the 8 o'clockers with a blast from his ray gun.
So much for an inclusive church.
For more about Richard Giles+ and his career in radical church renovations read
"Re-pitching the Wrecking Ball: Feverish haste to remodel churches reflects radical renovation of theology"by Matthew Grantham in the March 2002 Adoremus Bulletin. Here is a sample,
Giles complained that traditional Episcopalian churches "shout non-participation".
"They shout hierarchy. They shout division ... they shout passive audience", he said. Giles went on to compare traditional churches to his own plans for the renovation of the Philadelphia cathedral, a process which he called "taking a Victorian building with very ornate, rigid furniture. ... and embarking on a renovation which will honor the past, not simply for the last 300 years, but for the last 2,000 years. It will take us back to the first Christian experience of being a community of the baptized".
Next time we remodel, maybe we should put Davros in charge of church renovations.
Then all divisions will cease.