A Report on the Gathering on Liturgical Formation (or) What has the SCLM been doing since the 79th General Convention?

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music
Front Row L to R: Mark Childers, the Rev. Stan Baker, Ellen Johnston, Dr. Michael Boney;
Around the table L to R: the Rt. Rev. Jeff Lee, Jessica Nelson, Ellis Montes, the Rev. Susan Anslow Williams, the Rev. Dr. Paul Fromberg (Chair), the Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, John Robert, the Very Rev. Dr. Jim Turrell, Josh Floberg, Thomas Alexander. Not pictured: Martha Burford, the Rev. Robert Hino, Brother Angel Roque, the Rt. Rev. Andrew Waldo, the Rt. Rev. Terry White, and the Rt. Rev. Carl Wright.

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The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) receives its marching orders from the General Convention. Resolutions having to do with liturgy and music are sent to the SCLM. Among others the SCLM was tasked with the revision of the Book of Occasional Services 2018, the translation of the Book of Common Prayer into Spanish, French, and Haitian Creole, to report on expansive/inclusive language resources for the Church, to devise a comprehensive plan for the Calendar of Saints, and to work with the newly formed Task Force for Liturgical and Prayer Book Revision. See the mandate of the SCLM here.

At its first meeting of the triennium in November, 2018, the SCLM formed sub-committees to deal with the referred resolutions and work began. The SCLM meets monthly via zoom and sub-committees meet between each meeting of the whole.

At the last in-person meeting of the SCLM, the Rev. Dr. Paul Fromberg, Chair, called for the creation of an additional sub-committee focussing on formation. As the 80th General Convention nears the SCLM members felt that a way to teach the Church about the work of the SCLM was needed. The Sub-Committee on Formation members, Paul Fromberg, Thomas Alexander, and Ellen Johnston, had originally planned an in-person gathering to be held in Houston, Texas. After the Corona Virus made that plan unworkable, an online gathering was planned. The event was co-sponsored by Lifelong Learning at Virginia Theological Seminary and Church Publishing, Inc. Each bishop in the Episcopal Church was invited to send two persons from their diocese–people with good communication skills who can report back to their diocese about what they learned. In addition, the gathering was open to anyone interested in the work of the SCLM. There was no charge to register for the events.

As reported on this site in late August, the gathering consisted of four webinars held on October 10 and 20. The first webinar – What is Liturgy For? – featured the Rt. Rev. Mary Gray Reeves, Bishop resigned of the Diocese of El Camino Real and the Rt. Rev. Deon Johnson, Bishop of Missouri. In a conversation facilitated by the Rev. Dr. Paul Fromberg, SCLM Chair, the two bishops spoke to the missional nature of liturgy and and why revision may be necessary. You can find a recording of that webinar here.

The Church Calendar was the topic of the second webinar and featured the Very Rev. Dr. James Turrell, Dean of the School of Theology at Sewanee, and Dr. Liza Anderson, Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at St. Scholastica College in Duluth, Minnesota. These two academics discussed the Episcopal Church’s theology of the calendar and the criteria for inclusion on the calendar. Watch that webinar here.

Tuesday, October 20, brought the third webinar – The Task Force on Liturgical and Prayer Book Revision featuring the Rt. Rev. Dr. J. Neil Alexander, Chair of the Task Force and Professor of Theology at the School of Theology at Sewanee, and the Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge, Rector, St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in San Francisco. Bishop Alexander spoke to the origin of the Task Force and he and Dr. Partridge discussed expansive/inclusive language guidelines for new liturgies and introduced the audience to the Task Force’s website: http://www.episcopalcommonprayer.org. Watch the full conversation here,

The final webinar’s topic was The Book of Common Prayer, as it pertained to translation and cultural issues. This webinar featured the Rev. Dr. Juan Oliver, Custodian of the Book of Common Prayer and Chair of the Sub-Committee on Translations, and the Rev. Jemonde Taylor, Rector, St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, Raleigh, North Carolina. Dr. Oliver talked about the ongoing translation of the Book of Common Prayer into Spanish, French, and Haitian Creole and Fr. Taylor spoke to the ways in which our words, our language, can be destructive to certain demographics. Dr. Oliver’s recent book, A House of Meanings was also discussed. You can access that conversation here.

Diocesan Representatives were able to join a zoom gathering on Wednesday, October 21, for discussion of the plenary sessions. They were put into small groups facilitated by members of the SCLM. Fruitful conversations marked the end of the Gathering for Liturgical Formation.

The SCLM received a great amount of both affirming and constructive feedback, primarily through a series of surveys they sent to participants throughout the experience. From this feedback, the SCLM confirmed there is, indeed, a clear need in the Church for conversations about liturgy in this way. They are making plan to continue offering similar programs in the future, but on smaller scales and more regular frequencies, perhaps one webinar every few months. The SCLM is hopeful that these kinds of offerings will continue to enhance the conversation between the SCLM and the wider Episcopal Church while also enhancing those conversations between Episcopalians from different congregations and dioceses.

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