We at the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society hope to discover, identify and pass on those aspects of Anglican patrimony that deepen our Catholic faith, aid us in our prayer life and sanctification, further our theological understanding, and help us to evangelize.
We are not about preserving anything in amber or in creating a cute Catholic theme park with Anglican distinctives. Instead, we have a patrimony that is good, true and beautiful and welcome in the Catholic Church that is relevant to saving souls, transforming our lives and influencing the culture.
So, I would be interested in hearing from you (and from my fellow bloggers) what it is you most cherish and why you think it is important to preserve and hand on.
Since I was exposed to Episcopalian Sunday school as a child, and my father sang in the best Episcopalian church choirs in the Boston area, I would say music is an important part of our heritage. My father was not a believer when he started out, but I think singing sacred music grew on him over the years. Going to a Christmas Eve service with him and hearing rare but beautifully arranged carols sung with perfection is something I’ll always associate with Anglican patrimony.
But those churches such as Church of the Advent, Trinity Church and All Saints had music endowments and could afford to hire the best organists, choir directors and singers. Here in Ottawa, we have an organist and cantor, but rely on congregational singing. But it was in our small parish that I was exposed to Anglican chant and Anglican plainsong and even if we don’t do it perfectly it’s still wonderful to worship that way. How I love it when we have a choral Evensong, or a sung Mattins. Sometimes, I even sing the office when I’m home by myself.
Brother John-Bede sent me a link to this article about choirs in the Church of England by Madeleine Davis entitled “From the choir stalls to the altar” that talks about how choirs for children are drawing their families into the church.
WHEN the General Synod debated the renewal of the Church of England last year, it fell to one of its youngest members, Hannah Grivell, to mention an aspect of church life with a centuries-old record of bringing children through the Church’s doors. Young people were joining her church, and getting confirmed, after joining the robed choir.
“We have got to stop telling people what they need and want, and start asking what helps you grow in faith and come to church every week,” she argued (News, 15 July 2016).
Her story is echoed in other parishes. When Richard Bendelow agreed to become organist at St Leonard’s, Loftus, in Cleveland, one of the most deprived parishes in the country, he did so on one condition: that he could start a children’s choir. The last one had been disbanded in 1969. Today, there are 14 members — expected to be 20 by Christmas — who sing every Sunday morning. They have been recruited from schools (none of which are C of E) where teachers “jumped at it as a unique opportunity to give free musical education to white working-class kids on Teeside”, the Rector, the Revd Adam Gaunt, reports.
TOM DAGGETT, who leads the music-education programme at St Paul’s Cathedral, founded the Hackney Children’s Choir in 2014. He had been been “surprised by the [low] level of provision in terms of music education, and also the lack of children’s voices heard on regular occasion in church”. Children were recruited from nine schools, and now sing regularly, including at the cathedral. He is also director of music at St-George-in-the-East, in London, which last year planted a congregation based around a choral eucharist at the church school, sung on the first Wednesday of the month.
A “good deal of singing” takes place in C of E schools, he thinks, “but what is being slightly lost is the focus on sharing a real range of music with kids, including the choral tradition, and also the skill of being able to read music and get through lots of material. The older generation across the country sings really well, because they went to church and sang in school.” He also laments that “funding for music education has been totally decimated, especially at secondary-school level.” The Church can “speak into this issue in really imaginative ways”.
He regrets the low expectations of children’s abilities. “Standards were so high, and people believed that children could achieve great things as musicians at an early age,” he explains. “Now, too many people dumb down music for kids. . . One school spent a whole term learning to sing “Amazing grace”, which is diabolical. You should be able to teach that in two minutes, and have them singing it from memory, frankly.”
How can Personal Ordinariate parishes keep the musical tradition alive when there is no money to throw at it (as the article advises)? How can the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society help smaller, poorer communities discover some of this musical tradition without a big endowment?
We’ve got some ideas, but we would be open to suggestions and contributions to our effort.
One thing is crucial—that Mass not become a concert or a performance. My friend Mary who passed away a couple of years ago used to object to singing in church settings that seemed to focus on performance. “Ichabod!” she would say, meaning, “The glory has departed.”
The ideal is beautiful music, like the music in heaven that is also worshipful.
How is your community dealing with music, choirs, teaching musical patrimony to children and adults who may come from non-Anglican backgrounds?
To be continued, as I look at other aspects of our patrimony I have found essential to my spiritual growth.