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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"Keep doing it right"

“It is dangerous to keep taking your temperature” is one of the maxims I learned from friends and mentors working to start new congregations and grow old ones with Bishop John Buchanan in the Episcopal Diocese of West Missouri. It is kind of like taking bread out of the oven to see if it is done. It ruins the bread. It is more important to do things right and keep doing them and then to watch the trends.
Nevertheless, it is encouraging when “doing things right” leads to results. And it is encouraging to meet new people at our liturgies and welcome visitors back. May the results we are seeing help us get through those times when we may not see any, and keep us on track and doing things right.
I often learn so much from our visitors. A couple of Episcopalians visited on Sunday. A friend of theirs who had converted to the Catholic Church had emailed them about us. They are fairly new to the Episcopal Church, and have begun to be troubled that they are finding a liturgical fundamentalism that is not linked to an emphasis on the fundamentals of the faith. They were curious about us and came to visit. I hope they come back
Another couple visited for the first time. She is an Episcopalian who has been going to mass with her Catholic husband and children for about fifteen years. They read about us in the Catholic Key. She wants to be able to say sincerely that she accepts all the Catholic Church teaches and is eager to learn. The RCIA process has been a barrier so far and wants to know if we can help her become Catholic. We are ready and eager, with the permission of her pastor. I believe they will be back.
Another couple visited again after missing a Sunday. I used to serve on diocesan councils with the husband and met his wife on occasion at diocesan events. She asked a very good and pointed question. “I believe in transubstantiation. Why am I not welcome as an Episcopalian to come to Mass and communion without converting?” I responded that as an Episcopalian I had believed in transubstantiation, too. But that it could be just as likely that an Episcopalian would believe something very different about what it means to come to Mass and Communion. So the Catholic Church cannot welcome Episcopalians in general. When it comes to beliefs, the Episcopal Church welcomes all options, but the Catholic Church proclaims a single faith. Converts are not asked about a single item of the faith, but they are asked about it all: “Do you believe all that the Catholic Church teaches?” I pray they will come back. I sense their integrity and their struggle.
We celebrated the liturgy on Sunday without an organist or cantor. It actually worked quite well. Knowing we were on our own actually helped me to relax and enjoy the liturgy without worrying about it. As our guest speaker, Grayson Warren Brown told us, we all have a song to sing and the Holy Spirit assists us to open our mouths and let it out. I think we sounded quite good and that God was glorified. We do have a song in our hearts.
We are developing the ability to celebrate the liturgy with beauty and dignity. Tyler Henderson will be our organist on most Sundays. I am eager to secure the assistance of Bruce Prince-Joseph, formerly of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City. He brings a wealth of experience with Anglo Catholic liturgy as well as artistic creativity. He will be our organist on a couple of Sundays in October. Sr. Claudette Schiratti will be our organist on Sunday, October 5 when Bishop Emeritus Raymond Boland will be speaking to us about Mary. Come for a visit if you are in the area.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Impressions from First Anglican Use liturgies in Kansas City

I’ve begun to feel a little guilty that I have not written about the beginning of the Anglican Use in Kansas City. Perhaps that is because I have only a series of unlinked impressions and no coherent story to tell. But let me share with you what I’ve got.
Matt Teel gave a wonderful presentation on the Gift of Authority from his experience as a former priest in the Episcopal Diocese of West Missouri and now a Catholic layman. As we spoke afterwards, he said that our Gospel Mass was the first time he he found happy people during a Catholic liturgy – that previously he had decided that Catholic liturgy was something to be endured because it is good for us – like fasting. He said that the Gospel Liturgy was filled with joy and happiness from the first greeting as he entered the church to the last. He also shared that our Anglican Use liturgy – as simple as we may be at this beginning stage – was gave him a taste of the beauty he used to enjoy at St. Mary’s. I think I also saw signs of happiness on the faces of those in the Anglican Use congregation.
My second impression is that we may be stirring up something that is trying to trip us up – sometimes literally. On the first Sunday I had a wardrobe malfunction. Let’s just say that my first experience with a lavalier mike and battery pack connected through cassock, surplice and cope was not as graceful as it could have been. Humility is an essential ingredient of good liturgy. On our second Sunday we had just enjoyed started Willan’s Gloria when the organ died and all the lights went out. The cantor and congregation didn’t miss a beat and the organist slipped around to the piano and we continued the liturgy by candlelight.
My third impression is from a comment by an Episcopalian woman who has gone to mass with the Catholic husband and children for the past 15 years. She said, “My husband is a cradle Catholic and because he was raised in the Church he is able to pick and choose what he agrees with and disagrees with. When I come into the Church as an adult, I have to be able to accept it all.” She hit the nail on the head, I thought.
My fourth impression is from a comment made by our organist last Sunday, Tyler Henderson, and our cantor the past two Sundays, Sandy Prothman. “This Anglican Use Liturgy is a lot of work!” It is not easy, even for gifted liturgical musicians, to provide leadership at an Anglican Use Liturgy. I don’t think it is ironic that liturgy means work.
And finally, all the recent attention has not brought an outpouring of new people for the Anglican Use liturgy. But it seems like our earlier Gospel Liturgy is benefiting greatly from the attention.
All of these pieces will find their proper place, given God’s grace, when we can get enough perspective to see how they fit together.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

From Jack Smith's Catholic Key Blog

World's First Anglican Use / Gospel Mass Parish

St. Therese Little Flower Parish in Kansas City was an early host of Charismatic Catholicism in the U.S. Situated in a largely African American neighborhood, St. Therese offers a liturgy drawing on charismatic and more traditional Gospel forms of worship. The parish is also a magnet for those seeking cultural diversity in church life.

Today St. Therese is led by a married man, Fr. Ernie Davis, who was an Episcopal priest for 15 years. In 2002, he was ordained to the Catholic priesthood for Kansas City.

Now a group of Anglicans and Episcopalians looking to "come home" to the Catholic Church is meeting at St. Therese and is beginning the area's first Anglican Use liturgy which lives alongside the existing Gospel-themed Mass at St. Therese.

"Both liturgies are Catholic to the core," Fr. Davis said.

The following article appears in the upcoming issue of The Catholic Key:

By John Heuertz

KANSAS CITY - A new organization has formed in Kansas City called the Society of Our Lady of Hope offering guidance, comfort and support to local Anglican Communion members who wish to become Catholics.

Beginning Sunday, September 7 and continuing through November, society members will celebrate the Liturgy of the Word each week at St. Therese Little Flower parish in Kansas City using the Book of Divine Worship - the Catholic Church-approved liturgy for Catholics with an Episcopalian or Anglican background.

Each week until December 1, the first Sunday of Advent, the liturgy will be followed by a talk on some aspect of the Catholic faith. If all goes as planned, the full Anglican Use Mass will begin on that date at St. Therese's.

Speakers will include Bishop Emeritus Raymond Boland and former Episcopal priest Mat Teel and every talk is open to the public.

"I get excited about these things," says Jude Huntz of Gladstone, who is helping coordinate the process. "I get emotional. I guess I'm in the right business."

Huntz, RCIA formation director at St. Michael the Archangel parish in Leawood, also has a personal interest.

"I have a five year old son and I really wanted him to feel he could attend the same church as a child and as an adult," says Huntz's wife Cristen, a society member and lifelong Anglican. "But I don't see that viability in the Anglican continuum anymore."

The goal is for Bishop Robert Finn to administer the sacraments of confirmation and holy Communion to society members - and to all who join them in this faith journey - at St. Therese's on December 10.

The liturgy and the talks are the first step to a complete "Anglican use" Roman Catholic Mass at St. Therese's each Sunday.

"They're already Trinitarian and very sacramental, so it's not the full RCIA program," says Father Ernie Davis, St. Therese pastoral administrator and the group's guiding spirit. "We're emphasizing things they might stumble over as new Catholics."

Anglicans live everywhere, and most Episcopalians are Americans. Both are part of the Anglican Communion, the Church of England’s international family.

In recent years, ongoing Anglican Communion disagreements over issues including abortion and euthanasia, ordaining women, and gay marriage have caused a crisis of conscience for some communion members.

Father Davis himself experienced this crisis, and he was an Episcopal priest with 15 years of loyal service at the time. Why would a lifelong Episcopalian become a Catholic when he still loved the Episcopal Church?

“The short answer is, because I finally realized I wasn’t a Catholic,” he says. “And even though the practical steps were much harder than actually converting, I’ve never regretted my decision to leave.”

He points out that cradle Catholics might be surprised to learn that many Anglicans and Episcopalians consider themselves part of the Catholic Church now.

On the other hand, the similarities help to lower the natural barriers to religious conversion.

The process got started late last winter, when a group of local Anglicans and their pastor, Father John Cochran, explored entering the Catholic Church in a body.

“I had thought about this basically twice before in my lifetime and it’s finally culminating,” says society member Luanne Fliss of Raytown. “I’m tremendously thrilled to be joining the mother church.”

The Society of Our Lady of Hope hopes to focus on evangelization for all who wish to join or return to the Catholic faith. It’s one of a growing number of similar Catholic organizations nationwide.

But it’s also unique. After December, St. Therese’s will be the only Catholic parish in the United States that has added a regular, weekly Anglican-use Mass.

“There’s been some anxiety, but the parish has been very welcoming,” Father Davis says. “The Anglicans say they’ve never experienced such a warm and welcoming parish.”

In fact, St. Therese may be the only Catholic parish anywhere with two unique Sunday liturgies — the joyous and exuberant African-American inspired Gospel Mass, and the Anglican-use Mass with its rich spirit of contemplation and recollection.

“There is a lot of beauty in the Anglican tradition,” Cristen Huntz says. “And I felt the presence of God at the Gospel Masses.”

“Both liturgies are Catholic to the core,” says Father Davis. “But neither one is a white-bread liturgy.”

“For me, the time since May has gone like lightning,” he continues. “I see divine intervention everywhere in this process.”

For further information, contact St. Therese the Little Flower parish at (816) 444-5406 or visit the society’s website. More information is also available on Father Davis’ weblog.

John Heuertz is a freelance journalist living in Kansas City.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

St. Gregory, Pray for us!

It was good to read in today’s Office of Readings that St. Gregory the Great felt pushed, pulled, and distracted at times. I am certainly feeling it. Gregory, you might say, has been looking after me for a good while. I was ordained an Episcopal priest on his day in the Episcopal calendar – March 12. And we named our first son Aidan Gregory. The Venerable Bede reports a wonderful tale about the incident which inspired him to send Augustine to England as a missionary. Seeing some slaves for sale in Rome, he was told they were Angles. “Not Angles,” he is reported to have responded, “but Angels.” Bede also records the wisdom, focus, and tolerance with which he inspired his missionary work.
In this week before we offer our first Anglican Use Liturgy of the Word and a presentation about the Catholic faith, I am feeling overwhelmed. Its not that we aren’t prepared, it is simply that I am feeling overwhelmed by all the other work that must be done this fall and I am feeling like I cannot do any of it well enough. But in this crucible of work and prayer, I believe the Holy Spirit is at work. I am no longer praying for success, but that we will be worthy and useful for the work Christ is doing to heal his Church and save souls. Ego driven success would be a failure. But a worthy sacrifice could be a success if Christ can made use of it.
Most of Christ’s work is being done in secret, heart to heart, in his relationships with prayerful souls and people who are needy and hurting. We are not privy to that. But the Holy Spirit can direct souls to catch a glimpse of an ad in the paper, hear about us from a friend, or read about us in The Key or on the internet. If he finds us worthy of assisting him in bringing people home to Christ in his Church, then we will be here to welcome them.
St. Gregory, St. Therese, and Our Lady of Hope pray for us. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.