Friday, September 02, 2005

A Modest Proposal

After writing musings the other day on effecting the reform of the reform in a typical parish setting -- and then further formalizing this privately into a formal essay -- and in considering the likes of the Cambridge Camden Society and Oxford Movement, it has made me think there is a project that needs to be accomplished. First a bit of history.

The background:

From what I have read, Anglican church interiors of the late 18th and early 19th centuries were often re-ordered in a way in which the sanctuary and altar were no longer a point of focus. Sometimes churches were turned around in the ordering so that people no longer faced toward the sanctuary, but rather toward the sides of the nave. Large, three-decker pulpits were often installed which became the primary focus. These sometimes sat in the middle of the church amidst the pews or in a way that somewhat dwarfed or obscured the altar.

Stove pipes were often insensitively placed. Large pew boxes were present which people rented and which were effectively private boxes; in some cases you could not see your neighbours they were so high -- by design. Sometimes altars were not kept in their original positioning like we are accustomed, but were tables (sic) which were turned clockwise 90 degrees -- presumably to de-emphasize the idea of an altar. These were not treated as a sacred space as things became stored on them that ought not be.

Apparently this arrangement was not uncommon in typical Georgian-era Anglican Church arrangement. A far cry from what we almost universally see today in Anglican Churches.

(Chapel of Queen's College, Cambridge University)

The Camden project:

The Cambridge Camden society was made up of young Cambridge University undergraduates. Their project was to effectively re-Catholicize the sanctuaries of the Anglican Church. They succeeded in their project. What they did was produce various pamphlets. These would be easy to produce and cost-effective. Moreover, they targetted the pamphets, both in terms of content and in style of language to their audience. Some pamphlets were targetted to clergy and bishops. Others were targetted to benefactors who had the money to help fund the project. Still others were targetted to the simple, blue collar laymen.

The Camdens were aware that they needed support from everyone: the bishops, the parish clergy, benefactors, academics, and the common man. Thus, they sought to convince them of the project. They did so by way of pamphlets that promoted their principles and gave practical suggestions for implementing them. At the time, there was great suspicion about Romanizing or "Popish" influences, and yet despite this opposition, they accomplished their project. I believe their targetting of particular audiences, including the common man in the pew, is in large part of the reason they succeeded.

The Reform of the Reform Project Proposal:

The project for reforming the reform in a typical parish setting as things stand today could immensely benefit from a project similar to that undertaken by the Cambridge Camden Society.

I propose that tri-fold pamphlets be developed which detail and outline things such as:

Ad Orientem Celebration (Perhaps titled for a popular edition: "Why would the priest say Mass with his back to the people?") A short history and apologetic of ad orientem celebration, debunking common myths and proposing the spiritual, communal and liturgical benefits of this method could be succintly given.

Practical Ways to Effect the Reform of the Reform in your Parish (especially directed to priests and choir directors, outlining what the Church allows, and what resources they can acquire. E.g. the Adoremus Hymnal alongside a quote about Gregorian Chant from Sacrosanctum Concilium, or from Pope Benedict, etc.)

Pamplets could be composed about sanctuary arrangement, like the placement of the celebrant's chair. Others could be composed debunking common myths about what "Vatican II did away with", such as the matter of Latin, etc.

This list is certainly not exhaustive but gives you an example of what I am thinking of.

Such pamphlets could be created in PDF format, something which is easily printable, either by a professional printer, or by a parish's own computer printer, to be freely distributed on the internet, in the parish, to pastors and bishops, etc. Thus the undertaking can be taken up locally with little cost.

The pamphlets should avoid polemics, but should be straight forward and to the point. Some of these topics could have an academic version and a popular edition. The pamphlets should be rigorous for their accuracy and thoroughly checked over and revised whenever necessary due to new liturgical laws or statements from the Church.

Anyone definitely interested in helping with the project may wish to privately email me. I cannot promise everyone that responds will actually be involved. The help mainly needed would be in terms of suggestions for pamphlets, and in some cases, the necessary research into a particular topic. In some cases, writers may be needed.

At this point, the project is merely an idea and a proposal. One whose time I think has come.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: