Wednesday, February 6, 2013

More on "renewal"

Here's a recent post, "Nine Texts Towards Catholic renewal in Parishes," from "The Catholic Anglican - the blog of Akenside Press."  I've just discovered this site; Scott, who sometimes comments here, directed my attention to it.  (Thank you, Scott!)  The blog seems to have been around since early 2012 or so.  I must say  that it's really nice to see these kinds of sites springing up in many and various places these days!

This recommendation is all by way of naked self-interest, of course; once I realized that I couldn't find what I was looking for - what I need, in fact - in most local parishes, I knew it was time to do something about it myself.  I've begun to think, too, that the reason I can't find it is that the Episcopal Church on the whole isn't sure what it's actually for, these days.   It seems to have given up on finding its purpose in "formation" - and has launched off into "activism" instead.

But as the author of "The Catholic Anglican" notes:
Catholic renewal in Anglican parishes requires a concerted effort to focus all available energy on parish formation. It is just that simple. Within its liturgical and sacramental life, a parish does outreach to the hungry, the needy, the sick, the marginalized — and a parish does formation for its parishioners. Period.

I really, really like simple.  I'm glad to see the church's mission boiled down into - ahem - a "Primary Purpose," consisting of two simple parts.  Now we're getting someplace!  And I think these two points are exactly right, too; they can be excellent guideposts for any parish at any time it's faced with any sort of choice or area of confusion.  It can ask itself:  Which choice best contributes to our "primary purpose"?   It's so much easier to work things through when you have a guidestar like that.  Simplify, simplify!   A "primary purpose" is refreshing for the mind and heart and soul, and can bring you easily and happily back to first principles.

Here are the texts he suggests:
1. English Spirituality, by Martin Thornton
2. The Book of Common Prayer
3. The Bible
4. Enchiridion, by St Augustine
5. Rule, by St Benedict
6. Proslogion, by St Anselm
7. The Scale of Perfection, by Walter Hilton
8. Revelations, by Julian of Norwich
9. Principles of Christian Theology, by John Macquarrie
10. Whatever text or texts you want
I wish the Thornton book weren't $40!  I've requested a Kindle version, so maybe they'll get that going at some point.  Maybe meantime I can find it at the local library.  The others, happily, are available for nothing online (here, for instance).  I need to read the Augustine and Anselm things, and finish the Walter Hilton and Julian books.  Never read the Macquarrie one, either, but will see if that's a freebie someplace too.

Here's what he lists under #10 (and I do like the idea of an open-ended point like this):
And this list concludes. Or it continues. Let it be said again: this is a syllabus of “good food” for Anglican parochial renewal, not an exhaustive list of every worthwhile book an Anglican must own. Of course any Catholic renewal in Anglican parishes in going to involve study and integration of theological insights of texts beyond those listed here.

Anglicans look to other sources within Anglican tradition. These include N.T. WrightEphraim RadnerSarah Coakley,Alister McGrath, and John Milbank. Many seek renewal from the just-retired Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Many still look to C.B. Moss and F.P. Harton. Other study Carolines like Richard Hooker and Tractarians like Blessed John Henry Newman.

Anglicans look also the rest of the Christian world. These include the Eastern Church, to Orthodox theologians past and present: excellent examples are Alexander Schmemann andJohn Behr, as well as Eastern fathers (e.g., the Popular Patristic Series from St Vladimir’s Seminary Press). Anglicans look to the Roman Church, for quite understandable reasons: their tradition (like that of Eastern Orthodoxy) has immeasurable richness, with the current officeholder of the Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI, a wonderful example, along with St Thomas AquinasHans Urs von Balthasar, and far too many more to list here. Some Anglicans look to non-Catholic traditions, whether from the Reformation Era or present day — such as Martin LutherJohn Calvin, and more recently, Karl Barth, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Still others see the “post-liberal” framework of George Lindbeck and Bruce Marshall for its renewal promise and framework.

All faithful Anglicans — and faithful Christians in general — look to the early Church for theological renewal, beginning with our noble army of Martyrs: as well we should. “Whatever text or texts you want” means that into the basic diet of the English School we integrate a variety of influences. Thornton himself is full of additional recommendations, in particular theAncrene Riwle and works by Hugh of St VictorAelred of RievaulxMargery KempeRichard RolleJeremy Taylor, and E.L. Mascall.

The possibilities continue indefinitely. But throughout it all, let us not forget the English School. Let us return time and time again to its strength, its patience, its gentleness — let us live with these works — for they fuel nothing less than Prayer Book Catholicism. 

It's good to have suggestions like this, and I like the idea of a list of 10 things to read, too.

I understand where he's coming from with the "Catholic" thing - but wish we could leave it out.  You don't have to be "Catholic" to appreciate any of these things, and I'm worried it's an artificial division that will leave some people wondering if it's for them.

But, maybe not.  Anyway, I'm very happy to see what I think is something of a movement in the direction of  the wonderful simplicity of "outreach to the hungry, the needy, the sick, the marginalized, and formation for parishioners."   Let's do it!

It could be that now is the time to really get going on my idea for a new lay movement - and base its Primary Purpose and function on the two simple ideas above.  I have been thinking about the 14th-century Jesuati - and also Little Gidding and the Ferrar family - and wondering if either of those could provide something of a model for us.  And since my original idea was that the movement would to be "dedicated to study, discussion, and prayer [and possibly writing]," it could be a really, really good idea to follow The Catholic Anglican's suggestions here and use these books as study materials.

Things are happening!


Scott said...

You're welcome, bls! Great post! I'm thinking of proposing a parish book group based on these (except the Bible and BCP, which we use every day anyway, and we have a Bible study group). We're Anglo-Catholic, and I think we could use more study and discussion of why we do things the way we do (along with the rest of the Anglican way of Christianity). The Akenside site and some folks at St. Paul's, Riverside, are doing great, thoughtful work in all this.

bls said...

The book group is a great idea, Scott.

Thanks very much again, for pointing me to that site! I'm kind of going through the posts slowly, and you were right: it's a great resource....

Michael said...

I love it.
It does seem that part of understanding what you're for is understanding where you come from. And that does seem to be something one has tending to have to go looking for on one's own within my lifetime. My college fraternity realized that in the 80s, and went exploring in the archives, and dug up a lot of old stuff, returned the rituals to an earlier state, and formed a much more formative identity.

I haven't read all the books in that list yet, though I've written them down! (To join the "stack of pious reading on my nightstand which will eventually topple over and kill me in my sleep".) I've gone back a few times also to "The Sayings of the Desert Fathers", and The Collations is in the queue. Some of what Derek has talked about, of recovering an interpretive context for the liturgy seems important as well.

bls said...

I decided to read Enchiridion during Lent; the "study" part of "prayer, fasting, study, and almsgiving" gave me the push I needed. I picked up the Julian and Walter Hilton Kindle books for $.99 each, too, and will get into those if I finish the first one.

I think you're right about "looking at history" in order to find more meaning in rites and things. One thing I've come to realize since I got involved in religion is that whenever you have to look something up, it sends you on a major search through history and anthropology and archeology and literature and many other things! When you're looking at something so old, you have to read really widely in order to get even a basic understanding.

So, attending church has really been good for my education!