Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Thee, Thou, and Isaac Watts

I have a special relationship with Isaac Watts. I learned to read before I started school, and one of the first things I read was the fine print in the Presbyterian hymnal when my parents took me to church. (I presumably was not paying attention to the service, but at least I wasn't scribbling in the hymn book like modern kids.) So down at the bottom of the page I kept seeing something called Isaac Watts, whatever that was. However, I had already developed my interest in electric trains, and the Watts part made me think there was something electrical involved, so that made it the more interesting and mysterious.

I learned nothing else about Isaac Watts until graduate school. My graduate supervisor was a low-church Canadian who had left his Christianity behind but was still low-church, if you can understand this. He was a Samuel Johnson specialist, so I would say they had a great deal in common, and several of his acolytes were rather grim Canadians as well. One of them did a paper on Isaac Watts, and I finally discovered who the name at the bottom of the hymnal page from my childhood actually was.

The missal book at our diocesan parish includes a great many traditional Anglican hymns, including those by Watts. (Watts himself was not Anglican.) I observed not long ago that it had edited the Anglican words of Lobe den Herren to change the archaic thees and thys to the modern yous and yours. Last Sunday we sang the Watts words to St Anne, "O God our help in ages past", but when we got to the second stanza, I found, "Under the shadow of your throne", and things proceeded from there.

I'm a little more uncomfortable with the editors doing this with Watts than Lobe den Herren, since the Anglican version of that one is a 19th-century translation from German, while the Watts text is from Watts's hand and was intended that way by its author. By about 1705, when Watts was writing hymns, the English familiar second-person had become archaic. (The angry and unstable Hamlet was using both forms indiscriminately a century earlier.) This suggests that Watts was emulating the language of the King James Bible, which itself adopted an archaic tone to emphasize the special nature of religious language.

It's worth noting that the Ordinary Form mass mostly uses modern "you", but the Our Father continues with "hallowed be Thy name". None of this is support for the idea of a made-up BDW mass dating from 1905 self-consciously adopting faux archaism.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


I had an inkling I had misstated the statistics in my update to yesterday's post. A visitor explains my problem:
In the "update" paragraph of today's post, you seem to have confused the "mean" and the "median" -- which are not the same. The "mean" is the arithmetic average, obtained by dividing the total of all gifts by the number of givers. The "median" is the fiftieth percentile -- the amount that has an equal number of equal or larger and equal or smaller donations. . . . It's pretty normal for twenty percent of the donors to account for eighty percent of the donated funds -- and a few large donations really do skew the mean[.]

Monday, October 17, 2016

More On Giving

My regular correspondent comments,
The average annual parish giving per member in the US Catholic church was $497 in 2013 (latest figures I could find). The 2013 figure for TEC was $2556. Even if the figures were calculated somewhat differently and aren't completely comparable it is evident that Catholics are not in the same ballpark as Episcopalians when it comes to financial support of their church.
By "average", I assume my correspondent means "arithmetic mean". The TEC sample size is much smaller than the Catholic and is probably skewed by the small number of high-end donors. I'm not sure if it says much of anything about the OCSP, whose own numbers are going to be skewed by the half a dozen self-sustaining parishes against the two dozen groups and missions -- but even there, the law of small numbers is going to apply. My correspondent continues,
Catholic priests are very poorly compensated relative to the clergy of other denominations and retirement support is often a matter of charity rather than a funded benefit, so they are in effect subsidising their parishes/dioceses, just as in the past women religious subsidised the operation of Catholic schools and hospitals. It's a mindset.
I would characterize it as something other than a mindset -- vocation is involved. Bp Barron has noted that the women religious whom feminists decry as providing cheap labor have taken vows of poverty and are undertaking those lives via free and informed choice. The same applies to Catholic priests, who again are fully aware of the conditions under which they will work. Episcopal priests, in contrast, are typically seeking socially prestigious positions that will in many cases fund a prosperous family life.
The funding of so many aspects of diocesan and national church life through second collections rather than an effective system of allotment of parish funds to the diocese is inferior to the model used in TEC and the ACC, in my estimation. One feels sorry for the intended beneficiaries of a second collection scheduled for January. Presumably the idea is that donors can pick and choose their priorities but I think this is actually a rather Protestant approach.
The bottom line for me is that it strikes me as doubtful that parish pledges or special collections can fund projects like a clergy pension fund. In fact, the Episcopal retirement fund in the US was only begun about 1920 in a campaign led by J.P.Morgan Jr. If Bp Lopes can find equivalent donors, more power to him, but that's what will be needed. However, while responsible diocesan laity should be considering the Church in their estate planning, it seems to me that overall priorities for the Church must go beyond a boutique issue like the OCSP.

UPDATE: The more I think about the TEC annual giving average of $2556, the less credible it seems to me. This amounts to an average weekly pledge of $49.15, with 50% of pledges being greater. 30 years ago I served as an assistant treasurer at All Saints Episcopal Beverly Hills, with access to weekly pledge amounts. Beverly Hills is a prosperous community, and this is a prosperous and prestigious parish. Even allowing for inflation, I can say that I never saw weekly pledges coming anywhere close to $50, and certainly never a situation with half of the pledge checks coming in for more.

Concert At St Mary Of The Angels October 23

From Fr Kelley:
At 3:00 PM on October 23, the Sunday after St Luke's Day, the California state University Northridge Women's Chorale will offer the Premier Performance of "Magnificat" by James Domine, together with other works.

Dr Katherine Baker will direct the Chorale. Dr Kathleen Moon will play the harp.

This is part of the Fall Music Program at St Mary of the Angels. There is no admission charge. A free-will offering will be taken to support the musical outreach program of the parish.

Fr Kelley confirms that arrangements will be made for parking behind the parish.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Clergy Conference Wrapup

My regular correspondent reports,
The clegy conference has wrapped up and I think it is clear that while Ms Faber may not be doing much as Director of Communications---promised July issue of the Ordinariate Observer never appeared and the "Parish Spotlight" on the home page celebrated its one year anniversary last month---she has been devoting a lot of time to her other role as Director of Strategic Planning. A sophisticated timeline and planning process for second collections has been rolled out, including an annual appeal for a retirement fund for OCSP clergy. This last, along with financial support for seminarians, is of course crucial if the OCSP is to attract younger clergy prepared to dedicate themselves full-time to ministry in the Ordinariate, which is in turn the key to growth, IMHO.

On the one hand, I am not sure that the majority of OCSP laypeople, retirees on fixed incomes used to the once a year pledge system of TEC, are going to be happy with being hit up with a special collection for extra-parochial purposes every three months. On the other hand, it tells us that getting the financial house in order has been identified as Job One in Houston, or perhaps Job Two if we regard the complete turnover of the previous leadership team as the first order of business. In any event, your observation that the potential financial contribution of St Mary's would have been extremely helpful to the Ordinariate had the ball not been so decisively fumbled by that same previous leadership is clearly accurate.

While second collections are ubiquitous in Catholic parishes, as a sometime usher who's passed the basket for them, I'm not at all sure how productive they are. I've exchanged looks with the head usher as we total up maybe $20 in small bills from such a one. On the other hand, our current diocesan pastor has apparently been the cause of complaints to the bishop on how frequently he stresses the need for financial support, citing on his behalf the number of times Our Lord speaks of money in the Gospels. The parish is in fact successful.

In older days, wealthy Episcopalians were generous with endowments, but I believe those times have passed. I became an Episcopalian about the time I got serious about a career, and I at least tried to approach a tithe (but never got there) on a fairly modest income. Nevertheless, I was regarded as a major donor in the parish. I don't know what mindset former Episcopalians bring to the OCSP in the matter of donations, but I've always been suspicious that Episcopalianism was popular, to the extent it ever was, because it made few actual demands on its adherents, financially or morally.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Tangentially Interesting Video

I ran into a roughly 1-hour presentation by Dr David Campbell, a former Presbyterian pastor who became Catholic (and in doing so apparently gave up a prestigious clerical post to become a schoolteacher).

He makes no mention of Angicanorum coetibus, but he speaks persuasively about "unchurched spirituality", a much wider source of error than heterodox Anglicanism. This hit home with me in particular because it pointed out how much of my elite-school education (in which required readings certainly included Emerson and William James but never Aquinas) built on my poorly catechized childhood.

This convinces me in turn that Anglicanism isn't going to bring a whole lot to the table in equipping the Catholic faith for what it is likely to encounter in coming decades, but an understanding of what Dr Campbell is discussing certainly will.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Here's A Puzzle

Amid revelations of anti-Catholic remarks by members of a campaign staff, I'm intrigued in particular by an e-mail characterizing Catholicism "a middle ages dictatorship". The campaign is apparently slow-walking any response to calls for resignations. But how quickly would any campaign react to calls for resignation if any staffer characterized Mahometanism as the same thing?

This feeds my continuing view that Mahometan migration to the West is being encouraged as a specifically anti-Christian measure. Mahometans are offended by any number of Christian customs, they appeal to the state for redress under the threat of violent outbursts, and the state decides it must choose winners in the dispute. The end result is that one side is designated a medieval dictatorship, while the other is not.

The Catholic Church needs to be aware of the potential here and be ready for it.