Summertime @ St Pythag’s

Another affectionately humorous view of the Church refracted through the satirical prism of St Pythagoras & All Angles. St Pythag’s Choir had a wunderbar visit to Hannover, home of our King George I and Leibniz, inventor of calculus and chocolate biscuits, Brunswick, home of Caroline consort of George IV, and Wolfenbüttel, home to the world-famous Herzog August Library, wo Lessing ist mehr.
Hannover RathausBibliotheca Augusta

Meanwhile, Pychester Diocesan Synod has rejected the Report “We’re all sinning from the same hymn sheet in unison” on the grounds of poor proofreading and its being institutionally homophonic. It was revised and reissued as “Let’s have a stab at singing 4-part harmony and resolving discords graciously”.

A minority report “Coming out to pray” acknowledged the long heritage of gay Christians in the Church and affirmed the value of all believers, as we do at St Pythagoras & All Angles. And Synod rescinded last year’s embarrassing ban on some-sex marriage.
100 Hymns for Today
Does anyone remember this? That was 100 Hymns for 1969; about 30 for today. Funny how modern “hymn” books go out of their way to use inclusive language, but never alter words like servant, king, lord, master, majesty for our less deferential age.

At Pychester Cathedral, Canon Toni Peregrini, the new Precentor (so named for giving the Choristers their Christmas Presents) was commissioned with the laying on of jazz-hands by Bishop Rick to implement the Diocesan Report “Moving on in Musical Theatre”.
Worship Songs
Hymns and Worship Songs have had their day, so the Church needs some saxophone appeal, sequins on its plainsong sequences, glitter on Light’s Glittering Morn. Yes, it’s time to revive Godspell, JCSS and Joseph, and to compose and produce some new musicals. For instance ;-)>>

“Alpha Sixpence” – the story of Nicky Silver-Tongue, Eton lad made good. Inspired by the way the first Christians met over Chilli con Carne and Coffee to discuss the meaning of life and receive the gift of white teeth, he created a world-wide franchise of courses based on the Holy Three Musketeers, alpha one and one for all. It’s time for making your mind up!

“Blessed” – this all-singing, no-dancing Puritan musical tells the untold story of Richard Baxter and the catechesis of Kidderminster. He steered a middle way through the Civil War, Regicide and Restoration of the 17th century with songs like Defying Gravitas, Why can’t a Bishop be more like a Christian? How do you solve a problem like Cromwell? And These are a few of my favourite Hymns – indeed “Ye holy angels bright” is one of his.

“Love Indestructible” – with music from the quill of erstwhile Hogwarts’ Music Professor, Gilderoy Kendrick, including Me-ness & Majesty and the Abba-inspired Knowing me, knowing you, Jesus. This Gerry Anderson tribute is a battle between good and evil led by the Ancient of Days, Colonel White, and his Agents & Angels, from their Cloudbase in the skies against fallen Agent Captain Black and the Mysterons from Mars. The cold-war symbolism in 1967 was pretty clear; what of today? Spectrum is Green as Captain Scarlet, Destiny Angel and their comrades fight the foe, and never mind if the acting is wooden. The church militant, fighting alongside its resurrected, indestructible saviour, is not an image we find easy, but, 50 years on, the church of nice thoughts has left many in the current generation unimpressed and unmoved.
Goslar Pulpit
A few long words for the Oxford Movement English Dictionary ;-)>>
Ecclesiastically – narrow lane where church supplies are sold
Inextinguishable – longest word in any hymn, or those annoying candles that can’t be blown out
Inestimable – another excessive rise in our Parish Share to fund the Diocese’s Groats Strategy
Indestructible – Captain Scarlet, or Love in the worship song Meekness and Majesty
Indistinguishable – male or female Priests once they’ve put on a beautiful Chasuble or Cope
Inspiraviationally – how our Peregrines practise in the nest box before their first flight
Syntax – penance or, in medieval times, indulgence
Unaussprechlichen – unutterable German sighs from Bach’s Motet Der Geist hilft.

Pythagoras Book Society.
Dr Hapax Legomenon, Reader in Longwords at the Pythagoras Institute of Indisciplinary Studies suggests some Summer reading.
Dr Hapax Legomenon
For those high on the liturgical spectrum – A Manual of Anglo-Catholic Devotion.
MACD is a real book, a beautifully produced purple compendium of Office Hymns, Prayers, Psalms, Antiphons, Readings and Devotions for the whole Christian Year, complete with Calendar, Lectionary, Commentary and Tables. Keep your personal or group prayer time in step with the Church or just make Ordinary Time this Summer a little less ordinary. MACD was compiled by Fr Andrew Burnham, sometime flying Bishop of Ebbsfleet, who sadly caught Pope Benedict’s Express to Rome and is now a Monsignor in the Ordinariain’t. Notwithstanding, MACD is a treasury of holy words and a gift to us all. Warning: contains some modern language.
Several other editions are in preparation by St Pythag’s Press ;-)>>
A Manuel of Anglo-Catalan Devotion
An Automatic of North-American Devotion
A Toolkit of Do-It-Yourself Devotion
A Drumkit of Youth Devotion
A Wipe-Clean Resource of Messy Devotion
An E-manuel of Online Devotion
and for our Evangelical brethren, we really want to thank you Lord for
the 700 page Handbook of Spontaneous Worship and Extempore Prayer.

Dr Hapax (I shall write zis only once) also recommends:-
A recently discovered Sherlock Holmes story – A Study in Scarlatti, or Murder at the Harpsichord.
The story of early German porcelain – Of Meissen Men.
A romp through the herd garden of life with Sir Basil and Dill the dog – A Brief History of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme.
Explaining the origin of those ovals, dots, lines and Italian words – A Semi-Breve History of Music Notation.
Making Fundraising fun and Stewardship hip – We need to talk about Giving.

Here at St Pythag’s, my latest fantasy fundraising scheme is offering sponsorship opportunities for our Hymns and Anthems. Thus far ;-)>>
The local Wildlife Trust sponsored the anthem “Our conservation is in Devon”.
Oldie Concern fought off Pychester Pride for the hymns “Grey is Thy faithfulness” and “How grey thou art”. Pride have opted instead for “No more a closet walk with God”.
Thanks to Ecclesiastical for “Blessed Insurance”, and to the Children’s Bookshop for “Blessed be the BFG”, that great anthem by SS Wesley.
The Opticians took 2 for the price of 1 with “Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart” and “Bright the vision that delighted”, while the Beaker Folk blog requested “There is a land of pure tea-lights”.
First Great Wessex will be sponsoring Sir John Stainer’s great tribute to Isambard Kingdom Brunel, “I saw the Lord … and his train filled the Temple Meads”.
They also seem rather keen on checking for sins; I thought 7 was enough, but recently spotted this at Exeter St David’s Station…
Sin at St David's Station
Talking of Hymns, I found this plea from York Minster Old Choristers’ Association, via an Exeter & District Organists’ Association newsletter.

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways:
for most of us, when asked our mind,
admit we still more pleasure find
in hymns of ancient days,
in hymns of ancient days.

The simple lyrics, for a start,
of many a modern song
are far too trite to touch the heart;
enshrine no poetry, no art;
and go on much too long,
and go on much too long.

O, for a rest from jollity,
and syncopated praise!
what happened to tranquillity?
the silence of eternity
is hard to hear these days,
is hard to hear these days.

Send Thy deep hush, subduing all
those happy claps that drown
the tender whisper of Thy call;
triumphalism is not all,
for sometimes we feel down,
for sometimes we feel down.

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strumming cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress
of always having to be blessed;
give us a bit of peace,
give us a bit of peace.

Breathe through the beats of praise-guitar
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
let drum be dumb, bring back the lyre,
enough of earthquake, wind and fire,
let’s hear it for some calm,
let’s hear it for some calm.

Of course there is an irony here, in that “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind” has words selected from a longer poem, The Brewing of Soma written by American Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier in 1872, and first used by Garrett Horder in his 1884 Congregational Hymns. So, not so ancient after all.

And Sir Hubert Parry originally wrote the music for what became the tune Repton in 1888 for a contralto aria “Long since in Egypt’s plenteous land” in his oratorio Judith. Not until 1924 did Dr George Gilbert Stocks, director of music at Repton School, link it to “Dear Lord and Father of mankind” as a tune sung in the school chapel.

Enjoy the rest of the Summer and, as Sir Isaac Newt once said, “If I have seen a falling apple, I was standing on the shoulders of ants.”
Richard Barnes.