I think I could bear a few bishops if I were in Sweden (and spoke Swedish.) The Church of Sweden seems so keen in its international humanitarian mission. It willingly disestablished. They have a quite-nice modern language liturgy conveniently translated to English and — miracle of miracles! — have a preliminary rite for celebrating registered partnerships (for persons of the same sex). Again, in English.
There’s a PDF to download. Grab it.
Link at “Swedish Rite for Blessing Same-Sex Couples” (Thurible.net via Thinking Anglicans)
Philocrites wrote about a now-tabled resolution in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts that would have asked clergy not to solemnize marriage, but only to go so far bless civil marriage. I hate this cut-nose-spite-face business, especially if there’s an underlying benefit of getting church-shopping brides and grooms off your back. Philo also knocks some big holes in the alleged church-state blurring implied by clergy officiation of weddings.
Now we have a fun story from Japan via the BBC. Seems some Westerners who have not so much as an Internet ordination have been standing in as priests for the Western-style marriage ceremonies that are so popular there. These too, I suppose, would be classified as blessings as the couple have already been married in a civil ceremony.
Perhaps the Massachusetts Episcopalians can go whole hog and not only un-table the resolution next year but authorize stand-ins?
Do read the article, especially if you enjoy a bit of nuptial schadenfreude.
“Faking it as a priest in Japan” by Kathleen McCaul (BBC News, 2 November 2006)
I found two resources to bookmark if you are in pastoral ministry or are taking care of someone who may soon die.
- Consumerist has an article today about taking care of the financial matters of the deceased. Not easy stuff, but better to be prepared. “HOWTO: Handle Closing Dead People’s Accounts”
- Navy member? I found a PDF document about who gets benefits and what ceremonies are appropriate. Plus charts. I love charts. Very spelled out and logical, which like well-organized funerals and memorial services can be a great comfort when one feels weak. Not everything is useful for civilians (who aren’t the target readership) but fun reading (if you like that kind of thing). Navy Military Funerals (PDF file)
Not everyone will need this. Perhaps quite few. But if you’re conducting a burial at sea — whether the remains are cremated or not — this a resource you should have.
Burials at Sea (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
I was able to order a copy of Frank Schulman’s A Manual of Worship: insights from over fifty as a Unitarian Universalist minister before it became available at the UUA Bookstore. It now is so available. PeaceBang clued me in on it. I got my copy today.
This kind of guide, intended mainly for ministers but not exclusively so, can be terribly important in the trajectory of worship practices for a generation. Earlier strata include the Seaburg titles (like Great Occasions) and before that the now-rare ministerial “special services” book twinned with the “red hymnal” Hymns of the Spirit. This genre is a mixed lot, a mix of rite (the texts of worship), custom (how worship is done and with what materials), and theological and historical rationale. In my opinion, the best books are a mix. The real value of the red hymnal special services book is its introduction. You might have to buy more than one book. (Presbyterians are out of luck; I’ve never found a Presbyterian customary.) Rite-only books assume the end-user has a developed set of operating directions or a local tradition to rely on: a dangerous assumption, but honestly based on a desire to be non-directive and thus more free. Better to have, I think, an assortment of worship practice books than to be convinced that a popular version is the only way.
So that’s how I’ll be reading the Schulman book.
One last thing: this book is neither from the Beacon Press nor Skinner House. The publisher is the UUA itself, specifically the Stewardship and Development division. Hmm. Let’s get what we’re thinking out in the public. Was this book published as a quid pro quo for the Schulmans’ huge gift? It needs to be said because if it goes unsaid people might suspect the worst, suspect a sleight of hand, and not give this book its due.
So I’ll start reading this book with a tough but open mind and will report back.
Ages ago, I said I would work on some ideas for remembering the dead when no physical remains could be found. This weekend seems a good time to pick that back up, and let’s begin with the catafalque.
Continue reading “Without the body: the catafalque”
I watched a 2004 National Geographic Special on PBS tonight: Arlington: Field of Honor (WGBH Boston page). It is obviously on as a lead-up to Memorial Day and follows a day of funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, and outlines its history. Chances are you can still watch it if you get PBS, and it is also available for purchase.
Anyone preparing for the ministry should watch it, and I recommend it to ministers as food for thought. Continue reading “Watch and learn: Arlington Cemetery documentary”
One of the things that baffles me is how there is no UUA or UUMA commended special services (aka pastoral offices) book. Perhaps the seminary custom of compiling one makes it a risky proposition.
In any case, one book has been invaluable with my non-church-going grandmother’s simple memorial and the wedding for the coolest couple in DC. (White chatting: “No, the double decker bus crashes into us.” Some of you will get that.)
Those in the UK should order it from Essex Hall, but those in the United States and Canada can order it through the UUA bookstore. In Day Job, I handle sending books to overseas professional bookshops (and from overseas publishers) and I have to say the UUA price is more than fair — not worth the trip to London; not even really worth the space in your luggage — and the delay is reasonable. Plus, it is your only option.
And it is . . .
Celebrating Life for sale at the UUA bookstore
Anyone, especially any Christian, who pastors churches or thinks they might be responsible for participating in a funeral would do well to bookmark or download (or both) the following two resources.
The first is generally useful: a booklet from Co-operative Funeralcare (UK) called “Well Chosen Words.” This is a sensitive, well-written and brief guide to writing eulogies. I gather from the booklet eulogies are more common in the US than in the UK, but perhaps no better crafted. This guide will help shape thoughts and outline the responsibilities of a eulogist in a realistic manner. Click the cover image (with the tulips) at this site to download the PDF version.
The second is the current (1987) funeral rites of the Scottish Episcopal Church. (Scroll halfway down for the download options.) This is fine in its own right, but the last page of the funeral service (if you’re reading it in PDF) is a framework for a mourner to craft a prayer. This is very wise, as the desire to say a public prayer may be high but the burden of having to do something so personal and unfamiliar possibly undermines the intent.
Webby folks: Note the site, which is appropriately scaled for this small denomination (about 44,000). The content software is WordPress, the same as this blog.
In a couple of weeks I’ll be in Georgia for my grandmother’s memorial service. I expect it will be dignified but not formal, and filled with emotion but not maudlin. Both extremes would constitute a fuss, which she would have none of. As I mentioned before, she planned for her death and made this transition easier for her family. I’m grateful, but I think too that this planning was good for her spiritual estate, too.
So, for the next couple of weeks I’ll write an occasional series on how we can prepare, and how those who come after can do what they need to.
When someone I know dies, out of habit I sing “O Strength and Stay, Upholding All Creation” a luminous Ambrosian hymn matched in Hymns of the Spirit (#435) to the Genevan psalm tune “Donne Secours.” (Text, but only the first two verses were used in Hymns of the Spirit. In Singing the Living Tradition, this is matched with “O Earth, Thy Path Is Crowned and Consecrated.”)
The second stanza continues the prayer form of the hymn:
Grant to life’s day a calm unclouded ending,
An eve untouched by shadows of decay,
the brightness of a holy deathbed blending
With dawning glories of the eternal day.
Yes, I want that, too.