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Hallo again to all.

Today was a new experience for us. We cantored a psalm for the first time. Baby steps to be sure, but it was, as an experience, some combination of nerve wracking and exhilarating. It also gave us cause to think about precision. Getting the right pitch, at the right time, with the right intonation. Evensong in York Minster (By Allan Engelhardt (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

Liturgical traditions of Christianity have always had some reason to think about precision. Certainly Pope Francis (after, we note, the first Anglican choral evensong in St. Peter’s Basilica) was clearly thinking at least a bit about it recently. Radio Vaticana quotes him as saying of the Catholic musical tradition: 'Sometimes a certain mediocrity, superficiality and banality have prevailed, to the detriment of the beauty and intensity of liturgical celebrations.' Our own Anglican tradition clearly has a history of precision in music—e.g., the precision required of Anglican chant, with the SATB parts weaving in and out of one another. As to the guitar mass, further affiant sayeth naught.

Many professions call on great concentration and precision, of course. It is nothing unique to liturgy, merely an expression of how much liturgy means to us. The deacon who intones the exsultet and the chef who works with the blade of a knife to make a brunoise are both engaging in needful care and leveraging the result of much practice. Jesus was impressive to the Samaritan woman at the well when he described how many husbands she had over the years because he got the number exactly right. 'You seem like you have been married a few times' would have been less like the word of a prophet and more like a reasonable observer of the human condition. We suspect Jesus was both, but the former captured the attentions of John and the woman’s community.

We have noted more than a few heated discussions about the right way to light candles, or when to bow at the altar, or whether the Gospel is read among the people with a procession of torches and cross or by itself alone. Sometimes we have judged these arguments to be nit picking. Sometimes not. It seems that the real metric is what we say by our precision, or lack thereof.

Things done with due care seem magical. They simply happen. Procession processed, song sung, canon of the mass chanted, and Christ to earth descended in the Sacrament. Yet, without that care, things fall apart. The grind of a note a half pitch off snowballs through the whole congregation. Every parish has those moments, but we likewise have those people who smooth them: the usher who spots a misprint in the bulletin, an announcement about an upcoming parish event from the back row that is piped up just as the liturgy is about to move forward.

So, we turn with a bit of profound gratitude to all of those in our own community who make sure the small touches are right even in a world that is (often) all too wrong in the broad strokes.

See you again next week!

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19 March 2017

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