Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Storm News

Although I'm still checking the property, now more thoroughly since the sun's come up, it appears at this time that only superficial damage has been done to our churchyard.  Many branches down, of course, but no observable damage yet to be seen to any structure, including the columbarium, which took a terrific hit from a large tree limb.

For updates, please consider checking the Christ Church Facebook page at this web address:!/pages/Christ-Church-Roxbury/166498456732773

Click on the address above as if it were any other link.  I plan to have photos up later in the day, weather permitting.

Tuesday's Quotation

"It is unfair and scarcely honest to consider the Bible or parts of it as a cake from which we can pick out merely the raisins we happen to like. Speaking the truth in love and witnessing to the biblical Christ may imply the necessity to speak also of some very strange things." - Markus Barth [1959]

Monday, October 29, 2012

I'm Glad I Kept That Helmet

Especially as the church yard is now a hard hat area.

This Week's Lesser Feasts

November 3: Richard Hooker [1554-1600]

There are two, perhaps three, theologians in the very earliest Anglican Church who determined through their writings and preaching what was to be Anglican Theology, a clear and reasonable "middle way" between the excesses of both the Church of Rome and the Church of Geneva, the two extremes in 16th century Christianity.

One was Thomas Cranmer, who composed the first Book of Common Prayer, thus establishing the particular nature of our liturgical presentation. It should also be remembered that The Book of Common Prayer is also a theological document.  Our way of looking at the life both temporal and eternal is revealed in its prayers and very language. 

The second, according to some, is Matthew Parker, who was Archbishop of Canterbury in the mid to late 16th century.  He was the primary organizer of the Thirty-Nine Articles, each of which takes a look at various aspects of life and how we are to regard the world in theological clarity and balance.  It's important to note that The Articles are still in the back of Book of Common Prayer; the current edition, too.  Yes, even the Kindle edition.

The third is today's honoree.  Richard Hooker was never the Archbishop of Canterbury, as were Cranmer and Parker; he spent his service to the church as a humble, if rather brilliant, priest.  He is best known for his eight-volume Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie, a pointed response to the Puritan criticism of Anglicanism that surmounts a simple explanation and becomes a theological masterwork that illuminates the depths of the Prayer Book's theological perspective.  Most contemporary clergy are unfamiliar with it, however most contemporary clergy are unfamiliar with the Book of Common Prayer, too.  [We live in a curious time, when it is considered "cool" to be disdainful of that book and the magnitude of its contribution to human spiritual development.  Good thing there's still some old-timers like me around, by crackee.]

In it, Hooker noted that

The principal subject of the work was the proper governance of the churches ("polity"). Hooker considered fundamental questions about the authority and legitimacy of government (religious and secular), about the nature of law, and about various kinds of law, ranging from the laws of physics to the laws of England. The philosophical base of his work was Aristotelian, drawing from Thomas Aquinas, with a strong emphasis on natural law, eternally planted by God in creation. Hooker argued that all positive laws of Church and State are developed from Scriptural revelation, ancient tradition, reason, and experience. Hooker believed that the church should be a broad, tolerant, inclusive body, in which as many as possible could worship God. He emphasized the importance of corporate worship and reading of the Bible. He stressed the Sacrament of Holy Communion as the best way for the believer to participate with Christ in God's Incarnation. Hooker argued for a "Via Media" (middle way) between the positions of the Roman Catholics and the Puritans. Hooker argued that reason and tradition were important when interpreting the Scriptures, and argued that it was important to recognize that the Bible was written in a particular historical context, in response to specific situations: "Words must be taken according to the matter whereof they are uttered" (Lawes IV.11.7).
Yes, that portion above in boldface was marked by yours truly.  This has been, and remains, the primary intention of Anglican theology, and the one that is tested again and again generation after generation.

More of Richard Hooker may be found here.

I was always partial to this quotation, as it serves as a nice reminder to tyrants, even the wannabees in democratic government, that there is one ruler and one only:  "To live by one man's will becomes the cause of all misery."

O God of truth and peace, you raised up your servant Richard Hooker in a day of bitter controversy to defend with sound reasoning and great charity the catholic and reformed religion: Grant that we may maintain that middle way, not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Raimundo Panikkar

I met him when I became a bartender.

As my parents were non-drinkers, I wasn't all that familiar with the rich tapestry of alcoholic legerdemain.  Being from Cleveland really didn't help much, either, as everyone there drank either whiskey or beer [a mixed drink meant whiskey poured into beer].  But I needed extra money [that is, any money at all] when I was a seminary student and managed to talk myself into a bartending job for a theological conference. 

From time to time, the original General Theological Seminary in New York City would host one of these gatherings of pre-eminent theologians.  These were rather intramural affairs where only a handful of seminarians would be invited by their mentors to spend a weekend of drinks, grand meals, and remarkable discussions that would serve as fodder for a dozen written explorations into the quest for God-ness. 

To paraphrase my Scottish grandfather, I was never any professor's darlin', so I was never one of the chosen acolytes who got to bask in that corporate illumination.  When I saw a notice that the next conferees would include many of those who were leading the grand theological discussion in which I was a mere microbe, I was glad to get invited one way or another.

Once upon a time I had been taught the importance of finding how to seize the initiative even in the most daunting of circumstance, a talent that had been improved in places far more difficult than a seminary's reception hall, so I employed every bit of charm and guile at my disposal to learn the job of bartender for the reception.  All I needed was a bow tie and a rich knowledge of mixology.  I had neither, of course, but initiative, again, was seized.

As it turned out, one of the secretaries in the spirituality center's office was sympathetic to my cause and also had an alarming knowledge of which drinks were preferred by which theologians.  After a quick tutorial, I was ready.  When the reception came, I was able to prepare Berkhof's bourbon and ginger ale, Neuhaus' scotch and soda, MacQuarrie's scotch and scotch [that's right] and Tillich's gimlet.  Then the man himself came to the bar.

While I had never met Panikkar, I had read what was considered his masterwork; that book, more than any other that I had read by that time, had broadened and informed my thinking about spiritual possibility.  "Might I have some ice water, please?"  Well, that was a little bit of a let-down.  After all, I was ready to make him anything from a Long Island Iced Tea to a Bayberry Breeze, but it did give me the chance I sought.  "I enjoyed your book," I said, lamely.  "Well, I didn't enjoy it,, that is,, I mean it."  Yes, after all that, I was de-articulated when the moment came.

For the next twenty minutes, even rebuffing an attempted interruption from Berkhof, Panikkar regaled me with tales of cross-cultural theology, history, and potential.  I know I absent-mindedly poured some drinks for others, but I didn't want to break my conversation with Panikkar, so I may have been making rum martinis and vodka coladas, I don't know.  But, it was generous of him to be willing to talk to the bartender and it reminded me that, for all of their academic excellence, the truly good theologians are always good pastors.

Why was he, in this collection of rather special men and women, the most interesting?  From Panikkar's biography:

Raimundo Panikkar Alemany was born on Nov. 3, 1918, in Barcelona.  He was a Roman Catholic priest and a professor of philosophy at the University of Madrid when he made his first trip to India in 1954. It was a turning point in his spiritual life and a homecoming of sorts: his father was a Hindu from the south of India who had married a Spanish Roman Catholic.

While studying Indian philosophy and religion at the University of Mysore and Banaras Hindu University, Mr. Panikkar befriended several Western monks seeking Eastern forms for the expression of their Christian beliefs. It was an eye-opening experience. 

“I left Europe as a Christian, I discovered I was a Hindu and returned as a Buddhist without ever having ceased to be Christian,” he later wrote.

When the Spanish Civil War broke out, he fled to Bonn to continue his university studies, but while he was on vacation at home, Germany invaded Poland. He remained in Spain, earning a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Madrid in 1946 and a doctorate in chemistry in 1958.

In 1940 he had become friends with Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, the canonized founder of Opus Dei; Father Escrivá urged him to train for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1946 and for the next 20 years worked closely with Opus Dei. He earned a third doctorate, in theology, at the Lateran University in Rome in 1961.

In his dissertation, Mr. Panikkar compared the work of St. Thomas Aquinas with the interpretation of the Brahma Sutras, one of Hinduism’s fundamental texts, by the eighth-century Hindu philosopher Adi Sankara. Mr. Panikkar argued that Christ, as a universal symbol of the divine and the human intertwined, belonged to the world, not just to Christianity, and could be found under other names in other religions.

Yes, he had three doctoral degrees in the pursuit of truth, God, and science.  He was a Roman priest who was also a Hindu.  He was a Spaniard who was an Indian.  There is no other way for him to have looked at the world, and to have built a theology from that perspective, that would not be fascinating and radically different.  He made the best and the brightest in that reception hall look like, to me at least, a bunch of plonkers.

From the book that I comes this quotation about the tension of the academic/pastoral life:

“...if I do not take my intellectual vocation seriously, putting it before everything else even at the risk of appearing inhuman, then I am also incapable of helping people in more concrete and proximate ways. Conversely, if I am not alert and ready to save people from a conflagration, that is to say, if I do not take my spiritual calling in all earnestness, sacrificing to it all else, even my own life, then I shall be unable to help in rescuing the manuscript. If I do not involve myself in the concrete issues of my time, and if I do not open my house to all the winds of the world, then anything I produce from an ivory tower will be barren and cursed. Yet if I do not shut doors and windows in order to concentrate on this work, then I will not be able to offer anything of value to my neighbors.” 

He died just a few years ago; his obituary in the New York Times may be found here.  It's a good one, and I'm glad he was remembered.  All of his books are still in print and I hope they are still read in classrooms somewhere.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thursday's Prayer

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
Christ’s compassion to the world;
Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which He is to bless others now.   -   Teresa of Avila

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wow. Anyone Care To Guess Who This Is?

It's been a long time since comics actually addressed something that matters, other than simply doing the Episcopal Church thing of repeating the talking points of a particular political party.  And yes, it's Clark Kent quitting The Daily Planet in the latest issue of Superman.  It's really making the rounds of the community of former reporters today.

Historical News

In everything we say, there is an echo of 1066

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tuesday's Quotation

"It is one great advantage of an age in which unbelief speaks out, that Faith can speak out too."
 - John Henry Newman

Monday, October 22, 2012

This Week's Lesser Feast Days

October 26: Alfred the Great [849-889]

It is always interesting to note the reaction of the un-churched or the non-theistic to those historical personages who make up our lesser feast days.  As they only know of Christianity through inane presentations in popular media and entertainment, the reality can often be surprising; sometimes disquieting for them.

When I used to teach Comparative Religion, those students un-blessed with membership in any recognizable religious tradition would often be surprised that monarchs could be considered holy representatives of the Gospel.  Actually, they used to phrase it as, "I thought there was separation of church and state."

Yes, so piecemeal was their education that they not only thought that church/state separation was to be found in the U.S. Constitution [it's not], but that it formed some transnational, pan-historical practice since the earliest days of organized civilization.  Sometimes a semester could be very long.

King Alfred, who was and is the only English monarch ever to carry the appellation "the Great", was not only a king who was charged with protecting his people and territories from the ravenous tribes of Vikings, but a Christian who, through blood, perspiration, and faith, protected early Anglican Christianity from paganism.  It was a considerable amount of blood, now that I think about it.  He was, and not ironically, also committed to education and judicial reforms, thus laying the foundation for English common law and the British love of learning from which even this blogger has benefited in his own meager way.

The story of his times gives fascinating insight into the tension that historically existed between Roman and Celtic Christianity.  The history is rather complicated and the hour early as I write this, so I will use the great gift of the Internet.  Namely, I will link.

The official biography of Alfred and history of his times may be found at the official website of The British Monarchy, which is worth reading for hours, and not just about Alfred.

The official biography from the Church of Rome may be found here.

A British site offers a secularized history, which is what one expects from British academic websites these days, as they love to pose as non-theists.  However, it is a breezy read.

O Sovereign Lord, you brought your servant Alfred to a troubled throne that he might establish peace in a ravaged land and revive learning and the arts among the people: Awake in us also a keen desire to increase our understanding while we are in this world, and an eager longing to reach that endless life where all will be made clear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

An innovative Eucharist incorporated into the luncheon. Rather tasty Eucharistic bread, too.
Some very sound testimony from people from around the diocese about how they have been equipped for ministry both lay and ordained.
And now, a look at parish websites.  Yeah, this day is just working out great.

The vocational crisis continues.... 
I find myself torn between being a dutiful son and also a dutiful rector. Neither job is easy withouy support. Soon, I'll have to be a dutiful grandfather. Thank God for prayer, eh? Still wish I could be in two places at once.
Oh-oh, a small ruckus. The bishop is trying to move on to the liturgy of the word but there is still controversy over the tabling of #4.
Long vote on Resolution #4. It is now tabled.
I think I'm having a vocational crisis. I'm sitting with a rector who has a waiting list of people who want to serve as delegates and deanery representatives. Me? I'm sitting by myself. I wonder if I can still get that teaching job?
Okay, a really long discussion with at least three amendments considered.
Long and rather good discussion about whether or not to form a task force to "re-imagine" the role of the bishops.
Never mind. Two other clergy have just said what I was going to say.
I'm about to go to a mike and speak to a resolution. I haven't done this in years.
Hey, we're voting on things.
A diocesan spokesman is explaining to us that the church is changing, which is something parish clergy have been saying for, oh, twenty years now. Apparently we now need a task force, one that will include those under 35 years of age. Well, that's radical, but why not?
We're now doing some form of African dance, which is actually rather fun.
We are now singing a chorus in Spanish (well, mine sounds like Italian) over and over again. Hive-mind will soon be complete.
Wow, no delegates at all from my parish.  Sorry, Mom and Dad, you're on your own until I can get out of here.  Someone has to represent.

Official diocesan scolding for not being properly represented in
Power running out.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Well, the diocesan budget passed, even though my table voted against it as it didn't include an amendment to limit what the diocese gives to the national church to 15%. 

Another thing:  Never stand in front of the doors to the bar right as they are opening without understanding that you will be trampled by 300+ clergy.

Now it's gossip time.
Losing power. Back later.
Fifteen minutes of business. Diggity.
If you're wondering why I'm not discussing business, it's because we really haven't gotten down to business yet.
Chocolate cake in lemon sauce for dessert. Clearly, dinner is going to be an apple.
Tortellini Alfredo for lunch; first wheat product I've eaten since August. I now weigh 400 pounds.
A fellow from the Brotherhood of St. Andrew just sat with me, along with some folks from neighboring dioceses who are working to organize vergers in the greater church.
After the break the three other clergy I was sitting with moved to other tables. This is reminding me of junior high. Then again, I have ten salads I can eat.
Why is it politics is easier for clergy to discuss than Jesus?
Three hours in and I've already lost my name tag.
We're currently "sharing" and making name tags for one another. There are crayons on the table. No kidding.
And Bible study becomes a discussion of politics. Of course.
Clergy are now doing Bible study. Send help.
We just elected a convention muggins secretary. 

One year, in my callow youth, I was elected a diocesan convention secretary.  It was a surprising amount of work and, since one sits on the dais with the luminaries, one must look interested in everything that's being said, which requires a lot of energy.
367 voting clergy in the diocese.
Emergency: Jenni lost her reading glasses.
"Paperless song".
Innovation: All of the liturgical materials are being being projected on screens. No prayer books or hymnals.
A fellow at the beverage station informed me that the coffee was plentiful, but not good. His standards are far higher than mine. This is about as exciting as this gets. We start in 2 minutes.
A colleague just said to me, "Boy, you look thrilled." This ia a problem as I have my "thrilled" face on. By the way, a lot of my colleagues need to hit the gym.

Live Blogging The Diocesan Convention

Well, at least until the power on my Kindle Fire runs out. Right now we're listening to some very pleasant music being piped into the conference room. Oh, and I have a great bilious orange name tag necklace, too.

Rell Sunn, The Queen Of Makaha

Rell Kapolioka'ehukai Sunn was the first real woman surfing champion.  Her middle name, which I have never been able to pronounce, means "Heart of the Sea", which sums up her life admirably, not to mention does some favor to the sea, as well.

For those who are rolling their eyes right now and thinking, "Right, old Clem's off on another surfing tangent", the reason that I consider her a true hero is that she took enthusiasm for her sport and turned it into something that was, and is, far more spiritual and meaningful than any bilious nonsense found in books and films about the spirituality of surfing.  She also made it practical.

Sunn was born and raised, in fact lived her whole life, on the west side of Oahu.  It is a place of sublime waves, which explains why, beginning at the age of four, Sunn was nearly always in the water and often on a board while there.  In 1966, she competed in the first, and now legendary, world contest of surfing and, two years later, started the women's circuit in professional surfing.

In addition to her surfing talent, Sunn was a true waterman.  This appellation, which is beyond gender, refers to the special status bestowed on those who master not only surfing, but are talented and able swimmers, sailors, divers, anglers, etc.  She was also a radio personality, teacher, lifeguard, and hula instructor; not to mention a "freediver", those who practice deep diving without benefit of scuba or other underwater breathing equipment.

In 1983, Sunn was diagnosed with breast cancer and given a year to live.  That's where her story moves from that of a talented athlete to one of a committed social activist.

Not only is Oahu's west side, Makaha, known for its surf, but also for its poverty and lack of educational opportunities.  Sunn had always given back to her community, but this became rather sublime after her diagnosis.

To quote from her official web biography:

Sunn's boundless contributions begin with her menehune [that is, "junior" - ed.] contest on the West Side that she inaugurated in 1976. Every year, she collected prizes and trophies to give children with few opportunities a chance to taste success. She also found surfboards for those who couldn't afford them and guided many young Hawaiians from troubled childhoods into promising careers in surfing. Without her energy and compassion, many of top Hawaiian professionals, from Johnny Gomes to Sunny Garcia, would likely have ended up on the wrong side of the law.The scope of her goodwill was not limited to Hawaii. Since the 1966 World Contest in San Diego, her first real surf trip, her life was a collection of journeys. In 1986, she joined a Surfer magazine expedition that brought surfing to communist China. She traveled extensively, spreading Hawaiian aloha to every corner of the globe and always returning to Hawaii having brightened a few more lives. "Rell's Motel," her quaint home just one minute from Makaha, was a sanctuary for wayward visitors. It was her mission for people to leave with more direction than they came.

Despite the dire diagnosis, Rell Sunn lived another fifteen years and became known as the Queen of Makaha.  She surfed until the end.  She truly was "the heart of the sea": natural, beautiful, compelling, and, when on a surfboard, wild.

[I knew a fellow who was able to surf any beach in the world because he had once been a resident of "Rell's Motel" and would tell wonderful stories of her spirit and kindness.  It sort of made him a citizen of the world, as this status guaranteed that he could surf anywhere from Hawaii to Bali to Rincon to Barbados and not be hassled by the locals.  After all, they figured, he knew Rell Sunn and had received her beneficence, so he must be okay.]

As she once said, and as serves as a perfect motto for what she did both on and off a surfboard: "The aloha spirit is real simple.  You give and you give and you give from the heart, until you have nothing else to give."  That heart, the heart of the sea, as she demonstrated, seems never to run out of giving.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thursday's Ancient Prayer

Eternal God, the refuge and help of all your children,
we praise you for all you have given us,
for all you have done for us,
for all that you are to us.
In our weakness, you are strength,
in our darkness, you are light,
in our sorrow, you are comfort and peace.
We cannot number your blessings,
we cannot declare your love:
For all your blessings we bless you.
May we live as in your presence,
and love the things that you love,
and serve you in our daily lives;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

[from St. Boniface, known as his prayer.]

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuesday's Quotation

"To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float."  - Alan Watts.

Monday, October 15, 2012

This Week's Lesser Feast Days

October 15: Teresa of Avila [1515-1582]

St. Teresa is one of the "originals" from the calendar that was in place before the Rome/England schism, and we still address those from that calendar as "saints". 

The Episcopal Church does not have a process or practice to assign sainthood to a particular individual; those who are saints are either those recognized in Christian tradition, such as the apostles and evangelists, or those of particular relation to the Celtic foundation of our distinct form of Christian faith.  While the Church of Rome has many, many saints on its calendar, we retained only those from prior to circa 1600, and even then not all.

Teresa was a rather normal young woman of the 16th century Spanish gentry.  Her family were pious Catholics, and she a serious Christian who also enjoyed a broad friendship.  If she had lived in the 21st century, I imagine one would find her at the mall surrounded by giggling friends, all of them madly texting one another.

During her teen years her beloved mother died and her father, as was the custom of the times, sent her to be educated by the Carmelite nuns.  The Carmelites were learned women known for their piety and academic ability and they found an apt pupil in Teresa.  She would eventually become a nun of their order.

While still a young woman, Teresa was struck with malaria.  In her feverish state, wracked with considerable pain, Teresa summoned a unique and purposeful relationship with God through prayer.  As she would later write:

“I bore these sufferings with great composure, in fact with joy, except at first when the pain was too severe. What followed seemed to hurt less. I was completely surrendered to the will of God even if he intended to burden me like this forever..... The other sisters wondered at my God-given patience. Without him I truly could not have borne so much with so much joy.” 

This experience would lead her into ecstatic visions in the depths of contemplative prayer.  She was encouraged to suppress any mention of this outside of the convent, as the general population, and the leaders of the Church of Rome, still believed in demonic possession and would have been disquieted by revelation of these experiences.

[A side note: I once had to drive John Updike, the author, to a hospital in Cleveland because his appendix began to burst during a lecture and recitation of his works at the Jesuit university where I happened to be a grad student at the time.  In the car, as we were speaking of saints like Teresa, he became quite jolly thinking what it would be like for a 20th century Lutheran pastor to suddenly announce to his congregation that he was having religious visions, hearing divine voices, and occasionally levitating.  His temperature was a little high, I guess.  We both laughed at what the reaction of his congregation and bishops might be.  The only difference from the time of Teresa was that he would be thought schizophrenic rather than demonic.  In a way, same difference.  I really did expect his next novel to address that scenario.  Alas....]

However, the power of her connection to God was obvious to her fellow sisters and she eventually started her own offshoot order of nuns, much more dedicated to simplicity and contemplative prayer with Teresa as the unquestioned teacher of all things holy.  Of her leadership style, she wrote the following:

“The important thing is not to think much but to love much and so do that which best stirs you to love. Love is not great delight but desire to please God in everything."

You really can't improve on that, can you? 

In his book, On Mysticism, Sri Chimnoy notes the following:

"...Teresa of Avila offered to the world something profoundly mystical. Her mystical experience is the most successful culmination of the divine marriage between the aspiring soul and the liberating Christ, and it is here that man’s helpless crying will and God’s omnipotent all-fulfilling Will embrace each other.

Her collect in the Episcopal Church:

O God, by your Holy Spirit you moved Teresa of Avila to manifest to your Church the way of perfection: Grant us, we pray, to be nourished by her excellent teaching, and enkindle within us a keen and unquenchable longing for true holiness; through Jesus Christ, the joy of loving hearts, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

October 16: Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer

These three bishops were among the first in our distinctly Anglican tradition to be martyred.  Whenever contemporary Episcopal bishops and their remora fish begin to regard themselves as transgressive whenever they simply repeat the talking points of a secular political party that is favored by the majority of those to whom they "witness",  I think of what witness bishops used to offer to the faithful and how pale, wan, and sad is 21st century Christian bravery.

Hugh Latimer [Bishop of Worcester] and Nicholas Ridley [Bishop of Rochester] were burned at the stake together on October 16th, 1555, on the orders of Queen Mary Tudor.  A year later, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury was also martyred.  Cranmer was the author of the original Book of Common Prayer; the source of all subsequent versions of our most seminal and unique worship aid.

The site of Latimer and Ridley's martyrdom is commemorated in Oxford with the statue seen above.  There are many sources of information about these men, and I would encourage the readers to look here and here

If you are wondering why learned, pious, and good men such as these were slaughtered, it was just simple politics.  It always is, isn't it?

Keep us, O Lord, constant in faith and zealous in witness, that, like your servants, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer, we may live in your fear, die in your favor, and rest in your peace; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

October 17: Ignatius of Antioch [?-107]

Ignatius was an early Patriarch of Antioch in the 2nd century who had been a student of John the apostle.  The Roman government was getting a little tired of these Christians and their antics, so they arrested Ignatius and had him fight wild beasts in the arena, where he would inevitably meet his death.  However, on the rather long trip from Antioch to Rome, he wrote a series of letters that were so powerful, faithful, and true, that the early Christians were energized rather than defeated.  Take that, Rome.

A comprehensive look at his writings may be found here.

Almighty God, we praise your Name for your Bishop and martyr Ignatius of Antioch, who offered himself as grain to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts that he might present to you the pure bread of sacrifice. Accept, we pray, the willing tribute of our lives and give us a share in the pure and spotless offering of your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

October 19: Henry Martyn [1781-1812]

Henry Martyn Forsook All for Christ

Martyn was a missionary of the Church of England in India in the early 19th century.  He died at the age of 31, no doubt from illnesses received in the sub-continent, but during his life of service did much to bring Christianity to the poor, the helpless, and the needy.  One of the reasons that Christianity is so strong in India is that Martyn produced a translation of the New Testament in both Hindi and Persian, along with an improvement upon a contemporary Arabic version of the same.  A very nice biography of Martyn may be found here.

O God of the nations, you gave your faithful servant Henry Martyn a brilliant mind, a loving heart, and a gift for languages, that he might translate the Scriptures and other holy writings for the peoples of India and Persia: Inspire in us a love like his, eager to commit both life and talents to you who gave them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Friday, October 12, 2012

Clearly, Scientists Never Saw 'Cinderella'

Mice can 'sing', scientists discover

Thomas Merton

During one of my admissions interviews for seminary, I spent a portion of an afternoon with a very pleasant history professor in his fantastic townhouse apartment; one of the perks of being a faculty member at the original General Theological Seminary.  By a very high window in his living room, we spoke of the pilgrimage that one takes to one or more of the Holy Orders of the Episcopal Church.  Even though he was stuck with interviewing me, as it was summer and most of the other faculty were gone, he was game for it and asked good questions and offered sound advice.

One of those questions was, "So, what theologians do you favor?"

Now, I was a 25-year-old high school teacher from Ohio who had just gotten through the labyrinthine diocesan process one must endure to simply receive permission to apply to a seminary, and at no time during that process did anyone discuss any theologian outside of St. Paul.  As the history professor and I had already spoken of St. Paul, I didn't want to go to that Tarsusian well once more, so a flailed a bit, not wanting to admit that I couldn't name a theologian to save my life.  In desperation  I mentioned that I had read a bit of Thomas Merton that summer and was currently enjoying a biography of him.

"Really?," he brightened.  "That book was written here."
"At the seminary?"
"I mean 'here' in this apartment."

I think I may have heard the sound of a bat hitting a ball out of the stands right at that moment, along with the cheers of a crowd, but that may have just been my imagination.

So, Thomas Merton, the former Anglican turned Roman Catholic monk, the great hermit and author, fourteen years after his very untimely demise, gave me a marvelous assist into the world that would claim the next thirty years of my life.  Shortly after being accepted by General Seminary, I became a novitiate in the Society of St. Barnabas, then a monastic order of the Episcopal Church.  I wish I could have thanked him in person.

Slightly less than a decade later, wearing a cassock and seated with a Buddhist monk in his saffron robe, I had the best conversation about prayer and contemplation that I've yet known.  So good, that I was made an honorary member of his Buddhist monastery.  What did the monk and I speak about?  Why, Merton, of course.  He'd read his books, too.

Thomas Merton's biography, in a helpful timeline, may be found at the website that bears his name.  He was perhaps the most eloquent of the ascetical theologians of the 20th century, wrote a great many books, and inspired a great many young people, especially during the post-WWII period, to enter into religious life.  The order to which he belonged, that of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance, graced him with life as a hermit, from which some of the most forward thinking notions about the role of contemplation, prayer, and meditation were conceived.  He died in an absurd accident while visiting southeast Asia and meeting with monks in the Buddhist tradition.

He once offered the following prescient observation:

Nothing is more repellent than a pseudo-scientific definition of the contemplative experience. One reason for this is that he who attempts such a definition is tempted to procede psychologically, and there is really no adequate psychology of contemplation. To describe “reactions” and “feelings” is to situate contemplation where it is not to be found, in the superficial consciousness where it can be observed by reflection.

Merton, Thomas. New Seeds of Contemplation. Norton. Kindle Edition.


Let no one hope to find in contemplation an escape from conflict, from anguish or from doubt. On the contrary, the deep, inexpressible certitude of the contemplative experience awakens a tragic anguish and opens many questions in the depths of the heart like wounds that cannot stop bleeding. For every gain in deep certitude there is a corresponding growth of superficial “doubt.” This doubt is by no means opposed to genuine faith, but it mercilessly examines and questions the spurious “faith” of everyday life, the human faith which is nothing but the passive acceptance of conventional opinion.

Merton, Thomas (2007-10-18). New Seeds of Contemplation (Kindle Locations 287-291). Norton. Kindle Edition.

And from his examination of East/West meditative traditions:

It was assumed until quite recently that the experience of the first Christians was still accessible to fervent Christians of our day in all its purity, provided certain conditions were faithfully fulfilled. The consciousness of the modern Christian was thought to be essentially the same as that of the Christian of the Apostolic age. If it differed, it did so only in certain accidentals of culture, due to the expansion of the Church in time and space. Modern scholarship has thoroughly questioned this assumption. It has raised the problem of a radical discontinuity between the experience of the first Christians and that of later generations. The first Christians experienced themselves as men “of the last days,” newly created in Christ as members of his new kingdom, expecting his imminent return: they were men entirely delivered from the “old aeon” and from all its concerns. They experienced a new life of liberation “in the Spirit” and the perfect freedom of men who received all from God as pure gift, in Christ, with no further responsibility to “this world” than to announce the glad tidings of the imminent” reestablishment of all things in Christ.” They were, in a word, prepared for entry into the kingdom and the new creation in their own lifetime. “Let grace come,” said the Didache, and let this world pass away!”

Merton, Thomas (2010-07-27). Zen and the Birds of Appetite (Kindle Location 267). Norton. Kindle Edition.

He should not be known just in the small, and shrinking, monastic world, nor just in the Roman tradition of Christianity.  In fact, his birth as an Anglican/Episcopalian is often forgotten or unknown by my Anglican/Episcopal colleagues.  I quoted Merton while in conversation with one of the new ordinands with whom I spent time this summer, and was summarily dismissed by the young man. 

Just wait, whelp.  A life in the church, if lived correctly, will teach you much.  If you're lucky, maybe even ten percent of what Merton knew and shared.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

They Were Called "BFL" Glasses

Typical government-designed eyewear. If I remember correctly, BFL stood for "Bachelor For Life". 

I hope government-mandated healthcare doesn't require me to wear them again.

[I am reminded by an Air Force veteran that in his branch of the service they were called "Birth Control Glasses" for reasons that should be obvious.]

Thursday's Ancient Prayer

let us desire nothing else,
let us want nothing else,
let nothing else please us and cause us delight
except our Creator, Redeemer and Savior,
the only true God,
Who is the fullness of good,
all good, every good, the true and supreme good,
Who alone is good,
merciful, gentle, delightful, and sweet,
Who alone is holy,
just, true, holy, and upright,
Who alone is kind, innocent, clean,
from Whom, through Whom and in Whom
is all pardon, all grace, all glory
of all penitents and just ones,
of all the blessed rejoicing together in heaven.

[from an early Rule of Life prepared by St. Francis of Assisi]

Monday, October 8, 2012

North Korea Seems Like A Happenin' Place

Title of Labor Hero Awarded to Lathe No. 26 at Pyongyang Textile Machine Factory

This Week's Lesser Feast Days

Robert Grosseteste, [circa 1168–1253]

One of the greatest intellects produced by our tradition, Grosseteste, who was the Bishop of Lincoln in what was the "English Church" [that is, the Church of Rome in England, the forerunner of the  Church of England], was a talented theologian, philosopher, and scientist.  As a bishop, he was also an able and active leader, pastor, and administrator.  Oh, for a bishop these days who is any of just one of those things.

Here's a portion of his biography from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, no less:

" of the most prominent and remarkable figures in thirteenth-century English intellectual life. He was a man of many talents: commentator and translator of Aristotle and Greek patristic thinkers, philosopher, theologian, and student of nature. He was heavily influenced by Augustine, whose thought permeates his writings and from whom he drew a Neoplatonic outlook. But he was also one of the first to make extensive use of the thought of Aristotle, Avicenna and Averroes. He developed a highly original and imaginative account of the generation and fundamental nature of the physical world in terms of the action of light, and composed a number of short works regarding optics and other natural phenomena, as well as works of philosophy and theology. As bishop, he was an important figure in English ecclesiastical life, focusing his energies on rooting out abuses of the pastoral care, which in later life he traced to the papacy itself. He made a powerful impression on his contemporaries and subsequent thinkers at Oxford, and has been hailed as an inspiration to scientific developments in fourteenth-century Oxford.

O God, our heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servant Robert Grosseteste to be a bishop and pastor in your Church and to feed your flock: Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit, that they may minister in your household as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Vita Dutton Scudder, [1861-1954]

To be honest, I don't really know what recommends Scudder to the calendar as she seems a rather ordinary member of the Episcopal Church's Caucasian gentry. She was certainly of an academic intelligence, as she was educated at Smith College and Oxford; she spent her teaching career in the English department at Wellesley College. Scudder was an Episcopalian.

She was gay, or at least we are told so, although the notion of socially active gay women in Boston was a cliché even by the late 19th century. She was an avowed Socialist with an affection for Karl Marx, espoused pacifism, was pained by her class consciousness and attempted to atone for being privileged by working on behalf of what the educated, moneyed world regarded as the "underclass".

She lived a long life filled with comfort, like most of her contemporaries in the gentry. I'm guessing that, as with many recent additions to the lesser feast calendar, she serves to represent a political demographic in the Episcopal Church. Certainly, privileged white people who favor socialism and suffer from oikophobia make up about half of those with whom I've worked over the last thirty years, so she does have some representation.

I find her collect below somewhat bland, as if its author also didn't really know why she was included on a calendar of martyrs, high achievers, literary artists, church musicians, scientists, or cultural forerunners. Perhaps, one bright and shining day, one of those members of the "underclass" will be given a calendar date. Am I a dreamer or what?

Most gracious God, you sent your beloved Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Raise up in your Church witnesses who, after the example of your servant Vida Dutton Scudder, stand firm in proclaiming the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Philip [?]

He is often confused with Philip the Apostle, especially since his work spreading the Gospel earned him the title of "evangelist".  This Philip, however, is regarded as the "proto-deacon", that is, one who best represents the realized calling of what is now a specific, ordained ministry of service in sacramental Christianity. 

From the occasionally reliable Wikipedia comes this fair pocket biography:

Saint Philip the Evangelist appears several times in the Acts of the Apostles. He was one of the Seven Deacons chosen to care for the poor of the Christian community in Jerusalem (Acts 6). He preached and performed miracles in Samaria, and met and baptised an Ethiopian man, a eunuch, in Gaza, traditionally marking the start of the Ethiopian Church (Acts 8). Later, he lived in Caesarea Maritima with his four daughters who prophesied, where he was visited by Paul (Acts 21).
More may be read of him at the link.

Holy God, no one is excluded from your love, and your truth transforms the minds of all who seek you: As your servant Philip was led to embrace the fullness of your salvation and to bring the stranger to Baptism, so give us all the grace to be heralds of the Gospel, proclaiming your love in Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Does Art Have A Future?

Thus we live in a strange and contradictory culture, where the most talented college students are ideologically indoctrinated with contempt for the economic system that made their freedom, comforts and privileges possible. In the realm of arts and letters, religion is dismissed as reactionary and unhip. The spiritual language even of major abstract artists like Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko is ignored or suppressed.

Thus young artists have been betrayed and stunted by their elders before their careers have even begun. Is it any wonder that our fine arts have become a wasteland?

As part of the article above, which is by Camille Paglia, the wonderfully provocative professor of art history, and one of the most shameless self-promoters in higher education [I truly mean that as a compliment], Paglia notes the important relationship between manual skills and artistic endeavor, with particular importance paid to the fact that Warhol was from the manufacturing Mecca of Pittsburgh.

I have to say, being mostly self-taught as a luthier, that it wasn't until I mastered the use of the lathe and router that I began to see the tactile arts in a much more complete dimension.  Metal sculptors now amaze me with their skill and flair.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

As My Grandmother Used To Say, "He's Gunning His Engine So Much I Think He's Breathing His Own Fumes"

An amusing take on a small contretemps in the ecumenical world.

The best lines from the article: "I know this is because I'm a Missouri-Synod Lutheran, and our clergy have to prove their ability to win a bar fight before they are certified for ordination...."


"... the Episcopal press has taken to their fainting couches."

And, from the comments:  "After all, it was in a theological discussion when St. Nicholas wound up with a broken nose."

Blessing Of The Animals For The Octave Of St. Francis

Today at noon; all animals are welcome.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Charlie "Bird" Parker

The first time I heard Parker play, which was the first time I ever heard bebop, it became the sound that I've always associated with America's gift to world culture.  From big band music to the jangly, re-born cool of Miles Davis to the smooth, almost breathless sound of West Coast woodwinds from Art Pepper or, later, Tom Scott, it is always Parker and his metier that comes to mind when I hear the word "jazz". 

Like many artists, and certainly many musicians, Parker had considerable demons; and they would be the death of him.  However, during his heyday, his was the sound that brought in the audience, and the budding musicians, to listen and savor.  It's interesting to note, and perhaps a little lamentable, that with the advent of Parker, jazz translated from dance music to something more contemplative.  The dance halls filled with athletic couples gave way to the darker clubs inhabited by those who affected the appearance, if not the reality, of the demi-monde and came to encounter the darker portions of human experience.

Please click on the video above for a sample.

Like the music he played, Parker's genetics were the pure product of American assimilation.  His father was an African-American performer and his mother an American Indian [or, in the Caucasian language, a "Native American"] domestic.  Rather perfect for a jazz musician, don't you think?  He began to play at an early age [natch] and mastered all forms of the saxophone.  He worked as a journeyman musician until a trip to New York began to inspire his expression.

In 1939 Parker decided to stick around New York City for a while. There he remained for almost a year, worked as a professional musician and jamming for pleasure on the side. After his yearlong stint in New York, Parker was featured as a regular performer at a Chicago club before deciding to move back to New York permanently. Freshly back in New York, Parker was at first forced to wash dishes in order to get by. At work, Charlie met guitarist Biddy Fleet. It would prove a fruitful encounter. While jamming with Biddy Fleet, Parker, who was bored by popular musical conventions, discovered a signature technique that involved playing the higher intervals of a chord for the melody and making changes to back them up accordingly.

While in New York, Parker was heard by Dizzy Gillespie and Theolonius Monk, both of whom recognized the genius of what he was doing with the music.  They invited him to play with them and, beginning in 1945, jazz moved into its remarkable third stage of maturity.  From the same source as above:

At the end of that year, [Parker and Gillespie] launched a six-week nightclub tour of Hollywood. Together they managed to invent an entirely new style of jazz, commonly known as bop, or bebop. After the joint tour, Parker stayed on in Los Angeles performing until the summer of 1946. After a period of hospitalization, he returned to New York in January of 1947 and formed a quintet there. With his quintet, Parker performed some of his best-known and best-loved songs. During this time, he managed to showcase his talents, not only by playing bebop, but also by composing his own songs, including ballads like "Embraceable You," which falls under the broader jazz genre. From 1947 to 1951 Parker performed in ensembles and solo at a variety of venues, including clubs and radio stations. Parker also signed with a few different record labels during his later career. From 1945 to 1948 he recorded for Dial. In 1948 he recorded for Savoy Records before signing with the Mercury label. In 1949 Parker made his European debut at the Paris International Jazz Festival, and went on to visit Scandinavia in 1950. Meanwhile, back home in New York, the Birdland Club was being named in his honor. In March of 1955, Parker made his last public performance at Birdland, a week before his death.
All of his recordings are still available in a variety of collections and media.  Clint Eastwood directed a film biography of him back in 1988 that was well-received by critics and jazz aficionados.  His place in the mid-century mind serves as the soundtrack for much of the experimental art of the period.  Below is one of my favorite TV moments from the old Tonight Show in 1958 or so, when the host, Steve Allen, played jazz piano behind Jack Kerouac reciting his poem, "Charlie Parker".  [Curmudgeon alert: Nowadays the Tonight Show features some giggling goof attempting to encourage a complete sentence out of some vapid and interchangeable young actress.]

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thursday's Prayer

A contemporary translation of an ancient Celtic blessing:

May God give you...
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer. - Anon.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Free Speech Is A Gift? One Given By The United Nations In The 20th Century?

"Free speech is a 'gift given to us by the [Universal] Declaration of Human Rights,' said Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations Jan Eliasson during a press conference on October 2nd at UN headquarters in New York. It is 'a privilege,' Eliasson said, 'that we have, which in my view involves also the need for respect, the need to avoid provocations.' ”

Something about this statement makes me wish to say to the author, using my full right to free speech, "Stuff it, scrunge-o".

It is neither a "gift" nor a "privilege"; it's a right.  Once free speech is re-defined out of existence, then freedom of religious practice will be re-examined, too, I imagine.

For those who don't subscribe to Christ Church's Facebook page, which is, since we don't have a website, the best place to gain information about CC's events, I occasionally post things about parish life here. 

Ironically, so few from my parish read The Coracle that it's become a much broader medium than I ever thought it would be, but it does bring correspondence from around the world and there are people who actually enjoy reading about Biblical archaeology and weird headlines.  Go figure.

Anyway, here's an announcement:

In recognition of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Christ Church has a shipment of chemo hats from Madlyn. These come in a variety of patterns, such as the "surfboard and Chevy" hat modeled by the guy in the photo, and are completely and totally free. Give the rector a call or, better yet, speak to him on Sunday about securing one of these hats for a loved one.

Archaeological News

Archaeologists unearth temple structure and valuable artifacts in Southern Iraq

Information is being discovered that tells us more about the Babylonian culture to which scripture often refers.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tuesday's Quotation

"In our era, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action."
- Dag Hammarskjold (1905-1961)

Monday, October 1, 2012

It's Nanny Church Time

My fellow clergy, many of whom resemble weebles, now have a national organization informing them that they are to walk for exercise; and to encourage their parishioners to do the same.  Sometimes the Episcopal Church is also your nanny.  They even have a "big brother" site where they and others may track the progress of individual clergy and laity.

Once again I find myself ahead of the church, as I started a very specific exercise program three months ago.  Frustrated by the difficulty I was having climbing steps after knee surgery, I decided to set an impossible goal for myself.  Namely, I was going to attempt to pass the United States Marine Corps physical fitness test for men over the age of 46.  [I was hoping they'd have a 60+ that I could attempt, but it seems that Marines are only that old in movies.]

After only three months of three to four gym [yes, I still call it "gym"] sessions per week, even using these weird machines they now have, I passed the strength and conditioning portion of the test two weeks ago.  Actually, I passed the version established for those between the ages of 27-39.  In your face, Nanny Church!

The only portion remaining is the cardio remnant.  While I can easily cover six miles in twenty minutes on a bicycle, I still have to cut off an average 24 seconds per mile from the three measured-mile run.  That'll come; it just takes a little longer with missing knee cartilage.

Oh, and it doesn't hurt to climb stairs anymore.

Anyone interested in forming a group of Roxbury Ramblers for recreational walking in and about our lovely town, give the rector's office a call.

This Week's Lesser Feasts


October 1: St. Remi [or Remigius; 438-530]

Remi was the Bishop of Reims in France beginning at the age of 22.  Yes, that's right.  Remarkable that in contemporary times we draw out the process of electing a bishop through multiple meetings, video presentations, and "penetrating" questions.  As we have seen in our Monday lesser feasts, early Christian bishops were selected according to the regard of the faithful; they are either very young or, for the times, rather elderly when appointed, and yet are able to lead and inspire with great power.

Maybe we should go back to the old method.

Remi was one such bishop, who was able for 70 years to present a mighty witness in what is now France.  In fact, the devoted style of Christianity that is practiced by the French [including Acadians, Canucks, Cajuns, etc.] began when Remi  baptised King Clovis [as seen to the left], thus converting an entire and sizable portion of Europe from a variety of pagan beliefs.

More of him may be read here.

O God, by the teaching of your faithful servant and bishop Remigius you turned the nation of the Franks from vain idolatry to the worship of you, the true and living God, in the fullness of the catholic faith: Grant that we who glory in the name of Christian may show forth our faith in worthy deeds; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

October 4: St. Francis of Assisi [1182-1226]

Certainly, one of the best known of all the medieval saints, so much so that there are at least a dozen films made of his life, countless publications, plus one Marvel comic book. The monastic order that he established, the Society of St. Francis, or SSF, is not only still in existence but there is still a very active chapter that is part of the Episcopal Church.

It would be difficult to distill his life into a few paragraphs, not to mention a disservice to his considerable story, so I'll simply make reference to a few sites to be found at the links here, here, and here.  Lay people who are interested in having more routine spiritual direction in their lives may join the Third Order of the SSF, which enables those who are in the world to have the support of a prayerful community and the occasional opportunity for retreat and meditation as supported by a world-wide network of like-minded people.

Most high, omnipotent, good Lord, grant your people grace to renounce gladly the vanities of this world; that, following the way of blessed Francis, we may for love of you delight in your whole creation with perfectness of joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

October 6: William Tyndale [1495-1536]

A forerunner to last week's feast honoree, Lancelot Andrewes, Tyndale's goal was similar: namely, to translate the Holy Bible into English.  Whereas Andrewes in latter days had the support of King James I, Tyndale had to face James' grandfather, King Henry VIII, who did not give his support for this endeavor.  In fact, far from it.

From this site, I quote:

[Tynedale] was a sixteenth century Protestant reformer and scholar who translated the Bible into the Early Modern English of his day. Although a number of partial and complete English translations had been made from the seventh century onward, Tyndale's was the first to take advantage of the new medium of print, which allowed for its wide distribution. In 1535, Tyndale was arrested, jailed in the castle of Vilvoorde outside Brussels, Belgium for more than a year, tried for heresy and treason and then strangled and burnt at the stake in the castle's courtyard.  At the time, the Church believed that if lay people had direct access to the Bible they would misinterpret and misunderstand what they read. Possibly, they would question the teaching of the Church and the authority of the priests. By keeping the Bible in Latin, which few other than priests and scholars could, read, the role of the priest as gatekeeper was protected. Tyndale also made a significant contribution to English through many of his phrases that passed into popular use. His legacy lives on through his continued influence on many subsequent English translations of the Bible. Much of Tyndale's work eventually found its way into the King James Version (or Authorized Version) of the Bible, published in 1611, and, though nominally the work of 54 independent scholars, is based primarily on Tyndale's translations. 
Yes, you read that correctly. He was both strangled and burnt at the stake. They took heresy, or even what's now called academic freedom, rather seriously in those days.

Almighty God, you planted in the heart of your servant William Tyndale a consuming passion to bring the Scriptures to people in their native tongue, and endowed him with the gift of powerful and graceful expression and with strength to persevere against all obstacles: Reveal to us your saving Word, as we read and study the Scriptures, and hear them calling us to repentance and life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.