Wednesday, November 28, 2007

San Diego & AAR

Weekend before last was the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature, this year in San Diego. Since Amy is a member of SBL and I am a member of AAR, it's always a fun time to get away for a weekend and hear some interesting papers.

While SBL often has some solid biblical scholarship, AAR can be a hit or miss affair. For example, last year in Washington, D.C., I was treated to an awkward conversation with the head of an arts and theology department, a great talk by N.T. Wright, and an interpretive dance based on the works of Kant and Hegel.

This year, however, was a fabulous year for my own interests. First I attended a session on the arts and theology which examined Andy Warhol's Sixty Last Suppers. The panel, which consisted of an art historian, a theologian, a Catholic and a Protestant, agreed that it seemed not ironic, and an interesting discussion followed, with Frank Burch Brown among the respondents. I left that session before a film discussion to catch the Baptist Professors of Religion's discussion of Just War.

That afternoon I caught a 19th century theology section, including a discussion of Ritschl, Nietzsche, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and some other 19th century feminists. I was hoping for some help for my dissertation, but it wasn't that helpful, although still interesting, since I've been living in the 19th century.

Following that was a fabulous Hebrews paper by Amy, which she delivered well and fielded some hard questions.

On Sunday I attended a discussion on Eucharistic origins with Andrew McGowan (his paper is posted at his blog), who has continued Bradshaw's calling for the rethinking of a unified early Eucharist. It was a fabulous round table, although I didn't agree with all conclusions that were made (also, it was unfortunately somewhat hard to hear). After that was a session on early depictions of worship, which included slides. Since it was late on my third day and dark, I don't quite remember everything about it.

My other favorite session was one on Monday, regarding Music and Theology. While the papers I heard weren't incredible, I am excited to see this group getting going at AAR. However, I did skip out on the middle couple of papers to hear my friend Justin's paper in the Mark section, which also turned out quite well. It looked like the stronger papers at Music and Theology happened while I was gone, but I was happy to support Justin. It seems as if it's going to become a regular program group, for which I would be grateful.

In all, it was a great conference this year, both for the papers I heard and for the people I got to see. Our OBU religion faculty was there, as well as friends from Princeton, Drew and elsewhere. I don't know what we'll do next year, though, because AAR and SBL are splitting. We'll have to see whose papers get accepted, I suppose.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Come, Labor On

On Sunday, besides singing "For All the Saints," our choir sang an easy arrangement of "Come, Labor On" (arranged by myself) for its anthem, the congregation joining in on the final verse. It was a nice bookend to the pre-communion service, with "For all the saints who from their labors rest" beginning and then, the call to "Come, labor on" to conclude it.

It is a hymn that is not as well-known in non-Anglican churches, although it is an excellent call to service. Jane Laurie Borthwick (1813-1897), the text's author, was a resident of Edinburgh who also spent some time in Switzerland. Like Winkworth, she and her sister produced some translations of German hymns, notably in Hymns from the Land of Luther and Alpine Hymns.

Its rousing tune, ORA LABORA, is by Thomas Tertius Noble (1867-1953), a student of Charles Villiers Stanford. Noble was a noted organist in England, and in 1913 moved to New York to become the organist at St. Thomas Church, where he established their boys choir and choir school, serving until 1943 (the noted organist John Scott serves there now). He was one of the editors of the 1916 Episcopal Hymnal, and served on the committee of the 1940 edition as well.

The text is based on Matthew 25:23. Most hymnals omit the third verse about the enemy watching, and many omit the final verse, probably because the penultimate verse ends so well. Noble's tune fits it well, which could have been difficult with its five-line structure. It doesn't feel as even as many hymns because of this odd number, but it rises to a nice finish.

Come, labor on!
Who dares stand idle, on the harvest plain
While all around him waves the golden grain?
And to each servant does the Master say,
“Go work today.”

Come, labor on!
Claim the high calling angels cannot share—
To young and old the Gospel gladness bear;
Redeem the time; its hours too swiftly fly.
The night draws nigh.

Come, labor on!
The enemy is watching night and day,
To sow the tares, to snatch the seed away;
While we in sleep our duty have forgot,
He slumbered not.

Come, labor on!
Away with gloomy doubts and faithless fear!
No arm so weak but may do service here:
By feeblest agents may our God fulfill
His righteous will.

Come, labor on!
No time for rest, till glows the western sky,
Till the long shadows o’er our pathway lie,
And a glad sound comes with the setting sun,
“Well done, well done!”

Come, labor on!
The toil is pleasant, the reward is sure;
Blessed are those who to the end endure;
How full their joy, how deep their rest shall be,
O Lord, with Thee!

Friday, November 02, 2007

For All the Saints

Yesterday, being All Saints Day, is a good day in the church's calendar because of the obvious usage of the hymn "For All the Saints," by William How, an Anglican rector and bishop. At a time when we are called upon to remember the "cloud of witnesses" who have stood strong in the faith, this hymn is useful for more than just its title. It is a lengthy one, with many hymnals including five or six verses, and some up to eight.

Besides its fabulous text, the tune, SINE NOMINE, is by the master Ralph Vaughan Williams (if you're up on your Latin, you might get the little joke of the tune title). It features a driving pedal line for the organ, and a lively melody for singing (oh, I briefly discussed it before). The accents of the text are sometimes different between verses, so it also makes the singer (and organist) pay close attention to the words. I also find it very appropriate to play at funerals, although played with less fervor than I usually would. If you come to my funeral, be sure this one is sung—not that I'm saintly by nature, but all are saints who are sanctified.

I was happy to go to choir last night and find that we will be singing this on Sunday. I had already planned to play a Vaughan Williams setting of a communion hymn for a postlude, so it will be a Vaughan Williams Sunday. Here's the text, with all the verses, of "For All the Saints."

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!