On Chutney’s morning prayer, part 1

Chutney need not have worried that I was going to judge his morning prayer proposal on theological grounds: I’ve read his blog long enough to know where he’s coming from and I’d fain worry if he did propose a Christian liturgy.

And little wonder, too, since cyclic personal and corporate prayer is the property of no single religion. The sun rises and falls on us all.

I am, however, worried about the construction of his rite, and I’ll spell this out in some detail in the next few posts. Composing liturgy is a tricky thing because each rite — new and old — has a subtext that can only be spelled out in part, even with the most comprehensive of rubrics (directions). So much the better, too, since the inherent variety reflects the custom of a people, the physical makup of a space and other considerations. The Christian Scientists suffer in their shockingly directive form of worship and is so now mummified. More about the custom of worship later.

I also have some deep concerns about the intellectual property Chutney uses in his rite. The 1894 Universalist rite is obviously in the public domain, but (less obviously) was derived from the 1892 Episcopalian rite, which was contemporaneously released in the public domain. (All United States Episcopal Church English prayer books — but not all service books — were and are. I wrote about this before.) Chutney’s rite, on the other hand, is a festival of copyright, and I dare not ask if he got clearances before publishing his trial run. Apart from the moral, legal and logistical problems of copyright clearances, there is the pastoral problem of someone owning the foundational language of the church. I’ve written about this before, too. A hymn here or there won’t matter much, since these are meant to be rotated in and out. Denominational sources have the good sense (usually) to keep copyrighted liturgies open in some kind of congregational use license, which mitigates some of my concerns. Sermons, I think but am willing to be challenged on, are a different beast since they are the words of one speaking to the church rather than being the public voice from the church.

That’ll do for now. Next come my ordinary and proper concerns.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

1 comment

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.