Our first guest blogger is The Rev. Blake Coats from St. Luke’s Episcopal Church www.saintlukes.episcopalidaho.org in Weiser, Idaho. After retiring from teaching high school English and drama, Blake was called to the priesthood and was ordained last summer.
From Fr. Blake:
For the years of my growing up in little St. Luke’s Church in Weiser, the 1928 Prayer Book led our congregation through its worship, most Sundays using the form for Morning Prayer, and singing the 1940 Hymnal settings for our canticles. Always the service opened with the singing of either the Venite or the Jubilate as Invitatory. If those attending knew nothing else by heart from the service, they knew those two canticles.
As the Church moved on with new prayer book and hymnal, our organist kept to the old Rite One settings whenever we worshiped with Morning Prayer. In fact, we sang both invitatory canticles nearly every time. (Don’t tell the bishop!) Without a resident priest, morning prayer still held its place as the primary liturgy for many Sunday mornings. The Venite and Jubilate still were the best known parts of the sung liturgy.
Sadly, as we all must, our organist, Marvin, moved on and we explored this pair of canticles a cappella and also discovered that the 1982 Hymnal had great settings for the Rite Two versions. These canticles continued to provide a foundational introduction for our worship, Sunday after Sunday. For those of us who remembered our childhood experiences of church in the ‘50s, these songs tied us to a lifetime tradition, which anchored us together to the fathers and mothers of the past.
Anchors are great when one wants to stay put, but there is a time when one must move ahead. For all the easy worship nostalgia the Venite and Jubilate brought to the old-timers, the repetitive tunes and out-dated images sometimes were stumbling blocks to newcomers. In addition, the comfortable, but perhaps mindless warm-up to the readings and themes of the day, that the continual use of these invitatory canticles provided, could close worshipers’ minds to a more lively sense of spiritual presence during the service.
Today, with our new local priest, we celebrate Eucharist more often — Morning Prayer may come but once or twice a month. And the Rite Two versions of the invitatory canticles have now become familiar and even comfortable. The Venite setting can sometimes lead to hand clapping, if not mid-east dancing, and the 1982 setting we use for the Jubilate is a beautifully meditative way to begin worship. Still we Come and we Are Joyful as we begin our weekly worship together, using these ancient psalms to direct our focus to the work at hand, the proclamation of God’s word and the offering of our prayers in thanks for our past and in hope for our future.