Advent 1 came, and the Roman Catholics switched to their more accurate but excessively Latinate new rite, and we quite predictably started off with Helmsley (warning: way over-the-top arrangement), and for whatever reason did two verses of Veni Immanuel instead of the Kyrie, and truncated the sequence hymn, and finally we got to the prayers. And here I was put on the spot: I was called upon the previous week to chant them, but what I was given was none of the forms from the BCP. It was some text from who knows where, gassy and trite, constructed of theological cliches. It failed to satisfy the rubrics, which specify a list of subjects about which prayers are to be made, and it indulged in the presently fashionable practice of refusing to use pronouns for the Godhead. This at least I dealt with by singing in English instead of Theocant, for which sin I was taken to task at coffee hour by a lay adherent of this practice. There was nothing to be done, however, for the failure to observe the rubrics; I toyed with the idea of inserting some scraps of Form I but decided it would be too conspicuous a demonstration.
I had wanted to avoid participating in this at all, but what with Thanksgiving and the general chaos of my life I never got around to demurring until too late. I did find myself telling my remonstrator that I would not be chanting the text again, not because of the emasculation, but because of the rubrical violation. But an attempt to briefly touch upon why I do not accept the neuterist theory of god-language ended up with the other person gleefully proclaiming herself to be a heretic, and then justifying this with "broad church", as if the label were accurate rather than ironic. For of course, broad churchmanship is that most strongly associated with theological adventurism and an inability to live within the canons.
The priest said nothing to me, but then he and I never talk about anything substantial. It is the first time I have had a priest who made me wary of theological discourse. The search for a new rector fills me with deep unease, as I sense that there is a will to steer the parish further from the Zion of Al Kimel's day, and into the surrounding hills where we can be made safe for Inclusivity. I am also beginning to wonder how much longer I will be able to say the words of the liturgy. I stopped attempting to follow the BCP revision materials because they have been uniformly terrible: simultaneously pedestrian and overwritten, and full of every manner of theological innovation. But we cannot talk about these things in any orderly fashion, for fear of offending someone other than a creedal Christian. Inclusivity means never being able to do theology, because theology is exclusive. It really bugs me that nobody seems to be able to simply do what is before them on the page; if the variety of official rites already weakens the unitive significance of a common liturgy, how much more so when, increasingly, priests present the laity with words which are not ours.
I had started on the road to a resignation that, though there was little hope of reversing the trend towards a fraudulent latitudinarianism, I at least could hope to stay with my church to the end of my days. Now it seems this is not to be. And on top of this, my parish is failing quickly. Attendance is off 40% from a decade ago, and is less than half of our peak in 2007; we have run a deficit for at least half the year. The surrounding parishes are not encouraging, and nearly every problem I've mentioned here is emphasized in The Other Diocese. To no small degree it is bloody-minded loyalty which keeps me in an Episcopal pew, but I have no loyalty to liturgies which are not ours; and I cannot have any loyalty to a bishop who cannot say the creed without crossed fingers and who willy-nilly ignores the canons and rubrics.
And thus, I look over at the door, and contemplate the possibility of passing through that gateway, out of this church.