At last week’s clergy school, we spent the whole time on the subject of “Anglican Identity”. I’m not sure we came up with any earth shattering new ideas. It was a positive experience – and that was a good thing – for I do believe it is a positive thing to be an Anglican, and sometimes we can be so wrapped up in the problems of the Anglican Communion that we lose sight of that.
But afterwards I sent Christopher Smith, the Archdeacon of Morgannwg, an email. In it, I reflected on a conversation we’d had one breakfast, and encouraged him to buy the Verdi Requiem reviewed here a couple of posts ago, and invited him to come along to my next gig singing with the Byron Jones Big Band on October 7th. I then wrote something like, “I wonder what this email says about Anglican identity?” as I mused about the incongruity of those two musical forms sitting side by side in my life!
Christopher wrote back: “I think it says that Anglican Identity is much more meaningful when set to music”.
You know, we did nothing on this at our clergy school, but I think Christopher has actually touched on something which is key in Anglicanism. We are a musical church. A singing church. We are not just a listening church, but a participating and involved church through our music. Anglican hymnody may be parodied, but it is the model on which all other hymnody is based; Roman hymnody is a pale reflection, and non-Conformist (English language) hymnody is (without the Wesleys, who were still Anglican when writing) a development. Modern worship music finds some of its key expression through Anglicanism – Matt Redman, Tim Hughes and even Graham Kendrick all began within the Church of England.
How did we do a whole clergy school and not consider this?
We did of course worship. Very Anglicanly. With music. Including some bizarre hymns, which I wouldn’t encourage. And some lovely touches which I would. But we didn't consider what we actually did.
So: "the Anglican Church is a Church best set to music. Discuss." How about that for a thesis, anyone?