Rite One with Jazz

 Once I was in an old church in the Eastern time zone. It was a beautiful stone building, with a gifted choir, a stellar organist, and even a group of stringed instruments. The hymns and anthems and the other music were all part of the classical tradition. The building and the music spoke to the visitor of something deeply orthodox.
    The words, however, avoided mention of Father or Son or Lord. That is to say, they were of that variety of contemporary worship that rejects the traditional language for God. And the sermon was a rousing call to participate in a march for a certain form of social justice.
    This was an unsettling conjunction of ancient and contemporary.
    But there are other ways to bring old and new together.
    More recently I was again at a Eucharist in one of those old, Eastern-time-zone churches, a huge building that had not been used for much Episcopal worship for some time. It is being revitalized. Their mission strategy is to use traditional Rite One worship language, emphasizing the Prayer Book’s call to repentance and trust in God. They combine this with “blended” music that includes organ, piano, drums, keyboard, and singers. I heard a biblical sermon, and some haunting spirituals (with jazz piano and a bit of drum) during communion.
    When it was over, the postlude was a piano improvisation that ever so slightly suggested the ease one might feel when lingering at a nightclub. We liked it and we lingered.
    Out & About. On Sunday, June 17, I am looking forward to being with Resurrection Episcopal Church in Plano, Texas. (With a nod to my old friends from Hopewell Junction, New York, I am especially fond of churches named for the Resurrection.) I’m to be there for and preach at the Eucharist, which is at 10:30. The congregation meets in Gulledge Elementary School, 6801 Preston Meadow Dr., Plano.

The Rev. Canon Victor Lee Austin. Ph.D., is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Friendship: The Heart of Being Human" and "A Post-Covid Catechesis.: