Monday, December 13, 2010

The Liturgical Year

Having very recently become interested in the history of the church, and specifically the different rituals, for lack of a better word, of the church, I was excited to read this book.

As a Baptist, many of the feasts, and even the general approach to many of the "holy days," have been a foreign concept to me. Generally speaking, Baptists celebrate Easter and Christmas as "holy days," and that, to a degree, is the extent of it. As a result, it is easy to look at those churches that celebrate "the liturgical year" as legalistic, doing something that is not necessary, or not following the Holy Spirit. However, upon closer reflection, it is possible to see that following the holy days in the liturgical calendar, CAN, as the author proposes, lead a person into a deeper relationship with Christ.

It explains, in very clear, concise details, how the dates for Christmas and Easter were set, and how the time leading up to the two holidays (Advent and Lent) can be spent so as to grow in understanding of Christ's life and as a result, become more Christ-like ourselves (something that should be the goal of any Christian regardless of denomination).

As someone completely unfamiliar with the history of the liturgy, the author does an excellent job of making it understandable. There are a few times in the book where I felt she was having to work a bit too hard for the justification of observing it, but those were few. Also, there were times when her "doctrine" and the doctrine I choose to believe are different, but I started the book anticipating that, and it was not a huge detraction as I was not reading to develop what I believe, but to learn about something I had never been introduced to.

My biggest gripe and complaint about the book was how there were key quotes placed on almost every other page, in the middle of the text. I found it very annoying and distracting. Identify one or two key quotes and put them at the beginning of the chapter or at obvious breaks. It felt very "magaziney" doing this, but in a magazine the articles are short enough that it isn't that terribly distracting. With a book, though, it was absolutely asinine.

Overall, I felt this was a good book for its perceived intended purpose -- to educate about the liturgical year, and I would recommend it for anyone looking for an easy to understand overview.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, December 02, 2010


Tonight, I was listening to Christmas music on Pandora, just as I am apt to do at any time, not just in December.

I don't know what song it was, but it reminded me of a Christmas program that I was in when I was in 6th grade.

It was a group simply called "Special Music" meaning that we had to audition and if chosen we got pulled out of the regular class every other week to go have an extra music class with the music teacher -- Katie Hoyle.

Teaching elementary school is a special calling; being an itinerant music teacher just means you have a special level of insanity (I know; I've been there.) However, Ms. Hoyle took insanity to a whole new level.

I do not know her reasons why, but she decided that year, our class would present a "Madrigal Feast."

and we did.

Few memories from childhood stick with me, but if I close my eyes, and concentrate, I can still smell the cafeteria, see the costumes, hear the instruments, and sing the music. Twenty-eight years later I still remember some of the songs.

I remember learning later, perhaps from her, perhaps from my uncle who was a teacher at the same school, that many of her colleagues told her it couldn't be done -- that level of music and performance simply was not possible by 10, 11, and 12 year olds. (This opinion was "confirmed" some years later when having a discussion with fellow music majors at college).

But she presevered, and we did it.

We weren't supposed to be able to do it, but we did.

Looking back, I see that that lesson had a much deeper, longer lasting impression on me than I imagined.

There were instances in Jr. High the next years, and later in High School, that told me, "You can't do that." But, I did.

And it stayed with me.

Ever been told that a student can't read, he is a behavior problem, and that there is no way he will ever be able to do anything in your music class, so why bother?

I have.

He sang the solo beautifully.

Ever been told that the "trainable mentally handicapped" student in your math class really didn't need to be that involved with other students because he didn't have the social skills necessary to "fit in?"

I have.

He made friends that year.

Ever sat across from a student who is so severely "learning disabled" in math that you have been told to do the best you can, but he probably won't graduate because he can't pass the state competency test?

I have.

He passed, and holds a NC Diploma.

Ever have a student look at you and tell you they will never, ever "get this stuff," and graduate with their GED or Adult High School diploma?

I have (many times).

They did (many times).

I don't say that to brag on myself or my teaching skills, which are mediocre, at best. It wasn't me that did it. In every instance, the student was the one who did it.

But, I believed in them.

Ms. Hoyle believed in us and we did what we weren't supposed to be able to do.

Whatever you do in life, but especially if you are a teacher, believe.

Even if they "can't" do it. Believe they can.

Ms. Hoyle, I have no idea where you are now, or what you are doing, but, thank you.

Thank you for believing we could.