Monday, August 31, 2009

Farewell to Professor Hatchett

I only learned today of the death earlier this month of Marion Hatchett. Professor Hatchett was a formidable figure at the school of theology at the University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee. He knew more about Christian liturgy than just about anyone else would ever want to know.

He not only participated in the revision of the Book of Common Prayer of 1979 but also wrote the learned and lucid Commentary on the American Prayer Book (the Big Hatchett) and A Manual of Ceremonial for the New Prayer Book (the Little Hatchett), both of which hold honored places on my shelves.

He understood — and said — that public worship in the Episcopal Church could maintain a continuity with its historical origins without becoming a museum liturgy, and he wrote with authority, grace, and humanity.

Whenever I endure some service of mechanical liturgy, mediocre music, and tedious homiletics, as is the fate of many churchgoers, I recall that Professor Hatchett showed us that it does not have to be that bad. He thought that we could achieve a higher standard, and now that he has gone to glory, we would do well to remember his example.


  1. I never thought of the BCP, the King James Version of the Bible, or Hymns Ancient and Modern as being museum pieces. Generations of Anglicans functioned quite well in those museums.For the guulty parties in 1979 - including the bilious excuses for church musicians - who mucked up the liturgy, music and language - they have a lot to answer for. Perhaps your friend was an exception.

  2. Every time you blog about church, I feel like handing you my copy of "An Alien At St Wilfred's" by Adrian Plass (1992) and suggesting that you might enjoy it.

    And now we sing number one thousand, nine hundred and forty-three in Hymns - Prehistoric and Ancient, one of those truly wonderful old favourites that still have something very special to say to us in this age:

    Forswear, though strait vain faith doth flee
    And whilst betimes with cherubim
    Redemption's law vouchsafeth be
    Much less availeth now for him.

    All together now!...