Some correspondence by e-mail with a list of six persons has brought me to simplify this project and refine its objectives. In particular, I have laid aside the idea of a trust or an association along the lines of a registered charity. It will simply be a group of persons known to each other for a common purpose, though each would be doing his own work autonomously – no groupthink. We will also be financially independent as we are now. However, friends are there to encourage each other. Discouragement and “writer’s block” are always just around the corner.
The experience with dealing with a Facebook group of more than 1,200 members, mostly lurkers and dead wood, shows that the same issues come back again and again. I have had to remind the group that the germane topic is the Use of Sarum and secondarily about other related local rites like in northern France. The Use of Sarum evolved in a different way than the Tridentine codification of the Roman rite. It is not the Book of Common Prayer with high-church trappings. Again and again, I have had to upbraid posters for slurs against those who do not belong to their “one true church”. Sarum is not merely a variant of the Roman rite, however similar it may seem superficially, otherwise it is implied that Sarum (or Paris, Rouen, etc.) are superfluous, and that the real aim is to get everyone to (for example) the 1962 Roman rite or the Novus Ordo. It is only expected that dialogue will turn around these points because group members are generally traditionalist Roman Catholics and have not bothered to read basic introductions to the subject. We need to avoid denominational and “true church” issues as well as arguments based on ignorance and prejudice, canonical positivism, Donatist sacramental theology, etc. We have at the same time to be inter-denominational and non-denominational, even making abstraction of being a priest.
Therefore, this Guild will consist of a handful of five or six academics and thinkers who are prepared to put their religious convictions into second place. Some of us are Continuum Anglicans, some Roman Catholics and some Eastern Orthodox. We are aware of this problem and the need to make distinctions and compartmentalisations. In any case, we are aware of the shortcomings and human imperfections of the Churches to which we belong. We might be able to meet up from time to time, hold university-style seminars of prepared papers with questions and sing the Office together, spend time in silent prayer and contemplation.
The essential purposes are constant, and have been in my mind for many years. We need to use our books and computer equipment to collaborate with the extraordinary work of Dr William Renwick on The Sarum Rite. Work of the Office and the Antiphonary is well advanced and is continuing. Pdf files can be downloaded with three versions: Latin, liturgical English and a study edition. I have been slow with the English and Latin altar missals. I only have Holy Week to complete in my Word files, and then I’m sure that Dr Renwick could do a nice page layout with Gregorian chant for the prefaces, intonation of the Gloria and Credo, Ite missa est, etc. Books for use at the altar need to be properly bound by sewing in sections so that the book will last. A bound missal will be very expensive, unless it can be crowdfunded for those churches and communities wishing to use it. There also needs to be a Gradual.
In addition to actual liturgical books, which are becoming a reality, we live in a world in which traditional sacramental and liturgical Christianity is becoming less and less relevant. We have seen the far from convincing results of attempts to acculturate Christian worship to modern popular culture and entertainment. Therefore, we need also to study questions of philosophy and culture. The theme of Romanticism, for want of a better term less vulnerable to abuse, is strong in my mind – because it is the one force that made Catholic revival possible in continental Europe and the British Isles in the nineteenth century. Without a “plausibility structure”, our work on the liturgy will be absolutely pointless. You might be asking – What about faith and commitment to Christ? This question is also in our minds as believing Christians, but it is conditioned by our ecclesial attachments, which must remain secondary in our common work.
In addition to publishing work and writing books and articles, another service to the outside world is possible: expanding the work of making rare books available through scanning them into graphic pdf files and text in Word and text format. Such would not be possible for books still in copyright even when out of print, so solutions would need to be found. Most of what interests us is fortunately out of copyright. There are already links on As the Sun in its Orb to books on the Internet Archive. We only need to scan and post books not already available there.
As for my idea of wills and legacies requiring things like trusts and registered charities, we will need to give it a lot more thought after sifting through legal and financial questions. That is not something for the immediate, otherwise we would just get too bogged down.