Thanks be to God for Lent

At an Episcopal music conference years ago, a Memphis colleague said to me, “You know what the scuttlebutt on the street is about Church of the Holy Communion, don’t you? They say that you never hear a bad sermon at Church of the Holy Communion.” I smiled humbly, took a sip, and quietly said, “Well, yes, that’s true.” Yesterday morning, the first Sunday in Lent, I heard a sermon that quickly grabbed my attention. Father Sandy’s thesis... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Tuesday, March 12, 2019
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Our pilgrim way of Lent

Our annual Lenten journey begins this week on Ash Wednesday. Yes, this Tuesday is Shrove Tuesday, also known as Fat Tuesday, the last liturgical hoorah before the Lenten fast and the day we use up all the medieval luxuries of eggs, flour, milk, sugar and meat in our annual Shrove Tuesday pancake supper. The Shrove Tuesday supper will begin with great feasting and color, pancakes and sausage with lots of gooey syrup, and then move into the burial of the Alleluias by the rector and the... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Tuesday, March 5, 2019
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Choral masterpieces

By singing anthems for Sunday worship each week, our choirs go through a goodly amount of choral literature. And not to toot our own horns, we sing quite a wide variety of styles of anthem literature. For example, in the month of January, our worshipers heard harmonically bold 20 th  Century anthems; harmonically tame but lyrical 20 th  Century anthems; a gospel hymn arrangement; an African-American spiritual setting; a German chorale arrangement by one of my beloved CHC... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Tuesday, February 26, 2019
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Favorite hymns

This past Saturday, I was privileged and honored to be asked to present a program to the Daughters of the King (DOK) of Church of the Holy Communion, which actually included DOK members from parishes throughout the Diocese of West Tennessee. By request, I was asked to speak on the topic "Hymns As Spiritual Devotion." A subtitle for my talk was "Those who sing pray twice," a verbal nod to the phrase traditionally attributed to St. Augustine.  One of my... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Wednesday, February 20, 2019
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The Beatitudes

This Sunday's (February 17) Gospel reading is one of the passages that we know as the Beatitudes, Jesus' sermon where he used the format, "Blessed are the..." I have written in this blog before about my career-long quest for "mustard seed anthems." Jesus often spoke in parables, and some of them are more obvious than others. "Having the faith of a grain of mustard seed" is one of those parables in which I search for anthems to illuminate the... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Thursday, February 14, 2019
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Mentors

Whatever our chosen field or life’s work, and no matter how well we prepare ourselves academically or experience-wise, having a mentor or two or three makes sense. If we want to be the best, we should surround ourselves with the best and then pay attention. Church music is definitely a mentorship. Those of us who dreamed of doing church music as a vocation spent time practicing and studying and then observing those whom we thought did it well. For me, Bob Powell was that... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Thursday, February 7, 2019
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All about love

In church this Sunday, we will hear “The Love Chapter” from First Corinthians 13. We all remember how the love litany reads: “Love is patient, kind, and not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. Love is not insistent or irritable or resentful or rejoicing in wrongdoing. Love bears, believes, hopes, endures all things and never ends.” At Holy Communion, I am privileged to play for a goodly number of weddings annually, and about half the time I hear this scripture... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Friday, February 1, 2019
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Hitting the nail on the head, again

Southerners speak in colloquialisms and with repeated phrases and stories, and I am ever-guilty. “Hitting the nail on the head” has been in my vocabulary for decades. I have heard this saying all my life. And I use it frequently, as documented in this weekly blog, once a year for the past four years, to be exact. The Microsoft Find feature confirms that I used the phrase in blog entries in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. And now 2019.  Does four years in a row comprise... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Wednesday, January 23, 2019
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Our Best Efforts

When we began this blog, now some years ago, the intent was both reflective and informative. The musical and liturgical traditions of the Episcopal Church are so rich that confess I most often probably fall into the hole of being informative and educational rather than being reflective. For a severe ESTJ on the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator test, being reflective is sometimes difficult for me. I am an organist, and I must practice, you know. I am also responsible for five... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Monday, January 14, 2019
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How is it with your soul?

This Sunday we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, on the Epiphany, which we celebrated last Sunday and marked by the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem, Jesus was an infant or about 3 years old, depending upon which biblical scholars you follow. My old liturgical joke, in the days when we used to sing “We three kings” on the first Sunday of the Epiphany season, whether or not it was the Feast of the Baptism of Christ, was, “Well, Jesus grows up very... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Friday, January 11, 2019
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The Epiphany

The Magi have left the Sacristy, headed for the crèche. Let me explain. One of my favorite things about our resplendent Christmas decorations is our crèche. While many churches have grand, elaborate nativity sets, with wooden barns, hay, or numerous figurines, ours sits humbly on a table with a starched white table cloth, in that understated Colonial architectural manner. Immediately behind it are a bank of red and white poinsettias, which really pop against the... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Monday, December 31, 2018
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Mary, with a Sunday all your own

While conducting some personal, plagiaristic research for this week's blog, I suppose we should not be surprised that, in late Advent for the past four years, I have written about the Magnificat  or "Mary's Sunday.” The stories in our Revised Common Lectionary are told over and over in a three-year cycle, and they never grow old. They feed us and sustain us, and we have come to expect them and rejoice when a familiar one crops up. I hear the comments and questions... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Thursday, December 20, 2018
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The Pink Candle

Well, it’s actually the rose candle. But I digress. What does the pink candle signify? When do we light the pink candle? Why is one of the Advent wreath candles pink? I love to hear such liturgical questions, as one of my missions is to help us all better understand the Christian story through our worship, music, symbolism, and practices. Our lives are made better and we help spread the Gospel throughout the world by practicing our faith with intent. Firstly, we need to briefly... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Thursday, December 13, 2018
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The Great O Antiphons; Oh, how rich

So, what are the Great “O” Antiphons? Episcopalians are great with “church-speak,” are we not? For the second time, the parish choirs are singing our annual Advent choral service this Sunday evening (December 9), which follows the order of a liturgy centered around the Great “O” Antiphons. In traditional Western Christian liturgy, an antiphon is a short sentence of scripture that is or recited before or after a canticle, which is a hymn or... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Thursday, December 6, 2018
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In the least expected places ...

For some weeks now, as we heard in the sermon this past Sunday, our lectionary readings have been foreshadowing the coming of the Christ Child into the world, which is a pretty good definition for the Advent season itself. The Gospel reading for this Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, lines out a number of these vivid images. There will be signs in the sun, the moon and the stars. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Look at the... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Tuesday, November 27, 2018
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