With the recent successful broadcast of a Folk Mass from Coulsdon still a happy memory my first glance at John Ryan's cartoon (May 10) prompted the idea that our bishops were frantically scribbling pop hymns preparatory to jumping on the FoLk Mass band wagon!
Indeed, page 2 with its sad report of the decline of religious faith and practice in traditionalist Ireland served to indicate that such action might well prove useful. Alas! the tragically negatiye views of your editorial comment did less than justice to this controversial subject and were reminiscent of the saying; a critic is an artist who has failed.
In the interest of honest journalism the advantages of the Folk Mass should also be publicised because it will do what the traditional forms of music (Latin of English) have lamentably failed to achieve.
You will then discover that a good Folk Mass is aceeptable to people of all ages, education and race, thereby acting as a unifying influence on family and parish life. What is more, a "Folk" congregation is willing to sing!
Its appeal to teenagers is exceptionally valuable, maintaining them in the practice of religious observance at an age when so many drift away. The introduction of a Folk Mass in this parish about eight' years ago increased attendance from around 950 to 1300 per week. The Folk Mass which, every Sunday is as crowded as any Midnight Mass accounts for roughly 67 per cent of these. Furthermore it has helped to develop a sense of unity and purpose which is the envy of many visitors. Of its effect on television viewers the following extracts from letters received give ample testimony.
A member of the Oxford Diocesan Synod, Church of England, and chairman of the Diocesan Maintenance of the Ministry Committee: "I feel I must write to say thank you to you and your people for having produced such a wonderful service . . . is it possible to hire a tape of it? If so I will suggest that it is shown at a Diocesan Synod as it could well be a help to priests and Parochial Church Councils."
An Anglican lady: "I want you to know how much I appreciated being present with you this morning at your most uplifting Mass. What a lovely congregation they were!"
A priest, retired through illhealth: "If only every parish attempted the standard of St Aldan's."
A man whose wife recently died and who has cancer: "After the service was over I felt I wish I could turn the knob of the T.V. and watch it all over again. To see the smiles, and the young, also a baby being fed with the aid of a bottle, also the young ladies even in trousers, and the group with their instruments and music, joyful hymns and I wish that all they sang was on records so that I could buy them ... It is now evening and alone with my memories, I wish I could turn on the T.V. and watch your service over again."
An occasional visitor to St Aidan's: "The Mass was as it always is from St Aidan's — joyful and comforting. It really helped to make my Easter Day."
These letters came from Doncaster, Derby. St Leonard's, Henley, Evesham and Shropshire.
Admittedly, some folk music is unsuitable for public worship and one must be careful in selecting from any comprehensive collection, as your Editorial points out. In the matter of church music it raises so many points for discussion that the subject cannot be adequately dealt with through the limitations of a correspondence column.
S. A. H. Rees 4 Alexander Road,
On behalf of members of the St Aiden's Folk Choir, Coulsdon, I am writing in answer to your editorial (May 10). It appears to us that the song quotes are taken from our Folk Mass hymn book and that therefore we are included in your criticism.
I .am amazed that you have only quoted extracts from four or' five songs in your editorial. This seems to infer that there is no worthwhile content in the hymns at all — and being conversant with all the hymns in our Folk Mass book I know and appreciate the significance of all its contents.
It seems to me that you arc misrepresenting the voluntary mission of young people like us in the St Aidan's Folk Choir, young people who choose to associate themselves with a legitimate form of liturgy (approved by our Parish Council) because we believe that it, in some humble way, shares Christ's message of Love through contemporary experiences.
Dave Carroll, choir leader, the Folk Choir, St Aidan's Church, Coulsdon, Surrey. 42 Ewhurst Avenue, Sanderstead, S. ,Croydon, Surrey.
For and on behalf of: Terry Haselden, John Toomey, John Mender, Graham Bihar), Paul Carroll, Dave Cliffe, Catherine DeSaulles, Theresa DeSaulles, Marie-Pierre Gaillard, Jim Gummet, Bridget Hallett, Chris Hart, Helen Kennedy, Ella McDermott, Catherine Pilkington, Caroline Potter, Clare Reynolds, Deborah Rhodes, Bill Riley, Steve Riley, Catherine Toomey, Mary Toomey, Julia Torpy, Joanne Trick.
I was very disturbed and saddened to read your editorial (May 10). The impression given was that you had not attended the Folk Mass to which the quoted song-book related (several of the songs cited had not been intended to be sung at Mass but to be used for other occasions). It is impossible to judge a Folk Mass merely from a copy of possible song material; while the singing is important, it is unlikely to convey the whole idea of a folk Mass by itself.
The generalisations concerning young people and Folk Masses cannot be taken seriously; the latter is most assuredly not the exclusive right of the young. Since I was responsible for introducing into this country the quoted version of the Our Father, I have a great attachment to the song which depicts a non-believer's questions and worries about Christianity. I accept the spirit in which it was written but I do respect those who, when faced with a printed copy of the words, do not find it acceptable for themselves.
You have cited, perhaps un
wittingly, some of the works of Stephen Church. It is a great pity that there is no criticism of his work as a whole; as a nonCatholic he has worked with an inexorable unselfishness on Folk music for the Catholic Church. His "Mass for Christian Brotherhood" and modern versions of the psalms have brought great appreciation from old and young, Catholic and non-Catholic communities The term "crude" can certainly not be applied to the traditional hymn "Let Us Break Bread Together." Paul Simon's "The Sound of Silence" must be one of the most applicable of all modern popular songs. Folk music means music of the folk or the people and therefore popular; this point was so lamentably misinterpreted by the article.
Numbers of both old and young people at Folk Masses throughout the country give the lie to your suggestion that "we should offer them something better than this." They have dis carded traditional modes of liturgy that have no meaning for them. Surely we should en courage a laity that is prepared to both think about its liturgy and at the same time respect the views of others who wish to keep traditional methods of worship.
C. G. Coughlan 19 Spencer Court, 208 Woodcote Road, Wallington, Surrey.
I couldn't agree more with your editorial (May 10). However, three points might be added: First, I would contend that there is really no such thing as a "Folk Mass." Masses are "sung" or said. The singing part may include the Common as 'well as hymns and songs, and it may be accompanied by various musical instruments. We sometimes have organ, violins, guitars, recorders all playing very traditional hymns or the more lively recent ones.
Secondly, it is the duty of the priest as leader and animator of the community to guide the selection of words used in Mass hymns and songs, If he is not able to, surely the diocesan liturgical commission can advise.
Thirdly, some modern songs are sung at Mass simply because the tune is good, and this is clearly not sufficient. Personally I dislike and disapprove of the words of "Amazing Grace", but what is there to prevent one from singing the following words, written by a member of our congregation and prompted by my adamant refusal to let them sing the original words?
God's gift of faith is there for all, If only we reach out. Our minds and hearts will hear His call; Our spirits free'd from doubt.
God's gift of hope transcends despair, When darkness comes our way. We'll shelter in His loving rare, And joy will find our day.
With charity, goodwill will dare All hatred to remove; And with all men we will learn to share, God's precious gift of love.
This sort of thing can be done in many cases of unsuitable words.
(Fr.) Kenneth Payne Church of SS Philip & James. Waveney Avenue, Bedford.