The Glen at Maude’s Tavern

The hills of Appalachia are wrinkled deep in time. Some places there, as the saying goes, you can’t get to from here. At least, if the here were televised America. And if not….

There are three large structures in the Glen at Maude’s Tavern: the chapel, the abbey, and of course, the tavern. As to which is oldest, well, that has been the heart of many a heated argument by the bar at Maude’s Tavern – especially since nobody around here puts much value in being new. The tavern looks the newest, what with Joe Turner coming down from Northern Virginia back in the 70s to renovate it; however, his taking Sue Wesley as his wife, ‘as part of the renovation’ he’s fond of joking since she grew up at the tavern, and her roots being Cherokee ‘as are the mountains! Sue says’ give grounds for the tavern being oldest.

Certainly, none of the groups have been very particular about keeping written records and much is hard to make out in the fog of time. The chapel folks, the people of the Mt Zion Freewill Sanctified Baptist Chapel, going back to Scots settlers (refugees from the losing side of the 1650 Battle of Dunbar in the 3rd English Civil War), are what most folks associate with old-time Appalachian mountain culture. And then the abbey Riders, the Abbey of the Appalachian Riders for Our Lady, with their immediate roots in what some think a humorous convolution of Francis Asbury inspired Methodist circuit-riding with Francis Assisi inspired devotion to renewal of the Catholic Church, trace their roots all the way back to the first century after Our Lord’s rising from the dead. So, depending on one’s view of what counts as evidence and as connection, the abbey and the chapel and the tavern each have grounds for claiming to be the true foundation of the Glen.

Myself, Tom White, I’m a lapsed Unitarian, coming from a family of lapsed Unitarians. My mom lapsed from Unitarianism into Methodism and I continued the lapse all the way back into the Catholic Church (and into the Riders, in spite of or perhaps, because of their limiting brothers to two dozen books).

And, though I keep forgetting, since this might be read by someone outside the Glen, I really need to start with that, since it holds them all – the tavern, the abbey and the chapel. What with its geography, which kept it free from the reach of television’s invasion and of thoroughfares from elsewhere in the United States, it is in many ways a world of its own, a sociological laboratory of sorts, one might say. Any reader will, I trust, appreciate my reticence regarding the specific location and features of the Glen, in order to preserve its privacy. The crucial fact, both geographical and geological, is that it is fairly well isolated from the rest of the country. In fact, my descriptions of land and environment will often be of a similar, though larger, regionz far to the west: the Uinta Basin in Utah and the Pilot Mountain Range and nearby salt flats.

The first white men to set eyes on the Uinta Basin and Uinta Mountains were members of the small Spanish expedition from Santa Fe headed by Fray Silvestre Velez de Escalante and Fray Francisco Atanasio Dominguez. The expedition crossed into Utah and the Uinta Basin several miles northeast of present day Jensen [see the chapter 'Las Llagas - San Andres' in The Dominguez-Escalante Journal, University of Utah Press]. These explorers opened the Uinta Basin and the eastern portion of the Great Basin to Spanish, and later Mexican, American, and British fur-trappers and traders.

The Uinta Basin drew little interest during the initial phase of settlement of the Great Basin. Early in the 1860s Brigham Young did order a small expedition to the Uinta Basin to determine the suitability for locating settlements there. Upon the expedition’s return, the Deseret News reported that the expedition had found little there and that the basin was a “vast contiguity of waste…valueless excepting for nomadic purposes, hunting grounds for Indians and to hold the world together.”

To hold the world together – that is the purpose of the less travelled places of which I speak.

Chief Sitting Bull

At least two Paleo-Indian cultural sites (12,000-8,500 BC) have been located in the Uinta Basin. These people were primarily hunters of the mammoth, bison, and other big game. During the Archaic period (8,500-2,500 BC), the basin was occupied by Plateau Archaic People, people were gatherers as well as hunters. More recently, people identified with the Fremont Culture have occupied the Uinta Basin. The Fremont Culture parallels in time and development the better known Anasazi Culture. People of the Fremont Culture lived in semi-subterranean shelters (kivas) and were dependent primarily upon corn agriculture and hunting of smaller game and fishing.

During the ethno-historical period (A.D. 1300 to present), the Uinta Basin has been occupied by the Uinta-ats (Uinta), a band of Utes. The basin was also occasionally visited by the Northern and Northwestern Shoshones. The basin at one time was a rich provider of food and clothing for the Ute Indians.

The Pilot Mountain Range (pictures forthcoming) also has early settlement history. Evidence of the Desert Archaic culture, which dates back over 10,000 years has been found in the area.  I hope to post more on this soon.



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Local Church

My thinking about ecclesiology has been significantly influenced by a very brief conversation, at the University of Virginia, with David Bentley Hart about the near impossibility of meaningful discussion regarding the nature of the Church.  One consequence is that I try to use sociological rather than theological characterizations.

In particular, by ‘local church’ I mean (at least when talking in an ecumenical context): the smallest contiguous geographical unit of an ecclesial body which provides for the educational needs of the children of its members.  Implicit in this are several assumptions:

  1. By ‘educational needs’, I basically mean elementary and high school.
  2. By ‘ecclesial body’, I mean a Christian group large enough, and serious enough, to take up the responsibility to help its members educate their children.

For example, then, in the Salt Lake area:

  • The Catholic diocese of Salt Lake City is a local church.
  • The congregation of the Evangelical Free Church of Salt Lake City is a local church.
  • In the past, there was an Episcopal local church in Salt Lake City (which built Rowland Hall, and also St Marks Hospital).
  • There are various Lutheran local churches in Salt Lake City.
  • Given the LDS dominance in Utah, the public school system may be thought to provide for the needs of their ward members.  While I do not consider the LDS to be a Christian ecclesial body, it provides a useful boundary case just as, in other parts of the United States, the public school system provides for those whom Joseph Bottom characterizes as ‘Post Protestants’ in his recent book, An Anxious Age.

The size of a local church varies widely, based on the perspectives and resources of the ecclesial body.


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Commitment, Continuity, and Conversation

The particular spirituality of the Appalachian Riders for our Lady is based on our three foundational principles of commitment, continuity and conversation:

The Riders are committed to faithful and sympathetic submission to papal authority while striving to work out traditional vows of obedience, poverty, chastity, and stability in a largely lay context. For example, while stability for Benedictine monastics means lifelong attachment to a particular monastery, for Riders stability means attachment to a particular parish and its daily Mass (in my case, St Ambrose in Salt Lake City).

The Riders work in continuity with the entire Catholic Church, extended in both space and time, with each Rider limiting their reading and study to two dozen books. These books are settled upon by a Rider, in coordination with the abbot and their particular focus, at the time of ordination and all Riders share a core of  books: the Bible, the Liturgy of the Hours, and the Compendium to the Catholic Catechism.  I’m inclined to prefer books which show a writer’s development over time and my patron saint is Thomas Aquinas, whose clarity and fairness in stating views with which he disagreed is exemplary.

The Riders strive to promote a conversational culture, authentically Christian and Catholic, in the midst of a world largely lacking culture of any sort. While somewhat bookish, given the use of books to establish continuity, we prefer conversation over writing and recognize that mere talking is rarely conversation. I think apologetics is a waste of time better spent on positive statement of belief.

Our vows of commitment, continuity, and conversation do not necessarily mean that we have any natural inclination or talent in these areas.  My own investigations center around the apparent paradox of Christologies seeming to be close together when their related Ecclesiologies are far apart.

My booklist is:

  • Bible, unabridged Revised Standard Version
  • The Liturgy of the Hours, unabridged
  • Isaiah: A Commentary; Brevard Childs
  • Paul’s Letter to the Philippians; Fee
  • Letters; Pope Clement & St. Ignatius
  • Vergil’s Aeneid; tr. Sarah Ruden
  • The Confessions; Saint Augustine
  • Dante’s Purgatory & Paradise; A. Esolen
  • Sonnets & 11 Plays; William Shakespeare
  • Complete English Poems; John Donne
  • Eucharistic Hymns of Charles Wesley
  • Pride and Prejudice; by Jane Austen
  • Collected Poems & Prose; Robert Frost
  • The Golden Bowl; by Henry James
  • My Bright Abyss; Christian Wiman
  • 25 Sermons; John Henry Newman
  • Jesus of Nazareth; Pope Benedict XVI
  • The Brothers Karamazov; Dostoevsky
  • Collected Writings; Flannery O’Connor
  • Enchiridion Symbolorum; Denzinger
  • Compendium of the Catholic Catechism

The booklist was finalized during Christmas of the 2014 liturgical year. Insofar as this list differs from what I would have expected several years ago, the change is largely due to participation with daily Mass at St Ambrose parish in Salt Lake City, along with regular interactions with folks in other ecclesial bodies.  The books center around the topic of cultural history, with varying levels of authority. Cultural history is, I think, far more interesting than the political history that is so dominant nowadays. Essential to the culture of the Appalachian Riders for our Lady is participation at daily Mass at our particular parishes.

Twelve Psalms to memorize:  117, 134, 131, 133, 123, 93, 23, 100, 121, 1, 2, and 110.  Just saying :)


Thomas Gwyn & MaryAlice Dunbar

Not so fast; DAILY MASS

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Memorizing Scripture

When memorizing Psalms, I’d like to be in the company of as many as possible which becomes difficult in modern times. I’m inclined to prefer Coverdale’s 1535 psalter. Twelve Psalms to memorize:  117, 134, 131, 133, 123, 93, 23, 100, 121, 1, 2, and 110.

For comparison, note the choice of metaphor vs simile in verse 2:

Psalm 63

1  O God, thou art my God *
early will I seek thee.
2  My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh also longeth after thee *
in a barren and dry land where no water is.
3  Thus have I looked for thee in holiness *
that I might behold thy power and glory.
4  For thy loving-kindness is better than the life itself *
my lips shall praise thee.
5  As long as I live will I magnify thee on this manner *
and lift up my hands in thy Name.
6  My soul shall be satisfied, even as it were with marrow and fatness *
when my mouth praiseth thee with joyful lips.
7  Have I not remembered thee in my bed *
and thought upon thee when I was waking?
8  Because thou hast been my helper *
therefore under the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.
9  My soul hangeth upon thee *
thy right hand hath upholden me.
10  These also that seek the hurt of my soul *
they shall go under the earth.
11  Let them fall upon the edge of the sword *
that they may be a portion for foxes.
12  But the King shall rejoice in God; all they also that swear by him shall be commended *
for the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped.


GRAIL PSALMS (1963)2 O God, you are my God, for you I long;
for you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you
like a dry, weary land without water.
3 So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.

4 For your love is better than life,
my lips will speak your praise.
5 So I will bless you all my life,
in your name I will lift up my hands.
6 My soul shall be filled as with a banquet,
my mouth shall praise you with joy.

7 On my bed I remember you.
On you I muse through the night
8 for your have been my help;
in the shadow of your wings I rejoice.
9 My soul clings to you;
your right hand holds me fast.

REVISED GRAIL PSALMS (2010)2 O God, you are my God; at dawn I seek you;
for you my soul is thirsting.
For you my flesh is pining,
like a dry, weary land without water.
3 I have come before you in the sanctuary,
to behold your strength and your glory.

4 Your loving mercy is better than life;
my lips will speak your praise.
5 I will bless you all my life;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
6 My soul shall be filled as with a banquet;
with joyful lips, my mouth shall praise you.

7 When I remember you upon my bed,
I muse on you through the watches of the night.
8 For you have been my strength;
in the shadow of your wings I rejoice.
9 My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.


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El Greco's Annunciation
[El Greco's Annunciation]

From Touchstone archive, William Tighe explains:

Many Christians think that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th because the church fathers appropriated the date of a pagan festival. Almost no one minds, except for a few groups on the fringes of American Evangelicalism, who seem to think that this makes Christmas itself a pagan festival. But it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.

Rather, the pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Son” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance.
. . .
It is to this day, commemorated almost universally among Christians as the Feast of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel brought the good tidings of a savior to the Virgin Mary, upon whose acquiescence the Eternal Word of God (“Light of Light, True God of True God, begotten of the Father before all ages”) forthwith became incarnate in her womb. What is the length of pregnancy? Nine months. Add nine months to March 25th and you get December 25th . . .

A modern painting of the Annunciation by John Collier:

Annunciation, by John Collier

Annunciation, by John Collier


Salvation to all that will is nigh;
That All, which always is all everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Lo! faithful Virgin, yields Himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb; and though He there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet He’ll wear,
Taken from thence, flesh, which death’s force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created thou
Wast in His mind, who is thy Son, and Brother;
Whom thou conceivest, conceived; yea, thou art now
Thy Maker’s maker, and thy Father’s mother,
Thou hast light in dark, and shutt’st in little room
Immensity, cloister’d in thy dear womb.

—John Donne

Somewhat related, it is encouraging to read (in contrast to the heretical views of, say, Pannenberg whom I was shocked to find out is considered “orthodox” by some Protestants who claim to profess the Nicene Creed) N. T. Wright on the Conception, on our Lord’s being “born of the Virgin Mary.”

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The Wisdom Books of the Old Testament

The books of the Old Testament can be grouped into 4 categories: torah (the first 5 books), history, prophecy, and writings. The writings are further subdivided into psalms and ‘wisdom’.

The wisdom books are:

   Job – 25 pages
   Proverbs – 21 pages
   Ecclesiastes – 6 pages
   Song of Solomon – 5 pages
   Wisdom (of Solomon) – 16 pages
   Sirach  -  41 pages
(page counts from the Revised Standard Version)

The latter two are not in abridged Bibles, for which the ‘wisdom’ category is 57 pages instead of 114 pages, ie half the size.

Abridged Bibles are also missing some historical books (Maccabees); however, it is the hiding of the wisdom books which most distorts the scriptural background to the New Testament.
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Ontological Splendor of the Concrete

Glenn C. Arbery begins an article about Flannery O’Connor with:

Toward the end of her life, Flannery O’Connor was often asked to speak about being a Southerner, as though this were a peculiar condition in need of explanation. In “The Catholic Novelist in the Protestant South,” a composite essay published from two of her last public talks, she sums up what she thinks of her region: “What has given the South her identity are those beliefs and qualities which she has absorbed from the Scriptures and from her own history of defeat and violation: a distrust of the abstract, a sense of human dependence on the grace of God, and a knowledge that evil is not simply a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be endured.” Of these three dimensions of the South, “distrust of the abstract” might remain the one most in need of a defense, whether for the South, for O’Connor herself, or for literature as a mode of knowledge.

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