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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Thursday, July 17, 2003 The July 18 issue of Commonweal features a cover article by Peter Steinfels on 'Fixing the Liturgy.'
I stay with him through his fair-minded overview of changes in worship since Vatican II and the ongoing divisions that have been caused. But he loses me when he cites Saginaw Bishop Untener's "teaching Masses" as examples of Best Practice:
[One experiment] involved the whole congregation in bringing forward their Sunday offerings. Other experiments went further, for example, inviting the congregants, after the first two readings, to share their thoughts with the persons next to them.
The cover art is good stuff, depicting a hymnal with Gregorian chant, on the left-hand page, succeeded on the right by "It's So Nice to Be Nice": It's nice to be nice because Jesus was so nice/He hugged lots of people and ate lots of rice/He went to sleep with a smile on his face/He sacrificed for the whole human race!
There actually is a gospel song that gives its name to the album, "It's So Nice to Be Nice," the musical motto of a flamboyant blues-singing Oakland faith-healer named King Louis H. Narcisse. A song from the album, "He That Believeth," can be heard on a recent edition of the WMFU radio show Sinners Crossroads. (An outstanding program, by the way, archived here.)
If it is the same song, I'll definitely take "It's So Nice to Be Nice."
As it happens, a revival service at King Louis' Oakland church is featured in a 1963 documentary on American roots music, according to this blues reviewer:
The 47 minute video ends with several minutes in King Louis Narcisse' Mt. Zion Church in Oakland. A pope-like figure--he enters the building from his limo, after a carpet is rolled out to meet him. When he later leaves, people kneel to kiss his hand. He has a gospel-rousing voice, and does 4 numbers while the camera shows the congregation marching, dancing and generally in the throes of heavenly passion.