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This page last updated 10 July 2017
Anglicans Online last updated 17 September 2017

A review for Anglicans Online
by Richard Mammana

A review of
An Almsbasket of Words: Verses Serious and Satirical, with Song Parodies and a Little Prose
By Lawrence N. Crumb
(from whom it may be ordered: lcrumb@uoregon.edu)
Eugene, Oregon: The Author, 2017; spiralbound, 92 pages.

The inimitable Revd Lawrence Crumb is known throughout the Episcopal Church as an historian and canonist, as an academic and seminary librarian, as a bibliographer, and as a parish priest of great experience. His magnum opus, the two-volume 1988 Oxford Movement and Its Leaders: A Bibliography of Secondary and Lesser Primary Sources, reached a second edition in 2009. In 2012 (and semi-retirement) he published the autobiographical Links in a Chain: Interesting People I Have Known, chronicling a long life of wide and deep friendships. Crumb is a type of American example of what Anglican clergy have often been called: stupor mundi, a wonder of the world for his learning and piety.

This year Fr. Crumb's desk is again the site of a fresh creation, and it is a hybrid of the sublime and ridiculous only he could have created. Beginning in junior high school, and continuing until the present, the bibliographer-priest-librarian has also been a singer and poet. From time to time, he combines the two avocations in academic gatherings with social performances of his own lyrics over familiar tunes and meters. Members of National Episcopal Historians and Archivists, for example, will recall his memorable performance of Whatever Became of COCU?, thankfully preserved on YouTube for posterity. And personal correspondents will have received snippets of his ecclesiastical parodies of Gilbert and Sullivan libretti or Tom Lehrer songs. The larger scope of Fr. Crumb's mirthful work has been quite unknown until his decision to release An Almsbasket of Words, which quickly repays the modest investment of US$10.75 (including postage). There are lyrical reflections on life as a librarian, on academic politics, on personal or parochial occasions in which he was a celebrant, and on matters operatic—but the bulk are on aspects of Anglicana in one way or another.

In 1960, to the tune of West Side Story's "Officer Krupke," he composed the Nashotah Faculty Song, with this choice verse on H. Boone Porter, a chief architect of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer:

Dear kindly Father Porter, you've fallen right in step,
You follow Massey's order, and Grace Church thinks you're hep;
You like to face the people when celebrating Mass—
Looney, Booney, man, have you got class! Li-
turgical Father, with paten and cup,
You've give us ideas we'd have never dreamed up;
Your altar library makes missals look mild,
And that's the reason we're beguiled. We're beguiled!
We're beguiled, we're beguiled, we are most beguiled,
Like we're most academically beguiled.

To a Lehrer tune he sets lyrics about the controversial Bishop Pike of California:

Though some have harsh words for this man they don't like,
Still others say His Reverence deserves far more deference,
Like the hippies and beatniks and other such like
Who draw inspiration from James Albert Pike.

Some of the most hilarious lines are in The Canons of Fond du Lac, set to "Caractacus," arranged by Rolf Harris:

Oh, the canons of the bishop of the Diocese of Fond du Lac are just passing by (4 times)

Oh, the trimmings on the cassocks of the canons of the bishop of the Diocese of Fond du Lac are just passing by (4 times)

Oh, the acolytes in surplices with purples for the trimmings on the cassocks of the canons of the bishop of the Diocese of Fond du Lac are just passing by (4 times) [...]

For Crumb's This Church is Your Church (Woody Guthrie, of course), Check-List for an Exhibit of Pictures of People Eating Ham Sandwiches, How to Write Your Own Carmina Burana, Vaguely Anglo-Catholic, The Church Pension Fund Song, and The Oxford Movement: A History in Puns along with their dozens of companions, one must acquire this embarassment of riches.


AO staff member Richard J. Mammana is the archivist of the Living Church Foundation and a member of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a parishioner and clerk of the vestry at Trinity Church, New Haven, Connecticut.