Was Jesus a jazz musician?
this was the first session I went to on my last day of greenbelt.
Philip Roderick is involved with a group called contemplative fire, who had led some worship sessions that I had missed and it was too late by now to do anything about that. However, coordinating a jazz church space as I do, I thought I would hear someone else's reflections on Jesus and jazz.
Really there was nothing new in what Philip said, using language for Jesus and jazz such as flow, zone, grace and swing. there is a dance between structure and freedom in jazz, as there was in the life of Jesus, in what he was teaching the disciples. As he, as we, allow the Spirit to speak/flow through structures, the both/and-ness of things is beautiful.
All of creation has a melody - we just need to hear. As we interact with others, Philip suggests that it is helpful to find the melody of others and thus be able to walk in time with them.
improvisation is hugely underestimated according to Philip, though as I rewrite this from my journal, I forget the context of that thought ... later in the session, he spoke about bricolage, french for taking what we have and using just that, and he led us in an improvisation singing vive la bricolage. it was lovely. as community we strive to breathe together, think together, pray together in improvisation. again, the image of community mirrors that of a jazz band, with its delicate balance of personalities, each individual and each group learning the best of the past and adding our own personal vision. One has to understand one's own role in the group well enough to improvise.
Philip spoke of three elements of a jazz musician: respect for tradition (learning not merely repeating); respect for other players, allowing each person's gifts to blossom; openness to learning something new from an old piece and from each other. Are these elements in all people, living in community?
Relating jazz to the kingdom, Philip suggests that in neither is their failure - only feedback. Jazz operates on the knife-edge of failure, incorporating mistakes and bum notes.
And on contemplative prayer, he says that this requires the same attentiveness, atunement and alertness that jazz calls for in order for music to play the performer, in order for us to be played through - hearing echoes of Spirit??
Philip played a hang drum at various intervals during the session - wonderful sound. You can hear some here. 'The hang drum is one of the very few newly designed musical instruments. With its ancestry in the Carribean steel drum, this extraordinarily evocative percussion instrument looks like a wok with a view or a small UFO! Its tonal quality is healing and ambient.' (www.contemplativefire.org/store.html)
I was less impressed with what Pete had to say in this session than with our conversations with him in Belfast.
Some of the things he suggested that I noted included:
it is better to go back to what bore the early church than to go back to the early church: many alt.church groups talk about going back to the early church for Christian worship practice, community etc. Pete's suggestion here makes sense - let's not simply replicate what has been done in past eras, particularly 2000 years ago within the Roman Empire, but instead, remember the early church's inspiration, the life, death and resurrection, the person of Jesus Christ, his nearness, the nearness of the kingdom, and let that inform our following of Christ today.
Where Philip Roderick had been talking about reimagining structures, Pete seemed to be encouraging stepping out of them altogether. I wondered if they were saying the same thing, or something entirely different? Was Pete suggesting that alt.church stuff shouldn't be within church structure/ institution? [in Belfast, Pete talked about the way groups like Ikon, who challenge and confront Christianity as it has been, are important for the wider Christian community, which is also important for groups like Ikon, as Ikon do not tell the Christian narrative but rather deconstruct it, so there is an interdependence between communities deconstructing the narrative, and others reconstructing, retelling, reimagining it - these are my words now, as I am not sure we need communities who simply regurgitate without questioning our Sacred narrative at all ...]
We no longer believe in the resurrection, but are the site where it takes place - what a challenge, to live out the resurrection of Christ! This links in with remembering the inspiration for the early church ...
The need for antagonism between church and new expressions - this he also elaborated on in Belfast, and I agree, though I am not sure the church as I know it always has the courage to allow difference, to allow tension. But it is this tension that will enable growth wi
thin communities, individuals, within the body of Christ (my words again).
Poetry workshop with Mark Halliday
It was good to be forced to write and to think about how I approach writing a poem in this workshop.
Poetry brings dignity to what you write.
Why does a poem work?
- it is personal, specific to the writer
- the experience also resonates with the reader (often but not always)
- it is visual in its description - the reader needs to get into your eyes and see what you see
- it is concise (not necessarily short)
We workshopped poetry, and when I've finished what I was writing, I'll add it here, or somewhere.
Heard most of the Iona Big Sing from our workshop room, and I caught the end of it in person which was great. Sorry to have had to choose one over the other, but that's the greenbelt experience.
Addressing the concern for some writers recently, especially in the USA, about the number of men vs women in church, and that the men in church are not 'real' men (whatever they are ...). Jenny believes that these writers are dishonouring both men and women.
She challenged the use of differences between men and women as an instruction manual for how to behave, stating that this is unhelpful.
Jenny talked about how our use of language is governed by how much power we have in a given situation, and recommended Cohen's book The Essential Difference as good at acknowledging the diversity of femininity and masculinity.
She believes that gender is still an issue, noting some new initiatives within the church that do not include women, although such initiatives and the groups behind them do not have a theology of excluding women from leadership. So why are they still absent?
We met with Jenny in London, the girls of our group, and had some feisty conversation around this issue. We haven't found the answer for why really, but we're more aware of the need to keep questioning, and seeking ways for our voices to be heard in these new expressions of church.
Then the highlight of the weekend: Padraig O Tuama's poetry reading in the Hub. It was stunning in its language, imagery and rhythm. Pity there wasn't a collection to buy.
Finished the day with more beer in the Jesus Arms, Grimm Tales (fairy tales with a reflection I can no longer rember) back in the Hub and Last Orders (a comic summing up of the day which didn't live up to expectations, but a couple of musical performances which did). [pic: Rob Hanks]