I've been thinking about the groups we met in the UK, and what their stories of gathering and connecting with the Sacred and each other have taught me. I was also thinking jazz, as I do, but particularly having rediscovered Jamie Cullum's album Twenty something, that I lost years ago, and having met to begin planning the next Black Wood Jazz space yesterday afternoon.
I was also recollecting the talk given at greenbelt by Phillip Roderick - some of the things he said include: 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?
And so I wondered, at 4am, whether the church needs to become like a giant jazz band, and instead of playing the same tune in the same way, the structures of the church exist in order to enable and encourage and equip congregations/ communities to improvise their own melodies, their own way of being, whilst still being part of the band.
The church isn't like a marching band, in uniform, marching in formation. We are eclectic, and should celebrate our difference, embrace the variations on the theme, not tolerate them the way less polished musicians are tolerated with their microphones turned down in church on Sunday.
The structures should trust that congregations know the key, and the chord pattern, and set them free. In fact, the training facilities are entrusted with teaching leaders the key and chord pattern, in order to improvise on the theme ...
Set leaders and their gathered communities free to create their own unique contribution to the story, and have the courage to not control the outcome / shape / form of that contribution.
So that metaphor is fraught with difficulty if you push it too far, but never the less, I put it out there, as fruit of the experiences of the UK trip.