Last night I had the privilege of hearing Jonathon Welch speak, as part of the Centre for Music, Liturgy and the Arts' Weekend with Jonathon Welch.
Jonathon shared a lot of his own story, in a generous gift of himself than any of us were expecting. Much of his story, and along the way the stories of folk from the Choir of Hope & Opportunity (formerly Choir of Hard Knocks) and others, demonstrates of music what I so often observe about story: through music (or story) Jonathon finally saw how everything he had been given came together, why he had been given the gifts he has - for the benefit of the community. And isn't that why any of us have the gifts we have - so that together we can live out the fulness of our humanity?
He spoke of the gift that the choir had been - giving people a much longed-for chance to participate in life. And more than the music - which, by the way, is enough on its own, contrary to so many people's apparent opinion - the learnt to work together, to trust each other, something they'd long forgotten how to do. This choir also offered them the experience of being acknowledged, which for people of disadvantage on the edges of society is so rare: they were acknowledged for their contribution and for their existence. (Again, this resonates with what I observe about the experience of having our story heard)
Arts and culture - as Jonathon said - are how we carry who we are, have been for all people throughout all time. Why, then, are they so little valued when it comes to making decisions for funding?
The question he raised for me was, how is a community choir / choir community (or family, as the choir of hope & opportunity has become) like a faith community / community of faith ... ? And what would teaching on social inclusion through community arts programs offer to the students at our theological colleges, training to be leaders in our communities of faith??
Jonathon Welch continues to offer reflections and bring a choir together in one afternoon today, and will be performing, with this and other choirs, at Maughan Church Adelaide this evening, 7.30 pm. $15 ($10 conc). All welcome!