“Without music, life would be a mistake.” So wrote the famed philosopher, Nietzsche. I believe that music in sacred community is the medium which allows us to feel and to express our deepest emotions: joy, lament, awe and thanksgiving. Music in sacred community binds us together. Studies have shown that groups who make music together feel a certain kinship with each other, and leave that time of singing or drumming, playing instruments, etc. with their endorphins dancing, and their bodies humming with better health and vibrations. Surely when all of this is enhanced by words of hymns or songs, we can know that we have participated in a rich experience which has fed our souls.read more
Such a captivating experience is not limited by the type or setting of the music. Classical, pop, bluegrass, jazz, country, blues, to name common Western music, all have the capacity to release an energy within us, previously pent up, but now free. That release can and does happen to anyone, any time, any place. Music is one of the great equalizers of persons. No matter who you are, you are susceptible to this unfathomed power. What is going on here?read more
St. Augustine said that the one who sings, prays twice. We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words; we get closest to praying as we ought when we sing. But church singing has changed rapidly in the 30-some years I’ve been a pastor. The hip new hymnal that came out in the nineties contains far too many hymns that were written for an organ and a congregation in the hundreds, not a guitar, a piano, and a raggedy chorus of twenty-some.read more
I believe that any truly spiritual path must understand that its main function is to provide the opportunity to experience true Unity or Oneness with all Creation. There are many ways to say the same thing, but every church, religious, or spiritual gathering is trying to help the attendee experience that Oneness. And I am convinced that one of the places we can do that is with music. The mega-churches in large part figured that out decades ago. But go into a typical church today with sixty members and listen to them try and experience Oneness or sense of Connectedness as they stumble through a difficult hymn or debate theology. Most people at some point in that experience are just hoping for the hymn to be over.read more
The varieties of religious experience call forth hymns and songs, emerging from the varieties of cultures, personality types, and religious expressions. Our worship and song reflects this diversity. We join in sacred worship traditional and contemporary, North American and African, and European and Asian. We chant hymns from Taize and melodies from Iona, and dance to “Siyahamba” (We are marching in the light of God), sometimes in the same service.read more
O golden doors now open wide
Revealing myst’ry’s grace,
The grace beyond the imaged word;
Beyond all time and space.
Beyond the boxes we create,
Beyond each image we can spawn
The process river flows along
To sweep aside the now outworn.
This, my song, a skeptic’s hymn,
ode to mystery within,
Sung to you no one can prove,
dwelling there, as real as love.
From the silence God created
Matter, movement, depth and height,
All the opposites evolving,
Spreading darkness, gifting light.
My first experience of the art form methodology was as a participant in the Parish Leadership Colloquy. It was a course designed for clergy by the Ecumenical Institute of Chicago. We gathered for lunch on the second day of the four day event. At the end of each meal the leadership always led us in a conversation. The focus for this conversation was a print of a famous painting by Pablo Picasso—Guernica.read more
All night I lay on my bed
I sought him whom my soul loves.
I sought him but did not find him.