i started writing worship songs years ago because of words (ok i wasn't that keen on the music around either!). i found if difficult to find words that articulated what it was we as a community then (st matts in bath at the time) believed and wanted to express. it was a great journey of expression and led me to explore the same in alternative worship through a range of art forms. and actually it also led to setting up proost to collate songs and liturgy and movies that had this same sense of expression from the grassroots in soulful (and theological) ways. i am still surprised how few communities go this route. i get that it is more time consuming but it is so much more rewarding that simply using commodified worship songs or liturgies written in high places. though of course blending your own expression with good stuff written by others is probably even better...
anyway all that to say i was sent a link to this blog/site plural guild which is the first i have seen for a while that really embodies that spirit of articulation. and the words are words i can sing which i have to say is a refreshing change (and i know i am hard to please). so thank you to plural guild (love the notion of guild by the way)! the song below seems especially poignant today on a day when my country have voted to leave europe - love the line there is no other there is only us. there is a also a downloadable album of advent and christmas songs too. i am making these worship trick 64 in series 4
st mary's ealing hosts a series called st mary's sessions. it's actually a really great venue for this sort of thing. we'll be hosting gav mart as part of the series at grace in july. but this weekend at almost zero notice and in spontaneous fashion st mary's sessions is hosting a jazz festival - see poster for details. chris read is playing saturday evening.
really looking forward to gav mart hosting an evening for grace on july 9. gav is a singer songwriter and will be joined by friends for 'myths from the margins' which will also be the latest in the st mary's sessions series.
so i was flipping through guardian articles on my phone while eating porridge this morning and clicked on an opinion piece about beyoncé's new album lemonade. i am not really a beyoncé fan - never owned a track actually. but i like to keep up with the zeitgeist and i absolutely loved her performance at the superbowl and the video of formation that went with that track - which was powerful, defiant and prophetic.
anyway this opinion piece is an amazing piece of writing - i could almost feel the empathy, tears and passion coming off the words. i haven't heard a single track off lemonade or seen a single video but having read this opinion piece i think i'm going to have to. here's a piece mid flow...
We are the women left behind. We are the women who have cared for other women’s children while ours were taken away. We are the women who work two jobs when companies won’t hire our men. We are the women caring for grandchildren as our sons are taken by the prison industrial complex. We are the women who march in the streets and are never marched for. We are the women expected to never air our grievances in public. We are the women expected to stay loyal to our men by staying silent through abuse and infidelity. We are the women who clean the blood of our men and boys from the streets. We are the women who gather their belongings from the police station.
have a read of the whole piece. i may about to purchase my first beyoncé album. this piece reminded me of the track black woman by seun kuti which was one of my favourite tracks last year and i put on full blast driving up the m40 to oxford today. of course the former is from the perspective of a black woman and the latter a man but somehow they connected in my mind.
i was excited to see an album from gav mart and martin daws out on proost - bring it down. gav is a musician and singer and martin is a wonderful spoken word poet. i love the blend of spoken word and music in this way. they have been touring so it's great to see they have put an album out. available here...
proost is on a roll this year with some great material - it's worth subscribing then you can log in to the back end whenever you like to download resources. don't forget if you are in the usa there is a us site here where you can pay in dollars.
i really hope it is!
i am so pleased that someone has leaked the panama papers. they show what we all know really. the so called democratic world we live in is one in which greed rules. the rich and powerful are able to make obscene amounts of money, hide it out of sight of the system and regulations, whilst at the same time not giving a s**t about the poor. in fact the poor don't exist in their world because they can lived in gated communities and go to private members clubs and avoid them. the thing i hate about it most is the sense of entitlement - people start to believe that they are superior, that they deserve it, that they are entitled to it. i really hope that this exposé will shine a light on at least some of this practice. and to state the bleeding obvious - we do not have to run a society this way. in fact it is a rubbish way to run a society. it makes my blood boil the way it is ideologically driven by the ludicrous idea of deregulation and a free market - i.e. if we leave things alone and don't intervene everything will go well. WRONG! what happens is greed rules the waves as is being demonstrated again and again again. it needs to be addressed through regulation and taxation. i think this economic disparity is the big justice issue of our time (the environment is the other huge one that we have still got our heads in the sand about and of course they are related). it is compounded by the fact that it is hard to make sense of - the financial systems seem so confusing (to me at least) that it is like dealing with smoke and mirrors; and it is hard to know what exactly we can do about it other than tweet or write a blog post. because often those rich and powerful are cozied up with the media and elected to run our governments. i am being dramatic i realise but this is an incredible drama we are witnessing.
i went to see misty in roots in concert on saturday night. they are a brilliant reggae band made famous through john peel's love of their album live at the counter eurovision in 1979. what i particularly loved about the gig was the blend of spirituality and political insight. the opening song was a praise song to god (jah - his most excellent greatness) - i recognised the words as from psalm 150. it was so uplifting (and i'd love a worship band like this!). the second song was 'poor and needy' with lines such as
Deliver the poor and needy from the hands of the wicked
How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?
Defend the poor and fatherless,
Do justice to the afflicted and needy.
this was then followed by 'babylon's falling' railing against corruption and hypocrisy of the powers that be through the image of babylon - that puffed up city and empire whose rulers thought they were gods and could never be called to account. but of course like all empires babylon fell in dramatic fashion. and the concert went on flowing with a spiritual and political message of lament and hope. i have been thinking about it ever since for two reasons..
the first is it reminded me of how reduced our repertoire tends to be in today's worship in churches. when did you last hear a song lamenting the state of the economy and calling for judgement on the wicked? at best we will get that in a reading. but the hymnology has generally collapsed into the private sphere where god is close to me but it makes no difference in the rest of my life, or is so abstracted up in heaven on a throne that there is no connection. it is a regular occurrence for me to go to a church and find no connection between the worship songs and what i want to express. (i am reminded of robert beckford's book jesus is dread where he asks whether you can have a black political christianity.) the size of the problem was brought home to me in a sermon i heard a while back that defended stephen green from the pulpit as 'being a nice guy' and a christian whilst making absolutely no comment on the scandal of banking he was involved in - i.e. faith collapsed into private sphere with nothing to say to the bigger justice issues of our time. i regret that i didn't stand up and shout the preacher down to be honest - i was hopping mad.
the second is that this language and imagery of babylon seems so poignant in today's world - and the panama papers is the tip of the iceberg of those who think they are like gods but for whom their empires will eventually fall and they will be called to account.
right i am actually meant to be packing my bags to head off on a silent retreat for the week - see what i hear in the presence of silence
if you like piano music nils frahm put up some free tracks that didn't make it onto his album solo last year - they are really beautiful - solo remains. i love music like this to listen to, and as background soundscape for worship or prayer. there are some free piano tracks here if you scroll through this piano day page - for example olafur arnolds track is downloadable and lovely.
while on the subject of soundscapes moby has put several 20 minute plus tracks here for free that you might want to check out - i have downloaded but not been through them yet.
i have been searching online to find info about a gig on friday night and am beginning to wonder if this is the worst advertised gig ever! but maybe there is some email circulating going on i haven't seen - i hope so... anyway all that to say this friday harry baker and chris read are playing in ealing at st marys sessions 7:30pm. they are working up new material heading towards an edinburgh show in the summer and this is the first outing i think. here's the lowdown
St. Mary's Sessions, Friday 29th January 7.30 pm . Come and join us for the
first St. Mary's sessions of the New Year with Harry Baker and Chris Reid for a
night of poetry and music, bring a picnic and a friend.
oh and i just found this...
nils frahm came up with idea of piano day and appointed yesterday as the first so a day late "happy piano day!". not sure if you have come across nils frahm but i am a big fan and looking forward to going to see him in may. the good news is that to celebrate the first piano day he has released an album solo which is available here for free.
i always love seeing what people are creating in worship that is soulful and heartfelt and from the bottom up. proost has always tried to give voice to artists and communities in this way. i personally have always favoured liturgy and ideas that come this way round rather than being created for general use (though that has its place too). so i am pleased to say that there are two new resources on proost both of which capture this feel and approach
fear and dust is a book of poems, prayers and hymns to a wild creator god from tim watson who has a couple of other books on proost. as you know if you know proost we love poets! the good news is it's volume 1 so there will be more to follow… it's available as a pdf.
very nearly a whisper is an album of ambient music from dennis hendricksen who i met on a visit to canada. he is new on proost and there is a sample track on the page if you want to have a listen.
you can of course subscribe to proost for a year which means you can access any of the content when you like, including lots of resources for easter for example.
was quite a magical grace on saturday night especially as it was chris read's debut curating. the evening was on the theme of ruah - the creative breath of god and a double bass was improvised all night to symbolise this. then there were a series of cards with a sequence of numbers on which represented a mood/feeling as interpreted by chris. the numbers are chord sequences - don't worry about it if that makes no sense. grace is II, V, | I - perfect cadence. people could choose and/or were given a range of cards and on the back expressed hopes, dreams prayers for the year gone by and the one ahead. these were then randomly lined up with a regular return to grace and the sequence of cards improvised as a musical flow carrying those hopes and prayers by chris on guitar and the double bass. all rounded off with a new flock tune with chris joined by sam on cello which was also quite amazing in the space... steve has a ropey video here.
this saturday chris read is curating grace for the first time - ruah. i'm really looking forward to what promises to be a creative evening with live improvisation and reflective space for prayer - a perfect way to kick of a new year... come along if you are anywhere nearby!
this friday sees the first ever st marys sessions with jonny ashby and paul adams, two local ealing musicians. i am planning on going along - looks good and i think the aspiration is to create something of a vibe akin to the wonderful union chapel gigs. whilst i don't know the musicians i think it's a great space and a great aspiration and ealing is poorly off in relation to venues. there's a facebook event page here - go and sign up...
last year we had a wonderful day of conversations, research and reflections on pioneer mission at cms. the things presented were so interestng that we ended up publishing them as the pioneer gift (which i hope by ow you have got and read?!).
well this year's is coming up on october 14 - am particularly pleased that steve bevans is able to be with us from chicago and we have a host of other things lined up - see here for details and how to book - it's all focused on pioneering spirituality.
but it's just got better as we have now added in an evening curry with spoken word and music - making the most of gav mart and martin daws being on tour. and they will be joined for a guest appearance by none other than harry baker... looking forward to it.
am planning to head over to see martin daws and gav mart on tour on oct 15 in kingston. join us...
singer songwriter and arts curator gavin mart, + young person's poet laureate for wales martin daws - are coming to Kingston with a creative acoustic set that explores what
'it' is at the heart of the artist.
through expressions in songwriting, music, poetry and spoken word gav and martin explore the following questions:
how does the artist express their yearning for an understanding of something bigger?
what does god mean through the eyes of the artist today?
what is 'it' that triggers our creativity?
how is god understood in contemporary culture?
how can we connect with and support local artists within our communities?
at last night's labyrinth at grace chris read dreamed up the idea of music out of the ground - at various points headphones were there to stop and listen. ipods (in plastic bags) were buried in the ground with a track set to loop. in fact all the ipods were playing variations on the same track - cello, guitar, vocal, spoken word. they were from a forthcoming ep that chris and harry baker are putting together of contemplative poetry/soulful music combinations - watch out for it on proost later this summer. anyway it's about time for a worship trick - so this is no 52 series 4. steve has a photo set here
the design of the labyrinth is the one at ealing common by mark wallinger
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where i come across creative ideas, liturgies, movies, music tracks, service outlines or anything that strikes me, i add them as worship tricks. i started these in april 2002 when i first began blogging and they have built up over the years so that i am now on the third series. this has proved a pretty popular feature of the blog.