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Every once in a while, my mother would become exasperated at her four children becoming incredibly noisy and announce in her best Glasgwegian accent 'desist!'  I wish she'd been with me tonight, at the local Christian jamboree because after half an hour of singing getting louder and louder and showing no sign of abating, I sure felt like shouting it!  In fact, if I'm honest, I felt God was probably saying it but the noise was so loud that hardly anyone could hear.  Psalm 46:10 - desist!  I AM God.  Mark 4: 29 - shush, cease, desist.

As time passes, I get more and more confused about the applause that follows songs and hymns - who or what is being applauded?  Not sure it's actually God.  Desist!

Also, I'm finding more and more that music is led by musicians, even professional musicians, who have as much liturgical sympathy as a brick through a window.  How Great Thou Art is for me a song sung fairly quietly, marvelling at God's creation... tonight with a heavy rock beat and syncopation beyond the norm it was belted out at max volume... Desist!

Reaching 20 years of age, this jamboree has done some stirling work, raising over £70k for Christian charities along the way.  It seems to remain fairly popular (though attendance was notably down this year) and I know that for many people it is something very special.  It is all too easy to criticise something jsut because it doesn't tick the boxes for me. 

Just that tonight it seemed to me God was saying 'desist' - stop all the noise and listen to me.  1 Kings 19:12 'after the fire, the sound of sheer silence.'


  • I confess that's why I didn't go this year!

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  • I think this particular cultural form is showing signs of its age.

    As we've said before, the problem is that like all successful movements it has established a bit of a cultural hegemony at the moment and so risks creating and perpetuating the same sort of straightjacket the church has suffered from in some previous generations (providing the only valid litmus test for proper Spirit-filled worship, and therefore getting left behind with the half- empty shell of a form or technique when the Spirit moves on and speaks in new ways - or old ones).

    The Radio 2/DLT approach to worship is never going to be subtle - and maybe not even particularly musically literate. I remember the 'Hairy Monster' on 'Wonderful Radio 1' once saying he liked a particular song because of the way two of the singers (actually Laurel and Hardy) cleverly sang two different tunes at the same time... He believed it was called harmony (!). The revelation that Top 20 hits also made use of counterpoint and dynamics would just have blown him away - in a different way from Deep Purple, who earned their reputation partly from their prodigious decibel level.

    Hymns do seem to present a bit of a problem for modern 'worship leaders'. They know they have a depth and power that most choruses and soft rock anthems don't, but they often don't know how to tap into that musically, given the radical difference between the musical forms - one based on rhythm, movement, volume and excitement, the other based on musical progression, harmonic texture and generally more subtle variations in emotion, form and tone. Usually the addition of rhythmic emphasis and syncopation either slows a hymn's melody down to a snail's pace or speeds it up like an express train. And I agree the birds in the said hymn's woods and forest glades would definitely have been long gone - rather than staying to sing sweetly in the trees - if the writer had gently wandered in with a full rock band in tow. The poetry is what usually gets lost in the translation.

    However, members of the 'Radio 2/ageing rockers club' from my congregation found a refuge on this particular
    night from my constant use of all types of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (in the same way that our older members would have been salivating at the prospect of a 'Welsh Hymns evening').

    In its favour, the only member of our party there who doesn't go to church really enjoyed herself. I know that's a pragmatic argument for the approach rather than a theological one and there are lots of others from outside (and inside) our churches who would have found it just ridiculous and not of their cultural tribe, but hey. There will be silence in heaven... sometimes. But please, no Schoenberg!

    The other interesting aspect of the evening was Sandy Millar's evangelistic approach of not spelling out the actual content of his gospel message in any detail, but instead encouraging people to attend an Alpha course. Evangelisation realised not through an off the cuff appeal on one occasion but through invitation to a carefully honed ten week programme in which his church/movement has invested a lot of energy and confidence. Also a rather dated form of appeal, evincing a small response from the (largely Christian) audience, but followed by the most genteel altar call I think I've ever heard ("And if any of you do want to go to the Green Room afterwards... that would be lovely").

  • Well at least I now know I wasn't hallucinating when I thought I saw Mary across the car park!

    I quite enjoyed Sandy Millar, though I struggle with a sense of "Alpha is the way, the truth and the life, no one can be evangelised except by me." Whenever I hear Emmaus or 'Y' folk, or even 'Essence' advocates for that matter, there is a sense that we are all in the same game here, and they acknowledge the role of others. Alpha has lots that's good about it, but for me it isn't the be all and end all.

    Just beware bishops in gorilla suits!

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