a most serious matter facing General Convention
I face a great dilimma at General Convention this year, and I hope via this blog to conduct a churchwide conversation to assist discernment.
As some of you know, at last GC I borrowed a travel electric guitar and performed a composition with original lyrics. The song's title was "I Will Survive (General Convention)." I am told that it was most inspiring. I can only thank our Creator and the angels for working through me to encourage the saints in this way.
I have been asked to do at least one other such song at this convention. Thus far, contenders include:
- "(You Say You Want a) Resolution"
- "Changes" (to the tune of David Bowie's great song; this one would have to be about TEC structure)
- "Episcopalians" (to the tune of Bowie's "Young Americans")
- "The Ones Who Sold the Church" (to the Bowie/Nirvana tune -- I think this one's probably too edgy)
- "Smells Like [something -- Sweet Incense?]" (I'm clearly on a Nirvana kick)
- "Tridium" (to the tune of Nirvana's "Lithium")
- "500 Miles" (the Proclaimers' song on the Shrek soundtrack -- a tribute to how much we have to walk at GC)
My instrument this year is a "mandobird" -- an electric mandolin designed like a Gibson Firebird guitar:
... and the mandolin is a particularly appropriate instrument for when I sing the Indigo Girls "Ozilline" as a tribute to Miss Lydia Wilkins of Pasadena, CA, who died two months' short of her 107th birthday in 2010 -- and who I can say from personal witness looked WAY better in my black leather motorcycle jacket than I did. My love to the whole Tatum-Harris clan.
But for the General Convention song(s), do any of the above stand out? Any other suggestions? I can easily make the mandobird sound like an electric guitar with effects, so the possibilities are staggering. Since I've only played mandolin for a few weeks, though, it probably should be too musically complex. (I told my committee chairs that our music for worship could not, unfortunately, include St. Patrick's Breastplate.)
back to blogging and a request for help
I can't believe it's been so long since I've blogged! As you might have guessed, things have been insanely busy. We bought a house (which I love!), moved into it (always a crazy process), painted and patched and plumbered, adopted two lovely cats (whom you'll meet soon), and wrote like crazy (among other things, I have now completed two projects on my mind for a while -- some writing on 2 Corinthians for Church House Publishing in the UK and a chapter for the next Emergent Manifesto book with Baker Publications). And then there are some other exciting things I'll be posting about later.
But now I'm surfacing for breath and find that it's been months since I've posted to SarahLaughed.net. Wow. Quite a long break after over three years of continuous bloggins! It's good to be back.
I'd like to share one of the exciting things in the pipeline with you now. In response to the phenomenal success of An Inconvenient Truth and as further means to building an effective, grass-roots movement to increase awareness of the crisis our planet's climate is in, Al Gore and The Climate Project has invited 150 leaders from faith communities to join them for training as presenters who can take the message as volunteers around the world. I'm among those invited.
The Climate Project is providing partial subsidy of accommodations for the training, so the hotel will only cost me $80. It looks like a flight to Nashville and incidentals (getting to and from the airport and whatnot) will cost something like $300 - $350.
I've just taken leave of absence from the Episcopal Divinity School due to hefty tuition bills, and as rewarding personally as my recent writing and work for IMPACT Boston has been, it hasn't left a lot of room to pay for travel, and presenters for The Climate Project are strictly volunteers; we're not allowed to collect honoraria or other payment aside from reimbursement for expenses. In other words, this isn't a career move or a financial boost for me; it is, however, an opportunity to make a difference with respect to an issue that I'm passionate about, that affects all living things on this world, and that has disproportionate, devastating, unjust, and growing effect on the world's poorest.
Can y'all help get me to Tennessee for this training? If so, please consider donating toward the cost of my participation, and, if you feel so moved, lending your voice to the effort on your own blogs and social networks.
Thank you for your support -- both with respect to this and with all of the kind and encouraging notes and constructive feedback you've offered me. They all mean a great deal to me.
good evening and a familiar tune
Pat Michaels, who does the music for chapel at EDS, had a brilliant idea this year: an evening of sung arrangements of Psalm 23. They ranged from Haitian (in Creole, thanks to a cantor who knew it; the rest of us bumbled along as best we could on the refrain) to Bobby McFerrin to Anglican chant to African American spiritual.
And there was one arrangement of Psalm 23 by Howard Goodall. It's one you can hear on this CD, but you can also hear it every time the opening credits of an episode of The Vicar of Dibley. I love that psalm arrangement, which was actually written as the theme song for the series. It's got a wonderful center section you don't hear from the Dibley opening credits, and the whole thing is just gorgeous -- simple and beautiful.
And I sang the soprano solo. It's just three brief passages, none in a particularly high or low range, but I was still a bit nervous -- I really wanted to do it justice, and I wasn't feeling in full voice. People tell me it was good.
I've only recently begun to sing things like this -- or like "Great Day," with its high b-flat I blogged about last week. I came to seminary thinking that I was an alto -- on the low side of alto at that -- and an alto whose voice was suitable for rock, blues, punk, and maybe a bit of folk (people compared me to Michelle Shocked and Amy Ray a lot). I thought my vocal range at best was pretty much the same as Bono's.
Singing in the EDS chapel choir, and with the encouragement of its director, I discovered that I'm actually a soprano. And with more encouragement, I started to find out that I could sing things not accompanied by an electric guitar, and sing them in public, and people wouldn't run screaming from the room. He encouraged me to take voice lessons, and I did, from an amazing teacher, for a few months.
I still have no real idea of what I sound like when I'm singing anything usually sung by people with classical training. I've heard recordings of my singing rock and folk and whatnot, though I have generally gone to great lengths to avoid hearing recordings of my gigs. But I haven't been recorded singing in chapel, or singing since I've had voice lessons. I've though of recording myself, but my building is just too noisy for it, EDS housing policy prohibits music rehearsal without the explicit consent of all neighbors, and maybe I just haven't had the courage.
So I know what it feels like when I sing that way. I know how my face, head, and body feel when I'm singing the way my voice teacher said was using the resonant spaces that I didn't know I had before I started singing at seminary. But I don't know what it sounds like.
I should try to find a way to hear it sometime. I do love singing!
U2charist (with all live music!) @ Hancock UCC, March 4
I'll be singing and playing guitar alongside Elisa Lucozzi, drummer extraodinaire, at a U2charist at Hancock (Massachusetts) UCC on the evening of March 4th. If you're in the area and would like to experience a U2charist with live music -- or to see how you can do a U2charist with entirely live music when you've only got two musicians -- please save the date! We're planning a session in the early evening at which anyone who wants to come to the service but isn't familiar with U2's music can learn songs we'll be singing, then have a break for my voice and Elisa's hands to recover, and then the service will start. I'll announce the exact times soon.
Blessings, and I hope to see some SarahLaughed.net readers there!
For more info on the U2charist, check out the U2charist resources page.
lived to tell
Well, I can say definitively now that I have sung a high b-flat in public and lived to tell the tale. Furthermore, I can say that none of the hearers were driven to madness or violence by the experience.
Actually, folks seemed to think it was quite good, and while at first I suspected that everyone was just being nice, I discovered over the course of the reception after the lecture that quite a few of them were telling people who are NOT me that it was good. I hadn't noticed when I was singing that the (totally fabulous) voice teacher from whom I took lessons this summer was in the audience, but when I sat down afterward I saw her a couple of rows in front of me -- and I was immediately mortified. I'm not a perfectionist, as people who know me know very well, but for some reason music brings out the perfectionist in me. I hear anything even remotely out of tune like nails on a chalkboard, and I'd know I'd slid into some notes. And my tone ... I just had no idea what that was like -- somewhere between yowling cat and quite good, but I didn't really know where. So it was a great relief when my voice teacher said convincingly that it was good, and also when my partner -- who always tells the truth about such things (she has said things like, "well, that wasn't your best sermon" or "you seemed really nervous") -- said that it sounded good, and she was sitting all the way in the back (as was my voice teacher, come to think of it).
I do think I could have done better with more voice lessons. I miss the lessons, and hope to be able to get back to them someday.
But hey -- I stuck my neck out and sang something I wasn't totally sure I could do in front of a big group of people, and I'm kinda proud of having done that much. Maybe that's more important in some ways than exactly what it sounded like. Maybe that's why people refer to time in seminary as important formation.
And the important formation continues tomorrow in a different vein -- I'm working for much of the day as an instructor-in-training for IMPACT Boston, leading pieces of a workshop for teenager. Similar experiences, in some ways: singing and IMPACT are both about discovering the power of stance and voice and using one's whole body.
Today is the last day of a truly lovely vacation. I'm writing on the screened-in porch of our cabin overlooking a New Hampshire "great pond" (think small lake), listening to the wind whispering through the trees and reflecting on just how much good it's done my soul to spend a week getting lots of sun, fresh air, and time on the water, preparing and enjoying simple and delicious meals, watching clouds drift across the sky, and thinking.
I did some reading on development to reduce or eliminate extreme poverty. Since the U2charist has taken on such a remarkable life of its own around the world, I've felt the need to be better informed about issues related to extreme poverty. I have often preached and written about the spiritually dangerous position we place ourselves in when our response to poverty is to lob money at or in the direction of poor people such that we feel generous, but retain a death-grip on the power and privilege that keeps us in the position of deciding, in effect, through our charity who lives and who dies. I worry that sometimes when I'm talking with people planning U2charists, where the money should go and why seems like an afterthought. I think about how many times I've heard an American Christian say something along the lines of, "well, it really doesn't matter WHAT you do to help; what matters is that you try to do SOMETHING, and that your heart's in the right place." It matters a great deal, I dare say, to those who do live in extreme poverty whether what you do is effective and for whom, and I want my work to support organizations and approaches that make the most difference for those in greatest need. I think in the months to come I'll do some more blogging about what I've been reading and what thinking it's prompted, though I'm still deciding whether Grace Notes or the U2charist page would be a better venue for it.
But I haven't been spending all of my time or even most of it this week reading and thinking about development. This has been a real, honest-to-gosh VACATION, and the first one I can recall of this length in I don't know how long. I've used many vacation days over the years for speaking or conference engagements, and have sometimes been able to surround the work with a few days in a nice spot nearby to make a sort of working vacation. I've visited family or friends, usually for a long weekend and also often in conjunction with some kind of work. It's a different experience altogether to go somewhere beautiful and quiet -- no cell phone reception to speak of, no Internet access, and no intrusions of concerns from elsewhere. To post my lectionary blog, I drove around until I found an open wireless network -- and New Hampshire must be the top state in the Union for Internet security, as it seems just about everyone keeps their network locked down tight. I finally found a tiny public library -- the Frost Free Public Library, a name which must strike many as ironic in New Hampshire winters -- that was closed, but that kept its wireless up and open. But at the cabin, there's no 'Net at all, so not even Anglican politics could intrude. Lovely.
U2charist sermon from Saturday
A number of folks have expressed interest in a copy of my sermon for the U2charist held this past Saturday sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, Journey of Faith Church, and Christ Church in Dearborn, Michigan. I'll probably blog on it later this week -- it was a wonderful, amazing experience, thanks to the hard work of those who prepared it and the good hearts of those who participated -- but I've already posted my sermon from the service here.
(And aside from this most recent sermon, my sermons page is rather out of date; I've got it on my to-do list for this week to upload more of my recent sermons.)
one sermon down, one to go
I've finished the sermon for the U2charist this Saturday in Dearborn. I'm excited about this weekend -- good people, rockin' liturgy, good times!
Now on to the lectionary blog for this week ...
U2charist in Dearborn, Michigan
For those of you in the area, here's the press release with details of the U2charist in Michigan this coming Saturday. It'd be great to see you there!
Journey of Faith Church to host “U2Charist” service with music of the Irish band U2
Theologian Sarah Dylan Breuer of Cambridge, Mass. will preach.
DEARBORN, Mich. (May 21, 2007) – The walls of Christ Episcopal Church in Dearborn are expected to reverberate with the music of the Irish band U2 during a special worship service, known as U2Charist, beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 16, 2007. The church is located at 120 N. Military in Dearborn.
Hosting the service is Journey of Faith Church, formerly known as St. David’s in Garden City. Partnering with Journey of Faith will be the Episcopal diocesan office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries along with Christ Church of Dearborn and St. John’s of Plymouth.
“By Episcopal church standards, our services are highly informal in dress and style,” said Journey of Faith Pastor Mark Jenkins. “We’re trying to reach those who find less traditional approaches to worship more appealing. Hosting a diocesan U2Charist seems like a natural for us.”
Delivering the message for the U2Charist will be Sarah Dylan Breuer of Cambridge, Mass., who developed the idea of the U2Charist service in 2004. Since then the U2Charists have grown beyond their origin in the Episcopal Church to become a worldwide phenomenon.
The U2Charist service focuses on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which have been endorsed by every nation in the world and many religious denominations, including the Episcopal Church, to eradicate extreme poverty and global AIDS.
“Our service will follow the pattern of Journey of Faith’s weekly worship service and incorporate multimedia featuring music from U2 including such favorites as “Where the Streets Have No Name,” “Yahweh,” and “One,” added Pastor Jenkins.
The band U2 has given permission to use their music in such services as long as emphasis on the MDG is maintained. Bono, the lead singer of U2, has been very outspoken on issues for social justice and has initiated several programs including the ONE Declaration, www.one.org, an effort to rally people in the fight against poverty and AIDS.
The public is welcome to attend the U2Charist. More information is available by calling the church office at 313-565-5512 or visiting www.JoFChurch.org.
About Journey of Faith
Journey of Faith Church is a small, open group that is highly informal in its dress and worship, which includes a blend of contemporary and ancient forms and prayers. Worship services are led by the Reverend Mark Jenkins and conducted in much the way early Christians worshipped with readings, reflections, prayer and table fellowship. Journey of Faith Church describes itself as being a “journey of faith,” offering a new approach to traditional religion by encouraging each person to experience the spiritual journey in a way that is authentic and honest. Regular services are held every Saturday afternoon at Christ Episcopal Church at 121 N. Military in Dearborn.
# # #
(Photo attached of Sarah Dylan Breuer)
The Rev. Mark Jenkins
Journey of Faith Church
Margaret Blohm, APR
Margaux & Associates, LLC
top 10 rejected alternative worship themes
A lot of people have been asking me, as instigator of the first U2charist (held in Baltimore, Maryland in April of 2004) what other liturgical developments are in the pike. What I can say is that, having carefully pondered cultural and liturgical trends, I've decided that the Next Big Thing is most definitely NOT:
- The Kazoocharist -- in which the service music is led entirely by 30 people playing kazoos.
- The Magoocharist -- which would have been gravely insulting to blind people.
- The "I Melt With You"charist -- which may have been well-received by those from my generation who are lovers of one-hit pop wonders. Sadly, I could find no theological justification for such a service, and even those from my high school graduating class couldn't stand singing it ten times in a single hour.
- The "Chattanooga Choo-Choo"charist -- for lovers of 40's jazz and railway enthusiasts.
- The R2D2charist and Naboocharist -- for lovers of the Star Wars film franchise.
- The ShihTzucharist -- for lovers of expensive and diminutive dogs, in honor of which the altar party would wear their hair tied up with a ribbons on the tops of their heads
- The HoodooGurucharist -- for lovers of obscure alternative Australian rock.
- The Dewcharist -- a service for computer coders in which Mountain Dew would replace the sherry or port normally used; rejected when no one could figure out whether a Twinkie was or could ever be 'bread.'
- The Moocharist -- in which chocolate milk would replace the port or sherry to appeal more to children.
- The Booboocharist -- for fans of the diminutive animated bear of Jellystone Park.
What I CAN say with some authority is that I will be preaching at the U2charist -- held to the glory of God and to inspire deeper engagement with God's mission to end extreme poverty -- in the Diocese of Michigan on Saturday, June 16, at 4:30 p.m. More details forthcoming!