Archive for October, 2008

Worship for an Emerging Church – Part 1 – Zehnder

Last year I blogged (here, here and here) about a need for worship songs that I could sing with integrity. Adam Walker Cleaveland blogged about this very same thing years and years ago, and then again more recently – inciting some controversy as to one of his choices. Let’s revisit some of Adam’s practical suggestions for composing fresh emerging church worship music:

https://i2.wp.com/www.effervescence.co.uk/gallery2/emergence_636x424.jpg

  • gender-inclusive language (esp. in our language for God)
  • a shift from a I-YOU-me & God focus, and a refocusing on the community
  • a passion for the biblical themes of social justice, peace and a desire to speak for the oppressed
  • maybe just some more songs straight from scripture (or from saints and desert fathers), letting God’s work speak for itself, instead of pressing our own interpretation onto it, and onto the congregation that will sing the song

Jonny Baker is always blogging faithfully about alternatives to the “Contemporary Christian Music” worship scene on the one hand and inflexible traditionalism on the other – as does Dan Wilt. And a few years ago Brian McLaren penned on Open Letter to Worship Songwriters. You should read the whole thing, but I’m going to distill some of Brian’s practical suggestions, starting with biblical themes he’d like to see (re-) emphasized:

  • Eschatological themes in their purest sense; focusing on God’s world-remaking work, wooing us poetically to see God’s New Covenant World through new eyes
  • Songs of Mission, telling the story of Good News for the poor & broken
  • Mining lyrical treasure from Church history, “from the Patristic period to the Celtic period to the Puritan period.”
  • Songs celebrating God’s character and God’s role as Creator
  • Songs of lament
  • Mixing it up to have not just ‘songs’ at all, but “poetry, historic prayers, silence, meditative reading, etc.”

With this in mind, over the next few days I’m going to highlight worship artists who are producing quality worship for the Church in emergence. I’m not going to really be ‘reviewing’ the albums with the cool, dispassionate ear of someone seeking to evaluate a passive recorded-listening experience. Rather, I’ll be overviewing them for their lyrical content, ethos, and congregational ‘singability’ – how they might actually enrich our worshipping life together.That said, our first artist spotlight will be…

Zehnder: Going Up

Site logo

No, silly heresy-hunters, ‘Zehnder’ is not some new emerging church meditation practice, it’s a last name – belonging to twins Tim and Tom Zehnder. Called “musicians, disciples and theologians – all in one” by their senior pastor at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, Zehnder produce original worship music on a regular basis for groups as varied as their local church, Yale’s Faith as a Way of Life program, and Bread for the World – I met the brothers Zehnder at a Hunger Justice Leaders training by Bread this summer in DC.

Zehnder’s sound is upbeat, pure Los Angeles – strings and harmony and multicultural instrumentation. Clearly it’s a couple of white guys, and yet they manage to incorporate Latin, Reggae and Soul sounds honestly. They sound impressive, and yet – I think this is a testimony to their humility and desire to produce music for the whole Church – it’s not intimidating. When listening, you think “My church could sing that.” Both in the technical sense (“We could pull that off”) and in the desire sense (“I’d like to sing that.”)

Zehnder draws from Scripture, African spirituals, traditional hymnody, and their real-life experiences. Some lyrical examples:

“And oh the grief, to say goodbye,
Sing out waiting thorugh labored sigh.
Swing white-hot fury to black despair,
Dare you to find your God in there!

I believe, help my unbelief. I believe, help my unbelief.”

– from I Believe, written in the aftermath of their father’s death in 2006.

goingup
“Blow through me, Wind, breathe on me, Breath, make Spirit born,
All of my soul, make Spirit born, Spirit born.

The Nicodemus in me can’t believe how
The Nicodemus in me is too long in religious categories
The Nicodemus in me still runs to the rebel rabbi
In the middle of the night…”

– from Spirit Born, available as a free MP3 download here.

You can find out more info about Going Up here. Here’s a music video for Song of Peace, from one of their previous albums:


Calling emerging worship artists!

Do you have a CD that you’d like me to take a listen to for this series? (This means you, COTA, Solomon’s Porch, and Proost!) If so, leave a comment below and I’ll give you my snail-mail address.

Advertisements

To Vote or Not to Vote? An Election Links Roundup

So I haven’t really posted much about electoral politics this season. (Deep inhale.) I tend to agree with Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw of Jesus For President and Ordinary Radicals notoriety that “It’s not what you do at the ballot box on November 4 that matters, but what you do with your life on November 3 and November 5 that really counts.” I started thinking this way after 9/11. I was radicalized, really, once I saw how quickly common grief over terrorist atrocities transmuted into virulent nationalism and war-drum beating. Before I knew it, I signed the Kingdom Now 95 Theses and began looking into Anabaptist and Quaker traditions of nonviolence and even anarchism. [A technical aside – how do you all feel about the Snap Previews feature? In general I like it but I don’t like how whenever I link to my main site, zoecarnate.com, it always shows the top of the page – I actually link to specific sub-sections, say, nonviolence and anarchism sections just now. Of course, this owes more to the ghetto-fabulous design of my site than Snap’s deficiencies…] I considered my friend Andy’s advice not to vote, seeing it as an act of violence against people and idolatry of the State against God (consider vote is the same root as votive, as in votive candle – or devotion. Casting the ballot as an act of worship) . But in 2004 I just couldn’t stand by – I had to vote (Andy help me).

But maybe I shouldn’t feel so bad about voting. After all, respectable anarchists like Noam Chomsky vote, sometimes. And I have a difficult time getting all Hauerwasian when listening to people like Anthony Smith, aka the Postmodern Negro, share why it’s awfully convenient (and white) to eschew voting for an ideological high ground.

Sooo I’m voting. And I’m voting for Obama. This isn’t even controversial in some quarters, as Obama’s appeal to younger Christians such as myself is pretty well-documented. Nonetheless, even Don Miller catches heat for this from some quarters, as have I. (Not that I’m equating myself with Mr. Miller) Mostly on abortion. I get that. I hope that my friends – from far-left anarchists to center-right Republicans and Libertarians – can forgive me for making what they might see as a grievous mistake.

An Email

I hope my old college buddy, whom I’ll refer to here as Billy Bob, in particular can forgive me. He just emailed me the other day after we saw each other at a frolicking-on-the-hillside reunion my alma mater has every year. Billy Bob writes:

Hey Mike,

Perhaps I’m just itching for a debate, I don’t know. But I recently ran across this letter from Huntley Brown, a black man, on why HE isn’t supporting Obama.
So help me understand… why do you support him? What is it about this man that rallies support from Christians like yourself?
Billy Bob*
*Not actual name
Now by “Christians like yourself” I don’t know if BB means “otherwise upstanding exemplars of faith and practice” or “scum-sucking, devil-worshipping, soulless maggots.” I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
Here’s some of what I replied:
Thanks for asking, Billy Bob! I guess I should say first off that I am disappointed by Obama‘s stance on abortion. Really and truly. I wish he were ‘consistently pro-life‘ like me – that is, like a growing number of followers of Jesus, being against abortion, war in all forms, and the death penalty, and for life in all its forms. And I’m not particularly jazzed up about national politics in general. I lean toward anarchism really, so any trip to the ballot box is with some ambivalence. That said, I’m a rather independent voter, certainly not a party-line kinda guy, whether that party has elephants or donkeys in it. I was raised Republican, voted for Libertarian Harry Browne in 2000 (after considering Nader), and Democrat Kerry in 2004.
So why Obama? I’m a firm believer in not restating things that others have said so much better, so I’m gonna direct you now to my friend Brian McLaren. Brian’s taken a lot of heat for being so darn particular in his national election endorsement this year, but I trust his integrity in this decision. He felt like he soft-pedaled things a bit in the 2004 election, and as a result the full range of values people of faith care about weren’t really represented at the ballot box. (Not just ’cause of Brian – but, y’know, him and others like him). So he’s done this great, concise job of talking about the reasons for his support of an Obama presidency.
When it comes down to it, when I’m choosing to participate in national electoral politics, I’m pretty much a pragmatist. Do I believe Obama is the Messiah? No, but I like the guy, and I think he will be good for the this land’s imagination, this land’s psyche. Untold damage has been done to American self-perception and perception abroad. Obama-the-Man can’t possibly undo all that damage, but Obama-the-Idea can certainly inspire others to do so. I think a heightened personal ethic and community sensibility would prevail in an Obama administration, and I think he’ll be a particularly good role model for children – especially minority children. Again, I hold this in tension – I believe citizenship in God’s Kingdom utterly supersedes national boundaries – to me, nations and boundaries don’t exist. But insofar as we’re in the process of being healing balm for the nations, we are in a state of becoming – as individual nations, as a global people. We need to avail ourselves of every peaceful tool in our toolshed to be the change we need – and this year, I feel voting for Obama is one of those tools.
There ya go. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Check out these links, and write me back sometime.

Hogs and Quiches,

Mike

Since penning this email, I’ve come across Tim Keel’s very excellent thoughts in his post Election 2008: Some Perspective.

Pro-Life, from Womb to Tomb?

As I’ve reflected on the myriad of ‘values’ commitments I have, the trifecta of life, ecology, and economy keep coming into play – and really, the latter two are different ways of saying ‘life’ – life for our poor, our ecosystems, our sick, our children, and our great-great-grandchildren. Here are some significant blog posts that have helped me think and pray my way through the challenges of being for all life in an election year.

A Plea to Pro-Life Voters – Lively Dust

Pro-Life and Pro-Obama – Will Samson

Pro-life, Womb to Tomb – Sensual Jesus

Frank Schaeffer: Pro-Life and Pro-Obama – Huffington Post

‘I’m Catholic, staunchly anti-abortion, and support Obama – National Catholic Reporter

Obama, Abortion, and Friendship – Faith Dance

Where I Stand Today on Abortion – Steve Knight

…and of course there’s the Pro Life, Pro Obama website itself – which strikes me as a bit too politically schmaltzy for my tastes, but it has some helpful resources nonetheless.

Must-Reads in an Election Year or Any Year

The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder

click to enlarge

We the Purple by Marcia Ford

Torture and Eucharist by William Cavanaugh

https://i2.wp.com/www.ratzingerfanclub.com/liberalism/torture_eucharist.jpg

Anything here

Flash Review: Roger Flyer’s ‘Songs Hidden in Eggs’

https://i0.wp.com/www.tradebit.com/usr/music/covers/vol6/r/o/rogerflyer/rogerflyer.jpgDo you like Americana, modern folk and heartland country music? If so, I think you’ll like Roger Flyer‘s work, particularly his latest release Hidden in Eggs. He’s an eclectic musician who, incidnetally, has emerging/house church leanings. Parker J. Palmer says “Roger Flyer has a sweet and powerful ministry of music. I am grateful for it…”

As his website says:

songs hidden in eggs is a 2007 collection of 10 songs by Roger Flyer in collaboration with some of Minnesota’s most creative musicians and songwriters including Ben Kyle of Romantica, Joel Hanson of PFR, legendary Peter Ostroushko, accordionist Dan ‘Daddy Squeeze’ Newton from A Prairie Home Companion, violinist Jessy Greene of Wilco, multi-talented Matt Patrick, and the vocals of Minneapolis duo–the cates.

Check it out!

House Church: Ready for Prime Time? Frank Viola says ‘Yes!’

A decade ago, nearly to the month, I took my first plunge into the wild and untamed world of house churching – or, as it’s increasingly called today, ‘organic church.’ It took me over a year to fully trade in my sanctuary for a living room, but I was quite happy to leave doctrinal turf wars, membership classes, and monologue-style sermons behind. 10 years later, I’m more ambivalent. I still don’t miss theological in-fighting, bounded-set ‘in and out’ religion, and unreflective bible screeds, but I see a lot more that I appreciate and embrace across the ecclesiological spectrum. That said, I remain quite committed to organic church community as my community of practice – but specificity, for me, no longer equals exclusivity.

Istock_000005039184xsmall

That Was Then

10 years ago whenever I’d bring up ideas about open, participatory gatherings, clergy-less church, and taking the direct leadership of God in local fellowships seriously, people looked at me like I had a third eye growing out of my spleen, which was somehow visible through my T-shirt. Maybe it was just the small Southern town I grew up in, or perhaps the Baptist (Southern), Pentecostal (A/G), and Presbyterian (PCA) denominations I participated in just didn’t want to hear that the ordinary friend of Jesus has spiritual competency and drive. Me and the Quakers both, eh?

Friends & Family

2-3 years into my house church journey, I discovered the ‘emerging church conversation‘ before it was ever called that. (Back then it was postmodern Christianity, baby! Stranger Things Magazine, Next Wave, and The Ooze were the places to be. But then, I suppose the latter two still are, with some notable newcomers.) Finally, I thought. Some other Christians I could talk about this stuff with. And I was right. Be they Catholic, Orthodox, Anabaptist or anarchist, in the pomo xian conversation I found friends – which was just as important as finding family in house churching a few years prior. Family is vital for obvious reasons, but friends are crucial when you need to get out of the house and get some fresh air, you know? The problem was, I didn’t know how to introduce my friends to my family; my family’s great but they’re a little quirky, sometimes prone to navel-gazing and/or fundamentalist tendencies, what with the ‘let’s return to the first century church’ and all. And my friends are awesome but sometimes a bit pretentious, like they just pulled an all-nighter with a Thesaurus or something to impress their soy-latte drinking peers. So for the last 7 years or so, I’ve had Family and I’ve had Friends, but seldom the twain did meet.

Frankly Speaking

Enter my ‘family friend’ Frank Viola. I started reading Frank right at the beginning of my house church journey in 1998, my freshman year in college. He was and is one of the most prolific pens in house churchdom (though his relationship with ‘house church’ is as nuanced as Brian McLaren’s is with ’emergent church’). One year later, he crashed on a pallet beside me and three other guys on my parents living room floor! Our church was hosting a men’s conference in ’99 and I got to meet The Man Himself. He was younger and more Italian than I anticipated. And so it began.

Around 2005 Frank discovered what dawned on me in 2001; that these ’emerging church’ folks were valuable friends and conversation partners in discovering the life, meaning and mission of Jesus’ followers in the 21st century. He asked me what he should be reading more of, and who he should be talking to. I introduced him to some friends, and gave him some contacts with the e-zines. After digesting more of ‘the conversation,’ Frank penned an article that went viral, Will the Emerging Church Fully Emerge? Andrew Jones and many others weighed in. My own thoughts were ‘Finally! My friends and family having a first conversation.’ It was perhaps a bit too guns-a-blazin’ for an initial conversation, for my tastes, but at least Frank put all his cards on the table. (And Frank’d probably call me a sissy.) It’s been fun watching folks’ responses to ‘organic church’ praxis evolve over the years, from initial wariness to active engagement.

This Is Now

So these days Pagan Christianity? and Reimagining Church hold their own in faith-based best-seller lists alongside other house church-oriented books (that you may or may not have heard of) like The Shack. Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk himself, thinks that emerging church practitioners should take Frank and his ecclesiology seriously. RTS prof Steve Brown is pleasantly surprised by house church ideas. And Relevant’s newly-launched Neue Ministry discovers that house church folks really can care about the poor.

If you’re a house churcher or emerging churcher (or baffled onlooker), what do you think of this confluence of HC and EC?

Tomorrow (or thereabouts), I bring some attention to two of the most significant recent diaologues between house church folks and high church/liturgical folks – two segments of the church that I have enormous respect for.

You Should Drink & Work at Brainstorm Print Cafe

…if life finds you in Douglasville, Georgia, as it does me from time to time. They feature a Tropical Joes smoothie menu, coffee, and actually encourage you to come and work for hours with cubicle-like setups – free, with free wifi! They also have a conference room for rent, and do a full range of printing and graphic design. There need to be more places like Brainstorm. In the meantime, come here and enjoy doing what you’ve gotta do.

marketing solutions for your business [print, promotional, color printing, marketing, email marketing, collateral, graphic design, web design, optimization, mailing services]

Brainstorm Print Cafe

Brainstorm Print Cafe


Check Out This Free Book Club

Tweetlie-Dee

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Abolish Slavery – Join the Movement Today!

  • Friend of Emergent Village

    My Writings: Varied and Sundry Pieces Online

    Illumination and Darkness: An Anne Rice Feature from Burnside Writer's Collective
    Shadows & Light: An Anne Rice Interview in MP3 format from Relevant Magazine
    God's Ultimate Passion: A Trinity of Frank Viola interview on Next Wave: Part I, Part II, Part III
    Review: Furious Pursuit by Tim King, from The Ooze
    Church Planting Chat from Next-Wave
    Review: Untold Story of the New Testament Church by Frank Viola, from Next-Wave

    a