Friday, December 28, 2007
Monday, December 24, 2007
When they lived in ATL, they tried various churches in the Vineyard network, and even one or two that were general charismatic congregations. You see, they have decided to leave the Reformed and Presbyterian tradition, and become charismatic.
So when they moved to Chattanooga, they found a small Vineyard on the North Shore that seemed to suit them. We visited this church with them last Christmas and found it to be a fairly calm fellowship made up of white families, mostly millenials, with a scattering of boomers and homeless people. This church actually serves Sunday dinner to homeless people, and invites them to come to the service afterward, which meets at 5:30 PM.
The leaders of this flock are Bucky and Becky Buckles. Katie said they are from a United Methodist background, and grew up going to the Resurrection Youth Conference in Gatlinburg, TN. The significance of this is that I was engaged as the guest worship leader with band and production for that event for over ten years in the 80s and 90s. So Katie's new church, including the worship leader at this Vineyard, is connected to our families' experiences and to my performance talents.
We worshiped there Sunday evening on my day off from our church, and it became apparent that this is a good choice for our daughter and her husband. The people are similar in economic and professional status, and the group is small and warm. Many seem to be on the rebound from traditional churches and the whole service has the tone of the emerging church movement. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/february/11.35.html
The first time we visited was different. It seemed unfocused and ill planned. Now the ill planning is actually a specific avoidance of traditional plans. It is almost as if there is a concerted effort to avoid churchiness. There is little or no explanation of what is happening, and the music flows without comment. There was one glitch in the program when the children came up for a song and the praise team didn't even stop to acknowledge them. The kids left the stage ignominiously and came back when they were supposed to!
Narrations came via microphone from the back, and were accompanied by simple slide shows on the screen. The message of the evening was read by a woman from an article on the subject of peace on earth, and contained a decidedly anti-war tack. This is obviously not a preaching movement.
It took us back to the 1970s when we started our own church. Our church, however, began with a distinctly social action theme and the form that our worship took was not anti-establishment that I could tell, aside from our economic limitations and our modern music. The radical element in our store front work was its focus on mercy and justice, the amplified music and mixed racial agenda, and the pseudo-hippie look.
Bucky and Becky came out of the United Methodist Church, and the service showed their own cultural roots. It's definitely not Methodist culturally, but it fits with UMC theology.
One thing we appreciate about North Shore Vineyard is that they welcome homeless people into their service, and feed them on Sunday afternoon.
When Beth and I were married, we came together from two different denominational focuses-- Reformed Presbyterian and Reformed Baptist. In turn, we joined a church movement that departed from our upbringing in the form of urban ministry.
Now our daughter and her husband are joining their marriage with a unique fellowship that establishes new traditions and ecclesiastical paths for them and their children.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
We had a performance at the church of our Christmas program for the adult and youth choirs. As is my custom lately, we included a jazz piece in which Leland played trumpet and flugal horn.
Leland was a music major in college years ago, and also plays piano and organ. He has written several new tunes to classic hymn texts like "Nothing But the Blood" and "Deep Deep Love of Jesus." Our church loves his songs and we sing them often. I have the feeling that he has several others and is waiting for the opportunity to introduce them. That would be great.
Leland's daughters are also in the youth choir, so he is a significant participant in the music program.
Last spring, Leland came to the Covenant College Jazz Band rehearsals two afternoons a week. He entered into the tunes and worked to understand jazz harmony and melody. During that experience, he mentioned to me a couple of times that he was learning a lot.
He recruited another Covenant alumnus to play with us-- Jim Pettit, who is a trombonist. And together they began to plan a missions trip to Ireland under the auspices of Mission to the World. They began talking to me about the possibility of putting together a jazz-style band for a music missions trip, and I offered a few suggestions for tunes and personnel. Anthony Griggs(guitar) and Ryan De Waters(bass) agreed to go as well. Ultimately a very fine pianist and educator from Georgia named Larry Barker accompanied the trip. He probably made a huge difference, since I heard that he mentored the younger players patiently and ably.
So after the Christmas program this weekend, Leland passed me in the hall.
"We have a fantastic music program here at our church. The music we do is just incredible. You are a gifted musician, Jim. Thanks for all you do."
Leland had already shown his dedication by agreeing to play trumpet in the jazz ensemble for the program, even though he had to go straight to work afterward and work all night.
I don't know how I can ever show my appreciation to all the people who affirm me in my work. In this case, I just said, "I love you, Leland." It just came out, and I rarely say it to anyone except my family. To me love means a willingness to go to the wall for someone, like I Corinthians 13 says.
But sometimes love is the only explanation to a person who shows appreciation and it is obviously not flattery nor excessive. I love Leland and numerous others who have been there consistently during my work and my life. They keep on saying yes, and showing up without needing a lot of attention.
Today, as I go to work, Leland's affirmation is ringing in my heart. Thank God for his kind encouragement, bred of experience and insight, mixed with personal commitment and his own family's benefit.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Larry had done a show at Geneva College for which I opened, and he tried to sign me to a 5-year deal that night. And I had a brief relationship with Bob McKenzie, a gospel music power broker in Nashville, who helped me sign my songs away to his publishing company, and then presided over the 3-hour recording session of my second album, "James Ward: Himself." More about Bob later.
Other positive feedback came from Hans Rookmaaker, the Dutch art critic. Rookmaaker had been a part of the Schaeffer Conferences of the early 70s at Covenant College, and later wrote me a note. He refers to the McKenzie recording.
Just a note to say thank you for the fine record. I already 'had' it, i.e. on tape, after a copy of Graham Birthwistle. In fact, I don't have mine anymore, as my daughter (who studies musicology) has taken it with her. Anyhow, it is listened to, we think particularly fine the piano.
You got to make songs (as Schubert etc. did) on good texts--poems by classics like Cowper, Coleridge, Christian poets today, etc. That would be a new venture. Doesn't matter...if the critic writes that influences of Afro-American music are discernable.
I also bought book when at Philly. Sorry we did not meet at that conference.
Thank you again,
in the Lord
This is profoundly meaningful to me. Dr. Rookmaaker wrote several books on the subject of art and Christianity, and one of them was entitled Art Needs no Justification. This book gave me courage to be a self-employed musician in 1973 when we were just getting started. The book described a society where artists and musicians would be doing their craft without pretense, and yet also making a living. It gave me a vision for my life as a musician, and it gave me a point of reference for the years of diverse experiences to come. Rookmaaker was a major source of affirmation for me, and he was an art critic!
During the years 1975-1978, I discovered that other musicians valued my opinion and respected what I had done. I joined a band which moved to the Pittsburgh area and we rehearsed for originals and cover tunes for concerts and dances. This was my first encounter with fellow musicians of my skill level as we worked on and performed pop music.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
It's flattering to know that people around me look for affirmation from me. As my life continues to mature, and the task that I have been given becomes more rich and varied, certain folks I work with look to me for approval.
Let me back up and say that I am a man, age 57, with a music career that has had several stages.
From 1970-1972, I was a college student on a small Christian college campus that was culturally starved. I brought energy and excitement to the campus with musical groups and performances that were edgy and creative by the standards of the time, and I became convinced that music was my career path. After graduation and marriage to my college sweetheart, I embarked on a self-employed vocation of playing, writing, and singing my own songs for audiences that would have me. I made calls and met people who might be interested, and much like a roofer or a contractor, I developed a clientelle based on good work, reliability, and meeting the needs of the customer.
I gotta go now, but I want to finish this thought of how one should respond to the apparent need of those around you desiring your approval or encouragement.
Blue Believer is an album I did in 1988.
- I am a person who is perceived as youthful, although I am in my late 50s. I play and sing music, and it tends to keep me in the culture, like a lot of young people do. I am a "high I" on the DISC Behavioral Test, which means I'm optimistic, enthusiastic, a team player, and I motivate others toward goals. I don't like exercise, but I have a high metabolism, so I don't tend to be overweight at this time in my life! I have recently been doing moderate exercise and physical therapy for a shoulder condition.