I was in Nashville with colleagues, and a few of us had made our way to the Bluebird Cafe, which might be called the mother church for country music songwriters. A quartet of men and women sang and played guitar for about 80 people from 9 p.m. to around 11. The music was beautiful, and I wandered out of the café with the honest testimonies of human nature and destiny stirring within me.
When Arcade Fire won a Grammy for album of the year, Win Butler came to the podium clinging to his identity as one of
the band geeks. "We're gonna go play another song because we like
music"—just in case anyone had forgotten about the music after Lady Gaga emerged from an egg,
Katy Perry swung from the ceiling and Gwyneth Paltrow danced on a piano.
It's a truism that Christianity lives and breathes as much
(or more) through music as through preaching or teaching, to say nothing of
dense theological texts--so Christian preachers and teachers should be on the
lookout for ways to incorporate the great hymns of the tradition into our
sermons, lessons and other theological work.
As a church musician, I've been known to program what I thought were familiar Charles Wesley hymns, only to find my non-Methodist song leaders tongue-tied by the ambitious melodies and all-doctrine-all-the-time words. When I have a week off and visit an Episcopal church, the Hymnal 1982's Arthur Sullivan tunes make my mind wander to operetta.
Here in the basement of the Espresso Royale on Sixth Street in this land grant university town, amid English Fog lattes and keypad-clatter, in the afternoon before the all-hallows-eve in which Katie, a great-great-et-cetera granddaughter of the townswoman they hanged for the crime of witchcraft, will play a game—homo ludens— of volleyball against the maize-and-blue Michigan Wolverines I draft a missive to the good citizenry of Dorchester as though they might yet happen upon these words, as though their revivified selves were a short gallop from this latitude and longitude, as though their sins of omission and commission might still be forgiven— not just forgotten—by an act of penance that includes a pilgrimage to tonight’s venue and a maniacal cheering for this descendent as she executes (I didn’t invent the language) a perfect play that culminates in (really, I didn’t) a kill. Full stop because I don’t know how to end this letter. So I do what I always do: continue breaking lines and staggering down the page until it’s time to witness more volleyball and cheer like nothing else ever happens or matters.