By Derek rumbol
Tuesday 28 July 2020
In a recent radio broadcast service the Revd Lucy Winkett introduced the theme of the importance of music in worship. How it can provoke, console, inspire. It has the power to change us. It can be harmonious enabling us to blend, to be in tune with each other, to express our unity. But it can also include discord, it can beg to get our attention, to challenge us.
I have recently read a small book by John Bell of the Iona Community on the Psalms. He comments that only a portion of the Psalms are psalms of praise and adoration. "Almost half of the Psalms deal with life gone wrong." There is lament and crying out to God in times of trouble.
Which set me thinking about the music I enjoy and the music which has penetrated into the depths of my being. Some of this music is what we now refer to as "Christian" music – I suppose this means praise and worship songs that we can listen to at home or in the car or wherever. But I was challenged by some words of Stuart Townend who wrote one of our best loved hymns 'In Christ alone my hope is found'. He also wrote: "It's wonderful to dwell on the Lordship of Christ, his resurrection power and his accomplished work upon the cross – it's the foundation of our lives as Christians. But we are also to walk in his footsteps, to feed the poor, bring healing and forgiveness, to take up our cross and follow him who himself endured rejection, suffering and death. It's the way of joy and peace, yes, but also the way of suffering and sacrifice."
In my own devotion I am indebted to many forms of music - the choir from Congo for example who sang to us last year. I recall hearing a small group playing the saxophone in a public space in Johannesburg, recalling the sound of that instrument in the shebeens under apartheid where the soul of black people was nourished and found expression. So deeply, deeply moving.
Then there was a visit to the Taize community in France with its own touching expressions of singing and prayer. Or Psalm 19 to Haydn's stirring 'The heavens are telling the glory of God'. Or the meditative worship songs of Bernadette Farrell. Or a concert in Nottingham's Royal Centre which featured an oboe rising above the darkness and tragedy of the theme to bring hope and healing. It touched me deeply, right in the depths of my soul. Not forgetting Smetana's symphonic poem 'Ma Vlast' describing the course of a river from source, through pleasant meadows and through turbulent rocks, to the sea. So powerful.
Then what about Gareth Malone's incredible gift to bring music out of the depths of tragedy, for example when working with victims of the Grenfell Tower fire or NHS workers still reeling under the impact of the corona virus. That man is a genius.
And so I could go on. I look forward to being refreshed and challenged in worship, stimulated and healed. For the sake of others I never sing too loudly but am encouraged by the poem of E W Harvey (1919) on 'Ducks'.
"As for the duck I think God must have smiled a bit the day he fashioned it … And he's probably laughing still at the sound that came out of its bill."
Somehow and in some miraculous way there will come a day when we join with our sisters and brothers throughout the world and throughout the ages and with the angels and archangels in glory …
"When we sing to God in heaven there will be such harmony. Born of all we've known together of Christ's love and agony.""
(from 'Brother, sister let me serve you')