Tuesday, May 25, 2010

music and faith

I had the chance on Sunday to play a bluegrass liturgy at HFASS. House plays this liturgy for worship a few times a year, about once a month during the summer. Usually there's a small group who plays to lead the singing. This past week, though, none of them were available. Fortunately we were able to connect with a group who plays this service at their congregation. When they came down, though, there was some miscommunication ~ their bass player had an electric bass, and thought we had a bass amp. We don't. Fortunately, there was enough time for me to drive home, get our upright bass, load it into the car, and drive back for worship. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time to rehearse before worship began. The six of them tuned up and played together some, but they play together all the time. I was the one oddball in the group, and I didn't get to be there for rehearsal.

It wasn't an ideal situation, but everything went fine. The music sounded good, the congregation sang well (like they always do), everyone enjoyed themselves, and Jesus was present.

I realized something in the middle of the service, though. One a musician becomes fluent enough at her or his instrument, and once a musician becomes fluent enough with the type of music being played, it doesn't take much to play together with other musicians. As long as each member of an impromptu group (commonly known as a jam session) is fluent (or at least conversant) with their instrument, all that's necessary are basic parameters ~ key, tempo, style, leader, chord progression ~ for a group to play together.

I enjoy going to bluegrass jams. I'm not the best player around, but I can keep up on a few instruments with most of the songs that get played. The jams that are the most enjoyable for me are the ones that welcome players of all abilities. The picker who really tears up the fretboard sitting next to the new player who just learned and isn't able to change chords quite fast enough on the up-tempo tunes is a beautiful thing. And often the more experienced player will offer advice (give guidance) to the beginner. So what if it doesn't sound perfect ~ what's important is that people are making music together.

What if our faith life was like a bluegrass jam (or blues, rock, celtic, jazz, etc)? What if we recognize that not everyone has (or needs) the same level of proficiency or experience with faith. The more experienced person can certainly share their faith with the beginner, right?

The thing is that we have to do it together. A jam session with one person doesn't do much for anyone. One person isn't enough to make a band ~ one person can't play more than one instrument at once, at least not well. And only together can our voices harmonize.

What if we stopped looking at faith selfishly, and started sharing with others? I recognize that I don't lose the ability to play an E minor chord because I just taught someone to play an E minor. Do I recognize the same thing about my faith life, that I don't lose anything by giving away the gift of being a child of God, a person of faith?

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