Friday, January 16, 2009

what shall we then sing?

My list (file folders/binder) of "songs to write" keeps getting longer (thicker, deeper-and-wider...), far outstripping the pace of actual writing.

And this, I think, is as it should be.

One of the questions I often ask myself and those around me is "what do we NEED to sing?" That is, given what is going on around and among and within us, and given who we are and who we are called to be, and given what God is up to and God's intentions for the world... what shall we then sing? What are those texts that would be especially good, useful, important, necessary, URGENT for us to sing, right now?

The way this flows from my last post is, I trust, obvious, as it demonstrates the way I understand myself, and my vocation, to be functioning within the broader "body" of the church. "Texts that linger, words that explode," indeed.

The song I'm working on now is a result of that process - from a comment via e-mail that "in our church we really need a new song to sing at baptisms, when we welcome a new member into the body of Christ."

The two songs Charlene and I were harmonizing yesterday both come out of that process in a different way - one was written as a prayer for us to sing at last summer's Mennonite Church Canada Assembly (based on the theme text for that event), and the other for next year's Advent worship resources in Leader magazine (based on next year's Advent lectionary texts).

Each of the three CDs that I've recorded so far have emerged in different ways from this same kind of process... as does the new collection of songs (mostly based on prophetic texts - are you surprised?) that I'm getting set to record next... and the community supported music "membership" system is a particular way to structure that kind of process...

People often ask me where I find "inspiration" for so many songs, and the answer may be so mundane as to seem unsatisfying. (At least for those who find the mundane to be unsatisfying.)

Where does the pastor find "inspiration" for writing regular sermons? Where does the scholar find "inspiration" for writing more articles and books? Where does the teacher find "inspiration" for another day's classes, or the farmer for another year's crop, or the cook for another day's meals?

I don't know that the process is so different for any of us exercising our vocation as members of the body of Christ. We pay attention to the realities around us... we are immersed in Scripture and in prayer and in the life and mission of our local community of faith... and we do the work that has been entrusted to us - to prepare something "for the building up of the body" and to offer it to the community in hope and trust that it may contribute in some way to the formation of a people that is capable of living its vocation in the world.

(Also in hope and trust, by the way - at least on our better and more honest days - that the community may also point out when we've gotten it quite wrong.)

This is not solitary work, although parts of it are often done alone. This is "community work" in the best sense of that word.

And it is in faithfulness to that vocation that our work may indeed be "inspired."

So what do we need to sing?

I hope you'll keep telling me. I'm still listening. And getting it wrong, and sometimes getting it right.

Let's keep singing.

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At 2:34 PM, Blogger Brenda said...

I find stories in the air-- I always get asked that question as a journalist. Of course, the long answer is that I have well connected networks and people want their stuff publicized, but I have my radar attuned to stories, just as you must for songs. And yes, we need more songs. I'm glad you are overwhelmed with ideas. Enjoy it.


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