Regular readers to this blog have realised I ‘go off on one’ when it comes to music and Christadelphia. Here’s the latest.
Someone rang me the other night asking for my help, or some kind of input for a workshop on music at the next Whit camp. Great, I thought – something I could do. I have a great deal of respect for this person as we were making albums at the same time many moons ago, and I knew the ideas and motives would be good. His vision for the workshop was to be focused on the creativity of young people who were perhaps more into the rock/indie kind of scene, with a view to doing some kind of recording at the end of it. Fine, I thought – I could certainly input some ideas on song structure and arrangement, and act as a spare pair of ears on the final mix.
I put the phone down and was taken back to the eighties and some words of our slightly older and wiser bass player who suggested that the music we were producing for young people was not representative of the culture of Christadelphia. We were hinting at a door that would never be opened and would, at best produce indulgent mild interest and at worst , open hostility from those within the community. Which is more or less what happened, with one or two notable exceptions.
I may have mellowed over the years. Yes, I tend to play less shinier instruments. Sitting down. (Part of that is age, I suppose….) I have more of an interest in getting bizarre combinations of strange instruments to work together in the context of praise evenings these days. But in my view any form of music has the potential of working for God.
Yes, we need to run the kind of music workshops aimed at young musicians who would prefer to play or listen to music not normally found in the Christadelphian cultural milieu. However, I would suggest that we need to do this in the context of a workshop because a workshop is a protected environment. We need to protect our young people from the damage so easily done by a Christadelphian community which sometimes is more intent on preserving a mythical ‘golden age’ that is said to have existed ‘in the good old days’. Some may argue that there are some forms of western art music which are ‘special’ and ‘sacred’. Maybe not, maybe so. But in making such a rash statement they are dismissing much of the world’s vast musical output, and the heartfelt and honest thoughts and prayers of believers whose musical lexicon and soundscapes may not coincide with their own.
I’ve seen too many good, honest believers turned away from our good solid Bible-based understanding of what God is and the hope that He offers us because some of their modes of expression do not sit comfortably within a conservative Middle-England mindset.
Each of us needs to clarify in our own minds what is culture, what is Christianity and focus on not confusing the two.