In this week’s installment of The Merry Mystic, I share a new hymn about the earth. It’s upbeat and lively, with a simple refrain.
There are two of my scores for “The Harmony of the Incredible Earth” available in the Free Stuff area: one with hymn parts and one with a piano accompaniment. (You’ll need the password for the free stuff. If you don’t have that password, you can get it by subscribing to my weekly letter, The Merry Mystic. Please do: it’s free, and if it doesn’t suit you, you can always unsubscribe.)
In the video, I also discuss the choral arrangement made by Michael Monroe, music minister at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Bedford, Massachusetts, USA. He’s made his score and practice recordings available on his web site. Thanks, Michael!
In this week’s installment of The Merry Mystic, I share a new chant about God. It’s a chant that imagines God as a trinity: Mother, Child, and Breath of Life.
The music for “Mother, Child, and Breath of Life” is available in my “Free Stuff” area, including the vocal score and some accompaniment ideas. (You’ll need the password for the free stuff. If you don’t have that password, you can get it by subscribing to my weekly letter, The Merry Mystic. Please do: it’s free, and if it doesn’t suit you, you can always unsubscribe.)
I hope you’ll scroll down and leave a comment. How would you suggest using this music? Have you used it, and how did it work for you? Do you find God in these three-in-one images? Please scroll down and share your thoughts.
This week’s installment of The Merry Mystic features me dancing. No, really.
Have you ever seen liturgical dance that touched your heart? Is physical movement a part of your spiritual practice? Please scroll down and leave a comment.
I worked for a while as a hospice chaplain. In that work I traveled all around north central Illinois, visiting the dying wherever they were: in their homes, in nursing homes, and in hospitals. I tried to give people what they needed. Sometimes it was a prayer or a song; more often, what they needed was just someone to talk to.
Some people wanted me to sing old hymns; some wanted me to read scripture; some wanted me to lead them in spontaneous prayer; some wanted me to pray the rosary with them. I did whatever I could. But one thing I wasn’t really prepared for was the large number of ex-Christians I met in that work: people who had left their churches, and who really didn’t want to hear any more religious BS. (Now that I’m a pastor, I naturally spend most of my time with people who are still coming to church, so I don’t meet nearly as many ex-Christians!)
Many of these people had been damaged by their former churches. One had been hounded out of a church for divorcing and remarrying. One had been told that the reason his young daughter had died was because he hadn’t prayed for her cure with sufficient faith. One gay man had been told that AIDS was his punishment from God. One man had been told that his deceased wife was unfortunately in hell, having never been baptized. And so on, and on, and on.
Someone argued with me today that “progressive” Christianity is just a snare and a delusion — that Christianity doesn’t need to progress, because in its good old-fashioned form it was already just right. But my experience is quite the opposite. I’ve seen a lot of damage done to good people by good old-fashioned Christianity. My feeling is, we have to help it do better.
In Chapter Three of The Inn of God’s Forgiveness, I wrote:
To summarize, here’s the bad news: if you want to claim the Christian tradition without affirming the traditional creeds, it’s a bit of an uphill battle. Confident creedal Christians will identify you as an inadequate believer, if not actually an agent of Satan; confident atheists will identify you as an inadequate doubter, still clinging to your discredited faith tradition; but in the face of both, you will have to insist on claiming your own religious identity.
It’s coming back to haunt me now. I’m advertising the web page for the book on Facebook, and people are occasionally commenting on the ad that appears in their news feeds. So far, the comments are of just these two kinds. There are confident creedal Christians who want to tell me that I’m not really a Christian — and there are atheists who are say things like “tired of these fairy tales in my news feed” and “he [Jesus] is a made up character in a storybook who cares.”
But oh well! I can’t really blame the atheists for being cheesed off: shouldn’t Facebook know enough about their interests to not advertise a book of Christian theology and hymns to them? But it’s interesting how reactive people are on this topic — reactive in much the same way on all sides. The atheists feel threatened and demeaned by an oppressive Christian majority. The conservative Christians also feel threatened and demeaned by the erosion of their tradition in an increasingly secular culture. And, of course, I feel pretty beleaguered myself, getting it from both sides. But it’s been very interesting to engage my conservative Christian commentators in online discussion. We often seem to be able to find some ground for mutual respect, though not always agreement. That’s progress. And meanwhile, the people who are not offended by the ad, though not posting, are coming to the web site and downloading the hymns. 1000 downloads and counting!
I’m working on two new hymns about the earth: one happy (“The Harmony of the Incredible Earth”) and one sorrowful (“Compassion’s Sting”). That’s sort of how I’m feeling these days. Sometimes the earth is so overwhelmingly beautiful that I just have to join in its song; sometimes the harm we’re doing, the harm I’m doing, to the earth is so sad that I just have to lament. Here’s a draft stanza of the first:
Oh, blessed is Earth, the prolific and sweet,
Providing us plenty of good things to eat,
With life on the surface and treasures below,
What greater abundance could any bestow?
Her fisheries, forests, and fields of grain,
Her breathable breezes, her drinkable rain,
The harmony of the incredible earth!
The harmony of, the harmony of, the harmony of the incredible earth!
And here’s a draft stanza of the second:
When species vanish from the Earth,
And ancient coral dies,
When land erodes and life is stilled
And burning forest cries,
When silence falls where once the calls
Of songbirds filled the air,
You weep, O God, with every death
And final breath,
And yet we do not care.
I don’t think Keystone XL is a good idea — maybe that’s why this is on my heart today.
The Nook version of my new book, The Inn of God’s Forgiveness and Other Hymns for the Progressive Church, is now available from Barnes&Noble. On most Nooks, the music pages themselves will be too small to read, but you can always access the pdfs here for printing.
I usually use a Kindle myself, but I got a used Nook on eBay for testing this edition. It was pretty straightforward. I guess I already found most of the problems when I made my Kindle and iBooks Store editions.
Every week I post a recording of my sermon over on the church web site: clarecongregational.org. I don’t usually post the children’s message there, but this week it was too much fun to leave off. It’s a quick introduction to the Ten Commandments, with a little song to help people remember what they are. There’s a first great commandment, inscribed in solid stone…