Friday, February 10, 2006

5. I'm Gonna Take a Trip on That Good Ol' Gospel Ship

Most heavenly music!
It nips me unto listening.

I'm often asked...

Sometimes asked...

Somebody once asked me...

about my experience with worship music. Why would I want to join a band called Loudmouth Worshippers?

Well, gee ... maybe it's because I had been playing worship music in churches for 13 years (mostly in this one and a couple of years in this one), because I think that's one of the ways God wants me to serve him. And from time to time I'm nagged by the desire to expand my involvement in music that expresses my faith.

(I didn't say "Christian music" because I'm not particularly anxious to be part of the CCM market, or to play the syrupy, repetitive pap with self-centered lyrics and outrageously affected vocals that passes for "worship music" in said market. Furthermore, this doesn't rule out my playing other types of music — I'm not going to give up my chair in Thalia Symphony just because we might play a piece by a composer who wasn't a Christian. Nonetheless, one function of music — although not the only function — is self-expression, and for me, that function is going to include my faith. But I digress.)

I think I've received exactly one negative comment about my playing in worship bands — someone thought I was trying to be a rock star because I move around a lot when I play. That person obviously had a lot of confidence in her ability to determine people's intentions by their actions. (I move around a lot no matter what kind of music I'm playing — I'm easy to spot in the orchestra because I'm the violist who can't sit still.) On the other hand, I've received a lot of praise, the best of which is when people say my playing helps them focus their attention on God. Which is, after all, my goal when I play worship music. I try to play my best, but my intent is to glorify God, not myself. My worship-band playing is improvisational, and it's informed by knowledge of chord progressions, scales, arpeggios, harmony, countermelody, complementary vs. contrary motion, and the mood of the song. In other words, it's just good solid musicianship. No smoke, no mirrors, and nothing up my sleeve. I don't claim any "anointing" or divine inspiration. If other people want to attribute those properties to me, that's fine, but I can't afford to get a swollen head. I refuse to entertain the notion that being a musician makes me more "spiritual" than any other Christian.*

Anyway, I had actually been praying and thinking about whether there was a way for me to get further involved in artistic expression of faith — and then that e-mail from B. arrived. It looked like a good thing at the time — maybe even an answer to prayer. Which, perhaps, is another reason I overlooked Q.'s not-so-commendable attributes and stuck with the project.

Speaking of Q., he never asked for my personal philosophy of worship music, but in an e-mail before the first recording session, he did ask me to provide a letter of reference from my pastor. He wanted the members of Loudmouth Worshippers to be seriously involved with music in their own local churches. And, he said, he was going to visit my church and check out what I was doing there.

It was no problem for me to obtain two letters of reference — one from my pastor in Seattle and another from my former pastor in L.A. And I told Q. he was welcome to drop by my church any Sunday, although he should check with me first, as I play there only every other week.

He never showed up.

In retrospect, I suppose the thing to do would have been to ask Q. for a letter of reference from his pastor. That'd be fair, don't you think? He claimed to attend the church pastored by Casey Treat, which was a bit of an eyebrow-lifter, as I disagree with much of Casey's theology and wonder whether Casey himself isn't a little off the beam. I was determined, however, to be on my best ecumenical behavior, a phrase which here means "cooperate with Q. in the spirit of Christian unity, and don't judge him by the church he attends."

Later I was surprised to learn that (a) Casey was suffering from hepatitis B; and (b) Q. didn't know about it. (I'm sure that Casey's illness must be a bit of an embarrassment to him, since he's known for teaching the "word of faith" doctrine, which claims that illness and poverty are the result of insufficient faith. I do hope that Casey both recovers and rethinks his theology. But I digress.) I'll just say this: I attend church frequently enough to say with some certainty that if my pastor went public with the fact that he had a life-threatening illness, I would know about it.

Anyway, the next time someone says he's going to check up on me, I'll try to do an equal amount of checking up on him.

*If you don't like my thinking on this subject, maybe this guy will be more up your alley. He professes not to have all the answers, but writes as though he does.


At 2:26 PM, Blogger Jesse said...

hey could i talk to you like through email i wanted some info on that band

At 2:52 PM, Blogger Martin said...

E-mail away:



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