a soundtrack for discernment?

Posted by on Jun 30, 2016

As many of my friends and colleagues, brothers and sisters in faith, prepare to travel to Saskatoon for the upcoming Mennonite Church Canada Assembly, I want to offer some songs for the road.

It’s a challenging time for the church. I think we all know that. It’s also an exciting time, although that can be harder to see.

When I put together my newest CD, “I’m Glad You’re Here: songs of hope and struggle,” I was very conscious of these times, and hoping to offer something that could make a contribution to the conversation(s). Friends and colleagues in recent years have crafted various artistic efforts to help the church engage difficult conversations about same-sex relationships: Ted and Company with “Listening for Grace,” and Theatre of the Beat with “This Will Lead to Dancing.” In some ways I think of my latest CD release as part of my own artistic effort to offer something that could be helpful for the church at this time.

So here’s a bit of a guide to what I would offer for your consideration as something of a soundtrack for discernment… songs for a church engaging and preparing to engage in hard conversations… Mennonite Church Canada folks, if you’re traveling to Saskatoon, maybe you could include these in your collection of tunes for the road… (you can even download or stream them – no need to worry about a postal strike! 🙂 )

  1. Wishing You Well. An intimate and intensely personal song – an effort to reach out to a friend who is hurting. Based in part on the quotation “Be kind, for everyone you meet is engaged in a great struggle.” The affirmation that “it’s good to have companions on the way” moves – subtly but significantly – to the understated but firm and heartfelt commitment: “I’m glad to be companions on the way.” (companions on the Way…)
  2. Wrestling With the Scriptures. Claiming the “wrestling” of Jacob with the stranger/angel, and of Jesus with Satan in the wilderness, as models and descriptions for our experience as well… “Wrestling with the Scriptures/wrestling with the Word… wrestling with each other/wrestling to be heard…” And at the end: “Listening to each other we might hear the voice of God/yes, listening to the other we just might hear the voice of God…”
  3. I’m Glad You’re Here. A stark, raw, emotionally complicated song… what it’s like to be part of a community, and value it so highly, and be so deeply hurt by it at the same time… one way or another, this song is an expression of love, in the midst of a whole lot of hurt.
  4. The Daughters of Zelophehad. A biblical example (Numbers 27) of “discernment” and engaging hard conversations in the community of faith… including “wrestling with the Scriptures,” in a sense… so simple and delightful, but profoundly subversive at the same time…
  5. To Serve the Soil. Another look at some key scriptural texts regarding human vocation as part of creation… the dangers of “dominion”… what if we adopted an alternate (and legitimate) translation of the verb “to work” as “to serve” in Genesis 2:15? “We’re here to serve the soil my friends, not the other way ’round.”
  6. Not For Human Consumption. A fun satirical song based on the experience of friends on a family farm in Cape Breton Island… “discernment” about food policy, anyone?
  7. In Our House. What if we understood ourselves, on this planet, as part of a household all together?
  8. My Baby Wants Secure Retirement. A humourous window into some of the “hard conversations” and “discernment” in our household sometimes…
  9. Won’t You Sing? If you’ve ever asked yourself “is there anything I can do to change things? Do my puny efforts really matter?” this song is for you…
  10. Greater Works Than These. Based on Jesus’ astounding words in John 14:12 (and also John 20:19-23, and other texts in John). Wow. Evidently Jesus trusts us, and our “discernment,” a whole lot… is this inspiring or scary?
  11. Go Back Home, Tell Everybody. A good, simple tune for the end of your road trip. Let’s live what we’ve learned about the love of God, right back home, wherever we are.