Sightings in Christian Music (Spring/Summer 2017)
In the fall semester of my final year at North Park Theological Seminary (2010), Professor Phil Anderson asked if I would play saxophone on a couple hymns for a hymn festival that was to end a day of lectures honoring the joint heritage of the Augustana Synod and the Covenant Church. I agreed, partly because I was excited by the new discovery of the heritage hymns during my time in seminary, and partly because it never hurts to do a professor a favor!
Sightings in Christian Music (Fall/Winter 2017)
As a worship leader and a hymn writer, the past year has left me wondering how the church can respond to dangerous political rhetoric and action directly opposed to the central narrative of hospitality and welcome presented in Scripture. In light of a leader elected on the promise of border walls, Muslim bans, and opposition to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), it seems clear to me that a true Pietist movement rooted in the immigrant experience has a responsibility to speak and act on behalf of the stranger and foreigner in our midst. Further, I am convinced that part of the way we envision how to engage well in political discourse and social action is formed by the words we sing and pray in worship.
Music that makes community (Fall/Winter 2018)
Of all the tired debates of the so-called worship wars over the past 30 years, one that I have grown particularly exhausted with is the hymnal vs. screen debate. Each side trots out the usual arguments. For hymnal supporters, it’s the ephemeral nature of projected words, the lack of musical notation for part-singing, and the aesthetic drawbacks of a screen in a sanctuary. Conversely, screen supporters note that hymnals don’t allow the use of your hands while singing, present unfamiliar songs to a public who on the whole doesn’t read music, and implies a closed canon of songs. As with most of these arguments, both sides have merit and both tend to overstate their case.
Music that makes community (Spring/Summer 2019)
As at least some readers of Pietisten no doubt experienced, one of the rites of passage in Covenant History class was reading Karl Olsson’s By One Spirit. The sheer size of the book led to many of my classmates experiencing dizziness and shortness of breath!
Sightings in Christian Music (Fall/Winter 2019)
In my last column I discussed how a particular passage in Karl Olsson’s history, By One Spirit, helped me understand what I believe is a key characteristic of Pietism. As I wrote then, at the heart of this movement is the introspective person — one who is aware of their own faults and moves through the world with this basic self-reflective posture. At its best this posture leads to humility and charity towards others; at its worst, it fosters scrupulosity and anxiety that can slip into despair. Continuing that theme, I will explore how this self-reflective posture is found in the early songs of the Mission Friends — especially in the poignant descriptions of anxiety, worry, and fear.