Is singing the blues "church"?
"Shine for all the world - and we DO mean ALL THE WORLD, don't we!" Mike Farris is telling us about the theme of his Grammy-winning roots and blues album - singing with a voice clear like the buzzy edge of lager at the Dream Festival last night.
It was a startlingly spiritual evening, which is hosted by the Dream Cafe, and one in which each performer expressed appreciation for the Dream - the welcoming, resonant, low-hype kind of place it is, while committed to top-notch performance. By their description, the Dream Cafe is unique in North America. The aura of gratitude pervaded the event.
Maybe that is what tipped the balance toward the spiritual. As I sat listening to the performances by veteran BC blues artists, roots and high energy folk musicians, it struck me that each one of the 15-minute acts expressed in word or song some kind of statement of faith, some kind of message that was meant to help us see ourselves as part of something bigger, better and possible in this world. Yet, as Tom Wilson said tongue-in-cheek, "What I'm saying is, we aren't hippies."
And so, as I soaked it in - singing along sometimes, dancing at others - I wondered to myself (again) if a diverse community could share its "faith" in this way. If we could find a way to bring our music and passion and story together, to inspire and be replenished.
What would happen if there were a venue - say the Summerland Sunday Morning Market - where a tented stage gave way to a covered awning with chairs, and where perhaps 3 or 4 musicians took the stage to perform and invite singing and musical collaboration. They would be invited specifically to "share your message" or "share your faith" or "say what is true for you" in music and/or story, and invite the rest of us in.
And the only criteria would be these: 1) that you speak only of your own belief and experience, not expecting that anyone else in the place has experienced or believes the exact same thing, AND 2) that you never speak as if it were the only valid way of seeing things. That's all.
This is different from inviting people to say things that are generically "spiritual but not religious" or to speak about what can most safely be understood to be shared by most of the public (which is not true, anyway). This is about asking people to be forthright about what makes them tick spiritually, but to offer it as their own. To put it out as a gift, just as music is offered as a gift in performance anyway.
Man, I just made that sound simple, but for us in the Church, it seems nigh onto impossible. We are uncomfortable with differences, seek the common ground, leave the crunchy disagreements somewhere else.
And we deal with that discomfort in different ways: The so-called mainstream church is so uncomfortable with differences in perspective that we don't talk about our faith at all - amongst ourselves or with others. We do not understand how it is possible for us to be called into relationship with God through Jesus, but that God might call others in completely different ways.
The so-called evangelical church is so uncomfortable with differences in perspective that it insists there is only one way to God: Use it or lose it.
The extravaganza at the Dream Festival last night was not just a love fest where we all promised to put our best effort together to build a better world. There was a palpable sense of a Higher Power being acknowledged and called upon at times. This felt different to me. I wonder what would happen if we opened up opportunities like this more often?
I think it might result in greater faith of all kinds.
And some pretty awesome music.