Holy ground and jazz improvisation...

We got home from church last night at 1:30 am and I couldn't go to sleep until well past 3:30! The reason? An incredible sacred jazz liturgy with a stunning quartet of loving, talented, creative, inventive, sensitive and spiritually alive musicians. Damn, just when I think I've had the best musical encounter of my life (our Beats 4 BEAT concert last summer), ANOTHER comes along as a total surprise. Can there be any doubt that ours is a God of grace who comes to us? Three inter-related thoughts are spinning around my head (and they have almost nothing to do with visions of sugar plums!)
+ First, last night's "gig" was as much a time of creative worship for the musicians as it was for the congregation. Often when musicians "do" a liturgy, our role is very clear: play the charts and keep things moving. That certainly has it's place and as a worship leader I honor and practice my role as liturgical shepherd with gratitude. What happened over and over last night, however, was that I got a chance to be an active participant in worship rather than just a leader. Each musician had the opportunity to be fully engaged in the creation of beauty and depth in the music. In turn, this allowed me to both give and receive the gifts that were bubbling up and tumbling down from within the sacred. It was a time to be fully alive as both guide and pilgrim.

+ Second, this particular quartet cherished the jazz axiom of listening to one another carefully, strengthening one an other's gifts and encouraging new levels of creativity within a context of trust and respect.  The sound was spacious and clean. No one stepped on an other's sound. Everyone trusted the band leader - Carlton - who kept us focused. And each player worked to make certain that whatever was created during the moment not only took the listeners into a deeper experience but also helped their band mates find new levels of creativity. This was pure grace: to experience such reverence for the music and each musician was a holy encounter that I felt was soul food.

+ And third, the immediate tenderness and synchronization of the band's playing suggests new horizons for our community. We've known one another in various ways for 8 years. And we've played with one another in other settings, too. But when we came together for a three hour rehearsal this past Monday, something magical happened. And I am hoping we will find new ways to make this happen again. I am already imagining venues that are so outside the box - grounded in spirituality but without the limitations of a traditional liturgy - that my mind hurts. A time of prayer and jazz on Friday night at midnight. A feast of sound and silence to mark the changing of the seasons. A regular gathering for those "who only come out at night" and might never darken the doorways of our regular liturgies. Who knows...? 
In retrospect, there are two changes I would have made to last night's late jazz Eucharist: 1) We might have done more internal interpretation for the congregation about jazz liturgy; they needed to know that this was not going to be 45 minutes and out because improvisation takes time. (We will do better on this the next time around.) And 2) I could have streamlined some of the spoken liturgy and added another time for congregational singing. (This, too was probably only something to consider after the fact.) That said, it was clear to me that we exceeded our expectations in terms of depth and pure creativity. For a while that 250 year old place became holy ground in a new way... and for me that was the perfect way to embrace the promise of Christmas Eve as an adult.

Comments

Peter said…
Sound like you-all made some holy, my man...
RJ said…
You bet... are you around this weekend? I can finally call... I've cherished your little messages and just sad cuz I wasn't around to receive them in person. Merry Christmas.
Peter said…
yes we are around, though we might be in and out a bit. I'll contact you by e-mail with some suggestions.

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