Edited by Frank Fortunato firstname.lastname@example.org
Coordinator, AD2000 Worship and Arts Network
Greetings, GWR readers. This issue changes directions from a global
roundup to a single focus from India, the story of MK musician Chris
Hale. This report concludes with some notes from two seminary professors,
as they take a new look at "traditional" worship.
Yours, Frank Fortunato, Editor, GWR
Chris Hale, son of well-known doctor Tom Hale has had a multi-faceted and multi-cultural career over many years across the Indian Subcontinent. Culturally enriched people like Chris make us a little homesick for heaven where we will one day see cultural diversity in its awesome display around the Throne.
Chris grew up speaking both English and Hindi without "foreign" accent. Following his high school education at the famous Woodstock school he went on to a prestigious American music conservatory as a composition major and wrote a symphony in western musical form as his graduation project.
While at the conservatory in Boston he picked up the guitar, joined IVF and started leading worship. Before long he got training with YWAM and did music outreach with an OM band and eventually returned to the Subcontinent.
He formed the rock band OLIO and started playing in major metropolitan areas. Next he set up a recording studio, started making recordings, and OLIO began to win national rock band competitions. Coverage in national music magazines and the media followed. It was unheard of to have a Christian band get that kind of exposure. When not practicing or touring, the team hung out at a coffee bar and did friendship evangelism and discipling of young believers.
Chris sought to not only become bi-lingual but bi-musical as well. He began studying the music of North India and taking lessons on the sitar. He then adapted his music writing skills, and started to compose in non-western musical forms writing Hindu devotional music but using Christian themes as well as lyrics from the Bible.
When in the cities, the heavy metal OLIO team dressed western, played loud power chords, sang hard-hitting lyrics, and provoked interest in Jesus, the Savior for India and the world. The same team also turned away from the traffic jammed cities, donned loose-fitting Indian dress, put away their heavy amps and drum sets, picked up ancient sitar and tabla, and moved into dusty villages. Instead of prancing back and forth across concert stages bathed in floodlights and awash in ear-splitting distorted sound, they sat on the ground and traded the in-your-face rock music for the transparent, serene melodies and rhythms of indigenous "heart music" loved by millions of devoted Hindus, but Christianized with biblical themes and lyrics.
What made this west-east switch so unusual was that so few musicians have had the inclination or desire to authentically cross the cultural bridge from one musical system to another. And very few musicians would consider coming down from the ever-popular western pop mountain-top with all its glitz and notoriety, posters, interviews, etc. and descend to the valley of a quiet, rural village setting, playing the subtle rhythms and melodies of Indian religious music. No strokes, no hype, no applause.
By offering the villagers the sounds that they grew up with, but invested with the Truth of the Creator of the universe, the Holy Spirit had the opportunity to move a sincere, devout follower of religious philosophical Hindu thought to a Biblical understanding of Jesus, Lord and Savior. Such truth was not just for the rural, lower-caste Hindu but the urban upper-class Hindu as well.
A North India Christian leader described the effectiveness of this indigenous artistic approach for the upper class Hindu from an event that took place recently in the city of Lucknow. This leader teamed up with Chris Hale for an evening of cultural music. The forms and the sounds and the presentation were totally Hindu. By tapping into the music associated with religious longing and yearning of philosophical Hinduism, (the musical genre known as bajans) and infusing the sound and form of this religious music with the truth of the Gospel, the presentation reached into the very depths of those attending the devotional music concert.
The aftermath was simply awesome. Following the three-hour presentation, friends who had befriended these Hindu people continued to develop relationships with them and further explained the truths that were portrayed in music and narration. As seeds of the Christian message were planted, relationships continued to develop and eventually these Hindus ecided to follow Christ. Two churches were eventually started.
While few would have the training and talent of a Chris Hale to become not only bi-cultural but bi-musical, many could still have significant influence by encouraging indigenous artistic expression, especially for new believers in an area. Consider the following progression of events: Christian workers could pray for and befriend local musicians and see some come to Christ. Then, as these musicians matured in Christ they could be encouraged to write worship songs that reflect local culture. The Christian workers could then help get these songs recorded and distributed to the believers. Where no studio exists, Christian groups could work together to help provide inexpensive recording facilities that would need little more than a computer, a synthesizer, a 4-track recorder and a few other inexpensive pieces of equipment. These little studios could be the "hatching ground" for ongoing release of indigenous songs to enrich the worship life of local churches.
As Chris has matured in his thinking he has begun to see yet another permutation of his bi-cultural approach, namely a blending of both east and west into a hybrid artistic form. This is in keeping with various trends taking place around the world. With the spread of westernized forms of culture across non-western parts of the globe, as well as easternized art into non-eastern areas, various hybrid musical and artistic expressions have emerged. Pop musicians have added ethnic instruments (whether western or non-western). Record companies have sprung up specializing in this hybrid sound, which is often dubbed "world beat." Christian musicians have added instruments and rhythms of other cultures as well, creating unique "blended" music and expressing the diversity of the Body of Christ.
Chris has teamed up with another MK, guitarist Pete Hicks to form a unique duo producing scintillating hybrid sounds of east and west. Their sound would especially find affinity with the so-called "new age" musicians who promote a blended sound employing various musical techniques of different cultures. The music has what musicians call an "ambient" sound, a kind of floating harmony and lilting, sustained melody without a strong, driving beat, using an enriched, added-note harmony. It is a sound and form (or lack of form) that is better felt and experienced than described. With Pete on the guitar and Chris on the sitar they have created a kind of "Christianized new age" sound that penetrates the emotions. Chris and Pete plan to reach out to "new age-influenced" musicians both in the Subcontinent and in the "little India" sub-cultures of London and other cities, hoping to reach those musicians searching for their own musical soul through this blended musical sound. They hope to see many of them come to Christ.
As we move from the present to the future, and from the temporal to the eternal we are confronted with the awesome "future culture" of heaven and what that might look like and sound like. In the final book of the Bible God pulled back the curtain of heaven and allowed John to peer into the awesome sight of the gathered family of worshipers at the Throne made up of people from every tribe and language. God allowed John to see and hear the sound of heaven, and John described in several passages the Bride declaring the worthiness of "him who sits on the Throne and ... the Lamb." We find John groping for language to describe the indescribable and we get terms such as: "had the appearance of..." "what looked like...: "as if it were..." and so forth. Worship leaders ask the question again and again: what did that worship sound like? Did John hear one language or many languages? Did John hear a new "heavenly" sound, a mono-heavenly-culture and language, or did he somehow hear diversity of languages and musical/cultural style? Since John had a revelation of heaven itself, did it mean in heaven people could understand each other's language as God does now? Many more questions beg answers.
I'm not sure if heaven will have me worshiping in one culture, or allow me to enjoy darting around from culture to culture, or have me learn a unique blended and merged hybrid heavenly culture. Watching a musician like Chris Hale at work gives me a foretaste of all of that, as I see an earthly approach to cultural richness going on. It makes me a bit more homesick for heaven.
The God whom we worship is a God of three time zones. He is yesterday, today and tomorrow. As believers, our story has a past. It's an apostolic past, filled with miraculous accounts, sacraments and the cumulative wisdom of creeds. We cannot grow to full stature without our history...People who don't know their past know little of their present identity nor their future destination.
Worship did not begin in this decade. Christians have a past, a present and a promised future. This means as planners and leaders of worship we balance the sails of our experimental creativity with the anchors of our non-negotiable orthodoxy.
Real worship is a gift given to those who thirst after it. Most often that thirst is evidenced by godly integrity, deep humility, costly prayer, the search of an honest heart and mind, unending courage and the anointing breath of the Spirit of God.
(Excerpted From the Article: Worship Today, Signs and Wonders, by Dr. William C. Goold, Beeson professor of church music at Asbury Seminary), as reported in the Asbury Herald, Vol 110, Number 1, Winter , 1999) For more information send email to email@example.com
Tradition, to be authentic, must serve the present age and is thereby contemporary. The worship of Israel and the new Israel has had for over 4,000 years the constancy of prayer, praise, Scripture and proclamation... So if those elements are being utilized in what is termed contemporary worship, that worship is in some degree traditional. We need to remember in worship discussions that the word temporary is at the very center of the term contemporary.
Worship is not what we do to fall in love, it's what we do because we are in love...It's to develop the intention of not pleasing ourselves but the God whom our souls love and desire to serve.
The worshiper purposely steps into the presence of God and remains there with undivided attention. Something takes place in corporate worship that takes place nowhere else in the dispersed church.
Swirling in my ears are notions that tradition is antithetical to creativity, is necessarily static, and that the essence of creativity is originality. The Hebrew verb to "create" refers exclusively to Divine activity. At the Renaissance the English words "create" and "creative" took on the reference of human minds and human hands. With that new point of reference emerged a new way of thinking about the place of human beings and their potency in the universe. With that heady estimation of human capacities came a certain sense of liberation from tradition, custom and community. That mood prevails as we enter the 21st century. Present generations believe that the debts of the past can be cancelled and that by human initiative alone wonders can be brought out of the void.
The contemporary worldview is that tradition is fossilized history and history is fatally flawed. One is forced to ask if this worldview is the reason why, in many of today's churches, there is no reading of the Scriptures, no use of the Creeds, no singing of hymns which is the church's compendium of theology.
Chuck Colson and J.I. Packer refer to hot-tub religion, where going to church is no longer a way to fulfill a spiritual duty but to meet emotional needs. Where people do not want holiness but self help, not redemption but inner healing. Where worship is hyped as cool music, anonymity, dress for comfort and no (or little) sermon.
For traditional worship, the question can never be "How can we accommodate worship to the tastes of the ever-emerging generations that seem disinclined for it?" Rather, the question must be "How can worship make the ancient glories of Christ and His church shine in our present age?"
Traditional worship is not so much about a style as it is about a posture before the God with whom we all have to do. It is an attitude and disposition informed and shaped by its past heritage, which brings the "then" into the present "now", and is impacted by the future.. thereby offering the world a greater hope.
(Excerpted from the article: Designing Worship for the 21st Century by Professor Donald C. Boyd, professor of preaching and worship, Asbury Seminary, as reported in the Asbury Herald, Vol 110, Number 1, Winter, 1999) For more information send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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