Local musician playing his songs

I’ve just found out at the last minute that I’m going to be playing a gig at the Carrot Community Arts Coffee House here in Edmonton on Friday night from 7.30 – 9.30 p.m. The Carrot is a really friendly venue, completely run by volunteers, located at 9351-118 Avenue. Apparently the Avenue is under construction right now but parking is still available close to the Carrot; see their website here for more information.

This will be a solo gig and I’ll be playing a combination of my own original songs and the traditional songs I love so much, with maybe a couple of covers thrown in for good measure. I’ve been learning a few more traditional songs lately so there may be some numbers that my usual audience will not be familiar with.

There will be a $5 cover charge at the door.

Hope to see you there!

‘Faith, Folk and Charity’

Welcome to my new blogging home here at WordPress. I’ve been wanting to move to WordPress for quite a while, partly because I like the blogging tools they offer, and partly because I don’t want to let Google have total control of my online life!

A quick word about the name of this new blog.

As some of you will know, the old Authorised (King James) Version translation of 1 Corinthians 13:13 runs ‘And now abideth faith, hope, and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity’. My title is a slight adaptation of this verse, and brings into focus the main things I want to blog about.

‘Faith’, to me, is faith in Jesus and in the God he reveals to us. I realise that there are many other expressions of faith, religious and otherwise, but this is the faith that I try to live out in my daily life. So I will be blogging regularly about what it means to me to be a follower of Jesus, and possibly dialoguing with people of other views (there is at least one atheist on my blogroll!). I will not, however, be linking to or dialoguing with people (particularly Christians) who spend significant amounts of time on their blogs trashing people whose views they don’t like. I’m interested in discussion and dialogue, not character assassination.

‘Folk’ refers to folk music, one of the other main passions of my life. Those who know me will know that I am particularly attached to traditional folk music, the songs that have been handed down to us from previous generations, usually anonymously, and that I want to continue in my turn to hand down to the generations to come.

The word charity, in the AV of 1 Corinthians 13:13, translates the Greek word ‘agapé’, which doesn’t just mean ‘love’, but sacrificial, committed, action-oriented love, the kind of love that is expressed when a person gives their life in willing and cheerful service to another. This sort of love, Saint Paul says, is meant to be one of the ‘abiding’ characteristics of the life of a follower of Jesus.

So that’s at least part of what this blog will be about! Of course, I will also be sharing personal stories, photographs, family stuff and so on. Thanks for dropping by, and I hope you enjoy it!

Good music coming up in Edmonton this winter

The Northern Lights Folk Club has a stellar season coming up in Edmonton this year. Everyone will have their own favourites, of course, but the ones I’m especially looking forward to are Martin Simpson (Oct 2nd), Dennis Lakusta with Alannah Dow (Nov. 6th), Karla Anderson, Rob Heath, John Wort Hannam and John Mann (Jan 15th), and Lennie Gallant (April 2nd).

Check out the entire lineup at the club’s home page here. Most tickets run between $18 and $25, and season tickets are a steal at just over $200. I bought my season ticket this afternoon.

What’s in it for Me? (a sermon on Luke 14:1, 7-14)

As I began my Bible study in preparation for this sermon, I was confronted with this question in the ‘Serendipity Study Bible’: ‘If you could have the best seats in the house, what would you choose: Super Bowl? Rock concert? Philharmonic orchestra? Indy 500? Royal Wedding?’ For me, having recently attended the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, that was an easy question to answer: I’d like the Golden Tarp at the 2011 Festival!

For those of you who haven’t been initiated into the mysteries of the Folk Festival, seating at the main stage is rather rustic: we bring tarps and low chairs and set them up on Gallagher Hill. If you want a seat really close to the front at the main stage, you probably have to line up at about seven o’clock in the morning, and most of us don’t have the time to do that. However, there’s a way of jumping the lineup. Each year there is a raffle, and one of the prizes is the ‘Golden Tarp’ for the following year: the winner gets to be the first person on the hill every day and can put down his or her tarp wherever they want, before anyone else gets a chance!

I’ve never had a lot of success myself getting close to the main stage, but I’ve done quite well at some of the smaller stages – usually by going to them quite a bit ahead of time. Fortunately for me, no one has ever come up to me and said “Someone more important than you is here: give them your place!” With some of the more popular smaller stages, that would probably mean going an awful long way back!

In today’s Gospel Jesus has a lot to say to people who always want the front seats – in other words, to people who want the best deal for themselves and don’t care who they displace in order to get it. Whether they are going to a dinner party put on by others, or throwing a party themselves, these folks are not actually thinking about the other people at all. Rather, their first question is always “What’s in this situation for me?” Let’s refresh our memory of the story.

Read the rest here.

A Folk Song a Day

Jon Boden has an impressive pedigree in traditional folk music, including ‘Spiers and Boden‘, ‘Bellowhead‘, and Eliza Carthy’s band ‘The Ratcatchers’. A few months ago he started a new project called ‘A Folk Song a Day‘. It’s exactly what the title says; if you subscribe to his podcast, you will receive a traditional folk song (sung by him) every day. Jon has a very fine singing voice, and many of the songs are unaccompanied; a few have a fiddle or accordion in them, but that’s about it.

I subscribed yesterday, and was able to download all the songs released in the month of August. At the end of each month, Jon seems to take the songs down and release them as a CD which you can get from iTunes and a few other places.

So far I’m really enjoying them. A few of the songs are already familiar to me, but many of them are not, and I’m finding that hearing them performed unaccompanied is a great way to put the spotlight on the song itself, rather than on anyone’s musical expertise.

If you want to try them out without subscribing to the podcast, just go to the website where all the songs for August are available in streaming audio.

All Things are Quite Silent

Today my copy of Ralph Vaughan Williams and Bert Lloyd’s classic book ‘English Folk Songs‘ arrived. Trying to learn to sing and play the first song in the book, ‘All Things Are Quite Silent’, has involved learning to play in Dorian mode (it’s like playing in a minor key except the 6th note is raised a half tone). Apparently a lot of old English folk songs were in this mode. It’s not easy to set a guitar accompaniment to – and in fact Williams and Lloyd say that it’s best to sing these old folk songs unaccompanied.

After learning the song from the music in the book I found this unaccompanied version on YouTube. This singer alters the tune slightly from the version that Williams and Lloyd collected, but I think he does a great job.

I’ve heard of Dorian mode before, but before tonight I’ve never really understood it or consciously tried to sing or play in it. So thank you to these two dead guys, Bert Lloyd and Ralph Vaughan Williams, who’ve given me a brand new musical experience!

Love in pastoral ministry

All through this week, in our Canadian Anglican daily prayers, we’ve been praying this prayer:

Almighty God, we are taught by your word that all our doings without love are worth nothing. Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

It’s my habit to drive down to the church (where my office is located) just after eight each morning and begin my day by praying Morning Prayer. As I was doing so this morning, it really hit me how appropriate this prayer is for a Christian pastor about to begin his or her ‘working day’.

You see, there’s a growing tendency for Christian ministers to carry out their work in the spirit of the coffee mug message I once saw: ‘Jesus is coming – look busy!’ At this time of year, my temptation is to fill up my Fall calendar with workshops and conferences and programs of every conceivable variety to meet the needs of every conceivable group of people. I do this year by year, and then wonder why I’m exhausted by the end of November, with very little sense of having accomplished anything worthwhile for the gospel and the kingdom.

‘All our doings without love are worth nothing’. If I’m so busy that I don’t have time for people, then I’m too busy. Relationships are what it’s all about – helping people build relationships with God, with each other, and with the world around them. Nowadays the world moves at such breakneck speed, and the idolatry of productivity is so powerful, that many people literally have no time for the slow, quiet conversations that are so crucial to building those relationships. Sadly, that includes conversations with God; many people feel so rushed that they just don’t seem to be able to make time for listening to God and talking with him.

Notice the language we commonly use: ‘make time’. That’s deceptive; no-one gets to ‘make time’. The time has already been made; all we get to do is choose how we will use it. And if we’re busy people and some enticing new activity comes along, the only way to ‘make time’ to do this new thing is to stop doing something that we’re already doing. Hence the cost of relationships and the cost of discipleship; you can’t add them on to a busy life. you have to stop doing something else in order to make room for them.

So what am I, as a busy pastor, prepared to ‘stop doing’ in order to make more time for loving people and building relationships with them?

Of course, there’s a vocabulary problem here too; we live in a society where the word ‘love’ is almost always a description of an emotion, and so when we hear that ‘all our doings without love are worth nothing’ we may well understand it to mean ‘If you don’t feel it from the heart, it’s worthless’. But in the Bible love is not a feeling, it’s an action – a decision to live your life to bless and serve other people, whether you feel like it or not, whether it’s convenient or not, whether it’s costly or not.

This is a tall order – hence the second part of the prayer, calling on God to send his Holy Spirit to ‘pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love’. The ‘heart’, in the Bible, doesn’t mean the feelings (the Greeks thought that the bowels were the seat of the emotions, not the heart!!!). It means the whole person, especially as expressed in the choices we make, the decisions of our will. So we’re asking God to fill us with the Holy Spirit and give us the strength to love other people, not just in words but in actions. As John says, ‘Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action’ (1 John 3:18).

One of my favourite pastoral authors, Dave Hansen, likes to quote a former pastor of his: ‘Do the right thing, the loving thing. People before programs. Faithfulness to Christ above all’.