A Song I Like.

August 13, 2009

This is a great song.  Jono sent it to me today!  I love it because of the stereotypes…the same reason many people will hate it…  Sometimes – – it’s just that simple.  Period.


Greetings all those who pass this way today.

I’m sorry that my post is hitting the charts a little late.  You’ll have to forgive me, I was participating in an alpine hike that ended up being a little more grueling than I had anticipated!

Today I am a part of a synchro-blog…a conversational blog between many writers.  Here is the host site: www.btgproject.blogspot.com where you will find other (more punctual!) writers.  Our synchro-blog is centred around the topic of faith and sexuality.  The project is hosted by New Directions – a Canadian organization which reaches out to people who are asking questions about  faith and sexuality.

The Christian Church always has a particular dillema on its hands:  we are called to live peaceably together and yet we find ourselves disagreeing on certain doctrinal points or positions.  Aside from faith and sexuality this exists in many different areas: in church polity (one church has pastors – another is run by elders); in sacramental positions (one dips, one sprinkles, one fully immerses); in worship (brass bands for some, pipe organ and choirs for others, guitars and drums for yet another).  Even within any particular denomination or sector of the Christian Church there is a lack of harmony for any number of reasons (just ask my Catholic friend Jackie).  I’m pointing this out because I think it is valid for us to notice, at the outset of this discussion, that Christians agree on very little accross the board – – except for the most very basic doctrines…and even these are debated by some!

Still, we have learned that having these differences among us is not the end of the world!  In time we come to overlook the things in our fellow brothers and sisters that we may not fully understand or agree with – important things! – and we offer grace…because that’s what Christ has offered (and continues to offer) us.

I don’t want to be branded a heretic, but I believe that one thing we can do begin to bridge the gap between those who are LGBT affirming and those who are not is to experience the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper together.  It is one of the most profound moments in our churches worship service because it is at that moment that Christ comes to each of us – as we receive the body and blood – and imparts grace to us.  No one around us is more fitted or worthy.  No one beside us is granted a ‘special’ blessing in its impartation.  It is truly unifying.

Since we are not the judge of any person’s heart, I believe that it is incumbant on the Church to do this – to receive the elements together despite differences and to pray that God would grant us diving insight into how his grace ought to be poured out freely to those around us…especially brothers and sisters in Christ.

Now I know that there are many churches who view same-gender attraction and/or same-gender relationships as sinful.  This is tricky because these people often exclude the LGBT community from the Lord’s Table (in the same way it might exclude someone who has gotten a divorce or cheated on their taxes…really?).  I would say that the church needs to revamp its understanding of this sacrament.  I believe that what makes a church sacramental is not that its members receive the sacraments…but that the church offers it.  And if Christ himself has offered himself for the world, who is the Church that it would turn ANYONE away from the Lord’s Table…regardless of its view of the human form receiving it.  This principle goes far beyond the discussion of faith and sexuality…and I think it has the potential to be contentious – – not something that the BTG Synchroblog is looking for.  However, I need to at least suggest that one of the reasons that the LGBT Christians in our churches have felt and have been marginalized, is that their ‘offense’ is so public.

We all, regardless of sexuality, life-philosophy, brand-of-Christianity, or our favorite colour of jellybean, approach the Lord’s Table as humans broken and fallen.  The Church best not be so proud as to look at any specific ‘group’ of people, wag its finger and say keep away…not if it has any measure of self awareness.  Let the table be a place of welcome, a place where even the seeker is permitted to partake.  Not just for the straight Christian, but for his seeking friend.  Not just for the lesbian Christian…but her lesbian friend who is not a Christian.  I think we would be completely amazed at how God works through the administration of his grace…he is so good at that.

Peace and Love

A Time for Hymns…

March 31, 2009

For the next week and a half, leading up to Easter, I am going to be posting a good passiontide hymn per day.  I hope that people read the hymns, like them, find them and then learn them.  These are rich words indeed and, for the most part, have very accessible and beautiful tunes.

The hymn for today – one of my personal favourites:

What Wondrous Love is This

1. What wondrous love is this,
O my soul! O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse,
For my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse, for my soul.

2. When I was sinking down,
Sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down;
When I was sinking down,
Beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside his crown,
For my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside his crown, for my soul.

3. To God, and to the Lamb,
I will sing, I will sing,
To God, and to the Lamb, I will sing;
To God, and to the Lamb,
Unto the great I AM,
While millions join the theme,
I will sing, I will sing,
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

4. And when from death we’re free,
We’ll sing on, we’ll sing on,
And when from death we’re free, we’ll sing on;
And when from death we’re free,
We’ll sing, and joyful be,
And through eternity
We’ll sing on, we’ll sing on,
And through eternity we’ll sing on.

There are some alternate verses – they are not in common use and I haven’t included them here – but they are worth finding.  The most common hymn tune is right here, though I think that this version is about 24 bpm too slow.  There is also a men’s ensemble singing this hymn here (on youtube).  Once I heard it, I had to link it…it made me laugh but, actually, it’s pretty good.  Use this hymn in a public setting or in your private devtions at some point this week!

With the end of lent approaching, we find ourselves in the last couple of weeks before we commemorate the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ.  As Christians, this is an important time in the church calendar – a time for us to reflect a little more than we normally would just how the last days of Jesus must have felt.  I think that it is good for us to work together corporately to try and experience these varried emotions: the joy of Palm Sunday, the darkness and confusion of Holy Week, the misery of Good Friday, the sadness of Easter Saturday, and the extreme gladness of Resurrection Sunday.

This year at the church I attend, we are going to attempt to work through some of this stuff corporately.  We will spend time rejoicing on Palm Sunday; shouting with the crowds “Hosanna to the Son of David”.  On the following Tuesday we will begin the journey towards the cross of Good Friday with a series of readings and a candle ceremony.  On Wednesday evening we will be joining together in a Passover Seder.  Maundy Thursday will be observed with the help of the sanctuary choir and a Taize service.  Good Friday will be a time where can agonize, with the disciples, as Christ is crucified.  And, of course, Sunday will be a jubilant celebration – – a time to lift up our voices and sing praise to a God who performs mysterious acts – – who is raised from death, defeating it in the process.

I would encourage you to find like-minded people to experience Holy Week with.  From previous years I can say that it is well worth it.

I was reading several blog entries about the conference and thought that I should probably take a few moments to write a post of my own.  Since it seems to have recieved some criticism, I think I might make some comments about the opening worship set.

Firstly, I should tell you that the worship team was put together by its leader – Darryl Silvestri – who is one of the four founders of the Epiphaneia Network.  Besides Darryl there was John (bass), Sarah (vocals), Robyn (violin), Dan (guitar), Dave (guitar), myself (keys) and a drummer (whose name eludes me…sorry 🙂  This was a talented group of vocalists and instrumentalists – influenced by a cross section of musical styles and worship backgrounds.

Secondly I would like to say that I appreciate Darryl’s creative approach to worship.  He enjoys drawing on music which is not typical Christian music and, in some cases, is even borrowed from artists whose music is not written to be used for Christian worship.  He places high value on both musical and thematic flow.  His song choices also, most often, have very through provoking lyrics.  His chord choices are not flashy and his arrangements are not showy.

I would like to comment on the content of the morning worship set.  It had a fair number of accessible songs…and a couple of songs people would probably not have been able to actively participate in.  The theme of the worship set was clearly God’s Power – appropriate for the day,  I would say.   The people were invited to recall the debt of gratitude we owe to Christ and his gracious invitation to us, we transitioned into the themes of God’s greatness and preeminence.  Then we declared Christ’s overcoming death and the grave.  Finally, we sang a song based on Matthew 11:28 – Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.

As someone who appreciates a certain amount of formal liturgical flow, I would have appreciated some scripture lessons, a call to worship – maybe something responsive and a couple of thoughtful prayers.  I think that this also would have been something that a large number of those in attendance would have connected with.  I would also say, in regards to the second set, that the music itself was simply a little too inaccessible.  It was too cutting edge for the crowd.  I’m not sure I would have been able to participate very much in the second set if I hadn’t learned the songs in advance…and I think that, regardless of how thoughtful the song choices are, if people are not able to be a part of what is happening it can quickly turn into a performance (if not for the performers, at least for those listening).  I’m sure that this is not what Darryl really had in mind for the second set.

I would like to say, for those who have been thoughtlessly critical about the morning worship set (either in your wisecrack emails to member of the network, weblogs or general friend to friend chat): work harder when you’re in situations which are not entirely comfortable for you.  Many of my best experiences in worship have been in situations I was not able to immediately connect to the concept or content of the worship.  To lash back in a way which degrades both the performer and the offering is unfair and unbiblical.

I hope the day comes where we see a beautiful marriage of plainsong, all forms of classically inspired music, gospel songs, rock and contemporary genres as well as ethnically inspired songs and multiple-language use in worship.  I hope that the music is performed by orchestras, rock bands, choirs, drum circles and other ethnically inspired music forms.  And I hope that these songs are sung, painted to, danced around, thought about and engaged on many, many levels.

We’re probably not as far from that as we think.  Epiphaneia: I think it would be very forward-thinking to branch out next year during your designated worship sets.  You have what it takes to make this happen.


March 15, 2009

Sometimes life throws us a surprise or two or three or four.  One of today’s surprises is that I felt like logging into my web log and typing.  Some of you will be as surprised as I am!  Most of my experiences with surprises have been positive…some not-so-positive.  But I think I wouldn’t want life without them.  Surprises make us think on our feet.  They give us a sense that there are things around us which ought to be appreciated just a little more.  They also jar us and make us think.  Surprises can bring the greatest ecstasy or the deepest sadness.  They remind us that life is more than a monorail ride…it’s probably an RV adventure – planned and sort-of-not planned (I sense that the Rev. Stephen Thomson would have appreciated that).  And, as much as I don’t necessarily LOVE surprises (even good ones, sometimes!), I do think that they throw some oft needed adventures into our lives.

I think that Jesus likes surprises.  Maybe that was part of the draw to invite people into situations which were surprising — homemade mud, healing robes, growing limbs, party favours, seedy company, fishermen-turned-evangelists…a trip to Jerusalem, a defenseless trial, a humiliating death, a miraculous resurrection and ascension.

I suppose the apostles’ greatest surprise – seeing their great friend and messiah defenseless, powerless and lifeless – ended up paving the way for their greatest revelation.

So, bring on the surprises – – at least a few…preferably spread out over a long-ish period of time AND the right people to either celebrate with me in my surprises OR pick me up and stand by me in my surprisedness (read that like blessedness – with the extra syllable on the -ed).

Here’s to hoping that writing once in a while is not such a surprise!

Tonight’s Concert

June 1, 2008

I’m not sure that I have my wits about me right now…I’m pretty tired and living in the wake of a pretty extraordinary event.  But I thought that I would write a brief posting just so that people could know what I considered to be the highlight of the evening.

Some people were really impressed with the Brahams…it was lovely.  Other people were struck by the organ solo.  Ian Sadler is one of the greatest organists in these parts…what an amazing guy to work with.  Many others were handing out tons of compliments in respect to my own composition – A Suite of Psalms.  These things were all great.  But to be honest, I’m not sure that any of these things were the highlight.

O, to be sure, hearing my own composition performed by such excellent musicians was an extreme high…a thrill…one of the greatest experiences of my life up until this point.  The orchestra was wonderful and the soloists did a fine job.  I hope that this is an experience that I have the privilege of having again (and as soon as possible!!).

But the great thrill for me is that this piece could be premiered in a room which contained SO many of the people I love.  There were people in that room tonight from many different parts of my life.  That, I love.  And, after all, what good is music if the right people aren’t present to enjoy it.  SO – thanks friends, acquaintances and family.  It was a great night to be together

a big week…

May 28, 2008

So this is a pretty big week for me…in fact it may be one of the biggest weeks of my life up until this point!  It’s hard to believe that so many people are conspiring together to show case my own composition..it’s almost…weird…

Still – it’s happening – and I am so excited…and nervous.  In fact right now I am blogging because I’m having a difficult time sleeping!  Let’s see…what do I have left to do this week…well rehearsal with the orchestra tomorrow night!  Then Thursday pick up my tux…Friday is a day to fix anything that needed to be fixed as a result of our Wednesday night rehearsal…and then dress rehearsal with both choirs and full orchestra is at 3:00 on Saturday…wow I’m getting knots in my stomach just thinking about it!!

I suppose everything will be fine…hopefully more than fine 🙂  However, it is still hard to just forget about the nervousness.

Hope that I’ll see everyone there at teh concert…it’s May 31st (this Saturday), 7:00 p.m. at St. Paul’s on Bloor St. between Church and Jarvis…tickets are available at the door…$15.  Good night!

From Dion Oxford at the Gateway

hi all,
well, i’m sheepishly writing what may come accross as the most pretentious note of my blogging career.
i’ve been selected as one of three finalists for the canadian living magazine’s “Me to We” awards in the social action category.

and to make matters worse, i’m posting this note in order to ask you to vote for me.

now don’t get me wrong, this truly is an honour for me and i’m deeply grateful and humbled to be considered for this.

but, it seems far less than humble to beg my friends to vote for me in this.

so, in order to justify why i think it’s relatively safe for me to ask people to vote for me, you need to know that the winner will receive $5000 to go towards the charity of their choice. and due to the fact that the shelter that i work at, Gateway, could really use that money (www.thegateway.ca), i am writing to ask people to take a moment and cast a vote for me online. and i guess i’ll take it one step further by asking you to forward this info to folks on your e-lists that you think might be supportive of this.

it’s easy. just go to www.metoweawards.com and click on the button with my face on it and i think that’s all there is to it. the person with the most votes by June 1st wins.

thanks for considering this


PS – Dion is my cousin…


Of all the many awesome things I could have been doing this weekend, I cannot think of anything that tops the wicked awesome time I had living, eating and working with some of my most wonderful friends.

This weekend we had the privilege of leading the Free Methodist Church Conference in worship at the Toronto Airport Marriott.  It went from Friday evening until Monday afternoon and was full of challenge, hard work, unexpected turns…the whole gamete.  I was joined by Katy Darley, Shawn Batten, Jonathan Beckwith, Dave Kentie, Craig Bertrim, Faith Amour and Jason Penney in what was really a great lineup – flexible, talented and plain fun to work with.

If I could spend my whole life playing for retreats and conferences with people who I consider to be among my best friends, I would!

My favorite moments are the moments which just hit me (or us!) out of nowhere…the kind of things that are not planned or expected, but just happen.  It’s when tv’s start to fall and someone has to catch them…or it’s when you and your friends are eating and you go to leave and someone you don’t even know has picked up the bill…or it’s when you sheepishly notice your face up on the big screen with sweat pouring off it…or it’s when you see someone you haven’t seen for a while and rekindle a friendship…or maybe meet someone you’ve never met before.  It’s sharing moments where you connect with someone or something on the level of the unexpected.  I love that!

Well…that’s all for tonight.  Just wanted to let the blogging world know that I feel very happy to have been part of such an awesome experience.

Good night!