Sunday, May 20, 2012

Music Unity and Spirituality

There are times when religious and community calendars intersect to inspire and challenge us.We have such a coincidence this week.  From 18-27 May in Brisbane we  celebrate Cathedrals' Week with concerts and performances at our city Churches.  This week is also the launch of  Making Music Being Well. between May 21-27 and across the nation we are invited to join the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Brisbane is home to two wonderful Cathedral buildings with diverse styles and vibrant communities. My home Cathedral of St Stephen sits at one end of a popular city thoroughfare which runs from Central Station to Elizabeth Street. It's art work is among some of the best contemporary religious work in Australia and  the  surrounds are among Brisbane's most popular green spaces for city workers. You can view the google images of the Cathedral here One of the more bizarre moments in its recent history is an incident of a taxi driver who.managed to attempt a decent down the steps of the Francis Rush Centre in the Cathedral grounds.

At the "top end" of Brisbane is St John's Anglican Cathedral. The wikipedia entry for St John's notes that there is still work to be completed o this magnificent building including the installation of 29 life size statues on the west front and a set of cloisters on the north side of the Cathedral.Among the Cathedral's claims to fame is its organ However it doesn't seem to have a name as does the one at St Stephen's

So in tandem with great choral and classical works during Cathedral Week, there is also an opportunity to  celebrate the role of music in life by participating in the opportunities provided during Music Making for Well Being.

Music was one of the gifts my parents introduced me to in our family home. Before the TV set arrived in the lounge, we had a radiogram  and many hours were spent listening to my father's record collection of big bands, musicals and crooners. Each generation sings a new song and I discovered the protest music of the 1960s, particularly the songs and anthems of Pete Seeger. My life was changed by the music of this era and ever since I have sung the songs of freedom and justice that tell of our work to bring "wellness" to the most vulnerable in our midst.

The  Week of Prayer for Christian Unity  is not just a National event. It is also promoted by the Vatican Pontifical Commission for Promoting Christian Unity. The resources offered from the Vatican have been prepared jointly with the Commission for Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches. Perhaps it is indicative of the diversity of the Churches that the week is celebrated in different times in each hemisphere. As the Vatican resource points out:

"The traditional period in the northern hemisphere for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is 18-25 January. Those dates were proposed in 1908 by Paul Wattson to cover the days between the feasts of St Peter and St Paul, and therefore have a symbolic significance. In the southern hemisphere where January is a vacation time churches often find other days to celebrate the week of prayer, for example around Pentecost (suggested by the Faith and Order movement in 1926), which is also a symbolic date for the unity of the church".

Poland is the focus for reflection on the ecumenical movement this year and I was impressed if not surprised to see that two women were among those who prepared the worship resources. You can also access the sheet music from these resources on this site.

So what song will I chose to bring these diverse themes together for this amazing week?  I go back to the song that Pete Seeger made famous and was sung by a new generation for his 90th Birthday celebrations in 2009. We Shall Overcome is not a "soft folky song". It is an anthem of conviction that we aere gifted with amazing grace to overcome our divisions of race creed, sexuality, prejudice and fear to bring about the unity and well being that these three gatherings call us to build.

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