From Hip Hop to Hosanna

Within the past eight days Jean (my wife) and I have had the privilege of experiencing two events which have had a refreshingly profound effect on us, and for me have enhanced my understanding of the word “church”!

The first was on Sunday 16 June when we spent ten hours – from 8.00a.m. to 6.00p.m.- in the Good Hope Centre, Cape Town, attending a national Hip-Hop Competition in which our two Johannesburg granddaughters were participating.

Never have we sat through such a long day at any event and so enjoyed it! Never have we endured music at such a pitch and volume and come away without the trace of a headache! And this, I believe, because it was an experience of the vibrancy of young people enjoying themselves; expressing themselves; and sharing their exuberance for life in a spirit of discipline and commitment, with a large “congregation” of young folk and adults, and thereby creating a real sense of community, of belonging. For me it was worship – worthship – a celebration of life in a spirit of love, generated by dedicated teachers/leaders (“priests/ministers” – dare I say so?) in a venue conducive to a feeling of complete at-homeness. For me this opened up a fresh insight into the meaning of the word “church”…..a diverse community of persons in communion together, celebrating life, the life of their experience in a venue designed to facilitate their giving of themselves in performance and celebration!

As Archbishop Desmond so aptly commented when I shared this with him: mobile casino “God is still around often in unlikely places. Yippee!”

And then, last evening, eight days later, the Dvorak Mass in D Major – another coming together of young and old in an appropiate venue – St John”s Church, Wynberg – for yet another experience of vibrant togetherness in the bonding effect of music-making under the inspired direction of our conductor (priest/minister?) Alexander Fokkens.

Every performance is embued with spiritual significance. There is a bringing-to-life of the multitude of “dead” notes on the printed score -a “resurrection”! There is the disciplined commitment of those gifted to sing, and the accompanist, responding to the interpretive insights of the conductor. And there is the amazing sense of community generated by the corporate spiritual involvement of the listeners. In a very real sense every performance becomes a time of “holy” communion. And all this is to do with worship – worthship! – worthship of the composer”s writing; worthship of the performers singing and playing; worthship of the listeners in attendance.

I was strangely moved by the comment made by my musical wife Jean immediately after this evening”s performance: “It was human”.. That touched me deeply. It was the very first time I had heard such a concise and profound summing up of a concert. Alexander brought the Dvorak score to life, and the instruments at his disposal were all human. And Jean experienced the whole performance as throbbing with life. The humanity of the performers responding to Alexander”s insight to the sensitivity of the work”s dynamics, touching the hearts of the hearers in their humanity. And so the embracing effect, the love-full effect. In fact, the mass effect of the Mass which encapsulates so much of the human experience of passion and peace, of tragedy and triumph. We all mattered worthwhilely – en masse! Indeed, an experience of “church” – communing community! I am convinced that after both these events many went home with hearts full of joy and hope.

Deo gratias!


Fish Hoek. 24 june 2013

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