Posts Tagged cross-cultural

New City Music Conference 2015 in St Louis MO July 23-26

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The Backwards Bike and Cross-cultural Worship

Edit: Oops, I used the wrong URL for the video. Now it’s fixed.

It turns out that riding a bike becomes nearly impossible when you rig it to turn the opposite direction. Your brain can’t perform all the processes when just one is reversed.

I wonder what this says about cross-cultural communication. How many brain processes go into singing, dancing, or performing a worship liturgy? What happens when you have to suddenly perform a familiar action like these but one or more of the “rules” have changed when you are immersed in a new culture.

It also says something about the power of our brains to adapt with practice. The video shows that after a few months of riding the bike everyday, you can teach your brain to adapt. There is a path toward understanding a new culture, but it’s not quick and easy. It’s also every difficult to be a “third culture kid” who has to “ride their bike” in many different ways.

When we face an issue from opposite sides of the cultural divide (#Ferguson, #Baltimore) why does it seem like it’s impossible to get someone to “change their mind” to see things from your perspective? Maybe we are assuming that we can give people the raw facts and make to make them completely change their understanding without the more long term process of relationship and community.

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¡Alabamos! – Resources for Worship in Spanish

This weekend at my church New City Fellowship, we are celebrating the cultural worship expressions of Latinos in our congregation. Our church has had a more vibrant relationship to Latinos in the past. Mostly through some leadership changes about 8 years ago and subsequently neglecting to intentionally invest in these relationships as we put more attention into our ministry with Congolese refugees, we have lost ground on this particular work of reconciliation. However, we have recently re-booted the work through the addition of pastor Jim Ward (no-relation), a missionary to Peru (and killer musician) who has relocated to St. Louis. So this weekend, we are going to sing all Spanish songs.

So where do we get Spanish tunes for worship? We have a collection of “oldies” that were part of our repertoire in the 90’s which fell out of use. A lot of these are Vineyard, Integrity or Maranatha tunes that have been translated into Spanish. This week, we’re going to be singing several of these which include:

“Grande Y Fuerte Es El” aka “Great and Mighty Is He” by Todd Pettygrove

El Espí­ritu Del Santo Dios” aka “Spirit of the Sovereign Lord” by Andy Park (an excellent setting of Isaiah 61)

Cambia Mi Corazón” aka “Change My Heart Oh God” by Eddie Espinosa

“Es Tu Sangre” aka “It’s Your Blood” by Michael Christ

We’re also singing some songs that have come from less familiar  sources (to “gringos”):

Tú Nos Creaste by Jesús Adrián Romero

Te Alabaré Mi Buen Jesús by Espinosa, Emmanuel

Alegría by  Steve Coronado (as preformed by Salvador. I can honestly say without exaggeration that this is one of my most favorite worship songs ever!)

That’s what we’re doing this weekend, but there are a couple of other resources you can check out if you need more ideas:

Libro de Liturgía y Cántico – is an excellent hymnal for Spanish worship done by the ELCA.

A few artists you should check out on Spotify: Jesús Adrián Romero, Marcos Witt, Salvador, and Danilo Montero. (I made a playlist you can check out.)

Sovereign Grace Music has recorded several Spanish worship CDs. We use a tune from Allí en la Cruz called Somos Tus Hijos. 

If you already have a subscription to CCLI’s resource website, SongSelect, you have acess to a TON of Spanish songs with lyrics, chords, and lead sheets! What they lack is an easy way to filter the songs so that you can get only the Spanish tunes. I had to use a publisher filter like for CanZion or a composers name, like Emmanuel Espinosa to see what was there. However, I recently discoved that you can find a lot of the top 100 tunes like say, Mighty To Save, translated into Spanish (Sólo Dios Puede Salvar) with lead sheets there as well! This is really important because Spanish songs often have syllables that get slurred together. Here are some more top 100 tunes to check out (try to guess the English titles!): Bendito Seas TúCuán Grande Es DiosEterno DiosSólo En JesúsDías De ElíasEres Fiel

Dios es bueno

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Resources for cross-cultural worship

New City Fellowship Music

  • New City Music [] – free pdf lyrics, lead sheets, and streaming demos
  • James Ward [] – purchase recordings and choral anthems
  • Kirk Ward [] – my blog and store

Modern Worship

  • Songselect [] – one stop shopping from CCLI’s music subscription service
  • Praise Charts [] – purchase individual songs with detailed transcriptions of the recording
  • Worship Together [] – good place to get ideas or find resource links (popular tunes often include Spanish lyrics!)
  • Sovereign Grace Music [] – less mainstream, but extremely gospel-focused songs

Hymnals and “The Hymn Movement”

Gospel Worship

International Resources

Recommended Reading:

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What is authentic music?

How do we determine what makes a song or a performance or worship experience authentic instead of commercial, fake,  entertainment, showy, etc? This seems to be a very important question especially to the marketing-savvy PoMos out there who are looking to “emergent” styles of worship. We want to be involved in real worship experiences that are not contrived from an attempt to force a worshipy moment to occur. This issue was the driving motivation behind the “Contemporvant” video that made the rounds a few months ago. Are we just faking it every Sunday? What is the culture looking for in our definition of “authentic” in worship?

Who defines authenticity?

This is the first question that we need to ask ourselves. Is folk music authentic? Does unplugging make things more authentic? What if you are playing Contemporary Gospel music? Is is more authentic to unplug then? Does informal attire, a lack of worship order, or popular style music define authentic? Does ancient prayers, iconography, candles and incense create authenticity? My questions should be leading you to see that the problem lies in the fact that “authenticity” is culturally determined. It’s not as easy to talk about what’s authentic when you are bringing many different cultures into a room. In the end, it’s always going to feel “faked” when a white dude like me attempts to lead a traditional black gospel tune. I’m not the “real thing”. Authentic gets determined by the culture in which the expression is coming from.

What about commercialism?

So another problem that comes up is the power of the almighty dollar. So much music is created just like any other commercially distributed product, with the bottom line as the primary motivation. If I write a song that sounds like Chris Tomlin, I will sell a lot of records because people want to buy more of what they already like. So, what might have been created (maybe by Chris Tomlin) as an authentic expression of an artist goes out into the world and becomes cloned by the business into a thousand versions of “How Great Is Our God”. This effect happens in every market on the planet. There is no musical genre or tradition that is immune to the power of the dollar to create clones. For every “The Beatles” there’s  “The Monkeys”.  This effect is even seen in the genres that people run to in order to get away from commercialism: folk, country, bluegrass, classical, hymns, jazz, blues, jam bands, punk, indy, metal, thrash all have bands or artists that are sell-outs and poseurs. What do we do to escape it? Do we reject any form of art that has any kind of market drive or value? How does a Christian artist both make money as a craftsman and at the same time preserve artistic integrity? How do we as worshipers choose music to use in our liturgies without just becoming the equivalent of a Top 40 radio station for our particular cultural predispositions?

Where does skill enter in to worship?

Here’s the place where skill starts to get tossed into the mix. Music that is performed with skill is by it’s nature commercially valuable in the same way that a well built chair or car will have value in a market where chairs and cars are in demand. A well written song or a skilled performer will be a commercial commodity. We all hate to see bad musicians become successful because they look pretty, and yet when a skilled musician plays in church, that can sometimes come off as too “showy” or “commercial” because they are playing at a level equivalent to that which we hear coming from the mass media. We might all agree that skill is good in God’s eyes, but in the practical execution, there seems to be an implied expectation in a lot of churches that a display of skill takes away from the glory of God some how. Many musicians adopt an “indy” or “hipster” aesthetic in order to reject what they deem to be commercial. They play songs without skill (simplistic harmony, minimal instrumentation, limited vocal range, intentionally bland vocal style, casual style presentation). I find it comical that there appears to be a hipster backlash that is sweeping the web and I supposed the culture in general. People are starting to see this as just another culture with the same rules of assimilation, popularity, and commercialization that go in to the formation of a tribal identity. But that’s a tangent…skill as it relates to authenticity is determined by the culture. There’s ebb  and flow within the culture as well as generational and class differences are taken into account.

Authentic vs. Accessible

In “Gather Into One”, C. Michael Hawn presents the problems of authenticity in relation to cross-cultural ministry. If I want an authentic experience of my worship music, I need to go to my tribal church. When I attend the church of a different tribe and they attempt my music, they will fail. Have you ever heard a traditional organist play a modern worship song? It always sounds lame (meaning lacking authenticity)and that’s not even a ethnic difference. So, when we blend tribes into one congregation, how do we create an authentic experience? The sending culture (let’s say Black, Pentecostal) has to adapt a song in order to make it accessible to the receiving culture (White Presbyterian). So what do we change and what do we keep? In the end, each culture has to sacrifice the right to authentic worship music in order to have something better: authentic relationships.

I rambled a lot and didn’t answer most of my questions. Can you help me to process this? Did this create any questions in your mind?

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Wilco frontman produces new Mavis Staples CD

Jeff Tweedy of the band Wilco helped produce this new CD by Mavis Staples. For you rock fans, Mavis Staples is from the Staples Singers who gave us “I’ll Take You There” in the 60’s. For you gospel fans, Jeff Tweedy and Wilco are an “alt-county”  band who gave us a lot of cool music that never gets played on the radio. I was digging the title track on “You Are Not Alone”. Her previous record “We’ll Never Turn Back” with Ry Cooder as producer is still on my wish list. So many CDs, so little cash.

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No place to lay our head.

“Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Tony Myles shared with our staff on Tuesday this quote from Jesus found in Luke 9. It was in response to a follower who declared to Jesus that he would follow him anywhere. I have made similar promises to Jesus in my most faith-filled moments. I have followed Jesus’ call to St Louis, into the city, into the adoption process, into conflict and into exile from the “American Dream”. My heart often longs to lay down and rest, to be at a place where I can settle down and be at home. We have found a home here, and we love our church and community. But, Jesus seems to be saying that discipleship in his kingdom includes a call into nomadic wondering, a kind of unstable and unpredictable place of dependence on the provision of the Father. Abraham knew that kind of faith. So did Moses, Joshua, and even David who spent most of his life as a political refugee.

In crafting worship music, we can often reach a good solid place to lay down and sit a while. We can find a set of songs, a style, or a philosophical method that feels good, makes sense, and gives us a communal anthology of symbols and texts that gives our people a place to be themselves. This is a good feeling, but the call of the kingdom is to resist the urge to create a permanent home. We have to pick up stakes and move on to the next place that the Spirit of God, a pillar of fire in the wilderness, leads us. In cross-cultural ministry, this gets played out over and over as communities change, generations pass away, and culture get’s messy.

Why can’t we just pick one style and stick with it? Why can’t we just build up a team of volunteers (or pros) who know what to do, and then we can just relax and do church in a simple, predictable, fashion? The call of Jesus into his kingdom asks us to trust in the provision of the Lord in the wilderness. He will be the bread of heaven for us when we are completely depleted of our resources. It forces us to be still before the Lord and allow him to fight the battle.

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