Review: Cultural Apologetics

cultural apologetice.jpg

Cultural Apologetics: Renewing the Christian Voice, Conscience, and Imagination in a Disenchanted WorldPaul M. Gould, foreword by J. P. Moreland. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2019.

Summary: Contends that in our disenchanted post-modern world, the apologist needs to engage in a culturally aware apologetic that appeals to goodness, truth, and beauty.

One thing anyone engaged in Christian witness for any length of time in a western cultural setting will tell you is that the landscape has changed. While the message of the gospel has not changed, the culture in which the message is shared has. Paul Gould’s one word description of that change is “disenchantment.” From a world shot through with the presence and majesty of God, the embrace of materialism and naturalism as all-encompassing accounts of the world results in a sense of the absence and irrelevance of God, and a culture that is sensate, focused on the physical senses, and hedonistic, focused on our desires. I found this intriguing, particularly considering the growing fascination with dystopian apocalypses, and conversely,  with fantasy and alternate worlds, that might suggest a longing for re-enchantment or despair of its possibility.

Gould contends that in this context, there is still a place for apologetics, but not that of past generations, focused exclusively on rational evidences, although these still have a place in Gould’s proposal. Gould contends for what he calls as cultural apologetics. By this, he means the “work of establishing the Christian voice, conscience, and imagination within a culture so that Christianity is seen as true and satisfying (italics in text).”

The author believes that a cultural apologetic that does this appeals to a universal longing for truth, goodness, and beauty. It is an apologetic that appeals to the longing of truth through reason (voice), that appeals to the longing of goodness through conscience, and that appeals to the longing for beauty through the imagination. The aim of this to foster the awakening of desire (satisfying) and a return to reality (truth) that constitutes a “re-enchantment” eventuating in the decision to trust and follow Christ.

Gould focuses a chapter each on imagination, reason, and conscience, employing C.S. Lewis’s approach of both “looking at,” and “looking along,” the latter considering the reality to which truth, goodness, and beauty point. The chapter on imagination draws upon Makoto Fujimura’s Culture Care (reviewed here), that makes the case for how beauty may open the hearts of people to faith, exemplified in Masaaki Suzuki’s recognition that the music of Bach is a kind of “fifth gospel” that has led to interest in or the embrace of Christianity among many Japanese. The chapter on reason contends there is a case to be made for recovering the lost art of persuasion and sounds at first glance the most conventional of the three. However, Gould moves beyond classic arguments to appeal to the plausibility structures and sacred cores of one’s hearers. The appeal to conscience addresses the longings for goodness, wholeness, justice, and significance and seeks to demonstrate in practice and examples how Christianity has made the world a better place and why that is so.

Addressing barriers to belief is an important part of this approach. It includes the internal barriers of anti-intellectualism, fragmentation, and unbaptized imagination within the Christian community. It also involves the external barriers of the belief that science disproves God, that objects to the exclusivity of Jesus, that believes God is not good, and considers the ethic of the Bible archaic, repressive, and unloving. Gould offers brief responses to each of these barriers and then describes the “journey home” from initial enchantment through disenchantment to re-enchantment as we join the “dance of God.”

One of the things I appreciated about this work amid the strains of anti-intellectualism in significant swaths of evangelicalism was the affirmation of intellectual leadership. He writes, “If we are to be strategic in our cultural apologetic, we must work to cultivate Christian leadership and a Christian presence within the halls of the academy. The perceived reasonableness and desirability of Christianity depends upon how effectively we accomplish this task” (p. 143).

I also appreciate the integrated appeal to goodness, truth, and beauty. It seems that we often prefer one of these to the inclusion. If reasoning about truth alone is not helpful, abandon it for beauty or goodness. Gould recognizes that to be human means we long for all three. Also, the posture of culture care, as opposed to culture clash assumes that people are drawn by desire rather than overcome by arguments.

Finally, Gould reframes rather than retreats from the apologetic task. It seems to me that this is vital in an age where many are not merely indifferent to Christianity but vigorously opposed, and willing to make a case against the Christian faith. He reframes apologetics in a way that challenges the church to live into its heritage: to abandon trivial banality for a rich artistic imagination, to abandon a slovenly anti-intellectualism for vibrant intellectual engagement, and to abandon moral compromise for a fragrant goodness. It seems to me this would be good both for the church and the world.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 

Seeking the Lofty

Wilder Quote

I came across this quote yesterday, on the birthday of Thornton Wilder, its author. It reflects one of the bedrock ideas of this blog. I am convinced that a life well-lived is shaped by the pursuit of the “lofty.” Any social structure, from a family, to a business, to a country flourishes to the degree that it pursues the good, the true, and the beautiful rather than the tawdry, the base, and the unjust.

The Apostle Paul said something similar:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8, NIV)

I’m struck with Paul’s repeated “whatever’s.” One might most naturally think of sacred scriptures, prayers, or other religious texts. Paul and Thornton Wilder agree. To read, hear, or see great works, whatever they might be, are necessary to “seeking the lofty.”

Implicit in both statements is the idea that there may be other than great things to read, hear, and see and other than lofty lives we might live. We are formed and shaped by what we read, and see, and hear, and think about for good or for ill, every day.

This blog represents my own attempt to curate a reading life around the qualities Paul mentions. As quickly as I read, I can only read in a lifetime a few thousand out of the vast number of books that have ever been published. The real question is, do I want a life that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy? If my answer to that is yes, then why would I read–or for that matter view or listen to–anything lacking in these qualities.

I don’t think this means that we only engage things that look like a Thomas Kinkade painting, reflecting some idyllic world. I would read no crime fiction were that case–nor  the Bible for that matter! Great works often do portray the underside of life, but their effect at the end of the day is not to encourage me to embrace that life, but to strive for something better, to repent my sins, to leave aside meanness and selfishness and small-mindedness.

It does mean that all of us become curators of the material we admit to the museum, the library, the concert hall, of our lives. Every publisher, every librarian, every museum curator, every one who creates a playlist curates. So do the people who feed us the news, whether via social media, online websites, print or televised media. The question is whether we will forfeit the curation of our lives, and the things we see, and read, and watch to someone else. It is an important question if we are “seeking the lofty.”

I don’t want to curate your life. My own is more than enough challenge, one for which I need great grace. I do hope that what I write, and the books I commend point toward some “great work” that may enrich at least some moments of your days. I sometimes despair that our modern world is descending into balefulness, barrenness, and banality. I need voices from beyond the void to remind me of the lofty. I hope in some small way I might be one.

 

Review: Our Deepest Desires

Our Deepest Desires

Our Deepest DesiresGregory E. Ganssle. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2017.

Summary: Makes the case that Christian faith, truly understood, is most congruent with our deepest human longings.

Gregory Ganssle believes that one of the most important questions we can ask is “what sort of person should I be?” and two other related questions: 1) what sort of person do I want to be? and 2) what sort of person am I becoming? These get at our deepest desires and commitments, the vision of the good, the true, and the beautiful toward which we aspire to live. In this book, Ganssle makes the argument that some of the basic human longings common to many of us are most congruent with the Christian faith. It is not that those who are not Christians, and Ganssle especially has atheists in mind, cannot embrace and pursue these longings. He argues that in fact they do, despite the fact that these longings are often dissonant with an atheist or materialist worldview, whereas they are consonant with a Christian worldview. He does not argue that this shows that Christian faith is true or that this “proves” Christian faith, but only that Christian faith is consistent with our deepest longings. He says, “There are many people who think that Christianity is false; I want to help people see that they really want the gospel to be true.”

Ganssle looks at four types of longings that he believes are consonant with the Christian story. The first is our value of persons and longing for relationship, that he sees grounded in a God who is personal and relational, the triune God, whose relationships are marked by submission and self-giving. The second is what might be called the problem of goodness, that we want goodness, even when we are faced with evil, that goodness seems somehow primary, that we want to be thought of as good, and and that goodness is good for us. The gospel is a story that grounds goodness in God, that accounts for our rebellion against it, and enables us to be what we long for.

We also long for and are drawn to beauty. We have a deep impulse to create things of beauty, that mirror the Creator. We long for beauties beyond what this earth offers in ways that suggest we are made for another world. And finally, we long for freedom, to live consistently with our sense of our best self, and the gospel proposes we are set free by truth, by a truth-shaped life, and enabled to live freely in the face of death because of hope. Ganssle concludes by proposing that if this case seems to make sense of our longings, then the next step is to determine whether the Christian faith is true.

What I like about this is approach is that he explores aspirations that are common to most or all of us. He raises what is a genuinely important question–how do we explain these aspirations? Are they just an artifact of our evolution and can they be explained in purely material terms? While he proposes that Christian faith is the best explanation, he recognizes that some may conclude differently and that each must decide what makes the best sense of our longings for love, goodness, beauty, and freedom.

His book poses a challenge for Christians as well. Does the kind of people we are becoming reflect the loving, good, beautiful, and liberating story we proclaim. Do we value people above programs–all people? Do we love goodness so passionately we pursue justice where it is lacking? Are our communities places that both celebrate beauty and evidence our hope in the beauty of the new creation? Are we consciously working to undo the personal and systemic evils that bind and limit people? In short, are we story-shaped people who find the fulfillment of our deepest longings in the story we proclaim? That, it seems to me, may be our most powerful apologetic.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Reading Versus Reviewing

twitter_reviewerOver the past several years I’ve transitioned from reviewing books simply being my way of remembering books to reviewing being a means of communication and dialogue about books through this blog. Along the way I’ve found that there are at least some aspects of reviewing that are in tension with just plain old reading for fun. A few of these are:

  1. The preference for new books. Reviewing tends to focus on recently published books. I was made aware of this the other day when I remarked that a book from 2009 (!) was an older book. When I was just reading, I paid no attention to these things.
  2. Reading to a deadline. This is particularly so if you request a review copy of a book. Most of the time, publishers hope you will write a review within 60 days. When you are just reading, you can get around to that book whenever you want.
  3. Thinking about the review while you are reading. Actually, I think this makes me a better reader as I am consciously thinking about the flow of the book, how I will summarize, what I want to highlight. I often don’t do these things if I am “just reading.”
  4. The temptation to read and review what people seem to be interested in. It’s fascinating that my most popular review of this past year was on Exposing Myths About Christianity. It wasn’t a bad book by any means but hardly the best I’ve read. Far less popular was my review of The Drama of Ephesians, which I thought a far better book. I just have to remember that I don’t get paid for this so viewer stats really don’t mean much. It’s what I’m interested in and even if just a few find out about a good book, it matters for them.

What all this does is help sharpen the focus of what I am doing. Above all, I am conscious that there are so few books out of the numbers being published that I can actually read in whatever life remains to me. I think about the exhortation of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:8:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

I don’t see this as confined to religious ideas which sometimes can be as untrue, ignoble, corrupted, unlovely, and despicable as any trashy novel. In whatever I read, I try to choose books that explore the good, the true, and the beautiful in life–whether in matters of faith, good science writing, a well-constructed mystery, or a biography of someone who has lived a worthy life. My tastes range across all these categories and more which is why you might encounter a review of a theology work one day and a baseball book the next. One day I’ll review a current book, another day one ten or fifty or a thousand years old.

And that leads to what I’m trying to do in this blog. David Brooks, in The Road to Character (reviewed here) speaks of wanting to initiate a conversation about our moral ecology and about what makes a virtuous life. While I have nothing of the reputation of a Brooks, it is something akin to this that I’ve been trying to do, whether writing about books or my experiences growing up in Youngstown. Along with classic thinkers, I believe that the well-lived life is one lived in pursuit of the good, the true and the beautiful. In what I read, think, and write about, I want to explore the sources of goodness, truth, and beauty, celebrate the various expressions of that, and consider how we might pursue such things together in a civil society.

So, if you are trying to make sense of why I review the stuff I do, both new and old, and what might be behind the other things I write about, this is the best clue I can give you to the methods in my madness!

The Company We Keep

Some of my companions

Some of my companions

We are formed by the company we keep.

That is a truism we have probably heard in one form or another from our parents or religious teachers from our earliest years. For some of us, the company we keep with God, or whatever we believe is ultimate, is profoundly formative. We can trace how families, friends, and colleagues have shaped our lives. Sometimes, we express regret when someone we know makes poor decisions shaped by ‘bad’ company.

Since all the above is pretty self-apparent, I’m not going to dwell there. Rather, I’d like to think about the company we keep as readers. Do we consider that the books we read (and other sources as well like blogs, social media, and various feeds) may also be forming us as persons in some way? Do we weigh how, consciously or unconsciously, what we read shapes how we see the world, what we value, and how we act? While I do believe that reading choices are a matter of taste to the extent that we enjoy reading different things from one another, I also believe that reading choices are not neutral. Our books may simply reinforce our beliefs and view of the world, could potentially skew our view of reality, or open up the world to us in new ways. Books have the power to enrich our mental life, or feed the “darker angels of our nature”.

This is not an argument for censorship nor for banning books. The same book that could be illuminating for one could be unhelpful for another. I think our speech freedoms, which include the freedom of authors to write what they will, and readers to choose, continue to be worthy of protection. Rather, this is an argument for mindfulness in the choices we make, considering the ways books might form us, just as those with whom we associate.

I don’t want to moralize about how others should make these choices but share some of the things, as best I can understand myself, that shape the company I keep in the books I read.

1. Is this a work that advances the good, the true and the beautiful? In this regard, I’m not looking for polyannish books, with sugary sweet outlooks. Rather, even in the portrayal of the evil and the bad, does it assume a moral universe? Does the book consider the pursuit of truth a worthy pursuit and not something to hold in contempt or cynicism? Is there an excellence of thinking and writing suitable to the genre of the work?

2. Is this a book suitable for the season of life I am in? It is a danger for me to read intellectually challenging books at times when I am mentally and emotionally challenged and cannot really engage their content. I’ve also become more aware that books that may insinuate doubt or despair may not be the best things to read when I am physically depleted or emotionally spent. I’m not saying I avoid such books but rather that I engage them when I have the mental and emotional wherewithal to assess them more objectively.

3.  This said, I want to ask myself if I am listening to voices that will reveal the blind spots in my own thinking or just reading books that reinforce my comfortable way of seeing the world. As a white, male, North American Christian from the Midwest, am I reading women, ethnic minority writers, those of other faiths and political persuasions, those from other parts of the world as well as other parts of the country? I will never understand completely what it is to grow up African-American in this country. But to listen to African-Americans, for example, can engage my imagination to begin in small ways to walk in their shoes and question the unthinking judgments I might be inclined to make. To listen to writers from the Majority World can help me better grasp the impact, for good and ill, that the West has on the rest of the world.

4. I do choose books that I think in one way or another I will enjoy and find life-giving. Particularly in the realm of fiction, I prefer books that are not laced with gratuitous violence, sex, or conspiracies. I personally do not find myself unchanged when I read such material, and that change not for the better. Character development, plot, and the quality of writing matter far more. If a book that I read does not in some way inspire and nourish my pursuit of the good, the true, and the beautiful in the rest of life when I’ve read it, I feel it a waste of time. Is it a book that will tell me what I already know, or help me explore what I know more deeply in a way that enriches my thinking and enlarges my perspective?

5. C.S. Lewis once counselled reading one old book for every new one we read to avoid the danger of chronological snobbery, our propensity to think that “the new is the true.” I’ve found Socrates, The Bible, Athanasius, Virgil, Boethius, Dante, Milton, and Chesterton as enriching as David McCullough, Anthony Doerr, or N.T. Wright, or even C.S. Lewis! I don’t achieve Lewis’s ratio of old to new but find our Dead Theologians reading group a help in reading older works.

I‘m curious how others think about the influence of reading choices on our character and how you make choices about the “company you keep” in books.

The Goodness Leading to Thanksgiving

Photo by M. Rehemtulla [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by M. Rehemtulla [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I am celebrating Thanksgiving today. You might wonder from my post on From Lament to Thanksgiving if today was going to be a somber affair for us. No way! There will be food, family, great conversation, and football.

“But doesn’t that contradict what you wrote yesterday?” No, and here is why. While there is indeed a “problem of evil” in our world, the larger “problem” it seems to me is that of goodness. Why is it that soldiers tell jokes in the midst of battle, and show pictures of sweethearts while in the trenches? Why is it that even in the times surrounding funerals, we cannot resist telling stories that evoke laughter, even about the deceased, or enjoying good food and drink? It is because somehow, we believe deep down that the good is somehow more enduring and real than evil, that life somehow prevails over death and that with all the evil we see, we live in a world shot through with goodness.

So much of that goodness comes in the ordinary warp and woof of life. Sometimes it is the amazing feeling of refreshment after sleeping in after a good night’s sleep. Sometimes it is that first sip from the first cup of coffee in the morning. Sometimes it is in the first hug and first “I love you” of the day. There are all the shared moments and shared memories that weave the tapestry of a family’s life together.

Then there is the work of our days. Some is around our home and particularly the making of a place of welcome together. I also work in an amazing organization filled with gifted people of every ethnicity using their gifts to pursue the glory of God in the university world. I’m often amazed to be counted among them and to have been blessed to share in this work for 38 years. I work alongside amazing students and faculty, brilliant people of character pursuing their work with God-honoring excellence.

I often find myself giving thanks and rejoicing in the beauties of artistic expression, poor imitations at best of the work of our Creator. This past Tuesday in our Capriccio Columbus rehearsal, the men sat and listened to a number of our women sing a beautiful piece as our director tried to figure out who should have the solo. What struck me was all the different ways our women sang this so beautifully. While they sang the same notes and words, nuances of emphasis and varying timbres of voice reminded me that goodness and beauty have so many expressions.

I don’t think days like Thanksgiving are an escape but rather a celebration that affirms the deep sense we have that goodness, truth, and beauty will prevail in the end. And it is a day to gives thanks both to and for those who mean so much to us, and for those who believe that all this goodness comes from a good Creator, to offer that thanks to Him. And so I eagerly look forward to our family gathering today when we may do all of these things.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I also want to thank all those who read and especially who comment on this blog. Much of the joy of writing it has been in learning of the joy or insight it gives another and the thoughts it provokes that you share, which often enlighten me as well. Happy Thanksgiving!

Review: Dogmatic Aesthetics: A Theology of Beauty in Dialogue with Robert W. Jenson

Dogmatic Aesthetics: A Theology of Beauty in Dialogue with Robert W. Jenson
Dogmatic Aesthetics: A Theology of Beauty in Dialogue with Robert W. Jenson by Stephen John Wright
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodness, truth, and beauty. This language of the “transcendentals” sounds inspiring and noble. But why do we believe in these things and what shapes our understanding of the good, the true, and the beautiful? Are there grounds for answers to these questions beyond our own experience and perception? Stephen John Wright, in this dialogue with his theological mentor Robert W. Jenson, and other theologians would answer in the affirmative, that is, in the Triune God.

But how might this God as the source of beauty be known? Wright would take issue with the analogia entis (analogy of being) approach of Erich Przywara and others and follow his mentor in proposing the centrality of Christology, our understanding of Christ, to our understanding of beauty. In other words, Wright would argue that we work not from our own experience up to an understanding of beauty in the being of God but rather that the being of God, as revealed in Christ, helps us understand beauty in our human context.

There are four foci to his argument and the organization of the book follows these. First there is beauty in relation to the Triune God. We understand there is a Trinity because of Christ’s incarnation but this then challenges us to understands the relations of the persons of the Trinity and the oneness of God and in so doing Jenson and Wright help us see the basis of harmony, proportion and simplicity in the Trinity.

Second, we understand beauty in the Incarnate Christ that reconciles on the cross suffering and ugliness in the creation with the grace revealed in our salvation and the restoration of all things through this act.

Third, in the creation of all things through Christ and the doctrine of creation ex nihilo we see that beauty and change and transience are not mutually exclusive and this distinguishes the beauty of the creation from the beauty of God. Wright does some interesting work here drawing upon Japanese aesthetics that are particularly attuned to the transitory beauty of creation.

Finally, and perhaps most interesting to me, was his treatment of beauty and the future or eschaton. As part of his discussion Wright notes a tension between language and music and that the poetic language often used to speak of the end points toward a reconciliation when we are caught up, to use Jenson’s metaphor, in the “great fugue” of God where our voices are joined to the harmony of the Trinity. (As a choral singer, I particularly loved that part!).

What struck me in reading Wright’s account is that this was a theology of beauty that was beautiful while never departing from scholarly engagement. Furthermore, and I guess this is because I would agree with his basic premise, I deeply appreciated the consistent recourse to the person and work of Christ as central to our understanding of beauty. This is truly a Christian and not simply a theist aesthetic. Finally, I found myself wanting both to read the work of Jenson, which I have not, and making a mental note to look for more from this young theologian.

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On Beginning a New Decade

If you are a friend on Facebook, you’ve figured out that today is my birthday. While all birthdays are something of a milestone (thanks be to God I’m still breathing!) the decade birthdays always seem pretty significant.

I turned 60 today. I was sitting with my wife the other night and talking about the fact that we had moved to our present home when I was not yet 36. How did that happen? How did we go from being parents of a kindergartner to wannabe grandparents? Birthday insight one is pretty basic: time passes and seems to go ever more quickly. Yet I have to say the years have been full and rich and I really have no desire for “do overs.”

A while back I heard Dustin Hoffman interviewed about this decade thing and how when we are younger we play the mental game of doubling our age, thinking that we have at least half our life before us and how at 60 that becomes a pretty doubtful exercise. Birthday insight number two is realizing that I my days are numbered in this body and that it is crazy to live one’s life without reckoning with one’s mortality. That said, much of my response is an ever-increasing gratitude for each day, a joy in those moments of wonder, and a passion that each day would matter for time and eternity. It is interesting how the passage of years brings a focus to one’s life.

As I’ve approached this milestone, it has become increasingly clear that I’ve been given so much through all these years, including physical stuff and that a major occupation of these next years is giving it away–either that or saddling my son with that task. But it is not only physical stuff.  Life at this point is not about acquiring more status or protecting whatever status I have. I’m not sure that is ever what life should be about, but at this point, it is increasingly apparent what a foolish game that is. Rather it is time, and more than time to celebrate and bless and affirm the gifts of those in the rising generation and make space for the exercise of these. So birthday insight number three is that at this age, it is time to give away your stuff!

There are a number of ways that we can say life is hard, and the truth is, getting older isn’t for the faint of heart. You see more heart-breaking things, from the death of close friends to the troubles of the world. You become aware of joints you never knew you had. Things just don’t heal as quickly. Yet we celebrate birthdays, and I don’t think this is simply that we survived another year but that underneath and deeper than the hard stuff is a consciousness of a goodness to life.To be alive, to behold the world’s beauty, to grow older with the love of one’s youth, to continue to tend our gardens, to sing great music, and to enjoy a good party–all these things reflect a deeper reality. I don’t think these things have to be a denial of hard realities but rather a statement of faith that there is a deeper goodness, a deeper truth, and a deeper beauty. So my last birthday insight is simply that it is good to celebrate these days and even these decade birthdays, not simply for the joys of the past but the hopes of yet more wonderful things to come, come what may.

And so I will enjoy this birthday–family celebrations, the wishes of friends, the perks of becoming a “Golden Buckeye”, and most of all, the quiet shared moments with my wife. So glad to be on this journey with all of you!

 

 

Why Do You Sing…?

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Do you ever find yourself in the midst of what you think is a routine event and discover there is something special and wonderful going on?  Last night was like that.  It was our first rehearsal of the year for Capriccio Columbus.  This is my sixth season with this wonderful choral group in central Ohio.   Like many rehearsals we sang a mix of music I was familiar with and new music that I stumbled through.  That was pretty typical!

What wasn’t typical was a time of introductions that followed.  We began by hearing from one of our patrons, who spoke of how Capriccio has given many singers the chance to sing with a symphony orchestra, to sing great choral works at a high level of excellence, to make music rather than just listen to it.  I found myself resonating with all this. I’d sung with a few church choirs over the years and attended many of of my son’s concerts in high school and college.  Five years ago, I decided that I was tired of listening to others sing and that I would audition, which seemed crazy–I’d never auditioned in my life and my audition practice was rehearsing a piece of Beatles music in the car returning from a work trip to Pittsburgh on the afternoon of the rehearsal.  Amazingly, they let this amateur join! Over the years we’ve sung the Brahms RequiemCarmina Burana, Vivaldi’s and Rutter’s Glorias and lots of other amazing music.  And I’ve gotten to sing with a symphony numerous times.  That’s a dream come true and an item off my bucket list!

Then all the choirs members were invited to introduce themselves.  And this was when I realized that I was in the midst of a very special moment as person after person spoke of how much they looked forward to Tuesday rehearsals, had come to us from bad choir experiences and discovered both an excellence and a joy in singing they’d longed for, how these evenings together were a ‘sanity break’ from work or parenting young children.  I realized afresh how blessed we are to have skillful directors in Larry Griffin and Karrie Horton for whom singing well and having fun go together.

I think one of the things that connects my love of great books and love of singing great music is the coming together of goodness, truth, and beauty these have in common.  As Paul the Apostle writes in Philippians 1:8:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.