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Sunday-- went to a service of Solidarity with Muslims at a mosque in Schenectady. It was satisfying to do so, and a really good experience. Nearly 500 of us-- mostly Muslims, Jews and Christians, but some Sikhs and Buddhists as well. It was mostly a time of brief talks from representative clergy and a couple of politicians. The worship space was quite beautiful-- a gymnasium-sized space, clean and white, chandeliers, colorful carpet, and two walls of enormous windows looking out onto treetops. It turned out that there was in fact a gymnasium underneath, as we found out when we started hearing thuds and feeling the building shake-- basketball game. The reaction among us guests was both sad and a little comical.

Tuesday-- one of my students and his mom arrived for his lesson in the midst of a blistering fight. He was in hysterical tears, she was tight-lipped and vicious, and used language about him, in front of him, that upset me terribly. All I could think to do was to get them apart, and help my student calm down; that went well. Student's dad is a close friend (and yes, they're still together), and I cautiously brought it up with him later. He felt that I had done the right thing, and thanked me for comforting his son; he didn't think direct confrontation would have been helpful. I still feel pretty uncomfortable about it; but it's the first time I've seen that in more than 3 years, and the dad is on it, so I'll just be watchful.

Thursday-- another mosque, this time called a Memorial Service of Solidarity. Older mosque, but still a beautiful and comfortable worship space for me. We were invited into the main space during prayers, and then back to a large anteroom for the main program. This time we heard from many more Imams, and much more Islamic content; and interestingly, the Christian contingent was mostly Catholic, rather than Protestant. We watched two short videos relating directly to the shooting in New Zealand. The program ran long, and at the end the host Imam apologetically said it was late, would we mind if they did the call to prayer right this moment, and then we could stay for prayer again and leave. And so the [cantor?] began the call to prayer; and the imam rushed up and turned him about 30 degrees, and he began again.

Today, in a complete change of pace, the kid and I went to the region's Garden Show. It's a little taste of springtime, and also a fun shopping time. Oddly, there are lots of winery booths, giving samples, so that's a treat. And.. well, I've been stalking a line of jewelry (Firefly) looking for the perfect necklace... and I found a necklace in the same style, but more suited to me, and way cheaper! So that's a score.
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A musician told me, years ago, that a major distinguishing mark of pop music styles (including Christian) from 1950 forward is that it’s eighth-note driven, and it works as a rule of thumb. For example, most older hymns are quarter-note driven; think of the generally slow walking beat. Then listen to an updated version, like a rendition by a popular singer-- and you'll hear flowing 8th notes accompanying it, to update. (Note: "rule of thumb" isn't ironclad; please don't bother sending me counter-examples, I acknowledge that they exist.)

Today i realized that hip-hop and rap are 16th-note driven, but less complex harmonically. The 8th-note driven music uses a lot of passing tones; hip-hop, at least as much as I've experienced, tends to just jump straight from one chord to another.

And then i remembered how much Bach performance music is also 16th-note driven; now I'm contemplating a mashup of Bach with one of the hiphop songs my young prodigy loves!
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Random thought… the gospels make it clear that the apostles couldn’t get a complete grip on Jesus’ message when he was right there, so why are people so eager to believe they/we can or have, or that the Church in any age has done so?
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Irene is one of those incredibly faithful church ladies. She's nearly 80, overflowing with energy, and throws herself wholeheartedly into everything at church. She's also intense and passionate to the point of making others uncomfortable. That passion is, sadly, probably why she has not been a deacon or elder in this church (where nearly every long-term member has served in one or the other role).

The pastor, admin and I are all women, and the three of us plus Irene have had running jokes about being the staff of Dibley (of the BBC show Vicar of Dibley). Irene claimed the role of Verger. Some time ago, Laura and I made her a crafty little pin with the crossed keys that denote the Verger in some denominations (also, amusingly enough, the Pope). Irene wears it constantly.

This year, to her amazement and delight, Irene was nominated for Elder, and accepted. I noticed on Sunday morning, she was wearing her Verger pin... but sometime after the moment of her ordination, she took it off. I think that pin has been giving her lots of comfort-- and I'm glad she doesn't feel the need for it any more.

A small group from the church went to hear Rev. William Barber speak; and last night we had a followup discussion. For a bunch of privileged white folk, I think it went pretty well, but there was one jaw-dropping moment. One person mentioned some dismay that we had recently shown a slide of a clearly white Jesus with all white little children during church (I didn't see it, rarely see any of the slides). Another woman said that she didn't think that's a problem since our children are "pretty much white." I think she's wrong, first of all. But second-- I did the children's story last week. There were only 3 children (it's winter break); and only one of them was white-- her son. The other two are Indian and Asian; I think especially she thinks of the Asian girl as being white.


Feb. 7th, 2019 04:25 am
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After much drama, we are getting the piano! (A baby grand for my church, if you didn't read my last post.) In fact-- we are getting it Friday! So now the drama is replaced by a scramble to get some of the other necessities and prepare the space.

tl:dr )
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Edited transcript of a chat with the delightful [personal profile] amaebi:

kayrevt: I also wrestled with Kung some more

Mary Ann: Did Kung yield rewards?

kayrevt: i am struggling to absorb him, at this point…. but he seems to be drawing a line from Catholicism failing to cope with Galileo and Copernicus, to Protestant fundamentalism

kayrevt: and i am finding myself admiring, again, the Amish and conservative Mennonites, for their honest and relatively consistent fundamentalism

Mary Ann: Ah! And its humility and Menschiness, I’m thinking.

kayrevt: yes, and actually largely following the teachings of Jesus even with regard to those who disagree with them (with of course the horrible exception of internal disagreement)

kayrevt: they reject as much as they can of modern society because to them it seems inconsistent with Christianity....

kayrevt: they don’t drive cars, use computers, participate in modern society to a huge degree, and then cherrypick certain areas to reject and revile

kayrevt: they also haven’t bought into the idolization of Logic and Reason

Mary Ann: Who idolizes logic and reason?

kayrevt: our typical American Protestant Fundamentalists (may I go with APFs?) try to prove their faith with logic and reason, in essence trying to beat modernity at its own game

kayrevt: Amish confronted with a fossil, will probably say more or less that they don’t know exactly how they fit with the Biblical creation story, and moreover, don’t particularly care

kayrevt: APFs have to find a logical (by their lights) explanation

Mary Ann: Ah, all that scriptural logic-chopping. Got it.

Mary Ann: And the long, long inference chains.

kayrevt: and when all that fails, the Devil  :p

(To be clear, I don't actually find the Amish position intellectually satisfying; I just admire their honesty and consistency in holding it.)
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Organ guy came Monday. The new problem is a failing power supply. Total cost came to $40 over what I was authorized to spend; I gave him the go-ahead anyway. We also discussed the fact that the pedal contacts badly need cleaned. I asked if the pedals plug in, as is often the case, rather than being hardwired-- and since the answer was Yes, asked if he would take the pedals with him in case I could also get that work authorized. He was happy to do so, so the organ is now an almost empty shell- no keyboards or pedals.

Session was tonight. This is all happening in the midst of budget time, so I was worried; but the church has a very healthy capital endowment. Apparently the total discussion was "So if this isn't done, we don't have an organ? That's what the endowment is for!" They funded everything, including the pedal cleaning.

And that silver lining of convincing the organ guy that I know a thing or two? Got it in a big way. Every single thing I mentioned hearing was born out. He was really surprised that I could hear the varying wind pressure. And when I told him that I thought I had once had a mouse in the pipe case, but not an ongoing problem, he immediately looked in... and confirmed that there were a few old, dry droppings but no sign of a current infestation. We are both wondering if a particular pipe that isn't working properly will turn out to contain a mouse skeleton!
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The organ I play last had major work done on it in the 1990s; some stuff is starting to wear out. My church is feeling nervous about money lately, but there's a substantial capital fund for maintenance, so I recently got $7000 authorized for replacement contacts on the manuals. They've been breaking one by one; this will replace all 120 of them at once, with a 5 year guarantee.

Last week I began to notice a little 'wobble' in the sound of the instrument-- uneven wind pressure. Yesterday during the nonmusical moments of a memorial service I was staring at the organ, and suddenly realized that the wind pressure indicator light was flicking on and off randomly-- off for a second or two, anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds apart. So there's definitely a problem in the air pressure-- leaky wind chest, failing motor, valve stuck open. The organ tech comes tomorrow morning. At this point my instructions are to tell him to go ahead with the keyboard repairs, and I'm able to authorize up to $700 for whatever the new problem is. If it's more expensive than that, which is all too likely, it'll have to go to Session (ruling body of the church) Tuesday night. Whee.

Tiny silver lining is that the tech is going to be impressed that I heard this before failure was obvious. Anything that convinces an organ or piano tuner that the organist or pianist is not a talented idiot is a plus.


Jan. 7th, 2019 08:02 pm
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Haven't posted about my research into the history of American Protestant Christian Fundamentalism for a while, partly because church organist/Christmas, but also because I got into a tangle over the early relevant documents. Today I think I finally sorted out my confusion.

The early blockbuster documents are indeed the 12 volume set of The Fundamentals, with multiple authors, of which I bought a set. Those were condensed into a four volume set in 1918. But the tricky part is that the main editor wrote his OWN Fundamentals-- The Fundamentals of Christian Doctrine by R. A. Torrey, 1918. And it appears to me that modern fundamentalists are most likely to be referring to his book rather than the first volumes, though I'm not positive of that. I've also read a reliable comment that his work is more extreme than the early collections.

At any rate, my research path is clear for a while. Continue to read Kung's Christianity. Read the first edition Fundamentals. Follow whatever tangents those two lead me on. Eventually scan the 2nd Edition Fundamentals, and then Torrey's book.

Today's tangents: R. A. Torrey, the YMCA, Muscular Christianity, "phophetic" (typo or no? it's complicated), Christoph Schrempf.
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The Affair of the Sausages

Who knew sausage could be so revolutionary?

Also, "The Affair is the subject of a 2016 cantata Geist und Wurst by Edward Rushton."
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Redbellied woodpecker has been visiting my feeders frequently, but he almost always perches on the far side. Today, on a bright sunny day, he spent quite a bit of time where I could get a clear pic!
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Holidays are always weird and stressful; this one has not been an exception. I've already written about Christmas Eve madness. But before that, Thursday afternoon I was at church chatting with three friends. My beloved friend Irene pointed out that some candles needed to be placed on a ledge near us. She jokingly asked permission to get up on a stepladder-- she's 79 and we wish she would not. I responded 'yes, with three of us here behind you.' Then, as she worked... well, all three of us found other things to do, and she went on working, and then I saw a sudden movement and realized it was her white hair tumbling down. We all rushed over, of course; she was conscious but calmly told us that "no, I don't think I'm all right" and then that her wrist hurt very badly. After giving her plenty of time to recover, she and I headed for Urgent Care, and learned that her wrist was broken. I've gone with her to assorted medical appointments since then, and Monday she'll have surgery to repair it. We all have agreed to share blame 4 ways!

Christmas Day my family cooked dinner for our Family Promise guests. They really are an especially delightful group this time. This morning I am waking up after sleeping at church; we provide two in-case-of-emergency folks each night. I came early, and had time to chat, so I got some good news. My church was dispersing some end-of-year donations, and when it came to Family Promise I mentioned that the director wanted an electronic piano for the Day House; so it was suggested (though not formally earmarked) that our gift could be used for that. Last night a guest told me the piano arrived yesterday, and that she very much wanted to learn to play! After further conversation, I'll be giving lessons to her as well as to young Joaquin and his father!
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So, the early service went fine; a bit stressful because of the need to warm up too much special music, and very crowded. Afterwards I raced home for a snack and a respite from the smoke of 150 candles blown out all at once. I returned quickly, though, as bulletins for the later service weren't done; I volunteered proofreading, which proved very necessary.

With that done, I went to practice piano ... alone in the sanctuary until I realized someone was looking over my shoulder. Our church is a Family Promise host-- part of a network of churches providing housing and a full range of social services for a few homeless families. Each church hosts evenings and overnights for a week; it's complicated but we make it work. This year our number came up for Christmas week, so we have two families sleeping in our Sunday school room. It was Joaquin looking over my shoulder; he's 10, Chilean, and here for some sort of medical treatment. He stayed for about five minutes; I acknowledged him but didn't try to engage, sensing that he'd bolt. He wandered out, and I took the opportunity to look up his name in my email.

I switched to organ, and there he was again. I said hello and asked if I was saying his name correctly. Gradually he got closer, and I asked him a few questions, and invited him to play. Mostly he nodded yes or no, but he did speak a few words with me, and was very happy trying out the organ. His father came in; Ardo has very little English, but thanks to Duolingo I managed to assure him that it was okay. Eventually I had to nudge Joaquin away, and told them "Yo cocino la cena manana; mas musica manana!" (apologies for lack of accents). My family is cooking their dinner tonight, and I do look forward to more music with Joaquin tonight!

Later our Family Promise coordinator was delighted to hear that they had both spoken to me; apparently that's a bit of a breakthrough. Best of all, our church just donated money to Family Promise for a piano at their home base "Day House"; I may be able to teach Joaquin for a while.

Best gifts

Dec. 19th, 2018 07:21 pm
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I believe I was in 4th grade when I got my first hymnal. My church choir did the chorister's guild hymn memorization program, where we'd memorize the first verse of 12 hymns each year. I did it for 5 years, and could probably still sing you all 60 hymns. The hymnal, embossed with my name, was the prize for the first year I completed it; there were other gifts for the other years.

It occurred to me, almost too late, that my two boy students are about that age, and very interested in music and church, so I ordered two of our denominational hymnals-- in a different color from our pew editions, just to play it safe. I was too late to have them embossed, but inscribed them both. Dylan was delighted, and then saw that some hymns have chords written in, and then he was *thrilled*. Jacob actually teared up and hugged me! Very very glad I followed that whim!
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I read the first essay of The Fundamentals before I began sharing notes here, so a brief review: it's a bit startling that the very first of these important essays is on The Virgin Birth of Christ, given that fundamentalists tend to be very wary of Mary (couldn't resist)... as it turns out, while the virgin birth is important in this scheme, the virgin herself isn't, and is hardly mentioned. The importance is strictly that Jesus was conceived in a miraculous way that shows how unique and special he is, and in fulfillment of Scripture as they understood it.
[personal profile] cellio asked when Bible study groups became a thing, and I look forward to following up on this. The broad answer is 'contemporaneously with Luther', thanks to Luther's emphasis on the authority of Scripture, and wide availability of Bibles thanks to translations and the printing press. But I will be looking for clues of how lay study of the Bible grew, and varied among different groups.
The 2nd essay is On the Deity of Christ. It argues that Christ's deity is proven equally by Scripture and by "the general fact of the whole manifestation of Jesus Christ, and of the whole impression left by Him upon the world." Basically the latter seems to boil down to "I just know it in my heart". The Scriptural arguments all tend to be self-referential; one verse 'proving' the truth of another, etc.

This one was written by one Benjamin B. Warfield. In reading about him, I'm surprised to find references to fundamentalism being a middle ground between intellectualism and revivalism; I tend to associate it with the latter pretty strongly. Another question to watch as I study.
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Part of my job is setting up a special Music Sunday during Advent. The children's pageant is always on the 'best' Sunday schedule-wise; not too close to Christmas but with maximum practice time. This year that's next week, and a lot of my musicians will be gone on the 23rd, so today was Music Sunday. Here's what my morning was like.

8:15 to 8:45 Personal warmup
8:45 to 9:15 Handbells warmup . I snarled at them about not following my tempos; after that they did really well on a very difficult piece (and I made nice and had them smiling by the end)
9:15 to 9:45 Choir warmup , including one piece with three bell ringers and one with flute. Miraculously I found the words to help them fully invest in the music. I chose easy choir anthems because of limited rehearsal time, and they elevated them today.
9:50 suddenly realized that the Kawai electronic piano wasn't patched into the sound system. Frantic deployment of cables followed.
9:57 Commenced prelude (our outside carillon plays until 9:55 so I don't do extended preludes.
10:00 Service begins. Introit is the choir/bells piece, and goes very well. That's in the front of the church; fast walk down the side aisle to the organ in back for the opening hymn and a sung response. Forward with my guitar for children's time; I play their 'exit music' on guitar and walk to the back with them. Forward again for the choir an flute piece, which was *amazing*.
Sermon time provides a brief break. Unfortunately my brain is too busy to listen to much of it. Hymn after the sermon. Another break for prayers, then offertory played by the handbell choir. It's the hardest piece we've done in quite a while. Someone told me later that I looked "even more like a conductor" today, I think because I was detail-directing, giving lots of individual cues, rather than mostly marking tempo. Race to organ for offertory response, final hymn and postlude.
About 20 minutes of social time after the service, much of it spent recruiting and coordinating music for the coming weeks.
Home for a 2 hour NAP!
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Since a number of folk have expressed interest, I'm going to try blogging my research process-- brief notes on whatever I read or explore. This'll mean incomplete, still-developing thoughts, and jumping around a lot. I'm not patient enough to do all my background research before going on to detailed reading; so I'm currently reading Christianity by Hans Kung, starting with the Reformation; and also dipping into The Fundamentals themselves.

From Kung today, a reminder that it's easy to think of history in terms of significant people and events, but it's important to keep in mind the larger societal developments that open the way for those people and events. i.e. Luther didn't cause the Reformation.
I am particularly pondering the relationship of the average Christian to Scripture through the ages. It seems important to note that until just a few centuries before the development of American Protestant Fundamentalism (going with APF from now on), most Christians didn't read or even have a Bible. They only knew what they heard or were taught. Even after the invention of the printing press and translation/printing of the Bible, literacy rates were very low.

Questions and comments are welcome. Telling me All the Answers, not so much, unless you have at least read Kung and The Fundmentals and quite a lot more on the subject. Thanks!
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I recently picked up a cool book on beginning drumming for children. It uses mostly standard notation (piano notes), though it does also teach drum notation. I'm hoping it'll provide a fun way to teach rhythm without the distraction of pitch. I tried the first few lessons with 4 of my students this week.

One complained that drumming hurt her hands, but maybe we could try it again with shakers or other rhythm instruments.

It worked brilliantly with two students.

And the fourth student, as soon as he had a drum in his hands, morphed into Animal from the Muppets.
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