view from my pew 3

Hello again to my growing internet fanbase. It’s Mr Grenville-Stubbs here again with another of my views from my pew.

Some of you will have heard of my highly successful late night radio show on our local radio station: Hymns On My Organ. I have had  my Hammond organ for 35 years and people write in with suggestions for me to play on it. It is one of my most prized possessions.

Lots of people ask for Amazing Grace or The Lord’s My Shepherd and while I am happy to play them occasionally I can’t play them every week. I prefer the really obscure suggestions, although some of the correspondence suggesting what to play on my organ baffles me because I have never heard of those hymns – I sometimes wonder whether people are having a joke at my expense.

organ
I suggest that if you do an internet search for ‘organ’ you exercise some caution!

I do struggle with some of the modern songs that we have to sing in our church. Some of them use romantic imagery about God that makes me feel quite uncomfortable. And others are so familiar with him – they lack reverence and awe. It doesn’t help that our Minister, Revd Philip Inneck-Tucker (or ‘Phil’ as he insists we call him) seems to think that we should repeat the same song twenty times*  so we can sing the words without thinking about them (really!!).

So you can imagine my surprise when I got a letter from ‘Phil’ asking me to play something in my show. At first I was suspicious but this is what he asked me to play:

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
Refrain:
Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.
O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
Refrain
What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
Refrain
I had to look it up in Sacred Songs and Sea Shanties, as I had never heard of it, but I was pleasantly surprised. Phil wrote in his letter that it was based on Deuteronomy 33:27 “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms”. Apparently it was written in response to the news that the wives of two of the writer’s former pupils had died. Phil didn’t explain why he had asked for it but I played it on my show anyway.
The next Sunday when I saw Phil after the service he looked like he had tears in his eyes. When I offered my hand for the post-service formality he ignored it. I was shocked… and then he gave me a hug!

Well, I can tell you, we never got hugged by our previous Ministers!

Shame, really.

Q.R.Grenville Stubbs

Be blessed, be a blessing (as Nick likes to write)

*I might have exaggerated about the twenty times a little bit.

mix tape

What's the link between this and a pencil? There's a generation growing up who have no idea!

To celebrate our Silver Wedding Anniversary Sally made me a mix tape. Do you remember doing that? If so, you are a lot older than you are admitting!

Well because she is a 21st Century woman Sally’s mix tape was not on one of these old fashioned cassette tapes that used to get mangled by the machine that was supposed to be playing the music. It was a Spotify playlist.

It took me a while to negotiate the vagaries of the system but (with my son’s help) in the end I managed to get myself linked into the playlist on my computer so I could listen to the songs that she had chosen for me. It’s a lovely, special, beautiful selection of songs. Some are from our past and some were chosen because of what the lyrics say.

Music and songs are incredibly powerful. Something about the blend of music and lyrics makes them special. Words that we may have overlooked as poetry become memorable and take on a life of their own when set to music. Music that we may have ignored as background noise becomes more evocative when words accompany them.

Have you ever wondered why we sing in church? I think that the explanation above is one reason. The combination of words and music enable us to express emotions in ways that no other medium allows.

On Sunday evening at our church we are holding a Songs of Praise service (everyone is welcome – 6.30pm). In the service different people from our church have chosen a favourite hymn or song and will explain why it is special to them before we sing it together. I am really looking forward to it.

Last night, at our Prayer Meeting (you’re welcome to that too – first Thursday of the month, 8pm) part of our praying was introduced with these words from Psalm 107:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures for ever.

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story…

That seems to be a brilliant description of what we will be doing on Sunday evening.

But if you had been asked to choose a favourite Christian hymn or song, what would you have chosen and why? What does that song or hymn say about who God is, who you are, and your relationship with him?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

turning back

20140128_100003Good morning bloggists.

For those who are not looking nostalgically at the picture here today I should perhaps explain that it is a record player (aka turntable). It is the analogue way in which many people used to access their music. The record (the big black disc) rotates at 33 rpm and the needle or stylus (visible below the red bit) gently touches the record and runs in a groove that starts at the outside of the record and runs right the way through to the middle. The groove contains bumps and indentations that transmits vibrations into the record player where they are turned into sound waves that are amplified and fed out through speakers. (Yes, I know that it’s a low-tech description of what happens but it’s a low-tech bloggage today).

Records (or LPs as they were known (Long Playing records)) had enough space on each side for about 5 songs of average length. Yes, young people, they were double-sided! If you wanted to play a track other than the first one on that side of the record you either had to listen all the way through or try (with trembling fingers) to get the stylus to hover just above the ‘silent’ groove that existed between tracks so you could start at the right place. Of course they were not very portable!

When cassette tapes were introduced they were seen as the thing that would kill off record players. You could record what you wanted on them, and even re-record! They were still analogue but much more portable. You could play them in your car, and when Sony revolutionised the world with their Walkman you could even listen to your own music as you walked around outside your home!

Then Compact Discs were introduced. These were revolutionary discs that held much more than one side of a record and were digital (oooh!). We were told initially that they were scratch proof and indestructible (wrong and wrong). These were going to kill off record players.

Other tech tried to muscle in on the market – did anyone else have a Mini Disc player which seemed to be a compromise between cassettes and CDs? They could hold a lot of songs, you could skip through the disc easily, they were portable and the discs were small. I imagine when they were introduced the designers felt that they would kill off record players.

Next we had the advent of the iPod and MP3 players which didn’t even need a disc! Surely they would kill off record players when you could download your music from that new fangled internet thing?

And now we have streaming music websites so you don’t even need to own the music to listen to it! The record player is dead.

Long live the record player.

You see the strange thing is that record players are still being sold. Records are still being released. In fact although record sales plummeted in the face of all the new tech, they are now recovering!

Those who know about these things tell us that the analogue sound of a record is much more authentic and richer than the digital sounds of the later machines. (Analogue tapes have not survived because they are easily stretched or broken, but if you want a challenge, young people, try to work out the connection between a cassette tape and a pencil.) Having discarded records in favour of other tech we are discovering that there is actually something to be valued and treasured in the traditional and apparently ‘old fashioned’ turntable.

You have probably worked out where I am going with this, so let me just declare it as a parable about church or Christian faith and let you do the rest of the work.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

co incidental music

Rainbow Into CdTwice this week I have had unusual experiences with music. On Sunday I was asked to speak at a church up the road in Ipswich. I was not leading the service and didn’t know what songs would be selected. I was listening to (and singing along to) a CD of worship songs and was struck by some of the lyrics in the song ‘Over all the earth’ by Brenton Brown:

Over all the earth,
You reign on high,
Every mountain stream,
Every sunset sky.
But my one request,
Lord, my only aim
Is that You’d reign in me again.

Lord, reign in me,
Reign in Your power;
Over all my dreams,
In my darkest hour.
You are the Lord of all I am,
So won’t You reign in me again?

Over every thought,
Over every word,
May my life reflect the beauty of my Lord;
‘Cause You mean more to me
Than any earthly thing,
So won’t You reign in me again?

When I had sung it before I had always thought of ‘my darkest hour’ being like the ‘valley of the shadow of death’ in Psalm 23. And it most definitely can mean that. But a different meaning struck me. Sometimes my ‘darkest hour’ relates to when I am at my darkest – when I am being an appalling free sample of Jesus. At those times I need to hand back sovereignty of my life to him again.

I flicked the CD back to sing along to the track again and cranked up the volume. I then sang my lungs out as I drove along. And then the first ‘coincidence’ occurred. I felt very strongly that God was saying to me that we’d sing it again in the church that morning. And we did! I am still working out quite what that means, but it made me grin when the music group started up with the intro!

Then on Thursday evening I was talking with a friend from the church about grace. Not saying a prayer before a meal, but God’s lavish, astonishing, awesome grace. I felt very strongly that it would bless my friend to listen to U2’s amazing song: Grace. I put it on the CD player, selected the track and sat down. Three notes after the song had started (it has a beautiful harmonic musical intro that lasts over a minute) my friend asked me to stop the song.

I did so, a bit confused.

He told me that earlier in the week he had burnt a CD of his favourite songs to listen to in the car and when he played it there was a track that he did not recognise, had not bought and had not intentionally burnt to the CD. It must have been one of his wife’s songs and somehow he had selected it. It was this song. Grace:

Grace, she takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name

Grace, it’s the name for a girl
It’s also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything

Grace, she’s got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She’s got the time to talk
She travels outside of karma
She travels outside of karma
When she goes to work
You can hear her strings
Grace finds beauty in everything

Grace, she carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl in perfect condition

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace makes beauty out of ugly things

It was a quite astonishing ‘coincidence’ that this song had found its way onto his CD and that I had felt prompted to play it to him!

I’m not claiming that these are massively significant super-spiritual moments or that I am at all super-spiritual (far from it!). But they both felt very special to me when they happened and God blessed me through them. They reminded me that God can speak to us in all sorts of ways if we’re listening for him. Sometimes he underlines it with ‘coincidences’ and sometimes he gets our attention by the way he has brought about the ‘coincidence’ outside our control.

It is axiomatic that the more prayerful I am the more ‘coincidences’ happen.

Be blessed, be a blessing.