Friday, April 18, 2014

Thin ice and engine failure

     The other day I was listening to an interview with Canadian singer/songwriter/hymnwriter Veda Hille.  She sang a hymn that she had re-arranged, one associated with a small church somewhere up in the north of British Columbia.  It was a lovely tune, and the words were equally lovely, while being somewhat traditional.  And then she departed from the original version (as we learned later in the interview) and added these lines, after a petition for divine protection:

From sudden storm
Guns that jam
Late spring break up
Thin ice
Rogue bear
Engine failure, engine failure
Failure, failure*

She was writing, after all, about Inuit concerns.  Those folks do NOT want jammed guns when encountering a rogue bear, or engine failure during a sudden storm.  In other words, these were real concerns!  They struck me, and Mary Hynes (the interviewer), because they were so earthy, on the one hand, but also so out-of-context in a hymn.
       Yet they are so real!  Real concerns.
       I certainly know that we, as individuals, might often lift up such concerns to the Divine.  But how often do we corporately give voice -- especially with music -- to the immediate concerns of deliverance from alcohol or our equivalent of a "rogue bear".
        I remember, several years ago, attending a service in which a particular song/hymn had been edited so that the names of biblical plants and animals were replaced with the plants and animals of the Arizona desert.  The Prayer Book for the Anglican Church in New Zealand has done the same . . . so that we in North America, when reading that same song/hymn put in the language of the southern hemisphere, are struck by the inclusion of "kiwi" and "dolphin" and "avalanche" in a reading with origins in the Middle East.
       Yet, there is an immediacy in these kinds of changes.  A freshness to the language that causes me to sit up and take notice.  And I have to wonder what kind of spiritual exercise it might be for me to sit, reflect, and re-imagine how familiar words and phrases might be altered to provide fresh meaning and insight.  It is spring after all, let new life come forth!


Chaplain Gary

* The "Tuktoyaktuk Hymn".  You can hear it here.

No comments:

Post a Comment