July has been a particularly fruitful month, especially musically, but also in all things theological, educational, and other good things. More of the other things in due course, but this is mostly about the music and/as theology! My book God in Sound and Silence: Music as Theology was reviewed in the journal Theology, and my review of Andrew Gant’s Johann Sebastian Bach was published in the same volume.
Maeve Heaney and I had been planning a paper for a conference and to publish, and, whilst we’d done some work from afar, we really needed to put our heads together in the same space. So Maeve flew up to Cairns at the start of July, reminding me to be grateful for school holidays. Putting work (that is, the work I am paid for) out of my mind for a few days, gave me the brain space to learn a lot about the theological method of Bernard Lonergan from Maeve, and bring that together with my work on autoethnography. We also worked on two songs we had written out of our experience. More importantly, we sang, we ran, we feasted, and we got to know each other much better!
I think the vulnerability inherent in sharing our own music led us quickly into a deeper friendship. So now she knows many secrets! 😂
That we were able to bring our own stories to an academic theology paper is invaluable, and I personally think the way theologians need to be thinking and writing. Moreover, the responses to our paper highlighted for me the importance of doing this work for others, for the theological community. Responses when I’ve played the song elsewhere show the need for new ways of expressing for the disgruntled, disaffected, disassociated members of the Church.
My song came out of a previously unexplored dissatisfaction with the Lord’s Prayer as the archetype of prayer. But I hadn’t even named that to myself as I was writing it. I was actually doing some reading for another theological group when I wrote out the prayer, and left space between each line, and I wrote ‘between the lines’ what I think the prayer is actually speaking to me. This was also influenced by a unit of work I was teaching to my Year 10 class, in which they were creating an imaginary Catholic charity to tackle a social justice issue and had to write a prayer for its flyer. We discussed the way particular words can block experience and prayer for some people, and how some language excludes. So they became my first (very gracious) audience for the song. The Marist Association in FNQ were my second audience.
After the conference, I had a good week driving around rural New South Wales, eventually ending up back in Sydney where I spent an afternoon on the roof of the hotel writing a few songs.
Then this weekend, it was a privilege to go to The SongStore studio with Maeve and record our two songs. Adrien is such a musical mastermind – our songs are much improved by his musicianship! Here’s my song: “Into Silence”:
And to hear Maeve’s beautifully written song, head across to her blog and click on the link that is the song name.
“God creates them and they find each other.”