“Away from the Manger (Refugee King)”

“Away from the Manger (Refugee King)” written by Liz Vice, Wen Reagan, Bruce Benedict, Greg Scheer, Lester Ruth. © 2018 Cardiphonia Music.

Performed by Clayton Faulkner and Annika Becker (oboe) for Lessons and Carols for Advent 2019 at Faith Lutheran Church, Bellaire, TX.

Download the original chord chart here.

Download my arrangement chord chart here.

Download the oboe/C instrument part I wrote here.

While we were planning for the Lessons and Carols service this year, there was a question as to what should be the carol sung between the last two readings (Luke 2:1-7 and John 1:1-14). It was very providential that I came across this song last week when trying to decide what that last carol should be. It turned out to be quite fitting not only for that spot of the service, but also for the larger season of Advent, and the situation of our world today. One attendee said, “the words were so very appropriate for us to hear with so many babies and young children being held in confinement centers at our borders.”

The connections this song subtly makes are jarring. Jesus was a refugee. His parents were terrified. They were running for their lives. The same is true for immigrants and refugees today. I’m aware of the story of Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, a 16-year-old from Guatemala who crossed the border in Texas in May and died in U.S detention on May 20 from lack of adequate medical care. Carlos crossed the border because his brother has special needs, and he came to earn money to support his brother back in Guatemala. He is the seventh child that has been reported as dying while in detention near the southern border.

“Keep us from Herods and all of their lies,” is the lyric that sets this song apart. It has the bite of Canticle of the Turning’s “Let the king beware for your justice tears ev’ry tyrant from his throne” (Rory Cooney). One of the ways that empires maintain control is through an alternative narrative. Lies feed people the fear that allows for oppression to take place. We should take note when kings and emperors tell us to not treat everyone as a neighbor. They are the lies of empire, not God’s kin-dom.

Some backstory from one of the composers, Liz Vice: “Earlier this year I was invited to a conference at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI to have a conversation about Christmas carols and how most don’t give an accurate depiction of the scene of God coming to earth in the flesh. A group of us gather into a room and reprised “Away in A Manger”. Side note: Since I wasn’t there, you know, at the actual scene of the Christ’s birth, I can only use my imagination with the scripture I’ve read. Matthew 1:18-25 Joseph’s dream to flee/run/ escape to Egypt Matthew 2:13-14 “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

Live video of Liz Vice singing:

Official audio version:

Lyrics:

Away from the manger they ran for their lives
The crying boy Jesus, a son they must hide
A dream came to Joseph, they fled in the night
And they ran and they ran and they ran

No stars in the sky but the Spirit of God
Led down into Egypt from Herod to hide
No place for his parents no country or tribe
And they ran and they ran and they ran

Stay near me LORD Jesus when danger is nigh
And keep us from Herods and all of their lies
I love the LORD Jesus, the Refugee King
And we sing and we sing and we sing
Alleluia

An Apology for the Art in #ELCAcwa Worship

Many following the #ELCAcwa this year have seen the image being discussed and heard the apology offered by Bishop-Elect Strickland. Many have asked how such an offensive thing could happen. As the person who selected the images for worship, I want to offer my apology as well. I apologize to you my colleagues, the Churchwide Assembly and Churchwide leaders and most of all to my African American brothers and sisters who were wounded by this. I know that many were troubled, shocked, hurt, and disgusted by the use of the image. Something I worked on was hurtful, and for this I am deeply sorry.

I do not intend to offer a defense of why the image was used, only an explanation that might help shed light. I was searching for images to align with the gospel text of the service:

“for I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I was naked and you gave me clothing,
I was sick and you took care of me,
I was in prison and you visited me.”
Matthew 25:35-36

This image of someone being visited in the hospital was selected to lift up the African American experience, support their inclusion in representation, and exemplify ministry to the sick. My own cultural situation and lack of knowledge on this genre of art caused me to not see what was evident to others. The representation of African Americans in minstrel art has a painful history. I was unaware, and we did not have enough diversity in our group that vetted and approved the images. I know these issues are being addressed and they will be handled more carefully in the future.

I am fully aware of the place that racism has in my own life. As a white male born and raised in rural south Texas, it is endemic to me in a deep way. At the same time I am deeply invested in anti-racist ways of being. I find Luther’s sinner/saint idea very fitting here. I have the sin of racism embedded in me while I learn to fight and dismantle it.

I want to echo the words my friend Kathy Patrick shared on Facebook: “(this apology) is a clarion call to recognize that we white people in the church have a LOT of work to do to increase our cultural competence, including by diversifying our leadership, so that we can see as we should see. This was not one person’s mistake, it is OUR mistake. We all make similar mistakes every day that injure our siblings of color and the terrible thing is, we do it thoughtlessly because we do not know what we should know.”

I personally intend to do some things differently as I learn and grow from this:

  • I will do some reading to learn more about the history of minstrel art and plays. If you have resources or websites you recommend, please share them with me.
  • I will make sure that any worship planning team that I am part of has a diverse representation of leadership.
  • When I am considering using a piece of art or music for worship, I will ask for feedback from African American colleagues.
  • I will encourage people of color to lead us in selecting images for churchwide events.
  • I will engage in our synod’s anti-racism training.
  • I will explore and lift up the work of African American artists. If you have a favorite, I would appreciate if you shared them with me.

Weekly Worship Thought – Every Table is An Altar

This is a new worship song I came across called, “Every Table is An Altar.”

If I were going to use this song, I might arrange it leaving the Bridge section out. An 11 minute ballad isn’t for every church. I think the song is lyrically strong enough without the Bridge. Especially if you use the Pre-Chorus in place of the building Bridge section.

The lyrics are striking. I’m drawn to them because they connect the tables of our everyday lives to Jesus’ radical table fellowship. They remind me of the sursum corda (“Lift up your hearts…Let us give thanks…”). They also recall the Emmaus Road story:

Verse 1:
Every table is an altar
Every breath is a gift from you
Every moment is a treasure
Every day is a kiss from you

Pre-Chorus:
So let our hearts
Be awake, be awake

Chorus:
Break the bread, pour the wine
Let our hearts, come alive
In your presence, in your presence
Let our fear, fall away
Let our faith, rise today
In your presence, in your presence
Jesus

Verse 2:
Every stranger has a story
Every story’s being told by you
We’re all children on a journey
Jesus only you can lead us through

Chord chart can be downloaded here.

Weekly Worship Thought – Welcome to Baptism

riverIf you were with us in worship last Sunday you got to see the “Welcome to Baptism” rite by which we introduce our candidates in the First Steps @ Faith catechumenate process. The rite of welcome is an important transitional moment for these folks. It signifies that they are committing to growing their faith in Jesus in a very intentional way. It also lifts up to the church the fact that we have disciples sprouting in our midst, and our job is to nurture and encourage them in their journey of following Jesus. The ritual we witnessed is one of the most ancient rites of the Christian church. Record of its existence goes as far back as Hippolytus in 235 AD. “New converts to the faith, who are to be admitted to hearers of the word, shall first be brought to the teachers before the people assembled. And they shall be examined as to their reason for embracing the faith, and they who bring them shall testify that they are competent to hear the word.” (Webber, Journey to Jesus, p. 83)

(Welcome to Baptism starts at 34:42)

“The Way of the Cross” Good Friday Service

[vimeo 92540440]

“The Way of the Cross” is a living Stations of the Cross presentation using dramatic tableau (or “living picture”). I adapted the traditional 14 stations down to 10.

I am very happy with how this service came out! This is the third time I have used this service on a Good Friday (Grace Baptist in 2006, and Covenant Lutheran in 2010). Bravo to the actors in this one – they may not have to memorize any lines, but their part was intense.

One of the best parts of this presentation is the voice of the congregation on these hymns. You can hear their hearts.

One of my favorite twists during these contemplative services is to end by singing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” – an Advent hymn of expectation. The longing for deliverance expressed in these words ties so well to Jesus’ death.

Live Streaming Upgrade at Faith Lutheran Church

Finished BoothRecently at Faith we made an upgrade to the technology we use in worship. The desire was to make possible the live web streaming of our services. We wanted people away from church on Sunday, either traveling, or ill, or homebound, to be able to tune in and follow along online. It also gives us the ability to share baptisms, weddings, and funerals with people across the globe.

During Holy Week in late March we launched the web streaming of our worship services online. It took us a few weeks to get some of the bugs fixed, but we are increasingly improving the quality of the broadcast every week. We were blessed with a very generous gift from one of our members that made this additional technology possible.

For those that are a little on the geeky side, the project included two new key pieces of equipment. The first was a Sony BRC-300 video camera and the second was a Roland VR-5 video mixer. The Sony video camera is mounted on the edge of the choir loft and has powerful zoom capabilities that can hone in on the chancel area. It also can pan all around the sanctuary and has six preset scenes that allow us to pick key areas in the room we want the camera to record often in the service (like the pulpit, table, lectern, and choir loft). This camera is a significant step up from the consumer grade handheld camcorder that we used previously. The Roland video mixer takes the signal from the Sony camera, and the signal from our video projection computer that displays words and videos during the service, and mixes those two together. Other new equipment is listed below.

Sony CameraBehind the scenes we have a volunteer whose job it is to mix the video and audio signal and ensure that it gets broadcast to the website successfully. You can watch the live broadcast online every Sunday at 9:00 and 11:15 AM. The address is live.faithbellaire.org (you can also find the link on the homepage of our church website). We are already having viewers tune in from around the world. We had five viewers watch the services online on Easter Sunday (our first Sunday to try out the new technology). We’ve had viewers as far away as France and the Caribbean join us online on Sunday mornings.

We are excited about this new technology and the opportunities for reaching more people with the ministry of worship at Faith.

Equipment included in project:

  • Roland Vr-5 video mixer
  • Sony BRC300 Remote Camera
  • Sony BRCWMZ330 Wall Mount
  • Omnirax Presto Desk
  • KRK RP5 Active Studio monitors
  • Atlona VGA, HDMI Balun
  • Atlona Distribution Amplifier
  • Shockmount for camera by Nigel
  • IR System to connect remote to camera
  • iMac
  • Audio, video, and networking cables

Environmental Projection

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I’ve been experimenting with some simple environmental projection at our Wednesday evening Taize services at Faith. Opposite of the screen (which is a loop of icons of Jesus), I put a huge flickering candle on loop. It is projected on to the wall which has raised bars. Environmental projection is simply the idea that you project images and loops on some surface other than a screen. The railing and table are full of votive candles, so the large projected candle ties in with the rest of the room. I’ve also added two LED lamps throwing purple light beneath the cross.