Musing on the global – local tensions within religious institutions…

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve had a good hour to write a post. Tonight, though, I feel like a burden has been lifted, after a great face to face meeting with my manager. We focused on the future year and bright possibilities ahead, but it’s been a long year, actually, with many joys and many fears faced. The heights of recording my debut album ‘Grace’ (and meeting one of my heros David Crowder plus eating lunch next to Missy Higgins and Butterfly Boucher) was mitigated by my nervousness of entering a PhD program, and terror of the unknown through moving countries. I’m adventurous enough, but less the ‘I can’t wait to tackle this giant python’ type adventurer like some of my friends and more of a ‘let’s climb this enormous mountain and get back to watch the TV series Mad Men at 7:30pm’ type of practical international traveler. The international part is often kind of incidental for me.

At the moment, I’m reflecting on this incidental transnational situation I find myself in, and the intersections between global and local. I’m sitting in Sydney with my family, having just driven up from Tim’s family, an hour and a half away in the Southern Highlands, knowing we have a pink frenzy of a party in the Hills District tomorrow and will return to catch the heat of the O.C. in two weeks. If we were to talk extended family, mine stretches from London to Bougainville (an island in the Pacific, not the place where Bogans come from), as well as Cairns, Perth and Darwin. Christmas is now a ritual of acknowledging these scatterings, and performing semblances of home within new scenery. I can’t help but think that my life runs past the borders of the nation state, even if its narrative has been formed more locally as an Australian, a North Shore girl, and a pink elephant Cheltenham Girls High School member.

At the moment I’m not just enacting, but am reading globalization too. I have been asked to participate in a symposium of scholars next month at Calvin Institute in Grand Michigan who all specialize in sacred or liturgical musics, and it also seems an incessant conversation in my daily life.

I always say that God knows how simple I am, and so works to converge all parts of my life upon the one topic. He is a good teacher, and his illustrations take the form of everything from television programs through to strings of conversation, all of which pick up the same theme. For example, in October 2010 my itinerary required me to fly through Stansted with two days off, and Stansted happened to be a short train trip away from Cambridge, which was the site of Kings College which happened to feature in the text book I was reading that day, and thus I gained an illustrated genealogy of the Tudor Roses and reinforced my chapter on English conversion written by Dana Roberts – see, I’m not joking, great lengths to reinforce the point. Right now, I’m learning about globalization.

My home church, Hillsong has just announced a new service in Copenhagen, and also one in Melbourne that will open shortly. This adds to the list of locations worshiping as one global church – including Sydney, Brisbane, Noosa, London, Constanz, Paris, Moscow, Kiev. An initial response would be to decry this as cultural colonization, as many academics do (and perhaps I would have a year ago). But now, after reading this literature, I think I’m seeing a more nuanced perspective. People are drawn to global or transnational churches because they deliver something coherent that challenges the lack of coherency within their national narrative. Despite lingual differences, worshipers may have more in common with a Hillsong member in New York than they may with their neighbour or workmate they share a fenceline or lunch table with. I don’t necessarily think this is the only way to be – but you can’t force intimate spaces. If this is a genuine reality, then does facilitating communities in this manner bring some solidarity people are craving? This is my first post on this topic, and I’ll be short. But my thoughts are steeping like tea in a great big pot of boiling water. And this is one of the finest quotes I’ve found thus far, thanks to Yale’s Institute of Sacred Music. It is by Pete Ward (who, strangely enough unbeknownst to me in the last paragraph, is a theological educator at King’s College, Cambridge). He states,

“Our institutions either become harbingers of change or resist the inevitable, pretending that no cultural crack has formed. They either embolden themselves with conversation about the future or they rally round the past, rerunning old arguments like worn out reels of sixteen millimeter nostalgia, which may once have been artistry, but are at best yesterday’s artistry, not tomorrow’s”.

This is not about invalidating some forms of Christian worship over others. In fact, it is quite the opposite if you know me at all. But I think perhaps we need to Selah (pause and calmly think on that)…. I feel like saying this is a bit like reflecting before the Hunger Games start… but my hope is that you will slow down your thoughts until my series of posts are up… let’s learn globalization together as I read. Quote number one, exhibit A.

One thought on “Musing on the global – local tensions within religious institutions…

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