Tuning in to a different song –

Using a music bridge to cross cultural differences

Joyce Scott The Institute for Missiological and Ecumenical Research,

University of Pretoria 2000, R70.00

Reviewed by Jeanette Harris

 

It is a particularly interesting experience to read a book and actually meet the author. I spent a delightful afternoon chatting to Joyce in her Fish Hoek cottage about her book, her background and all the experiences that formed the ideas contained in the book. I also attended a local launch of the book where we were involved in some practical demonstrations of the author’s ideas. Joyce has a lively personality and the style of her book reflects this. She really feels the music she talks about, and worship is a priority in her life. Over a period of time she has moved away from some typically evangelical musts and pressures and come to new freedoms, understandings, releases that have led to a much more liberated and joyful Christian experience. This has profoundly affected her attitude towards worship, which she sees as expressing God’s worthiness. She talks of spirit and truth worship. Worship comes out of an awareness of who God is and how much he loves us. She stresses the need for loving God with our hearts, souls, minds and strength, in other words, in the totality of who we are and what we do. All of life, then, is, or should be, worship for the Christian.

Joyce spent twenty-eight years doing cross-cultural missionary work in Kenya under the Africa Inland Church. A keen musician from an early age, she learnt about the music of Africa from grass-roots interaction with African friends and mentors in eleven language groups. Later she was asked to investigate indigenous music throughout Kenya so people could create new songs in their own languages, and words, using their own instruments. During one furlough she studied African music at Rhodes University in South Africa. She was also a consultant for indigenous music for ministry in a variety of African countries and has taught Music for inter-cultural studies in six Bible Colleges and at Daystar University in Nairobi. At the Evangelical Bible Seminary of SA, Pietermaritzburg she set up a three-year curriculum for Inter-cultural and Cross-cultural Music. It was during that four years on staff that the material for this book was developed and tested for use as a textbook for courses.

Her main desire is to make worship meaningful and to use music to build cross-cultural bridges. Dr Richard Anderson of AIM says that Joyce "challenges us to a sensitive use of God’s gift of music to enter that ‘deep place of feeling’ where meaningful interaction takes place". She feels that music expresses what nothing else will and spiritual experience needs the most profound way of expression, hence the importance of music to worship. People, she says, best express worship in their own music. Some missionaries have taken their music and dumped it on other cultures that struggle to identify with it.

One of the things I appreciate about Joyce’s approach is that she allows for a variety of views, i.e. room for quiet, solemn worship, as well as more lively, noisy worship; a place for short choruses as well as hymns which she feels must not be lost. "It’s not a case of either/or, but of both/and. Music styles divide us and often bring out our intolerance. Music can become a platform for tolerance through love, education, explaining, and understanding. "In coming to understand one’s differences we can become more accommodating, our worship becomes more varied and meaningful and we are all enriched.

As one who is profoundly affected by music I love what Joyce says about music in Africa. "In Africa music is, and always has been, central to people’s lives. Rural people sing about everything in their experience. There are songs not only for praise, worship, love and grieving, but for planting, cultivating and harvesting; songs for beginning a journey, building a house, pounding grain, for the carpenter or the blacksmith."

You don't have to be a musician to understand the contents. It is lively, well written and an absolute must for church leaders. Although Joyce's experience has been mainly in an African context, the basic principles can be applied in any setting. Few of us, especially those living in big cities, worship in contexts where we do not experience cross-cultural interaction. It's the nature of the world today that people move around far more freely. In South Africa we have a unique situation because not only are the various racial groups integrating in the post-apartheid era, but refugees from all over Africa are streaming into the country.

Joyce uses numerous illustrations of various church situations to illustrate her point. I found this very helpful. I had a good few chuckles as I read the book because I could identify with so many of the examples given ie choruses versus 'the good old hymns', music for the young people versus 'old peoples' music', choirs or worship groups, guitars and drums or pipe organs.

The book is divided into three main parts.

Part One, Inter-Cultural Music, contains 8 chapters dealing with issues such as worship definition, multi-cultural/inter-cultural singing, worldviews, choir ministry, music for discipling all age groups, processions and drama.

Part Two, Cross-Cultural Music, has seven chapters. Music in missions, Western music, communication, missiology, music styles, composing, and becoming a music catalyst, are among the topics dealt with in this section.

Part Three, Music in Theological Education, in three chapters, talks of new theological models for a changing society, music relating to church history in Africa, and the place of music in homiletics.

There is music for a variety of situations in life, and no stone is left unturned. I resonated with statements like ’there is a need for church leaders to understand the powerful effect of music in all aspects of Christian ministry’, ‘heart worship’, ‘scripture has clear principles on the place of the arts in the service of God’, ‘unity not uniformity’, ‘accommodation not assimilation’. After each chapter there are helpful discussion questions and projects. There are numerous delightful illustrations and helpful diagrams.

Music is a vital part of life, and of Christian life and worship the world over. It can also be one of the most divisive issues in a church. This book should be basic reading for all church members! It gives new insights that will be so valuable in understanding not just worship but relationships in a broader context. A definite must for Bible Schools, Theological Colleges and church libraries. Altogether a very user-friendly book – a great aid in promoting harmony!

 

 

The Big Picture Volume 2 Advent 2000 p.26