the baby and the bathwater

Thoughts for the year
December 27, 2008, 11:04 am
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In the second post of my year end review, here are some sayings this year that I have found helpful.

1. You don’t need to have a mac book pro and an avalon guitar to lead worship well, but it does help.

2. Walk more slowly and surely. Real fruit, more often than not, comes from a steady, persistent, non-dramatic, walk with God.

3. Enjoy the big conference, event, or central concert where everything seems so perfect. But don’t mistake it for church. Church has much more to do with people turning up late, guitars being out of tune, ear-splitting feedback, and playing ‘how great is our god’ again.

4. Take coffee more seriously. It really does effect your anointing.

5. The Christian worship CD market is all but over. Deal with it.

6. Remember that most leadership is about bringing about change. If you constantly feel like you are stretching your team slightly beyond where they want to be, then you may just be doing some things right.

7. You get most things done in church because of relationship. Structures can help, but there’s no value in becoming structurally strong and relationally weak. Whole churches and church movements die because they don’t understand this.

8. See if you can get through the next year without singing ‘Shine Jesus Shine’. I’ve done it for 7 years in a row now. My soul feel alive.

9. Stop knocking Graham Kendrick.

10. Acknowledge that for most church congregations, worship is like jelly. It is messy and wobbles a lot. The worst thing worship leaders can do is try and nail it to a wall.


I’m a MAC
December 22, 2008, 6:59 pm
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One of my friends caught this picture whilst we were setting up for our Carol Service at Cheltenham Racecourse yesterday.

It portrays one of my highest values in life.

You can see some sensible pictures on our church website

Wonderful CD’s
December 17, 2008, 7:02 pm
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As 2008 draws to a close, it is good to reflect on some worship things. And in my seasonal reflections, I want to start with some worship cd’s.

OK, so regular readers of my blog know that I am a little tired of most worship cd’s. But there have been some recently that have made their way into my car stereo and been given a few – sometimes more than a few – airings. They stay in my car stereo because they actually lift my Spirit and help me encounter God – yes even in the car.

I would do a top 10 list. But actually I think I can only find 4 I like.

Break the Silence – Johnny Parks

This has been in my car for months now – most of the last year in fact. I think it actually came out in 2007, but I only picked it up this year. It is a beautiful album, with a couple of incredible musical and emotional moments. There is a real depth to the lyrics that seems to be born out of a desire to worship rather than just write songs – depth that is also reflected in the arrangements and the mixes which are powerful but not harsh. If I have one gripe – although it’s a minor one – it seems that it’s almost impossible these days to get a worship album ‘for this generation’ that doesn’t start with an overdone, energetic guitar riff predictably diving into an uptempo sort of anthem type thing. Why is that? Is it just that I am now not ‘this generation’ so ‘don’t understand’.

This is our God – Hillsong

Famed in the summer for it’s inclusion of the song ‘healer’ by fallen pastor Mike Gugliellmucci, this is a great album. In fact, I still really like the song ‘healer’ although understandably it’s not really being used in churches since. My children, mercifully unaffected by the sad story that surrounds it, still love the song and keep asking for us to play it. An innocence that we as parents want to protect for a lot longer. This song aside, there are still some other great songs, including ‘stronger’ and the title track. Creatively, though, it is much the same as previous Hillsong albums. But actually in this case it doesn’t bother me. This, after all, is essentially a church at worship and they are just being themselves. That’s fine by me. Only gripe? Well the first couple of songs are a bit ‘out there’ and start with that usual guitar riff thing……

Nothing to Fear – David Gate

Previously of Survivor Records, but now just doing stuff in and for and with church (my church!), David released his latest album that he also produced himself. Can’t say enough things positive about these songs and this album. It starts well, too (No guitar riff). Sonically this is very different to anything else I’ve heard in a while. The instruments sound like what they are meant to sound like – much more acoustic and real than on most over-produced albums. Songs are great. None of mine, though, so it only gets 9.5/10 rather than the full 10/10 if one of my tunes had been on there.

Wonderful Story – Eoghan Heaslip

Just out. Wonderful songs. Great vocals. Now of course I am biased as Eoghan is a friend and we have led worship together for many years. And also, Eoghan is someone who has benefited hugely from this year’s x-factor – because now everyone knows how to pronounce his name…But bias aside, this is still a great cd. Eoghan and I wrote some songs together earlier in the year, and it’s exciting to hear them make it on this album, and hear them produced by someone of the calibre of Nathan Nockles. The King has come, The way that you father me, What you’ve called me to, All to You…the list goes on. Great song after great song. The guitar riff intro is back though…….

Now I would, of course, mention my cd too, only it came out 3 years ago. Funny though. I didn’t want to listen to it for ages after I made it. But this year I have been listening to it much more. I still love the sound that Clever Trevor brought to it. The strings from Prague are awesome. James White’s solos are just incredible. And there in the middle of it all somewhere is a somewhat stumbling worship leader. Anyway, as I say, I would mention it, but I’ve just realised that the opening track begins with this guitar riff……

Songs of Praise vs Jonathan Ross
December 9, 2008, 8:56 am
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There is a great article in the telegraph about songs of praise today. You can read it here.

I once appeared on Songs of Praise. It was some 20 years ago, and I appeared with Graham Kendrick and Ben Castle. Our fledgling worship band at Trinity in Norwich played one of Graham’s finest tunes – Meekness and Majesty.

There – you didn’t know I was so famous with such an auspicious cv in the media, did you?

But let’s face it, if you are anything like me, over the last 20 years you have probably mocked Songs of Praise regularly, with it’s general cheese and old people in hats, introduced by such cheesy characters as Aled Jones. (Although there is one exception – Diane Louise Jordan makes it all worthwhile..). We all have probably publicly mocked it, whilst privately switching it on every now and then on a Sunday evening just to check up on it. Just for educational and information purposes, of course….

Well it now transpires, if we are to believe the Telegraph, that Songs of praise was getting around the same number of viewers each week as Jonathan Ross, until he was ‘rested’ recently following that radio thing. Only of course Jonathan Ross got paid millions of pounds each year, and songs of praise got….well a lot less.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind if Jonathan Ross disappeared from our screen forever. Admittedly he can be very, very funny, but generally I find his material offensive and overtly sexual and degrading. And of course, now he picked on one of our national treasures (Andrew Sachs) it should be curtains. He may find a home in the US for his awful material – but let the US have him if they want.

But what is more interesting is that, somehow, the British people are valuing Songs of Praise as highly as Jonathan Ross in terms of viewing figures. And now everyone is probably seriously questioning the multi-million price tag he has, up to now, demanded.

My own view is that, whereas over the last 20 years most people have judged things by cost, with the current financial climate, people are now judging things by value. Not only does this hopefully spell the end for Mr Ross, but it also presents us with a huge opportunity to spread and communicate hope that is Jesus Christ. There is an openness to the gospel in a way that hasn’t existed for many, many years. And as The Church we should not be dialing back on our mission, but stepping up to the mark.

And whilst we’re about it, maybe we should start to sing the praises of Songs of Praise just a little bit more.

Dr Sentamu talking sense
December 7, 2008, 6:06 pm
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Once again, Dr Sentamu stands up, and is counted.

He says:

“At a time when a creeping social Darwinism is on the rise, where life is measured in terms of its quality or usefulness, the Church remains the last bastion of defence for those who would find themselves close to jettison by society”.

As the recession bites, the Established Church must rediscover its confidence and self-esteem. “The Church of England must once again be a beacon by which the people of England can orientate themselves in an unknown ocean.”

He also says:

There is a strong case for regarding the Church as a public body that does not exist simply to serve believers.

The case is more than strong. In my mind it’s overwhelming.