Thursday, September 23, 2010

CWM: Songwriters IV: "I wanna" and "I will"

A week from tonight I'll be in Waco, Texas, headquarters to Dr. Pepper ("America's Most Misunderstood Soft Drink") and the setting for David Crowder's Fantastical Music Conference. I'm excited. Good tex-mex food, here I come. I also look forward to seeing friends like Charlie Peacock and David Dark. I look forward to meeting folks whose songs I've sung, like Matt Redman, Derek Webb and of course the redoubtable Mister Crowder. The schedule is up now. You can see it here. I'll be the guy doing the workshop on the Psalms. No surprise there. But we'll have a great time. I've got some fun exercises prepared.

Before I go into the material proper of this entry, I wanted to recommend a few things.  First, Bruce Benedict pulled together a really helpful summary of the Wesleys'  hymnody. Well, not so much summary, as an abridged listing of theological topics they covered in their 6,000+ songs. See here. Second, I was very encouraged to read Red Mountain Church's philosophy of corporate music. What a great vision. I especially loved point #9. If all churches took that tone about corporate worship, ooph, just imagine how relaxed our congregants would feel. We could sing excellently but not feel like whatever mistakes we made meant that we were back in junior high and we'd suddenly passed gas in front of all the cute girls (or boys). Mortal and apocalyptic embarrassment need not accompany our public mistakes. Finally, while I would not follow Zac Hicks in all his exegetical readings, I really like the way he carefully explains his method for choosing songs. His point 3a is eminently sensible. For those of you who are music leaders, you could see this as a helpful model for your own work of discernment.

Alright, now to my main point. (See here for parts One, Two, Three.)

"I wanna" and "I will"
All of human experience can be described by this phrase. Consider my week so far. On Sunday evening I told Phaedra, "All I wanna do is watch an episode of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency." I was beat from my soccer game. So we watched that night how Mma Ramotswe got herself a real Botswana diamond. Monday night I was equally tuckered out.  But I needed to work on our finances. So I said, "I will work on our family budget. I will. I'm tired and I don't want to and I'm not going to find good news, but I will." So I did.

Some days you do things out of a rousing immediacy of desire. I wanna go shopping! I wanna a meaty novel! I wanna a double malt, double chocolate shake! Other days you do things because you know it is right and good. I will study. I will help with chores. I will pray. I will visit my cranky grandmother. I will eat broccoli.

You find this pattern repeated throughout Scripture. St. Peter is a patron saint here.  At the last supper, he cries, "Even if all fall away, I won't (or I wanna not)!" (Mark 14:29). On another occasion, when some of Jesus' disciples had found his teachings too difficult, Jesus asks his friends, "Do you want to leave me too?" It is Peter who dares to respond for all: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). This is Peter's way of saying "I will stay." And, as tradition tells us, Peter dies crucified upside down because of his decision.

What does this have to do with the Psalter and contemporary worship music? One of the things that the psalms do particularly well is to train us how to sing both "I wanna" and "I will" songs. This is another way of saying the Psalter fosters well-ordered affections. In the Psalter, as John Calvin beautifully puts it, “we have permission and freedom granted us to lay open before [God] our infirmities, which we would be ashamed to confess before men.”  This is a powerful freedom. It is the freedom to be fully human, un-suffocated by fear or shame. The Psalter supplies us with edited language to express our un-edited emotions, and what a great gift that is to us.

On the one hand, then, the psalms provide us with "I wanna" prayers. I wanna awaken the dawn (Ps. 108). I wanna give thanks in song (Ps. 28). I wanna praise your justice (Ps. 101). I wanna my enemies to perish (Ps. 35). On the other hand, we encounter "I will" prayers. I will yet praise You (Ps. 42). I will not be shaken (Ps. 62). I will lift up my eyes to the mountains (Ps. 121). I will remember the days of long ago (Ps. 143).

What is my point? Perhaps what we find in CWM is slightly more "I wanna" than "I will" songs. The "I wanna" come in two sorts. There are the "I wanna" compositions. They sound like this: Boom--a song came to me! Boom--Let's all sing it! There are also the "I wanna" subject matters. It usually sounds something like: All I wanna do right now is to praise you. Many great hymns, of course, have emerged out of experiences of spontaneous desire. Charles Wesley, for example, composed spontaneous eruptions of praise while riding his horse across the English countryside.

The problem, I think, occurs when a spontaneity model becomes a normative mode by which a “legitimate” worship song comes about or is seen to "only rightly" express Christian desire. We need both "I wanna" and "I will" songs. Many CWM songwriters agree with this conviction. What I perhaps wish to remind us again is that the psalms provide us a rich model for how to sing both kinds of songs. Mindful that we as songwriters exercise a formative power over people, it's helpful to keep revisiting the rhythms of the Psalter to show us how to wield that power well.

Bonhoeffer said something once that I find very helpful as I think about the calling of liturgical songwriters. It leans, granted, towards the "I will" end. But the effect of his admonition is salutary as well as hopeful for the "I wanna" desires of our hearts. It puts these desires in their right perspective.

That said, I will let Bonhoeffer have the last word here. (Note: when he says "Word of God," he means chiefly Jesus.)

“If we want to read and to pray the prayers of the Bible and especially the Psalms, therefore, we must not ask first what they have to do with us, but what they have to do with Jesus Christ…. It does not depend, therefore, on whether the Psalms express adequately that which we feel at a given moment in our heart. 

If we are to pray aright, perhaps it is quite necessary that we pray contrary to our own heart. Not what we want to pray is important, but what God wants us to pray. If we were dependent entirely on ourselves, we would probably pray only the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer. But God wants it otherwise. The richness of the Word of God ought to determine our prayer, not the prayer of our heart.”

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Artists and the Global Church

For many in my circle of friends, our thoughts about art and faith tend to remain in the Western hemisphere. Perhaps they include the UK and the Continent. But my hunch is that few of us read essays on the arts from people in Asia, Africa, Oceania and Latin America.

How many of us can name our top ten favorite artists from the majority world? I'm embarrassed to say, not me. I might be able to generate a Top 6 for non-Western literary writers. Maybe. Would I be able to relay stories of churches in India or Paraguay who have boldly ventured into their local art communities? Do I have a sense of the kinds of questions they're asking? Are they different from mine in North America? Or what kinds of issues must an artist consider when communicating the gospel, precisely through the arts, to the tribes of the Kalahari Desert?

In asking these questions, I'm not asking about the experiences of Westerners in other parts of the globe. There are plenty of these and plenty instructive; plenty of self-sacrifice too. I'm more asking about our brothers and sisters from there. I'm asking about their indigenous experiences. My sense over the years is that we share a lot in common--more perhaps than we might initially imagine. But my hunch also is that an artist in Xinjiang, China or Kabale, Uganda is asking a different set of questions that I am, whether for philosophical or relational reasons, or quite bluntly for spiritual reasons.

Why does this matter? At a basic level it matters because Christ's church is a global
church. His church is one, holy, apostolic and catholic or universal, not parochial, and certainly not parochialist. While his church takes root in local settings, our ecclesial membership always encompasses the whole expanse of ethne. Practically I may live as if this doesn't matters. But it does. I have a responsibility to my artist brothers and sisters everywhere, and they to me.

There is also the issue of mutual enrichment. In our short visit to Thailand a couple of years ago, Phaedra and I were deeply encouraged by the artists we met there. So much to learn, we realized, so much to "taste and see," literally and figuratively. We both returned to the States inspired, each of us wondering, "How have lived our whole life without knowing these artists!"

To the end of encouraging a global conversation around the arts, the Mission Commission ofthe World Evangelical Alliance has produced a 100-page magazine that includes 47 authors from around the world. It's quite fabulous. My father so happens to be its chief editor. Coincidence? Yes. But I don't mind. I just so happened to have the privilege of participating in the project, for which I'm profoundly grateful. Here is a note my father wrote to friends in the global mission movement:

"We have designed this issue as a "teaching" instrument to challenge leaders in our local church and global mission movement to consider their own role in creating a space for the arts. We affirm the vocation of the artist as well as a significant place for art in the church's mission. We desire to spur churches, agencies, national and regional mission movements as well as other mission teams and networks to marshal people on behalf of this vision."

John Franklin, who founded Imago in Canada, and Robin Harris, who helped establish the
International Council of Ethnodoxologists, functioned as co-editors. Some of the contributors include Jaewoo Kim, Miriam Adeney, Colin Harbinson, Jean Ngoya Kidula, Heber Negrao, Art Santos, Roberta King, Stefan Eicher and Clyde Taber. These are names you may not recognize. That, of course, may prove my point. It's a world of riches in the global church. Titles include everything from Ethnodramatology: Using indigenous drama forms to The growth of arts among Tibetan Ethnic Christians in Nepal. I'm particularly looking forward to reading this one: Dinka Worship: Keeping Strong in the Midst of Persecution. The magazine includes a list of global training centers, an annotated bibliography, web resources and networks that bring together mission and the arts.

In a year when the Lausanne Movement will bring together 4,000 leaders from more than 200 countries, it seems appropriate that the arts should factor in. They do. And the MC publication, Connections, provides the church with an invaluable aid. Artists and art-lovers will not want to miss out on it. Those who care about global mission will want to purchase a copy--or a hundred. Myself, I look forward to the experience of having my horizons expanded--again--and again and again. After worrying mostly over issues in North America, I start to get restless. I start feeling stuffy. Seeing what God's people are doing around the world infuses me with new energy. I feel excited to belong to something this big!

If you wish to find out more about this project or to order copies in bulk, please contact the editors of Connections here.

And may God continue to grace the efforts of believer artists scattered all across the planet.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Beauty & the Swagger Wagon

Here are six places that my book, For the Beauty of the Church, has shown up recently. Many thanks to all for the kind words.

Here is also a shout-out to all the families with minivans. Let this be a reminder to you that, yes, it's totally rad to drive a minivan. Just keep reading to the end.

1. Beauty in Canada: this is a fun interview that I did with the Canadian publication, Christian Week. Many thanks to Jenny Western, whom I first met at the Urbana missions conference back in 2000. At the time I led a seminar garishly titled, "A Theology of Art: Or why it's ok to paint a nude." What a deal.

2. Beauty in Canada Part II: this was a review that showed up on the Christian Week site.

3. Beauty in Austin: this is an article that journalist Eileen Flynn wrote for the Austin American Statesman. In it she talks about the book-signing event at Hope Chapel in early June. She also explores some of the book's contents in light of her own Catholic experience as well as of art in Austin, Texas.

4. Beauty at the Jesus Creed: Here is a review that Wesley Vander Lugt (also at St. Andrews University) wrote for Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed blog (see also here).

5. Beauty in Scotland: here again is a link to the first of the commentaries that the good folks at Transpositions wrote on my book. What a fine group of theology students.

6. Beauty at Image: the always well-spoken folks at Image Journal spoke well of my book. Very grateful for their word of commendation.

(Photo above is from the book signing event at Hope Chapel. Kelly Foster played the role of interviewer par excellence. Remnants from HC's Pentecost installation can be seen in the background.)

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

CWM: Songwriters III: "The sweetness of melody mixed with doctrine"

“Liturgy is not play acting, but it is the evocation of an alternate reality that comes into play in the very moment of the liturgy." -- Walter Brueggeman, The Message of the Psalms
“She realized suddenly that there was something about music that had never been revealed to her before: it was not merely the production of sweet sound; it was, to those who understood it, an emotional and intellectual journey.” -- Pelagia in Louis de Bernières' Captain Corelli's Mandolin
"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." -- Mark Twain

Case Study: Tongue-twisting Lyrics
I sang a song in church once that left me befuddled. The first verse talked about God as Creator, mostly in general terms, though with an intent to convey God’s mysterious transcendence. Then the chorus appeared. Then in verse two suddenly the lyrics moved to a description of the cross. I say suddenly because the transition didn't happen in a lyrically logical way. Nothing too terrible about that, but it wasn't clear how the songwriter intended to connect the ideas of God as Creator and God as Savior. In the chorus the song stringed a series of adjectival phrases, where we were invited to behold the personal dimension of this Savior God. But what kept me in a continual state of distress was that the songwriter described God the Father in terms which the Scripture reserve for God the Son.

The problem occurred at both a theological and poetic level. First, instead of conveying the beautiful interplay between the Persons of the Trinity, the songwriter ended up, to my mind, deepening a confusion, as if it were sufficient to state the Names of the Trinity--Father and Son, they're great, they're up there, down here, all around, they're great. But the songwriter stated things in a mashy kind of way. Second, the songwriter stringed together a series of phrases that he believed carried affective weight. But after a couple of times of singing the song, I couldn't sing it any more. Failing to hold together what Scripture holds in careful tension, the song spoke wrongly of God. “That’s not the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,” I kept thinking.

"Let me hear you pray, let me hear you sing and I'll write your theology."
The reason why our songs matter so much in corporate worship is that we, quite literally, sing ourselves into ours songs. We become what we sing. My New Testament professor Gordon Fee would tell us often: “Let me hear you sing, let me hear you pray, and I will write your theology." He was right. The question, then, is double. What ought we to be singing ourselves into? And if we were to examine the content of our songs over the course of time, say a month or a year, what image of the Christian faith would they relate? If Mark Chaves is right, in his book Congregations in America, that the average worship service in America involves 20 minutes of music out of a total 70 minutes of a service, then that means that nearly one-third of a service devoted to music. That's a lot of formative power. Our songs drill into us, week after week, year after year, a vision of God and our place in that vision.

No liturgical songwriter stands alone
As we consider this second diagnostic question (see first here), my encouragement to "liturgical songwriters" is to avail yourself of the pastors and theologians around you. If you don't have one near, perhaps you could seek one out through correspondence. As I mentioned in a previous entry, the responsibility for holy and holistically nourishing songs should rest jointly on pastors, teachers, musicians and theologians, if not also, at some level, the whole congregation. Nobody should carry this responsibility alone.

Ok, then. The second question.

Question 2: How do you know that you have written a right song?
This question brings us into tricky territory. What we are dealing with here are things that might function for the songwriter at a sub-conscious level. The answer to this question, therefore, may not be found in explicit statements of the songwriter but in the evidence of their music. I wish to list a few answers so that we can get a sense of the landscape of possibilities. I will put a part of each answer in quotation marks to signify technical jargon.

How do you know that you have written a right song?

1. When it has “proclaimed Christ crucified”
2. When through it believers “have touched the Father heart of God”
3. When it “proclaims the gospel” or "significantly connects" to non-believers
4. When it declares the “true knowledge of God” or "sings the whole counsel of God"
5. When it “reflects the Trinitarian shape of Christian faith”
6. When it has provided music to serve “the church’s calendar”
7. When it has supplied music to serve “the denominational hymnal”
8. When it has yielded “service music" for the church’s liturgy
9. When “we sense in it the anointing of the Spirit” or it “exalts the Spirit”
10. When it “gives voice to our people,” whether culturally, ethnically, racially or linguistically
11. When it “advances the church’s mission of justice” or “gives voice to the voiceless in society”
12. When it captures “the sublime nature of the Divine”

As with our first question, the answer that we give to this question may be complex. We might say that quite a number of these answers describe us accurately. That's fine, because that's how most of us operate at a practical level. Perhaps, then, I might conjecture that two or three operate dynamically together over the course of time. The issue is rarely one song here, one song there. Thankfully one "bad" song does relatively little damage. It's a whole series of slightly skewed songs that do the damage.

(This, by the way, should come as good news not just for songwriters but for preachers. Some of us preachers should be very grateful that our questionable sermons didn't plunge the church into somnolent apathy or heresy.)

In sum, whatever answer a songwriter believes best describes his or her work, the implication is that these are the kinds of songs that the church should be singing because they are the “right” kinds of songs, which is another way of saying that these songs inscribe orthodox worship.

In our songs we don't simply declare, we perform our theology
Why again does this question matter? It matters because it opens up for us a way of seeing how songwriters might significantly form congregations through their songs--over time. "Over time" of course is the key phrase. The "corpus of songs" is also a key phrase. What concerns is the collection of songs that we sing over the course of time. (In some circles the fancy term for this is a hymnal.)

What do these songs tell us about the Triune God, our neighbors, miracles and money, the visible and invisible world, social justice and the realm of evil, and so on? What do our songs tell us about how all these parts are related to each other? For instance, how much thinking language, how much feeling language, how much action language appears in our songs? And how do we as songwriters view their relative weight in relation to each other?

In sum
The summary of my whole point is this. In corporate worship the church does not simply declare, the church performs its theology, a performance involving spiritual, doctrinal and ethical formation. Our songs in corporate worship shape our understanding of our lives. They influence how we view God. They alternately inspire or enfeeble behavior. In corporate worship the people of God learn now how to become their already-not-yet selves, God-created, Christ-redeemed, Spirit-sanctified, and, I would argue, the Psalter offers an invaluable aid in this formative work.

It's a tremendous responsibility that the church's songwriters bear. For that reason they deserve some of our best prayers and some of our finest words of encouragement. If you're a songwriter, know that my prayers are with you. Know that we as pastors and theologians want to work with you, even as you seek to offer the church what it needs dearly, artfully crafted songs that resound the truth of God.

Next Time and Four Things (including hip hop worship)
Next time: a way in which the Psalter helps us as songwriters write both "I wanna" and "I will" songs.

I leave you here with four things:

1. A quote from St. Basil the Great.
2. A poignant story of a young Chinese man who lost his arms in an accident and now plays the piano with his toes.
3. My (liturgical songwriter) friend Josh Banner's answer to my first question. I'd love to hear any other answers out there.
4. Two examples of hip hop worship, one more "humble," one more "sophisticated."

“What did the Holy Spirit do when he saw that the human race was not led easily to virtue, and that due to our penchant for pleasure we gave little heed to an upright life? He mixed sweetness of melody with doctrine so that inadvertently we would absorb the benefit of the words through gentleness and ease of hearing, just as clever physicians frequently smear the cup with honey when giving the fastidious some rather bitter medicine to drink." -- St. Basil the Great

Thursday, September 02, 2010

CWM: Songwriters II: What do they have to do with me and mine?

“A psalm drives away demons, summons the help of angels, furnishes arms against nightly terrors, and gives respite from daily toil; to little children it is safety, to men in their prime an adornment, to the old a solace, to women their most fitting ornament. It peoples solitudes, it brings agreement to market places. To novices it is a beginning; to those who are advancing, an increase; to those who are concluding, a confirmation. A psalm is the voice of the Church. It gladdens feast days, it creates grief which is in accord with God’s will, for a psalm brings a tear even from a heart of stone." -- St. Basil the Great (330-379 AD)

The above photograph has nothing to do with the following entry. It's 100% in honor of my older sister, Christine. Christine, who lives in Austin, Texas, along with her fine husband and fantafabulous kids, worries that my blog has gone to the academic dogs. That's an exaggeration of course. But, yes, I've found myself writing more about school-related stuff, less personal. It's not that I'm trying to hide. I'm not. The No Good, Terrible Day was a way to say, hey, it sucks to be me (today at least). But there are only so many units of energy I can allot to blog-writing and it just so happens that I get jazzed about ideas--and how ideas make the world go round.

So in honor of Christine, and because I love her beaucoup, here is a brief registry of personal info.

Yesterday I squished a caterpillar that had tunneled through three of our fat tomatoes. I pledged a pox on it right there--and on any members of its species who threatened to rob our whole crop. Sunday I crushed my ankle playing soccer for the city league I recently joined. Yesterday I led my first TA group at Duke. I told them that food and drink were essential to sound theological work. I asked if any of them was allergic to sugar. Everybody shook their heads. I told them that brownies would be coming soon. I have no car this week. My car was sent to the automobile "retirement center" because of a foul hit and run that resulted in a totaled-out verdict. I made carne guisada on Monday. I don't like Verizon's phone service, at all. Phaedra wants to get chickens. (David wants Christine to get on Facebook.) I'm going to buzz my hair off later this month (Phaedra's request). I really like my rector and his wife. Did I say I was playing soccer? Yes, well, it's the beautiful sport, as Pele once said, and I haven't played it competitively in twelve years. I don't like losing. I need to call the pest control people again. Phaedra and I need to send out our support/prayer letter. We're starting up an artists gathering at our church. And Phaedra made a pumpkin cheesecake that I'm eating slowly--too slowly, I imagine, for Phaedra's taste. Oh, and she canned 19 jars of brandy fig jam. Yum. YUM. Yummmmm.

Alright. Christine, I love you.

And now back to contemporary worship music report. Continuing a few thoughts on CWM, I'd like to post a two-parted entry. This will be part one. Part one happened here. All of this of course is related to the talk I'll give at the CFCMC.


Or translated: What does the rest of the church have to do with me as a songwriter and my worship songs?

Let me begin by posing two questions to liturgical songwriters. By liturgical songwriters I mean those who write songs for the church’s corporate worship. If somebody else has used this term, I have yet to come across it. The term may very well be a neologism. I avoid the term "church musician" because of the broad range of musical experiences that it encompasses, from organ preludes to "special music." I also stay away from the term "worship songwriter." Worship, as we well know, can imply diverse contexts, whether "Sunday morning" or "the whole of life" or otherwise, and my point is to speak specifically about the context of corporate worship. With that said, let's continue with our questions.

The two questions that I'd like to pose to anyone who generates songs for corporate worship are:

1. When you sit down to write a song, who are the people that inspire your work?


2. How do you know that you have written a right song?

I recognize that these are not the usual questions that songwriters get asked. Why do I ask them? Because I find that they perform a helpful diagnostic purpose. They open up for us ways to see afresh the calling and responsibility of liturgical songwriters. The first question raises the aspect of ecclesiology, in this case, how a songwriter conceives his or her relationship to the church. The second question raises the aspect of theology proper. In what way or at what point do songwriters know that their corpus of songs has “glorified God”? Let me take each question in turn--one now, one in a future blog--as we set the stage for a larger constructive dialogue between the Psalter and CWM songwriters.

Question 1: When you sit down to write a song, who are the people that inspire, or perhaps we should say in-form, your work?This first question here pries open the role that a songwriter imagines the church playing in his or her work of creating music for corporate worship. Two distinct parts need to be discerned in this question.

Part 1a: the people who really matter
The first part concerns who exactly in the church inspires the songwriter. We might call this the primary community or, more sharply, the people who really matter with respect to the task of songwriting.

When a songwriter sits down to create a new song, does he or she feel inspired by the historic members of his or her denomination, say, in the case of the Methodist denomination, by Charles Wesley and Andrew Pratt? Does that songwriter perceive his or her primary responsibility to write on behalf of the Methodist church, in faithful service to past members as well as contemporary and future? Or is the songwriter inspired by people who are kindred to his or her own church, as with, for instance, Vineyard or Presbyterian songwriters? Or maybe the songwriter is inspired by fellow musicians or by an official guild of church musicians? Or perhaps, lastly, does the songwriter write chiefly for his or her own congregation?

Part one of our first question, then, asks to whom a songwriter feels a sense of primary allegiance.

Part 1b: what functional authority do they play?
Part two of our first question is equally crucial. The issue is this: What functional authority does the songwriter’s “primary community” play in his or her work? Does the songwriter create new music because the denominational headquarters has commissioned new music? That is, what the denomination commissions, the songwriter writes. Or does the songwriter make music in a vague, general sense for the “well-being” of his or her community? Does a songwriter intentionally seek out the great musical works from his or her tradition, and does the songwriter sense a responsibility carefully to represent this tradition? Or does the songwriter feel a looser sense of responsibility?

Alternatively, does a songwriter sense a responsibility to write songs inspired by and in service of the global church, with a respect for the unique concerns of other cultures? Or, finally, does a songwriter feels no strict responsibility to his or her primary community except insofar as the community provides a social location for the creation of songs? The songwriter in this case may sense a higher allegiance to God, irrespective of the community’s decision to embrace the new music.

Granted, several of these options may be at work in a songwriter's mind, in different instances and at different points in his or her life. But I would still conjecture that one will likely operate dominantly throughout.

In summary, our first question involves a two-part investigation where we seek to discern whom the songwriter perceives as a primary community and what functional authority this community is seen to exercise in the songwriter’s work. I suggest that neither part of this question is neutral.

Why does this question matter?
It matters because it serves as an orienting framework. By this I mean that it opens up for us a way of seeing, on the one hand, the way a liturgical songwriter conceives the relationship--and therefore responsibility--between his or her work of songwriting and the church and, on the other, the ways in which his or her songs might significantly form the churches that make use of them. This is another way of saying that songwriters possess a great deal of power. Their songs give shape to an ecclesial identity and form the way Christians view the Triune God.

And this of course relates to our second question. But for that, we'll pause for another occasion and hear at this point a word from our non-local sponsor: Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis, also known as the good Saint Augustine of Hippo. I'll also leave you with a nice picture of me and my sister Christine. Oh, lastly, this is good and this is cheeky but fairly useful too.

“It is the world that constitutes the Lord’s field, not just Africa!" -- St. Augustine (354-430 AD)