Saturday, 1 April 2017

(Mis)Appropriation in liturgical settings

Where we are we have decided that we need to stop singing things that come from other experiences and cultures.

This will begin as we enter into the Easter season by us no longer singing 'when I survey the wondrous cross' as a quick poll of the church members revealed that actually none of them (although being Anglican it was a close run thing) was actually there to have surveyed it first hand. The clincher came when someone pointed out that since none of us have Jewish ancestry we also had to stop doing the Seder meals!

Having read the marvellously entitled 'Should we be singing this?' by J Gilbert Sullivan, the church council has decided to also take put aside the singing of all 'spirituals' - the reason being we are all white British! When we sing an African-American spiritual during worship does that act honor another culture or is it cultural misappropriation?

This is just the first step in our journey of looking at how we use words and symbols from other cultures, for how can we hope to win people when we are misusing their stuff?

And it goes deeper than this, for we are looking at the new hymnbooks and removing from them any hymns where the words have been changed! A Scottish visitor to the church recently pointed out that 'The Lord's my Shepherd' should contain the phrase 'yet will I fear none ill' and yet our hymnbook contained instead the word 'no' - the fact that the hymn had been taken from his Scottish Psalter and anglicised made him even more keen for the day when the two nations separated.

Words can divide and destroy. And it includes changing 'man' to 'people' and 'master' to 'God' - all honest attempts to minister to, of cater for, the wounds, attitudes and preferences of others - but it seems that this has to stop.

Personally I'm pleased because having neither hailed from the South Seas, nor spoken Creole - we can at last stop singing Kum Bah Yah :-)

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