Previously, I [Chris] was recounting all that I had been up to during the last few months. The next bit to tell you about is my brief sojourn overseas in March-April. Actually, my trip overseas was divided into two parts. Allow me to tell you about the first stop – a songwriting workshop in North Africa.
In mid-March, I flew to Amsterdam. After an 18-hour stopover to reset from jetlag, I ventured back to the airport and was heading to a major city in North Africa (sorry, can’t tell you which one). The cool thing about this leg of the trip was that my flight left Amsterdam super early in the morning and had an 8-hour layover in Rome. So, in Rome, I spent a few Euros to store my bag, a few more on a bus and ventured into the city. I started in the Vatican – had to get another country visited on my list – and then walked my way across town for a few hours, visiting sites as I went. I really enjoyed traversing the city on foot. I ended up at Stazione Termini, the large train station not far from the Coliseum and took a train back to DaVinci-Fiumicino Airport for my late afternoon flight across the Mediterranean.
Once in North Africa, I was met by some colleagues and proceeded to their apartment. I had a couple of days to relax with these friends before we started the workshop, and that was great. I got to see a few spots outside of their city which were rich in historical significance and quite beautiful.
The idea for this songwriting workshop had begun a year before in the UK. My hosts and Lori & I had been at a conference in the UK in April 2016. They mentioned that the local church in their area wanted to begin using their own musical styles for worship in their congregations. I mentioned that my job was exactly that – encouraging and developing creativity in communities that want to use their local arts to create new worship expressions. We kept discussing it over a game of cards late into the night, and low and behold, one year later, there we were, about to lead this workshop! The year in between was filled with organizing dates, my colleagues in-country organizing facilities, lodging, and meals for the participants, and dealing with funding.
My colleagues in North Africa were smart and didn’t think small. Not only did they extend the invite for the workshop to their local friends, but to some people in neighboring countries. And it was a good thing too, since, for reasons that we don’t entirely understand, few from the country in which we were hosting the workshop showed up. Despite that, the participants from the neighboring countries gave us a good-sized group for the workshop.
We began the workshop on a Thursday evening by giving an overview of the next three days and laying out a thorough theology of worship. The following three days were spent composing following various strategies. One the first day, we gave the participants a passage to use in composing their music. We chose a section of Philippians 2 and made them stay faithful to the text.
The second day was practicing composition using a long text (a parable in this case) that needed to be summarized. The participants needed to decide what were the key points and construct their song highlighting what they found important.
The third and final day of the workshop was an exercise in composing a song based on the felt needs of their particular communities. The participants had to not only reflect on their situations, but then seek a Biblical solution that could be set in song.
Following the workshop, I had a nice dinner out with my friends and colleagues with whom I collaborated in making the week happen. We were disappointed that we didn’t have as high a participation as we would have liked, especially those from the city where the workshop was held. But God brought whom he wanted, and in reflection, it was a well-adapted time for those that were there.