Relatively Faithful Concert Review: Richard Swift, or Lady Luck, She is Lovely

As you probably know, the ol' mind-machinery is synthesizing a lot these days - death and divorce in the family, continual church issues (mixtures of hopes and frustrations), job loss, etc. - so I haven't had a lot of energy for blogging across the last few weeks. Luckily things seem to be moving forward for me, at least at an emotional level. Progress on the Episcopalian front has allowed for coping to begin on the other fronts. I think I dodged an ecclesiastical bullet, but now I feel like I'm finally regaining my mojo, as it were - which brings me to my first real blog in quite some time. It's a big 'un.

I went to a concert on Saturday, which was really great - Richard Swift and Stereolab:

(Richard Swift from a Portland Show)

(Stereolab from the actual show I was at)

My friend Yuuki from bottletown plays bass with Richard Swift (Yukki's the handsome fellow singing backup in the video), so I had the geek-out producing pleasure of going backstage at the Showbox (an iconic venue in Seattle) and getting free PBRs with the band (well, actually mostly just a bunch of Yuuki's friends, but the lead singer from Stereolab, Swifty and Dave Bazan (randomly - he seems to be everywhere in the PNW) were also packed into the tight space at one point or another, and I suppose you could now say that they're my best friends). The concert itself was killer. I'm a bonafide Richard-Swift-motown-redux fan now (and so should you), and Stereolab was great in a Wes Anderson soundtrack kind of way - although we had to leave early b/c Angel thought she was going to puke (not from the music).

I've never been good at honest-to-God concert reviews. Usually I just say whethere I liked the show or not (and I usually do). Sorry if that's not good enough for you. I liked the concert and also other good concerts and good music. If you have the same tastes as me you might like them too.

More importantly for our purposes, as usual I've been compulsively reflecting on my recent experiences in relation to questions of faith, and here's what I've come to:

1) The days when being an Episcopal priest meant something socially are officially, unquestionbly, and inexorably dead - in my 20-something PNW context anyway. This realization came after spending Friday night at the concert and then Sunday morning at St. Margaret's, one of our dioceses' more vibrant parishes. There were about 1000 of my peers who were willing to pay $20 to see two relatively obscure indie bands and achieve a sense of community, beauty and transcendence, and about 8 who showed up for free at St. Margaret's to try to do the same. Tally up all of the Episcopal 18-35 year olds in church on Sunday, and you still probably have 100 total in Seattle by generous estimate. Does the church realize that my generation isn't coming back? Do they care, or have the capacity to adjust? Is it the 1000 who have the right idea, or the 6? Jeez, church, isn't this a little bit humiliating? Eye-opening? Something?

2) I still like Brother Lawrence after all these years. From Practicing the Presence of God:
That practice which is most alike the most holy, the most general, and the most needful in the spiritual life is the practice of the Presence of God. It is the schooling of the soul to find its joy in His Divine Companionship... We should apply ourselves unceasingly to this one end, to so rule all our actions that they be little acts of communion with God; but they must not be studied, they must come naturally, from the purity and simplicity of the heart.
3) For some time I've thought of the priest as a sort of artist - a liturgist who works to produce in people an experience of transcendence, and functions as an iconic representation of something bigger than priest-self. Musicians do the same thing, and often better and in a purer form. The 'pearl of great price' in the Anglican faith is the 500 (1000, depending on your definition of 'Anglican') year history of experience in connecting with the same transcendence that pops up at concerts and every once in a while in our liturgy. Why are we losing our audience in this country? We hold on to untenable modernist theological categories. We act like assholes. The cost of our religion outweighs the benefits. Our music doesn't translate. The pentecostals and fundamentalists are better at the game. Society moves more quickly than we do. We think we have an established place in the social sphere. We fight the wrong battles. We expect that our religion won't have to change. We're bored and apathetic. We have little to no sense of mission or message. We want to be a social service organization, but there are already more efficient social service organizations. We have set up a therepeutic model for church, but nobody wants our therapy anymore.

4) I believe in a) Anglicanism as a path towards God (transcendence, truth, the divine, whatever you want to call it). and b) the institution of the Episcopal Church. Despite all of the problems I think we have the resources and theological/spiritual vitality to revive ourselves. I don't think we'll die. I think it's going to happen through Anglimergence and the Evangelicals primarily - whether you or I like it or not.

5) If I'm doing this ordination thing, I'm not going to be some Anglophile drinking tea while the Titanic is sinking, too proud to get in the lifeboat with the women and the rabble. (I'm probably not going to be universally well-recieved either.) If I'm not going to do this ordination thing, probably I'll figure out a way to be a priest some other way.

To conclude what has been potentially my most esoteric post ever, here is a video written by another musician I knew (and it's not Little Richard):


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