My Music: A Bit of Self-Indulgence
Amateur music from the 70's
Since this is a bit of a walk down memory lane, I should give you a little background information. I only taught myself to play acoustic guitar for the Youth Group at my first church, because they lost their piano player! She used to play piano for the few songs and choruses the group enjoyed, and after she left we had no music, so I stepped up to the plate.
One or two of the older girls in the youth group were learning guitar, so I thought I'd also give it a try. I got as far as the basics (never much further) but I enjoyed it and therefore decided to compose some Christian songs.
The very first song I wrote as a new Christian and new musician (Around 1969) was this below, The Wind Was Blowing, based on the night visit of Nicodemus to Jesus.
You can tell I was in a sound evangelical church! Preaching the gospel was central. Correct doctrine was crucial - so when I tentatively played this first little song to my bible study group I was somewhat set back at the comment that it contained unbiblical references to "praying to the saints". HA! Listen to the lyrics and it's the part where I poetically sing "Oh Nicodemus..." See what you think. It makes me smile now as I look back.
The Wind Was Blowing
But that was in the day when guitars and youth groups were novel and frowned upon by "The Establishment". Even walking through town with a copy of "Youth Praise" under your arm, let alone taking a guitar into the church (gasp) was enough to have you come under suspicion of being "keen" and being too keen about your Christianity was just not cricket.
Not long afterwards I left that town and church and moved to Oxford, a bustling and youthful University City. I attended St. Aldates City Church which at the time had Michael Green as Rector. That may mean nothing to you, but he went on to become a bit of a celebrity; even at that time he was writing books and now he's quite well known as a Theologian.
It was an interesting and exciting time to be a Christian, especially in Oxford. While in the world the hippy movement was in full swing, the Christian version "Jesus People" was also rising up.
Jimmy and Carol Owens produced "Come Together" and it toured the country as a celebration and ministry. I was married by now and I and my husband joined the choir and performed this in Oxford. Later we also performed the popular Christian Operetta "The Witness" by Jimmy and Carol Owens. I have the score, and used to have the LP but along the way it disappeared - it's now on YouTube.
So there was a rising interest in music, and everyone was a guitar player. My friends and I were no exception.
Like others, I wrote songs and sang them with my guitar as accompaniment, just to express my faith and love of the Lord. From the earliest days I wanted to walk more closely to Him. One morning I woke up having had a beautiful dream, in which I sang a lovely song to the Lord. Songs in dreams are always more beautiful than you can ever recapture the next day, in reality (or perhaps they just seem that way) but I TRIED to capture some of it, and the words, but only a fraction remained.
Here is all I could do at the time:
A close friend Penelope Walsh, myself and a student friend, Malcolm Price, got together to strum a few tunes. Some of these songs (below) are the result of rough rehearsals at the Rectory, or at my house - no professional recording equipment, just a mic and a tape recorder. [Once the cat walked over the cable, causing a bad crackle!].
We were asked to sing for some of the church services at St Aldates, and on occasion I composed a song for them.
Unfortunately I don't have any audio recordings of those trio performances, but I DO have one in which singer Patsy Gilliland (she and her husband joined the church for a short time) performed my hymn with the church choir. We knew the theme of the service was going to be God's will, and we were asked to write a song specially for the service. I wrote from the heart about the need to allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us, and NOT to rely on self-effort and human ability.
This didn't go down too well, and after consultation, the crucial middle verse was cut, leaving the meaning of the song to be rather bland and empty. Still, what remains you can hear, taken from the actual church service at the time, complete with small choir in the background.
Patsy is still in music today, as a private voice teacher and conductor of the Tar River Children's Chorus.
This seems like it could have been a good professional rendition but sadly it wasn't and it still makes me annoyed for a variety of reasons:
It was all hastily arranged with no time for rehearsal; the pianist hammed it up using only my guitar chords as a basis, the men in the choir sang really slowly, and Patsy fluffed one line of the lyrics. (She should have sung "in each of us, we pray" but muddled it with the first verse and sang "each one of us, we pray" which makes no sense.)
But worst, for me, was the complete absence of the middle verse, the keynote one about our need for the Holy Spirit to guide our lives and empower us for service. This was axed because St Aldates was fighting the "charismatic movement" and anything about the Holy Spirit got the veto! Shame.(I've searched for the words of that missing verse and can't find them. Patsy and the Rector's wife have the only remaining copies.)
Lord, I'm waiting
Hippies & Communes
The growing charismatic renewal was a time of hope for most of us, because we glimpsed something beyond the stodgy old Anglican services, organ, hymnbooks and pews. Like many other young people, I was keen to see the Lord lifted up fully and gloriously, and to see lives changed. Cathedral services were packed with eager young Christians, seeking new life and meaning, and an end to dull tradition.
During that time I was writing upbeat hopeful songs and praying for revival. We set up a Community House in Oxford (community was all the rage after the neo-catholic Fisher Folk from the States started a Commune in Scotland!). Penelope moved in (with her piano) so music filled the house.
I Want My Spirit to be Open
The Establishment Fights Back; Sin Strangles the Newborn Revival
This early enthusiasm was quickly quenched. The attitudes of the Leadership, and apathy, and fear of anything "newfangled" and plain ignorance came along to dull the edges of the experience. Also, the fallacies of "revival" began to show up. Extremes of doctrine, and the abuse of authority began. it quickly stopped being a move of the Spirit for individuals, and was channeled into "shepherding" and control.
I grew more cynical about Christians and their attitudes, and grieved at their lack of interest and in some cases sinful lifestyles. The church as a whole was rejecting God and aiming at self-advancement and popularity. If true revival was to come, it had to be through REPENTANCE and the rejection of self!!
Three Protest Songs
The Time Has Come (Penny, Malcolm and me)
This yearning and exhortation grew into frustration and rebuke eventually, as false teaching and sin became the norm, and even the charismatic renewal turned into "heavy shepherding". The buds of my discernment ministry were showing!
In the same vein, this appeal:
Yet Even Now (Joel 2)
As we all know now, the trend was to forsake the Lord's grace and push on into the apostasy. Attitudes of greed for power and influence, coupled with false doctrine, pushed the renewal into an area worse than anything that had preceded it, into rampant heresy and the abuse of the spiritual gifts - to the extent of blasphemy!
As an eager young revivalist amongst the growing crowds of "sheep" I felt frustrated and disappointed that it had come to nothing. And as a thinking Christian who had a "bad habit" of asking awkward questions about doctrine, I felt increasingly rejected by both leadership and congregation. I eventually left, a sadder and wiser Christian.
I had found the talk of "community" and "love" by the Leadership to be a hollow fantasy, and the more I grew in the Lord, the more of a "threat" I seemed to become to them. Hypocrisy, in-fighting, gossip, betrayal - all the things that we struggle with today - were taking over; the hope of a true and God-led revival died.
The more mature I grew in my Christianity, the closer I grew to the Lord, the more alienated and suspect I appeared to the rank and file. It didn't seem to matter that I was joining in and helping, giving up my time for service and trying to be productive for the Lord. That did not remove the suspicion that I was a dangerous "radical" who might refuse to toe the party line. They couldn't control me, so they pushed me out. This next song expresses my sadness.
BUT THIS IS NOT...
(By the way, IF anyone with genuine musical talent is inspired by these amateur tracks to create something worthwhile out of them, I'd love for you to go for it!)
© 1995-2013 Tricia Tillin of Banner Ministries. All rights reserved. Cross+Word Website: http://www.banner.org.uk/ This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information. One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.