We had a very special lunchtime recital on April 11th. Nell Sanders, who played with Aaron Craelius that day, had already announced it in the program she sent us: â€œI believe that music crosses boundaries. My music brings together communities who donâ€™t come together under other contexts, and allows them to find common ground to relate to one another.â€ She also said that â€œthe power to unite humanity and make peace rests within art forms that break stereotypes and bring diverse communities together.â€
Sounds pretty complicated, doesnâ€™t it? But there she was, an energetic young woman playing Cuban congas and West African djembe drums with incredible vigor and spiritual depth. How would she bridge the cultural gap to our (this time) mostly white audience that is used to hearing Baroque or Classic chamber music?
We were surprised when, after the drums, Nell picked up her bass trombone and brought it beautifully in line with the rhythms to which she had just introduced us. Soon there was a lively conversation between the African drums and the European brass instrument. And before we knew it, Aaron Craelius, a classical cellist with training in jazz and other contemporary forms of music, joined in on his cello. Have you ever heard a cello being tuned to a bass trombone, and both played together with congas and djembe drums? It was beautiful, moving and surprising at the same time, as a new and diverse world took shape in front of our ears.
As I listened, I wondered what this music would have to say to our church. Diverse is beautiful. Diverse does not mean that one tradition has to overpower the others. And diverse is something completely new. (I know, in church we all talk about it, but on Sunday morning, we are as segregated as ever.)
Since true diversity is new, it falls under the dictum of anything new. The great French Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin, ostracized for his teachings by his order and by the Roman Catholic Church, once expressed this reality with these words: â€œIf one tries to break new ground, or to walk in a new path, one walks straight to Calvary.â€
This is, of course, a threat and a promise at the same time. The achievement of a truly diverse community in our particular church, but also within our denomination, will not be easy. Yet it carries the promise of salvation.
I was grateful for Nell and Aaron to lead the way with their music.