In an era when homeless people can be seen sleeping on city sidewalks and park benches, Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz wanted to convey the idea that Jesus too was homeless. It was said of him: “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Schmalz didn’t anticipate that his sculpture would be controversial. St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York expressed interest in displaying the work but were overruled by diocesan officials. Schmalz said he was told that the image was not “appropriate.” Schmalz is negotiating with another church in New York City for a permanent home.
All three of Kent Haruf’s novels set in the fictional farming town of Holt, Colorado, bear liturgical-sounding titles: Plainsong (1999), Eventide (2004) and now Benediction. Many of their characters are looking for a benediction: a good word of connection, closure, forgiveness or security.
Somewhere in my queue of non-time-sensitive articles to write—yes, it’s been there a while—is one on the history and practice of making theologically significant changes to traditional American songs. Not just line-level edits like neutering/diversifying gendered language or using “love” in place of “wrath.” I mean re-imagining songs in a thoroughgoing way, while also preserving much of the existing imagery and language patterns. (I posted some time ago about one historical example.)
I write songs and play traditional music, but I haven’t actually tried this approach myself.
I've always been immersed in music, and I never forget a song lyric. So a college friend used to call me "Verse Boy" and would ocassionally challenge me to come up with a hymn or folk song's lesser-known stanzas on command. "National anthem, verse three" he might say, and off I'd go with "And where is that band /Who so vauntingly swore..." (That one's a doozy, by the way. Compared to verse three, verse one might as well be "This Is My Song.")
Orchard Gardens, a K-8 pilot school started in Roxbury, Massachusetts, in 2003 did not live up to expectations. It was racked by violence, and its 2010 test scores placed it among the bottom five public schools in the state. Andrew Bott, the school’s sixth principal in seven years, fired all the security guards and devoted the money to teaching the arts. It was a risky move that’s paid off. Tests scores have improved, even though they’re still below average, and student behavior has improved. “I’ve been more open, and I’ve expressed myself more than I would have before the arts came,” said one student who has been accepted into a public high school specializing in visual and performing arts (NBC News, May 1).