Jazz in Church?

Interesting article in The Atlantic, about church services centered around jazz performance. From Marc Hopkins:

At Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church, located at the top of the city’s Magnificent Mile, each Sunday at 4 p.m. the Lucy Smith Quartet draws heavily from sacred offerings like Coltrane’s “Dear Lord,” and songs from his A Love Supreme album. Adam Fronczek, associate pastor for adult education and worship, started the weekly services in mid-2010 to reach people who didn’t grow up in church or had stopped coming and wanted to return. Fronczek found jazz particularly useful because he sees the music as theologically rich. “There’s a musical journey that goes on with a piece of jazz music that I think mirrors our journey through the life of faith,” he said, referring to improvisation that occurs during performance. 

The line about the theological richness of jazz intrigued me, so I spent some time this morning digging around the internet, and I found this interview with “jazz theologian” Robert Gelinas. 

Jazz theology is what happens when we express the basic elements of jazz in our relationship with God—syncopation, improvisation, and call and response. These allow us to find our own voice within Scripture; experience life in concert with other practicing Christians; truly have time as servant leaders instead of time having us; and sing the blues so as not to waste any pain.

Curiously, Gelinas also writes “But my favorite jazz artist is the great American novelist Ralph Ellison, who demonstrated that jazz is more than music with his classic novel, Invisible Man. He showed that if we understand the basics of jazz, we can see it expressed in a variety of ways.”

See? It all comes back to my dissertation. 

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