Category Archives: religion

Worship and Local Arts Workshop

In mid-September, I (Matt) had the opportunity to lead a workshop at a local church about worship and local arts.  This was in the Balinese community I’ve been working with recently, and I was excited to have the opportunity to run a workshop with them instead of just research. I am pleased to say that it went very well!  We all learned a lot about their culture and arts and what the Bible has to say about it, and I hope that this is not the end but rather the beginning of the development of Christian local arts there.

This was a short workshop, just 3 evenings.  The original plan was for 5 evenings (Mon.-Fri.) but that conflicted with some church services so we shortened it to just three.  That was a little shorter than I was hoping for, but we made the most of the time we had.  We covered topics such as:

  • Worship in the Bible (the beginning, Moses and the Tabernacle, the temple, in diaspora, Jesus, the early church, and Paul’s writings)
  • The Bible, Music, and Meaning
  • New Songs in the Bible
  • Borrowing Songs from other cultures/languages
  • Creating an Arts Profile for their community
  • making plans for the future
  • sharing the plans with the group

It was a packed schedule!  I was pleasantly surprised at how much everyone was interested in the theology of worship; I had expected those sessions to be somewhat dry, but they inspired some serious discussion.  We ended with making plans for the future, so participants grouped themselves by area of interest and chose something from the Arts Profile that they would like to encourage, use in church, etc.

At the end, participants presented plans for encouraging new music, reviving a food tradition, looking for someone to help with Balinese dance, using local clothing, and using storytelling for special occasions at church.  Overall, for an abbreviated workshop I was very pleased with the outcome. 

Now it is in their hands – one principle we work by is helping communities with their needs, but not forcing our ideas or programs on them.  This workshop was a great introduction to what this church could do with its amazing artistic and cultural capabilities, but it is now up to them to choose what to do.  There’s much more I can do there to help encourage local arts in church, but we will take it one step at a time and see what their needs and desires are.

I hope to hold another workshop like this in November for the churches here in the city, so we’ll keep you all posted!

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Filed under Dance, Ethnoarts, Food, language/culture, Music, religion, workshop

…and more gamelan!

A few days ago I (Matt) went back to the Balinese community a few hours away to attend a gamelan rehearsal as well as learn a little more about the community and their needs.  It is utterly fascinating to study what they’re doing there, and to see such a rich artistic and cultural heritage still alive and well!  Sometime in the next few months, we plan to help this community by hosting a songwriting workshop to first discuss the theological basis for using local arts in church, and then encourage them to write some new songs using their language and music instead of old translated Western hymns.

About Western hymns – starting all the way back with the Dutch when Indonesia was still a colony, Western church and cultural influences came along for the ride.  The majority of the songs in the hymnbook here are German, Dutch, or English in origin, although there are some newer Indonesian hymns (written in a western-music style).  Because this has been church culture here for over a hundred years, it has become a normal part of Christian life so we’re not going to go around forcing people to change what they do in church – that’s just another form of imperialism!  What we do want to do is encourage them to bring their own language, culture, and arts into the church as well.  Many people groups here have a split in their lives – what you do inside church and what you do outside of church.  We want to help them incorporate these two halves into one using their arts and language.

I could go off on a tangent about the theology of this and the reason I believe it’s so important, but that might be the topic of a different blog post some other day.  For now, suffice it to say that if you believe that your language, culture and arts can’t be used in church, what does that say about who you are, your cultural identity, and your value to God? On the flip side, if you are welcome to worship in your heart language and heart music/arts, what message does that communicate?

Here are some videos to enjoy.  This first video is the tuning of this particular gamelan.  Although there are 10 keys played, it is a 5-tone (pentatonic) scale.  My personal opinion is that this scale, in solfege, is la ti do mi fa, or 6 7 1 3 4 but they call it re mi so la do or 2 3 5 6 1.  So far, I’m not totally convinced of which is the more accurate representation of their scale, but here’s a video clip.  For you music nerds out there, maybe you can help:

This second clip is usually accompanied by a dance, but since this was just a music rehearsal there wasn’t a dancer present.  Although it isn’t normal to play the music without the dancing, they decided to do it for me anyways:

This third clip is a bit of a contest.  It’s a hymn that I’m sure all of you Americans (and probably most other English-speakers) know, but the Balinese church has adapted it for the gamelan so it sounds just a little bit different.  Feel free to guess what hymn they are using in the comments below!  The first to guess correctly gets a prize…I have no idea what, but I’m sure I can come up with something!  (Again, my preference is always to help communities develop new music for worship that is in their language and musical style, but these kind of adaptations are common here and this is one they have been using for quite a while.)

Keep in mind that all of these videos are from a rehearsal, so these are not polished performances. All video has been obtained with informed consent, and is available to you here to give you a taste of the fun things we get to learn about. Hope you enjoy!

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Filed under Ethnoarts, language/culture, religion

Batunjuk

During our last village trip, there was a huge church service and celebration to mark the end of the Christmas season.  Everyone from all over the area was invited and there was a big potluck meal afterwards.  Following that, there was batunjuk.  This is a tradition from North Sulawesi that immigrants brought with them to our area, and the best way to describe it is a good old-fashioned hymn sing.  Everyone sits in a circle inside the church and two people are chosen to start and are given flowers to hold.  They choose the first song and as everyone sings they walk around the circle in opposite directions.  When the song is over, the flowers are given to the person where they stop and those two new people pick the next song.  This continues for several hours, sometimes even all night!  The songs are chosen only from the old, traditional Christian songs that are rarely sung anymore, so it has a nostalgic feel to it.  Even though they were old songs, it was encouraging to see  people of all ages participating.  Coffee, tea, and snacks are served and everyone relaxes and enjoys the singing; occasionally there’s dancing as well.  I shot some video of the festivities to give you an idea of what it’s all about.  The singing went on for hours and hours and hours . . . but it was great fun!

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Filed under Church Events, Ethnoarts, language/culture, Music, religion, Village life

Easter

Since we had only been back in Indonesia for 4 days we did a few things for Easter but for the most part kept it pretty low key. I just wanted to post a few pictures of our girls and little things that we did for family to see. Keepin it simple these days. I’ll write a post about the traveling in a few days here for those of you who I know are just dying to hear how it went…

So we woke up (really early, because we were still getting over jet-lag) and let Elizabeth open her Easter basket. Charlotte was still sleeping until a bit later. Elizabeth was very happy, can you tell? Love that precious smile!

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Both girls got these goofy glasses in their Easter baskets. So silly!

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Me with my girls on Easter morning! (sorry a bit blurry)

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After church we did a little egg hunt in our front yard. Elizabeth was SO excited about doing this that I wasn’t even able to snap a picture of the two girls together before she was off finding eggs. Charlotte wasn’t sure what to do at first, but after she watched Elizabeth and then saw us pointing to the eggs and putting them in her basket, she thought it was so much fun.

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Happy Easter to you all!! Praise the Lord for a Risen Savior who has come to set us free from the power of sin and death!

P.S. – Thanks to Aunt Margaret for the adorable dresses!

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Filed under daily life, family, Family Pictures, our kids, religion

World Religions

Today I read a very interesting article on CNN that gives new and updated statistics about world religions.  Some of the information is quite surprising!  I’d encourage you to read it, as it gives a good picture of who believes what and where they live.

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