There is good work yet to do
by Steve Bell
It’s been another busy year for me with the usual spate of concerts in churches across the continent. This has been the main focus of my work for the last thirty years and I still enjoy it as much as ever, as I have come to understand my vocation as a singer/songwriter in increasingly clearer terms: to refresh Christian faith and spiritual tradition for the weary and the wary.
However, the ministry has been maturing in ways I could never have predicted in the early years. Increasingly I’m being asked to teach in conference and college settings which has led to the development of a day-and-a-half retreat that I’m now offering across the country.
It hardly needs to be said that we are living in complex times, and it seems to me that in tandem with the social chaos we are experiencing, the church (in the west at least) is becoming increasingly unmoored from her historical roots and practices. In periods of disorientation, it is wise to set aside time to pause, refresh and reset. It is to those ends that I’ve developed the retreat in which I teach four sessions.
The first session is on the uniquely Christian understanding of God as Trinity: that at the epicenter of truth, God the Father, Son and Spirit exist eternally in a dynamic communion of mutual self-donating love. This, of course, has profound implications for human community and its relationship to all of God’s creation, which flows from, and is sustained by who God is.
In light of the Trinity, I then do a session on worship using Isaiah 6:1-9 as a matrix to help us understand how worship functions to address brokenness and alienation wrought by sin and to restore the beloved community, for the sake of the world, to right relationship with God, with each other and with all of creation.
From there I do a session on the rich, spiritual tradition of the church calendar year – Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter and Ordinarytime – which perennially rehearses and re-harrows the story of God. This calendar year is the church’s wise way of consciously choosing the narrative which fashions her rather than allowing herself to be subverted by any number of destructive counter-narratives which appeal to the self-centeredness of our fractured humanity rather than the other-centeredness of God’s loving communion.
Finally, I do a session on saints, psalms, and ancient prayers, which all have been a profound comfort and nourishing resource to me over the years.
I enjoy these retreats immensely. I don’t claim to speak comprehensively for the Christian faith, but these are the things that I’ve thought deeply about and am happy to share. And, as always, I teach with a guitar in hand which allows me the joy of integrating the head and heart and body through the medium of song.
In other news, I’ve just completed a seven-part book series on the spirituality of the church calendar year called Pilgrim Year, which is to be released by Novalis Press this fall. It’s a devotional series with one book for each of the traditional seasons of the Christian calendar: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter and Ordinarytime. We’re also releasing a two-disc CD collection of music (culled from my catalogue) that corresponds to the movement of the tradition. Book writing is new to me, and it was much harder work than I anticipated, but it was good work for me to do personally and so I hope it is of value to the wider community. I think people unfamiliar with this ancient tradition will find it to be an interesting introduction, and folks who grew up in it will find fresh, revitalizing perspectives.
Finally, I’m launching a podcast this fall called WayStations, which shares interviews I’ve been collecting with the many fascinating people I meet in my travels. This is pure fun for me. My work allows me to interact with and learn from storied and learned people from all walks of life. I’m so pleased to start sharing the riches that have blessed me.
In January 2019 I’ll begin, I assume, to work on my next CD of songs.
I thought I’d be slowing down by now but that doesn’t appear to be the case. There is so much good work to do, and I’m grateful to be a part of it.