Travels in August . . . Family, Wine, Guitars, and Music for the Emerging Church

The past three weeks have been a whirlwind of traveling all across the country as I’m trying to enjoy one month of freedom between the end of CPE and the beginning of my last year of seminary. First I went back to Colorado, where I preached twice – once in the Eckert Presbyterian Church, which was founded by my great grandfather nearly a century ago, and once in Delta Presbyterian Church, the church I grew up attending. I also spent a lot of time visiting family. Every time I go back to Colorado, I come back with something new that I’ve learned about members of my family. This time I found out that one of my great-aunts grew up in Pittsburgh, and that one of my dad’s cousins had been the first female moderator of her Presbytery. While I knew she was very active in the Presbyterian church, I had no idea how much work she had done at the presbytery level until this most recent visit. Anoher highlight from Colorado was visiting some of the wineries in my home county with my dad and uncle John. Western Colorado has been gaining a reputation as a wine-growing region for the past few years, and I have to say that the wines we tried there were definitely higher quality than some of the ones that Eileen and I tried in Erie on our anniversary trip. My personal favorites were from Alfred Eames Cellars (which is owned and operated almost single-handedly by an amazing guitarist who used to play in a band with the woman who taught me to play guitar), and Jack Rabbit Hill, which produces some incredible organic red wine.

After that trip, Eileen and I came back to Pittsburgh for three days, then drove to Bethlehem, PA, to visit my mom and her side of the family. Our time there was packed as well, as we took trips to the beach in New Jersey, watched my newest baby cousin be baptized, and toured the Martin Guitar factory in Nazareth. At Martin, I was amazed to see how much expert work goes into building a guitar. It struck me as an incredible metaphor for how fragile yet beautiful life is in general (perhaps a topic for a later blog post . . .). At the end of the tour Eileen and my mom and I went into a special room where they let you try out some of Martin’s finest guitars. Out of the five or six I tried, there was one in particular which I just fell in love with. The D-45 Koa has officially become my dream guitar . . . at the startling price of $9599!! I will never be able to afford that, nor could I in good conscience justify spending that much on a guitar for myself, but it just sounded so good.

Last of all – I have to put in a quick ad for two new cds that are coming out. First is the new Caedmons Call cd, which will feature again their former band-member and one of my all-time favorite musicians Derek Webb. The second cd that I’m excited about is Songs for a Revolution of Hope vol. 1: Everything Must Change. As the Brian McLaren’s preface on the website explains, the cd is designed to present worship songs that reflect themes of justice and hope, rather than individualistic me-centered Christianity. I’ve often wondered why there wasn’t a more explicit connection between the emerging church movement and musicians such as Enter the Worship Circle who so obviously share common values. Part of the reason this cd excites me so much is that connection is being made. Plus, it features some of our favorite artists from Boulder – Aaron Strumpel and The Blackthorn Project. I started listening to Aaron Strumpel last year when he did a cd in the Enter the Worship Circle “Chair and Microphone” series – it’s filled with raw, beautiful, simple, emotional, and intense songs of lament. As for the Blackthorn Project, Tim and Laurie used to be members of our favorite local band in college: “Newcomers Home”. We were sad when Newcomers disbanded, but Blackthorn’s music is amazing as well, and much more bluegrass than Newcomers were. I hope someday to use their hymn arrangements in church . . . . Anyway – thank you for reading so far in this long post, buy these cds and support these amazing musicians. Amen!

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