“Gazing past the planets, looking for total view.” With this lyric from the popular sixties album To Our Children’s Children’s Children, a Moody Blues tribute band opens a unique celebration of creation spirituality with the Jubilee Community in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. It was on a warm night in late May last year, that Jubilee hosted the debut performance of The Lost Chord. And the band would sing on. “Wonders of a lifetime, right there before your eyes.”
Mike Parvin attended the Friday night gathering and said “At the end of the concert I found myself standing, applauding and cheering this band.” I then realized that I was also standing, applauding and cheering the sounds and songs of the Moody Blues. This is what a tribute band is for – celebration! Were they good? Yes. Did they succeed? Yes…YES!”
The group performs in and around Asheville carrying a message that resonates with the Jubilants as well as anyone else looking for a brand of spirituality that is a bit more cosmic in scope. To contact the band visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/thelostchordmoodybluestribute/
While a Sunday morning celebration within Jubilee’s diverse community draws liberally from the Judeo-Christian scriptures for inspiration, participants might also enjoy insights from the Beatles or Dylan. At times the congregation is held, enraptured, by the sound of a Buddhist bowl. At other times they will engage with a highly versatile house band that offers a little something of everything, from Bach to Zulu. For any newcomer, it quickly becomes apparent the Jubilants are a wildly independent lot. But, when it’s time for celebration they are all in, just as they were admonished to be as the Moody Blues and the Lost Chord sang “Baby there’s no price upon your head, sing it, shout it!”
“Eighty percent of what we do is music” according to Howard Hanger. It was this same Reverend Hanger who, in May of 1984, commenced a gathering of creative people to develop an artistic interpretation of eight “Seeds of Celebration.” The group shared stories, songs, dance, poetry, paintings, and other expressions in a highly interactive, participatory way. From these humble beginnings the Jubilee Community was born.
From the time of its inception, Jubilee has enjoyed the support of area Baptist, Buddhist, Jewish, Methodist, Episcopal, Unitarian-Universalist, and United Church of Christ congregations. It has borrowed from these traditions together with Sufi, Native American and others while fostering a “Creation Spirituality” that honors all of creation as a “Holy Gift.” Among the many affirming messages displayed within Jubilee’s Earth friendly building is the statement that “Diversity of faith enriches our community.”
During the thirteenth century Thomas Aquinas wrote “We can and do relate to the universe as a whole since we are a microcosm of that macrocosm and this relationship “intoxicates” us.” Jubilant’s clearly believe that Aquinas was on to something. While this way of thinking is, perhaps, as old as humanity, it may have been best articulated in text that a scribe in ancient Egypt produced as a legacy for his son. The Instruction of Amenemope dates back to the the Ramesside Period, during which the tribes of Israel first became a unified nation. For anyone who tends to view our universe of universes in a creation spirituality context, there is one line from this text that sort of jumps out at you:
“For from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen.”
Pastor Hanger describes a personal awakening of sorts in this way: “I studied under Margaret Mead. She was an anthropologist.” He goes on to say: “One of the things that turned my head around when I was twenty years old was when she said “Go to any archeological site, anyplace in the world, and one of the first things you will find are sacred artifacts. We’ve always sought to connect with that which we do not understand.”” At that point Hanger recalls that he thought to himself “Yes, yes! That’s it, that’s it, that’s it! Were yearning for that.”
“So that’s really what we try to do at Jubilee We don’t try to give anybody any answers. But, we try to open them up to ask better questions about their life, about life on this planet.” Hanger goes on to say “Music is . . . We all know it’s a social lubricant. But I say it’s a spiritual lubricant too. It gets you out of your set kind of ways of thinking and being. It opens the door to other possibilities.”
“The whole western church is built on music.” Hanger said. “The only reason we have Bach is because he was hired by a church and he had to write all these things. And so, music is crucial, absolutely crucial in Jubilee. Many people are attracted to Jubilee because of the the music. It offers such variety.”
At one point in our interview, Pastor Hanger described the way he came into possession of a Buddhist bowl saying “A guy at Jubilee had a store, called Far Away Place. He told me “I want to give you a Buddhist bowl, but you’ve got to come in and let it pick you.” So I go to his store and he says “Now shut your eyes and I’m going to start playing them and you’ll know when it’s your bowl. You’ll just know that.” So I’m thinking, ok, I can play this game. I close my eyes and he plays fifteen or twenty of them and I’m like, this is not working. I’m getting kind of embarrassed, you know, for him. And he tells me “Just keep on, your bowl may not even be here.”
Hanger continues: “So he gets one, gets one, gets one and then, all of a sudden I said “That’s it!” Well, I don’t know. It sounded like all the other bowls, but there was something about it, the overtones that just, whew! And so, maybe the tone of that just spoke to me, cut through the crowd. That’s the bowl we use on Sunday. I don’t know if it speaks to the other people there, but it gets me there.” He said.
Pastor Hanger is in awe of the musical talent at Jubilee “We have wonderful drummers.” He said. “And there’s something about that drum. I’m a big student of ritual and, as far as we know, our first human ritual was done with drum and dance. That was our first connection to the Spirit world.” Jubilee’s schedule of celebrations is available on their website at www.JubileeCommunity.org and they will host an International Conference on Creation Spirituality in April.
In a world of competing ideas we are each searching for answers. And, there is no shortage of people with good ideas they hope will go viral, folks who sincerely believe their idea is the one whose time has come. Even so, there are many highly diversified groups like these, composed of people thoroughly jazzed by diversity and what now appears to be a new unification of contrasts, people who seem to value spiritual unity over any form of theological uniformity.
They have brought a powerful contagion into our midst. It is through this enthusiasm (en-theos), that they are truly united as they strive to be ever more responsive to the Divine leading that brings us together. Some will hum along as they find resonance in the cosmos and each other. Some will sway as they share the sound of singing bowls. Still others will raise their voices heavenward in a full throated expression of gratitude. When all is said and done, it is the common quest of searchers that make us a house undivided for, and far beyond, itself. “I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed.”
Consider the First Source!
When we align our objectives with the Divine will, when we strive for the attainment of a worthy goal, when we begin our work with a well defined plan, and when we have ability to work together with others effectively, we have already achieved the trajectory for success. For we know that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”