Synod 2017 members were treated to a musical interlude during Sunday’s theological reflection by Dr Margaret Campbell.
The light and lilting rendition of Reinventions after J. S. Bach, No. 1 by Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin as performed by recorder artist Genevieve Lacey played out over speakers in the main meeting room.
Dr Campbell pointed out that just as Kats-Chernin had taken on the imposing, and some would say improper, task of reframing the musical masterpieces of Johann Sebastian Bach, the church was also called to be open to the Holy Spirit in finding “fresh words and deeds”.
“Participating in renewal can be a joyful privilege and challenge,” Dr Campbell said.
Dr Campbell said she had observed much at Synod which showed the church reinventing itself.
“So many great ideas and great things happening,” she said.
Dr Campbell said that some who revered Bach would consider his works “sacred ground” and cringe at the thought of them being tampered with.
However, she wasn’t so sure the great classical composer would agree.
As Bach famously said: “Music’s only purpose should be the glory of God and the recreation of the human spirit.”
Dr Campbell said that Kats-Chernin, who is the composer in residence for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, has also reinvented herself.
Ms Kats-Chernin told the ABC’s Rachael Kohn that in her earlier stage she felt the obligation of a contemporary composer was to be avant garde and cutting edge, which meant her works were often dense, difficult and discordant.
When her teenage son was diagnosed with schizophrenia Ms Kats-Chernin’s response was to start composing more uplifting melodic and meditative music that provided a space for silence.
“She decided to write music for what her son has lost, comfort and peace,” Dr Campbell said.
This had led to Kats-Chernin being commissioned by the Hush Music Foundation to write music for children recovering in hospital as well as their families and health carers.
Dr Campbell said that she didn’t want to be glib about suffering but positive change often came out of challenge.
She found scriptural backing for this in Romans 5:1-4: “And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Similarly Dr Campbell said that out of her personal grief Kats-Chernin was producing “a style of music that brings hope and peace for many.”
Dr Campbell expressed the hope that out of challenges the church faces it might also “be open to the transforming power the Holy Spirit gives us”.