The Jazz Theologian

Hands What is Christian community?  Normally we only define it in terms of the present–who are the people that we know, worship and pray with.  If we get radical, we also realize that community is not just about who we know and have relationship with but that it includes all Christians who are alive at the same time we are.  Therefore, issues of division in the body matter…black & white, Baptist & Catholic…even though these go beyond our immediate set of relationships and local church.

Biblically speaking, community is all of this and so much more…

Not only are Christians called to live in community with those in the present but also the past and the future.  When God would introduce himself in the Old Testament he would sometimes say, "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."  With that introduction He helps us to see that to know him is to know them as well–we live today in light of those who lived yesterday.  In Hebrews 12, we are reminded of the "great cloud of witnesses" that cheer us on as we run the same race that they did. They view themselves as actively in communion with us and we are living for the day that we will join them–we live today in light of the relationships we will have in the future.

Some of our modern day view of community seems so myopic, self-centered and short-sighted.

Ann Pederson, Associate Professor of Religion at Augustana College makes the following observations about jazz and community as she draws upon the work of Paul F. Berliner:

"Paul F. Berliner’s Rich Study of the jazz community includes a chapter entitled ‘Hangin’ Out and Jammin’:  The Jazz Community as an Educational System."  With great detail, he describes the process of learning how to improvise within the jazz community…jazz musicians have perfected the art of hanging out in the jam session.  During these informal sessions great learning takes place.  Individuals share their talents by forming causal apprenticeships.  Jam sessions bring together amateurs and professionals to lean from and with one another.  The jam session creates its own community for learning how to improvise."

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