John McCormack (from Melbourne, Australia)

I've written songs for twenty two years, and never blamed God or anyone else for anything that's come crawling out my mouth. It’s all been the vent, stuff that seemed funny at the time (love songs with all the imagery derived from professional wrestling – ages ago that one, that arena’s got a little too decadent lately), some scripture-into-song or some hand-to-hand-combat-with-God numbers (the latter two categories being entirely compatible, of course). They’re very rarely learnt, there hasn't been much of a context for public performance. Cold feet, other commitments, etc. People say the lyrics are good, the music's hopefully getting better.

Lately I've been writing for our congregation, in an attempt to put truth and doctrine into song. What's coming from the pulpit is all too often gutless, postmodernity-accommodating, disenchanted (in the Weberian sense) Progressive Christianity, and we need another voice there; if we can't hear the gospel, might as well sing it, or the best approximation that some like-minded writers and I can produce. It's utilitarian, and very rational in terms of its origins. I’ve never picked up anything from the ether that was just waiting for me and no one else to pick it up. Neither do I know that it's in any way transcendent in its effects, ignorance here is probably for the best. But (we come to the point at last), this piece of yours reminds me that at its best, rock and roll or whatever guitar-based genre I attempt to practise can in fact be transcendent. And it is an encouragement to keep on with it, to keep trusting God with it and asking him to guide the process and to use it in whatever way seems good to him. In some inexplicable way, it’s worth it. Thanks.

Gary Bradley

In wrestling with transcendence in songwriting, I've realised that it's easy to fall into a trap of becoming so, "so heavenly-minded, no earthly use", but Jesus makes it plain "...your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" Matt 6:10. To be of earthly use is to search for and within the transcendent, where the Spirit illuminates the gospel and the gospel actually happens in the physical. That kicks a lot of fluffy, puppy-love, modern worship out of the playing field. It's why I like Martyn Joseph. I now like Tom Petty even more. I remember hearing 'Refugee' in the 80's and wondering why a rocker wrote songs like that - thanks for illuminating me (twice in one passage - I must be very bright...get it!??). Thanks Steve - it helps a lot.

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