(my song of 2020... Stephanie Hall performed it in Fitzroy's Sunday Service on September 6th, 2020...)
There have been some wonderful songs written and released this year. My very favourite one has to be Grace. Soul Surmise readers know that that title was always going to catch my eye but this Grace is not from some Trump supporting church in California. It is theology from a slightly less likely place, though through the years I have come to the realisation that the best theology in the arts comes from places we least expect. (Check the name of one of my books)
Grace is written by Canadian (with a whole lot of Irish in him) Stephen Fearing. Stephen is a wonderful songwriter and amazing guitar player. Grace does not appear on Fearing’s stunning recent record, The Unconquerable Past, but on the latest Blackie & The Rodeo Kings album King Of This Town.
In the album’s liner notes Fearing explains the writing of the song:
“’Grace’ is ‘The Water is Wide. That melody has been haunting me for years. I went back to the Sheraton where I was staying. I was sitting on the 10th floor and there was a snow storm coming in. It was just beautiful. I’m just thinking what will I bring to the table tomorrow [while] playing that progression of ‘The Water is Wide.’ I’m going ‘Okay, how can I use this?’ The how and the feeling of the song is two o’clock in the morning, sitting in the hotel room, it’s dark and the snow’s falling and that song ‘The Water is Wide.’ That’s where it comes from.”
Out of that simple snowy night scene, with that simple traditional tune running round his head, Fearing conjures not only the physical moment he is in but in keeping with the song dives for a spiritual pearl.
I heard the song just about two weeks into lockdown and it made the hairs on my soul stand on end. It is beautiful and in these very short verses there is so much soul food and hope.
Old Testament theologian Walter Brueggemann writes about hope:
“Genuine hope is not blind optimism. It is hope with open eyes, which sees the suffering and yet believes in the future.”
Grace is a song that carries that entire quotation. There is no blind optimism as Fearing sings. There is a melancholic yearning, near catharsis, going on. Out of almost lament, Fearing brings in the hope. It is not big and bright but it is light and the morning will come…
I look for grace
When I am broken
A deep sea diver
Reaching for a pearl
One tiny light
In all this darkness
Til the morning, til the morning
Until the morning shines upon the world.
I cannot tell you how much I love it!