What if we experienced church like a jazz ensemble…connected, not only to those that we can see, but also with those who have and have yet to follow Jesus?
We were all created for community–Beloved Community.
E pluribus unum–out of many, one. This motto represents the American desire to be a society in which people from the whole world can come and participate. It appears on the Great Seal of the United States and on much of our money, and it represents our quest and questions when it comes to community in our culture.
It’s a laudable goal, but how do you make many into one? The answer depends on your metaphor. The image we have in our mind for community is vital, not just for our country, but for church as well, for our culture will guide our pursuit toward being one in Christ.
Mixed Metaphors, Mixed Results
The Melting Pot and The Salad Bowl were (and still are for many) guiding metaphors for making one out of many. While both have their strengths they have shown themselves to be fraught with pitfalls when it comes to actually inspiring the many to become one.
Because it is unique to America, jazz also has struggled with e pluribus unum and offers us an alternative way of viewing relationships: Ensemble–Life in concert with and for each other.
What is it that allows the same people to play the same song night after night and yet still be interested in each other and what they are doing? What allows a jazz musician from one city to walk into a venue in another and join a group she has never played with–and yet they sound as if they have jammed together on many an occasion?
In my book, Finding the Groove: Composing a Jazz-Shaped Faith, I explain the nuances of ensemble community and what this way of doing relationships can teach the church, especially when it comes to actually practicing Christianity. Robert O’Meally, summed it up well when he wrote, “Jazz is freedom…the one-and-many e pluribus unum with a laid-back beat”!
Desmond Tutu gets it.