Sunday, April 26, 2009
Sunday, April 12, 2009
This year, I didn't really make a big deal out of Easter. The church I attend in the mornings and which I've grown up in has always been a bit suspicious of ritual etc., being a little or a lot (depending on how you see it) anti-establishment. Not that it sees Easter as wrong; it just doesn't make a big hoohaa about it. The idea being that we should remember Jesus' death and resurrection all year round. We might mention that it's Easter in a service on Easter Sunday, and we may vaguely theme it around resurrection, and we used to have services on Good Friday combined with other churches in the area - but we don't go too overboard on it.
I also managed to get sick, so part of Friday and all of Saturday were spent either throwing up (not that you wanted to hear that) or lying in bed wishing I could just go to sleep or something.
So I hardly thought about it today. I didn't even eat Easter eggs, being in my post-sick state not really wanting to eat anything chocolatey ever again. (Don't worry - it won't last.)
Until I got to my evening church, where one of the pastors got up to welcome us all near the beginning, and said a few quick words about the fact that it's Easter, and what it means. He read the poem I've quoted above which was written by C. S. Lewis about the death of his wife.
Suddenly it dawned on me to remember what Easter means for me. Easter is not just the remembrance of a long-ago event that has been remembered and ritualised by the Christian Church for centuries. It is this:
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. ... "Death has been swallowed up in victory." "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:19-22, 54-57)
Saturday, April 04, 2009
Recently I voiced the opinion to him that we should get a license for the music we use. We have two hymn books for which the copyright is already sorted, but we've never added all that many new songs into the mix. Now, however, the number of new songs is growing and I was a bit concerned that we weren't being ethical.
He proceeded to tell me all the problems he has with the CCLI system.
Firstly, it only covers you using the words of a song on an overhead projector or powerpoint. You have to buy a second license if you want to photocopy any of the music for other musicians.
Secondly, you don't actually get any music out of it. You still have to buy sheet music, or write it down yourself (which I have been doing for the last few years given that the Christian music industry seems to have decided that it's perfectly reasonable to sell people "sheet music" that consists only of guitar chords).
Thirdly, you have to tell them every week exactly what songs you have sung. This is an incredibly stupid system for churches like ours; we have something called "Open Worship" in which anyone can stand up and ask for a song. We don't know what we're going to be playing until seconds before we play it. It's a time-consuming thing to make a church do, especially a church like ours with already stretched resources.
Fourthly and fifthly and sixthly, there were a whole lot of other points he made which I can't remember, but actually sounded quite reasonable.
It made me start wondering what in fact is the best thing to do. Not getting a license leaves us open to lawsuits etc, but getting a license is just a pain in the neck and doesn't actually solve any of our problems.
I also started wondering... CCLI licenses are talked up as the "ethical" option but really how ethical is it to demand that small churches without resources jump through hoop after hoop? Whenever I find a new song for the church I have to buy either a CD of it or an MP3 file, and, if it's available, I have to buy piano music as well. My money is going to the musicians who write it and I find it a little offensive that it's implied that if you don't buy a license you are somehow robbing the musicians and leaving them destitute.
I also think Christian copyrighting can be extremely suspect. I've bought books of sheet music sometimes that have included songs like Amazing Grace, which have a big © 2002 at the bottom, as if they belong to whoever printed out the music. Under that reasoning, the fact that I write my own piano arrangements of some of the more modern music means I could start selling it as my own.
Anyway (and this is the biggest issue for me), whether it's ethical or not, how Christian is it to hold the threat of lawsuit over other Christians' heads? As if there's nothing problematic about walking into a church that is praising God in song and treating them like criminals?
I know that it's not for me to order Christian musicians to provide free service for other Christians. It should be a personal decision, not forced. However, all of us Christians are living in the world but we are not of the world. Why, exactly, have some people decided that copyright law is a crucial part of Christian ethics? What happened to the principle of doing the right thing and serving God's people without expectation of reward? I think a strong case could be made that Christians who serve in music ministry are a bit like missionaries who don't demand money from the church but depend on God's provision. God's provision is not in forced payments from reluctant Christians, but in gifts offered freely and generously in recognition of missionaries' needs.
When thinking about this issue, I can't help but think about Keith Green, who refused to ask for money for his recordings and concerts. And yet God provided.