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Mercyland: an album with spiritual integrity


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I have been listening to “Christian music” since I was in my mother’s womb.

Most of the time, I didn’t know it.

My father and mother, devout Roman Catholics, played Bach, Mozart, great choral classics. I heard Gregorian chant when we visited Benedictine monasteries, and sang “Guitar Mass” songs in my parochial school.  I sang along with Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell.

Imagine my surprise, as a 12-year-old girl, when reading the libretto of Handel’s Messiah for the first time, (so I could sing along with the words), discovering that it was SCRIPTURE! Who knew?! How cool!

Over the years I listened to the St. Louis Jesuits and the rest of that guitar playing crowd, changing the Catholic music scene.

I became a Protestant later in my life and dove head first into Protestant hymnody. I  learned about Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, and Sandi Patti. Barlow Girl, Third Day, Amy Grant.

And I discovered a lot of it I didn’t really like. I found myself apologizing for a lot of what I listened to…nice tune, but oh the theology! I walked away from it, taking refuge in others; the powerful lyrics and banjo playing of Mumford and Sons, the songs of Brandi Carlisle, Mary Chapin Carpenter , or RENT to name a few.

So, I was curious to listen to Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us.

The reviewer (whom I read in The Christian Century) mentioned that as he had grown in his Christian faith, his theological tastes had changed and he needed musicians who had spiritual integrity and a willingness to change too. He mentioned this one.

From The Civil Wars, to Emmylou Harris this album is my idea of cool! I swear my absolute favorite song is from Shawn Mullins, called Give God the Blues.

“God don’t hate the Muslims, God don’t hate the Jews, God don’t hate the Christians, but we all give God the blues. God don’t hate the Atheists, Buddhists or the Hindus, God loves everybody, but we all give God the blues.”

It’s a blues-y song, both funny and poignant. The album is full of such earthiness and beauty in its contributors; Emmylou’s song, “ I Didn’t Know it was You” touched me powerfully.

Now, I have shared my new favorite, and it has me wondering: “Tell me, as a person of faith, what are you listening to?  What is speaking to your spirit?”

Andy CastroLang
Andy CastroLang
Andy CastroLang is senior pastor at Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ. She is deeply committed to civil discourse between individuals and throughout our community; in interreligious conversation, private conversation, intergenerational conversation and yes, even in political conversation. She has been a supporter of SpokaneFaVS since its inception because she supports this creative effort at thoughtful community conversation.

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Tracy Simmons
10 years ago

Thanks for sharing this Andy!

When I grew up I was only allowed to listen to Christian music (K-LYT FM!). Now, honestly, when I hear Third Day, Steven Curtis Chapman, Audio Adrenaline, etc. I cringe. Bad memories, I guess.

So learning about this album is such a delight! Finding the spirituality in music that’s not necessarily “Christian” is great. It’s everywhere, actually, we just don’t acknowledge it enough do we?

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