This week Fr Martin Magill journeyed back to Fitzroy Presbyterian for his ecumenical tithing, where a performance of “The Gospel According to the West End” was staged. This was the latest in Fitzroy’s “The Gospel According to” series and Fr Magill reflects that this way of communicating about faith is effective and beneficial. As he says, don’t miss the next one!
Creative ways to proclaim the Kingdom of God – The Gospel According to the West End at Fitzroy Presbyterian
“The Gospel According to the West End”: From the excellent publicity beforehand, a great poster on the church noticeboard, the use of social media and a personal invitation from assistant minister Jonathan Abernethy Barkley – this weekend it had to be Fitzroy Presbyterian Church for my “ecumenical tithing.” Because of my longstanding relationships with people from Fitzroy, I describe Fitzroy as my “home” church in my “ecumenical tithing” journeys.
This event was part of Fitzroy’s occasional “The Gospel According to …” series, which has included Christy Moore and Johnny Cash, among others. These events use the power of songs to communicate the message of God.
Warm was the operative word –from the welcome by name and the warm embraces from people in the church, to the church building itself. In his few words of welcome at the start of the evening, before handing over to the very talented Jonathan, Rev Steve Stockman invited those present to ‘open the door of your soul’.
In his introduction Jonathan talked about the songs as a “liturgy for living”.
I found it very helpful to have the words of the songs on the Order of Service (I read over some of these again during a time of prayer). I also would love to read Jonathan’s very thoughtful commentary which not only demonstrated his love of the songs but his very powerful ways of connecting the lyrics with life.
We listened to songs from a variety of shows including “Whistle down the Wind”, “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “Cats”, “Wicked”, “Rent” and “Shrek”. For the most part, after we had heard each song, Jonathan gave us a background to the show and some of the themes or motifs in them. We covered a range of themes including identity, searching, popularity, and peer pressure to mention only a few. Intertwined with the words of the songs, there were quotations from the Bible and reflections on life.
I was very struck by some of the great lines which peppered Jonathan’s commentary such as talking about our faith even if it is “only a flicker and not a flame”, “identity is received not achieved”, and we are “called to be the best version of ourselves”.
The choir was all ages and the singing throughout was of a very high quality – no doubt we will be hearing from and about some of the young solo singers who performed during the evening. It was also very good to see a large number of young people in the church.
As I reflect on the evening, it struck me that in this well established series “the Gospel according to…” Fitzroy has found a very creative way to preach God’s good news.
Jonathan’s commentary invited us into an encounter with Jesus which could be life changing. Inevitably an evening like this one produced a great spirit in the church – afterwards one elderly member of the congregation told me that it had almost moved him to tears – I could understand that with the range of themes and the power of the words. Jonathan was able to find in the modern stage musicals ways of tapping into gospel values and principles – the communication of the eternal in the modern.
For anyone reading this, don’t miss the next time Fitzroy puts on “the Gospel according to…”.