I’m too cheap to have a heated workshop [I am, after all, half Scottish], so from December until March there is little work that I can do there. Blanks of ash and alder are stored, paint is in a basement locker, tuners, assorted knobs and switches, strings, and cellulose scratch guards sit in their assigned drawers. During these months I come to miss the slow and careful process that goes into creating or re-creating a guitar: the shaping of the wood, the preparation of its surface, the painting, the soldering of electronic parts, and the careful alignment of neck and bridge. Each step taken with deliberation as the delicacy of the instrument allows few errors.
I pine so for the joys of fabrication that I wind up watching television in the evenings. I’m not a fan of network reality shows or dramas that chiefly feature autopsies, but I do find myself watching shows about home repair, auto and motorcycle customization, or the installation of a stereo system into some NBA player’s Escalade; anything that requires a craftsman to match something already manufactured with something sometimes terribly new.
Part of my pining, too, is that I know I have the body from a 1972 Stratocaster sitting in the workshop. [For those who have lived outside of the demi-monde, a Stratocaster is a famous guitar made by the Fender Company. Whenever you see some rock star capering about on stage, it’s generally a Strat that he’s abusing.] Once upon a time, that guitar was its company’s featured product, coveted both by professional musicians and thirteen-year-olds.
By the time it came into my possession, after being found in a dumpster by an acquaintance, it was as neglected an instrument as I’ve ever seen. In fact, every piece of it was useless except for its body that, although scratched, dented, and stained, was still of a quality in material and fabrication that can’t be easily duplicated these days. All it needs is to be carefully refinished and restored, matched with contemporary parts and then surrendered to someone who will take better care of it than did its original owner.
It is a wonderful moment to see someone, especially a young person, bring life to an instrument that was, a few months before, regarded as nothing more than refuse. As the union of old art and new parts, it will make music again. Rather like our shared life of faith, which is also a combination of older arts and newer hands, it has the potential for intentions as sweetly offered as music.
This may be the reason that, of late, we have such an interest in re-discovering the traditional elements of our faith and liturgies, so that they don’t end up in some form of spiritual dumpster; abused, neglected and discarded. Whether it is that highlighted through new discoveries in Biblical archaeology, prayer themes from our Celtic roots, or the Hebrew foundation of our liturgy, our worship works best when the congregation is as informed as it may be about the history and nature of faith.
This is something that I want us to capture in our new Thursday evening adult forum. While it could be called “Bible study”, this is not going to be limited to a prosaic interpretation of one spare verse of scripture, but a view of the Bible in the context of our entire tradition and our individual lives. If one wishes to know more about the Episcopal Church, Celtic spirituality, archaeological evidence of Biblical events and places, the personalities that have delivered the faith to all of the world’s cultures, then Thursday evenings at 6:30pm would be a likely platform for discovery.
As Jesus used the rabbi’s traditional call to gather his contemporary students, perhaps together we can find ways to blend the traditional with the contemporary to produce and promote new ways of looking at our lives in the context of our faith and the covenant we share with one another and God.