Songs to Sing on the Journey
“Anyone who reads the Psalms systematically, rather than simply dipping into the old favourites, soon discovers that they aren't all as calming, reassuring and comforting as Psalm 23. Some are dance numbers (literally), others are blues songs, some are pretty disturbing in their tone, and a few are downright obnoxious!” Psalm 137, for example, opens with the line immortalized by Boney M: “By the rivers of Babylon; there we sat down and we wept when we remembered Zion.” But don't let the catchy tune and the dance rhythm deceive you: Psalm 137 is a moody lament from an angry soul who has been abducted and forced to live in a foreign land. He's thoroughly fed up. But it gets worse. As he looks on his oppressors, his anger boils: 'Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!'
You can see why Boney M chopped that bit.
But hang on. It wasn't us who were taken hostage; it wasn't our children who were slaughtered by an invading force; it wasn't our homes and belongings that were looted and burned; it wasn't our dreams that were shattered…
The Psalms do not simply offer happy-clappy, sanitized religion; they voice ecstatic joy, passion, disappointment, pain and grief. This is gut-level religion, a spirituality acquainted with the dark sides of life as well as the seasons of 'sweetness and light'. The Book of Psalms expresses honest, gut-level, straight from the hip human experience passing through the varied seasons of life.”
Last year as part of the 4 Corners Festival we staged an event on "Listening to your Enemies" at the Skainos Centre in East Belfast that got the sort of media coverage that was absent for the rest of the festival... sadly it was for all the wrong reasons, as some in the local community (and further afield) objected to the involvement of Brighton bomber Patrick Magee, and there were violent protests outside the venue.
We cannot undo the past... whether the past of our province, or last year's event at Skainos... But we can seek to move on. And as part of that process, for this year's 4 Corners Festival Linda Ervine, director of EBM's TURAS Irish Language programme, has devised an evening with the Scots Gaelic Psalm Singers entitled 'SLIGHE NA BEATHA’ 'THE PATH OF LIFE', with the title taken from Psalm 16 v11:
‘You make known to me the path of life’
This journey through the Psalms, explores the various stages of grief including anger and despair before moving towards healing, forgiveness, acceptance and hope, helping us to reflect on where we are in Northern Ireland 16 years after the Good Friday Agreement, and one year on from last year's 4 Corners Festival event. It offers an opportunity to lament aspects of the past but to look forward with a sense of assurance and purpose. Come along and join in the journey at 7pm tomorrow evening.