From: R.J.Green-SE0@cs.bham.ac.uk (Robin J Green)
Subject: Harry and Praise Raves.
Date: Mon, 28 Jun 1993 15:55:42 GMT
Perk up your ears all you hedonists, you don't have a monopoly on raving, by a long piece of calcium carbonate.
I went to a Christian (aaarrrgghhh he said that word! death death death) Festival this weekend called 'Harry'. It was held in Stafford County Showground, starting friday and ending sunday. Talks, arts, services and above all KICKIN' MUSIC. A DJ collective called Back to Back along with the Redemption soundsystem (using the same PA company as Orbital in Brum) kicking up a storm every evening. Raves and Clubnights are all about including people and creating a happy atmosphere and this place generated a more friendly and relaxed atmosphere than I have experienced for YEARS. No pushers, no attitude at all, just dancing and grooving til the ambience + Cocoa after midnight.
There was a different theme every night, playing along with the daily themes of the festival. First night was techno trancy, second was ethnic, tribal and housy and the third was unashamedly housy and camp.
Now, all this clubbing fell by the wayside beside the daily service. a couple of hundred people crowded into a draped off space with projections and music. An entire service held to the melodious strains of Blue Calx created an amazing ambient space for contemplation and worship. Passing bread and wine around to pure ambience. Wow. There were a load of middle aged Christians there with bugged eyes hearing music like they never thought existed. Music for the angels (Like Richard James is an angel, HA!) with all us young 'uns showing the oldies how to have a good time to the house beat.
The most amazing service was on the sunday. Loads of day visitors swelled the croud, we all lit candles at placed them into a huge sandbox at the front so there was a blaze of light, the service was on the edge of just bursting with joy when almost spontaniously at the end of the service everyone there just decided to dance. the DJ's kicked in and the party just took off. People were in REAL ecstasy there (I certainly was) but can I remember who the track was? Nope. It was a long long long remix of (maybe) Sven Vath 'Ritual of Life'? Whoever, it was stunning until, in a lull in the dancing the guy running the service, takes the mike and announces that these candles were lit in the memory of a good friend of the festival who died a year or so ago, so have a dance in celebration of this guy. So we did, we danced ourselves silly. The track finished and the DJ's dropped back into Blue Calx (from the previous day) and everyone was just standing there staring into the flames, thinking.
Now THAT feeling I want to keep forever, we were family, together, under God's protection just expressing what he makes us feel. Better then any rave, better than drugs. This is how church SHOULD be. I wanna go to the Sunday Morning dance services in Sheffield and see if it's as good.
Background: excerpts from a front page article in the San Francisco Chronicle 4-15:
"Mathew Fox the avant-garde priest defrocked by the Vatican for his free-spirited theology, will become an Episcopal priest and begin a high-tech, high-decibal 'Rave Mass' this year in the basement of Grace Cathedral.
"Fox got the idea for the rock and roll liturgy after visiting a band of unorthodox young Anglicans in England - where the "Rave in the Nave features loud music, [...] and video monitors flashing messages such as "Eat God".
"Fox acknowledged that designer psychedelic drugs such as 'Ecstasy' are popular in the Rave culture in both the United States and England. 'That's exactly what they (the sponsors of the Rave Masses in England) are trying to combat', he said. 'The Rave culture did not begin with drugs. You can go drugs, or you can go religion, go transcendence, go for the spiritual power of community and ritual.'"
A lively debate about this on the SFRaves mailing list caught the attention of a Mathew Fox representative, and a meeting was arranged for 4/24/94. Here are some of my impressions of that meeting.
7 or 8 of us, mostly SFRavers, gathered in the living room of Bob J's house. Mathew Fox arrived with Cliff, the guy who posted & has acted as Mathew Fox's liason to us. Both of them were very warm and pleasant, and the atmosphere was very amiable and relatively relaxed.
Things got off to an excruciating slow start with a each of us giving the a personal introduction about the spiritual and raving aspects of our lives. Although I guess it was important that Mathew get a feel for who we were, most of us were extremely self-indulgant with the opportunity to confess our life stories to our celebrity guest. About half the meeting was taken up with these "introductions". Somewhere along the way, the point was made that we were *not* truly representative of the rave community at large. In fact we never even attempted (nor were we asked) about what SF Bay Areas ravers are generally about.
When Mathew started talking, it was clear that he was very well-practiced at this sort of thing. His presentation was smooth and polished. He comes across as a very likeable and charming guy, and it was clear that as the meeting progressed we were generally happy to be seduced by him. And why not? Isn't reaching out and communicating partly what we claim to be all about? Mathew Fox seems to be a bridge builder; it is well known that he has met with *many* non-Christian groups. I did find it ironic that the one bridge he has failed to build was within his own religion. Defrocked by the Vatican, he has been hired on by the Episcopalian Church, where Mathew still expects trouble. Even the Bishop who has promised to "protect him" from the "right wing" of the church has already told him that he will *not* read any of Mathew Fox's books. Hmm. What does it mean when your protector doesn't even want to know what you stand for..? That was one of the many questions that went unanswered.
As for what Mathew Fox stands for; he says that he wants to bring grass roots spirituality back to the Church. His brand of Christianity, that he called "Creation Spirituality" places Christ as a mystical symbol, apparently on par with pagan godesses, modern cosmology, eastern philosophy...whatever it is that people use to connect themselves with the essence of existence. The important thing is that we are all a part of Creation and that we get in touch, through ritual, to the mystical and spiritual essence of all creation. This more holistic approach to spirituality conjures up environmental issues and seems to run counter to the dualistic nature of conventional Christainity that has separated worshippers from their God and has resulted in the spiritual alienation many of the masses seem to be suffering from these days. OK, I can go along with that. I can't, of course, speak for his fellow Episcopalians.
Mathew Fox is very enthusiastic about raving. More than once he called us "revolutionaries" and even explained which Chakras raving addresses. I was rather impressed with the depth of his convictions here, especially since the only rave he's ever attended was one of the Sheffield Christainbased ones in the UK. He deferred some of our questions about the planned rave-masses to the Sheffield folks who would actually be putting them on. The one thing he did know was that the rave-masses would have a definate Christain slant to them.
We told him about our concern with using raving as a tool to deliver dogma, and about our general dislike of the Christ theme, with all of its associated baggage through its links to modern Christianity. Although we had to admit that *some* thematic content gets preached at our raves, we tried to explain that the rather generic and abstract nature of such content (i.e. unity, acceptance, etc.) allows the spiritual experience (if any) to remain a deeply personal and individual one. I think he heard us, but he never answered our question of *why* the Christ thing is still so important to him, or why it is so important to deliver a Christ-specific message at a rave.
The point was also made that there has not been a lot of success in duplicating the Sheffield rave-masses in other parts of the UK. San Francisco was chosen because of the existing sense of community they felt existed here. At the same time, it is understood that Sheffield, being very economically depressed and blue collar, is a much different kind of community.
Although none of us had expressed such a concern, Mathew made the point that they were not trying to "compete" with the existing rave scene here. Throughout the discussion, Mathew referenced various aspects of our previously expressed backgrounds, making sure to exhibit his deference for the African American Churches, Jewish influences and modern science. But he referenced a lot of other cultures as well, so my thinly veiled accusation here of pandering *might* be a little unfair.
We spent a bit of time on the use of psychedelics. He basically attributed his anti-drug quote in the newspapers to the Sheffield people's work with recovering addicts. Mathew himself didn't seem to have much of a problem with the use of psychedelics, and accepted our testimonials about their benefits and agreed that they could be useful when used in the proper context. He did object to the use of psychedelics as "fast-food" spirituality, however, and argued for the importance of ritual for building a community.
When Cliff declared the meeting to be over, it was clear that many issues were left unanswered. He did not address the concern I had expressed about the possibility that he was just being used by his church as bait for bringing in fresh recruits. Even if Mathew's intentions are sincere, this really isn't just *his* game, is it? It isn't at all clear as to what the relationship between the Sheffield promoters and the rest of the rave community will be, if any. Are they going to allow flyers for _Wicked_ to be placed in the basement of Grace Cathedral? We expressed the desire to talk some more, and I invited Mathew to come to _In The Light_, but he'll be touring Europe on a book tour for the next couple of months.
In the end, my mixed emotions about the unaddressed issues and about Mathew Fox himself left me feeling uneasily neutral. Historically, Christianity has adopted or embellished the rituals of other cultures for the explicit purpose of winning over new members. It is also not uncommon for large institutions to allow for the odd renegade to operate within their midsts as a symbol of liberalism and openmindedness while the ongoing perpetuation of oppression and mass manipulation continues unabated.
Ultimately, the SF Bay Area rave scene will continue to do its thing, Fox will do his, the Sheffield folks theirs, and the Church theirs. It remains to be seen whether any of the agendas of these groups will coincide with each other in a meaningful or positive way.
Date: Tue, 28 Nov 1995 18:15:47 +0000
Subject: Rave Mass
background: rev. chris brain was the leader of the episcopalian spiritual community in sheffield, england, that pioneered the weekly "Nine O'Clock Service," a.k.a. Rave Mass or Planetary Mass. the services, produced by and largely for a young working-class group, incorporated elements of rave - ambient house music, large video screens playing computer generated images and video clips with ecological and social themes, nightclub-style lighting, and the freedom to dance. though apparently not sanctioned by the Church or by rev. brain, it seems likely that many of the congregants were entheogenically-experienced.
some weeks ago the group disbanded on account of alleged sexual misconduct, leading to the following Guardian newspaper article:
by Ros Coward
IF BAD publicity is making ecstasy look like a dodgy way of getting high, why not go to church? If you go to one in the grip of evangelical fervour, a dose of euphoria will only cost what you put in the collection box.
Chris Brain's resignation makes it easier for the Church to disown the infamous Nine O'Clock Service. But nowadays many churches offer to arouse powerful sensations. Evangelicalism is probably the most vigorous, if not the dominant, force in the Church of England. Many emphasise the feel-good factors, orchestrating emotional highs with enthusiastic performances. Even at relatively traditional evangelical churches such as All Souls. Langham Place, in London, there's never a dull moment. A full orchestra leads the packed congregation singing middle brow folk songs. Not a moment goes by that is not staged. There are no moments for quiet contemplation. The "successes" of evangelicalism are usually attributed to these new improved performances. They can draw in the more exacting, stimulus-hungry TV generations. Certainly, there was scope for improvement. Traditionalists regularly throw away their advantages, with mumbled presentation spoiling wonderful settings, music and historical gravitas. But performance fervour goes beyond re-marketing an old product. Powerful emotions whipped up by performances are now taken as evidence of the Holy Spirit's presence, the basis of personal faith. Feeling some thing guarantees its truth. This is a new, widespread, religious emotionalism.
In traditional evangelicalism, the play is for emotions of congregation and fellow ship-brotherhood. Services emphasise "the joy" of being with other believers; people shake hands, talk to neighbours, pray for and celebrate their shared cause. I've had warm feelings like this before but usually at demonstrations. It must be the same for men at football matches. In the fashionable charismatic evangelicalism. Powerful emotions are incited as evidence of the presence of the Spirit. Congregations either feel the workings of the Spirit physically or witness it happening. Chris Brain grafted charismatic beliefs on to new-age ideas about the divinity of all creation, including ourselves. Services based on the Toronto Blessing - a fast-growing movement in England - encourage congregations to yield to the workings of the Holy Spirit. The result is laughing, sobbing, speaking in voices.
Ecstasy has always been part of religion but there is something chilling about the contemporary forms in which the Holy Spirit is choosing to manifest. Not only are emotions being used to justify indifference to this world because of the certainties of the next; they are also being used to justify the "truth" of the Bible, re-invigorating the worst kind of cultural imperialism. This emotion-based faith is anti-intellectual, anti-contemplative, and set against understanding the complexities of this world - the opposite of a religion like Judaism, which encompasses doubt and erudition. Any religion which eschews uncertainties tends to go hand in hand with extreme moral conservatism.
I suspect a Holy Spirit which chooses such obviously consumerist forms of self-religiosity. In our consumer culture, we think we are entitled to a happiness quotient. New evangelicalism offers religion as a product that will give you the happiness buzz. But is getting high a good enough reason to entrust ourselves and our moral decisions to those who orchestrate it? For the paradox with self religiosity is that it generates leaders - unaccountable tones. If religiosity relies on strong personal emotions, hose with strongest emotions will dominate. If religious experience aims to release deep sometimes wild and difficult) emotions, those who seem able to "hold" and interpret them will have power. And if the Holy Spirit speaks directly to these leaders, why bother with accountability structures? This is why cults flourish in emotion-based religions. Chris Brain's experiment shows the problems with this emotionalism. He encouraged his congregation to express sexual feelings- dangerous in the sexually confused culture of the Anglican Church Then he "interpreted" them, not so much in the service of God's needs as his own. Many victims felt so safe they didn't know they had been abused. And because there was a direct line to the Divine, there was no need for accountability to the Church's wider morality.
The Church might like us to think this was a freak occurrence. But, faced with declining congregations, and dominated by evangelists, it has been approving virile entrepreneurialism. Unease about these developments is surfacing, even at this week's General Synod. About time too. If the Church hosts movements where anything can be justified by emotion, parents may be relieved if teenagers go to a rave rather than a service.