This is a re-post of my blog entry from August 23, for the sake of those looking in response to my posting on AnnArbor.com. Enjoy this and come back frequently.
Hi to all.
This is to introduce my blog, the plan that lies behind it, its purpose, and myself.
The basic plan is this: During September 2009-May 2010, I will be visiting a lot of places of worship in the vicinity of Ann Arbor, Michigan. When possible, I intend to rehearse with the choir and sing with them during a regular worship service.
The purpose of the blog: All of the contents of this blog will consist of my opinion, although in many cases a self-censored subset of my opinion. I will basically try to project the positive parts of the experiences that I have at various places of worship and what emphasis they lay on different aspects of spirituality. One of the ideas that I want to develop in describing the music and worship that I experience will be a "balanced diet" of spiritual experience. Another idea that I hope to develop is "voicing hope." In part, I want to respond to the movie "Religulous," produced by Bill Maher. While Maher levels criticisms against a variety of religions that sometimes hit home, I will try to focus on things about religion that are positive regardless of the literal truth behind the doctrines of faith that are involved. The idea that voicing hope, through song or otherwise, is one of these positive things is a founding principle behind this project and this blog. Another thing that I will try to humbly remember is that I will only be visiting for a week at each place, so my statements will reflect a first impression rather than a fully experienced understanding.
About myself: I am not a religious or musical professional. My profession consists of studying climate and water budgets for the Great Lakes basin using computer models and other methods, publishing the results, and dealing with a great variety of people who are interested in these studies. Nevertheless, I have training in religion and music.
My religious training: I was confirmed in 1981 at St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Crookston, Minnesota, after one of the most rigorous confirmation training courses within what is now the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I took required coursework in religion at Augsburg College. I have participated in a variety of adult classes at the church at which I am currently a member, Zion Lutheran of Ann Arbor, MI, and have been moved by two trips to the Lutheran retreat center known as Holden Village, near Chelan, Washington.
Musical experience and training: In recent years, my singing has focused on Measure for Measure Men's Choral Society, a community men's chorus centered in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area, along with the Chancel Choir of Zion Lutheran. In the past, I was a member of the Augsburg College Choir and several church and school choirs. I have been in a large number of musical theater productions, and recently was a member for a short time of a bicycle choir. I also have experience with several musical instruments, although lately I have concentrated mainly on piano when I have time.
Worship experiences outside the Ann Arbor area: I have written some comments on my worship experiences in the vicinity of Mto wa Mbu, Tanzania, during my trip there that lasted from July 31 to August 13, 2009. I anticipate some trips during the coming year, and expect that I might report on worship in such places as Nuremberg, Germany and San Francisco, California. I may try to make some trips to former locations in my life, such as Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Princeton, New Jersey, Boulder, Colorado, and I'd like to try to get back to Holden Village.