Saturday, June 9, 2012

Music and the American Tobacco Trail

The woman at the well in John Four, a Samaritan, finds Jesus at Jacob's old well.  I'm listening to



and thinking about Ken Burn's, Civil War.  I was shaped for history and the land by watching this long (maybe 12 hour) documentary many times over as a boy.  I would listen to the songs, like Jacob's Ladder, and let them seep into my bones.  I cried out for the men who lost lives, shed blood, on beautiful land like Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Manassas.  The songs and stories of The Civil War shaped me for the careful study of history in high school and college.

Being shaped for history can be quite similar to being shaped for theology and ministry.  We are a tradition-ed people, those of us who follow Jesus.  We at the Tobacco Trail Church/Community, we remember that the land where we worship was once a railroad.  A railroad of Tobacco.  A railroad for progress.  A railroad for lung cancer.  A railroad for bringing crops to the big barn and the manufacturing plant.  A railroad that divided black from white.  A railroad that provided jobs.  A railroad that transported musicians.

Blind Boy Fuller used to play his guitar in the ragtime era, that of the 1930s along this trail and in the tobacco barn like the one some of us might run near, up by the Lucky Strike Tower (on Sunday, 6/13/12 630pm).  When you run to American Tobacco it is not too much to imagine Blind Boy Fuller scratchin out a tune, sliding across the top of a six string, and settin' on a wall wailin' out a song like "You Never Can Tell" or "Step It Up and Go."

Music by all accounts is a tradition handed down over time.  Innovated from one hand and voice to another.  Thelonius Monk, another gem born in NC, played the piano in an unorthodox and genius way.  He bent the keys.  Sometimes he would break from playing and just dance a bit before reclaiming his seat.  He was unpredictable, but many wanted to play with him if only they could keep up.  Even more wanted to listen, to dance with Brother Theolonius.

That's how it is with Jesus.

What about this land in Galilee?  What are we to say about the land that Jesus traveled back to, his home, his place of encounter with the woman at the well?  What are we to say of this land in Durham called the American Tobacco Trail...

The land here is mostly flat because trains do better on flat lands.  Now they shouldn't be in a flood plain and they shouldn't be up on a hill unless there is no other way to go.  No, railroads should find the even ground.

The ground of the American Tobacco Trail has not felt so even, predictable, calm and gently rolling as of late.  Young men have attacked pedestrians and cyclists at near the 1.75 mile mark and about the 2.75 mile marker in the last month.  It brings me great sadness that anyone would attack others on the American Tobacco Trail.

I feel protective of the trail, perhaps overly protective.  You see, I am the shepherd of a flock, and that flock includes not only the people, but the land and in this case the trail.  Why are you hurting people on the land?  I cry out, why are you hurting people on the land?

What can you and I do to make our community safer, cleaner, more accessible?  How do we free the users of the trail from fear?  We should pray about these things.
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