It is always good to have your prejudices challenged. Having a reputation for not warming to much music after Schubert (not true!), I was chided when out with a group of friends for being too dismissive of much popular culture, and one of my companions said, ‘you need to listen to Stormzy.’ When she explained that he is the leading exponent of Grime I have to admit to being none the wiser. She added to the provocation that he was one of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s go to musicians, something that I had dimly heard of.
Not to be frightened of a challenge I listened to two songs; Too Big for your Boots, and Blinded by Your Grace…and I was bowled over. Now, I could say that the rhythmic, pulsing nature of the music is startling and compelling, and I could try and impress my challengers and say that the mix of hip hop with gritty urban lyrics gives Grime a distinctive musical style. But that would be pretentious. What I can say is that I had my ears and mind opened by a musician to whom I would not normally listen, but who drew me in with his sincerity, commitment and immediacy. And the potent power of the first song gave way to a faith song that had me welling up with its direct acknowledgment of the power of God to save.
I can’t say that I will suddenly start listening avidly to garage and ragga music, or even have my love of Schubert dislodged (he wrote songs that, for their time, were as popular as Stormzy is today). But I will certainly listen to Stormzy again, and I would urge my friends to challenge me further, and have my occasional nod towards popular culture more fully informed.
And if I needed further proof of how to reach out with the faith, how evangelistic we can be, well our services attract about 300 on a Sunday, our CDs of classical religious music may sell thousands, hits on our sermons at the cathedral…well, I wouldn’t want to ask! But on You Tube, Blinded by Your Grace has 6,663,841 hits as of 21st June 2018. and all those people are listening to a man of faith singing about the faith. Most Christian preachers would give their right arm for a thousandth of those figures. By the way, make that 6,663,842.