From Musico-literary (foot)note to a necessary contribution
Bob Johnson’s writings are always so re-invigorating! His thoughts prompted by the words of Handel’s oratorio Messiah (15 January 2021) prompt me to contribute this footnote.
The libretto to Messiah was authored by Handel’s friend Charles Jennens (1700-1773). Jennens lived a reclusive life at his family’s Gopsall Hall, where Handel is known to have visited him, and to have advised in the acquisition of an organ.
Handel wrote a well-known hymn tune (in 1752) known as ‘Gopsal’ (one ‘l’): ‘Rejoice, the Lord is King’ – with words not by Jennens who lived there, but by Charles Wesley, of Methodism fame.
Gopsall is in Leicestershire – a mere seven miles or so north of what is now called Fenny Drayton (earlier ‘Drayton in the Clay’), birthplace of a certain George Fox, of Quakerism fame.
Language of ethnicity
I love Quakerism, the Advices & queries, the diversity of beliefs and understandings (though, alas, not of class or race). I read the article in the Friend by Dilip Varma (4 December 2020) speaking of some of her experiences in the Quaker community and another by Celia Waterhouse (1 January 2021) speaking about some of the language Quakers use.
Addressing the language of ethnicity is very difficult, it’s so easy to go wrong, to offend or fear offending. I guess that these issues need to be discussed openly and in a spirit of loving kindness and compassion.
I love saying to people that ‘I’m holding them in the light’. In Christianity, and more generally in the west, the light versus dark symbolism is very much interwoven into our language. However, those polar constructs don’t have to be used all the time. In ancient Egypt, for example, blackness was a symbol of fertility and growth, birth and regeneration. I wonder if we can, maybe, find and use, or add to, our language and symbolic references, so that we acknowledge the beauty and value of blackness in our everyday worship and life.
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