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On the wrong side of Vespers

On the wrong side of Vespers

Martha Spong writes in Christian Century about attending her daughter’s glee club performance. How she found herself at Vespers with “O Holy Night” sung on the inside and protestors chanting outside. Then the Dean of Religious Life invited those outside to come inside:

Last week we drove 350 miles to Smith College, where our daughter was singing with the glee club at Christmas Vespers. Each year at a pair of services, campus and community enter liminal space by hearing sacred music from student choral and orchestral groups, pondering poetry and biblical readings by students and faculty, and singing carols together.

This year it also became a setting to turn attention to other matters. As a Facebook event page put it, “You can’t sing carols if you can’t breathe.” A planned action at the Vespers services aimed to draw attention to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and to protest injustice on the Smith campus and beyond. ….

Did the protesters mean to shut the service down? Didn’t they understand how hard their classmates worked to prepare the music? Didn’t they understand that Vespers supports a worthy cause, the Interfaith Winter Shelter, which will suffer without the usual significant donations?… We made it to town in time, as the first service was ending. The police had re-routed traffic around the 50 or so protesters who stood outside chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, racist cops have got to go.” They never went inside, but their voices could be heard at quiet moments. As the congregation departed, they could see the young people lying in the road, staging a die-in.

Read the ending here.

Posted by Ann Fontaine


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Philiip B. Spivey

And…so they did

Philiip B. Spivey

If the essential theme of Vespers is the glorification of God, the Creator of the world and its Providence and if Vespers (as some say) corresponds to the 9th, and final, hour of our Lord Jesus’ earthly ministry, then I ponder this possibility: “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice…and breathed his last.”

Have we missed a possible irony in Martha Spong’s irritation: “Didn’t they know how hard their classmates worked to prepare the music?” Have we missed a possible contradiction between what Jesus represents in Vespers and the “inconvenience” brought about fellow humans crying out in loud voices about the crucifixions of Eric Garner and Michael Brown?

The irony is not lost on me. Were I at this performance, I would have heard Jesus, knock, knock, knocking to get in. And I would have welcomed his break-in.

Ann Fontaine

I think she totally “got it”

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