The Common Good
March-April 2003

Worth Noting…

by Duane Shank | March-April 2003

The genius of American jazz is using an unexpected note or chord to add
an element of surprise when the music goes where you least expect.

The genius of American jazz is using an unexpected note or chord to add an element of surprise when the music goes where you least expect. For Peter Price, Anglican Bishop of Bath and Wells in England, that note becomes an extended metaphor for the search for God. It's that moment when we discover new faith and new hope in unexpected places.

Playing the Blue Note is a journal of a sabbatical pilgrimage in late fall 2001 that begins with a solitary retreat on the coast of Ireland. From that solitude come extended reflections on scripture, the Eucharist, the need for prayer, and the importance of bearing witness in the post-Sept. 11 world—all of which are worth thoughtful reading over and over again.

The second half of his journey takes him to the United States, with visits to Ground Zero in New York City, the New Song church community in Baltimore, the (Andrew) Wyeth Center in Maine, the Maryknoll community, and Sojourners in Washington, D.C. A final evening at the Blue Note jazz club in Greenwich Village develops the title and theme of the book—"jazz as a means of interpreting my own spirituality."

Each experience of the journey, writes Price, "brought me into contact with the Divine, the Holy. In the privilege of solitude and community, I had re-engaged with the God of hope, and found it possible to hope again that the just and gentle rule of God might find root in the Earth.... The God whom I have come to discover once again is the Supreme Jazz Musician who creates the note of unexpected joy that releases in us hope, and offers us the future harmony of justice, love, and peace."

We are blessed that he has shared this joy and hope with us. In the struggle and tragedy of our world, Bishop Price has shown us a way to find the note of unexpected joy. —Duane Shank

Duane Shank is issues and policy adviser for Sojourners.

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