Wulf's Webden

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Saturday 19 September 2020
by Wulf

Oh ye of just about enough faith

I don’t like to waste paper so printing handouts for a meeting is not my favourite task. If you know how many people are coming, it’s easy. If you don’t, you have to guess and risk running out or having lots of paper left over.

For yesterday evening’s ‘soaking worship’ event at Thorpe Acre Church, I thought back to the first in the series, which was last month. I’d produced 25 handout sheets, which was almost enough for each seat we then had available but six times the normal weekly attendance of the first couple of events in the Parish Prayers series (four). In the end, eight people came along, so I was on the waste side.

We have since rejigged the seating and could fit in about 70 people, even with good distancing between the seats (although that does include a few pairs of seats and a couple of clusters of three, to accommodate couples and families). I decided to print twelve and – guess what – twelve people turned up. Not every took a copy (which I’d laid out on twelve distanced chairs at the back for safe, individual collection). Good guess (and delightful to share with a slightly wider group).

If we repeat it next month, I’ll have to give some thought to whether my faith stretches further when I’m preparing at the photocopier.

Friday 18 September 2020
by Wulf

Romans – Chapter by Chapter

Following on from yesterday’s summary, here is my chapter by chapter run down of this valuable book. For most chapters, I’ve focused on a particular verse although, for a couple, I resorted to a more general precis.

1:17 – The righteous shall live by faith

2:12 – All who have sinned will perish…

3:23 – and all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God!

4:3 – Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness

5:1 – Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ

6:23 – The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord

7:24 – Who will free me from this body of death? (still sinning despite knowing what is the right way to act)

8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus

9:32 – Israel failed because it pursued righteousness by works, not faith

10:9 – Confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead and you will be saved

11 – Grafted into the olive (and, from v. 33, an amazing doxology or song of praise)

12:1 – Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice

13:8 – Love your neighbour (this chapter also has a lot about proper respect for secular authorities)

14:21 – Do not do anything to make your brother stumble

15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit

16 – Goodbye, I love you! (Paul weaves his connections with the church in this city he has not yet visited)

And that’s just the summary, where I’ve had to miss out a lot more than I included. What would you focus on if you tried the same exercise of reducing each chapter to a key phrase or verse?

Thursday 17 September 2020
by Wulf

Romans Run-down

Romans is the longest of the “Pauline Epistles” (letters written by St Paul to young churches) in the Bible but none of it is padding. For the cluster group meeting I attended tonight, we were going to study chapter 16 following on from having done the previous chapters before the summer break, so I offered to give a quick summary.

You could condense it down the single word, “righteous” but perhaps it is more helpful to break it into three main sections. Chapters 1-8 give a doctrine of salvation, explaining how we get from sin to sanctification through Jesus. Chapters 9-11 could then be seen as moving to examine a doctrine of God’s sovereignty, particularly the past election, present rejection and future restoration of the Jewish people. Finally, chapters 12-16 move to application – the responsibilities and liberty of Christian believers.

When studying chapter by chapter, I found the middle section hardest to work through but, looking back, I can see how integral it is to the whole. For example, chapter 4 is also all about Jewish heritage (Abraham) while chapter 11 explores the idea of being grafted into Christ, which is a potent image of what it means to be “in Christ” (another essential theme of Paul’s message).

Anyway, that is my potted summary. Tomorrow, I will type up my chapter by chapter run through, picking out a key verse or theme from each chapter of the letter.

Wednesday 16 September 2020
by Wulf

Recording My Week

Back in March, I launched into recording a lot of music. Right at the beginning of lockdown, I was intending to produce two live worship sessions a day, which swiftly became two songs a day, then one video a day, not all of them song based – in other words starting high but coasting down to a more sustainable level of output. However, the process of moving house was very disruptive to the creative process. Since July, I’ve still been turning out over half an hour of video material each week but new songs have been gratefully received from others and I have been doing some recycling of earlier productions of my own.

Therefore, this week I’ve been delighted to record two songs from scratch – one was in today’s Toddlers’ Church service and one will debut on Sunday morning (standalone videos will come up on the church’s worship playlist).

For the Toddlers’, the traditional song He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands had been requested. I did that build around a main take with vocals and resonator guitar (in drop D tuning, for the record) and added a couple of lines of harmony. Pretty quick and easy to do but it turned out okay.

For Sunday, the talk is on the parable about labourers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), which brought my mind to a line in the contemporary worship song Days of Elijah. I practised it a bit but started my recording by mapping out the structure I wanted and using Logic’s drummer tool to give me a beat to work to. I layered up ‘acoustic guitar’ (actually one of the models on my Variax), vocals (lead and two backing parts) and bass. The reason I wanted this one to fit to a tight recording grid though was that, inspired by a line in the chorus, I also wanted to add a trumpet.

I used a software trumpet, playing in via a midi keyboard and then adjusting. I am looking forward to getting feedback from our real trumpeter about whether it sounds like a feasible part.

Anyway, the news is that Studio Wulf is back in production for music!

Tuesday 15 September 2020
by Wulf

More Soaking

Almost a month has rolled by since I last wrote about ‘soaking worship’ and it is almost time for me to unleash another hour-long set on those who come along to this Friday’s ‘Parish Prayers’ event. I think I’ve got the set prepared; as I write, I’m letting it wash over me.

This one is largely based around a single album: Winds of Worship, Vol. 7 – Live From Brownsville from Vineyard Worship. I started looking for one song – Lover of My Soul (When Living Here Has Caused Me Pain) by David Ruis – which I’d used online in my first lockdown worship set but I realised the album had a number of other songs that are part of my core worship vocabulary and so I bought an MP3 copy of the whole thing.

How comes it was so influential? 1996 was the year the album came out but also when Jane and I moved to Lewisham and joined Hither Green Baptist Church. By the time I’d joined the worship team in early 1997, at least one of the worship leaders had picked up a copy and a lot of the songs were making their way into the regular rotation. Over the following years, I was encouraged to develop my ability to sing while playing in worship and then onto leading myself and these were the songs I was using to learn the craft.

Furthermore, back in the later 1990s, getting online meant making sure no-one else needed to use the phone and turning on the modem. Music – worship and otherwise – wasn’t the easy come, easy go commodity that it has more often become today and, when you got an album you liked, you tended to listen to a smaller selection of music in a lot more depth.

I’m not hosting an album listening party at Thorpe Acre Church this Friday (7:30 – 8:30pm) but an hour of worship so I’m blending in songs and sounds from other sources too. I am intrigued to find out if I share my attachment to this particular source of material with anyone else there and excited to bring forth treasures I have discovered on my own journey in worship and faith.

Monday 14 September 2020
by Wulf

Lettuce Give Thanks

Grubbing around in the dirt is fun but, with food crops, a lot of the pleasure is in the harvest. In our new house, we’ve had a good few apples from the tree that came with the garden and basil from the windowsill plant we brought with us but today’s lettuce marked another milestone.

We did start it from seed in the old place and had got it to the stage of potting up but we cleared a bed and got it in the ground in the new garden and, this afternoon, I picked the first few leaves. Hurrah! We’ve reached the point where we should be self-sufficient for lettuce until frosts start to occur (which should be at least a month or more).

Next up (but probably not until next spring): first harvest of something we’ve started from seed in the new garden.

Sunday 13 September 2020
by Wulf

Show Me the Music

I mentioned that, for my worship team rehearsal last Wednesday, I was going to put lyrics and a condensed reminder of the chords up on the main screen. How did it work? It was a qualified success. Simple, well known songs went quite smoothly but it would have helped to have more information on newer ones. I also balked at When I Survey the Wondrous Cross – well known but a lot of chord changes. Operator delay was also an issue – I had to remember to press the button to display the next slide while playing and singing the last line of the previous one.

I don’t think my plan of extending the system towards Nashville notation is going to fly. Instead, I think I’m leaning towards an HTML and CSS based solution. As a former webmaster, that is partly a case of ‘give a man a hammer and he treats everything as a nail’ but it is a technology I know well enough to bend to my requirements.

OnSong does have the option of HTML output but, to my eyes, it looks quite print orientated. It also has a problem when several chords run together – it uses CSS to float them above the text but, if the text doesn’t have spacing between the words, the chords lay on top of each other. I also looked at several other solutions for transforming ChordPro charts (marked up text files) into HTML and they either demonstrated the same issue or used tables to lay everything out (requiring much more text processing and ‘tables for layout’ offends my aforementioned webdev sensibilities).

However, I think I’ve got the core of a solution. If I get OnSong to send me the charts for a set as a single ChordPro file, I can do some minimal text processing with Python and then accomplish the rest with HTML / CSS. Why a single file? I’ve generally got a fairly good idea of the order of songs I want so I can operate it by scrolling up and down in the bits where I’ve got a free hand (and CSS would let me float a small menu for mouse-controlled jumping). It also means I can keep OnSong as my source for chord sheets (including all the tricks like transposing to different keys) but produce a set of songs that can be easily shared with different systems (anything with a web browser) without much additional labour.

Well, without much additional labour once it is done. I have a bit more work before I have a push-button demo but I’m getting there.