When I first heard about this book I was excited because there has been prophetic word over the last 6 months about God releasing anointing upon writers and songwriters, and this book began when Pat Keady woke very early one morning with an impetus to write from the Holy Spirit. So I really wanted to read it.
The font is easy to read, the paper has a lovely glossy feel and the graphic design layout is beautiful.
The first half of the book is particularly good. For anyone wanting an easy to digest synthesis of what God has been saying through Pope Francis and various parish renewal movements over the last 3 years, it is brilliant, particularly if you delight in Australian idioms. If you are deep in the trenches of parish renewal, in the first half you won't be reading anything new, but you might be reading it from a fresh perspective.
However, as a book to invite someone from the sidelines into the trenches, that's where its true value is to be found.
Two insights I found particularly helpful. The first is the story of Jonathan, son of Saul, and his armour-bearer from 1 Samuel 14 about how the two of them trusting in the help of God made a daring foray into enemy Philistine territory and began a battle that inspired traitors to turn back to allegiance to God's people and eventually involved the whole army of Israel in victory. A few committed people doing something brave and unusual, but filled with faith, can have a very big impact.
The second is an insight into the story of Pentecost, Acts 1, about how God met people where they were at by giving His Apostles and disciples the gift of the languages of the people. It wasn't about various languages now becoming a single language.
Pat uses this story to make his case that we have to learn the cultures of the groups we wish to evangelise, so that we can build a bridge – mainly through music – with which to present the Gospel. Now Pat is looking at the inculturation possibilities in the liturgy through music.
This is where my thoughts diverge from his. Pentecost didn't take place within the liturgy, it took place out in the streets, in the marketplace. I think we do the liturgy a disservice if we try to make it into a vehicle for evangelisation. Firstly, the liturgy only makes sense once a person has been evangelised and awakened by the Holy Spirit. Secondly, for the early church an invitation to the liturgy was the last thing you did with a newcomer, and not the first thing. Even today when I read modern stories of conversion the majority of people darken the doors of a church as one of the last steps on their journey home to Catholic faith.
Therefore we need intermediate steps between the secular world and the liturgy. In such intermediate steps lay preaching, testimonies and contemporary music that engages the culture of the groups you desire to evangelise find their natural home.
It is worth trusting the wisdom of Mother Church on this one, when she insists that ordained ministers preach during the liturgy. They have been anointed and set apart for this purpose and have a minimum of 7 years of study behind them. While it is true that many of them don't have an obvious gift of preaching, we have to allow God to be God, knowing that a homily that does not engage you and me at all might contain the very words that someone else needs to hear. Instead of the satisfaction of complaining, our energies are much better directed to praying that our priests do receive the charismatic gift of preaching and praying that they preach according to the mind and heart of Jesus, in full harmony with the teachings of His Church and to the maximum spiritual benefit of those that will be present when they preach.
I've got no troubles with lay preachers if they exercise their ministry before or after the liturgy, but not during it.
My definition of culture is different too. Again we do a disservice if we only think about culture in terms of liturgical elements, eg architecture, music (eg African drums), decorative motifs on vestments and liturgical vessels, artwork (eg Our Lady of China).
For me culture is expressed primarily in public, private and family devotional practices. That's the fiestas, the processions, pilgrimages, special food for feast days, grace before meals, traditions passed down in families and nations, preferred spiritualities of prayer (people from exuberant cultures will prefer loud praise and dance, people from reserved cultures will prefer reflective silence and Eucharistic adoration) etc.
A cultural group votes with their feet about what is important to them. In Australia we seem to like setting off fireworks at major celebrations, gathering friends and family around a barbecue, Anzac Day touches us deeply, we like singing Christmas carols in big groups, and 'don't interrupt me if the footy, tennis or cricket is on'. These are the areas where creativity and Holy Spirit inspired ingenuity can take something naturally wholesome and elevate it to something supernaturally good.
On the very vexed subject of liturgical music, here's my two cents worth. While hip contemporary music for all songs at all Masses might seem like the answer, it isn't. Let me count the ways. Firstly if your average congregation is aged 70+, you are going to alienate them. Secondly, from my studies of conversion stories it is experiences of the historicity of the Church that make a difference. Thirdly, when people decide to come home to the Church (eg cradle Catholics returning after an absence), a familiar song really helps. Be a wise musical scribe and bring out from the liturgical music storehouse music that is both old and new. We need to sing new songs to the Lord, no question about that, but we need a mix; hymns that have stood the test of centuries of time, hymns that have stood the test of decades of time, hymns that have become favourites during the past decade and the new stuff. In other words we need to show our Catholicity (universality) in our musical selections and not narrow it down to one genre and era. The new is good, and the old is good; use both.
I was so hoping to read about fresh new ideas for spreading the good news of Jesus. That's what I was hungering for. So I'll contribute my own weird and wacky idea instead. Many Australians love going to live sporting events. There's plenty of God-loving-Catholics who rush home after Mass to watch the footy on TV. So if you have a youth group, a Cursillo group, a covenant community group etc, that has lots of sports loving members, consider this:
Make a group booking at a sporting event. Get yourselves matching T-shirts to wear (a slogan like 'Ask me about Jesus' on them or similar would be good). Sit together. Be clued up before you go as to how to act if unusual things transpire. For example, if a fight starts on the field, you all drop to your knees and pray for peace and reconciliation; if a player gets injured, you drop to your knees and collectively pray for the injured player, his/her family and the medical people assisting them; if the crowd starts boo-ing, you sit silently and pray for conversion of hearts; as you go from your seat to the toilets, to purchase merchandise or food and drink, silently beg God's blessing on every person on your path there and back, and if someone stops you and asks you the reason for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15), give it to them.
One thing Pat Keady does well is underline how all renewal has to start with us, with us taking God more seriously than we have ever taken Him before. Surrendering to His will; seeking the grace and power of the Holy Spirit; spending quality time in prayer and listening to Him; spending quality time reading from the Bible and studying His ways; making daily Mass and regular recourse to the sacrament of Penance a priority.
Another thing Pat Keady does well is talk about the difficulties faced by anyone who wants to try something new to further the kingdom of God. None of us like change, none of us are real keen on being challenged, so there's both this natural battle and the supernatural battle to contend with. Kick-back comes with the territory. This is true, but some kick-back is natural/supernatural resistance and some kick-back is 'hey, you are truly going the wrong way', and you need to pray for the wisdom and humility to know the difference.
He also speaks well about the times when everything just flows and the times when it is a test of grit and endurance through manifold difficulties. Lots of people in ministry need to hear his encouragement to keep on going.
In conclusion, yes it is a worthwhile book to read, however I personally would only invite someone to read it after first sharing the concerns I have about that 10% of content with them.