Traditions and reliquaries

Oct 1st, 2007 | By | Category: Ministry

At 5 o’clock I was offered a pair of tickets for The Police in concert, I didn’t check the price. Last time I inquired about tickets they were selling at €145 face value (£100, $200).  The price wasn’t so big by Irish standards, people paid up to €500 face value for a Barbra Streisand concert in the summer that fell victim to the worst of the Irish elements, but, for me,  it was too much for a concert that would be about a very narrow period of nostalgia.

There seems a difference between bands that are living traditions and bands that are wonderful reliquaries.  The summer past saw two acts from the 1960s perform in Dublin, both in front of around 30,000 fans, but the mood was very different.

The Who played Marlay Park in June, a crowd of all ages stood and watched a band that had been around for four decades (Roger Daltrey was born in 1944 and Pete Townshend in 1945), many of those there had lived lives less than half as long as that.  The previous Sunday evening they had played in front of a crowd of 177,000 at Glastonbury.  I hardly recognized most of what they played, but it didn’t matter, there was a sense that this was something ongoing, a work in progress.

Rod Stewart (born 1945) played at the RDS in July, a brilliant showman.  The crowd was as large as that at Marlay, but most of them were older than me.  The concert included a tribute to the late Jimmy Johnstone, a man who had been a wonderful footballer. It was a concert that was about the past, it was a gathering of images, emotions and unashamed nostalgia, but there was no sense that it was going anywhere.

The church could learn lessons from the respective acts.  Sometimes we can be very good at nostalgia, at playing to our traditional fan base, at pleasing those who have been faithful to us – we can be a reliquary holding bygone things.  Our call is to preserve those things that are precious from the past, but also to be about the present and the future.

Tickets for The Police concert seem like tickets for watching the past.  I’m sure the concert will be brilliant, it’s just, that like the church, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

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