Monday, March 31, 2008

Graham Kendrick is coming

Graham Kendrick is almost here!

Tomorrow I will drive a couple of hours out into the desert to a retreat centre where Graham is teaching a bunch of local worship leaders - the same bunch I taught a couple of weeks ago. I'm going to go and hang out with them for a day and play some music and plan our weekend services with Graham and just catch up on news.

This will be Graham's fourth visit to Maadi Community Church and over the years he's become somewhat of a mentor to me, which is a wonderful privilege. Living out here, I don't have much access to other worship leaders, let alone someone as experienced and respected as Graham, and so it's great just to sit down and talk about the craft and the calling of leading worship.

He's going to be leading all four of our weekend worship services, and will be performing a concert on Friday night. Then on Saturday we will put on some workshops for worshipers where we can offer some training in specific skills and an opportunity for people to spend more time with Graham and his team in a more relaxed setting.

This year, along with his regular band (Egypt lineup!), Graham is bring out a twenty-voice gospel choir, led by his Director of Music, Steve Thompson. It's going to be amazing!

I'll try and keep you up to date as the weekend progresses.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Speaking of music and driving...

All you musicians out there have to watch this - it's mind-blowing!

If John Coltrane were alive today and piloting his saxophone around the streets of Cairo, this is what his driving would look like...


ht: honeyee

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Easter

So, the weather.

It's a beautiful hot, sunny day here; 36 degrees Centigrade, that's 97 degrees Farenheit.

Back home in England, it's snowing.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Confession time

Ok, so the game's up. That last entry about Cairo Road Jazz was actually written by my wife, Felicity. I can't take any credit, except for a little finessing of the text and a little musical advice on the overall metaphor and some of the similes. She did a great job. It was originally published in our local community magazine here, the Maadi Messenger, and so now, with writing skills like that, we need to persuade her to take up blogging - what do you think?

The funny thing is that sixteen years ago, before we met, Felicity was praying for God to provide her a husband who loved neither cars nor music. Well, look what happened! The one who dislikes both cars and music got published with an article delighting in the bizarre combination of both - deliciously ironic.

Thanks everyone for the great comments, and Peter, it's really great to hear from you. I've thought about you too from time to time since we worked together in Liverpool, and your kind words are very much appreciated during a stressful and difficult season of change and uncertainty where we are having to say goodbye to so many friends and colleagues as they move on, and waiting for the new Senior Pastor of the church to arrive at the end of April.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cairo Road Jazz

Newcomers to Egypt often find the driving here as intimidating as garage or grunge music is to grandmas. Egypt’s traffic system, like unaccustomed musical styles, needs to be understood to be enjoyed. Just as teenagers need to be explained to their bewildered parents, driving needs to be explained to the terrified, unforgiving foreigner. People always complain about the roads here; rolling their eyes, patronisingly dismissing the traffic system as dangerous mayhem; I even heard one ex-pat talking about taking a defensive driving course here. Defensive driving! That’s like saying it’s a war out there, that “they” are the enemy - it’s completely missing the point. Driving in Egypt is creative like jazz. It’s an elegant fusion of music and motor, it’s a dance with a thousand unknown dance partners, it’s about having soul.

My view is; if you come from a western nation, you will have undergone in your youth numerous driving lessons and torturous driving tests (I took five of them) paying extortionate amounts of money and going to sleep with “mirror-signal-maneuver” as your bedtime mantra - it would have been rather like learning to play a classical instrument extremely well. You were taught about tone, embouchure, music theory, to watch the conductor, to wait your turn and to play with precision and perfection. And then, when you passed your driving test, you were allowed out to join the great orchestra of the road. Maybe you were a little shy at first - kind of like being fourth viola - but in time you found your place and settled down in your own driving style, confident that the rest of the orchestra out there knew what it was doing, and you all duly and appropriately lived in fear of the conductors.

Driving in Egypt is like music, just of a different type. Egyptian drivers aren’t interested in the precision and training that has to go into your classical music. Egyptian drivers like jamming. They prefer a musical fusion of free jazz and oriental melodies and, unlike the superior minded classical set, they don’t mind if you’re not very good. They like to see what sort of creative moves that they can execute on the roads. They are, on the whole, good natured (there are some people out there whose instruments are in bad need of a tune or a spot of valve oil) and generally this naturally musical nation brings that musical soul to its roads. So, when driving in Egypt one has to expect the unexpected; a surprising riff when you thought a gentle movement was coming, an unusual combination of chords at an intersection, a spectacular precision display of incredible tightness around a midan and then an abrupt coda as you come off the bridge.

Classically trained drivers who manage to master the jazz of Cairo’s roads must surely be some of the best drivers in the world. They have the theory and the skills from the Conservatoire, but if they can make the transition from classical to jazz they can fly, dance, create, invent.

It’s all about the soul, it’s a dance out there and to flow with the art form drivers must never drive defensively, never drive offensively (spread peace not pieces on the road as I was often told by my classical instructor) or aggressively; instead drive from the heart, with magnanimous generosity and irresistible cheek. Don’t be afraid to enjoy it but never, never let your concentration slip for a moment - there are way too many soloists competing for space and outright beginners out there and it is easy to bring about disaster.
To drive in Egypt is to drive with a sense of privilege that you got a place in the band, that you got an invitation to the club. Keep very alert and be quick with the give and take of the crowded dance floor; as you sweep around be careful not to tread on anyone’s toes and be watchful for those who may tread on yours. Enjoy it. If a juggernaut threatens to overwhelm you, just think, “ah ha – Charlie Parker” and cheerily get out of the way; if a microbus insists on taking the glory lead, let him, just sit back and sustain the beat. If much slower vehicles are your dancing partners like donkeys or tuk-tuks then appreciate that even the triangle has its day and enjoy a glimpse of a slower, older more natural life. Don’t get cross when people cross the road, people were there before cars and they live here too. Above all, enjoy musical jokes - there are plenty of them out there.

I love driving here, its so much more fun and entertaining than driving at home where people drive fast and furious, where the price of fuel is astronomical, where road rage is the norm, where you live in terror of the vast fines those intractable police conductors will land on you for daring to drive with a little expression, where a camera can orchestrate the removal of your license so that where once the roads were a driving symphony now they have become soul destroying lift music. Savour and enjoy your driving in Egypt, it’s jazz.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Advance, but slowly.

The retreat was great, but way too short. In the end I had an afternoon to myself, so I sat on the balcony and watched the palm trees swaying over the lake, listened to the call to prayer blasting out from the next village, read a great book ("i am not but i know I AM" by Louis Giglio) prayed and played my guitar.

I was a little worried when I started coughing, but thought it was just the change in air. When you live with pollution every day like we do in Cairo, it messes you up to breathe clean air.

That evening I taught the first of my three classes to the School of Worship. It was the opener to my series of "Worship through the Bible", an account of worship styles, methods, problems and successes from Genesis to Revelation.

That night as I got in to bed I started shivering, had a really restless night, and the next day I woke with a headache and really felt under the weather. I taught through the second two sessions and still felt rough as we drove back to Cairo.

I arrived back at the church just in time for the sound check for the evening service. Travis the Youth Pastor was leading an unplugged-style set, and I played guitar and sang harmonies, which was a real treat. Friday I woke up feeling much the same, and got through our full day of services before getting home and collapsing. Then for the weekend I was like the living dead - no energy, bad moods, grumpy, and on Sunday I had the shivers and sweats all day.

So much for the refreshing retreat. I feel like I'm beating the flu now, but it's been no fun at all, and I hope it doesn't come back and wallop me again any time soon. I'm praying for protection over all my girls!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Tomorrow I'm going out in to the desert to a retreat centre for two days.  Half the time I will spend with God, and the other half I will be teaching on a school of worship course that runs at the centre. 

I did this last year and it was a wonderful opportunity to get some perspective in my spiritual life and to think, pray, write, journal, read and play my guitar.

It is also a privilege to be able to invest in some Egyptian worship leaders and teach them and be there for them.  I'll let you know how it goes.