Prophetic Notes: Vision 1 - Peace Be Upon Us

     I have been a musician my entire life.  Of late, I have been fascinated by music, both "religious" and "secular" (although I'm beginning to feel that we often put too much of a barrier between the two), that is essentially prophetic.  By "prophetic" I mean to suggest that the artist in question invites the listener to join him or her on a journey.  This journey may or may not be to a place that exists; for really, the "reality" of the place is not all that important.  What is important in prophecy is that it at the same time disorients our current worldview while reorienting us to another (thank you Brueggemann for this terminology!).

     Therefore, I have decided to begin a new series in my blog entitled "Prophetic Notes."  It is my desire through this journey to share with you the prophetic utterances that are all around us, especially in music of all kinds.  Furthermore, rather than organizing this series into "parts," I will post "Visions."  It is my hope that such terminology will better grasp the open-ended and unpredictable nature of such artistic imaginations.  As we begin this journey together, I welcome my readers to submit their own suggestions for "Prophetic Notes" that we might all be reoriented to the truth that God would have us do.  

Sheryl Crow
     I have always been the most casual of Sheryl Crow listeners.  My first memories of listening to her are in the car traveling with my family.  We would listen to her early songs "All I Wanna Do," "You're My Favorite Mistake," and "I Wanna Soak Up the Sun."  While these are lovely songs, they have never inspired me to describe their prophetic natures (although someone else's ears and heart might certainly disagree!).  However, as I was driving up to Dalton a few weeks ago for Thanksgiving holidays, I stumbled across her album, "Detours," while passing the warm fall colors of Northwest Georgia.  
     Have you ever been so obsessed with a song that you put it on repeat and listen to it over and over and over and over again? Have you ever had a piece of music touch something deep inside of you that makes you want to simmer in it for as long as possible, as though you and the music were two ingredients in a crock-pot that compliment each other better the longer you enjoy each other's company? Hopefully you know exactly what this feels like and know that it feels best when it jumps up out of nowhere.
     I was caught off guard in this manner by Sheryl Crow's song "Peace Be Upon Us" (see link below).  I love everything about this song: the tempo, the texture, and the text. From the opening notes, the listener is invited into a dream by a soft but insistent tempo that is matched by a warm and welcoming texture. The simple melody is easy to listen to and is simple though not simplistic; it allows the listener to focus on the text which she offers to describe her vision.
     What made this piece of art stand out to me as prophetic is first and foremost its responsive nature.  I am a liturgist at heart and, as such, love how she calls out to everyone ("all you sinners and saints, all you creatures of faith, don't need to be afraid").  I could very easily imagine using those words in the context of worship to invite congregants into the warm embrace of God's love.
     As she brings us to the chorus, she "breaks the fourth wall" by inviting you and me to join her in proclaiming, "peace be upon us, be upon us all!"  What is prophetic about this piece of music is that it calls you and me to join together in a dream when peace will truly be upon us all.  It is prophetic because this is not the current reality.  I am reminded of my previous post "The Defiance of Prayer" (  Sheryl Crow's prophetic utterances of peace amid a world ridden with hatred, violence, and intolerance are nothing short of bold and perhaps even dangerous; dangerous to those people (perhaps even you and me) who either by their action or lack thereof promote a world that stands in contrast to God's desire for all of creation to gather at the Table to live in love.
                                                Peace be upon us, be upon us all!


The music can be found here; please ignore the stupid video :).

Walking down the street of dreams, Eating from the fruits of lifeTripping out on the smallest things, Trying to reach the light, trying to reach the light

Pick the key up off the floor, Put the key into the lockTurn the lock, open up the doorLook at all you've got, look at all you've got

All the sinners and saintsAll you creatures of faithDon't need to be afraidIf you know what I meanLet me hear you say

Peace be upon us, Peace be upon us, Be upon us allPeace be upon us, Peace be upon us, Be upon us all

If we speak in tongues of loveBut we kill in the name of GodHow can we profess to own his nameAnd still be so lost and still be so lost

The world will turn even when we're goneThe earth will host many souls to comeWho will write the history, tales ofWisemen, villains and innocent ones

All you shepherds and sheepWhen you wake from your sleepIt will be a new dayIf you know what I meanLet me hear you say

Peace be upon us, Peace be upon us, Be upon us allPeace be upon us, Peace be upon us, Be upon us all

As-salaamu alykumWa-alaykum assalaamAssalaam alykumWa-alaykum assalaam


Stephen Fearing

Stephen was born in 1988 in Cookeville, TN, where his parents met whilst attending Tennessee Tech. Shortly after, they moved to Dalton, Georgia where they put down roots and joined First Presbyterian Church, the faith family that taught Stephen that he was first and foremost a beloved child of God. It was this community that taught Stephen that it was OK to have questions and doubts and that nothing he could do could every possibly separate him from the love of God. In 1995, his sister, Sarah Kate, joined the family and Stephen began his journey as a life-long musician. Since then, he has found a love of music and has found this gift particularly fitting for his call to ministry. Among the instruments that he enjoys are piano, trumpet, guitar, and handbells. Stephen has always had a love of singing and congregation song. An avid member of the marching band, Stephen was the drum major of his high school's marching band. In 2006, Stephen began his tenure at Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC where he majored in Religion and minored in History. While attending PC, Stephen continued to explore his love of music by participating in the Wind Ensemble, Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, Jazz Trio, as well as playing in the PC Handbell ensemble and playing mandolin and banjo PC's very own bluegrass/rock group, Hosegrass, of which Stephen was a founding member (Hosegrass even released their own CD!). In 2010, Stephen moved from Clinton to Atlanta to attend Columbia Theological Seminary to pursue God's call on his life to be a pastor in the PC(USA). During this time, Stephen worked at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Silver Creek Presbyterian Church, Central Presbyterian Church, and Westminster Presbyterian Church. For three years, Stephen served as the Choir Director of Columbia Theological Seminary's choir and also served as the Interim Music Director at Westminster Presbyterian Church. In 2014, Stephen graduated from Columbia with a Masters of Divinity and a Masters of Arts in Practical Theology with an emphasis in liturgy, music, and worship. In July of 2014, Stephen was installed an ordained as Teaching Elder at Shelter Island Presbyterian Church in Shelter Island, NY. Later that year, Stephen married the love of his life, Tricia, and they share their home on Shelter Island with their Golden Doodle, Elsie, and their calico cat, Audrey. In addition to his work with the people who are Shelter Island Presbyterian Church, Stephen currently serves as a commission from Long Island Presbytery to the Synod of the Northeast and, beginning in January of 2016, will moderate the Synod's missions team.