Sunday, June 01, 2008

Catching up with life in Prague

I've been so busy chilling that I've forgotten to blog the past couple of days. So here's a catch-up.

We had the IBTS graduation ceremony on Friday - students in the certificate and masters programmes were awarded and valedicted. It was great to see young (and not so young) people from across central and eastern Europe (and the UK) get their awards. IBTS does a unique job in offering training opportunities at what seems to be a good standard at a good price.

We've had lots of music over the past couple of days as well. Undoubtedly the highlight was seeing the National Saxaphone choir of Great Britain at the fringe festival yesterday evening. They are an ensemble of 18 sax players doing things with the instrument that you wouldn't have thought possible. It was a great show. They'll be touring England soon and are well worth catching.

Then we went on to Agharta to catch some modern jazz in a wonderful club (one of Prague's best). It was a quartet of piano (a very dextrous guest player from new York), a veteran but nimble-fingered upright bass player, a soprano sax player and a drummer (again, long in the tooth but amazingly subtle and energetic). They were really good, playing their way through a set of improvisations around well-known jazz standards.

The low point musically was the Moody Chorale! We went to see them on Thursday evening with our new friends and Ian and Janice (older friends) and it was like falling into a time-warp. Tuxedo'd men and evening gown'd girls singing their way through a light classical and spiritual repetoire that had a high point and a very low one. The high point was a sublime latin anthem about Jesus as the light of the world. They also did a good version of John Rutter's The Lord Bless you. The low point was a gospel song with two soloists who really couldn't cut it as ike and Tina Turner. Ah well.

I have also been reading. I've made two interesting discoveries. The first is Andrew Das, a New testament scholar from Elmhurst College Illinois who's written a lot about Paul and the Law and Judaism. His latest book is a detailed defence of the proposition that Romans was written to an exclusively gentile audience. This is not a new idea - Stowers, Munck and others have suggested it recently - but Das is the first person to write a book-length defence of the view, taking full account of the new perspective and recent work on the social history of Pauline communities. I'm reading it with some interest.

My other discovery is James McClendon. Round here his name is uttered in hushed tones as though he were the fourth member of the Trinity. Having talked about him with Jim Purcell - visiting from Scotland for graduation - I can see why. He is a baptist, narrative systematic theologian and I've heard enough about him to bury all my prejudices against systematic theology and read his trilogy - a volume each on Ethics, Doctrine and Witness. It's interesting that he begins with ethics - how Christians live - before talking doctrine (what they believe). What excites people most about him is that he is truly communitarian (as Jim puts it) in his approach.

The weather has been wonderful - hot and sunny - except that last night we got caught in the promised thunderstorm on our way home from Agharta. Such is life...

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