Central Guidelines

Central Guidelines   

I wish I could sit down with each of you every night and hear about the ways in which you saw God that day – or better yet, the adventures God led you on that day when you followed where you were called.  The reality is we have many excuses not to get together to share such good news regularly – not least of which is our health and the concerns therein.  In Matthew 15:29-31, we hear about Jesus,


Jesus returned to the Sea of Galilee and climbed a hill and sat down. A vast crowd brought to Him people who were lame, blind, crippled, those who couldn’t speak, and many others. They laid them before Jesus, and He healed them all. The crowd was amazed! Those who hadn’t been able to speak were talking, the crippled were made well, the lame were walking and the blind could see again! And they praised the God of Israel.”


Scripture again and again reveals the steady revelation of our God who loves, who heals, who saves.  Romans 8 reminds us there is literally nothing which can get in the way of this powerful love.  It’s just hard to always keep this before us in the ever changing winds of the pandemic.

Central has done its best to listen well to our medical and health guidance over the past year while doing everything in our power to make sure we created space for most to gather.  Even this Tuesday we were able to offer space for Vaccines to be offered while feeding our neighbors in the hopes of bringing people together.  Still mask wearing has become a burden for many as the guidance has changed so frequently.  Just a few weeks ago the CDC again dramatically changed its recommendation (any who are vaccinated do not need to wear masks) and many of us feel the whiplash, so how will Central respond.  

Central will continue to ask people to wear masks as we move about the building and will offer these at the welcome desk.  We still have a childcare in which state guidelines require mask wearing.  Our staff cannot remove their masks in such areas, so this is a chance to stand in solidarity. Once arrived at your gathering or are standing having coffee, feel free to take off your mask if you are vaccinated.  You will only need your mask for singing, which we will be resuming this coming Sunday.  I look forward to hearing the joyful noise rising up once more.  Further, this coming Sunday, we are resuming taking communion in the Sanctuary.  We will still offer communion in bags for those who wish not to take off their masks in the gathering area.  For those who do, we will have trash cans at the side of the altar rails for disposal.

We realize some do not wish to wear a mask ever again and some still feel all should wear a mask at all times in public.  Please, my brothers and sisters of Central, love the person in front of you whatever choice she or he might make in regards to masks.  There is space for good conversation here, but let us remember why we all gather in the first place.  We gather because of Jesus.  Long before any pandemic, it was Jesus who healed our souls.

Let us remember this as we go out from Central every week.  No matter the choices of our co-workers, our neighbors – let us love people where they are. Let us introduce them to Jesus and His love which flows through us.  For there is nothing, no sickness, no pandemic, too great to keep us from the healing love of Jesus.  May we move about in Richmond in such ways that the crowds once again be amazed as the good news of the lame walking, blind seeing, and mute speaking grows in this love.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Joseph


When is God good?

The Power of the Holy Spirit - ExodusPodcasts.com | ExodusPodcasts.com
God is good, all the time. And all the time God is good. God is great when we get that job we wanted. God is great when we get a good grade on a test. God is great when everything is going our way, but what about when things don’t go our way? Is God still good when you’re depressed? Is God still good when you’re going through a divorce? Is God still good when you feel like you’ve hit rock bottom? Let’s go back to the saying, God is good, all the time. You don’t get through depression alone. You don’t get through a divorce alone. You don’t get through life alone. You get through all of these things because of God. It was the holy spirit inside of you telling you to keep on going even when you felt like giving up. So God is good, even when you’ve hit rock bottom, and even when you’re on fire for God.                                  (by Cayden Lindahl)



Spring grows changes of color and life right before our very eyes.  Grassy knolls are shaded overhead while the flora and fauna emerge from the undergrowth of the dense forests.  Such joy in new discovery.  Such loss of a winter wonderland.
Not all changes behold us all this season.  We in the United States feel as though the pandemic is now over though it is reaching its deadliest point around the globe.  Soon our high schoolers will be moving onto their next steps – often far away from home.  The list goes on.

Change is.  Change is the default state of the world we find.  Growing. Learning. Pruning. Strengthening. Dying. Moving. Resting. Change. 

Sometimes, we tell ourselves from contrived perspective on the happenings and assume ‘this is how it always has been’ or ‘this is how it will always be.’ Such absolute sentiments are fools errands.  That is until we get to eternal unchanging things of God, His character, our sinfulness, His love, etc.  Coming before our Maker naturally then changes the approacher in the manner of the eternal (this is Prayer of course and deserves a further thought at another time).
The Bible talks much about change.  One of the most significant times of change comes in the book of Joshua:

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.

Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.””

Joshua 1:1-9

Wherever we go. 
The Lord your God will be with you.
 Friends, our God still calls us forward into the inheritance of the Kingdom.  We are entering a time of transition here at Central as we emerge from the pandemic and prepare send offs to several staff.  We can and will celebrate as we grieve.  For the Kingdom in the new covenant of Jesus’ blood is not one confined to 1425 E Main St.  It spreads around the globe.  We are sending our brothers and sisters out to serve in new places and new ways while making space for new people to gather amongst us.
Yes, it will not be as it was before.  Everything is changing.  Be strong and Courageous.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Joseph


Ways to Care for Creation

Ways To Care for Creation Blogpost

Twelve Easy Ways To Care for Creation!

By Madeleine Demetriades, Minister of Music


Earth Day 2021 is a great time to learn about easy ways that we can care for our beautiful planet. 

Read on to learn more!

  1. Eat Your Leftovers. Did you know that 25% of food that Americans buy goes into landfills? Producing food takes water, land and heavy machinery. Prevent energy waste as well as food waste by always finishing your leftovers.

Photo Credit: Anna Pelzer


  1. Green-ify Your Laundry Routine! Only do laundry when you have a full load. Avoid high energy/electricity bills by hanging laundry on a clothing line or drying rack.


  1. Calculate Your Water Footprint. Click HERE to find out what your water footprint is, and learn how to reduce your impact!


  1. Opt For Green Cleaning Products. Many cleaning products have harsh and toxic chemicals that are harmful to us, our children and pets as well as the environment. Look for green products at your local grocery store.

                                                                                                                                 Photo Credit: Bill Oxford

  2. Change Light Bulbs. CFL and LED bulbs emit 25-80% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs.


  1. Commit to Low/No Waste Grocery Shopping! Bring your own container or tote bag to the store to reduce plastic bag waste.


  1. Turn Off Lights. Lights Off Cornell, a university sustainability movement, found that the college could save up to $60,000.00 a year in 2010 by turning off all of the unused lights on campus.


  1. Shorten Shower by Five Minutes. Shortening your time in the shower by just five minutes can save up to 12.5 gallons of water!


  1. Eliminate Energy Vamps! Items such as blow-dryers, phone chargers and coffee pots are major energy vampires. See what can be unplugged around your house. You will be surprised by how much energy you save!


  1. Contact Your Local Representative. Take initiative and call, email or write your local representative about creation care issues. To find yours, you can call the U.S. Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121, or click HERE to search by zip code.

                                                                                                                         Photo Credit: Louis Velazquez

  1. Read a Book Concerning Creation Care! We recommend titles such as Love in a Time of Climate Change: Honoring Creation, Establishing Justice by United Methodist Minister Sharon Delgado, and 50 Ways to Help Save the Earth: How You and Your Congregation Can Make a Difference by Rev. Rebecca Barnes of Presbyterian Church (USA).


  1. Plan a Green Meal. Challenge yourself to prepare a one-pot meal, which will save on electricity, gas and water. Also, plan to purchase meat and produce from local farmers in your community!


Can the Lord speak through animals?!

So, I take my dogs for at least one walk a day while my husband does the other walk. They cannot run loose in our yard, so these walks are very important to their livelihood and ours! While I enjoy this time to enjoy nature, there is a routine frustration involved with this daily routine.

“NO…don’t eat that.” “ Drop it!” “You cannot eat that!” “Ugh…again.. I said NO!” “Please stop eating everything laying in the road!”

This is literally what I say to the dogs every single time we take a walk. They love to eat mulch, wood chips, bugs, roadkill, and so on. Why is eating these things bad? Yep, you guessed it, they cannot digest these items and it makes them sick every time.

Recently, I proclaimed, “why can’t you understand that eating that will make you sick later?” While I already knew the answer to this question, God still spoke to me in this moment. He clearly impressed upon me: “That is how I feel when I talk to you, Sheri.” OOPS! Guilty as charged.

God has provided, in His word, all the ways we should live in order to be full of joy and feel satisfied in Him. But we don’t do it. We continually go “eat” the things we know will make us feel sick. We keep going back to the slavery of sin rather than relishing in the freedom He sacrificially gave us! Galatians5:1 states: “It is for freedom that Christ set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

We know that living for this world and it’s pleasures is not bringing joy but just more burden. We become enslaved to earning more money, working harder at sports, continually redecorating the house, exercising more, seeking the next perfect relationship, and so much more. Have we forgotten that HE SET US FREE! We don’t have to become enslaved again to the things of this world. They will never satisfy. They will continually disappoint and we will hear God saying, “No, don’t eat that!”
Seek the Lord and ask Him in what ways you have allowed yourself to become enslaved again rather than living into the freedom He gave. Spend some time this week asking God to help you turn away from those fleeting pursuits and focus on His face.


Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday.

It does not always feel so holy.

Jesus, yes still set apart…but in a tomb. The disciples – suffocated with grief from the day before.  The State – sated with its violence.  The world – left wandering, picking up the pieces, and looking for the leader of its next mob.

It’s hard for many to imagine what that day was like.  We remember history through the lens of the resurrection – an event which had yet to chan

ge the history of the universe the day after the crucifixion.  This is not a privilege or a bias, but a participation in the reality we are blessed to receive.  We should remember it this way. Loves open arms swallowed death and offered eternal life for all and any who choose to follow the Way of the crucified carpenter.  In no way do I ever want any to forget the empty tomb, to re-enter a world wA rusty pile of Chains, | Flickr - Photo Sharing!here Jesus did not seem victorious.

Still, the chains of such a dark day clank through the centuries to today. Billions have heard of the name of Jesus.  Still, many do not believe.  For them, Jesus remains in the tomb.  Or rather, his remains were once in a tomb if such a person could ever be believed in.   Sin still reigns.   Good is invented by the tribe and speaks the language of violence to overcome evil. One might as well survive the agony.  They have not heard nor seen the power of the risen Lord and the Holy Spirit.  The Messiah remains a myth. 

The good news of Sunday morning has not landed.  People desire illusions more than reality.  Pain and longing for a broken world – sated by
needles and drink,
power and money, 

sex and violence, 

security and comfort,

convenience and control, 

rage and entertainment, 

distraction and destruction, 

rebellion and order, 

religion and tribe, 

prestige and pride –

self-imposed holy Saturday shackles suffocating us, stifling us, sending us downstream away from the eternal springs of Sunday’s salvation;

damned deeds of deadening desires gathering the darkness, dimming, disregarding a building, devastating deluge devoid of deeper deliverance –
the weight of the waves winding and working until washing out in waterfalls of waste wrecking us, whisking us all away from a world transformed.  


A world already transformed in the good news of the empty tomb, needing only its inhabitants to turn towards the dawn of the new beginning awaiting at the empty tomb.


Love still reigns in Jesus even if the world still does not recognize the uncoercive power of the empty tomb.


As we wait for that final day when the holy Saturdays of this world retreat from the dawn of the second coming, may those who know the joy of the resurrection be a light for those who remain in the darkness.


Look for the light tomorrow, He is risen!


One Year In

One year ago, on March 12th, Governor Holcomb banned all ‘non-essential’ gatherings of 250 people or more.  The day before, March 11th, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic.  The NBA cancelled its season that same day.  Travel was severely restricted.  In Indiana we had our first recorded case on March 6th and first announced death on March 16th.  Our state basketball tournament and the March Madness were cancelled in between.  That day, Governor Holcomb ordered all bars and restaurants to close. Do you remember?

Here at Central we had our last service before going online fully March 15th.  The world continued to close down from there.  Do you remember how it felt? 

We were able to open our childcare again in May and our in-person services that final Sunday.  We opened with the same masking requirements which were then imposed upon us on July 27th by the governor, requirements which still remain.  And then there were the million changes in our own stories… Do you remember how it felt? to first hunker down and hear the reports roll in? to see life as we know it change in a few short days?

This Sunday marks one year since we last gathered without masks.  In that 365-day span, we have lost so much, seen so much, and felt so much.  The losses are not just in the millions around the world and thousands around the state who have lost their life.  They piled up in relationships severed by distancing, moments lost to cancellations, and a year’s worth of anxiety and unknowing.  What losses have you endured…

The losses remain in our memory.  The scars formed will go nowhere soon.  But the scars tell the deeper story.  The story of loss, yes, but also the story of fighting and healing.  This past year has also been a year of new beginnings and renewal born out of the necessity of the pandemic.  Grieving our losses helps us see that those moments are seen by the light of those redeeming moments which carried us along to this day.  Friendships rekindled over zoom and facetime.  The smallest of gestures reminding us of love at just the right moment. Neighbors now known because the crazy busy has subsided.  New endeavors begun because…well, nothing else was going on.  Babies were born, baptisms were held, celebration found a way, and God is still good.

Feeling again where losses have wounded, does the pain subside long enough in your scars to see the broader tale?

I think of Paul and his letter from prison to the church at Philippi.  His suffering has brought him near death and into deeper contemplation.  He reflects on his time pursuing life in a different way before knowing Christ,

   “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

   Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Friends, there is good news.  We have reached our lowest levels of infection and hospitalization since June.  Vaccines are becoming widely available.  And Jesus still reigns as our Resurrected King.  Here at Central groups are beginning to gather, beginning to minister to one another and our neighbors.  We will still wear masks and take precautions in singing, but we are finding a way.  Central will do whatever it takes to be God’s gathered body, following Jesus,  sent out by the power of the Holy Spirit, for the transformation of the world.

Let us press on to the calling God has for us.  We are not alone in our pain.  Hundreds, thousands of those who surround us have been broken in the same way.  Let us rise and shine his glory well to many in the year ahead.  We know not what it will hold, only that God has been faithful through the losses of this pandemic.

This Sunday marks one year since we last gathered without masks.  What will we say one year from now?

To God be the glory…

Yours in Christ, Pastor Joseph


40 days to a renewed you! Part 2

You can read Part I HERE

God says, ‘Be still and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10).  This sounds great, especially on Saturday morning before the children rise. But in the church today a question immediately rises inside, ‘How does this work if I am supposed to also follow Jesus (and work a job and provide for a family and go on that social media perfect vacation and keep the house clean and…)?’  Even the questions make me want to turn off the computer and lay down for a nap.  How do we be still in a doing world? 

Lent has traditionally been the time each year for many Christians to better connect to such truths and work this out.  Yet in last week’s post, we questioned whether the Lenten diets were not just extensions, sometimes, of the same self-help improvement practices seen in the rest of culture.  So, If not to improve yourself by the prepared fasts, studies, and good works, then what? Why Lent?  What’s the point if it doesn’t help me? 

And there is the rub. 


Lent is not the problem.  It is a traditional season held dearly by the church for hundreds of years.  It’s a time of preparation to receive afresh the good news on Easter morning.  There have been wonderful practices tried and explored which have brought many deeper into their faith, closer to God, and therefore more powerful in their Kingdom work. 

Lenten practices become the problem when I make them about me.  Let me share a few such blunders from my past.  One time I gave up certain foods and found myself on the scale marveling at how much weight I loss because of the fast I chose.  Another year I found myself wondering at how much I fasted and others had no idea.  Another time, I finished a study and just knew I now knew all I needed to know about the book and could help others if only they knew how knowledgeable I was.  How does it go…’pride goeth before the fall.’ 

These short comings came clearly into sight in the months following the end of Lent.  Back to ‘normal’ I resumed the old diet and put back on the weight, stopped the study group and lost the relationships, and found there was a whole lot I did not yet know about the book of Colossians (much less what I forgot).  It was good for a season and several blessings abounded, but ‘MY’ efforts fell short for I was concerned mostly about ‘MY’ benefit.   

Back to Psalm 46:10.  The verse goes on to read, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  How is God to be exalted and known? Through my fasting or righteousness or studying or short-term commitments?  No.  It is through being still and knowing who God is.   

Yes, knowing God may come through fasting and studies and good works and more.  But, if I am not still first – if ‘I’ do not yield to the ‘I am’- then the exact same activities bring not knowledge of God but rather exaltation of my self. 

It is like any diet we have ever tried.  They all work exactly for what they are designed for.  The problem is that we use the trendy diet so that we can justify our return to a prior diet once we got our desired result.  And then repeat. Constant motion.  Exhausting motion. 

Being implies a constant state. Being still means giving up on deciding whether we should do what God says. It means giving our whole efforts and attention to God.  It means resting in the completeness of God’s good work.  Being still means knowing you can do no thing now, or in the next 40 days, to be any more loved than you are now.  Being still allows us to know God. 

Will we fail in our efforts ahead?  Yes.  Let Grace abound and be still. 

Be still and know God loves you despite all you do.  God loves you when you rebel against Him.  God loves you when you turn towards him.  God loves you in the fast and in the feast, in the ignorance and the knowing.  God’s love abounds beyond our imagination!  It is God’s love which claims you, adopts you, and renews you.   

Being still leads to knowing God.  Knowing God means hearing his will and doing for God rather than ‘me.’  This doing brings ongoing blessing for you and the many around you. 

May this Lenten season be such a time of renewal for you. 

In Christ, 

Pastor Joseph 


40 days to a new you! – Part I

Have you ever hoped for more in life? Tired of that same old routine?  Want a new body for swimsuit season?  Then Lenten practices are for you!  Just follow the directions listed on the package, add water, and voila – everything is awesome!!!! 

Or so we are promised.  Reality often tells another tale. 

Self-help, positive-thinking, short-cut peddling, elixir-of-life pills built so much of our American way of life.  They are everywhere.  The advertisements and products and processes may change over time (and rapidly it seems of late), but the promises and cheerleading remain.   

Happiness!!!  (DISCLAIMER: just after that next purchase, like, swipe, mantra, or 3rd step; DO NOT NOTICE the people who cannot afford this prescription; and please ignore the list of side effects in small print) 

We accept these in their pervasiveness.  Constant expressions appear in social media ads, bookstore sections, television shows, print media, and water cooler conversations.  It’s no wonder so many of us struggle to free ourselves from the doomed journey where the promised end seems always around the next bend in the prescribed road. To pursue happiness is the way of American life. 

It’s no wonder this thinking has crept into the church.  Just take this study and you will know everything!  Just read the whole Bible and all will finally be well!  Just say a prayer and there will be no more problems! Just go on this one trip and know the world is now right for your efforts!  

Lent has become a hotbed of this frenetic, transactional activity.  Just give up ______ for 40 days and finally – peace.  Only, life still happens after lent. And often peace is not found in the messy, ever after.  Then, full of broken promises and empty of short-term relationships, Lenten participants cast doubt upon and create distance with the church…or even God.

It’s no wonder so many of us have given up trying anymore. 

But what if this was not a bad thing?  Maybe not for the same reasons…but what if we all stopped trying?  What if we gave up trying to improve ourselves during Lent?  What if we give up trying to figure it all out, and instead be still, letting God just love us?  What if we just listen, say yes to Jesus each day, and follow where He goes?  What if we all stopped trying and just started doing what Jesus asked of us?  What would happen? 

It might just be the greatest journey ever. 

And who knows, Lent might be a mere 40 days towards a renewed you.


Yours in Christ,

Pastor Joseph


tune in again next week for Part II



Greetings from Madeleine, your Minister of Music!
I pray that February is bringing you a time of peace and spiritual reflection as we quickly approach Ash Wednesday, the season of Lent and Holy Week. I pray that you all are practicing good self-care as we continue to experience the COVID-19 pandemic. I wanted to share an article I found recently about one of my favorite jazz artists: John Coltrane. Coltrane was a deeply spiritual man who overcame addiction and felt compelled to use his life to help others. Read on to learn more. I will leave you with this brief prayer: Dear Lord, May we feel the grace of You during this time of darkness and uncertainty. We know You are here, that You love us, and that Your son died for us. Through You, all is possible. Thank you, Lord.




Written by Matthew Gindin and originally published in The Wisdom Daily on 7-2-2018 

God breathes through us so completely… so gently we hardly feel it… yet, it is our everything. – John Coltrane 

As I write this, “Both Directions At Once” a newly released lost John Coltrane album from 1963, just dropped on Spotify. It’s named after Coltrane’s famous comment that he played like someone “starting a sentence in the middle, and then going to the beginning and the end of it at the same time … both directions at once.” What Van Gogh or Picasso or Monet were to painting, Coltrane was to music. Some might say “to jazz”, but because his relevance is not just limited to a genre (great as the jazz tradition is), speaking that way might unintentionally belittle him. Van Gogh was an oil-based painter in the post-impressionist European tradition, but we usually just call him a “great artist.” He belongs to the whole world- he accomplished something human. Coltrane too was such a “great artist”- practicing in the medium of sound, not vision- creating forms of beauty, emotion, harmony, dissonance, and transcendence, which had never been heard before and, not only were unthought of before him, but are difficult to imitate after him. It is not just for his music that Coltrane is fascinating, but for his successful battle with the scourging addictions that wounded or felled other jazz talents of his time, and for his spiritual consciousness, courage, and bold adventurousness. He was also an eminently philosophical musician whose work came to express a spiritual vision. Coltrane was born in 1926, the same year as Miles Davis, the other jazz titan of the time and the person who did more than anyone else to put Coltrane’s name on the map. In the 40s and 50s, Coltrane was a solid, competent saxophonist called upon to play with rising greats, most notably with Davis, while he found his own voice. That voice was almost silenced by addiction, however, as he struggled with heroin use and binge drinking. In 1957, Coltrane was fired from Miles Davis’ band for showing up disheveled, smashed out of his mind and barely able to play. Coltrane set his mind to getting clean and getting himself together, and once free from his chemical demons, Coltrane began the career of the man we now think of when we think of “John Coltrane.” In the 1964 liner notes to his album, A Love Supreme, considered one of the greatest jazz albums ever recorded, Coltrane wrote: During the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music. I feel this has been granted through His grace. ALL PRAISE TO GOD. The realization Coltrane was trying to articulate is explained in the liner notes: NO MATTER WHAT … IT IS WITH GOD. HE IS GRACIOUS AND MERCIFUL. HIS WAY IS IN LOVE, THROUGH WHICH WE ALL ARE. IT IS TRULY – A LOVE SUPREME – . Highlighting the spiritual message of the album, toward the end of part one, “Acknowledgement,” Coltrane plays the same melodic riff in every key. Lewis Porter, the head of the master’s program in jazz history and research at Rutgers University-Newark, told NPR that “Coltrane’s more or less finished his improvisation, and he just starts playing the ‘Love Supreme’ motif, but he changes the key another time, another time, another time. This is something very unusual… he ends up playing this little ‘Love Supreme’ theme in all 12 possible keys,” says Porter. “To me, he’s giving you a message here. First of all, he’s introduced the idea. He’s experimented with it. He’s improvised with it with great intensity. Now he’s saying it’s everywhere. It’s in all 12 keys. Anywhere you look, you’re going to find this ‘Love Supreme.’” A Love Supreme was recorded in one day, the music coming together with little direction from Coltrane as the intimate group of seasoned musicians played together. It is the hinge between Coltrane’s more accessible work between 1957 and 1964, and the sonically fearless and no-holds-barred experimental work that followed. Albums like Coltrane (1957), and Soultrane (1958), released after he freed himself from his under-the wagon years, showed him possessed of a distinct voice and virtuosic talent. Giant Steps (1960) and My Favorite Things (1961) showed constant evolution as Coltrane developed incredible melodic depth and pushed his soloing into more and more experimental realms. As music critic Mark Richardson wrote of that period, “He wasn’t just covering ground, he was accelerating.” Coltrane became known for his “sheets of sound” style, releasing lightning fast cascades of notes as he played through, over and around the sonic structures of the piece. His soloing sounds like a spirit bird canvassing the chords, trying out every possibility of note, looking for a way to escape the structure and soar free. Atonal, dissonant, and shrieking sounds would begin to pour out of Coltrane’s horn more and more as he looked for a way to play himself right out of the world, dragging the music, sometimes literally kicking and screaming, behind him. A Love Supreme, which has sold more than a million copies and is the second most popular jazz album of all time, showcases such incredible passages of saxophone flight amidst soundscapes of great sweetness, depth, and wonder. The concept of the album had arrived in Coltrane’s mind as an intuitive whole one morning while meditating. As he moved into more challenging territory musically, he was also pushing past more commonplace spiritual boundaries in America to explore Buddhism, Hinduism and new age thought. “I believe in all religions,” Coltrane said. “The truth itself doesn’t have any name on it to me, and each man has to find it for himself.”

Coltrane’s spiritual trajectory was heavily influenced by his second wife, Alice, who he met in 1962. Alice and John married in 1965 after Coltrane officially divorced his first wife Naima, who was the inspiration for the famous track named after her on Giant Steps. Naima and Coltrane remained friends until his death. Coltrane met Alice in 1962 and they married in 1965. After Coltrane’s death in 1967, Alice became a swamini (female swami) and opened a Vedantic ashram, dedicating the rest of her life to teaching and priestly duties as well as music. Between 1964 and 1967, Coltrane released experimental albums like Meditations, Ascension, and Om where he largely abandoned traditional musical structures and tonality. He also worked on the stunning Interstellar Space, a duet with drummer Rashied Ali which wasn’t released until after his death. The soaring emotionality and fierce, transgressive playing on these albums would inspire decades of avant-garde musicians. “There is never any end,” Coltrane wrote in the 1965 liner notes for Ascension. “There are always new sounds to imagine: new feelings to get at. And always, there is a need to keep purifying these feelings and sounds so that we can really see what we’ve discovered in its pure state. So that we can see more clearly what we are. In that way, we can give to those who listen, the essence–the best of what we are. But to do that at each stage, we have to keep on cleaning the mirror.” “Once you become aware of this force for unity in life,” wrote Coltrane in the liner notes for 1965’s Meditations,”You can’t forget it. It becomes part of everything you do… my goal in meditating on this through music however remains… to uplift people as much as I can. To inspire them to realize more and more their capacities for living meaningful lives.” What is striking about Coltrane is not just his modeling of rebirth after catastrophe and his years of soaring into new spiritual and musical skies, relentlessly going beyond what most people would understand or consider “safe.” It’s his belief, as shown in the quote above, that in doing so he is uplifting people and inspiring them to “realize more and more their capacities for living meaningful lives.” Coltrane is sharing his own ascension. He is inviting the listener into the joyful, chaotic collaborations of his later albums, where the horns sound more like birds coming together in wild flight than hip, controlled improvisations. His albums sound at once like the travel journal of a mountaineer and like a model for free community. Speaking about the relationship Coltrane saw between his music and what was happening in the world of the mid- 1960s, so marked by social change, racial strife, and burgeoning liberation movements, Coltrane told Frank Kofsky in a rare interview from 1966, “Well, I think that music, being expression of the human heart or the human being itself, does express just what is happening. The whole of human experience at that particular time is being expressed. In any situation that we find in our lives, when there’s something we feel should be better, we must exert effort to try and make it better. So it’s the same socially, musically, politically, in any department of your life. I think music is an instrument. It can create the initial thought pattern that can create a change, you see, in the thinking of the people. I mean I want to be a force for real good. In other words, I know that there are bad forces. I know that there are forces out here that bring suffering to others and misery to the world, but I want to be the opposite force. I want to be the force which is truly for good.” In his fierce modeling, through his life and music, of his heartfelt quest for both personal and collaborative freedom, Coltrane is an artist who still points the way.



Some Reminders/Announcements:

Tuesdays at 10:00AM: Weekly worship service/virtual fellowship opportunity from Madeleine’s home in Brookville, Ohio. Streams live from Central’s Facebook page.

Wednesdays at 12:15pm: Weekly Musical Meditations from Central’s beautiful sanctuary. Reflective music played on pipe organ or piano. Streams live from Central’s Facebook page.

Special Musicians Needed: Central United Methodist Church is very blessed to have wonderful new cameras, microphones and other recording equipment in our sanctuary. We are in need of more special music for upcoming worship services. This could involve singing, playing a musical instrument or something else entirely (poetry, dancing, etc!). If you have interest, please contact Madeleine at Madeleine@richmondcumc.com.